The long awaited release from JILUKA on October 14th, ‘Xtopia’ brings a welcomed return of new music from the visual kei band.
After almost a year since the bands previous release ‘Xanadu’ and the fifth anniversary special DVD ‘The Outis’ back in May 2020, they have come back harder than ever with a new look, a new mini album and an official MV for title track ‘Edifice’. The technical metalcore quartet also embarked on their first domestic one-man live tour, The Integration, in support of the new 7-track release.
Known for their heavy breakdowns and melodic choruses, this mini serving certainly hits hard from the start.
Title track ‘Edifice’ brings the dark sounds of church organs with a quick build up to the heavy guitar and drums we know well from this band. The official MV fits with the sound and theme with a lavish church setting. This track features clean vocals throughout from frontman Ricko, and it’s clear he is able to command the upper range with ease. His melodic vocal is supported by guitarist Sena providing welcomed chaotic runs up and down the fret board, which perfectly sets up the feel for the rest of the album.
It’s not long before we are blessed with building heaviness in third track ‘Menace’, Zyean’s thundering drums never missing a beat. Clean vocals leading into Rickos growls, a feature we have waited for til now. Guitar maestro Sena shows off precise skill throughout. From the heavy minor chord verses into the major melodic chorus, there is balance amongst the chaos.
Boogie provides the heaviest of bass lines throughout this mini offering. The way Boogie and Zyean keep the momentum for each track, each working together to create the dark and heavy breakdowns JILUKA are known for. ‘Flux’ gives us heavy riffage from the start, the bass and drums driving through with ease, giving Sena free reign for impeccable solo work. This is evident in ‘Ignite’, a track that is sure to become a fan favourite.
Each track effortlessly leads to the next, with the welcomed – Prologos – allowing the listener a brief moment of melodic metal with Sena’s perfectly placed guitar work shining through before Xtopia’s final highlight, ‘The Purge’.
This track hits you like no other, and highlights Ricko’s versatile vocal abilities. With a chorus comprising of clean, uplifting vocals and frantic screaming, it is absolutely clear that the frontman has grown in both confidence and proficiency. JILUKAs talent in creating both dark and colourful melody is a stand out attribute, and is perfectly arranged during the course if this record.
‘Xtopia’ brings the best of each member and leaves the listener wanting more. It is clear that JILUKA have matured over their 5 years and show no sign of stopping. The continued evolution and unique identity of this band shines through on this record. And we are grateful for that.
Xtopia is released in two versions, regular and limited edition, with the latter featuring bonus MVs for ‘Elice In Slow Motion’ and ‘Last Faith’.
Melodic trance metal pioneers Blood Stain Child performed a live stream concert on their official YouTube channel on October 23rd.
A highly anticipated show, the band were able to involve fans both in Japan and internationally through the voting of 4 songs to be included in the set list.
And as an added bonus, a special online lottery allowed for fans to be included as a digital crowd participation during the live.
The band from Osaka gained ‘legend status’ and quite the following internationally after their show-stealing performance at the 2019 Metal Matsuri in London.
It’s been almost 2 years since the release of the incredible Amateras album, a record that brought original vocalist Sadew back into the BSC family.
Before the start of the live stream, fans from across the world gathered in the live chat. With almost 300 watching the show live, there was a lot of love coming from all who were viewing.
Around the stage were bar stools with balloons featuring the faces of fans who participated to be part of the virtual crowd.
This is a band who can get an audience fired up from the first song, but they did not let the lack of crowd stop them from fully embracing this performance.
The members gave their all during this performance, with guitarist GSR and bassist Yakky playing off one another, it was clear they were having a great time.
Drummer Yasuo received plenty shout outs in the live chat, his foot work impeccable and the driving force of each track, his thundering double bass drum could be felt deep in your chest.
Lead guitarist Ryu never disappoints with clean solo work, never missing a note. Her talent for both guitar and composing can be heard throughout the set.
Frontman Sadew as always brings all that is required as vocalist. His screams are hard and precise, the clean elements never faltering. His return to BSC after some time away brought great joy to the fanbase, and his outgoing personality and interaction with the crowd has only grown in the years since.
Fan favourite Freedom got the chat room jumping, and Exotic-6- Cordinator took fans back to the incredible 2007 Mozaiq album. It is clear that this bands songs still sound just as brilliant as they did 13 years ago.
Amateras singles Del Sol and Sumeragi hit hard showing that this band have continues to only get better over the years.
Ending with Final Sky from the 2005 album Idolator, the fans present in the chat were definitely craving more.
After the show, the band got together to chat casually and answer fans questions, announcing that two new songs are to be released in December. This news was well received by fans in the live chat.
After the postponement of their UK show back in March, plus shows due to take place on Japanese soil, Blood Stain Child came hard into this live stream. They have gained a following from their high impact live shows, and they did not disappoint their fans tonight.
Fans both domestic and international will await news of live shows in the coming months.
SETSUZOKU RECORDS announces IBUKI as first artist – solo album ExMyself to receive European release with exclusive bonus track.
SETSUZOKU RECORDS is proud to announce heavy metal vocalist IBUKI as the label’s first artist on October 12th.
The new label will release IBUKI’s debut solo album ExMyself as a European Special Edition on CD and collector’s edition vinyl on the 29th January 2021. The ExMyself European Special Edition will feature the original 8 album tracks plus a bonus track recorded exclusively for SETSUZOKU RECORDS.
“I am very honoured that my album will be released in the UK and the EU,” said IBUKI. “This album is a special edition compared to the original release in Japan and includes a brand-new song as a bonus track just for the UK/EU release…please look forward to it!”
Boasting both power and range, IBUKI’s reputation in J-metal as a vocal powerhouse is secure, but it is time for international audiences to discover one of Japanese metal’s brightest talents.
“IBUKI is not just a great vocalist but also a songwriter and arranger who deserves an opportunity to shine outside of Japan,” said SETSUZOKU RECORDS co-director Christopher Morris. “IBUKI’s work as guest vocalist with numerous projects over the years has been excellent, but it is as a solo artist that she really becomes a force to be reckoned with.”
Along with the original 8 album tracks and an exclusive bonus track, the ExMyself European Special Edition will feature a new booklet with additional content. SETSUZOKU RECORDS will also be producing a range of new IBUKI merchandise to be made available via the label’s soon to be launched webstore.
IBUKI – ExMyself European Special Edition is out 29/01/2021 on CD and collector’s edition vinyl. Available at online retailers, the SETSUZOKU RECORDS webstore, and select physical record shops in the UK and EU.
About SETSUZOKU RECORDS SETSUZOKU RECORDS is the record label arm of Orion Live (UK) Limited, an artist services company dedicated to Japanese artists. The label licenses for the UK/EU market the music and merchandise of a diverse array of artists representing hard rock and heavy metal, idol, J-pop, anisong, and more.
Since the 14th of August I’ve been waiting for the release of this album. There had been three full songs released already: Ignite, Singin’ For and Sakura Rising. In the end I was very lucky that 9 days before the official release (14th of October) the digital album has been released.
At 2am I sat behind my laptop to give the album a go! I had been waiting to hear this for so long that I was too excited and couldn’t sleep. I shall let you know what my thoughts are of this beautiful album, which in my opinion is a piece of art.
The album starts with the song ‘Calling’ and it took me right in to it. It was the classic Wagakki Band sound I heard, and I was sold inmediately. ‘Calling’ is a real album opener. It’s a song that is between powerful and slow, it’s the perfect way to start.
The second song of the album is one that I already knew, and which they played live in August. Of course it is ‘Ignite’, a very powerful song, which for me has the surprising Machiya “rap” part, he does so amazingly. I loved ‘Ignite’ since the first time I heard it.
Next is a track called ‘Reload Dead’ and I loved this song since I heard the preview of it. It starts powerfully but gets slower in pace right away. I really love the combination of the traditional Japanese instruments with the drums and guitars. It also has the perfect balance between the voices of Yuko and Machiya.
‘Ikitoshi Ikeru Hana’ is next to feature, and has a perfect combination of the intruments: Sakuchachi, Shamisen and Koto which gives this song the traditional Japanese vibe. It’s a really cheerful uplifting song.
The fifth song, ‘Gekka Bijin’ had been released as a preview, including a great animated video. Yuko wrote and produced this song and I think you can really tell it’s her work. It’s such a beautiful and peaceful song. It made me feel very calm when I listened to it. In this song they also used a great combination of the traditional Japanese instruments, but also the guitar in the back gives this song an extra dimension.
Now it’s up to the song that is known by a lot of people now. ‘Sakura Rising’ featuring Amy Lee of Evanescence fame. I have to be honest and I am still getting used to it. I have never been fond of Amy’s voice and I personally still don’t understand the collaboration, but it is a beautiful song. The band and Yuko sound amazing. It is just that Amy’s part is not my cup of tea. I hope I will get used to it the more I listen to this song.
After this song Machiya really hits it with the guitar, another great and powerful song called ‘Guernica’. I really love his voice in this one, it’s a more raw side we have never really heard before in Wagakki Band songs. It still fits perfectly with Yuko’s voice, but I must say I was pretty surprised when I heard Machiya’s voice this way, but it sounds really amazing.
The eighth song on this album is ‘Tokyo Sensation’ and the title actually says it all. It is a sensation listening to the song. It’s a pretty ‘busy’ song, but it really does it justice. When I heard it for the first time I got a party vibe from it, it made me dance!
‘Origami-ism’ is next on the album and we are getting slowly to the end. That doesn’t say a thing because this one is also a great track. I still had the dancing vibe of the last song and they continue giving me this feeling. Another song which has the perfect balance between the guitars and the traditional instruments. I am so happy to hear so many great shamisen parts.
The song that follows is ‘Atena no nai Tegami’ (unadressed letter) which I had a hard time listening too. The way it starts, it’s very calm and serene, Yuko’s whispering voice in the background already give me goosebumps. But the more I heard this song my eyes filled with tears and I really cried my eyes out. I’ve listened to this song multiple times but I keep feeling the same. It is such a beautiful song with a very strong vibe. The Koto sounds so perfectly together with Yuko’s voice. It is also one of the longer songs on the album. I love the fact the song builds from slow and softly to powerful with a great guitar solo in it. Although for me it was hard to listen to, I think it’s one of the most beautiful songs on the album.
Thankfully after this heavy song we’re getting something powerful again. ‘Nichirin’ has a more rock vibe and kicks in right from the start. I love the fact that the song starts with a lot of guitars and drums which gives it that rock sound, but as the song evolves there is this strong array of traditional instruments giving this song the full package.
‘Eclipse’ is the twelfth song on the album. I’m still getting used to the beginning, which is pretty slow in pace but Yuko’s vocal is strong and powerful, but then the feeling completely changes. I like this very much. You can hear that the album is coming to the end, the song builds more, and then the last song arrives (at least for the physical album).
‘Singin’ For’ is the song that was revealed for the first time at the August 14th concert. I got goosebumps and tears flowed when I heard that song for the first time. And thoae goosebumps never left while listening to it. It is such a powerful song, especially during these diffuclt times. People are saying that ‘Sakura Rising’ has this feeling of hope, well for me this is that song! From the start when I hear all the voices of the eight members together, it is such a strong and powerful emotion. It feels like a connection with all of them. I think this is a great ending of the album.
Since I am listening to the release of the digital version of the album, there is a bonus track available. It’s called ‘Roki’ and is a vocaloid cover, it has been a while since Wagakki Band did one of these. But honestly, this song is such a party! It’s so happy, and has this anime sound, even the voices of Yuko and Machiya sound almost like anime characters. It really has the vocaloid vibe and it made me want to dance non-stop. I think it is such a shame this isn’t on the physical cd as a bonus track, because I love it to bits! At least the digital version ends with a big bang!
My overall opnion of this album is, that it is a truly beautiful and amazing piece or work. All of the instruments and voices have great harmony. And the vibe of each of the songs is well balanced, after a powerful song there will be a slower one which will be followed again by another upbeat song.
There are many instrumental solo’s to be found where every member shines and shows what great musicianship they have. The voices of Yuko and Machiya are always great, and fit perfectly together. As for my opnion and experience, the songs really tell a story and are all connected to each other. And that’s why I think it is a masterpiece.
I am so impressed by what they all pulled off together. It may have been an album they have worked on for two and a half years, but it definitely was worth the wait!
There are songs I feel more connected to at this point after hearing it for the first time. But I really can’t name a favorite. Every song has someting that makes it beautiful and special. I can’t wait until I receive my physical copies and blast the cd through my stereo.
To end my review with the famous internet joke: What is your favourite song? Rosy: Yes!
Wagakki Band, thank you once again for your music and hard work. I feel very blessed to be able to expierence this music.
Christopher Morris, co-founder of SETSUZOKU RECORDS and co-director of ORIONlive, said “So many great artists, from hard rock and heavy metal to J-rock and Idol, deserve the opportunity to reach a larger audience and see their careers ascend”.
With Setsuzoku meaning ‘connection’ in Japanese, Christopher continued “After the success ORIONlive has achieved connecting Japanese artists with foreign fans via live events, a record label was the next logical step in assisting artists in reaching their goals.”
The new label will release exclusive European editions of full albums, EPs and singles; there will also be a focus on the revival of physical music products. “Digital releases are also important and SETSUZOKU will be entering that world as well,” continued Christopher. “But consumer tastes are leaning towards a revival of physical music product and we hope to continue that trend.”
We can expect SETSUZOKU RECORDS first release in January 2021, with a full schedule of further releases in the New Year also on the cards. Releases will be distributed across the UK and Europe for physical retailers, available via most online sellers, and available directly through the SETSUZOKU RECORDS retail webstore.
ORIONlive have made a name for themselves in the live event and promotion scene in the UK since 2017, bringing an array of Japanese bands and artists to both the UK and Europe. In the fall of 2019 the successful Metal Matsuri weekend at the O2 Islington, London attracted bands such as Marys Blood, Unlucky Morpheus, Mardelas and Blood Stain Child, for a first of its kind spectacular.
ORIONlive is dedicated to promoting the best artists from Japan’s diverse music scenes to the UK and Europe.
The announcement of the new label will have Japanese music enthusiasts excited for what will come to these shores, and it is surely to be an electrifying start to 2021.
For any further queries please contact Christopher Morris – email@example.com David Batey – firstname.lastname@example.org
A Guide to the unexplored world of Japanese indepenedent music on the GET YOUR GENKI Compilation Series.
In 2018, Jmusic lover Christian had ambitious plans to start his own label, GET YOUR GENKI. And it was through this that he was going to release some full-length album compilations over the next years.
Although he was already aware that his task to find bands from Japan, to convince them to be part of his idea and to produce and distribute their music on cassette might be not the easiest one, Christian worked hard for the credibility he now has in the independent music scene in Japan.
His idea of the GET YOUR GENKI series was that it shouldn’t resemble anything else that’s been before. These releases would focus on different musical genres and styles. All the compilations are a result of the close work Christian has with the bands and his art designer, Ashton Lamont.
Christians approach to GET YOUR GENKI was very simple; ‘I just put all the bands together that I loved to listen to when I started all this. From jpop to heavy rock, some metal, industrial to folk. I’m trying to show everybody there’s good in different types of music’.
Indeed, the series is a textbook on contemporary japanese music, psych, punk-rock , vocaloid and even black metal. Late last year he quietly started to distribute CDs from his favourite Japanese bands and even produced a debut album for the fabulous synthwave/darkwave artist TAKARA ARAKI.
And this won’t be the last surprise. As one fan once put it, “They play everything at Get Your Genki. You don’t know what you’re going to hear.”
Here’s a guide to Get Your Genki’s popular compilation series.
A personal reflection on the idol group KissBee by guest writer Toby Hagen.
For the last few years I have been a huge supporter of an idol group that seems to have gone largely unnoticed by the international Japanese idol fandom. Whenever I would bring them up in conversation, the response was always the same; “Who?”
When Beyond Senpai approached me to write an article for them ahead of their online live show on September 8th 2020, a concert with huge significance for the group and their fans, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to introduce them. So read on and allow me to introduce you to one of the hardest working, musically diverse, and socially outgoing idol groups ever… KissBee!
Debuting with just 3 members in 2014, KissBee rapidly grew both in their number and in their popularity with audiences, with their first one-man live taking place in January 2015 and their debut album releasing towards the end of the same year on December 26th.
Their initial success lead to their 5th single release on May 31st 2016, landing at #1 on the Oricon Daily Chart. Keen to engage with their fanbase off the stage as much as on it, in August 2017 they launched their URA-KISS YouTube project hitting 100k subs by June 2018 and subsequently winning the ‘Yahoo! Search Award 2018’ Newcomer Award for being the most searched new idol unit.
With their trainee division, KissBee Youth beginning to make waves in 2019 and with the time since seeing their biggest concerts to date, it seems that there is no stopping KissBee in their pursuit to entertain Japan!
As with all idol groups, members have come and members have gone. As they exist today, KissBee is comprised of members Seika Nakayama (25), Misaki Tanifuji (20), Rena Ooe (20), Yui Fujii (19), Nonoka Shinohara (16), Chihiro Hieda (21), and Ema Yamazaki (19). Each of them have unique personalities, interests, motivations, and ways that they engage with fans; but make no mistake, when they are together they really are the gold standard when it comes to defining the word “team”.
When you see them rehearsing their choreography or having meetings, there is always an incredible vibe of best friends hanging out and doing what they love together, yet they are so dialed in to every aspect of what they are doing.
Their choreography is precise and elaborate, always trying something new and different. This all comes into focus during their thrilling live shows, where the audience interaction is high and the crowd gets involved with the dances. Even if you don’t like their music (which I don’t understand because their discography is so diverse that there really is something for everyone!), you cannot deny that KissBee are always on the top of their game.
The group entered my life in the summer of 2017. I had decided that my constant interest in Japan and everything to do with the country was ready to be taken to the next level. And so I started to learn the language, learn about the history and culture, and even became an amateur Japanese chef.
During this time, I discovered the YouTube channel Abroad in Japan. A few months earlier, Chris had posted a video called ‘Japanese Idol Girls Ruined By Marmite’ and in this video he battles KissBee members Hina Takano and Misaki Tanifuji in a game where the punishment for failure is being forced to eat foods from each others country that are known to taste horrible to the other. I was immediately drawn to the surly attitude of Hina and Misaki who were acting tough but when every time they won they would burst into beautiful smiles of delight.
I wanted to know more, and then spent hour after hour watching KissBee videos and listening to their music. At this point I was not very familiar with idol music, but something about KissBee was drawing me in and I was unable to escape. I knew I wasn’t alone, but I felt intimidated about engaging with the members or their fans over SNS. After all, I couldn’t speak Japanese. And so, after a year of learning the language, I finally reached out; and boy oh boy, did I get a reply!
Using the popular SNS app LINELIVE, I noticed tweets from the members of KissBee that were announcing chat sessions. I attended one and kept myself quiet. I noticed you were able to send digital gifts that had a cash value, essentially a tipping service, and you could include messages with these gifts. The next LINELIVE show I attended featured members Yui and Seika, and former member Miona in a group chat. I sent them a message, in English. Seika read it out loud and seemed astonished that someone was speaking English suddenly.
Seika was my oshi of the group, so needless to say my heart exploded and I was thrilled! The chat seemed to be surprised by the English person in their midst too, and so the next day I went back on LINELIVE. This time I met Chihiro and Misaki, whom I had seen being forced to eat liquorice on Abroad In Japan. They also were delighted that there was an English speaking fan watching. The fans rapidly picked up on this not being a one-off deal; there really was someone from overseas trying to reach out. Suddenly my Twitter erupted in follows, with curious KissBee fans wanting to know who I was and, more importantly, how I knew about KissBee.
And so it was, in March 2020, that I really got to know KissBee. Not just their music or their history; I got to know them. I would say hello on LINELIVE every day to the members in their individual broadcasts, and in turn they would say hello back. I would try to speak Japanese, and they would try to speak English.
Seika was originally my oshi, but I rapidly became a huge fan of everyone and I learned so much from other fans. I discovered the personalities of each member, their personal music tastes, what they liked to wear or what they liked to eat. And it was these early conversations that made me jump from “I like KissBee!” to “I LOVE KissBee!”.
In July 2020, KissBee held their first online-only concert, and this was my first live show experience. I had seen them on YouTube live, but this time I had a ticket to a show! By this time I was friends with everyone, and to say that I was proud of them all during this live show would be an understatement. It was an incredible experience despite Chihiro and Rena being unable to perform due to sickness and surgery respectively, and proved that online concerts were just as fun as the real thing!
Alas, a few days after their online live debut, founding member Hina Takano tragically passed away on July 10th at the age of just 20.
All KissBee activities were immediately cancelled and for the most part their social media use stopped. The outpouring of grief was immense to say the least, and time seemed to grind to a halt.
Hina was truly the core of everything KissBee, and though she had retired from the music side of the group she was very much present in their URA-KISS videos and had also started up her own company, ZZZ.inc.
A week before she passed away, I had my first conversation in Japanese with her over ZOOM. She smiled and laughed, expressing joy that I was learning the language and was truly grateful to know that KissBee had spread beyond the borders of Japan. I miss her so, so much. I think about her every day and catch myself silently asking her for guidance when I need to make choices. She lives on in the hearts and minds of those of us who were blessed to know her, and I am so thankful to have her light in my life.
On Tuesday 8th September 2020, KissBee will be taking to the stage for the first time since their online live concert at the beginning of July. During this hiatus, their passionate fanbase, the Hachisans (AKA The 888), have continued to support the group and each other, offering words of condolence, words of encouragement, and words of hope.
This time has given KissBee time to heal, time to reflect, and time to plan for the future, too. Though at times things may have seemed uncertain for everyone, with the tagline “REMEMBER / RESTART”, this online live concert promises to be both a loving tribute to a dear friend now sadly departed, and to give the audience their first glimpse of the new era to come. They have already announced that they will be debuting a new look (one of the hallmarks of KissBee is their amazing outfits), and they have their first remix album on the way too. It will be a landmark event for KissBee and the 888, and an emotional farewell to Hina.
To know KissBee is to know unity. Is to know passion. To know joy, love, and laughter. Everything they do, from hanging out with fans on LINELIVE to making prank videos on YouTube, from recording new music to performing it live, it is all done with their hearts aimed at the world. They go from strength to strength, and deserve to be heard by everyone. They may just be an idol group to the world but they mean the world to their fans, and so do their fans to KissBee.
Yuffie Sakimura aka Garuda has been busy creating her upcoming debut album, The Battle of Nightmares, due for release on September 9th. Between filming her new MV, 支配者 (Ruler), and performing live with her idol unit Melon Batake a GO GO, Yuffie-san found time to answer some questions with Beyond Senpai.
Beyond Senpai: Yuffie, how are you?
Garuda: I’m doing very well! Thank you.
BS: It has been 3 years since your debut. What is your most memorable moment?
G: My most memorable moment was being able to perform live in the UK. I’m so glad that I didn’t give up on performing.
It wasn’t easy for me to continue with GARUDA on my own. It is very difficult to think about what I want to express, what I am passionate about, what I am actually able to express, and how to create something that can be accepted by everyone. So I was really surprised when I was invited to play in the UK, and I was really happy that I was accepted as an artist there. I vividly remember all three shows of the tour. I think people could tell by my facial expressions that I was nervous at the time, and it was refreshing to get different reactions to each song than in Japan. I still can’t forget how tense I was.
This album was the first time I tried to write lyrics by myself. “Ruler” which I created the music video for, was the first song I wrote, and I completed the lyrics with the help of RIKA:NYAN from Bedtime Story. I didn’t have any knowledge of lyric writing at first, so she was the one who took my emotional writing and applied it to the song.
The whole album is about the struggle with life, and I built it around “The Dominator”. I think I was able to create a narrative in the order of the songs as well as one round. I hope it’s a fight song for myself, and I hope it’s a fight song for everyone.
G: My original influences were metal and hard rock, before I fell in love with idols myself. My current activities are rooted in the style I originally liked. I love pretty performances, of course, but I consider cool performances to be more suited to me. I think having plague masks and nail bats helps me to create a stronger and darker world.
BS: What was it like on the set of the music video with Neko?
G: It was so great. She is a really nice lady!
I met NEKO when she was in a group called “Fetties”. I have had her perform at my birthday party. She is a real SM queen.
For this video, I hired a professional production company to work on the project. When I read the script, the first cast member who came to mind was NEKO, whose behaviour and demeanor fit the image I had in mind. The extras were dressed in very hot outfits and we had to shoot for a long time, so she made everyone feel at ease and cared for them during the shoot.
BS: The new album will be out soon, what are your thoughts on how it has turned out?
G: I’m so excited and looking forward to it!
I decided on most things myself including the artwork, compositional images, and lyric production. This album is the first album that I truly created by myself. I’ve learned how hard it is to make an album, and it took me a long time to make, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how people will listen to this album and interpret the meaning of the songs.
BS: This is your first solo album. Have you enjoyed working with the creative team?
G: Of course.
I’ve recorded in a group activity before, but most of it was my first time with GARUDA. In the time between adding lyrics to the songs and recording, we received a lot of advice on how to make them even better. Thanks to everyone on the production team, I think the songs turned out great throughout the whole process. I can’t thank them enough.
G: Tough question….. it looks like I won’t be able to settle down much until after the GARUDA sponsored event. (LOL)
BS: We miss you in the UK. Do you hope to travel overseas again?
G: Of course I want to go!
I learned a lot from meeting fans in the UK. It was great to see not only people who live in the UK, but also people who came from neighboring countries to visit us. The reaction to each song was different, and I trained myself to think about what I was going to say during my MCs every day. In Japan, many people would stare at me as I flailed, but at the UK show, people welcomed me with open arms. When I returned to Japan, people would sometimes tell me that my staging had matured.
So far, I’ve had more international fans come to Japan, but if I get the chance, I’d like to visit the UK and many other countries as often as I can.
I have always had an admiration for Pixel Art ever since I was little. I used to make pictures with sprites from my favourite video games; Pokemon, Mario and Sonic The Hedgehog to name a few. Later, around 2015 I became interested in Hama Beads (known as Perler Beads in the US) and it became my hobby to make images with them. I mostly made Pokemon, and would stick them to my wall like a collage.
Time passed and I began making less and less until eventually I stopped completely and moved onto other things. Then in August 2016 I found BABYMETAL. I remember watching the music video to ‘Karate’ with my mouth wide open thinking “Ok, this is the best thing I’ve ever seen”. The following day after work I went to HMV and bought both of their albums and listened to them constantly for the next few days, as well as watching videos on YouTube and researching everything I could about this band. Thus, I fell deep into this ‘Fox Hole’ and I could not get enough!
During my many hours learning all I could about BABYMETAL I came across a post on Reddit about their appearance in Super Mario Maker. More specifically I noticed their sprite and immediately thought! I need to make that! So I dug out my beads and made a keyring, which I still have now.
Seeing the little sprite made me wonder if there was any other BABYMETAL pixel art out there, so I hopped on google, and found a large Reddit pixel project( R/Place I believe it was called) . I noticed there was a little BABYMETAL piece included which I thought was adorable, so I recreated it with my beads. I then thought I’d have a go at making different versions with different BABYMETAL costumes.
While I enjoyed tweaking this design, it wasn’t mine. So it didn’t feel right for me to keep altering someone else’s work, so I decided I’d have a go at making my own. Freshly motivated, I downloaded a pixel art program on my phone and began designing my own sprites, and thanks to a new batch of BABYMETAL concerts that had just happened called ‘The Five Fox Festival’ I had new inspiration!
I made sprites for each of the 5 Fox Masks featured for these shows, and used the beads to make little key rings with the sprites and uploaded a photo of them onto twitter. The post received lots of amazing feedback, and I began to get messages requesting to buy the key rings.
Shortly after I began taking commissions for key rings, and the idea of making a little shop began in the back of my mind. I was only working part-time, and the extra pennies were a great help. More importantly, I enjoyed making these little trinkets and seeing my new friends happy reactions when receiving their items.
In June 2018 I attended my first headline BABYMETAL concert in Utrecht NL, I was so excited and the whole experience was incredible. I spoke to a few fans about my pixel art, showed them the kind of things I made and a fellow fan suggested maybe making metal pin badges- and I thought, y’know what thats a good idea! Once home, I got straight to work and designed a small enamel pin based on Su-Metal in her Megitsune kimono. I released the pin alongside the opening of my Etsy shop, later adding Moametal and Yuimetal’s pins to the set. They were greatly received by fans all over the world, and I was humbled by the amazing feedback and support.
I began adding more and more Items whenever I could afford it and Little Mistune started to bloom into something substantial, we’re still small but I like it that way to be honest- it feels like my own little community. I have regulars of whom purchase almost every new item I produce and it’s those individuals that encourage me to keep going. When they post photos of their collections and the joy they feel when they receive their goodies it makes me so incredibly happy!
The BABYMETAL community has done so much for me in my 4 years being a fan. Last October my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer. I had to close my Etsy shop and move back home to take care of him. My employer allowed me an extended period of time off on the condition it was unpaid. With bills and rent to pay, filled great shame I felt no choice but to reach out and ask for financial help, to which I was absolutely shocked to be met with nothing but endless support and encouragement- the sheer volume still amazes me today.
The kindness and compassion of the BABYMETAL community was something I had never witnessed before, these individuals, many of whom were complete strangers to me had come to my aid without even a second guess, I couldn’t believe it.
Growing up in a sheltered environment, having little to no friends this was the first time in my life I felt like I was a part of something meaningful, a family.
My dad passed away peacefully in late November, and in his final moments my sister and I sat at his bedside telling him what he meant to us, and how we would stay strong, be brave and continue to do the things we loved in life. Dad knew how much BABYMETAL meant to me, he would encourage me to travel to see them, I would show him my art and the items I made, of which he was always proud and supportive. My BABYMETAL family got me through those hard times, and still do. I know they are there for me when I need them, as I will be for there for them.
Life is short, that is the one thing I took away from losing my dad. I vowed to myself that I would live my life with no regrets, I would do the things that meant the most to me; and that is making people happy and with Little Kitsune I have managed to do that, and I will keep doing so for as long as I can.
2020 has been a tough year, with COVID-19 causing disruptions and times of uncertainty. I have used this time to work on Little Kitsune, and improving my pixel art and hopefully, with the continued support of the BABYMETAL community and my recent work through Kickstarter my little pixels will keep bringing smiles to fans for many years to come.
Beyond Senpai would like to thank Lilly for her contribution to the Babymetal community. 🤘🦊