The genre known as anison (anime songs) is unique and quite hard to find overseas, since it was developed in Japan, the country of anime. However, there are many anison artists who are very popular overseas. Many of them take part in anime and otaku festivals outside Japan, and the venues are always filled with overseas otaku fans.
In this article I’m going to introduce you to some recently hot, yet really cool, anison artists.
— chelly / EGOIST (@chelly_EGOIST) May 7, 2016
Main Characteristics of ‘anison’
Before I introduce the artists, I want to tell you some of the basic characteristics of anison. There are many definitions depending on whom you ask, but the characteristics below can be used as a general reference. Remember that just because a popular pop singer sings the opening theme to an anime, it doesn’t make it into an anison!
- Wide range of instruments (drum, bass guitar, guitar, violin and wind instruments joins)
- Naturally reflects the world of the anime into the lyrics and uses proper nouns from the show (see 70s anime shows when they repeatedly shouting the robot’s name. Now it’s a little different, but the concept is the same.)
- Have unique anison concerts (using light pens and light sticks and having an anime theme)
- Have live performances where fans dance choreographed moves and chant the artist name as in ota-gei (this can annoy and alarm non-anime fans, not a favorite characteristic)
- The artist should be known for his love of anime (Fans can’t relate to them if they don’t like anime)
Now that we know the basics, let me introduce some anison singers!
EGOIST: A Group that Loves Anime
EGOIST is a very famous Japanese pop music duo: songwriter Ryo of Supercell and vocalist Chelly. They were originally formed to produce the theme music for the 2011 anime television series Guilty Crown, so it can’t really get any more anison than this. The group likes anime so much that they continued creating more songs: Psycho-Pass and Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress.
EGOIST songs are created mainly for anime that air in the Noitamina slot on Fuji TV. They are also recently known for collaborating with composer Hiroyuki Sawano. They are very popular overseas with songs that try to touch everyone who is a fan of anime and of their extensive worldview.
LiSA: SONY’s Anime Rock Singer
LiSA is the stage name of Risa Oribe, Japanese singer, songwriter and lyricist from Seki, Gifu. The name is an acronym of the phrase ‘Love is Same All.’ After her first band, Chucky, disbanded, she went to Tokyo where she was discovered by the original writer of the TV anime Angel Beats!, Jun Maeda. She was introduced as one of the two vocalists for the anime’s fictional band Girls Dead Monster. She has been singing for Aniplex ever since.
An avid anime lover, she has performed at Animelo Summer Love, Anime Expo, and Anime Festival Asia. She has performed the theme songs for Fate/Zero and for Sword Art Online. The latter, Crossing Field, has been awarded the platinum disk by the Recording Industry Association of Japan.
Although her connection to anime is undeniable, she is a rock singer that does joint gigs with different bands and artists and she participates actively in not only anison festivals but rock festivals too.
Kalafina: The Group that Expresses Kajiura-ism-
Kalafina is a Japanese female trio vocal group produced by hot anime song-writer and composer Yuki Kajiura in 2007. The unit was founded to perform songs for the animated movie series Kara no Kyoukai (It’s KALAfina because it’s KARA no Kyoukai).
The band has undergone a few changes, but the current members are:
- Wakana Ōtaki
- Keiko Kubota
- Hikaru Masai (she was picked from 30,000 applicants in an audition held by Sony Music Japan)
Kalafina doesn’t sing only for anime. They performed the theme song for the famous NHK program Rekishi Hiwa Historia. The group may be recognisable even to people who don’t watch anime (they will know if they listen to the song).
Aimer: New Anison Blood
I don’t want to stick to the recent classics, so here is Aimer, a Japanese pop singer and lyricist active from 2011. She is performing both for TV dramas and anime.
Her recognition overseas is increasing as an artist who successfully expresses Hiroyuki Sawano’s music, just like Maya Sakamoto (artist) and Youko Sugano (composer) have done in the past.
JAM Project: Classic Robot Anime Music
The good old Japanese anime were all robot anime. These anime were so popular in the 80s and 90s in countries like USA, Egypt, Italy, France, Greece, and so many others who imported the anime as cheap cartoons from a country that produced them like peanuts. There are many overseas fans who can sing robot anime songs that are still holding strong now.
JAM Project (JAM standing for Japan Animationsong Makers) is a legendary group made up of popular artists who have sung passionate anime, video game, and tokusatsu (see Power Rangers) songs in the past. The group was founded in 2000 by the famous 1970s theme song artist Ichirou Mizuki. JAM Project is especially well known for their songs for mecha game Super Robot Wars and anime Garo.
Since both past and present members are legendary on their own right, I want to mention them all:
- Hironobu Kageyama
- Masaaki Endoh
- Hiroshi Kitadani
- Masami Okui
- Yoshiki Fukuyama
- Eizo Sakamoto
- Rica Matsumoto
- Ichirou Mizuki
If you are too young to remember any of their old songs, you must surely know their theme song for ONE’s One Punch Man!
Nana Mizuki: The One you Won’t Forget
Nana Mizuki has performed at Tokyo Dome a couple times as a voice actor, and is quite legendary. She has participated in the Japanese New Year’s Eve music show Kouhaku 6 times! She is also very popular overseas, of course, with roles in the long-running ninja series Naruto as Hinata, Fate Testarossa in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Tsubasa Kazanari in Symphogear, Moka Akashiya in Rosario + Vampire, and Cure Blossom in Heartcatch Precure!.
There is no other anison singer and voice actor who can match her sales or who can actually fill the seats at a concert in Japan like she can. I can talk about Nana for hours, so I may come back with a tribute article.
Konomi Suzuki: A heaven-sent child of anison who showed up on Earth just to sing it, “Konomi Suzuki”
An anison singer that anime fans are expecting a lot from, Konomi Suzuki started her career after winning the 5th All Japan Anison Grand Prix in 2011. All Japan Anison Grand Prix is famous for bringing us many talented anison singers and voice actors such as Sayaka Sasaki, Maon Kurosaki, Gero, Runa Haruna, Yukari Endou, Manami (Terakado), Aina Suzuki (Aquours) and Tatsuyuki Kobayashi.
Konomi’s first contribution to an anime was Choir Jail for the 2012 TV anime Dusk Maiden of Amnesia. Her latest single, Chaos Syndrome, will be released on February 22, 2017 and is used for the TV anime Chaos;Child. During her birthday concert at Makuhari Messe on her 20th birthday, she announced that she will debut as a voice actor for a new anime project by MAGES.
Anison Music Heaven
That’s definitely not a comprehensive list. There are so many anison artists I want to talk to you about, and I will probably will at a future article. It seems like there are many foreigners who get interested in Japan through anison. I would be so happy if it becomes a cultural bridge.
Let me know your favorite anison singer in the comments below!