Visual Kei&Anime – X Japan

Welcome back to Visual Kei&Anime! After December 2022’s post about a member of this group, we’re now covering the whole band. This is none other then thee X, or better known as X Japan. While this group hardly needs an introduction, I do value my structures. So let’s go ahead and dive into their background!

I will not be able to fully summarize X Japan’s entire history in a fesible way. I’ll do my best, but just understand that there’s too much to cover in on a blog like mine.

This is a pre-hiatus photo.

X Japan was formed in 1982 by founding members Yoshiki who plays piano and drums, and lead vocalist Toshi. Their original name was simply ‘X’ by they changed it in approximately mid-1992, due to conflicts regarding brand recognition. The group’s original line-up consisted of Yoshiki, Toshi, Taiji on bass, hide on lead guitar, and Pata on rhythm guitar. Due to their rather tumultuous history as a group, they’ve had a variety of former members some more notorious then others. Their current performing line-up (as of January 2023) is Yoshiki, Toshi, Pata, Heath on bass guitar, and Sugizo on guitar and violin. It’s important to note that while hide, and Taiji are both deceased, X Japan still considers them members, introduces them at their shows as such, and even use video/audio clips of their voices and guitars for some songs.

While the group coined the term “Visual Kei”, which came from their slogan “Psychedelic Violence Crime of Visual Shock” – sonically they’re not so much Visual Kei, as much as the inspiration for it. Nearly any band in the current scene will cite at least one X Japan album as why they started playing or joining a band. X Japan’s music in it’s earlier years is closer to power/speed metal. Their later music is much more progressive with emphasis on symphonic elements.

X Japan due to members and various circumstances has an incredibly long, and somewhat complicated timeline of events with a lot of controversy. I will summarize points of interest as follows:

-Originally active from 1982 through 1997, went inactive due to creative differences and vocalist Toshi being recruited into a cult.

-hide passed away in May, 1998.

-All members slightly prior to, and during the hiatus were active in adjacent projects. Some of these projects were, hide and spread beaver, S.K.I.N.S., Dope HEADz, and more. Yoshiki especially was particularly active on a global level during this time behind the scenes.

-X Japan resumed activity in 2007 with Toshi approaching Yoshiki to work on X Japan’s single “Without You” which is a tribute song to hide.

-May 1st 2009, it was announced that Sugizo had officially joined the band as a guitarist.

-Toshi would officially leave the cult, in 2010. It’s also during this time that Toshi would change his stage name to Toshil (the final i being a lower case l). In my blog post I will be using the original spelling for ease of writing.

-Taiji died under mysterious circumstances July, 2011. His relationship with the band at this point was significantly strained, however in recent years this perception has changed.

-X Japan embarked on their first North American tour in 2010, and then a Europe, South America and Asia tour in 2011. During this time they worked on the sixth, still to this day, unreleased studio album. After this the band would resume a regular touring schedule within Japan, and with some global performances.

We are X the documentary film of the band premiered on January 23rd, 2016.

As of writing, X Japan has released five studio albums, six live albums, and twenty-one singles as well as a variety of other material over the years. For full context and to find jumping off points for further reading and research I do recommend the band’s aforementioned documentary, as well as the English Wikipedia page. Their music can be found on the band and Yoshiki’s youtube pages, as well as on Spotify.

We can now jump into the smattering of anime related released that X Japan has contributed over the years.

The first anime tie-in that X Japan would do, is not the standard opening or ending theme. Their song “Endless Rain” was used as an insert song for the anime special, Otohime CONNECTION in 1991. It’s not very well known, so let’s go over a quick plot synopsis.

“A male pop duo, doubles as a detective agency. When the female member of their agency is kidnapped, the past of the duo returns to trouble them in the present. It’s a short special based on the manga of the same name by Ooya Kazumi”. (Paraphrased from the MAL Entry)

I do want to note that the version I have in this post is the remastered version from 2007, not the original 1989 version. So the version in Otohime Connection was a little lower in quality most likely. I’m also not a 100% sure exactly what part or parts of the song were used. That’s something I could potentially investigate later.

Personally, this song is in a weird spot for me. As someone who appreciates X Japan, and all that they did for VKei this song is both nostalgic and a little goofy for me. There is a lot of charm to Toshi’s English pronunciation, considering that it’s not completely comprehensible but incredibly passionate and sincere. The recording is iconic, and the live performances are much more refined.

I’m not a fan of ballad’s overall so a lot of X Japan’s material isn’t really my thing. I will say that X Japan is what I could consider a blueprint for an excellent band ballad. What makes “Endless Rain” work is that it have movement in it. There is a driving force behind Yoshiki’s piano, then drums that keeps this song from feeling endless. It bridges all the instrumentals together seamlessly, the mid-point solos and highlight parts don’t get too jam-band-esque which I appreciate. It’s an exceptional song, just personally, not one of my preferred X Japan tracks.

Their next tie-in was on November 21st, 1993. Their song “X” would be used as the opening theme, if not the general music for X²: Double X.

“This short is a prequel to the theatrical X film (1996). It’s part of the four music videos. The first three videos are stills of CLAMP’s pre-1994 X artwork and live-action sequences. The animated music video is animated by Madhouse and shows a quick sequence of X’s TV anime episodes 1-3, which was show before the movie as well”. (Paraphrased from the MAL Entry)

*Also important to note, this is the remaster like the previous entry. The original song was a bit more rough.

This song scratched a brain itch I didn’t know I had. I’m not a huge fan of power or speed metal, but this song does it for me. I think a lot of it is nostalgia – the literal flashback I had to my mid-2010’s Mac desktop, frantically lowering the volume so I didn’t blow the speakers out after school was very real. I didn’t even know I had seen the MV for this song, until I started revisiting their discography. A little off-putting but very cool.

As for the song itself, I’ll fully admit my rose-colored glasses are on. “X” as a song is just an embodiment of destruction, angst, and more that wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve. The frantic energy it opens with and never lets go of, the lyrics that are so tight and simple but cut to the core. As the refrain translates to:

“X – try to feel it, X – try to scream it, X – take off everything, X – try to feel it, X – try to scream it, X – set your heart on fire”.

And I’ll admit, it ties in all to well to my beloved X manga and anime.

Now this does have an animated side to it, which I typically review in tandem with the music itself. The MV isn’t available officially online, but you can still track it down if you’re really curious. As it was previously described, it’s all animation cut together and refigured from the first three episodes of the at the time, still in development, X (2001) anime. So for simplicity’s sake – I love X, anime, manga and anything related to the project. The animation is dated, but I still think it kicks ass. If I had been awaiting the series back in the day, I 100% would have been hype for it.

We take a brief detour from anime, to an animated music video! Released on July 10th, 1994 as X Japan’s 10th single, is “Rusty Nail”. However, the animated music video was released in 1999, five years after the original sales and coupled with X Japan’s release of “PERFECT BEST”. The music video is animated by Mook Animation, with characters designed by CLAMP. It shows the animated versions of Yoshiki, Toshi, hide, Pata, and Heath in a post-apocalyptic setting.

“Rusty Nail” is one of those songs with the absolutely most iconic opening that leads so well into the full song. It’s got a lot of movement behind it, between the band and the symphonic elements that linger in the background. Lyrically this is the track where I can see that a lot of later Vkei bands pulled their imagery and themes from. It’s very poetic, but in a somewhat self-destructive sort of way. Also the husky voice English mid-song; not gonna lie that would fuck me up if I was a native Japanese speaker and hearing it for the first time. There’s just so much of a dramatic flair woven into this song that you just can’t really take it apart. Effortlessly cool without getting too self gratifying on X Japan’s part.

I do have to give CLAMP some major credit here. I’m not the biggest fan of X Japan in this particular era. But the fact that I did almost immediately recognize every member of the band shows that those ladies have some incredible skill in their design work. Also major kudos to Mook Animation, who… I’m a bit confused how they got booked for this gig given their expertise is elsewhere. Regardless, the animation for how far out of the studio’s typical wheelhouse it is – looks super solid. It’s smooth, works for what the storyline of the MV is, and they managed to make CLAMP’s slick designs work. I give them big bonus points for bookending it with the feather effects, and somewhat tying in thematically with X the anime. A solid production for it being just a music video.

Two years later on August 3rd, 1996, X Japan’s song “Forever Love” was used as the ending theme for X The Movie i.e. X/1999 The Movie. So a quick run-down of the premise:

“At the edge of the millennia, the final battle for humanity is set. Kamui Shirou’s destiny continues as he returns to Tokyo, to face it. As a Dragon of Heaven, the defense for the Earth, are ready to protect the world for theDragons of Earth, who are ready to embrace the planet in devastation and bring about it’s purification. Kamui is hestitant to pick a side, until his childhood friends Fuma and Kotori Monou are put in perial. The Year of Destiny 1999 has yet to be decided”. (Paraphrased from the MAL Entry)

I did my best to find a more true-to-film version officially, but this is what I could find. For those where the We Are X movie soundtrack isn’t region locked, check it out on Spotify!

I’m gonna be a 100% honest, for someone who doesn’t like ballads – “Forever Love” always manages to wreck me. I mean that in a very visceral sense, since I am desperately patting at my eyes as I type. I can’t listen to this song on loop, the way I can with the others. I need a long break in between listening(s). Between what this song means for fans, the band, myself, and even for X as an anime/manga franchise – I just get really caught up in my feelings. In a therapeutic sort of way, but also one where I’m just not capable of trying to pick apart the song. It hits deep in a way that not everyone will agree with, but it always gets me in a way that other songs don’t.

The last anime tie-in for X Japan, the entire band as of writing was for the animated film Buddha: The Great Departure. The film was released May 28th, 2011 with their song “Scarlet Love Song” as the ending theme. I feel like many aren’t aware of this title so let’s do a brief summary:

“Based off of the manga of the same name, by Tezuka Osamu. In ancient Nepal, the region is plagued by various environmental and social ills. There is then the birth of the young prince Siddhartha, whose influence intertwines with his subject, as he embarks on his spiritual journey to become a Buddha, “the Enlightened One”. In this desperate age, the rebirth of the people, and their prince has begun”. (Paraphrased from the MAL Entry)

This might come off as condescending, especially for a band like X Japan, but I’ll type it anyway. “Scarlet Love Song” is a shining example of refining a signature sound, and perfecting as the years have progressed.

There’s still the raw underlying passion that X Japan has always had, but now captured and funneled more intentionally. The band is way less about working themselves and the fans into a frenzy, and more about how to pull on the emotional heartstrings in a quiet release. There’s so much intention on having X Japan go in a ‘new’ direction; this is a song that doesn’t use any hide or Taiji’s previous material. You can tell that Yoshiki never stopped thinking about the group, given how this was composed and arranged. He wanted to bring out the best of the group as it was then, and it shows.

With that, my tiny anime perspective on X Japan is complete! I hope you found it interesting and will consider digging into their discography if you haven’t already! Otherwise as always, see you next month with another entry!


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