Karma – it’s a funny old thing. One dastardly deed and somewhere down the line the repercussions will bite you on the backside. Likewise, karma can also bring great rewards. The concept is one with which Japanese songstress KOKIA is all too familiar – not least because it’s the title of her single from the opening of Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom.
It also defines her career as a musician. She had been involved in music from the tender age of two-and-a-bit, when her instruments of choice were the violin and piano. Later in life she had stints at music school in America and Japan before being snapped up by a major label while still at university. She provided the theme to a PlayStation game, and her first few singles had been penned by the same team behind one of the biggest hits from the previous year. If that wasn’t enough, the singles had also found their way into dramas and anime. Yet, even with such a large amount of backing, exposure and her own extensive musical background, her releases barely made the top 100 of the Oricon chart.
Yet, karma wasn’t going to let all the hard work go unwarranted. As if by divine intervention her fourth single ‘Arigatou...’ made her a star. Though, not immediately. And not in Japan. In fact, KOKIA’s debut album failed to chart in her home country at all. Fortunately for her, its release in the rest of Asia was an entirely different story and can be credited to Hong Kong’s super star diva Sammi Cheng. She released a cover of ‘Arigatou...’ the same week that KOKIA made her Asian debut, catapulting the Japanese singer to the stardom she was unable to achieve back home. KOKIA’s original version was eventually awarded third best song in Hong Kong’s Best International Song Awards. Suddenly, her career was back on track.
And thank goodness. Without Sammi Cheng’s success, a second major KOKIA album would have been highly unlikely. And without a second album, her continued career in the world of the anime-song would have probably died as well. The opening to Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino would not exist as we know it, the ethereal and haunting vocals that set off the beginning of Origin: Spirits of the Pastwould simply not be, and a whole line of yet-to-be- anime would have very different theme songs.
Her relative success outside of Japan, particularly Europe, has come from the exposure anime has given her voice. In 2010 she conducted her first world tour (and by ‘world’, she clearly meant Europe and Japan) which included dates in London and Ireland, the country which inspired the creation of her seventh studio album Fairy Dance – it also includes three covers of traditional Celtic songs. The album, along with seven others are available digitally from the iTunes UK store courtesy of Wasabi Records, yet both singles taken from Phantom (‘Karma’, as well as closing theme ‘Transparent’) remain unreleased in this region.
KOKIA’s ‘Karma’ and ‘Transparent’ feature in Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom. Part 2 of the series is out on 12th March on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.
A New Threat to the Soul Society Arrives! In their bid to assume control of the Soul Society, Kageroza's Reigai imposters turn out to be as powerful as their Soul Reaper originals. A weakening Ichigo and the others attempt to train Nozomi to reach Shikai, possibly their key chance to defeat Kageroza. But there is still more to the mod soul Nozomi than meets the eye... Head Captain Genryusai Yamamoto joins the battle, but when Nozomi is taken captive and Ichigo's powers become increasingly unstable, the outcome is anybody's guess! Contains episodes 330-342. Special Features: Omake, Clean Opening and Ending. Spoken Languages: English, Japanese, English subtitles.
Tom Smith on Aqua Timez, the band from the Bleach 6.2 soundtrack.
Many of the artists who perform the many themes of Bleach can attribute their entry to mainstream success to the famous anime series. And if not to Bleach, then to anime in general. That was until the five-strong pop squad Aqua Timez entered the scene.
Tom Smith reports on YUI, the all-caps rock chick.
It’s been suggested that Japan’s singer, song-writing guitar chick YUI is her country’s answer to Avril Lavigne. Amid an industry manufactured and micro-managed to levels that make England’s best pop efforts seem amateur in comparison, she stands out as beacon of musical delight. For teenage girls, she’s proof that you don’t need to buy into the squeaky clean, plastic smiles of sickeningly sweet J-pop to be a successful female musician; for guys she’s the girl next door, and for anime fans she’s composed and performed themes in some of the most prominent series of recent years, including Bleach and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
Tom Smith on the band behind Bleach’s 14th Opening Theme
"The song is based on the singer’s own experiences of forming a band and the hardships endured while keeping the faith for a brighter future, with lyrics just vague enough that they could easily represent the struggles of Ichigo and pals, too."
It’s gratifying to see a generation of people so interested in hygiene – that must be why you’re lining up to buy a series called ‘Bleach’, right? If some orange haired janitor with a fancy mop (mop, magical talking death sword – whatever) excites you, hold on for these other heroes of the Japanese cupboard space!
“Try ‘n boogie, guns n’ tattoo” – there’s no greater embodiment of Kenichi Asai’s work than that opening line. As the words are dragged across the bluesy, rock n’ roll riff of Mad Surfer – the Japanese rebel’s song used as the 20th closing of Bleach – it’s difficult not to imagine smoke filled bars, motorcycles or leather jacketed misfits sporting hairdos your mother wouldn’t approve of.
Tom Smith on the band behind Bleach’s 21st Ending Theme
SunSet Swish held their first-ever live performance on Valentine’s Day 2004, at a small venue in Osaka Prefecture’s Hirakata city. A fitting introduction to the music world for a band whose claim to fame is having quite possibly the soppiest theme in Bleach history: ‘Sakurabito’.
Andrew Osmond on the history of man-machine interfaces
RoboCop is thrown into interesting perspective by looking at his anime cousins. In Japan, RoboCop is one of a crowd. Two of anime’s greatest poster icons – Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell and Tetsuo in Akira – are or become cyborgs. Moreover, a man-turned-robot was an anime hero back in 1963. We’re talking about 8th Man, shown in America as Tobor the Eighth Man. It’s a policeman who, yes, gets murdered by a crime gang, then resurrected in a robot body.
Andrew Osmond on a rap musical, in Japanese. Yes. Thank you. You’re welcome.
Represent! The live-action film of Akira is here… and it’s a rap musical! Okay, we’re kidding, but Tokyo Tribe takes place in a violent fantasy Tokyo of warring gangs, hence the film’s name. It’s based on a manga strip and takes a manically cartoonish approach to its material.
Paul Jacques goes on the prowl at the London Super Comic Con
Cosplayer Kasey Wolfe goes for a beardy version of Gohan from Dragon Ball Z, caught by our roving photographer Paul Jacques at the London Super Comic Con. Dragon Ball Z is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.
Jasper Sharp reviews the biggest anime book in the world
The ever-expanding volume of anime released in Japan, which includes theatrical one-offs, TV serials and videos, is truly mindboggling, and the authors have really done an amazing job in cataloguing titles emerging on new media platforms such as the internet and mobile phones.
Jonathan Clements goes in search of groove in a grove
Tajomaru: Avenging Blade is part of a trend in filmmaking that has seen a number of Japanese classics approached from new angles. In Hollywood, we have the Satsuma Rebellion retooled in The Last Samurai, and Keanu Reeves already at work on the forthcoming Forty-seven Ronin. Within Japan, Sogo Ishii’s Gojoe (2000) replayed a famous samurai legend with a gritty, glossy, pop sensibility. Shinji Higuchi’s Hidden Fortress: The Last Princess (2008) re-appraised a Kurosawa classic through the priorities and influences of George Lucas’s Star Wars. Kazuaki Kiriya’s Goemon (2009) retold an old kabuki tale, re-imagined with the weight of a century of potboiler novels and schlocky ninja movies.
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.
More than one way to skin a catbus, in our 24th podcast
Jeremy Graves is joined by Jerome Mazandarani, Andrew Hewson and Jonathan Clements, for a series of rants and ill-informed commentary about anime, manga, the storm over the Hugo Awards, and your most awkward convention moment.