Visual Kei&Anime – YOSHIKI

Welcome back to Visual Kei and Anime! After last month’s feature of legendary band, X Japan, I figured I should follow up with the backbone of the band – YOSHIKI! While many are already primed from last time, a bit more concentrated info is needed. So let’s get into it!

YOSHIKI as a soloist is a classical pianist, songwriter, composer, and record producer. He’s been described as a musical innovator, as well as one of the most influential composers in Japanese history by various sources. With his classical studio albums he has collaborated with some of the biggest names in popular culture, including but not limited to Stan Lee, and Gene Simmons. In addition, he has toured extensively globally with various performances and more in his 32+ year career as a solo artist. At the time of writing, as a soloist Yoshiki has release three studio albums, and four singles, as well as a variety of other contributions. The most prolific accomplishments of his career currently has been composing and performing for the tenth anniversary of Emperor Akihito’s enthronement, and composing the theme for the 69th Golden Globe Awards.

As always this is the briefest rundown possible of Yoshiki’s career as a soloist. Because yes, he’s also the drummer and leader of X Japan, which I’ve talked about previously. If you want to look into more details his Wikipedia article, and prior linked website are good jumping off points. His music can be found on Youtube, and Spotify.

Before jumping in directly to Yoshiki’s anime tie-in’s as a performer, I do want to mention he’s done a lot of work as an arranger and composer for several ani-songs. In Yamato Takeru – the theme songs “Manatsu no Tobira” and “Rain” are performed by GLAY, and they composed them, with Yoshiki’s help in arrangement. In Nippon-ichi no Otoko no Tamashii, the theme song “Yurameki” originally performed by Dir en Grey, was arranged by Yoshiki. I think it goes without saying, but “X”, “Rusty Nail”, “Forever Love”, and “Scarlet Love Song” performed by X Japan for various anime titles, were arranged and composed by him as well.

Now, we can jump into his works as a solo performer with anime-songs!

Yoshiki as a soloist would have his first official anime tie-in on June 21st, 2014. His song “Hero (Yoshiki Classical Version)” ft. Katie Fitzgerald from Violet UK (another side project Yoshiki has/had), was the ending theme for Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary. Saint Seiya is a truly legendary series, but in case you’re not aware of his edition, let’s take a quick look:

“Since the dawn of time, the Saints have protected the Goodness Athena. Saori Kido, the most recent reincarnation of Athena, learns of these Saints. However, the Pope of the Sanctuary – the leader of the Saints, doesn’t like her and claims she’s a fraud. An assassin is sent to kill her, but Saint Seiya protects her. Will the single Saint be enough to protect Saori until she regains her rightful place?” (Paraphrased from the MAL Listing)

So this is a snippet of the song, I haven’t found the full version anywhere legally. But as you guys know by now, you can find an upload elsewhere with some keywords.

First and foremost, I’m not very familiar with Katie Fitzgerald’s previous body of work. In fact it was kinda hard in general to find any info about her but that’s a separate mystery for another day. I think her voice does really suit Yoshiki’s piano, and the mood of the song. Yoshiki really does have a very good sense of what type of vocalist suits what songs he composes. She has a really solid delivery. Unfortunately for whatever reason, they chose to muddle it with the breathier style of delivery that kept the song rippling throughout it’s runtime instead of echoing. It’s a lot of stylistic choices that I, personally, am not a fan of but, commend them for committing to it.

As for Yoshiki’s piano – I know myself and have a confession to make. I don’t know much about piano composition or music so this is significantly out of my area of expertise. I could lie and tell you because it’s Yoshiki of course it’s good. That would be very dishonest of me, so I’d rather not. I wouldn’t be able to tell you if it was good or bad unless there was a really obvious mistake or clear out of synch moment between pianist and vocalist. Personally, I really like the piano line. It has a lot of hallmarks I’m familiar from Yoshiki’s compositions in general, and from his work with X Japan. It pulls on your heartstrings, and that’s what gets me every time.

I have a few unanswered questions as to why this particular version was used over several others that exist. Or why of all the material Saint Seiya has produced over the years that it was this release that got Yoshiki’s blessing. Some things are best left unanswered, so I’ll keep it moving.

His second tie-in was with Attack on Titan Season Three. His song “Red Swan”, ft. HYDE was used as the opening theme for all twelve episodes. I’m sure everyone is familiar with this series, but just in case:

“Mankind remains threatened, both inside and outside of the walls, by titans and their supporters. Various members of the Survey Corps’ struggle with recovery, and changes. However, with their recent successes Eren and Krista in particular come under scrutiny, and now Levi’s personal squad must evade all adversaries in hopes of keeping everyone safe. This season the Corp must not only fight Titans, but also something more dangerous – other humans“. (Paraphrased from the MAL Entry)

I feel the need to acknowledge this first and foremost, because it will severely bias my thoughts on this song – I hate Attack on Titan (AoT). I don’t say that lightly. I also strongly dislike the fandom around AoT and that will come into play in this section.

I’ve gone back and forth on my personal feelings about this song. I didn’t really care for it when it came out – I felt like Yoshiki was doing this for a cash grab and to continue to delay the release of X Japan’s album. I still think that to some degree. “Red Swan” isn’t a bad song in the slightest, the technical details on it are impressive. But I didn’t feel the need to sing it’s praises when, personally, I wasn’t that invested in it.

Awhile back, someone on WordPress (I genuinely forgot who), made the bold statement that this song as an OP sucked. They probably worded it more kindly then that. I also mean no harm in mentioning them like this. Their opinion is totally valid. And on top of it – I agreed. Mostly stemming from the fact I hate AoT, and hated that Yoshiki and Hyde agreed to tie their song to it. But as time wore on, and I saw more people posting their opinions and clearly being AoT fans first, having any sort of musical palate second – I felt my opinion change and grow stronger, admittedly even defensive.

Because, being totally honest, bias acknowledged – “Red Swan” is wasted on AoT. I’m going into a gate keeper mode, and I don’t care. The amount of braindead and recycled “this isn’t Linked Horizon so this sucks as an OP” and “wow this Yoshiki guy and Hyde dude suck, must be new to music” was almost as awe-inspiring as it was irritating to read. It was truly a moment of pure ignorance and well, it got me.

Ani-song has it’s conventions both in terms of vocals, lyrical content, instrumentation and composition. I’ve talked about them a lot in this feature. I’m sure those conventions could be broken into super technical music terms, I’m just not well-versed enough to do it. I do the “know it when I hear it” so to speak. Some bands lean into it, and other’s don’t. The thing is – Yoshiki and Hyde have all the skills to have made an anisong, and chose not to. “Red Swan” is so sonically different because it’s being arranged, composed, and performed by non-anisong people. I’m even willing to bet this wasn’t even originally suppose to go to AoT since it is such a departure from the previous OP’s and ED’s.

I’ve gone on long enough but my TL;DR is – “Red Swan” is too good for AoT, and while not my personal favorite from Yoshiki or Hyde, respectively, is still leagues better then the majority of typical anisong fodder.

Looking back on this post, I sincerely did not expect this post to go where it’s gone. I’m not mad about that though, it shakes up my usual patterns when it comes to these posts. As always I hope you found my thoughts interesting, or perhaps (re)discovered some new music to listen to! I’ll see you next month with another installment!


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