Welcome back to your favorite monthly feature combining Visual Kei and Anime, the most healthy addition to any blogger’s reading diet. This month features an artist that has the longest career I’ve featured (as of writing), and whose music is both interwoven and separated from Visual Kei. This is none other than Buck-Tick! Without further ado, let’s jump into their backstory and into the tunes!
Buck-Tick is a five member unit from Fujioka Gunma, that got started 1983. The group originally had Hisashi Imai on guitar, Yutaka Higuchi on bass, Hidehiko Hoshino on guitar as well, Araki as the vocalist and Atsushi Sakurai on drums. The group split their time between Tokyo and Gunma for practice and performance. In 1985, the group fired original vocalist Araki and replaced him with Atsushi Sakurai. At the same time, they picked up a new drummer Toll Yagami, after his original band folded. Also of note is that Toll and Higuchi are brothers. Buck-Tick has maintained this line-up since then with no changes. In 1986, the group signed to Taiyou Records, which was an independant label. Through gorilla promotional tactics that nearly got their staff arrested, the group held a successful large-scale live on April 1st 1987 called “Buck-Tick Phenomena”.
From there the band would be then courted by multiple major labels. The band would prove to hard to sign as they four major stipulations: they would have full (or near full) creative control in their imagery as well as music, they would never be forced to change their line-up, they would never be session musicians, and last they would do their own production work. Many labels balked at these requests, so ultimately Buck-Tick would be Victor Invitation Records at the time. Although Buck-Tick would change labels throughout their career and eventually create their own. The band would progress smoothly, reaching a large amount of success and maintaining a steady following throughout their careers. They would embark mostly on nation-wide tours, as well as limited activities outside of Japan. The group would only face a brief hiatus in 1989 due to Hisashi Imai’s arrest over the possession of LSD. Buck-Tick would recover and remain out of legal trouble after this.
Buck-Tick have explored a variety of genres within their Visual Kei roots over the years, including but not limited to Industrial rock, Goth Rock, Punk, Post-Punk and more. In their three decade career the group have released 22 studio albums, 4 live albums, 2 extended plays, and 40 singles (as of writing). Most of their current discography is available via their Official Spotify page, and limited selection of their music videos can be viewed via their Official Youtube.
Now for the anime tie-ins!
The year is 1998, and earlier mentioned La’cyrma Christi was approached along with Buck-Tick to provide music for Night Walker: Mayonaka no Tantei, i.e. Night Walker: The Midnight Detective. Buck-Tick would provide the opening theme of “Gessekai (月世界)” for all episodes. The story as a refresher goes a bit like this:
“A vampire with no memory of his past, Shido Tatsuhiko is a private eye. Shido is joined by Yoyoi Matsunaga a female government agent, Riho Yamazaki a teenage girl, and a variety of other characters and creatures, all of whom must face demonic creatures known as Nightbreed. Cain the vampire who turned Shido Tatsuhiko is now seeking him out” (Paraphrased from the MAL entry)
This is the first time where I found the song both seemingly perfect for an anime opening, and also not. “Gessekai” for sure leans into the eerie and off-putting realm of a vampire detective. There’s the intentional echo or perhaps warning siren-esque effect after many of lines. It really serves to emphasize the lyrical content, the way an aged vampire might pause between lines to see if a human really ‘gets’ what they’re trying to say. Atsushi’s smooth delivery really adds to that imagery, with a sense of underlying isolation to strike just the right nerve of a private eye wandering alone in the dark.
At the same time, it’s those exact effects that don’t seem to suit the premise at all. The intentional industrial techniques really make the series more suited for something in the realm of cyber punk. My mind always conjures up the image of a solo android stumbling upon a cyborg in some broken town shanty by the sea. At least, until I really listened to the lyrical content and read them. Surprisingly, the song is strikingly simple when it comes to the lyrics, with a lot of repetition and refrains. I referenced this page for the Japanese and translation . The repetition of colors, and flowers feels more like a lonesome human wandering alone in their thoughts reflecting on a lost love more then any vampire or android imagery.
At the end of the day, I think the eerie but oddly attractive opening notes with their industrial tones and the alluring voice of Atsushi works incredibly well for this track. While I can’t pick out a particular element of the band themselves to highlight, I think this speaks to how in tune to one another Buck-Tick is. There’s nothing to pick and pull apart, because the instrumentation and production is so seamless and well thought out.
We then need to jump forward to the year of 2005. Where Buck-Tick would be asked to provide an opening theme for none other than Trinity Blood. This time the ask being a little unique, as Buck-Tick wouldn’t be creating a song from scratch but rather remixing a classic “Dress”(1993) into “Dress (bloody trinity mix)”(2005). But I’m getting ahead of myself there. First I need to let you know, in case you’ve forgotten, what Trinity Blood is all about:
“After Armageddon, the world is split into two factions; the New Human Empire which is affiliated with Methuselah a race of vampires, and the Vatican Papal State consisting of Terrans i.e. humans. On the outskirts of both factions exist the Rosenkreuz Order seeking to rekindle a war, despite both factions aversion to direct conflict. In order combat this, the Vatican has created the AX unit. This unit exists to investigate vampire-related issues, with the hopes both factions can achieve peace. They are led by Cardinal Caterina Storza, with priest Abel Nightroad, and Sister Esther Blanchett as our core characters. As the priest and sister grow closer, the signs of malicious schemes with dark forces working in the shadows appear, forcing them to confront their own pasts for the sake of the future”. (Paraphrased from the MAL Entry)
I need to be honest; I rarely like remixes. It doesn’t help that the deck is stacked pretty heavily against this one in particular since the original version is one of my top five songs ever. With that out of the way, for a remix this isn’t awful. The person in charge absolutely understood the composition and delivery of the original, so that the iconic bass line and piano cues are still crystal clear.
It’s a bit hard to call this a true remix actually in my humble opinion. A lot of what was done was sharpening and cleaning up some of the ‘fuzz’ from the original. They reduced a lot of the secondary vocals or completely erased them in favor of Atsushi’s voice being the focal point. There’s a solid, but not obnoxious bass boost and a few other small editions notable at the opening. These changes are just enough to freshen it up, but not quite enough to be a true ‘remix’ for me. But, it worked out for everyone because I know a ton of people got into Trinity Blood, and from this song got into Buck-Tick and that’s the goal of tie-in work!
A year later, Buck-Tick would pop up again, this time with an ending theme for none other than xxxholic.. The song provided “Kagerou” being the ending theme for episodes 14 through 23. As always, a bit of a primer as to what the anime is all about:
“Kimihiro Watanuki is an average high schooler, who can see supernatural creatures. He is plagued by his sight, and usually quite bothered it. One day he is compelled to enter a strange home, owned by Yuuko. Yuuko runs a store out of her home where she can grant wishes, for a unique price. She states that she can rid him of his ability, provided that he works at her store until the price is paid. Thus, Watanuki’s adventures at the shop and all who come and go through it, begin”. (Paraphrased from the MAL Entry)
There’s something about this song that had me write ‘grandiose’ as my first and only impression for several listening cycles. I don’t think that I was off with that. Even now finalizing my thoughts I still believe that, at least in the musical sense to be the correct word to describe this song. It’s most like Atsushi’s very generous use of vibrato coupled the guitar-work especially in the second half of the song. Both Hisashi and Hidehiko have some great moments in this piece.
It’s also a very noticeable departure from the earlier eras of Buck-Tick in their anime tie-ins. The industrial and remix elements have been cast aside in favor of a more recognizable ‘rock band’ sound. If Atsushi’s vocals weren’t so distinct, I could easily see this being a SID composition. I mean that as a sincere compliment to both bands. Especially since both have been widely known to constantly play around with and change their styles.
While I don’t think the lyrics are quite as on the nose as what SID might have written, there’s still a few little nods to xxxholic.’s theming in here. You can take a look here and here, as I referenced both in my own listening. Despite my multiple re-starts for this series, my memory is definitely not accurate, however “Kagerou” does nail that alluring nature of Yuuko’s shop really well to my limited recollection.
I’m sure you’re sensing a bit of a theme with what types of anime that Buck-Tick tends to provide music to. But I’m sure if you haven’t picked up on it, this entry will make it clear. Since in 2010, Buck-Tick would provide an opening and ending theme to none other then the cult classic Shiki, and it’s special. Their song “Kuchizuke” would be the opening theme from episodes 1 through 11. “Gekka Reijin” following behind it as the ending theme for episodes 12 through 22. While I’m sure most are familiar with the series, in case you aren’t-
“A hot summer turns cold as 15-year-old Megumi Shimizu is found dead in the village of Sotoba. Doctor Toshio Ozaki begins to doubt the nature of her death, and the disease that caused it. Due to this understanding, he must abandon his humanity along the way to prevent the spread. Natsuno Yuuki, haunted by the death of Megumi, realizes the pain of his friendship with her and faces his own tragedy. Toshio and Natsuno end up forming a unique pair as they begin to work together to save the village of Sotoba before it transforms into a town overrun with vampires. Adapted from the novel of the same name, but Fuyumi Ono”. (Paraphased from the MAL entry)
For a song that translates to “Kiss”, “Kuchizuke” reminds us all that love can be thrilling as much as it is terrifying. There’s so much build up in the song especially in that opening; the small ringing notes, Atsushi’s voice, the chugging of the bass, a few notes of guitar, until the drums finally let the energy out at 30 seconds.
The type of energy this song has oddly enough reminds me of a haunted house. There’s an expectation and anticipation of going, having some clue what will happen, but the thrill of not knowing exactly how it’ll play out. That’s probably the best way to explain how I interpret “Kuchizuke” anyway. Throughout the song there’s a lot of little elements stashed throughout the song that really bring it together give it a bit of a charge to it. I think my favorite part is the ‘ringing notes’ that start the song out. You hear them consistently throughout the song slowly morphing into a doll box tune that eventually takes over at the end. I also have to really highlight Toll’s drums in this song. The drums both drive the song forward, and keeps it in check in a way that no other instrument within the song can.
“Gekka Reijin” is probably the bounciest track of this series so far especially in those opening drums beats from Toll. It’s interesting how the song really manages to quickly wind down and settle into a solid groove. The composition, intentional or not for being an ending theme really does suit Shiki well.
Buck-Tick also manages to pull a few new and old tricks into this track. At the 2:25 mark, we get the first very pronounced guitar solo we’ve heard in an anime tie-in so far. Although, admittedly I’m not versed well enough to tell if it’s Hisashi or Hidehiko playing. This solo is semi-repeated towards the end of the track as well, rounding it off in the right sort of unease that Shiki thrives on. One of the older tricks being Atsushi’s well known vibrato abilities, in the chorus and some minor improvisational points. Vibrato vocals always seems to add just a bit more of a haunted or dark ambiance to a song, and this is no exception.
It is also worth noting that the lyrical content, at least to my understanding, pairs up really well with the series. I referenced this translation on The Blog-Tick Phenomenon. I haven’t been able to dig up if Buck-Tick wrote the song specifically for Shiki or if they had wrote it prior to it being an ending theme. Either way, it’s one hell of a song.
We then take a giant leap forward, this time to the year of 2018. Buck-Tick is tapped for an ending theme for Gegege no Kitarou (2018). Their song “RONDO” would serve as the series fifth ending theme for episodes 50 through 62. While Gegege no Kitarou is well known in Japan, for the Western audience even with this most recent adaptation, is still a bit unknown. So here’s a brief synopsis for those not in the know:
“In the 21st century, most people have forgotten the existence of youkai. The modern world is rocked by a number of unexplainable phenomena that creates chaos and confusion in the world of working adults. A young girl named Mana writes to the Youkai Post in search of answers. Shortly after writing she meets the one and only Gegege no Kitarou of the Youkai Post. A modern re-telling of the original 1965 series of the same name”. (Paraphrased from the MAL Entry)
Now, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve listened to, let alone played classical music. However the concept of a rondo is one that I vaguely familiar with as I know I played one or two back in the day. The amount of attention and detail Buck-Tick put into their own “RONDO” here is impeccable. Between the imagery within the lyrics written by Atsushi, and then the composition especially with the opening violin via Hisashi’s composition is striking. Not to mention when you get into the chorus it’s just so danceable and fun.
However, I’m a bit puzzled as to where exactly, or more likely how it fits in with 2018’s Gegege no Kitarou. I think on pure superficial values, the gothic overtones fit the bill for the series. There’s all the haunting elements in the guitar work, violins, and Buck-Tick’s general presence that makes it sound good at least on paper. It’s only when looking a bit deeper into the Buck-Tick side of things that it seems to be a bit of a mis-match. But what do I know? Maybe there’s a whole haunted house with a masquerade ball arch within the series where this makes perfect sense!
Overall, I’m incredibly impressed with this song. Although that’s heavily biased at just how much attention was paid to this track in particular, especially as a single and the b-side to boot. Big thanks to This is NOT Greatest Site for the translation and additional notes for me to go off of in terms of composition and things.
BUT IT’S NOT OVER YET FOLKS! That’s right, with Buck-Tick being around as long as they have we have some animated PV’s to take a look at. These are curtesy of the BUCK-TICKxHAL Project. In 2018 Victor Entertainment, Buck-Tick’s record label at the time, reached an agreement with HAL College of Technology and Design. The students were divided into teams and chose one song from the album “No.0” which was released in March 2018, to animate segments too. Yuuichirou Iwaki, president of studio Speed Inc. and a HAL alumni was the director for all teams.
The top three entries would be deemed winners, and their animation work would be posted to Victor Entertainment’s Official YouTube channel forever. The three winning animations were for “Babel”, “Guernica no Yoru”, and “Hikari no Teikoku”. The rest of the entries were posted to HAL’s Official YouTube channel in a ten minute compilation. Unfortunately at some point HAL ended up making the ten minute compilation of entries a private video so it’s not publicly available. Instead, we just have the three winners.
I need to get this off my chest. Upon some serious reflection I came to a very dangerous conclusion. The project more or less is ‘take inspiration from any one particular Buck-Tick track, and make a story around it’. Which is incredibly similar to the idea of AMV’s in general… This is my dangerous conclusion that these are just highly advanced AMV’s, with official permission of course. There’s of course there’s a bit more to it since the students had to do all the design-work (models, animation, etc), verses using existing animation, but I couldn’t help but draw the comparison.
Knowing that they’re (former) student’s works, makes it a bit hard for me to comment upon each of these. Aside from “Babel” they all top out at barely a minute a piece, so it’s really hard for me as a non-animator person to really give my opinion. I think the most I can say is that they’re all extensively more creative interpretations of Buck-Tick then I would ever come up with. I don’t think I would ever really connect Buck-Tick’s tracks to space or space travel. So seeing it be a theme twice in a row really got me out of my own box thinking wise. I have to say that every project shows a lot of promise. I appreciate that each team had their own unique designs in terms of characters and animation styles. It’s a bummer that I can’t dig up info to see what groups went on to work on what, but I hope they all found their own success somewhere in animation!
(Also how cool would it be if an AMV ended up being an official music video for a band someday? One can dream!)
Our final collaboration, as of writing, in the anime universe is Buck Tick x Peach Booty G. Peach Booty G, actually being a VR animated movie that was screened at Nagoya TV’s Office from November 6th 2020, until March 3rd 2021. The story was of a normal office lady, who leads a double life as the spy Peach Booty G! Peach is on a mission to recover the “ring of time” in a slap-stick comedy. Since it was VR it covered 360 degrees of action, and with audience interaction there were multiple endings and possibly… the guest appearance of Buck-Tick?! This being Nagoya TV’s description I summarized and translated loosely, and this being PEACH BOOTY G’s Official Website for reference.
Buck Tick’s song “Quesera Sera Elegy” was used as a theme for the mini-movie project, and the music video is below!
In terms of animation, it feels very retro. The animation techniques, color palettes, and overall tone really sells that idea to me. I was reminded almost immediately of Hanna Barbera cartoons, specifically Yogi Bear, with the blockier character designs and simplified animation sequences. The action and characters were really easy to read, as everyone is separated into heroes, villains and Buck-Tick of course. Although I have a bit of a personal bone to pick with Atsushi’s animated persona.
There’s a lot of time dedicated to idle animation, as well was walking and running sequences. Seeing these tricks repeated throughout with different character combinations was integrated well enough in my opinion. Again, a lot of those tricks being used in the Hanna Barbera era of animation. It helps that “Quesera Sera Elegy” is a fairly repetitive song, so it’s a match made in heaven for reused cycles.
The only issue is you can tell this music video is meant to be seen in VR setting not online like this. A lot of the transitions gave me a mild headache. These scenes are really meant to be seen with a VR helmet and don’t read nearly as well as they should in standard music video format. That doesn’t make it bad per-say, but it certainly was off-putting for me upon viewing.
And with that, now we have come to a close! Buck-Tick is one of those groups who I’ve actually only recently gotten more into while I’ve resided in Japan. With their extensive history, and core group of die-hard fans to rely on it’s easy to see why they’ve been around and beloved for so long. I hope I’ve jogged a memory or two via their tunes, and maybe even converted a few of you into fellow fans! With that I’ll catch you next month for another edition!