Tom Smith on the London-bound rock god Tomoyasu Hotei
In his home country, he’s the alpha and the omega of guitar. No other solo star has ever come close to touching his career. He’s collaborated with the world’s most influential musical figures, and has had his music featured in some of the last decade’s biggest blockbusters. Some go as far as saying he’s the original driving force in establishing J-rock (and yes, it is a genre). He is Tomoyasu Hotei, and he will be holding a very special live show in London on 18 December 2012.
The chances are that you’re already familiar with one of his songs; “Battle Without Honor or Humanity”. It became the star’s international claim to fame when a director known as Quentin Tarentino used it as the theme to his film Kill Bill Volume One, instantly shooting Hotei back into western pop-culture.
It wasn’t the first time the now iconic track has been used in film. At the turn of the millennium it featured originally in Junji Sakamoto’s yakuza flick Shin Jingi Naki Tatakai (also released as Another Battle), alongside Hotei himself, co-starring with Etsushi Toyokawa (20th Century Boys, Moon Child). This film was a remake of the 1973 film Jingi Naki Tatakai – or directly translated into (American) English; ‘Battle Without Honor or Humanity’, from which the instrumental track received its name.
These weren’t the only films to include the piece. It also appears in Michael Bay’s Transformers during Bumblebee’s transformation sequence. Notice anything familiar about the robot in disguise’s colour scheme? It’s exactly the same yellow as Uma Thurman’s infamous biker suit in Kill Bill – it even has the stripe!
Long before Kill Bill, or even his solo career, Tomoyasu Hotei was part of the pioneering rock act BOØWY during the 80s. The group caused one of the biggest spikes in musical instrument sales that Japan has ever experienced, inspiring a whole generation of music lovers to pick up a guitar of their own, long before Yui and the K-On! crew had girls running to the shops to start bands.
BOØWY even made it to London, with a show at the Marquee Club in 1985. However, by 1988 the band had broken up and Hotei pursued a solo career which led to him collaborating with the likes of Hugh Cornwell from The Stranglers, Andy Mackay of Roxy Music, Jesus Jones, Sugue Sigue Sputnik, Asia, INXS, Joni Mitchell, Ray Cooper, David Sanborn and Chicago. He’s even worked with the Starman himself David Bowie, after whom BOØWY was named.
He also played guitar under the baton of Michael Kamen at the closing ceremony for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and more recently arranged the theme Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. All in all, Hotei is possibly Japan’s most internationally renowned artist, ever. And that’s not even the most exciting news. The star has just relocated to London with his family. The possibilities for his career, which has been going for more than 30 years, are well and truly endless.
Tomoyasu Hotei will perform at the Camden Roundhouse on 18 December. Tickets are on sale now.
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.
“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.
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-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.
Jonathan Clements on Jackie Chan and the Garden of Gardens
Jackie Chan’s films have often smuggled in the odd political nudge and wink behind the tomfoolery, but Chinese Zodiac puts it all front and centre. Rather nobly, it shies away from issues of race or one-sided nationalism, making greed itself the great unifier – ensuring that Europeans and Chinese can be found on both sides of the battle.
Japan Underground's Tom Smith on how to rock and roll all nite in Tokyo
I wanted to see bands playing live music, experience local pubs and bar culture, and not get back to my hotel until it was light. Now, my nights in the city are as busy, if not busier, than my days. Here’s a quick look at some of the Tokyo hotspots worth hitting for music fans.
The second collection draws the entire Dragon Ball opus to a fierce close
Dragon Ball GT sees Goku and his allies fighting against some of the toughest foes the universe has ever seen. Take a look at some of the faces you’ll meet as the second collection draws the entire Dragon Ball opus to a fierce close!
Does the future of anime lie on the big screen, and if so, will developments in cinema exhibition technologies redefine its form, content and audiences in the digital age? These are questions many are asking as pundits declare conventional anime’s glory days to be a thing of the past.
Tom Smith on the newest numero-enchanted musicians
It may sound odd to English ears, but 7!!’s choice of pronunciation makes sense (well, a tiny bit of sense) when put into the context of where the band grew up; Okinawa. It’s an area that’s closer to Taiwan than mainland Japan, and one that’s had a heavy US military presence since the Second World War. These factors, among plenty of others, have had an affect on the cultural evolution of the islands, and one of the most evident examples can be found in local popular music scene.
The Japan Foundation’s annual touring film programme is back for another year, and kicking off at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts at the end of the month. Now in its tenth iteration, the season offers audiences across the UK an insight into Japan and its cinema by way of a wide-ranging and accessible selection of titles assembled under a certain theme. This year, that theme is youth, with the eleven-film ‘East Side Stories: Japanese Cinema Depicting the Lives of Youth’ programme travelling to eight venues across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 31 January to 27 March.