Tom Smith thinks Naruto may be hiding two of the world’s cutest rappers.
Hip-hop in Japan is in a league of its own. In the west, the genre’s all too often tarred with images of attitude, bling and bootylicious women. Compare that stereotype with HALCALI, Tokyo’s all-girl rap duo whose introduction to the murky world of the hip and the hop is largely due to a big pink poster.
“We were so young at the time, we couldn’t even understand the kanji – we just thought the poster design was so cute!” confesses Halca, one half of the cute MC act. This statement alone separates the pair from the kind of demeanour outlined in the introduction. The poster was seeking members to form a new female rap unit, mentored by one of Japan’s most successful groups in the genre; RIP SLYME. The ensemble is best known in the anime community for their song ‘Super Shooter’ from the opening of GANTZ.
Halca and her buddy Yucali (Haruka and Yukari to their mums) aced the auditions and won the contract, in turn becoming the two-piece HALCALI by combining parts of their names together (and insisting on putting them in uppercase). Were they excited about winning? It’s been reported that the ditzy duo were nonchalant about the whole affair, and didn’t really grasp the calibre of talent they were working with, not until their debut single shot into the Oricon chart and snuck into the Japanese CGI series Mr. Stain, which was picked up by Funimation for the United States and Canada. The song used in the animation, ‘Tandem’ even found its way into Latin American MTV’s sports coverage! However, the bubble-gum rappers would have to wait until 2008 to make their debut on that side if the world proper.
It was in May of that year that the USA convention Anime Central invited the twosome over as musical guests of honour. They earned the position not just off the back of Mr. Stain. Mecha-based romp Eureka Seven also had a major part thanks to the girls’ ‘Tip Taps Tip’ single featuring as the series’ third ending theme. Their release ‘LOOK’ was also used in Powerpuff Girls Z, though the series was never licensed for America, despite airing in Canada, Mexico and Latin America.
Five months after hitting the States HALCALI returned to the anime scene with possibly their biggest crossover to date: Naruto! Their 12th single ‘Long Kiss Good Bye’ (above) featured as the series’ seventh ending, found on Manga’s latest UK release; Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 7.
The song’s music video is a girly neon nod to White Stripe’s ‘Seven Nation Army’ video. It’s far from the first time the girls have taken or parodied things from popular culture in their PVs. ‘Tandem’, their first release has a video paying homage to Super Mario while cheekily poking fun at Hikaru Utada, and there’s a section in ‘Giri Giri Surf Rider’s that salutes the late king of pop himself; Michael Jackson! Cute rap doesn’t get much better than that.
Unlike a number of the bands featured on the Manga UK blog, W-inds haven’t had much of a history with anime tie-ins despite their massive success. In fact, in 14 years they’ve only ever done two anime themes; their first in Akira Amano’s Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, and more recently with Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail, where their 29th single Be as One became its sixth ending.
At heart, Death Note and Code Geass tell the same story. A teenage Tokyo schoolboy with a towering intellect, railing against the world, is given fantastic powers by a supernatural agency. He finds he can manipulate people like puppets and kill with ease. His power is bound by rules and restrictions, yet still seems godlike.
Tom Smith on the return of one of anime's most popular rock bands
So where do the guys go from here? On their biggest domestic tour, that’s where! At least that was the plan, but halfway through the mostly soldout schedule, vocalist IKE suddenly takes to Twitter to make an announcement that would shock everyone, including his bandmates. The message simply stated; “I will leave SPYAIR”.