Welcome to the very first edition of Visual Kei&Anime! I had intended to get this first edition out much sooner but… the first of any series is always rather difficult to start. So, this won’t be perfect but it will be the first of many. Before we drop into anime tie-ins; we have to start with an introduction to the artist!
Born as Takemasa Ishihara, most people know the samurai guitarist as MIYAVI. Miyavi has been active in the music scene since 1999, known for his distinct style of finger slap style guitar. He started out as a guitarist, for Dué le quartz where he wrote lyrics, compositions, and arranged for the band as well. Dué le quartz ended up disbanding in 2002, and Miyavi went solo. He released several singles independently, and then briefly was part of Visual kei super group, S.K.I.N.. He’s still active as a solo artist, although his most recent compositions are more JRock based then Visual Kei.
Miyavi aside from focusing on his music, is also active an as actor, having appeared in “Unbroken” by Angelina Jolie and subsequent projects. He additionally was wed to his wife Melody in 2009, and now is a father of two. On top of all that, he is a philanthropist, regularly traveling the globe to visit refugee camps as a Ambassador of UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency / 国連難民高等弁務官事務所). He regularly performs for these camps, spreading the power of music.
With a crib notes version of Miyavi’s profile, let’s dive into the anime tie-ins shall we? The first tie-in Miyavi did “Get Into My Heart”, which was a collaboration between himself and solo artist Kavka Shishido in 2018. The track was the opening theme for “Tsukumogami Kashimasu” or “We Rent Tsukumogami”. The premise of the anime is as follows;
Set during the Edo period in the Fukugawa Ward of Edo (now Tokyo), Obeni and Seiji own a rental shop. Due to Edo being prone to flooding and fires, most of the residents rent their everyday items such as cookware, clothing, and bedding since it makes it easier to flee from disaster. Obeni and Seiji is one such shop called Izumoya. However, mixed with these regular items are the tsukumogami, or items that have turned into spirits due to their longetivity. The duo can talk to these spirits, and ocassionally rent out these objects to their customers. Of course, the tsukumogami often visit the shop after hearing about the two. (Paraphrased from the MAL entry.)
While I’m familiar with Kavka Shishido and Miyavi individually, I never expected this collaboration. I love Kavka’s voice here, it suits the pulsating beats of the track really well. Having her take over on vocals was a good choice.
However, I’m a bit disappointed with the track when it comes to Miyavi’s part. There’s little to no room where we get a clear feature from Miyavi. Nearly all his guitar work is buried under the beats and auto-tuned to the point where his signature style is muddled beyond recognition.
Moving forward in 2018, we shift to Miyavi’s second anime opening theme, a collaboration with the bassist KenKen from RIZE. The track is entitled “FLASHBACK”, and opened for the anime “Kokkoku” or “Moment by Moment”. The premise of the anime is as follows;
Juri Yukawa is down on her luck having failed several job interviews, and stuck living with her family of 4. This is expounded when Makoto, her nephew and Tsubasa her brother are kidnapped by a mysterious organization and held for ransom. For the struggling family this is made even worse by only have 30 minutes to deliver 5 million yen to the abductors. However, Juri’s grandfather reveals a secret that can allow them to do just that, but at a cost. Via a blood offering to a Juri’s grandfather’s mystical stone, she enters something called “Stasis”, a world were time is stopped for everyone minus the users of this stone. Of course, things escalate from there as Juri is not the only user in said world. (Paraphrased from the MAL entry.)
Luckily, I have to say that Miyavi recovered is anime features pretty well. For one, on ‘Flashback’ Miyavi’s vocals are present which is an immediate boost. From the get go, I can hear Miyavi and KenKen duking it out which works out brilliantly. In in the small sampling above, I can hear not only Miyavi’s guitar work, but KenKen brilliant work on base. Impressively, I think they even got Bobo, Miyavi’s long time percussion collaborator to do the drum work too!
Stylistically, I think KenKen and Miyavi were a better match for this OP. Given this song is actually off Miyavi’s “Samurai Sessions vol. 2”, it seems that Miyavi was given more freedom to pick an ‘opponent’ that would not only shine on their own, but compliment his own style. It really shows since both Miyavi and KenKen get their moments to shine in both short and long versions of the song, while neither one one-ups the other completely.
We have now reached the present, at least for anime tie-ins and my main inspiration for kicking off this series; ID:INVADED! It’s currently airing from winter 2020. It’s Miyavi’s first anime ending theme, and the first anime theme that is a non-collaboration. As a bit of a fun fact is that aside from “Other Side” being the ending theme, Miyavi’s music has been used as inserted tracks in episode 1 and 4! There’s a lot of coverage on this series, considering it’s currently airing but just in case you haven’t heard yet;
Sakaido is a brilliant dectective, who pilots the Mizuhanome. The Mizuhanome being a system that can detect the intent to kill in field opertations. At Kura’s main office, the Mizuhanome also allows a brilliant detective to enter the unconscious minds of killers, known as their id well. By entering the id well, their crimes can be solved. However, aside from solving cases on an indivual basis, the mysterious “John Walker” lurks in the minds of all serial killers. Sakaido not only must pursue the truth on a per-case basis, and help unwind the truth behind serial killer creator, John Walker. However, this is much easier said then done given the nature of entering an id well…
As an aside, first and foremost, yes mangaka Sui Ishida contributed the album art for Miyavi’s most recent album “No Sleep Till Tokyo”．It’s been a long standing rumor that Ishida Sensei modeled “Tokyo Ghoul”‘s ‘Uta’ off of Miyavi, given the similar features and flow of tattoos in Visual Kei era Miyavi.
However, that’s not why we’re here. We are here to talk about “Otherside”, which I’m use to hearing not when “ID:INVADED” starts since it was released in July 7th, 2019. So it’s safe to say that the studio probably picked up the track as the opening, verses having Miyavi write the track specifically for the opening. It really works in both Miyavi and “ID:INVADED”, favors since the topic of the ‘the other side’ with an original interpretation from Miyavi, that gets a new perspective from the plot of the anime. A win-win for fans of Miyavi and “ID”.
It goes without saying that this OP, showcases Miyavi’s prowess and skill set best. It’s his own original music after all, and it contains all the signature hallmarks that have come to be known in Miyavi tracks. Composition, lyrics that utilize English and Japanese, and of course slap-style guitar riffs for days.
Additionally, “ID”, has borrowed two additional tracks, as insert songs. For episode 4 the insert song is “Samurai 45”. It’s an impressive showing, and I’m glad Miyavi suits “ID” and vice versa.
If you thought we were done, you’d be wrong! Miyavi’s also released some animated PV teaser (that count as MAL entries actually) for his 2016 double A side single ‘Raise Me Up’ and ‘Afraid to be Cool’.
Personally, I’m a bigger fan of “Afraid to be Cool”, but you can listen to both in full on Spotify. It’s always interesting to see who picks what MV’s to be animated verses shot on a set with real people. Prior to these, Miyavi hadn’t released any animated PV’s at all so it was cool to see the experimental style blending with Miyavi’s riffs and work.
I have of course, of the animated PV’S saved the best for last. That being Miyavi’s song “Firebird”, which features the legendary Hinotori or Phoenix of Osama Tezuka’s manga and animation of the same name.
I’m typically not a fan of 3D animation; I gotta give this piece the credit it’s due. It’s a beautiful set of animation, regarding how I think Tezuka intended his Phoenix to look with all the sparkles and shimmer within the phoenix’s form. The animation isn’t the most gorgeous thing I’ve seen, but it certainly does justice for Tezuka and Miyavi.
As for Miyavi’s song; I love it of course. Took a bit of getting to use to since it’s in the way of more experimental sounds Miyavi was playing with a lot in 2016. However, given it’s a combination of two of my favorite things ever; Miyavi and Hinotori I will love it always. Plus I mean, RisefromAshes… that’s literally my homage to my older handles and love for phoenixes!
So… I’m actually rather proud of this first profile! I’m much more satisfied giving it to Miyavi, and taking the time to get it right. Cheers to the next profile which should be coming up soon!