By Paul Browne
The series explores the lives of a group of friends on the streets of Ikebukuro, in particular Mikado Ryūgamine and Masaomi Kida, friends since childhood reunited when Mikado transfers to school in Ikebukuro.
Masaomi warns Mikado about some of the people he doesn’t want to cross in the city, including a street gang known as The Dollars. Meanwhile, Mikado witnesses his own bizarre side of the city in the form of a mysterious motorcyclist clad in black, rumoured to actually be headless beneath her helmet…
Based on a series of light novels by Ryohgo Narita and Suzuhito Yasuda, the adaptation of Durarara!! was produced by anime studio Brain’s Base, known for titles such as Princess Jellyfish, Penguindrum and Baccano! The series also proved popular enough to spawn its own manga series and video game spinoffs.
The involvement of Theatre Brook, meanwhile, seemed to be an unusual choice. Originally formed back in 1986 as a trio, currently, the outfit consists of founder-member Taiji Sato (vocals & electric guitar), Takashi Nakajo (bass), Takashi Numazawa (drums), and Emerson Kitamura (keyboards).
The band’s debut release was an eponymous mini-album in 1988 (which the band distributed themselves). There’s a raw energy to the early Theatre Brook material, which probably played a factor in the outfit getting their biggest break in 1990 when they supported The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Signing to a Tokyo-based label soon after, they later switched up to Epic Records in 1995.
There’s a dense, layered sound to Theatre Brook that the band have crafted since their initial raw origins. From the slick melodies of 1996’s ‘Dread Rider’, through to the mesmerising beats of ‘Shinzo no Mezameru Toki’ in 2000, there’s a loose organic feel to Theatre Brook which manages to effortlessly cross a variety of music genres.
Their ninth single release in 2000 featured the jazz-tinged tunes of ‘Arittake no Ai’, a song that had formed the ending theme to an NHK series. The release of a Best Of album the same year all helped to raise the band’s profile. Theatre Brook continued their musical adventures through a variety of single and album releases throughout the mid 2000s before electing to go on a hiatus around 2005.
The band reunited in 2007, resulting in the collaboration for Durarara!! Generally, vocalist Taiji Sato gives Theatre Brook’s output a smooth, solid lyrical style. However, their contribution to Durarara!!, in the shape of ‘Uragiri no Yuyake’ (Sunset of Betrayal), offered an opportunity for the band to perhaps return to their roots. The song strips their sound down to a much more raw rock sound, giving it much more impact. It’s an approach that’s worked well in the past for other bands (The Pillows and their contribution to the 90s anime title FLCL springs immediately to mind).
The end result was Theatre Brook delivering perhaps one of the most recognisable anime theme songs of 2010. The release of the single version also provided results as it managed a healthy No. 12 in the Oricon charts.
Unsurprisingly, Theatre Brook have also established themselves as a popular live act. In 2011, inspired by the tragedy of the Japan earthquake/tsunami disaster (which saw a public shift against the use of nuclear power), the band turned their focus on concerts powered purely by solar energy. This concept, which became known as The Solar Budokan, gave rise to a regular festival that is staged in Nakatsugawa Park.
The collaboration between Theatre Brook and Durarara!! perhaps shows that anime studios are quite comfortable with recruiting their musical talent from a broad musical background. The result, as we can see, makes viewing all the more enjoyable.
Paul Browne is the owner of Japanese music website J-Pop Go.