Tom Smith on the return of one of anime’s most popular rock bands
A lot has changed since Manga UK first wrote about SPYAIR in 2013. Back then, the pop-rock act had just released their first international album through London’s JPU Records. It came packed with three exclusive bonus tracks for the UK release, all of which had featured in anime – including mega hit LAST MOMENT from Bleach Series 14 and fan favourite Samurai Heart, used in Gintama.
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One of those changes can be seen above. The band’s official YouTube channel is now open to the world for the first time! As mad as it sounds, the channel was previously restricted to Japan only.
Another is the explosion of overseas fans. In 2013 SPYAIR embarked on their first European live appearance, performing at Paris’ dubiously named (but actually not awful) Tokyo Crazy Kawaii event. The boys managed to sell out of CDs before they had even hit the stage.
Right after that they flew straight to Korea for a headline show before releasing some new singles back in Japan that were tied in with the latest anime. First was JUST ONE LIFE featured in Samurai Flamenco (streaming now on Netflix), followed by Imagination in popular high school volleyball drama Haikyuu. It’s also one of their most watched music videos, clocking in at eight million views at the time of writing.
So where do the guys go from here? On their biggest domestic tour, that’s where! At least that was the plan, but halfway through the mostly soldout schedule, vocalist IKE suddenly takes to Twitter to make an announcement that would shock everyone, including his bandmates. The message simply stated; “I will leave SPYAIR”.
Suddenly SPYAIR’s momentum came crashing down. The remaining tour dates were cancelled, and fans were left speculating what had happened. Before long a message appeared on the band’s official homepage explaining to situation. IKE had been suffering from polyps on his vocal chords, combined with acute inflammation. It was affecting his performance, and it was pretty clear from his tweet that the pressure was affecting his mental health too.
And then there was nothing. Complete silence for months. All four members’ Twitter activity ceased. Information about the band dried up. It wasn’t looking good.
Then, without any warning, a new song eventually appeared on their YouTube channel entitled GLORY.
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It featured footage of the band throughout the years, from their early street performances, to sold-out shows and festival appearances. The boys were back. And it turned out they were bringing their back catalogue with them!
Shortly after the video launched, accumulating hundreds of thousands of views within days, the band announced that IKE was on the road to recovery and SPYAIR would continue activities. The first step would be a new compilation album called BEST, collating a massive 16 tracks from the band, including all 14 of their singles, plus two never before released songs.
Upon release in Japan, BEST went straight into the charts at number three, and has also been picked up for release here digitally and on CD through JPU Records. With over 50 per cent of the album consisting of Japanese animation and TV themes, including Gintama, Gundam and Bleach, this could be an essential album for fans of anime and Japanese rock alike.
SPYAIR’s BEST album is out on special edition CD from JPU Records from 12 January 2015.