As a consumer of anime and various other facets of Japanese media, I’ve opened up a small window which allows me to peer into the music scene over there. The view I have of it is relatively small as my exposure has mostly been through hearing various OPs and EDs (opening and ending themes) for the shows that I’ve watched. Most of the music usually emanating from this outlet is in some form of J-Pop (Japanese Pop), but I’ve had the opportunity to hear quite a few J-Rock (Japanese Rock) bands this way as well. I would probably say that the first anime J-Rock song that caught my attention was “Konya wa Hurricane” for Bubblegum Crisis, which I watched sometime in the early 90’s. The soundtrack for the show was solid, with several powerful 80’s styled rock songs and ballads. It was one of the first anime soundtracks that I ever got a hold of and listened to quite often. I even went as far as learning some the lyrics on my own, romanizing it by ear with no knowledge of the language.
(Had to include a link for the actual band’s PV for the song, that just oozes 80’s: LINK)
Much time would pass before I would be exposed to this genre again, as I was heavily involved in a R&B singing group at the time. I did listen to several instrumental soundtracks (usually from video games or movies) along the way in addition to with my usual local music consumption, but I probably didn’t come back to this particular outlet of music until I started watching anime again sometime back in 2009-2010. As I watched more and more shows, my interest in this genre began to grow again. However, things were different now. Before, the only way I could get foreign music was if I had a local shop that carried the product. However, now is the era of the Internet. It was much easier to listen to and obtain music from this outlet through digital means.
Through a show called Gintama, the first artist that would grab my attention was a group called DOES. That show in particular was a personal favorite and the anime staff decided to use a total of 4 songs from the artist for the show. After hearing them this often and actually liking all of those songs, I had to check out more. Another one of their songs was also featured in one of my recent favorite shows, “Space Brothers.” DOES is a three-piece group (Guitar, Bass, Drums) as is common with many J-Rock bands. I wouldn’t say their sound is exactly unique, but there was something different about it when I compared it to the mainstream rock we have here. I found it appealing and enjoyable despite the lack of understanding for the lyrics of the songs.
In my search for more, I enlisted the help of Google-sensei and through some recommendations on forums, stumbled across another group called 9mm Parabellum Bullet. What was different about this group was that I didn’t discover it by means of anime. They didn’t have any songs featured in any OPs or EDs. None of that really mattered though because once I heard their sound, I was hooked. They definitely rock out the show from what I’ve seen in their PVs and live performances. Their musicianship became apparent to me as I listened to more of their songs. Quite a talented group of individuals.
After that, Gintama once again brought a few other groups to my attention. Prague is yet another three-piece group that I came to enjoy, particularly due to the fact that I felt that the lead vocalist had a better voice than most J-Rock groups I had heard. That, and I was impressed with their bassist, as I had been dabbling in bass guitar at the time (「シェイカーラブ」, “Negai,” and “Makura Fuu” to name a few bass-relevant songs).
With their performance of one of the opening themes, the group ecosystem also caught my attention. Their song “dilemma” immediately topped among my previous favorites. Once again, it was the lead vocalist that pulled me in. There was something about her voice that was unique to me. It was powerful and expressive and I could just feel the emotion in her delivery. I didn’t normally listen to female groups at the time. I did give SCANDAL a listen previously, along with a few anime-specific artists, but I didn’t really cling to them like I did with ecosystem.
There are probably a few other artists I worth mentioning like Nothing’s Carved in Stone, Monkey Majik, and ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D who received ample rotation in my playlists. Some anime-specific artists that also got play include Girls Dead Monster, ENOZ, and certain songs by Houkago Tea Time, all of which were well produced and great listens despite being specifically made for the shows they were in (see Music in Anime).
My tastes in music have expanded greatly over time. From rock, metal, alternative, R&B, soul, rap, hip hop, jazz, classical, (movie, television, game) soundtracks, techno, house, electronic, adult contemporary, and gospel, I’d say I’ve actively listened to quite a broad range of music. J-Rock is simply another addition to that list. Good music is good music, no matter the genre. It hasn’t exactly been the cheapest thing to delve into, as the value of the US Dollar vs the Japanese Yen combined with import costs have been quite a bit to deal with. However, I still greatly enjoy the music and try to pick up new J-Rock albums when I get the chance. If you’re curious, just take a listen to any of those clips and see if they get your attention. I probably haven’t even scratched the surface with regards to the amount of other J-Rock artists that are out there waiting to be heard… at least heard by me, anyway.
Now, if I could just finish up that language learning endeavor I’ve had, maybe I’ll finally understand the lyrics without having to look up translations…