Visual Kei&Anime – Plastic Tree

Welcome to the ninth edition of Visual Kei&Anime! This time, I decided to be a bit bolder with my features. I picked a group I know their name, but I’ve never really listened to their music. Which is a shame, since they’re a staple of the community. Of course, I’m talking about none other than Plastic Tree!

So, let’s dig into that all important history. Plastic Tree was formed in 1993, under the name of CAM-FLAGE. The band would later change their name to NTT FUCKS, until settling on Plastic Tree. The band has always been a four piece consisting of Ryutaro Arimura as the vocalist, Akira Nakayama as lead guitar, Tadashi Hasegawa as bass guitar, and Shin on drums originally. However, Plastic Tree had a bit of difficulty with a permanent drummer. Shin would leave the group in 1996. Takashi Oshodanshi would be with the group from 1996 to 2001, with Hiroshi Sasabuchi taking over from 2001 to 2009. Finally, their current drummer, Kenken Sato would join in 2009 stabilizing their lineup.

Plastic Tree has a twenty-seven year history with a lot of accomplishments. The group has gained a lot of popularity due to their energetic performances both in Japan, and globally. They made their major debut in 1997 with “Warata Mado” (Broken Window), while they were signed with Warner Music Japan. The group continued to garner major success, eventually touring globally in 2006. In September 2007, the group celebrated their major debut 10th anniversary with a performance at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan. They would perform there once again on August 30th 2009. On top of these performance accomplishments, they have an extended discography. They have released 42 singles, 15 albums, two mini albums, and 9 best of albums.

They’ve have a rich history and amazingly loyal fans. So be sure to check them out on YouTube, and Spotify!

So the anime Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo, might ring a few bells for people. That’s because this series was featured in my article about Penicillin‘s first tie-in. It’s also Plastic Tree’s first anime tie-in as well! They performed their song “Sink” as an ending theme for episodes 99 to 110. As always, a description of the series is as follows:

“Haijime Kindaichi, is by all means an average high school student. However what sets him apart is that Hajime is the grandson of one of Japan’s greatest detective’s, with his own slueuthing skills. Together with his best friend Miyuki Nanase, and Inspector Isamu Kenmochi, Haijme travels to some of the world’s most hostile environments to uncover the truth behind various types of dangerous mysteries the world has”. (Paraphrased from the MAL entry)

I was pretty pleasantly surprised to hear a more a more grunge inspired track from this band. I’ve gotten so use to hearing harsh vocals, and other vocal distortion techniques that having a clean vocals in VKei always takes me for a loop. The slow melodic delivery, then kicking into a louder refrain does remind me of Nirvana a bit (in a good way of course). Something about having Ryutaro doubling up on guitar with Akira, really does evoke a sinking mood of this piece.

Ryutaro’s vocals are really solid, showing a lot of stability throughout the song. He sings in a much more airy way, without sounding winded at all. He’s also able to go from his lighter vocals into the more crisp refrain easily. I also really appreciated the band utilizing instrumental distortion in the song, without completely drowning out Ryutaro’s vocals or blowing out my headphones. It really shows the band’s technical abilities and composition skills.

Plastic Tree would lend their music to the series Glass no Kantia: La Legend. The series ran from April 2006 to September 2006. The group would provide the ending theme song, “Namida Drop” for episodes one through thirteen. A very brief description is as follows:

“Michel, leads The People’s Army against the newly founded empire run by Vetti. Michel, in a grab for power attempts to convince the captain of the Glass Battleship, Cleo to overthrow the Vetti’s empire. From there, the fighting continues”. (Paraphrased from the MAL Description)

What’s really weird, is that I knew about “Namida Drop” way more then I ever knew about this anime. It use to be a pretty popular song for up and coming Visual Kei bands to cover back in the day.

I have to say, despite my many re-listens to this song I both understand it’s popularity and don’t. I have to say vocally this song is a bit disappointing. I don’t hear any emotion in Ryutaro’s delivery in this particular version, but also in any other version I found. He’s certainly singing, as I can hear his voice change notes and emphasis, but even with that it felt completely one-note even with the band. Which, makes this song significantly more accessible for covers, since it’s easy to put your own spin on the delivery. You win some you lose some I guess?

It pains my heart to say this about a song, especially one like this but it needs to be said. This song is the most ani-song sounding track I’ve come across while doing this blog series. The execution from the band is amazing. As expected of Plastic Tree, the instrumentation and composition of the track is top notch. Yet, it lacks anything exceptional about it that makes it stick in your ear aside from the opening notes, and refrain. The refrain coming off a bit whiny rather then memorable in my opinion. The mixing and mastering is a significant step up from aforementioned “Sink”, yet it doesn’t feel like there’s an ounce of passion behind this one.

Plastic Tree’s final foray into anime collaborations, would be with the every iconic Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise in 2010 with their single “Mirai Iro” or “Future Colors” as the Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D‘s ending theme. The song would be used from episode 130 until 154 the final episode. The series summary is as follows:

“In a world where dueling has evolved, where duels are played on D-Wheels, a hybrid between Duel Disks and motorbikes. Yusei is a skilled mechanic living in the poor town of Satellite, has managed to build his very own D-Wheel. Jack Atlas steals this D-Wheel and heads to Neo Domino City, with Yusei’s best card, Stardust Dragon in tow. Yusei manages to build a second D-Wheel with some help from his friends, while Jack has risen to the top of the Dueling world. With the new D-wheel working, Yusei heads off to Neo Domino City to find Jack and take back what is rightfully his. To neither man’s knowledge, they are part of a much larger plan, with various people behind the scenes pulling strings”. (Paragraphed from the MAL Description)

Despite my minor fixation on this series back when it aired on Cartoon Network; I never knew until I researched for this series that Plastic Tree contributed this theme! I’ll even admit that I never thought Plastic Tree, of all bands would contribute to the Yu-Gi-Oh! universe but here we are. I live for the moments when I am proven completely wrong in the best sort of way.

Right away, I noticed a significant improvement from “Namida Drop”. Ryutaro’s voice sounds so different here, more similar to “Sink” in terms of passion and vocal delivery. He delivers everything so consistently, but not in a monotonous manner. The band really does take into consideration Ryutaro’s delivery, and made some excellant choices in better highlighting them.

We also finally tap into the band’s real strength of cultivating a mood with this song. There’s a lot of little hints of the band’s true capabilities throughout the song. Around the two minute mark, and then again at the three minute mark, Akira, Tadashi, and Kenken really get their time to shine. Some very nice set-ups to give just a taste of true energy carrying the song, that peaked right at the end with KenKen’s quick energy and Akira and Tadashi just going for it. “Mirai Iro” really does deliver especially in terms of the Plastic Tree as a band, and not just Ryutaro’s vocals.

With yet another exceptional group covered, I can only hope I did them justice. They might not be in the forefront of the scene, but they are easily the hidden backbone of the scene. Plastic Tree is absolutely still killing it in and out of anime songs so be sure to check them out! Be sure to check them out through all the links above! As always, I’ll see you next month with another edition!

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