O!Susume – BLUE ENCOUNT

Broadcast 10: BLUE ENCOUNT

It’s another lovely Friday afternoon, which means it’s time for yet another O!Susume Broadcast. My pick for this month is BLUE ENCOUNT, a four-man band hailing all the way from Kumamoto. Their path to mainstream success isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but that’s no bad thing. In fact, BLUE ENCOUNT’s story is a pretty good model for how many bands have found their way out of indie obscurity in the past couple decades, from playing in basement venues to headlining new seasons of anime.

Years Active: 2004 – Present (2022)

Core Members: Tanabe Shunichi 田邊 駿一 (vocalist, guitarist, songwriter), Eguchi Yuuya 江口 雄也 (guitarist), Tsujimura Yuuta 辻村 勇太(bassist), Takamura Yoshihide 高村 佳秀 (drummer)

Point of Origin: Kumamoto Prefecture

Like the story of a great many Japanese music groups, whether they go on to international stardom or simply put off finishing university for a few years, three of the band’s members (Tanabe, Eguchi and Takamura) met at the vocational school they attended in 2003, and officially formed BLUE ENCOUNT the following year. The name was Tanabe Shunichi’s idea – he’s been quoted saying that they followed the superstition that “bands with colors in their name will sell.” However, the title is more directly appropriated from the Hong Kong B-movie “Blue Encounter”, thanks to Tanabe’s interest in the genre.

The band’s largest stage in their home prefecture was playing as the representatives for Kumamoto in TEENS’ MUSIC FESTIVAL 2006. All three members moved to Tokyo after graduation to study at the Tokyo School of Music College Shibuya. It was there they met bassist Tsujimura Yuuta, who would back them up regularly until he officially joined the band in 2008.

BLUE ENCOUNT, or “bruen” (ブルエン) as they’re known now by fans, encountered their first major hardship upon release of their flagship mini-album the beginning of the beginning. The album sales and reach fell far short of their expectations, so much so that they exaggerate(?) the year following the release as “The Dark Age” for the band. In interviews, the group says they were only able to overcome this negative mentality once they found success touring with j-pop groups ircle and SUPER BEAVER during the following year. BLUE ENCOUNT’s star continued its rise as they featured on the split album BONEDS along with MY FIRST STORY, AIR SWELL and SWANKY DANK in 2013, and 2014 marked their professional debut with Ki/oon Music record label, and their EP “Timeless Rookie”.

The Dark Age seemed to be well behind them; the band’s 2015 single “Motto Hikari Wo” (もっと光を) became a hot-play with dozens of radio stations, along with the major milestone of having a song featured in an anime, with “Day x Day” being used as Gintama‘s 14th opening theme. They were also able to celebrate the release of their first full album『≒』 (read as “nearly equal”).

More high-profile collaborations followed over the next couple years, as bluen provided opening songs for Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded OrphansBanana FishVoice 110 Emergency Command Room (ボイス 110緊急 指令室), and even My Hero Academia. The band even got their primetime drama debut on The Last Cop; after singing the opening song “LAST HERO“, they leveraged the hype of their 2016 live Budokan concert to directly request that the producers give them a cameo on the show, which was granted in ep 4.

Songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Tanabe quotes ELLEGARDEN as one of his musical inspirations, joining a sizeable group of his contemporaries who found their sound through this early 00’s cornerstone of punk rock influence in Japan. Even before I confirmed it myself, my ear was caught by certain chord progressions and prevalence of English lyricism in their earlier songs. Out of the three recommended songs I’ve got for you today, I think “アンバランス” (Unbalance) shows this off the best. This song went up in 2014, right off the starting line of their record deal. You get a fervent, energetic bluen, and an introspective, melancholic bluen, stitched together with tight, funky guitar/bass progressions and vocal licks that will never quite leave your head. And of course, being a j-rock band in the early twenty-teen’s, it’s all packaged in the obligatory MV shot in an unused industrial warehouse somewhere.

I wanted to make sure these three recommendations represented a decent range in time and genre for the band, so I tried to stick with just one of their anime openings. I’m sure folks have their own opinions on what the best pick would be, but I went with “Day x Day” from Gintama. Even without and references you can tell it’s an anime OP, with the loud, catchy chorus popping out of the bog-standard AB song form, but bluen’s energy and technical edge pop enough to make it a lasting banger in my opinion, and it very much fits the aesthetic of Gintama as a series.

And apparently I’ve saved the best for last. This is the song that made me do a double-take and go “oh shit, who are these guys?” This is “バッドパラドックス” (Bad Paradox), the opening theme for live-action drama Voice 110 Emergency Command Room (ボイス 110緊急 指令室). From the sharp, hot instrumentals and quick-spit lyrics to the piles of neon symbolism flashing through the MV, this shit hits you hard and leaves you grooving, definitely one to keep on repeat until you can’t escape the earworm. Watch it, then watch it again, and again…

Artist Site: https://blueencount.jp

Official Youtube Channel: link

sources:
https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/BLUE_ENCOUNT
https://blueencount.jp/feature/biography
https://jpop.fandom.com/wiki/BLUE_ENCOUNT
https://myanimelist.net/people/37084/BLUE_ENCOUNT

Broadcast written by: Nagi

Author: Nagi