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.
Babymetal, anime apartheid and MazandaRanting in our 25th podcast.
Jeremy “Care in the Community” Graves is joined by Manga UK’s Jerome “Twitter Hijacker” Mazandarani and Product Manager Andrew “Mr Manga” Hewson, and special guest Stuart Ashen, star of Ashens and the Quest for the Gamechild, out now. Not sure any of those names will stick.
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.
Mamoru Oshii's latest film, fresh from its Tokyo premiere
In his live introduction to the premiere of Garm Wars The Last Druid at the Tokyo International Film Festival, Mamoru Oshii called his film a "a precise recreation of the delusions in my mind." While the truth of that statement is only known to Oshii, Garm Wars is certainly embedded in Oshii-land, ticking off the staple themes and existential worries in his work, while finding a new kind of gorgeousness.
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?
Necromancy, ten years of NEO, and the carrot of continuations on our 27th podcast
Jeremy Graves is joined by the fragrant Gemma Cox of NEO magazine, the pungent Andrew Partridge from Anime Ltd, and the newly doctored Jonathan Clements to discuss Scotland Loves Anime, the Boom Boom Satellite Distraction Device, and rogue robot tanks.
Tom Smith on the Britmaniacs behind the Naruto theme.
They’re so loud and proud that they insist on writing it all in caps: ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION – possibly one of Japan’s most important alternative rock acts. The group’s tenth single ‘After Dark’ makes for the energetic, guitar-heavy opening theme to the latest volume of Bleach, released in the UK this month, and the group’s sound might at first seem reminiscent of America’s indie scene dashed with elements of punk, it actually has a lot more in common with The Who, their generation, and the sea of British-based guitar heroes that have appeared since.