Visual Kei&Anime – GLAY Part I

Welcome one and all, to my most consistent feature on this blog, and my pride and joy – Visual Kei&Anime. As you can tell, we have another legendary band in our midst this being none other than GLAY. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, shame on you but that’s why you should keep reading!

GLAY was formed in 1988 in Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan. Originally founded by guitarist Takuro and vocalist Teru, with lead guitar Hisashi joining them shortly after. The group struggled to keep drummers, and bassists but eventually recruited Jiro as a full time bassist and Teru doubled as vocalist and drummer. They have remained active since their start, having started in Visual Kei but over the years shifting to more pop and rock sensibilities. GLAY isn’t merely a former VKei band turned mainstream though – their music pulls from a variety of genres including but not limited to, prog-rock, punk, electronic, R&B, and more.

With a twenty four year history of music (and counting), it would be rather difficult to satisfactorily summarize the group’s highs and lows. So I will be doing a few fun facts from throughout their career instead. They were originally ‘discovered’ by hide of X Japan, who introduced them to Yoshiki who later signed them and got them their debut in 1994. GLAY holds the record for most expensive concert held in China with their performance in Beijing in 2002. Outside of standard tours, GLAY holds events called GLAY Expo that draw huge numbers, although the last was held in 2014. Each member are also active in philanthropy movements as well. The final note is that they in the Top 10 Best Selling Artists of All Time in Japan.

As of 2022, GLAY have released sixteen studio albums, forty-two singles, twenty-seven video albums, sixty four promotion song pieces, and a variety of DVD/Blu-ray releases. They are beloved by their fanbase and considered a staple of the Japanese music industry. You can listen to them officially on their Spotify page, or check out their Official Youtube Channel.

With that brief introduction, let’s get into those anime tie-ins!

In April of 1994, GLAY was tapped for their first anime tie-in. It was a two for one deal with them performing the opening and ending theme for Yamato Takeru, for episodes one through eighteen. Their song “真夏の扉” or “The Door into Midsummer” was the opening theme, and “RAIN” was the ending theme. As always, a bit of context about the anime at hand:

“In the 25th century, a spaceship leaves earth searching for a new world. In a freak accident the ship connects to another universe and set adrift to the planet called Ismo. Unfortunately for Ismo, there’s a comet called Yomi that approaches it and threatens it’s security for the group. The villainous Tsukuyomi who seeks a stone in the planet Ismo in order to rule this solar system, and he does so with the powerful robots called the Sky Warriors. However the final stone, and Sky Warrior Susanoo stands in his way as he’s controlled by Takeru. Takeru being one of the humans from the spaceship, becomes involved in the battle against Tsukuyomi and his Sky Soliders to protect Ismo and friends. (Paraphrased from the MAL Listing)

I’m actually more interested in the history of this “The Door to Midsummer” then the song itself. In my research it’s come up that every time the song is re-released that it’s every so slightly changed. Mostly GLAY make some tweaks to the arrangement, or slightly change the English being sung. This particular version is not the original from the anime, but it hasn’t officially posted it anywhere to my knowledge. I try to go legit where I can, hence the Spotify version. The original is available online unofficially.

That being said in terms of the song, anyone whose read one or more of these posts knows this: I have a very big soft sport for 90’s era Visual Kei. It just really hits different. Something about the imperfect recording techniques, lyrical content, and honestly just the nostalgic factor gets me every time; “The Door into Summer” is no exception. Since it’s mid-June where I’m getting my thoughts gathered on this one, and I can finally feel the summer breeze here this feels right.

I have some doubts that lyrically there’s anything in common with Yamato Takeru but… I’ll let it slide this time.

This is another song that the history, especially for VKei fans is pretty damn insane. GLAY even back in the day were known to be a band, with no keyboardist. Therefore having a song like “RAIN” that’s entirely Teru’s vocals and a piano accompaniment is pretty interesting. This make sense though considering Teru actually asked Yoshiki of X Japan, to perform the piano accompaniment for this track.

Back in the day, there was a running rumor that Yoshiki would literally make or break any band he signed. Not to mention that X Japan fans were fiercely protective of Yoshiki, and did not take kindly to him being ‘used’. The fact Teru asked him to perform, and he accepted was absolutely wild for the time.

It’s also really interesting that the melody is from and old Teru composition, but the name, composition, and lyrics are all Yoshiki. Due to those factors the song was a huge hit, but it’s also rarely played live since Teru’s not comfortable attempting the composition himself or changing it. It’s notable it was played live in 1999’s GLAY Expo SURVIVAL after it sold out, and again in 2015 at GLAY’s 20th Anniversary live in Tokyo Dome with Yoshiki as a guest who performed with them.

Now that the history and legends are over as for my thoughts… I always get nervous talking about a Yoshiki piece. All these years later and his fans, domestic and international, are still very protective. Knowing what I know now, I’m surprised I didn’t pick up on it being Yoshiki earlier – it literally has his finger prints all over it. It’s as impressive as ever, and Teru’s vocals really shine here. I like the orchestral elements that are really subtle that swell around the three minute mark, and slowly fade out. It’s a very effective element, and really let’s it shine.

Again though, not quite sure how well it goes with Yamato Takeru… but with these two songs in particular that might just be a moot point this time around.

In 1999, GLAY would be tapped to the opening theme to none other than the visual kei inspired anime Kaiken Phrase. Their song “SURVIVAL” would serve as the opening theme for episodes one through eleven. So let’s quickly go over the story of Kaikan Phrase.

“A guitarist Yuki, and a drummer Santa after their old band breaks up decide to form a new one. They manage to recruit bassist Towa, and guitarist Atsuro, and finally the vocalist Sakuya. Their new band being named Lucifer, and their struggles in the music industry as a young indie act is their story. The most complicated being that of Sakuya and his relationship with teenaged Aine whose a lyricist. (Paraphrased from the MAL Listing)

“SURVIVIAL” isn’t exactly a song we’d see Lucifer cover on their rise to the top. However, I do find the song pretty on point without being directly inspired or commissioned to suit the events of Kaiken Phrase as a whole. So points to GLAY for having a tie-in that’s a bit more on theme (lyrics here), this time around.

While this in only 1999, and being just a few years into GLAY’s official debut – it’s very clear that GLAY wasn’t really sticking to VKei. A lot of the hallmarks of Visual Kei in the 90’s seen with groups like SHAZNA, or even BUCK-TICK featured have been dropped for a more standard rock sound. I don’t hold this against the group at all, since their group much like junior’s SID, always seemed to have the intention to change and develop with time.

I liked Teru’s vocals here. They play into his range, even when he’s doing more spit fire deliveries. There’s the crunchy guitar riffs from Takuro and Hisahi, a great bassline from Jiro, and Teru’s drum work is impeccable here. For being more of a rock composition – it’s awesome. I appreciated the solo sections around 2:30 to showcase each member’s strengths, but keeping the composition going.

Also in 1999, was the release of the “SURVIVAL” music video. It was animated in full by Studio 4°C. I won’t go into depth about the song this time around since I already talked about it. So below is my thoughts about the animation for the music video!

The first thought I had when watching this for the first time, i.e. actually paying attention to the animation, was “this feels a lot like Lain“. I double checked to make sure Studio 4°C wasn’t actually Lain‘s studio too, and nope. Two different studios. I’m not saying that “SURVIVIAL” is a copy or anything, it might be just coincidence or heavy inspiration. Trust me, there are a lot of undeniable parallels.

This isn’t a bad thing though. “SURVIVIAL” is significantly more positive and open ended in interpretation then I recall Lain being. I mean, given it’s title that’s to be expected. The CGI and 2D animation styles are a bit choppy. Part of this is due to the literal style blending, part of this is due to age. I mean the official MV only goes up to 480p so it’s a bit hard on the eyes. I won’t deny it though, I do think it’s very charming. It’s an imperfect dream of what could be.

The MV’s storyline is not particularly cohesive or outstanding, I still think it’s cool. Animated MV’s are becoming increasingly rare with VKei, because of budget and all. I also think that making a teen girl the main character was a good move on GLAY’s part, they’re more in touch with their audience especially for that era, and that means a lot. It’s worth seeing once if only to see the Lain similarities.

As you can tell from the title, this is only Part I of GLAY’s story. It’s also the time I’ll admit my break in music is really uneven since Part II is dense. It’ll make sense in July I promise. I hope this brief primer has you interested, and I’ll see you next month with the follow up!


One comment

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s