Welcome back to Visual Kei&Anime! This time around I think more then a few people will actually know of the group I’m writing about – Nightmare! I unintentionally slotted them for spooky month but I don’t think I’ll get many complaints.
Nightmare was formed January 1st, 2000 in Sendai. Their original line-up was Yomi (vocals), Sakito (lead guitar, backing vocals), Hitsugui (rhythm guitar), Ni~ya (bass guitar/backing vocals), and Zannin (drums). Zannin left before the band signed to a label, and Ruka was their support drummer until he joined permanently. From the beginning the group was incredibly active, producing and releasing music regularly and touring extensively within Japan. They some notable moments include performing at Nippon Budokan as well as the Saitama Super Area to sold-out or nearly sold out audiences.
A fun fact about the band is that their concept is “Gianizm”. This being a word that was made by the band, and that occurs in many of their songs, and concepts including their two “best of ” albums. It’s derived from Gian of Doraemon, his motto being “What’s yours is mine, what’s mine is mine”. It’s a play on the fact that while Nightmare is rooted in Visual Kei that they take cues and venture into new styles. They’ve incorporated elements of electronica, dubstep, ska, reggage, and metalcore and more in their discography.
They’re also active in charity work. Nightmare’s 2008 Zepp Sendai performance proceeds were entirely donated to support their hometown after the earthquake. They invited those impacted directly by the earthquake to attend for free, as special guests. During that year’s tour they had a donation box that raised, 304,048 yen. Similarly in 2011, after 3/11 the group held a fund-raising even for the victims called “publish and recover!” at Shinkiba Studio Coast on March 30th.
Nightmare were active from 2000 to 2016. It was announced on April 3rd, 2016 that they would be going on hiatus by the end of the year, due to Yomi’s functional dysphonia. They returned after a four year hiatus on February 11th, 2020 with their “20th Anniversary SPECIAL LIVE GIANIZM ~Sai Aku~” at Yokohama Arena. The group has faced some struggles due to COVID but have maintained their musicianship and resumed their pre-pandemic release and touring schedule as much as possible.
In their time as a band, Nightmare and the members were also active in side projects, contributing magazine articles, radio programs. As of writing the band has released 11 studio albums, 3 live albums, 28 singles and more! Their music is available from their 2006 releases forward on Spotify, and their music videos available on Youtube on multiple channels (due to changing labels and things).
Now with that intro out of the way, let’s talk anime song tie-ins!
To kick off their anisong tie-ins, and relatively quickly was in 2003 with the anime Croket!. They appear to have done, the second ending theme for the series, which was called “OVER”. Although it remains unclear for how many episodes it was used. A quick re-cap of this anime premise –
“Croket! has both humans and exotic anthropomorphic animals, and have individuals called ‘Bankers’. Croket is our main character, and a young Banker himself. His goal is collect enough Kinkas to summon the Bank Wizard, who will grant the wish of any Banker who collects enough Kinkas. Croket’s wish is to revive his father, Burger, who was said to not only be a legendary banker, but also killed by the villain known as the “Black Gown Man”. Croket, being the protagonist he is, sets out for a tournament called the Banker Survival Quest, which has a huge prize package of Kinkas”. [Paraphrased from the English Wikipedia page]
With a name like Nightmare, I was not anticipating this particular style from them. It’s probably more a testament to my lack of in-depth knowledge of the band, rather then the band though. Either way, I’m really into the late 90’s, early 00’s of Visual Kei so this track for me is always well appreciated.
I think my favorite is the more echoed effect of Yomi’s vocals in the chorus. It’s not too loud, but it’s used effectively to boost the impression of the song. He has just the right range where it really suits his deliver at this time. It’s especially highlighted around the three minute mark as the song is winds up for it’s conclusion.
About the weakest aspect of this song is the lyrics. It makes sense given how young the band was when they were written and performed, but it just doesn’t hold up as well as I’d prefer.
This is the entry everyone’s been waiting for. Yes, Nightmare is the band that did themes for Death Note. Their song “The World” was used for episodes one through nineteen as the opening. With “Alumina” being the ending theme for those same episodes. “Alumina” was also used as the ending for the Death Note: Re-write specials. Despite everyone and their mom knowing this series-
“Light Yagami is a 17-year-old genius who happens to one day stumble upon the “Death Note”. The god of death Ryuk is the true owner of it, but has dropped it in the human world for his own amusement. Light is incredulous at the premise of the book, but experiments with it anyway committing his first murder. Now aware of the power Light becomes “Kira” and sets to right the rotten world he lives in, but he’s not without detractors. L is on his trail as their battle of wits and intelligence begins”. (Paraphrased from the MAL Entry)
I’m going to be perfectly honest “the WORLD” and “Alumina” are very nostalgic tracks for me. They are amoug the fragments in anime that led me to VKei, so I will always be thankful to Nightmare in the footnotes of my history.
For being a tie-in, this song has a lot of body to it. The artificial organ/synth that’s replicating traditional organ chords is a really nice effect. It’s on brand for the series, verses using the traditional instrument. The little touches of chime, and glass breaking, really shape the track since the band has such a strong identity already. Not to mention, Hitsugui gets some pretty sweet guitar work in here too.
Lyrically, it straddles the line between being ani-song and Visual Kei really well. It’ll come up a fair amount of times later, but Nightmare really knows how to write music that suits the anime and fits into their discography well.
The first thing I have to note is that “Alumina” has an indirect call back lyrically to “the WORLD” which I think is a lot of fun. I really feel like the Death Note production team, and Nightmare made these songs as a true collaboration, rather then just a business deal. There’s a lot of care between the lyrics, instrumentals and overall mood of the songs that added to the experience of watching Death Note. Well, at least my experiance watching as an edgy teen.
One of the best parts of this track though is the piano lines. They’re really subtle, especially with the more stripped back feel of the track, but they were incorporated really well. Throughout the song, there’s sections that highlight the technical skills of each member, interwoven together so smartly. It flows so well, especially if you listen with headphones at the 2:30 mark. The guitar line literally passes from one side to the other of your headphones. I thought it was a really neat trick that you don’t really get to experiance with speakers. Plus, the ending notes of the song are amazing, I get a genuine shiver down my spine every time.
In that same year, Nightmare also worked on another iconic anime series, Claymore. They produced the first opening theme “Raison D’etre” (apologies I know it’s French and should have and accent mark on the e but my keyboard is not cooperating). If you’re like me and live in a Shonen-free cave, here’s the summary:
“Raki witnesses a ‘youma’ or demon with a thirst for humans, killed by a woman with silver eyes and a sword. She’s what’s known as a ‘Claymore’ or a half-human, half-youma, whose only job is to kill youma. Raki’s family is unfortunately killed in the attack, and the Claymore – Clare saves his life. So he decides to follow her on her journey. As they travel more details about Clare’s life and organization comes to light, as well as the pile of dead youma in their wake. All of this leading to the youma that Clare has sought to kill ever since becoming a Claymore”.(Paraphrased from the MAL Entry)
I was not expecting this sort of opening to a series like Claymore being transparent here. I’m not sure why, it was just jarring to me the first time I really sat down to listen to this. Upon more re-listens this song is another masterpiece, and at least for me subverted my expectations for what I thought was a mere anime tie-in.
really work well though as a whole, and at least for me subverted my expectations for a tie-in.
I wish I had more to say, since “Raison D’etre” really is a great song. But I’m coming up a little short on the right words, even with notes. I’m not sure how to best describe the guitar work here, but it’s kinda more scratchy(?) then what I was familiar with for the band. It’s such a departure some the Death Note entries, but not quite the same unpolished feeling as “Over”. It stands nicely on it’s own, but works in tandem with their full body of work until this point.
In Fall of 2007, (Nightmare were busy this year!), the group would tie-in with the anime Majin Tantei Nougami Neruo. Their song “Dirty” being the first opening theme. Member Sakito had a small guest appearance as a voice actor in episode seventeen. His role was listed as “the electronically controlled bystander bicyclist in a chase scene”. That’s a mouthful. Let’s jump into a quick synopsis of the story:
“Yako Katsuragi is a high school detective, that has solved many cases and seemingly can solve any case despite her age. However she has a big secret – she hasn’t solved any of them. It’s all the work of Neuro Nougami her ‘assistant’. Neruo actually being a demon, who came to the human world to solve more mysteries since he solved all of them in the demon world. He uses Yako as a proxy to feed on the energy released by the criminals, in agreeance that he will help Yako solve the mystery of her father’s death. The duo must be careful as if Neuro can’t reveal his true nature, thus Yako being the face of their detective agency”.(Paraphrased from the MAL Entry)
There’s something I really enjoy about a track that reflects it’s name – “DIRTY” does in fact sound dirty. Between Ruka’s crazy drumming, the frantic chords from Sakito, Hitsugui, and Ni~ya, and then the sudden change of pace breakdowns, catapulting this song all over the place mood-wise. It keeps you engaged, throughout your listening and I could absolutely feel this being a hit at live shows. It’s a bit of a shame that the lyrics are little weak in comparison. Maybe that’s me playing dirty on this track – it’s still really great overall.
Nightmare would have almost a year long break tie-ins until Mouryou no Hako aired in Fall of 2008. The group would provide the opening theme “Lost in Blue” for the entire run. Their song “Naked Love” serving as the ending theme for the entire series as well. “Lost in Blue” was also the ending theme for the special Mouryou no Hako: Chuuzenji Atsuko no Jikenbo – Hako no Yurei no Koto. As always premise –
“Yoriko Kusumoto only cares about Kanako Yuzuki. Their summer trip comes to a brutal end when Kanako is found severely wounded on the train tracks, and Yoriko in tears. Shuutarou Kiba, a detective that was on the train that struck Kanako begins to investigate. However, the investigation is anything but linear as the Yuzuki family secrets run deep. Youko, Kanako’s older sister sends Kanako to Dr. Koushirou Mimasaka to care for her – in his box-shaped facility in the middle of a forest. The facility vanishes, and Kiba begins to search for Kanako only to discover limbs of young girls in boxes instead. Thus the mystery deepen and Kiba needs his partners Tatsumi Sekiguchi and Akihiko Chuuzenji to find Kanako, and solve the series of crimes uncovered along the way”. (Paraphrased from the MAL Entry)
Now, forgive me for this but I find “Lost in Blue” to be oddly soothing. I don’t know how to explain that since the song is very busy in terms of composition, there’s a lot of layers between the band especially Ruka’s drumming and Hitsugui’s guitar parts, and synth in the background. To me though, the overall vibe of the song is still very mellow. It really does fit the idea of a supernatural/suspense story. Like, this song manages to scratch a musical brain itch I didn’t know I had until hearing it. I’m aware that sounds so strange, but it’s the best explanation I have.
So… I was a little startled to hear what I thought was the beginning of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” kick off this song. It’s a very bold choice to emmulate and borrow such an iconic riff. I suppose that does contribute to their Gianizm, and it’s very clearly been modified to suit Nightmare’s style. It’s still a little disjointed between the signature changes, and effect of the song, but as I’ve re-listened it’s grown on me a lot.
Also, I have a bit of a confession here: I wasn’t the biggest fan of Yomi’s vocals overall. By no means is he a bad vocalist, but just not one I fully understood the appeal of. With this song in particular now though – I get it. The shift between his whispering, the ‘radio’ voice, and then him belting his next lines out is impressive.
After Nightmare’s hiatus from 2011-2016, and return in 2020 – Nightmare returned to anime tie-in’s. This time being with Duel Masters’ King!, in 2021. Their song “SINNERS” was used as the opening theme for episodes twenty-four through forty-three. While I’ve recently covered this anime before a refresher never hurt:
“Joe and Deckie hear a mysterious announcement in their dreams about an “evolution”, “4,000 years of dueling history”, and more. Joe and his friends after finding a mysterious scroll decide to go find the 12 Legendary Cards. But their destination is in… the past??”. (Paraphrased from the Duel Masters’ Fandom Entry on Duel Masters King!)
The only reason I know about the Duel Masters’ franchise is due to VKei&Anime. It feels like it’s the kind of anime that no one actually watches intentionally, but airs at a time that it captures an audience enough to get decent rating, and get renewed. Especially since this series is the 17th season… The prior seasons that had An Cafe, and SuG tracks that were so good and didn’t sound like ani-song at all. It felt more like production just picked a song from an upcoming release, paid the licensing fees and the band said okay.
But Duel Master’s King in particular… something is in the water. First vistlip had a generic shonen song tied in, and now Nightmare. I guess the franchise commissions these tracks because this feels like an off-brand version of Nightmare. It’s super watered down, especially in comparison to prior tie-ins, and Nightmare’s discography as a whole. It’s still good on a technical level, just the lyrics and composition are a huge step down for Nightmare and what they’ve delivered before. What a shame.
With that, this month’s edition of Visual Kei&Anime is wrapped! I found out a lot, and rediscovered a lot in this edition. “Lost in Blue” is going on my unofficial lay on the floor and vibe playlist in the near future. While some anime featured here haven’t held up all that well – a lot of the music has! So I’ll see you next month with the next installment!