Alright, here it is again! The year in review, presented by JrockRevolution.com. Last year was Seventh Heaven, so this year will be Crazy Eights. Anyone remember that card game from your childhood?
At the end of 2007, there were predictions that 2008 was going to be a huge year for both domestic and overseas Jrock. Well, it was, and now 2009 is looking awfully bountiful. As done last year, this summary is done in alphabet format.
Disclaimer: This list is a compilation of what we thought best represented Jrock overseas. Due to limited space, not every single Jrock band was included. If a band or activity was left out, feel free to mention it in our forum.
A is for ANIME. Porno Graffiti ended the third Bleach movie, Fade to Black, with “Koyoi, Tsuki wa Miesu Tomo”. Yugi-Ou 5D was a hot spot, featuring Kra (“Kizuna”), LM.C (“Gotta GOLD”), and alice nine. (“CROSS GAME”). You’ll hear SID playing “Monochrome no Kiss” if you turn on Kuroshitsuji. Mouryou no Hako featured Nightmare for the opening (“Lost in Blue”) AND closing (“Naked Love”). Kanon Wakeshima, who is being produced under Mana’s wing, provided the track “Suna no Oshiro” to Vampire Night Guilty. UVERworld sang “Hakanaku mo Towa no Kanashi” on the second season of Gundam 00. On the TV series Tales of the Abyss “Karma” was sung by BUMP OF CHICKEN. Naruto Super Hits 2006-2008 was released this year, and it contains tracks by DJ OZMA and ORESKABAND (who are also on Bleach Best Tunes, which was released in a couple weeks ago). L’Arc~en~ciel’s highly anticipated “DRINK IT DOWN” was kidnapped for the video game Devil May Cry 4. Gackt had a bit of an interesting year; his dog Ener was slated to get his own anime series to promote environmental issues called Ener’s Big Adventure. The musician himself lent his voice to Gackpoid, which is a vocal synthesizer that you can sing through and come out sounding like Gackt (a spin-off of the original Vocaloid). Kentarou Miura, infamous for the Berserk manga, drew the artwork of virtual-Gackt. (When did this list get so long?)
Lastly, let’s not forget Angelo. They premiered their PV “He is a Monkey” on the Anime Network channel. If you missed it, it’s on demand!
B is for BYE. Grab some tissues! This year, Jrock fans said farewall to Rentrer en Soi, on Christmas of all days! Black:List will be gone by the beginning of 2009. Phantasmagoria, who keeps threatening to break up, is finally done, but their fans now have chariots to coo over. Gram∞Maria played their last live in January; Viored and duraluMin both played final shows in February. VelBet parted with four out of five members, and went on hiatus for a few months until they had a full group again. ELLEGARDEN regrettably dissolved right in the middle of recording their fourth album. Vocalist Takeshi is going solo though, so ELLE fans are teething on that. Although it sort of counts, Miyavi said ‘sayounara’ to anymore projects with the KAVKI BOIZ (for now…). Finally, L’Arc~en~ciel fans nearly had a heart-attack when the band announced good-bye to live performances until 2011. However, as they continue to release singles, everyone is confident they’re too cemented as a band to break up.
C is for CONVENTIONS. This was a huge year for Japanese bands at anime conventions. What was originally a ploy to increase intendance at these cons has turned into a staple of these weekend culture celebrations. Not in order: LM.C and GaGaalinG rocked Anime Expo, joining Kuro (ex-VelBet) and Riku from chariots. Versailles and Budo Grape shook A-Kon to its roots. GPKism visited NEKOCON, the same weekend Suicide Ali rocked out PMX with the enchanting Kaya. T.M. Revolution returned to the convention circuit for Comic Con in New York City. The Pillows showed up at Anime Boston, and AnCafe graced Fanime. RENTRER EN SOI played for the last time in America at Anime Next and despite the destruction of Hurricane Ike, Oni-con in Houston welcomed Dio~Distraught Overlord~ and Sugar after chariots had to reschedule. Marbell, The Underneath, and DaizyStripper attended Otakon. Aural Vampire succeeded at Anime Matsuri. Anime Central went pop this year with HALCALI. Camino stopped by DotCon in Canada, and Mexico got Swinging Popsicle. Although we don’t hear about Europe conventions too much, Gothika did go to England for Amecon.
D is for Dir en grey. They spent 2007 establishing themselves overseas, and this year was like icing on the cake. They finished shedding their visual kei look for a favor of a more natural rock look. Their winter tour in the United States was not sponsored by any Jrock company, just Revolver Magazine and Hot Topic. This band released their new album, Uroboros, as a bonus set with an LP to compliment to the CDs, a rare treat for the collectors out there. Also, Dir en grey’s song “Dozing Green” won the Best Music Video category on Headbanger’s Ball countdown on MTV this year. It was #1 viewer’s choice, and #9 for the staff. Last year, Dir en grey won this with “Saku”. Never underestimate an underground music movement, MTV.
E is for EUROPEAN PRESENCE. Eddie Izzard dubs Europe as the place “where history comes from”, and there’s no doubt that Europe is busy creating Jrock history of its own. January was a busy time, with girugamesh, DJ Krush (you may know this name from LUNA SEA’s song “Kiss”) and HALCALI over-lapping concerts over each other. MAXIMUM THE HORMONE, ACafé, The Candy Spooky Theater, Dio~Distraught Overlord~, Kagrra,, POLYSICS, -ayabie-, and Plastic Tree all visited as well. Versailles and Matenrou Opera represented Japan for the Ästhetik Revolution. L’Arc~en~Ciel, which means “rainbow” in French, “KISS”ed Paris to a sold out crowd. Gackt visited Romania to film the movie Bunraku. Miyavi stormed the country on his World Tour, selling out multiple stops including two in Finland. Apparently, Miyavi fans up there are forming an army. The Rock Star Taste of Chaos (which will be mentioned further down the article) toured in October, bringing D’espairsRay, MUCC, and the Underneath with them. X JAPAN nearly brought their act to Paris, but much to Yoshiki’s anguish, factors out of his control put the concert on hold.
F is for FASHION. Fashion continues to make its steps forward outside of Japan, and oh does it feel pretty. Last year, MaruiOne made their first American debut to couple with their European one last year with not only an appearance at AnimeExpo 2008, but they opened a multilingual website where anyone can purchase from popular gothic, lolita, and punk brands. h. Naoto themselves were also at Anime Expo 2008 in their steps to broaden their horizons. Despite h. Naoto not being able to make it to PMX, fashion attendees had no need to fret! Baby, the Stars Shine Bright and Alice and the Pirates were there to sell their wares. Angelic Pretty came to visit Los Angeles again for their second event with not only a boutique, but with the iconic Lolita musical couple Kokushoku Sumire. 2008 also saw the debut of the English version of the Gothic & Lolita Bible (they’re on issue four!).
But what are the artists wearing? In July, Miyavi and Hakuei (PENICILLIN) both made special appearances at Japan Expo 2008’s fashion show hosted by Le Foret HARAJUKU in Paris. Miyavi sported a leopard-themed outfit by Sexy Dynamite London, while Hakuei wore a darker, aristocratic look by Black Peace Now. During MaruiOne’s Individual Fashion Expo in Japan, Kamijo and Hizaki (Versailles ~Philharmonic Quintet~) modeled for lolita clothing brands Baby, the Stars Shine Bright and Alice and the Pirates. The same brand clothed Versailles for their new single, "Prince and "Princess". Gou (Megamasso) and Daishi (Amaterasu) wore designs by h.NAOTO sub-brand sixh. Makoto (doremidan) came out in a anime cosplay ensemble from the series "Kuroshitsuji" ("Black Butler"); the ensemble consisted of OZZ CROCE, ATELIER BOZ and BLACK PEACE NOW.
Yoshiki launched Yoshiki Jewelry, which is currently available throughout Japan in Takashimaya stores. Kaya released his own set of fake nails this year. In CURE magazine‘s July issue, an h.NAOTO special feature included MYM (GaGaalinG), Mar (Marbell), Lika (function code();), Kamijo (Versailles), Hayato (DuelJewel), Ryuuji (Zoro), Makoto (Doremidan), Itsuki (Bergerac), Jui (Vidoll), Inzargi (Megamasso), Saki (ClearVeil), Ukiru (Juliette), Kuro (ex-VelBet), denka (Dio~Distraught Overlord~), Taka (the Underneath), and Loki (Sugar) all wearing clothing by h.NAOTO and its many sub-brands.
In terms of collaborations, Kiyoharu (ex-Kuroyume, ex-SADS) collaborated with luxury underwear line Guitarist LIP under his clothing line, GLAM ADDICTION. Megamasso also collaborated with London club-inspired, SUPER LOVERS. Jewelry company, GemCerey, collaborated with the GazettE, SID, and VAMPS (Hyde and K.A.Z.) this year to offer unique necklaces, rings, and earrings.
G is for GLAY. GLAY made their first trip the United States, an overdue feat for a band that outnumbers X JAPAN in concert-selling records in Japan. Over 3100 fans attended; the Filmore (San Francisco) and House of Blues (Los Angeles) concerts sold out. Their manager, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, could not stop grinning as he filtered through the sea of guests. Even though GLAY is not visual rock, a lot of the same fans from the visual rock concerts appeared to support Japanese music in its au natural form. Many “beautiful dreamers” never thought that seeing this band would become a beautiful reality.
H is for hide Memorial Summit. Shortly after the X JAPAN reunion live, hide fans packed Ajinomoto Stadium for two days over May 3rd and 4th to celebrate a pink-haired guitarist. X JAPAN member, soloist, and lyricist hide matsumoto passed away on May 2nd, 1998. The remains of hide with Spread Beaver joined T.M.Revolution, DJ OZMA, RIZE, Maximum the Hormone, Hurdy Gurdy, Phantasmagoria, Versailles, MarBell, and DaizyStripper…and that was just day one!. The second day brought a new level to the word “epic”: X JAPAN (with SUGIZO playing hide’s part), LUNA SEA, Dir en grey, Oblivion Dust, MUCC, and D’espairsRay all sharing a stage. Tokyo Yankees, Ladies Room, and ra:IN also showed up, bringing more EXTASY flavor to the event.
I is for iTunes. Last year, JRR.com could only find a couple artists were on iTunes (like Janne Da Arc, Gackt, and Miyavi). With a bit of digging, we found that there’s even more ways to support your favorite artists for cheap! X JAPAN’s “I.V.” is indeed on there, and they go way back to Blue Blood and Jealousy. TOSHI with T-EARTH has files too. VAMPS, the Underneath, Inugami Circus Dan, Imitation Pops Uchuu Sentai NOIZ, Advantage Lucy, Versailles, GaGaalinG, Vidoll, Phantasmagoria, chariots, Lareine, PENICILLIN, Acid Black Cherry (iTunes reviewed Black List), Kaya, Dio~Distraught Overlord~, and Oreskaband. DuelJewel and Suicide Ali are as well, but 2008 releases only. Wow. Who knew?
The non-visual type bands on iTunes are Aural Vampire, The Pillows, Bump of Chicken, Creature Creature, soloist Hotei Tomoyasu, Oblivion Dust, The Blue Hearts (yes, really!), MO’SOME TONEBENDER, HiGE, m-flo, Utada Hikaru, The Mods (been around since the 70s), and techno successes Capsule are all available for your downloading pleasure. THE MAD CAPSULE MARKETS have one PV. Check your “J-pop” genre for these artists, although a lot of these are under “unknown”.
If iTunes isn’t your thing, JapanFiles has a list of over 200 indies bands to download legally as well! They have a diverse range from visual (girugamesh) to eclectic (Electric Eel Shock) to defunct bands like LiN Clover.
J is for JrockRevolution.com. Perhaps the most impressive thing we did this entire year was working with EINSOF Marketing Group selling overseas tickets to the X JAPAN concert, and taking a tour group over there. The best part? We set the record in Japan for the largest domestic ticket sale of any Japanese concert. By “we”, I mean every single one of you from all thirty-six countries who invaded Tokyo.
K is for KOMURO TETSUYA. The pop music Midas Tetsuya Komuro defrauded a buyer by selling him rights to music that he didn’t actually fully own. The price? 500 million yen. Komuro was incredible in the early 90s for all the music he wrote that gave many starlets their time in the spotlight, but it seemed things had been sliding in a bit of an unfavorable direction. As a result of this Avex temporary put all music by the band he led, globe, on hold until further notice.
L is for LOUDNESS. New visual-kei fans may not know of LOUDNESS, an explosive metal band that was able to expand out of Japan to Europe and America as a respected rock presence. None the less, LOUDNESS lovers emerged out of the woodwork in support when their drummer was diagnosed with liver cancer in April 2008. Their unification in hope then turned to grief when Takasaki Akira posted that Munetaka Higuchi passed away on November 30th. Nearly all the results on Google’s first page are from metal music forums commenting in an outpour of disbelief. The overseas Japanese music fans are not far behind. After losing Tokyo Yankee’s vocalist Umemura last year, Munetaka is just another stab in the heart for the fans of older Japanese music. He was 49.
M is for Miyavi. Miyavi is unofficially the first Japanese rock musician to go on a non-stop world tour. Other artists have visited various countries in spurts, Europe here, the U.S. there, but not Miyavi. He did it in one long swoop: four in the United States, three in South America, nearly a dozen in Europe, then a half dozen for a tour of Asia. Think of how many airplane trips that is! He also released his album This is Japanese Kabuki Rock in Taiwan and Korea. On top of that, Miyavi has become one of those most available Jrock musicians to fans; although his website blog is in Japanese, most of his MySpace blog posts are in English. He also has an official Photobucket and Youtube account, reaching out to fans that have had hands outstretched for years.
-STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO!-
Written by Hikari, Krystal, and Megwa
Contributions by Retro and Kara
Edited by Kara