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Tom Smith on Bleach’s Tsuji Shion

Dropping out of school in order to follow a dream may sound like a risky nightmare waiting to happen, but for Yokohama-based schoolgirl Tsuji Shion, it was a decision that thankfully paid off – but not without a lot of old-fashioned elbow grease and luck.

As a youngster Tsuji was obsessed with music, particularly poetry, where she had wrote no less than 100 different verses. Her talent didn’t go unnoticed either. In 2002, barely aged twelve, she had already signed her first contract, allowing Tokyo talent agency The Moon Child to have her on their books.

Not content with ‘just’ being another name in Japan’s sprawling talent industry, young Tsuji decided that her words needed melody behind them, and she had worked in the industry long enough to know that she didn’t want some music exec behind a desk deciding how her songs should sound, so at the age of 15 she decided to take up guitar seriously and make her own songs.

With an acoustic guitar in hand, optimistic Tsuji played at live houses across Japan – just vocals and a six-string. So intense were her independent tour schedules that there wasn’t time to fit in school as well. One had to go, and it was an easy decision which. So it was bye-bye homework, teachers and after-school clubs; hello live house, after live house, after live house.

By 2008 her efforts had cumulated in the release of her debut single ‘Candy Kicks’, receiving play on 46 different TV and radio shows, making her the most exposed female solo artist in Japan of the last ten years.

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That difficult second single came next, entitled ‘Sky chord ~Otona ni Naru Kimi e~’, and it would come to be Tsuji Shion’s biggest hit to date when it was used as the 18th ending theme for Bleach, between episodes 202-214, and the whole of series 11. With a calm, peaceful melody and Tsuji’s sweet, soft vocals on top, the song could not have been more of a contrast to the fast paced sword-swinging soul action of the anime. Yet, perhaps that is part of the charm that made it a fan favourite.

Her next brush with anime would be with Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 with her single ‘M/elody’ making the upbeat and cheerful ending theme. It was a lot more produced than the rest of her material, but there was still elements of her love for acoustic guitar left in places. This was followed up with ‘Ai ga Hoshii yo’ (‘I Need Love!’) as the final opening to Soul Eater, also out now on DVD. Like ‘M/elody’, it continued a band sound over her original voice and guitar style. Whether a coincidence or not, it was also her final physical single. From 2012 onwards Tsuji’s singles have been digital only. She’s making a comeback in September with her first one man show this year. Keep an eye and an ear out for her.

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Bleach: Complete Series 11 is out now on UK DVD by Manga UK, featuring Tsuji Shion’s ending theme ‘Sky chord ~Otona ni Naru Kimi e~’.


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