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Glow of the Fireflies

Wednesday 13th July 2011

Tom Smith on the band rocking Naruto Shippuden for the 2nd time; Ikimono-gakari

Naruto Shippuden’s fifth opening theme ‘Hotaru no Hikari’ (The Glow of the Fireflies) made Japan’s Ikimono-gakari one of the biggest selling bands of 2010.

Much like the Naruto franchise, central to Ikimono-gakari is the idea of friendship. Two of its three members have been chums since meeting in the first grade of elementary school at the age of six. In Japan, each pint-sized student is assigned a classroom responsibility and the group’s future guitarists Yoshiki Mizuno and Hotaka Yamashira were randomly paired to look after the plants and animals, a role known as ‘ikimono gakari’. They haven’t been apart since.


A decade later, they decided to form a band for fun, naming it after their first partnership, and soon drafting in lead vocalist Kiyoe Yoshioka, to complete their current line-up. Friendship isn’t the only similarity with Naruto, there’s also two very clear stages in the trio’s charts adventures. First came their younger, indie years where they played in a number of dingy venues across Japan, releasing several albums along the way; and then there’s their ‘shippuden’ years, where the band became a little older, wiser and this time fully-fledged musicians, signed to a major label.

It’s in these later years that the threesome’s brand of pop-infused rock reached a global audience via anime.  Their second single ‘Hanabi’, was the first to find its way to these shores as the second ending theme the fourth season of Bleach, and showcased the band’s love for incorporating the harmonica, an oft-neglected instrument in the world of pop. It charted in the top five, though its upbeat nature still couldn’t push sales figures past their debut single, which sold a few thousand more copies but barely made the top 20. Their next outing in anime, ‘Blue Bird’, changed all that. Featuring as the opening to the third series Naruto Shippuden, it became their biggest selling single up to that point, as well as their highest chart ranker, peaking in at third place.

Surprisingly, Ikimono-gakari has yet to claim that coveted number one slot in the singles chart. It’s surprising because their first compilation album, Ikimono-bakari ~Members Best Selection – which collates two CDs worth of  the band’s greatest hits along with three new tracks – was the second biggest selling record of 2010 in Japan. Upon release it was so popular that it was the biggest selling album released that week – in the world. And with their latest singles racking up six-digit sales figures, it really is only a matter of time until they get the number one single that they rightfully deserve.

Naruto Shippuden series six is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.


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One Piece. Pieces of Hate

Been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt....
Of the anime titles turned into T-shirts by Uniqlo, One Piece is the biggest – the reigning king of all the anime and manga franchises, pretty much unchallenged in the 16 years since Eiichiro Oda began the manga, and 14 since Toei Animation started animating it. But perhaps Uniqlo would have turned One Piece into a line of shirts even if the saga hadn’t been a world hit. Just look at those pirate designs – brash, cartoony, uncompromising. There’s no whiff of a committee, no hint of a five-year product plan reliant on changing a heroine’s hair colour (or deepening her cleavage). It just helps that the pictures are as commercial when they move as they are when they’re a cool static graphic in a manga, or on the front of a T-shirt.

One Piece: Strong World

The Straw Hats Pirates come together for an adventure like no other...
Written by One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda himself, Strong World leads the Straw Hats into the deadly path of Golden Lion Shiki.

One Piece - ninja or pirates?

Matt Kamen turns video pirate!
“Ninja or pirates?” While Naruto – representing the ninja corner, of course – has proven hugely popular, UK fans have long been unable to weigh in on the other side. With the long-awaited arrival of One Piece on DVD this May, that finally changes.

One piece: Crew Manifest #1

Matt Kamen finds out who’s who in the One Piece anime
Monkey D. Luffy: The founder and captain of the Straw Hats, Luffy is a carefree soul who wants to become king of the pirates. After eating the Gum-Gum Devil Fruit, he gained an elastic body, making him near-invulnerable and able to stretch but paradoxically making him unable to swim.

One Piece: Crew Manifest #2

Back at sea for volume two of One Piece
Before you set sail on the second round of voyages for One Piece, brush up on who you’ll be encountering in this latest volume of nautical nonsense

One Piece music: TOMATO CUBE

Tom Smith on One Piece’s TOMATO CUBE
One-hit wonders. Every country has them. And, as PSY can most likely attest, very few musicians really want to be labelled as one. Sure, it’s all fun, games and fancy dinners when that royalty cheque floats through the letter box. The one with all the zeroes from that single from yesteryear that went massive. But what about the rest of your work? It must be somewhat unsatisfying as an artist to be known for one track, while everything else remains relatively overlooked, and expectations are high for that difficult follow up single. If you’re TOMATO CUBE, you do nothing. Ever again.


Attack on Titan vs Akira

What about a world of kaiju zombies...?
"Anger is what really links Akira and Titan. Teen rage is at their core, driving the action in spectacular ways."


Digital transvestite Tom Smith on the girl who’s hearing voices
Before taking on the part of Asuna, Haruka Tomatsu had accumulated over one hundred titles featuring her vocal talents, spanning anime, videos games and drama CDs. Achievement unlocked.
This week we have the brilliant World Conquest Zvezda Plot and RWBY Volume 2 for you to add to your collections!
Check out the first teaser trailer of the upcoming Godzilla: Resurgence (Shin Godzilla) film.
Charlotte visits the Himouto! Umaru-chan cafe in Tokyo.
With plethora of live-action anime adaptations that are already out or in the works such as Parasyte, Death Note and Ghost in the Shell, it’s no surprise that studios are clamouring to get their hands on the next big live-action hit.

Kite: the Movie

A live-action remake of the anime classic
Right, hands up those of you who have been betting on which 1990s anime would get a Western live-action remake first. Ok, who had Ghost in the Shell? Evangelion? Cowboy Bebop? But Yasuomi Umetsu’s notorious sexed-up actioner Kite (1998) has beaten them all to the screen, starring anime fan Samuel L. Jackson.

2014 at the Japanese box office

Jasper Sharp runs the numbers on newly-released statistics
The incendiary claims put forward last October by Takeshi Kitano that “the Japanese film industry is going to ruins” seemed to hit a raw nerve with many in the industry and were widely reported in the international press.
Check out this exclusive clip from Takeshi Miike's hilarious action-horror, Yakuza Apocalypse!
We've been in Tokyo over the last couple of weeks. We saw so many incredible things and thought we'd share our favourite photos from the trip here for you to enjoy!
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