And~ I’m back! We’re back with a fourth installment of Visual Kei&Anime. This time, I’m going to cover a band near and dear to my heart; DIR EN GREY. I’ll try not to be too biased here, but I make no promises. So let’s dive in!
Dir en Grey was formed in February of 1997. They started with their line up of Kyo (京) on vocals, Kaoru (薫) on guitar, Die on guitar, Toshiya on bass, and Shinya on drums. By January of 1999, the group had signed a major label record deal and released three singles, アクロの丘, 残-ZAN- and ゆらめき. From there the band has gone on to release 30 singles, and 10 albums. They’ve toured within Japan extensively. As well as toured globally multiple times to sold out venues and incredibly receptive audiences. During their 23 year long career the band hasn’t ever changed their line-up and rarely suffered suspensions of activity.
Within the current Visual Kei community, many younger bands cite Dir en Grey (Diru) as a gateway band and respected senior group. All the members are also active not only with Diru with with various side projects. Kyo is also the vocalist of his side band Sukekiyo. Die is active with his project DECAYS as the vocalist and lead guitar. Toshiya currently runs a fashion brand DIRT 100% Natural Dirty. Shinya also works on his project SERAPH, with Kaoru largely doing private and individual activities in between Diru’s works.
Of course, given members Kaoru and Toshiya’s affinity for Gundam, as well as Kyo’s well-known love for manga; the band has done more then a few anime themes in their time. As well as several two animated music videos and a bit more!~ Without further adieu let’s jump into their first collaboration back in 1998, even before the Major label days!
Diru’s first venture into providing music for an anime with was with 1998 series Urayasu Tekkin Kazoku, or Super Radical Gag Family. The series aired for 30 episodes between June and August of that year. Diru performed the opening theme was is “- I’ll -” from their August indies single. The plot of the series is as follows;
“Take a look, and join in on the shenanigans of the Osawagi family. Kotetsu is is the most energetic boy in the town of Urayasu. Like many boys his age, him and his friends are always getting into mischief” (Paraphrased from the MAL Entry)
Remember how I’ve talked about how bands sounded a bit different back in the 90’s? Diru is one of those bands especially when you listen to this song in comparison to their latter discography. And that’s not a bad thing, because with 23 years of history some things are bound to change.
The song starts out with some classic hallmarks of 90’s flavor VKei, and even borrows what I’d call punk elements. The quick pace of the song, in both guitar riffs and bassline (Toshiya was working extra hard with this one), are heavily punk influenced although the full length is opposite of most punk songs. The guitar solo and break in the middle of the song really gives both Kaoru and Die their time to shine. The energy in this song is truly insane. The lyrics are still have the Diru bite to them despite the energy covering up the more bitter moments. Not a bad pairing for the band and the anime!
Their next foray into anime themes would be more in line with the streotypical associations Visual Kei had. This would also mark the first collaboration after signing to a major label. In 1999, the band would provide their third major single “Yurameki”, as the opening theme for “Nippon-chi no Otoko no Tameshii” for it’s 16 episode run. The story’s description is as follows;
“Based on the manga by Masahiko Hikuni, it’s tales of sex and sadomasochism. It was a graveyard slot series” (Paraphrased from the MAL Entry)
While I’m not opposed to the alleged content of this anime (though I have no interest in viewing it), the themes explored in the anime and the lyrical content of “Yurameki” seem to be an excellent pairing. If you’re curious you can check out the translation here on JpopAsia to see what I mean.
As for the song itself; personally it’s not one that came up too frequently in my listening habits until I was researching this blog post. In fact, I’m pretty sure of the triple single this release was part of that “Yurameki” was the least commercially successful? That might just be my personal conjecture though. The energy and composition of this song is still in that sweet spot of Visual Kei that I still really dig. Quick pace, high energy and just a touch of punk will get me every time. However, it’s the little things that help make this song. The little piano break? Perfection. The insane riffs by Kaoru and Die? Literally to die for. It helps that Kyo really gets to show a more diverse range in his vocals with this release, especially what would develop into this more signature delivery in the coming years.
We then jump forward just a bit to 2001, where Diru would contribute their last anime opening. They would contribute the opening theme of “Child Prey” from the single of the same name for the anime “Grappler Baki (2001)”. The series is described as follows;
“Yearning to follow in the footsteps of his father, Baki Hanma wants to become the strongest fighter in the world. To achieve his goals, he trains and fights constantly to hone his body and skills for this. Baki is facing an uphill series of battles, to become the best and take the title “King” from his father” (Paraphrased from the MAL Entry).
I need everyone to respectfully not take pot-shots at the name of this song, and take a peek at the lyrical content instead. Just take this title as one that took Visual Shock very literally. With song title and music video should you chose to watch it. Also, it’s a beloved cult classic among Diru fans. Not mine personally, but I know it’s a beloved classic.
Just scrolling through the various bootleg uploads of the “Child Prey” MV, the song does seem to have a soft spot among the original Baki fans too. Which personally makes me really happy because this song kicks ass. It’s raw, destructive and really does suit the mood of the anime really well. From the unrelenting drum work that Shinya does, coupled with the chorusing ‘ohs’ backing the backing vocals , it’s also has those harsh vocals from Kyo we’ve all come to know and love. Truly a cult classic for the band.
If you thought we were done, you would be wrong! Diru not only has tied-in to anime, but also has their own two animated music videos. Which, fun fact, both are also listed as MAL entries? Yes, however proceed with caution!
First is the music video for Diru’s 26th single, “Rinkaku” which was released on December 19th 2012.
(Trigger warning; body horror, dead animals, gore, glitching, flashing.)
For fans of animation I don’t think I need to really talk about how fucken cool this sketchy cross hatching style of animation is. It’s certainly not the style of animation that initially comes to mind when thinking ‘anime’. The ambiance of the animation, coupled with the theme of the song is a stunning pairing.
I actually have to confess that “Rinkaku” is one of my all time favorite songs ever released by Diru. It has ballad elements to it, given Kyo’s vocals especially the chorus. The chorus gets me every time I listen since it’s so haunting. However, unlike traditional ballads there’s a lot of movement within the composition to keep it going. The guitar work between Die and Kaoru is some of my favorite to this day. It wouldn’t be what it is without Shinya and Toshiya’s touches on drums and bass though. Very haunting, and truly a powerful song for me.
Next is the older music video for “Agitated Screams of Maggots”, their 20th single. The single was released on November 15th 2006.
(I did put the restricted version here but it can still be disturbing for some viewers. Trigger warning; body horror, blood, torture, gore)
Animation-wise another unique choice with a more sketch based design. Given this is the predecessor to “Rinkaku”, I’m curious if the same studio did it. Although the design for this music video does seem to use lighting sources more purposefully with a higher emphasis on contrast between figures and timing. Even given the shading and coloration style, the animation is perfect for conveying the feelings that come with “Agitated Screams of Maggots”.
Personally, I heard this song for the first time on their album “Marrow of the Bone”, which was the second ever album I heard by them and still in my Top 5 albums by them. Nothing beats the animalistic harsh vocals done by Kyo on this song. On top of it, this is the song if I could lose my shit in a mosh pit to, I would. Especially that opening, there’s no mistaking it.
Lastly, but certainly not the least is the fact Dir en Grey has their own manga! I knew this particularly edition of Visual Kei&Anime was going to be a long one, between personal bias and the sheer amount of entries. Therefore I thought ahead and complied my thoughts in my earlier blog, “The Dir en Grey Manga – Deadly Claris“. So be sure to check that out if you haven’t, or give it a second look for the full impact of this blog entry.
And with that, this month’s edition of Visual Kei&Anime is complete! Be sure to let me know about your thoughts on the music, the anime, or if I unintentionally scarred you with the music videos. Tune in next month for another edition, and see you then!