L’Arc-en-Ciel (“The Rainbow” in French, stylized as L’Arc~en~Ciel) is a Japanese rock band formed in 1991 in Osaka. The group has sold over 13 million albums, 16 million singles, and millions of other units, including videos. They were ranked at number 58 on a list of the top 100 Japanese pop musicians by HMV Japan in 2003.
1991–1996: Early career
In February 1991, bassist tetsuya (then known as TETSU), later bandleader, recruited vocalist hyde (then known as HIDE), guitarist HIRO and drummer PERO, and formed a band under the name of L’Arc-en-Ciel. After a year of gaining notoriety in their hometown of Osaka, HIRO left the band on June 12, 1992. tetsuya convinced his friend ken to quit his university studies (he was an architecture major at The Nagoya Institute of Technology) and join them as guitarist, but on December 30, 1992 PERO left the group. In 1993, new drummer sakura joined L’Arc-en-Ciel.
On April 1, 1993, the band released their debut album Dune under the indie label Danger Crue. The album was a success and rose to number one on the Oricon indies charts, catching the attention of some major labels. In 1994, L’Arc-en-Ciel signed on with Sony‘s Ki/oon division, releasing their second album, Tierra that same year. Heavenly followed in 1995. True, released in 1996, became their first number one, million selling album.
1997: sakura’s departure
In February 1997, drummer sakura was arrested for heroin possession. He officially quit the band on October 4, 1997. This proved to be the lowest point in the band’s history. When news of sakura’s arrest became public, there was an immediate official response and CDs were removed from the shelves. “The Fourth Avenue Cafe“, the fourth ending theme for the Rurouni Kenshin anime, was immediately replaced with its former theme “Heart of Sword” after only six episodes. In addition, the release of the “The Fourth Avenue Cafe” single was postponed. It was eventually released in 2006. Advert for their self-copy band The Zombies.
Over the next few months the group continued to be featured in magazines, but only as a trio. The members formed “The Zombies”, which was advertised as a “copy band”, and sang their songs. They also covered Marilyn Manson‘s “Irresponsible Hate Anthem”. The return from the break was marked by the appropriately named “Reincarnation 97 Live in Tokyo Dome”, with their new drummer yukihiro (former drummer of Zi:Kill and Die in Cries). Their first concert at the Tokyo Dome had an attendance of 56,000, which sold out in four minutes, a record at that time.
In 1997, “Niji“, the first single after sakura’s departure, was released with yukihiro listed as a supporting member. Not long after the release of the single, yukihiro was signed on as the official drummer for L’Arc-en-Ciel.
1998–2000: Blockbuster success
Their 1998 single “Winter Fall“, became their first number one single on the Oricon charts. They released the album Heart on February 25, 1998. Ark and Ray were released simultaneously on July 1, 1999, and became the first Japanese albums to be released simultaneously in many other Asian countries. Both topped the Oricon music charts, with Ark occupying number one and Ray at number two. Their release marked the commercial high point of the band’s career, with each selling over two million copies.
Their next album Real was released on August 30, 2000. However, it was their last studio album for some time. “Stay Away” from the album was featured in DrumMania 4th Mix, making the song playable on the machine.
2001–2003: Hiatus and solo projects
The compilation Clicked Singles Best 13 was released on March 14, 2001, and includes twelve songs chosen by fans online in Asia and an additional thirteenth song, “Anemone”. Their album Real was re-released as a Super Audio CD on July 4, 2001. L’Arc-en-Ciel’s last new single before their hiatus, “Spirit Dreams Inside (Another Dream)“, was released on September 5, 2001. Their English language version of the song, “Spirit Dreams Inside”, was adopted for the closing theme song to the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
After “Spirit Dreams Inside (Another Dream)” was released, the band went on a hiatus. During this time, the members began working on solo projects. hyde released two solo albums (Roentgen and 666) and co-starred in the movie Moon Child with popular singer Gackt. hyde also played the part of Adam in the movie Kagen no Tsuki (Last Quarter of the Moon), based on the manga of the same title. ken founded Sons of All Pussys with L’Arc-en-Ciel’s former drummer, sakura. tetsuya started Tetsu69 and yukihiro formed Acid Android.
Three compilation albums The Best of L’Arc-en-Ciel 1994–1998, The Best of L’Arc-en-Ciel 1998–2000 and The Best of L’Arc-en-Ciel C/W were released on March 19, 2003. The album series included almost all their singles at that time except “Spirit Dreams Inside (Another Dream)”.
2004: Comeback and U.S. concert debut
In June 2003, L’Arc-en-Ciel performed a series of seven concerts in Tokyo called “Shibuya Seven Days”, during which they announced a new album for release the following year. The band released “Ready Steady Go” in February 2004, their first single in more than three years. The song was used as an opening for the popular anime adaption of Fullmetal Alchemist. It topped the Oricon weekly singles charts. A cover of the song is used in a video game for the Nintendo DS called Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. The single was followed by “Hitomi no Juunin“, in early March. The album Smile, was released on March 31. Shortly after, on June 2, 2004, the single “Jiyuu e no Shoutai” introduced P’unk-en-Ciel for the first time on CD with “Milky Way”.
On July 31, 2004, L’Arc-en-Ciel made their North American debut at the anime convention Otakon, held annually in Baltimore, Maryland. Approximately 12,000 people attended the concert, which was held at the 1st Mariner Arena. They were also the first Japanese act (and until JAM Project in 2008, the only) to perform at the arena. On May 31, 2005, Tofu Records, Sony Music Japan’s U.S. label, released the much-anticipated DVD, of the Otakon 2004 concert, Live in U.S.A. On June 25, 2007, L’Arc-en-Ciel signed a deal with HMV America.
2005–2006: Asian tour and solo projects
In 2005, the band released various singles, including “Killing Me“, “New World“, and “Jojoushi“. These were later featured on their album, Awake, which was released on June 22 with twelve tracks, including “Lost Heaven”, the closing theme of Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa. The band’s single, “Link“, released on July 20, 2005, was also featured in the movie as the opening theme, which was included on their next album Kiss.
In August 2005, the band went on their tour for Awake, which was limited to Japan. The tour featured displays of anti-war sentiment, reflecting similar lyrics of the songs on the album. It was followed by the “Asia Live 2005” tour, with performances in Seoul and Shanghai, closing with concerts st Japan’s Tokyo Dome.
Following the two tours, L’Arc-en-Ciel’s members turned their attention back to their solo projects. tetsuya began recording with, veteran metal vocalist of Dead End, Morrie’s solo project Creature Creature. yukihiro regrouped Acid Android and released the single “Let’s Dance” on April 5, 2006. Acid Android joined Mucc to perform two concerts in Shanghai, China in April 2006.
hyde composed “Glamorous Sky“, the theme song to the film adaption of the manga Nana starring pop singer Mika Nakashima. It was the first time hyde composed music for another vocalist. hyde’s latest solo album, Faith, was released in on April 26, 2006, accompanied by a five month tour throughout Japan between April and August 2006. After signing on with Tofu Records, four small concerts were scheduled in San Francisco and Anaheim, California in the United States. hyde made his U.S. debut in July 2006, the first of L’Arc-en-Ciel’s solo projects to extend internationally. On August 23, ken released a solo single entitled “Speed”.
2006–2008: 15th Anniversary and Europe concert debut
On November 25 and 26, 2006, L’Arc-en-Ciel played two shows at the Tokyo Dome to celebrate their 15th anniversary, entitled “L’Anniversary”. It sold out in two minutes, breaking their former record. A poll was created on the official website, during the weeks before the concert, which allowed fans to pick the songs they would like to hear at the event. The concert was later shown on the WOWOW channel on December 23, 2006. It was also broadcast on February 8, 2007 on Korea MTV.
L’Arc-en-Ciel later recorded the song “Shine” to be used as the opening song for the NHK anime Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. In the spring of 2007, they kicked-off their “Mata Heart ni hi wo Tsukero 2007” tour in Japan. L’Arc-en-Ciel released the single “Seventh Heaven” on May 30, 2007, which topped the Oricon charts. The song “My Heart Draws a Dream“, used in a Subaru commercial, was released as a single on August 29, 2007, and reached the number one spot on the Oricon charts. The song “Daybreak’s Bell” was used as the first opening theme for the anime Mobile Suit Gundam 00. It was released as a single on October 10, 2007, topping the Oricon weekly charts as well. From November 14 to December 25, 2007, they released a limited edition single titled “Hurry Xmas“, along with two new DVDs, titled 15th L’Anniversary Live and Chronicle 3. Their new studio album Kiss, was released on November 21, 2007, and debuted at the number one position on the Oricon charts.
L’Arc-en-Ciel performed the “Theater of Kiss” tour, which was held from December 22, 2007 to February 17, 2008. The song “Drink It Down“, used as the Japanese opening song for the PS3/Xbox360 game Devil May Cry 4, was released as a single on April 2, 2008, and topped the Oricon weekly charts. The band went on the “Tour 2008 L’7: Trans Asia via Paris” which covered several major Asian cities, as well as Paris, France. On this tour a definite live show hiatus until 2011 was announced, while new material would still continue to be released. Both a double A-side single, “Nexus 4/Shine” and a DVD, Tour 2007-2008 Theater of Kiss were released on August 27, 2008.
2009–2010: Live show hiatus
On May 20, 2009, L’Arc-en-Ciel released the DVD of their live concert in Paris, Live in Paris. hyde and K.A.Z formed the hard rock group Vamps and released their self-titled first album, Vamps, on June 10, 2009.
On December 1, 2009, L’Arc-en-Ciel announced the release of a new single, “Bless“, on January 27, 2010. It was used as the theme song for NHK‘s broadcast of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Also, tetsu announced that he changed his stage name to “tetsuya” and released his first artist book, which ranked number six among the Talent Book Charts, while featuring early live pictures and a 30,000 character interview with the bassist.
On March 10, L’Arc-en-Ciel released their fifth “best of” album, entitled Quadrinity: Member’s Best Selections. It is collected on 4 CDs with 7 tracks per band member, chosen and re-mastered by each of them. The first press edition also comes with a DVD which includes a variety quiz show with the band titled The L’Arquiz.
2011: 20th Anniversary
On January 1, 2011, L’Arc-en-Ciel celebrated their 20th anniversary and the New Year with the midnight show “L’A Happy New Year!” at Makuhari Messe International Convention Complex. On February 16, 2011, they released their next compilation albums named Twenity, which consists of three parts, Twenity 1991-1996, Twenity 1997-1999, and Twenity 2000-2010, followed by a box set, Twenity Box, on March 9, 2011. The albums are an all around “best of” collection for the band and cover everything from the formation of the group, including their hit singles up to their newest works. Twenity 1991-1996 will cover their work from their album Dune until their album True. Twenity 1997-1999 will cover the releases from their single “Niji” to the single “Love Flies“. Twenity 2000-2010 will cover their releases from the double A-side “Neo Universe/Finale” up to their commercial only song from 2010, a cover of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll“. The Twenity Box released on March 9 contains all three of the albums in one release. It also comes with a special digest DVD that covers the 20 year history of the band, a deluxe booklet, and a special music box that contains either “Flower“, “Anata”, “New World” or “My Heart Draws a Dream” at random.
It was announced that L’Arc-en-Ciel will provide the theme song for Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: The Sacred Star of Milos, entitled “Good Luck My Way“, their fourth contribution to the franchise. The song was released as their first 20th L’Anniversary single on June 29, 2011.
To further celebrate their 20 years together, L’Arc-en-Ciel put on a “20th L’Anniversary Concert” at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo on May 28–29, 2011, with each day dedicated to one half of their career. Though the concert was planned before the Great East Japan Earthquake, all proceeds from the concert were donated to its relief efforts. At the end of the concert, it was announced that there will be a “L’Anniversary Japan Tour” in 2011, as well as a world tour in 2012.
On September 10, the second 20th L’Anniversary single was announced, entitled “X X X” (Kiss Kiss Kiss) it was released on October 12. The dates for the band’s 2012 world tour were announced and are Hong Kong on March 3, Bangkok on March 7, Shanghai on March 10, Taipei on March 17, New York on March 23, London on April 11 and Paris on April 14. Their show in New York will be at Madison Square Garden, making them the first Japanese artist to headline at the legendary venue (though it will be at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, not the arena). L’Arc-en-Ciel was approached by the producers of the Wild 7 live action film to perform the movie’s theme song. It is entitled “Chase” and will be released as their third L’Anniversary single on December 21.
L’Arc-en-Ciel announced that they will be releasing their twelfth studio album soon, and will give fans who bought “Chase” a sneak peak with a live internet broadcast of the band mastering the album on December 26 on Ustream. They also announced that their alter ego band P’unk-en-Ciel will be releasing their first album, titled P’unk is Not Dead.
P’unk-en-Ciel (stylized as P’UNK~EN~CIEL} is an alter ego of L’Arc-en-Ciel. Introduced in 2004, hyde takes over guitar, ken the drums, yukihiro plays the bass, while tetsuya performs the vocals. P’unk-en-Ciel’s songs have a more punk sound and their music is usually heavier and faster with a different tone due to tetsuya’s vocals. hyde wears a pirate patch over his left eye in P’unk-en-Ciel performances. yukihiro is known to wear a gas mask; however, this has only been seen once at a live concert during their Smile tour in 2004.
Each member is called in capital letters; T.E.Z P’UNK (formerly TETSU P’UNK), KEN P’UNK, HYDE P’UNK and YUKI P’UNK. Each member produces one song of their choice, and they alternate their productions.
P’unk-en-Ciel is the re-visitation of D’ark-en-Ciel (stylized as D’ARK~EN~CIEL), a special event that took place during concerts in the years when sakura was their drummer. The only material released from D’ark-en-Ciel is the 18-minute B-side “D’ark-en-Ciel” found on the (then) unreleased “The Fourth Avenue Cafe” single. Each member was called; DARK TETSU, HYDE DARK, Suck·D’ark·La, and Kën D’Ark.
P’unk-en-Ciel songs have been recorded and used as B-sides on singles since 2004 and their performances can be found on live DVDs. They also featured television personality Sayaka Aoki (called P’UNK 青木) in the song “Round and Round 2005”.
Recorded versions released on singles:
- “Milky Way”, found on the “Jiyuu e no Shoutai” single (Produced by HYDE P’UNK).
- “Round and Round 2005”, found on the “Killing Me” single (Produced by KEN P’UNK).
- “Kasou Heisei 17 Nen”, found on the “New World” single (Produced by HYDE P’UNK).
- “Heaven’s Drive 2005”, found on the “Jojoushi” single (Produced by YUKI P’UNK).
- “Promised land 2005”, found on the “Link” single (Produced by TETSU P’UNK).
- “Honey 2007”, found on the “Seventh Heaven” single (Produced by KEN P’UNK).
- “Feeling Fine 2007”, found on the “My Heart Draws a Dream” single (Produced by YUKI P’UNK).
- “Natsu no Yuutsu [Sea in Blood 2007]”, found on the “Daybreak’s Bell” single (Produced by HYDE P’UNK).
- “I Wish 2007”, found on the “Hurry Xmas” single (Produced by TETSU P’UNK – it also has a PV).
- “Dune 2008”, found on the “Drink It Down” single (Produced by KEN P’UNK).
- “Route 666 -2010-“, found on the “Bless” single (Produced by YUKI P’UNK).
- “Metropolis -2011-“, found on the “Good Luck My Way” single (Produced by T.E.Z P’UNK).
Commercially released live performances:
- Smile Tour 2004 (“Milky Way”)
- Asia Live 2005 (“Round and Round 2005”)
- Are You Ready? 2007 Mata Heart ni hi wo Tsukero! (“Honey 2007” and “Feeling Fine 2007”)
- Tour 2007-2008 Theater of Kiss (“Natsu no Yuutsu [Sea in Blood 2007]” and “I Wish 2007”)
- Tour 2008 L’7: Trans Asia via Paris (“Feeling Fine 2007” and “Milky Way 2004”)
- Five Live Archives 2 (Are You Ready? 2007 Mata Heart ni hi wo Tsukero!) (“Feeling Fine 2007” and “Honey 2007”)
- hyde – vocals, guitar (1991–present)
- Originally used the name HIDE.
- tetsuya – bass, backing vocals (1991–present)
- Originally used the name TETSU, then tetsu.
- ken – guitar, backing vocals (1992–present)
- yukihiro – drums (1998–present)
- sakura – drums (1993–1997)
- PERO – drums (1991–1992)
- HIRO – guitar (1991–1992)