Letters from the JaME Editors #8

file - 10.01.2012 00:01

In the eighth installment of the "Letters from the JaME Editors", Meg Pfeifle reflects on 2011 and the year to come.

Happy New Year!

Meg Pfeifle here, it's been quite a long time since the last time we chatted. 2011 was a big year in a lot of ways. While the Japanese entertainment industry was alive with a lot of new music, great television and a plethora of movies, I found myself focused on a very small portion of it. There’s a few causes to this. One, I was very focused on my research efforts during most of the spring, making my interest in the Japanese music scene extremely objective – I listened to very few artists, and when I did, I was very critical and extremely picky. Secondly, I realized this year that my musical interests have truly changed. Once a lover of visual kei and Japan’s alternative rock music, I find myself now listening almost exclusively to its pop and rap artists. For me, I think visual kei died following the breakup of deadman in 2006 – or at least, it did in my heart. Despite these feelings however, it didn't stop me from keeping an eye on those I once loved.

Looking back on 2011, there really was a lot of good activity, mixed with various sad news. January brought forth both the good and the bad. At the beginning of the year it was announced that Plastic Tree’s Ryutarou was recovering well after his diagnosis of Guillain-Barre Syndrome. This was really big news for Pura fans and honestly a relief for me. However, this was shortlived by the sad news that a long time favorite, Vidoll, was finally calling it quits. Having many good memories of that band, despite the fact that I hadn’t listened to them in ages, the news made my heart ache. The end of the month was wrapped up with a really great release though: Yamashita Tomohisa’s SUPERGOOD, SUPERBAD album. I’d been waiting for him to release an album for ages, and he absolutely did not disappoint me – it was hands down probably the best album of the year in my opinion.

February was a quieter month, but it was one that I spent wrapped mostly around KREVA, and his US debut of JAPANESE RAP STAR for USA Vol. 1 certainly did not help. Have I mentioned how much I love his album Kreva no Best-ban? If you haven’t heard it, your life is not complete.

March was a devastating month. I remember waking up to the news of the Tohoku earthquake, and sat at work streaming NHK, trying to hold back tears as I watched footage and patiently waiting for loved ones to check in. The efforts to gather a list of all “safe” celebrities, the check-in websites to locate families and friends, and the immediate efforts to raise money, not only from bands and companies but even individuals, was such a wonderful thing to witness. There were charity songs, whole organizations, concerts, auctions – all trying to put a little good back into all the bad that happened.

April was another good month for Japan’s entertainment industry. Daisuke’s posthumous album shikkoku no hikari was released; it truly brought tears to my eyes. This month also saw Yuusuke Suga’s side project High-Ball's self-titled album release, and the release of High Fashion Paralyze’s first single. I’ve been following aie for over a decade now, so this was big news for aie fans. Also, we cannot forget it was the month in which the epic conclusion of “Gantz II” was revealed in theaters in Japan. One of the best Japanese film releases I’ve seen in a LONG time. LOVE "Gantz."

May and June also brought forth some pretty good music. Shirota Yu made his debut as U and released his first single which I felt was very promising, and The HIATUS also released a new single. As a big fan of ellegarden, I’ve been keeping a very close eye on this band. June was a big month for me emotionally. That month, D’espairs Ray, a band which I’d followed since their birth, disbanded. They were the first band I’d ever seen in Japan, and thanks to them I met so many people who became my close friends and had amazing memories. That was a very sad announcement. However, on a happier note, June was also the month when JaME unveiled my web-series, Globalizing Visual Kei which I had spent the better part of six months writing and researching. Starting this month I have plans to begin working with it again and perfecting it in hopes of journal publication so that it can be a resource for researching fans in the future. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

July I headed across the world to Japan, and it was quite a revelation from the Japan I remembered as a visual kei fan. No longer was Closet Child or Like an Edison some place I could spend hours digging for a gem. Instead, I walked in and did not recognize artists on posters or flyers, there were no new releases from my favorites. The magic in those stores for me was gone. To top it off, just a few days after getting back, I heard the devastating news that just over one year after the passing of Daisuke, Isshi from Kagrra, had also left us. It was a sad day for the music world, and one which darkened the way for many fans for months to come.

In September, I relived some of the excitement I experienced years ago with aie’s band The God and Death Stars' release, Addle Apple. With aie on vocals, I remember listening to the album for the first time and all of my memories of deadman rushed back to me; it was definitely the most exciting music moment of my entire year. How I had missed those guitar rifts.

October brought the scandalous news that Yamashita Tomohisa had left NEWS, which sparked both outrage and delight from Johnny’s fans. I personally was thrilled when I began hearing the rumors that Yamashita was having the same secret meetings Jin Akanishi had shortly before he left KAT-TUN. One thing is for certain, Yamashita’s departure marks the future of great new solo music from him, and I can’t wait. This month also saw DIR EN GREY’s SCREAM FOR THE TRUTH Campaign, demanding the Japanese government disclose the truth about the radiation problems in Fukushima. To this day, I’ve been keeping a close eye on this.

The news of D going back to indies and Plastic Tree going major was how I closed out my year, and now with 2012 underway, there are already great things to look forward to. Tainted Reality’s new visual kei comic Fixer debuted just a few days ago, and it already looks like it’s on a good path. I’ve read the prologue and first chapter and I recommend you do too; it looks to be a great series in the making. Television wise, starting in just a few days is “Teen Court” with Seto Koji and “Saikou no Jinsei no Owarikata~Ending Planner~” with Yamashita Tomohisa, and you KNOW I will be there.

Later on in the year will be the spring exist†trace tour, and I know many people are delighted about L’arc’s upcoming tour. At this moment I’m personally most excited not about the Japanese artist tours for 2012 but those of my favorite European artists, VNV NATION and Rammstein. Tickets? Done and done. However, will this change? I certainly have my hopes up for some great shows this year. Now who do YOU think will bring them?

Let’s make 2012 an amazing year, and thank you for supporting JaME!!
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