Tom Smith on Bleach’s primate-loving girl group, Chatmonchy
“Please don’t go anywhere” Eriko Hashimoto begs from behind her guitar. The fragile plea has unwitting followers. Her message rings out in the twelfth ending theme to Bleach, but loyal fans have already pre-empted her cries. After all, it’s in its seventh series on DVD in the UK and those who have followed Ichigo’s exploits this far show no signs of going anywhere. The red-headed hero still has Orihime Inoue to rescue and a heap of other tasks to complete – not to mention another 200 episodes worth of antics to accomplish before he’s up to speed with his Japanese adventures. In other words, there’s plenty more action left to prevent people from wandering away from the series – but thanks for your polite request anyway, Eriko.
Hashimoto-san is one half of Japan’s all-rocking grrrl duo Chatmonchy, who are amongst the country’s most loved female groups. They’ve enjoyed phenomenal chart success since going major in 2005, with all four of their albums rocketing up the top ten, tours that include dates at the mighty Nippon Budokan, as well as the opportunity to break out of Japan last year by perform at America’s South by Southwest festival.
Like many of life’s best bands, their name has absolutely no meaning. In an interview with the Japan Times, Eriko revealed that their barmy moniker wasn’t even dreamed up by the band’s current line-up. Back in the second year of Japan’s high school system, she formed the first draft of the group with two classmates, one of whom insisted the unit’s named captured the imagery of a playful chimp, much like Monchichi, a famous Japanese monkey doll which also had his own American and Japanese cartoon shows.
They cut his name down to ‘monchy’ in the Roman alphabet), and decided one more word was needed to complete their title. And so, following the tactics employed by countless musicians before them, they randomly flicked through a dictionary until they found a word they liked. And Chatmonchy was born. Kind of.
After graduating, the girls went separate ways and Chatmonchy became non-existent until Eriko enrolled in the Light Music Club of her college. Thankfully for her, the members she found there were nothing Yui of K-On! and didn’t require cake in order to focus. Soon the band completed their line-up with the aid of bassline-basher Akiko ‘Acco’ Fukuoka and drum-beater Kumiko Takahashi. And that’s how it remained since the band went major in 2005, a three-piece.
After a successful career, where the band was able to accomplish more than they had ever imagined, Kumiko was left feeling unable to contribute anything new to the band. On September, this year, she left and Chatmonchy become a twosome. But not without playing one of the biggest shows in their career; the girls shared a stage with some of Japan’s best at TV Asahi’s aptly named Dream Festival – featuring music heavy weights such as L’Arc en Ciel, Tokyo Jihen, GLAY, Pornograffiti, Perfume and many more.
So what’s all this got to do with the song in Bleach? Well, the track quoted at the start, entitled ‘Daidai’ (meaning ‘Orange’ – the fruit, not the colour of Ichigo’s hair) is a result of all of the above. Although recorded with all three members of Chatmonchy’s most recent line-up, the song was originally written by Eriko during high school. She named it ‘Daidai’ because it reminded her of climbing up trees (and it really wasn’t her who pushed for the monkey named band?), plus she liked the kanji – it was easy to write. The song’s lyrics are even the same as they were back then, which, she says, is the reason for the poor grammar in the English parts. All in all, if there was ever a song that captured the timeless spirit of Chatmonchy, from their roots to mainstream success, this is it.
Bleach: The Complete Series 7 box set, featuring Chatmonchy’s ‘Daidai’ single, is out on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.
Collected together for the first time! Episodes 132-151 of Bleach Series 7. Told over 4 discs and packaged in slimline Amaray packaging featuring the original Japanese sleeve art and housed inside a gorgeously designed box. Just a few months from the showdown with the Arrancars, Ichigo and his friends are deep in training, but the battle may arrive earlier than expected when Aizen sends Arrancars to the World of the Living. Captain Hitsugaya's advance troops assist in defending Karakura Town, and the fight appears to be going to the heroes, when Aizen orders the kidnapping of one of Ichigo's most loyal friends - Orihime!
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’.
BFI announce a festival of Miyazaki, Takahata, et al...
The BFI South Bank cinema in London will be screening a Studio Ghibli season throughout April and May. Curator Justin Johnson will be giving an introduction to Ghibli on the 2nd April, followed by screenings of all the major Ghibli works and a number of relative obscurities
Tears, cheers and liver-ripping fun with Japanese ghosts
The battle to destroy the eight seals dominating Kyoto steps up in this second half of the second series adapting the manga of the same name. Nura, our young hero, here finds his desire to use the supernatural to protect humans means he has put his clan in the way of much greater harm than ever before – and before series’ end, yokai, onymyoji and humans will have all spilled blood....
Eric Khoo's film focuses on one of the founders of gekiga, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, who died on 7th March. The framing story is Tatsumi’s account of his life and development, growing up with a difficult family. He had none of the technology and luxuries that we take for granted, no reason to think he could ever make a living from the fledgling manga industry. And yet he was utterly driven to draw comics, like his hero Osamu Tezuka.
Even without the tie-in with anime, Idoling!!! had had a strong presence on television. After all, the group were created by a bunch of media moguls from Fuji TV. They figured out that by appealing to two of Japan’s more dedicated entertainment fangroups, idol fans and TV junkies, that they could be on to a winner.
Rayna Denison sneaks into the background of ninja anime
What is it about Japanese martial arts that these shows celebrate? In the case of Naruto, and now the second series, Naruto Shippuden, it is the “mysterious” art of ninjutsu that comes in for exploration and explosion.
The game Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths is rolling out as a digital download across multiple platforms. This month it becomes available on the Nintendo 3DS and Amazon, following launches on the Wii U, iPad, iPhone and Steam.