I saw something impressive at Japan Expo Sud in Marseille, France, in October 2010.
I happened to find the word "karaoke" on a programme of a hall there. Curious, I entered the hall, where I saw about 1,000 young French people singing anime theme songs together in Japanese as videos of the anime's openings appeared one after another on a screen.
These people looked as if they were having a wonderful time singing songs for such popular anime as "Hagane no Renkinjutsushi" (Fullmetal Alchemist) and "Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu" (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya). A few of my friends and I were probably the only Japanese there. I sincerely wished I could broadcast the event live in Japan.
In the 20th century, Japanese anime were broadcast in France after changing their titles and theme songs in French ways. For example, "City Hunter," which is still popular in France, was aired under the title "Nicky Larson."
Times have changed. Today, anime theme songs are aired in the original Japanese. Fans overseas use the word "anison," a Japanese word meaning "anime song."
Anison are very important for anime works, as each anime's world is reflected in the songs.
Each song also has to be an individual finished piece of entertainment in its own right.
So how do artists working in the anison world create songs that can measure up to such tough requirements?
"People often say to me, 'Your songs are very suited to anime stories.' But I don't try to suit my songs to stories, actually. I can't write them unless I take the viewpoint of a character in an anime or game," said my friend Chiaki Ishikawa, a singer-songwriter and creator of anime and game theme songs.
"In other words, I become an anime character in my mind to create my song from the character's perspective. I've worked this way on all my anime songs, such as 'Mobile Suit Gundam [Seed]' and 'Sengoku Basara.'"