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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’.

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Sakurabito is thought to have been introduced to the Japanese language as the title to one of the lost chapters of Murasaki Shikibu’s 11th-century classic Genji Monogatari, which underwent the anime treatment 1000 years later with Osamu Dezaki’s The Tale of Genji: A Millenium-Old Journal. Traditionally the epic contains 54 chapters, though there are thought to have been 60 in the original. Though, ‘traditionally’ is used very broadly here. Despite the story being around for such a long time, it wasn’t until recent years that it was translated into modern Japanese. In fact, it’s thought that the original became unreadable to the general population of Japan within one hundred years of being made – that’s how fast the Japanese language evolved at that time.

The concept behind the title combines the kanji for ‘sakura’ (‘cherry blossom’, not the Card Captor) and ‘hito’ (meaning ‘person’, which becomes ‘bito’ when used at the end of a noun-compound), so quite literally it means cherry blossom person, but can also mean someone pertaining the qualities of sakura – a rather beautiful and romantic metaphor, comparing someone to Japan’s most iconic symbol of momentary beauty.

SunSet Swish’s other tracks featured in anime are as equally love-fuelled. ‘Mozaiku Kakera’ (‘Mosaic Fragments’), the second ending theme to Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, tells the tale of a person picking up the pieces after a brief romantic encounter. A beautifully haunting recording of it can be heard here on violin by NicoNico user TheScreamer.

The trio even managed to have a song used in the sports anime Big Windup!, following Ren Mihashi’s journey to gain confidence as a top baseball player. A good excuse for power-pop, high energy songs? Nope! Their song ‘Arigatou’ became the series’ final closer and has lyrics (and a soft melody) on par with those of ‘Mozauki Kakera’ above.

SunSet Swish’s biggest hit to date was their third single ‘My Pace’, a perfect slice of J-pop/rock that was entirely their pace. It had the catchy, sing-along aspects that would make it a must for karaoke fans, a guitar solo, and even panpipes – the epitome of soppy pop-rock. The track was their first outing in Bleach (way back in series 4) and made its chart debut at number six.

Unfortunately for SunSet Swish, their other singles were lucky if they made the top 50 at all, and their final single ‘Barairo’ (‘Rose Colour’), released in the summer of 2010, failed to make it into the top 100. Suffice to say, by 2011 an announcement was made on the group’s homepage that they would pause activates for the time being. As of the end of 2013, they remain on pause.

Bleach Series 12 Part 2 – Zanpakuto, featuring SunSet Swish’ ‘Sakurabito’ as its closing, is out 9 December on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

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