Ring in Reiwa -令和- with some Visual Kei

Oh man, we are already a whole month and some odd days into the new Era of Japan; Reiwa. For those a little behind, or who only get their real time Japan news from anime, let’s do a touch of catch up.

Japan has eras, based on the currently reigning emperor. ‘Heisei (平成)’ was the era from January 8th, 1989 to April 30th 2019. The Era ended with Emperor Akihito abdicated the throne. The meaning of Heisei translates to “peace everywhere”.

Emperor Akihito abdicated from the throne, and his son Emperor Naruhito ascended. Reiwa (令和) officially began, May 1st 2019. The meaning of Reiwa translates to “beautiful harmony”.

One of the cooler things is that Japanese musical artists, do often dedicate certain songs to the current era. They’re incredibly popular in Enka and for end of the year karaoke. It’s not often done in more popular music genres as of late though. Although, when it was originally rumored Emperor Akihito would be abdicating more musicians quickly sprang to action writing pieces about Heisei specifically.

What I found interesting, or amusing depending on your view was how quickly Visual Kei took to Reiwa. Take a look below to see what exactly I mean.

Golden Bomber is in a league of their own when it comes to Visual Kei. They more or less are ‘air visual kei’ meaning a parody band. However, they are pretty damn well respected within most circles. They’ve had their mainstream success and more genre specific. They also can add this little tidbit to their legacy; they released this song within mere hours of the announcement that ‘Reiwa’ was the new era’s name. HOURS.

It’s a fun and funky little number. It really shows the hype of the new era for the band, with their dancing and catchy lyrics. It’s certainly an ear-worm that I haven’t quite gotten out of my head personally. It’s also been a hit with the public as expected, including the dance that goes with it.

BabyKingdom took a bit more time with this song making it the second Reiwa related song. Instead of having a full-fledged music video, they and B.P. Records, which they had only recently signed to, decided to opt for a lyric video. This song was also released in full in mere hours after the announcement. After listening, I got my inspiration to see if any other bands would come forward with Reiwa songs to ring in the new Era. So thanks BabyKingdom for the inspiration!

They also seem pretty excited about the new era. Of course, they do first have to thank the previous era. “Hey ! Say! Thank you very much” is quite catchy and I found myself muttering a few times before the transition was official. The title “Reiwa Kawakiri Gate’ means ‘Reiwa, beginning to open the new gate’ is pretty endearing. The whole song is just optimistic and fun, but significantly less annoying then Golden Bomber in my humble opinion.

Now, Waruagaki took a bit more time with their piece “Reiwa Gekokujiyou”. This song dropped after Reiwa began and thus I’m lucky with having held off on this listicle to add this piece in. While the set is simple, just the band playing and theme of having the lyrics on the screen has been maintained. Although, I’m not sure how popular this song will be with the public.

Their approach is certainly more VKei, with a stronger instrumentation and vocal expression. Not to mention the stronger message, the song title translates closely to “Reiwa supplanting his lord” (lord implying Heisei). Certainly, a different take and perspective on what Reiwa means to Waruagaki as a whole.

The final point in favor for this particular release is that this is the band’s ‘0’ single. As in absolutely the first song they ever released on Youtube and or as a band. Given the title, lyrics and dynamic of this band; sounds just about right. It’s a bold move for the band, it’s certainly one way to make yourself seen. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled to see if Waruagaki makes good on their Reiwa aspirations.

Representing Earth (that is the name of the band) isn’t a Visual Kei band. They’re certainly interesting to say the least. I had never heard of them until I was looking for songs called Reiwa, but they’re a Japanese rock band so I can dig it.

Considering ‘Reiwa’ is now their 61th single it’s safe to say the song swings back to the Golden Bomber, BabyKingdom side of Reiwa which is positive. The MV and the message is the promise of change. It’s a nice choice wearing high school uniforms since this class of students will be the first to graduate as students of Reiwa. It helps starting this era on a high note, especially since a certain band is ending Heisei rather… darkly next.

Now, this final track isn’t for the faint of heart being honest so proceed with caution please. (TW: Suicide) I don’t quite agree with Kizu’s fanbase about them being ‘the best’ band of this generation of Visual Kei. However, Kizu has always been consistent and I find them interesting to check out. I don’t agree with some the ways they present things, but I respect their musicianship and contributions to VKei so I’ve added them in here since their song is related but not titled about Reiwa.

Kizu, marching to the beat of their own drum as always took the opposite approach to the new era. Instead of greeting Reiwa with open arms, or even challenging the idea of ‘beautiful harmony’ like Waruagaki; they decided to say goodbye to Heisei for their 6th single. While this has been out since March 19th, they only posted the music video on April 30th, the last day of the Era.

I’ll admit it; it’s a slick package. There’s an air of respect in the tone of the single, with it’s opening chords and initial presentation. Having the entire MV in black and white adds to the emphasis to the finality of the Era. However, Kizu takes it opposite of where I was expecting it to go, by upping the pace of the piece and adding the frantic moments that come with inevitable ends. Lime’s vocals are no joke either and you can tell he’s giving it his all. A respectable piece of music to bookend an Heisei.

So with that, wishing you a beautiful new harmony with Reiwa. Hope you stick around to see what other music comes up in this new era with me!


One comment

  1. […] Phoenix Talks Pop Culture Japan — Ring in Reiwa -令和- with some Visual Kei – Japan shifted into a new era this year with the crowning of a new emperor. This post goes over the basics rather succinctly and chats about how Visual Kei bands will do tributes to the new or current era. This was one of the very few posts I saw chatting about the new Japanese era, and I loved it very much. […]


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