To be totally forthcoming, I didn’t know what to make of L’Arc – en – Ciel when I was first invited to catch their National Stadium concert… and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of them, a week or so later.
J-Pop is a bit outside our usual wheelhouse at Anime Vice, but I’m always game for new (and frequently strange) experiences. I accepted the invite and elected to dive in blind, driving to the satellite screening at the AMC Century City without doing any research beyond what was provided in the press release.
I got stuck in the parking lot, of course. Honestly, it’s better that I showed up a few minutes late, anyway; because the scene I walked into at the theater was a spectacle, in itself. There was L’Arc’s lead singer, Hyde, up on screen, floating about with an elaborate floral veil draped over his face - - literally towering over the rows and rows of enraptured young women in attendance. The gals were waving glow sticks in the air, dancing in the aisles, cooing over every close-up on the guy… and generally reveling in the most rhapsodic concert experience anybody could have (well, with a satellite broadcast in a screening room that was probably playing MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN just the day before, anyway).
Don’t ask me to recall or recount any specific songs, but I enjoyed myself. You could tell the L’Arc guys had been doing this for 20+ years. They knew how to put on a show (barring the occasional feed drop-out due to satellite interference). My favorite bit was when they magically emerged from a giant, silk bubble at the opposite end of the stadium, and then proceeded to perform before an actual ocean of swaying glowsticks. The pageantry translated across the circuits there, for sure.
Bringing it back to anime, though, watching L’arc perform actually fit into a larger thesis I’ve been mulling over for a while. That is, when it comes to their major entertainment exports, the Japanese really don’t make any bones about explicitly identifying the target audience and explicitly giving them what they want - - self-conscious ‘general audiences’ be damned. For example: when a show like HUNTER X HUNTER is labelled as shonen for young boys, you better believe it’ll be as boyish as a game of ‘Doorknob’.
Likewise, while androgyny has always been a big component of the rock star mystique (since even before Bowie, I'm sure), I can’t think of any Western stadium rocker who’s ever embraced his anima as fully as Hyde. The whole band seemed to be dressed in glam pirate apparel as designed by Eiichiro Oda, but not even the most adroit shojo mangaka could draw a bishonen more… bishonen-y than Hyde. I've gotta applaud anybody who takes something to its utmost extreme and, boy, this guy made Jack Sparrow look frumpy that evening.
An unusual excursion for me? Certainly. Having a friend tag along for this did alleviate how drastically out of place I looked in a theater full of teen girls. Still, it was a fun time, to be sure. For what it's worth, I enjoyed the music.
I suspect this whole multi-city screening was to test waters for the band’s label. If the numbers tell them a US tour is warranted, I'd recommend checking L’Arc out live (with the right group arrangement, obviously). At the least, go out to witness a stadium rock act that’s willing to go more stadium rock than any American stadium rock band is comfortable going.
About the Author
|Tom Pinchuk’s a writer and personality with a large number of comics, videos and features like this to his credit. Visit his website - - tompinchuk.com - - and follow his Twitter: @tompinchuk|