By Anthony Thomas
It’s time for a brief lesson in Japanese language, mythology and classic punk music courtesy of Tiger & Bunny closers Aobozu! This four-piece rock band, who supply the fun series’ first ending theme Hoshi no Sumika, are named after a ghostly figure from ancient Japanese folklore – kind of.
Way back in 1999 the boys started out by forming a cover band of their punk rock idols The Blue Hearts, a legendary band that I recommend anyone with an interest in Japanese rock and roll music to listen to (here’s a link). In true tribute band fashion, they decided to pick a name that’s almost the same as their idols, but ever so slightly different. So, in Japanese, The Blue Hearts is spelt ‘Za Buru Haatsu’, and they decided to call themselves ‘Za Buru Bozu’ – The Blue Monk.
The Blue Bozu name was partly inspired by another Japanese legend, this one slightly more unnerving than a Japanese bloke filled with punk spirit, shouting down a microphone; it was inspired by the tale of Aobozu (literally, the blue monk).
Aobozu is one of Japan’s many examples of yokai, a type of supernatural being that inhabits the country’s urban legends, old and new. In fact, one of Japan’s hottest new anime franchises is a series based entirely on these ancient ghouls, entitled Yokai Watch – it’s for kids, and it’s awesome. Check out its trailer.
The blue monk is a particularly nasty yokai that is believed to have been inspired by the appearance of Hititsume-kozo, a common yokai often depicted as a bald child with one eye. However, Aobozu is no child. Toriyama Sekien, an 18th-century scholar and artist set about illustrating the yokai in his book Gazu Hyakki Yako, which makes an awesome death metal band name when translated into English: “The Illustrated Night Parade of a Hundred Demons”. In it, Aobozu is depicted as a Buddhist monk who is said to kidnap small children.
When the Bozu boys decided it was time to take this music malarkey more seriously and produce their own original songs, they decided to switch their name to full Japanese instead of half and half. The word for blue in Japanese is ‘Aoi’, and when you combine it with a noun to create a compound word, you drop the ‘i’, hence Aobozu. So there you go, language, history and pop-culture covered in the explanation behind a single band’s name!
That’s not to suggest that there’s nothing interesting to say about Aobozu the band. In fact, they are extremely interesting! Despite being signed to one of Japan’s biggest labels, Toys Factory, the same company which Babymetal, Mr.Children and Bump Of Chicken belong to – all of whom are ridiculously popular – Aobozu are still let loose to do what they like, artistically. Vocalist Hozzy personally draws the band’s cover art for their CDs and sometimes creates the entire music video for his band too, as was the case to the video to their single Natsu no Ginei, which he drew, directed and animated himself.
He’s not the only arty one either. Bass player Fujimori also writes songs for a number of pop acts, including Nana Mizuki and boy-band kings Kanji Eight.
How’s that for a band inspired by punk, ghosts and with tunes in anime?
Aobozu’s music is available now from iTunes.