We’ve now hit the year mark of Visual Kei&Anime! Hitting a whole year of one particular themed blog series makes me really proud. This is by no means the most popular section of my blog, but it does bring me a lot of satisfaction to get these out every month. So, let’s keep it going and jump right into this month’s feature ViViD!
ViViD was a five member Visual Kei group active from 2009 through 2015. They were formed by bassist Iv, and drummer Ko-ki, formerly of Kisnate and Novelis respectively. They recruited Shin, the former vocalist of Dennou Romeo, and their guitarists Reno and Ryoga in March. Reno also being an ex-member of Novelis. In April, the Indie brand Indei-PSC had announced that they had already signed the group and ViViD began activities on April 19th 2009.
The group would go on have an incredibly quick rise to fame. Several of their indie era singles would go on the chart in top five position of the Oricon Indies’s, and due to the band’s connections in the scene and quick pick up by a label they would be regulars at major multiple band events throughout their early career. In 2010, they would appear abroad for the first time in France, and shortly after sign a major label deal with Epic Records Japan. The group would go on to do an Asia tour and begin a regular string of anime tie-in songs until their disbandment on April 25th 2015. From there, both guitarist Reno and vocalist Shin would go on to have solo careers. In their 6 years together, ViViD produced thirteen singles including one digital single, one EP, one best of album, and two studio albums. All of their major label material is available on Spotify. Sadly their indies releases are not available online at the time of writing.
ViViD’s first of several ventures into the anime world, was in 2011 with the song “Yume ~ Mugen no Kanata ~” in LEVEL E. This song would not only be their first anime tie-in, but also their first major label release. The song would be used as ending theme for the entire series. The summary of LEVEL E is as follows:
“In modern times, extraterrestrial species walk the Earth numbering in the hundreds both violent and calm, with good and bad intentions. However, most humans aren’t even aware that they’re here. One more alien has come to Earth, his biggest defining factory is that he’s one of the universe’s geniuses, but with a personality that’s likely to attract a variety of events”. [Paraphrased from the MAL entry]
I have to make a small confession before kicking off my commentary. ViViD is very much a band that’s been defined, by their anime tie-ins. All four tie-in’s are the top listened to tracks of the group according to Spotify. Similarly, if you asked an average VKei fan to name a song by them they’d probably list one from this blog. I’m not going to argue if that’s a good or a bad thing for the group, but that it’s a first for this series to feature a band with such a history.
Being honest, “Yume ~ Mugen no Kanata ~” as both their first major label release and anime tie-in; it’s average. I mean that in a very literal sense of the word. The composition, instrumentation, lyrics, and flow of the song are put together well enough. There’s nothing jarring or off-putting about this track. ViViD like many bands that go from indie to major, was not immune from having some of their personality stripped back in favor of a more standardized rock sound.
The group manages to inject some personality into this track. Ko-ki’s use of turn-table elements in the mix, is something that’s still not used often in VKei if at all. Having Ryoga and Reno then mimic that effect with their whammy boards is a nice touch as well. Shin’s vocal range and stability is solid as ever. This makes for a song that is good, but not a particularly memorable, song.
Their second anime tie-in in early 2012 would end up being their most well-known track to date, given the franchise it ended up being linked to. This single is none other than “BLUE”, the second to last opening for the animated series BLEACH, serving as the opening theme for episodes 317 to 342. Just in case you’re not aware of this series, the summary is as follows:
“Ichigo Kurosaki is a ordinary high schooler, until he and his family is attacked by a Hollow, a corrupted spirit that seeks to devour human souls. Ichigo meets a Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki, who is injured by the Hollow attempting to protect Ichigo’s family. Ichigo accepts Rukia’s offer to temporarily become a Soul Reaper. However, Rukia is unable to restore her powers and thus Ichigo must take on her duties of a Soul Reaper. Due to Ichigo’s insane amount of spiritual energy, he creates allies and attracts others that have their own specialities and abilities. As they begin to figure out their new duties, they come to realize that Hollow’s are the least of their problems in the human world and beyond”. [Paraphrased from the MAL Entry]
If there’s anything to say about “BLUE” is that the track has a lot more flavor to it then “Yume”. I think ViViD was given a lot more creative freedom with the track, and it shows. Since it was coupled with a series that had such an impact such as BLEACH, it makes sense. There’s more return to their Visual Kei roots with the driving bass and guitar riffs that chug the track along.
What I appreciate is that Ko-ki really got the chance to play around with his turn table work. After Shin’s voice, I would consider this the musical hallmark of the group that really gets to shine in “BLUE”. Around the first thirty seconds, you hear the turn tables coming in a distortion and twist to the track to really give it more personality. It’s later used at the three minute mark to finish off the track, but giving it the much needed spark to have the momentum to finish strong. Ko-ki also used the synthesizer well, as a backing track booster, verses taking a major part of the song. It was so smooth just noticeable enough as a bonus, but not a distraction.
Of course, Shin’s voice really shines here since “BLUE” distinctly lacks any English lyrics. There might be some in the early ‘filler’ of the song, but it’s really not distinguishable for me to nit-pick it. It’s something that’s becoming increasingly rare in anisong, as well as Vkei, so to have such an iconic track be all Japanese is a win in my book. Additionally, the lyrics really are something and to my knowledge suit BLEACH really well, and you can read them here.
As an extra bonus, Shin recently did a cover as a soloist of it here. So make sure to give it a listen if you’re feeling nostalgic.
Later in fall of 2012, ViViD would continue their ani-song collaborations, pivoting into franchise territory with their song “REAL” in Mobile Suit Gundam Age. The song would be the opening theme from episode 29 through 39. For those unfamiliar, here is a description of the series:
“In the far distant future of Advanced Generation calendar year 101, a mysterious entity known as “UE” and “unknown enemy”, that attacks the space colony Angel. The attack become notorious, as it began humanity war for survival as “The Day the Angel Fell”. We jump forward into A.G. 108, with UE’s attack on the space colony Ovan. Flit Asuno lives on Ovan with his mother, who is killed by the UE. However in her belongs an item known as “Age Device” is discovered with blueprints for a weapon from the past known as “Gundam”. Flit begins to spend years studying engirnnering on Earth, and designing the AGE-1 Gundam. In A.G. 115, he completes the Gundam, just as the UE attacks his current colony. Thus, Flit begins his story of protecting mankind with his Gundam begins”. [Paraphrased from the MAL Entry]
If there’s one thing that I can appreciate more in re-listening to this song several times in a row, is the ViViD actually knows how to integrate synthesizer into their songs. There’s a very distinct ‘digital’ effect that you hear at the beginning and ending of the song, and it’s not just a gimmick to make it more appealing as ani-song. The effect is brought into the forefront of certain moments as an accent, but it never disappears completely. It’s a nice undercurrent that adds body and personality to the song. I didn’t realize how much I appreciated that sort of thought in composition until now. Thanks Ko-ki. It really adds to the ‘mecha’ feel, without being too cheesy.
Moving beyond that, I have to say that “REAL” is a lot more scaled back in terms of energy then prior released “BLUE”. That isn’t a bad factor though, since ViViD goes back to leaning more on the band, Iv, Koki, Ryoga and Reno’s skills then just relying on Shin’s vocals. The kick is in the guitar riffs coupled with the synth and that’s what makes it pop.
“REAL” also gets a lot more playful since in the latter half of the song, we really get to hear more of Iv’s bass work in this track. It’s also the first time we hear Shin delve into more of a ‘rap’ like delivery, with a really quick flow. The inclusion surprised me a bit, but I think was a fun touch to the track. It almost makes me wish we got a vocalist verses turn table break down, but I think this track would be the place for it. I’ll have to check their discography elsewhere to see if it happened.
ViViD’s fourth and final anime-tie in would be a year later in 2013, with “Hikari” the second opening theme song for Magi: The Kingdom of Magic. This Magi title being the second season for the series, so the description of the first season is linked here. Summarized forward is the second season for the anime:
“Aladdin and friends have celebrated their victory of Al-Thamen in the land of Sindria. Each member of the group must head their separate ways to new countries for various purposes, with Aladdin heading to Magnostadt; a country ruled by magicians with strange events occurring in it. However with the group separating, a new threat begins to rise, as a new war comes into the horizon…”. [Paraphrased from the MAL Entry]
I have to say, looking at this from the anisong tie-in’s only, that “HIKARI” is a very large departure from prior tracks. The tonal shift is huge, but it really does work in ViViD’s favor to do so.
Lyrically speaking, ViViD knocked it out the park for really encompassing the broader themes of this season of Magi. At least from what I can tell from the description, and looking at the lyrics from that perspective. For those curious, I referenced this particular translation. I would love to hear from fans of Magi if I’m on the mark about that or not.
Otherwise, “HIKARI” really does embody the idea of being ‘light’. There’s a lot more bounce to the track, with Ko-ki’s drums having a less harsh drive to them. Similarly, the piano and synthesizer combinations that are sprinkled throughout the track are really well incorporated as always. I’m really impressed with how well those blended with (I believe) Reno’s, two guitar solos that are featured on the track. It really complimented the song well.
In a sense, this track was made in mind with being nostalgic in it’s delivery. The mood in this song is so distinct, but not forced in any way. That exact element is probably why it has such a high staying power in their discography, and I would hope, with the fans of the Magi anime.
So with that, the 12th edition of Visual Kei&Anime has come to a close! And what a note to end it on with ViViD, given how their discography has really been defined by their anisong creations. It was really fun to get to hear so many iconic tracks and give my opinions on them, especially since ViViD left such a huge impression on the VKei scene in such a short amount of time. I highly recommend once you’re done revisiting these tracks, taking a peek into their additional discography. Especially since the majority of it is available online!
I’ll see you next month with a new edition, so please look forward to it!