I’m back to an official capacity! So we’re diving back into the wonderful world of 90’s Visual Kei with none other then a trendsetter with a unique history – SHAZNA.
SHAZNA is one of the big four from the 90’s Visual Kei scene. They got their start in 1993 with their original four member line-up. Those members being Izam on vocals, A・O・I on guitar, Niy on bass, and Katsura on drums. This line-up would last until 1996, when Katsura would leave the group to join up-and-coming Basier.
Some notable moments would be Izam’s androgonous looks for the early years of the group, that were inspired by Boy George. The group would secure a major label debut in 1997 with “Melty Love” their most iconic song, and it would rank second on the Orion chart. “Melty Love” would later score several awards including best newcomer from the Japan Cable Awards that same year. In 1999, Izam would get married, separated, and divorced to idol Hinano Yoshikawa in the span of four months, which caused quite a stir. In October of 2000, the group would go on hiatus for six years.
During this hiatus each member tried their hand at individual endeavors. Izam went solo as a singer, and small time actor. A role of note being in the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon live-action drama. A・O・I would go on to perform as an acoustic guitar player and singer, then shifting into being a filmmaker. Niy would go on to perform with the band Fanble.
The group reunited in June 2006. During this time they would perform live again started in September that same year and release a single “Heart” on April 25th of 2007. It would be announced in November 3rd 2008, that Shazna would go on hiatus the following year on March 22nd 2009 after their last live.
The group would then reunite once more for their 20th Anniversary of the major label debut in August 2017. While the trio, Izam, Aoi, and Niy would of course be in attendance, their line-up included three new members. Raychell would be the second vocalist, Natsume on drums, and Asuka on saxophone, and all three members are female. Currently the group is still considered active, but has not toured or released new material since “Koinotenpo” (コイノテンポ)” in December 2018. As of writing the group has released seven full albums, three compilation albums, seventeen singles, and three demos.
The group has quite the unique story. While they might not be on the top of the scene as they once were, are very much still a staple of the community that are revered by fans and junior bands alike. I was genuinely surprised to see how many of their singles were used for opening and ending themes for JDramas, but let’s zero in on the anime tie-ins.
The first being the love it or hate it, the everlasting Crayon Shin-chan franchise! The group would have their eighth single “Pureness” used as the ending theme to the 6th film: Crayon Shin-chan Movie 06: Dengeki! Buta no Hizume Daisakusen. As an added bonus, vocalist Izam also makes a cameo appearance too! For those unfamiliar with Crayon Shin-chan, I recommend clicking this link here for a summary of the parent story. I will just include the summary of the 6th film in the following:
“The members of the secret organization for world peace or “SML”, with two groups ‘Oiroke’ and ‘Kinniku’ , join hands with the Nohara Family and Kasukabe Defense Forces to fight the evil organization ‘Buta no Hizume’. The evil organization is attempting to conquer the world using a computer virus! The film also takes a lot of notes from full-scale actions films such as the James Bond franchise, and Jackie Chan’s films”. [Paraphrased from the MAL entry]
Oh to be back in the late 90’s Visual kei. Because seriously, these funky but melodic opening bars will never stop being fun to listen too. The song throughout it’s play time really maintains a fun, somewhat goofy tone to it that’s really endearing. A few things of note, is that Niy’s bassline is really lightweight and bouncy. Not to mention that A・O・I gets a really nice, very 90’s, guitar solo around the 3:30 mark. The instrumentation of this song is really good.
Something that surprised me after looping this song too many times in a row, is Izam’s vocals. He has a really stable pattern through-out the song. It’s not a bad thing, since the instrumentation seems to take precedence in this particular song. However, there’s not a lot of variation, no soaring high notes or impressive lows. Just a solid mid-range tune that has a very replicate-able feeling, perfect for a fan to sing at karaoke.
Overall, lyrically the song is really light as well. From my loose reading of them (there’s no translations available at the moment) it does seem to suit this particular Crayon Shin-Chan film well. It’s also of note there are two refrain sections, making it very easy to memorize and recite. I’m pretty surprised overall that this is such a solidly built song, and holds up surprisingly well. Dated? Of course, but that’s part of it’s charm.
SHAZNA would follow this tie-in up in 1999 with Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne (KKJ)! Which some of you might remember prior featured group, Pierrot, also did an ending theme for. SHAZNA would provide the first opening theme “Piece of Love” for episodes one through twenty seven. For those who have forgotten the synopsis, I have this ready for you:
“Kusakabe Maron, looks like a high school girl, but is actually the reincarnation of Jeanne d’ Arc. At night, Maron becomes the thief Jeanne to seal the demons that reside in art, and also prey on the weak hearts of the art’s owners with the help of the angel, Fin Fish. After she seals the demons away, the art disappears giving her the name of Thief. Of course, she isn’t the only thief as the thief Sinbad appears, coincidentally as a new classmate arrives. Maron’s work is anything but easy as her best friend is the daughter of a detective set on capturing the Thief Jeanne and Sinbad!”. [Paraphrased from the MAL Entry]
This first statement is incredibly biased since the music video I found, conviantly has English subtitles but, thematically “Piece of Love” seems to suit KKJ a lot more then Pierrot’s ending theme. (Sorry Pierrot!) There’s a really lighthearted feeling to it, with a few nods to the series that it was paired with.
A・O・I gets three really slick solos packed into this song. They really suit the pulsing undercurrent from the rhythm section which is nice. And even though this is only a sampling of two songs in a huge discography, at least in anisong Niy gets some of the most funky basslines I’ve heard.
What I still find odd, is that I’m not complaining more about Izam’s vocals. He really seems to understand his best range within performances, and doesn’t really push it. Normally that sort of delivery usually feels soulless in execution, but something about Izam’s delivery really does sell it to me. Then again, this is a sampling of two songs, of many others in their extended discography.
With that, we have another one for the books folks! As always I try and encourage you to listen in official capacities, but their Spotify only has 2018’s “コイノテンポ” up. Let’s cross our fingers that their back catalogue gets put on there soon! You can hit up their twitter as well, or a particular member’s twitter to stay up to date as well. I hope this was another fun one, and I’ll see you back next month for a first in Visual&Anime… what could it be? We’ll have to wait and see!