Do you love traditional Japanese culture? Do you love anime? Do you love music?! If you said yes to all three of these things, then you’re in luck. We have just the band to introduce to you today. Wagakki Band blends traditional Japanese instruments and style with modern music to create a sound that is truly original. While they became famous for covering Vocaloid songs for many years, Wagakki recently came into the anime spotlight with the opening for Mars Red, “Seimei no Aria.”
If you’ve never heard of Wagakki Band before, you’re in for a real treat. They’re bringing something truly special to the anison world and can be a unique addition to your playlist. Let’s see how Wagakki Band is bridging the gap between tradition and modernity, and how they’ve been influenced by otaku culture, too.
From Idea to Reality
Wagakki Band “Senbonzakura” by Hatsune Miku
Wagakki Band began in 2012 with its first three members, shigin (Japanese poem) singer Yuko Suzuhana, shakuhachi (Japanese flute) player Kaminaga Daisuke, and koto (a stringed zither instrument) player Ibukuro Kiyoshi. The three wanted to create a band that combined their traditional instruments and art form with modern music. Their style would go beyond just the types of instruments used, though, because they also wanted to embrace traditional clothing, hairstyles, and overall aesthetics — but with a modern touch, which can be seen in many of Wagakki Band’s music videos.
The band actually began with the name Hanafugetsu in these early days. The three original members of Hanafugetsu soon added guitarist Machiya and drummer Wasabi to their ensemble, and wadaiko (Japanese drum) player Kurona came shortly after due to his previous work with some of the other band members. They performed their first song, a cover of the Vocaloid song “Tsuki Kage Mai Ka,” in October 2012. The video of its recording went viral as people embraced the band’s vision along with their otaku choice of music.
This gained the attention of a bassist named Asa who was already a popular producer of Vocaloid music. Finally, the band got its final member during a live show in Shibuya when they were approached by a shamisen (kind of a Japanese guitar) player Beni Ninagawa. By 2013 Hanafugetsu had transformed into a new band with all of these members, and by 2014 their name had changed to Wagakki Band. The word “Wagakki” is actually an adjective for traditional Japanese instruments, the perfect name for what they were creating.
Coming Full Circle
Wagakki Band “Seisei no Aria” from Mars Red
2013 was the real beginning of success for Wagakki Band. The first song released with all eight members was “Six Trillion Years and Overnight Story.” This paved the way for live performances, including at THE VOC@LOID M@STER 27, a Vocaloid convention. Wagakki Band also released an album of Vocaloid cover songs at the convention. Then, in early 2014 they released their cover of “Senbonzakura,” an already famous Hatsune Miku song. With that music video becoming an immediate hit not just on Japanese streaming platform Nico Nico Douga but also YouTube, Wagakki Band began to gain international fame. The same year, Wagakki Band released their first full album, Vocalo Zanmai, which was all Vocaloid cover songs. By autumn 2014 they were starting to release more original songs, and touring at anime conventions in Europe and Asia.
From there, Wagakki Band was having sold-out concerts in huge halls, including abroad in North America, and their albums began to reach number one on the charts in Japan when they released. While their music was all original now, they held onto their Vocaloid roots by still performing many of their famous covers at live shows. In Los Angeles, their concert’s opening act was the Vocaloid IA software persona, her first appearance in North America. Wagakki Band gained enough status internationally that in early 2020, they did a collaborative song called “Sakura Rising” with the lead singer of rock band Evanescence, Amy Lee.
Now, in 2021, Wagakki Band has returned to their otaku roots and released their first anison! They performed the opening song for Mars Red, “Seimei no Aria.” Because of Wagakki Band’s unique instrumentation and style, the song definitely stands out on the line-up of anime openings for Spring 2021. Here’s hoping this is only the beginning of anison for Wagakki Band!
Sometimes there is friction between tradition and modernity, but Wagakki Band shows us that, at least in music, there doesn’t have to be. What they have created is nothing short of awesome, and they’ve contributed some amazing music to the otaku music world — and it all started with Vocaloid song covers! We are really hoping to hear more anison from Wagakki Band in the future, so keep your ears open for the sounds of shamisen, shakuhachi, koto, and electric guitar in upcoming anime openings!
What do you think of Wagakki Band’s style? Did you know much about them before this article? What’s your favourite Wagakki Band song? Are you going to be looking more into their music now? Let us know in the comments!