Tom Smith on a band that’s anything but their namesake.
Whack your speakers to 11, position the cursor over play on the video below, and prepare to rock out to some classic-styled metal from one of Japan’s longest running noise-making outfits. They’re known as LAZY, and the video that follows is their 2011 single ‘Reckless’, the theme song behind Manga Entertainment’s supernatural mini-film series Towanoquon.
Reckless by LAZY
Pretty rocking, right? Now compare that to the same band’s debut single ‘Hey! I Love You!’, released in the summer of 1977. It sounds like an entirely different band. No electronically extravagant guitars, no raspy rock’n’roll vocals… so what happened? Between three decades, breakups, solo projects and the frontman becoming dubbed ‘Mr. DBZ’ as well as ‘the Price of Anime’, an awful lot. Let’s start at the beginning.
LAZY formed when classmates Hironobu Kageyama, Akira Takasaki and Hiroyuki Tanaka wanted to start a heavy rock band in the style of Black Sabbath, Whitesnake and Deep Purple. In fact, they liked the latter – who were once the globe’s loudest band according to the Guinness Book of World Records – so much that they named themselves after the group’s song ‘Lazy’. By Hironobu’s 16th birthday, LAZY had picked up a drummer (Munetaka Higuchi) and keyboard player (Shunji Inoue), but more importantly, they’d also picked up a major record contract from RCA (a division of BMG Japan). Unfortunately, the timing was not the best for Japanese rock music. It would be another ten-or-so years until the likes of Tomoyasu Hotei and his band BOØWY would revolutionise domestic rock in Japan (read about it here), for now, the bigwigs in control didn’t believe in the power of rock (the blasphemers), and instead provided LAZY with middle-of-the-road, safe, watered down pop-rock songs to croon along to.
By 1981 the boys had had enough of toning down their music and decided to call it quits on LAZY, instead embarking on solo careers, side projects and other music-based works – all heavily influenced by metal, of course. LAZY’s guitarist, bass-player and drummer (Akira, Hiroyuki and Munetaka) went on to form LOUDNESS, Japan’s first heavy metal group to sign to a major American label. It proved a little too loud for Hiroyuki, who soon left the group in favour of a career writing anime songs with his own band Neverland.
Vocalist Hironobu decided to go one step further than his bandmate Hiroyuki and dived headfirst into the world of anime and television. He went on to record track-after-track for anime and high-energy (and high-kicking) tokusatsu shows. Even after LAZY decided to reform in 1998, Hironobu stayed true to his inner-otaku and continued writing anime songs. To date, he’s recorded so many themes, including the first opening for Dragon Ball Z, ‘Cha-La Head Cha-La’, and countless others with his supergroup JAM Project (the first part standing for Japan Animationsong Makers), that fans went on to call him by some of the names mentioned in paragraph two.
‘Reckless’ sees Hironobu combining his love for anime, and his love for his original band together in perfect heavy rockin’ harmony.
A WILD DANCE OF CHAOS! In the not-too-distant future, children are being born with special powers, marvelous and remarkable abilities. But what would seem like a wondrous gift turns out to be a dangerous curse. For the world is now run by The Order, and these miraculous deviants are hunted down-and killed. But Quon and his group of Attractors are out to rescue these children before The Order's elite squad of ruthless cyborgs detect them. From their hideout beneath a popular amusement park, the Attractors use high tech gadgetry and their own remarkable abilities to save these children, and teach them to harness and control their powers to overthrow the very powers that seek to destroy them. With spectacular animation, stunning fight sequences, and richly detailed characters, Towanoquon is destined to be an anime classic and must-have for any animation fan's library.
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.
Elizabeth Coombes cosplays as Madame Sharley, the sharky mermaid to be found far off in the 500s of the One Piece anime. Also known variously as Shyarly and Shirley -- even the subtitles sometimes change their mind. Shirley some mistake?
“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.
Stephen Turnbull risks nine deaths in the eye of the ninja storm... or does he?
There is more to the ninja myth than meets the eye. By 1638 all wars had ceased under the police state of the Tokugawa family, yet within twenty years armchair generals were busily writing manuals of military theory, including speculations about sneak attacks, night-fighting and backstabbing.
The director’s path from Sci-Fi London to Hollywood
“We pulled all our favourite moments from Akira and had this library of reference, so whenever we got stuck, or we ever felt like a sequence wasn’t inspired enough, or we didn’t know exactly how to give it that edge to made it feel as epic as we could, we would always thumb through the Akira imagery and suddenly get a wave of excitement or a new direction.”
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.