My L’arc Will Go On

Japanese culture in the United States is pretty much hit or miss. Either you love it or you know nothing about it. Not too much gray area. Besides that, a lot of Japanese cultural elements are stripped out of popular anime like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, to Americanize them. Names get changed, the theme songs get replaced with English ones, and really bad ones at that. Thanks a lot, 4Kids. Consider this video:

When you have to change rice balls to sandwiches or donuts or anything BUT rice balls, you are totally ruining the Japanese-ness of the show.

So where does L’arc fit in to this rant?

Listen. If you like anime, you’ll at least know about Fullmetal Alchemist. If you know about Fullmetal Alchemist, you’ll know L’arc. Maybe I’m being disgustingly linear, but for me, L’arc was the band that introduced me to Japanese music through FMA. Shows like Fullmetal and InuYasha were ones that didn’t entirely lose their original themes when they were dubbed and brought to the U.S. Sure, Fullmetal cut down their ending themes to 30 seconds and lost two out of four openings when shown on TV, and InuYasha never had opening music on TV, but at least you got that tiny snippet of Japanese music somewhere. That made all the difference.

An anecdote:

One August day in 2005, I was in my local record shop buying Pocky. I noticed they had a small bin of CDs labeled “anime.” Curiously, I looked through and saw soundtracks from popular shows like DBZ, FLCL, and some others. Then, I spied a copy of L’arc~en~Ciel’s SMILE album (lots of people didn’t like this album, but it is my favorite!) with a big sticker slapped on the front reading “FEATURING ‘READY STEADY GO’ FROM THE HIT ANIME FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST!” I bought it.

My experience with SMILE was gradual. At first, I played “Ready Steady Go” over and over and over again. Then, I eventually accidentally hit the shuffle button instead of repeat, and the song “Revelation” played. I adored it from the first listen. My interest was piqued, and before long I had listened to every track and learned every lyric.

I thought, “hey, this is really good. I bet there is other really great Japanese music out there too!” I began to research popular music and order albums from the big names like Ayu and Utada. Loved ’em. I discovered all kinds of music, even the superindie stuff that I’m so hardcore about these days. All thanks to L’arc.

I can’t call L’arc my favorite group, but I will always credit them as my jumpstart to loving and appreciating not only Japanese music, but international music as a whole.

In this way, L’arc~en~Ciel will always be the most enduring Japanese musical act to me. I also think they will endure because they are everywhere. Besides Fullmetal, they have tie-ins all over the place, and Hyde himself is one of the most recognizable figures in Japanese pop culture.

Maybe this rant makes little sense to my readers, but I wanted to take some time to thank L’arc for bringing their music and culture to a nation where a lot of it is silenced and diluted.

Reader Question: What was your first experience with Japanese music?



Filed under Sakurayume's Collection, Special Articles

24 responses to “My L’arc Will Go On

  1. Pingback: Where can I download Japanese pop music from dramas? :The Longtail Music Catalog

  2. keyinjpop

    You’re not alone. I was introduced to japanese music through FMA and L’Arc and I bought the SMILE album too. Strange coincidence but my feelings are the same. L’Arc forever X).

  3. Pingback: Why are there so many white people in Japanese music videos?? :The Longtail Music Catalog

  4. I was intro’d to Japanese music with Sailor Moon in high school. I learned to boycott the dub quickly for the many, many elements they left out. 🙂

  5. Sorry for not being around, I’ve been lazy to stop in. 😛

    Truth be told, I’ve been waiting for this post. While not everyone who is into J-Pop is into anime (though most of them are since anime is a gateway into music), everyone who listens to J or K-Pop has a story of how it begun.

    It’s not like we here Laraku on Kiss 95.5. This is America afterall. (Ironically, we love bi-sexual trans-gender French women, but Japanese people = nah.)

    Once, years ago on a BoA forum, I typed up my full story of how I transcended into K-Pop and then J-Pop. It was really long. haha. Too bad I never saved it to a text doc (like I do with all my long-winded stories now), and it was lost in the forum.

    I’ve been planning on retelling this story (as long-winded as possible 😛 ) on my blog but… I’ve been putting it off.

    I’ll keep it short for you though. 😛 haha. Outline mode!

    – Graduated high school and left for Army in 2003 (just of course)
    – After training, I was stationed in Korea
    – During my stay I heard a song on the streets that was infectious.
    – Went to a store to find it. They had an album scanner. Ironically (fiercely!), it was the first album I scanned: “Chae Yeon – It’s My Time”
    – Got addicted to Chae Yeon and went shopping for more.
    – Found Koyote (vol.7) and was completely addicted to them.
    – Asked my Korean roommate who he liked: BoA
    – Bought BoA’s new album: “My Name”. Love it.
    – Began collecting BoA albums. Loved them too.
    – Needed someone to talk to about my new-found fandoms.
    – None of my Army friends understood…wasn’t surprised.
    – Got online and found a thing called a “forum”, for BoA. It was new.
    – Saw a pretty girl and sent her a flirtatious PM.
    – Was rejected. XD
    – Made friends online and was led into Japan through BoA.
    – My friend Dara sent me: Ayu, Namie, and TONS of other stuff.
    – Suki desu! ^_^
    – fin.

    • BTW. Let me tell you about L’Arc and I. 🙂

      I also found them through FMA, though I had already know Hide from the J-film “Moon Child”.

      Shortly after, they released “KISS” album. I liked the album, though I didn’t love it. I decided that, while L’Arc was hella cool, I’d rather listen to HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR (fanboy am I).

      I followed the band over the years and loved a lot of their singles: MY HEART DRAWS A DREAM, Seventh Heaven, Hurry Xmas, DAYBREAK’S BELL.

      I’m sorry to say that, I lost track of them and didn’t notice their absence. 😦 Very happy they are back though! BLESS is pretty darn good!

      Just this month I listened to all four disc of their QUADRINITY. …I didn’t like it. :/ I kept: Coming Closer, revolution, and trick. Also, I changed my file names from “L’Arc~en~Ciel” to “L’Arc~en~Ciel” for 🙂

  6. My first expirience with Jpop was the Sailor Moon soundtrack ❤ My mom was like "What? This is Chinese music!" and I was just dancedancin away 😀 But I was like 5 at the time, so I didn't REALLY get into Jpop until Perfume's release of Dream Fighter. I was quite the late bloomer 😛

  7. Eve

    Wow, this is a pretty impressive “reflection” article! And then the question in the end made me really think back a long time ago. @.@

    I have already stated that “Simple and Clean” was what made me get into Japanese music because it just happened to be the opening in the (awesome) game that I had but now that I really think about it, I have listened to “Simple and Clean” but since I was only in third grade, I really didn’t research the artists, like I do now. (Yeah, so I didn’t know about Hikki until two years later)

    Now, what really (really) got me into Japanese music were probably the ending themes of Inuyasha. When I first watched the series, (during one of their reruns on Adult Swim – I first watched it in second grade but my mother told me it was too violent, lol) I really didn’t like “Change the World” but after listening to “Dearest” three seasons later, I just thought to myself “Wow, that song was beautiful.” I thought about the song for a long time until I went onto one Inyasha fansite with music playing the background, which happened to be the full version of “Dearest!” Of course, my reaction was “Whoa, the full version of the song was much more beautiful than the version on tv!” (And then I found out about Ayu)

    But it never occured to me that downloading music was possible until I stumbled upon an Inuyasha fansite which provided mp3 downloads for all Inuyasha themes. And my reaction was “What’s an mp3?” So I downloaded every song available and played it on my nifty old jukebox music player and burned it onto a cd. (this was an ancient practice for me) And then I found myself not only listening to “Dearest” but also to “Shinjitsu no Uta,” “Come,” “Grip!” and even to “Brand New World!” And since then, I mainly downloaded anime music until I was probably in eighth grade (like three years later since getting into J-pop) when I stumbled upon “Beyond the Sea.”

    I looked through her categories and found artists that I knew but also reviews from their different albums! And from that moment onwards, I decided to download many Japanese music and listen to as many as I can.

    Gotta end my comment here before I start writing about my story that inspired me to start a blog. FANTABULOUS article though!

    • Haha, I didn’t like Change The World either, lol.
      I sang Fukai Mori (another InuYasha ending) in my sophomore talent show three years ago and won fifty bucks. 🙂

      • Kingdom Hearts is how I found Utada as well. 🙂 I bought her “Singles Collection vol. 1” and loved it!

        Sadly, my interest in her has faded slightly over the years. I just wish she’d be more active. 😦

      • Oh wow, I skipped your comment sakura-chan!

        Congrats on your song. Takes a lot of guts to sing Japanese in front of your peers. Great job!

      • Eve

        Sakura: haha. For our sophomore Japanese singing project, we sung the Japanese Teen Titans theme ❤ (It was hilarious. We actually jumped around and acted like superheros)

        Ty_sylicus: Yeah, I wish Hikki would be more active! She released an english album a few months ago and I'm really not liking her R&B :/

  8. stellena10102

    Oh man…This could be really long but I’ll try to make it as short as possible!

    I was introduced to Japanese music through Naruto…yep! For some reason I really like the first ending by Akeboshi (even though I didn’t really understand the ‘english’ they were trying to sing) and I just decided to youtube Jpop and HYDE and GACKT popped up (I think it was because Moon Child had just come out on DVD so people were really crazy about them)

    But my first thought was ‘ wow those are some pretty guys *_* ‘ But I didn’t think they were going to be talented because usually in the US hot ‘singers’ usually can’t sing at all XD Boy was I wrong!

    I fell in love with them and through them I found other amazing Jrock bands like X Japan, Luna Sea, the GazettE, Dir en Grey etc…And eventually I decided to try Jpop and got into Ayu and Namie Amuro, SMAP, Hikki, people like that…

    Which then led me to KPOP…but for some reason J-music has it’s hold on me and I don’t think any other type can make me leave it you know what I mean?

    So yeah…Gackt and HYDE/Laruku have a VERY special place in my heart ♥

    • I know what you mean about the “hold”. As I got more and more into Japanese artists, I began listening to American artists less and less until the point where my iTunes was 95/5. haha.

      These days, while I don’t monitor releases, I do follow J-Pop RSS feeds for monthly new music. As for American music, it’s only what I hear on the radio while I’m in the car. I can’t stand commercials though, so I keep my iPod full.

      • stellena10102

        I’m the exact same way! lol people don’t even ask to listen to my ipod anymore!

        I rarely ever listen to the radio…especially not when I’m driving…I only hear about new songs or new artists from America when people around me are talking about it…

        • That sounds a lot like me. Japanese music will always be my favorite. I can listen to stuff from all over the world but nothing “gets” me quite like Japanese stuff.

  9. tsukinoai

    READY STEADY GO! was my first Japanese song too! It was on my friend’s itunes and I just happened to stumble upon it.

  10. elfwitch

    i have to agree, because i really like L’Arc and hyde is my favorite male J-singer, so yeah, when they take out what makes an ethnic show, ethnic, they destroy everything that makes it, it. it could be why i dislike dubbed anime’s so much. i would credit utada, her song first love started my love affair with japanese music and i haven’t turned back since. i feel that people can say what they want about her, but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s incredible and her music reaches me like few artists music have or ever will. i agree with you 100%!

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