Hello, and welcome to the much delayed part 2 of Beyond the Theme: Food Wars. Part 1 delved into the band behind the first opening theme, Ultra Tower, and this part will look at the band behind the closing theme.
In part 1, I basically said that I really enjoy Ultra Tower’s music, but a lot of it is something I have to be in the right mood for. That sentiment certainly isn’t the case for the band I will be writing about today. Ultra Tower is a great band, but Tokyo Karan Koron is the real deal. I swear this band performs on a whole another level compared to other bands. In the year plus that I have known about their music, I have been listening to them pretty consistently, to the point where I can confidently rank them among my personal favorites. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, let’s dive into the song that started it all (at least for me).
Closing: “Spice”: Tokyo Karan Koron
After the absolute insanity and “meat juice” present in the first episode of Shokugeki no Soma, I was already sold on the series. I had such an entertaining/funny/slightly awkward experience watching the show, that I knew it was something special. When the closing theme started for the first time, it really sealed the deal for me. I was immediately drawn in by the guitar part, as well as the mesmerizing visuals of floating peppers, peppercorns (I think), cinnamon, and… naked people…. Here’s the thing though: After all that I had experienced with the first episode, I was pretty much over the shock of having sort of nudity in the show (you know, the type where it never actually shows anything), and was honestly quite okay with it. While certainly not as symbolic as the nudity present in Ano Natsu’s closer, or in the entirety of Ghost in the Shell for that matter, this instance somehow works with the surreal food dream world. Once that chorus hit, coinciding with who I would learn to be the residents of the Polar Star Dormitory doing their best A Charlie Brown Christmas-like looped choreography while impersonating The Last Supper, I fell head over heels for this closer. It was surreal, colorful, and fun, with the perfect song accompaniment.
The first thing that grabbed my attention with this song was the guitar part, and it deserves a lot of praise. First off, that is some incredible two handed tapping! A lot of the time, when I hear parts like that in music, I get rather cynical and assume the guitarist is just trying to show off. However, it doesn’t feel like that’s the case here. The rest of the instrumentation is the standard bass and drums, and some midi strings/keyboard work. The strings provide some staccato punch, and the bass and drums provide a pretty infectious uptempo groove. These parts work quite well, but would feel pretty barren supporting the melody on their own. I feel the same would be the case if the main guitar part was just palm muted chords or something more standard. The fast playing guitar part demands your attention and adds a lot of color to the mix without drowning out the other pieces of it. It’s extremely technical, but it serves the song rather than showing off the guitarist’s skills. Beyond the verse, the guitar continues to provide interesting parts to the song. It’s very playful and hectic, bringing so much life to an already very lively song.
Of course, there’s more about the song that I love than just the guitar. I already talked about the strings in the verse, but the chorus also has this simple ascending keyboard line that I simply adore. It also really complements the insanely catchy melody for the song. “Spice” gets stuck in my head in the best kind of way. The kind where I am often caught happily humming the chorus, especially when I am making food for myself. Speaking of humming, I should also mention that “Spice” appears in the show itself just as “Kibou no Uta” did. This is in a particularly hilarious and memorable scene in episode 9. I’d say that this instance has the same effect for “Spice” as it did for “Kibou no Uta”: it further deepens the connection of “Spice” and Food Wars.
All in all, “Spice” is an essential part of this show. However, there is so much more to the band behind this gem.
Tokyo Karan Koron is a five piece band that started in 2007, now consisting of (from left to right here) Satō Zenbu on bass, Oitan on guitar, Sensei on vocals and keyboard, Ichiro on vocals and guitar, and Kamimaru on drums. They have a pretty deep discography, with four major label albums and other early independent releases. While I wasn’t able to find any specific musical influences, I did see that they have covered “Fake Plastic Trees”, which is perhaps one of Radiohead’s greatest standalone songs. Now that’s pretty cool in my book. It’s also pretty clear that the band draws influences from a lot of different places. German label Bis Aufs Messer describes Tokyo Karan Koron’s sound as “a joyful mix of influences, ranging from progressive breaks to math-rock skills, new wave moods and 60’s rock hooks, while remaining typically Japanese,” and I can certainly get behind that quote. The band’s sound has a definite pop appeal, but there’s also a very healthy amount of depth to it as well.
If I haven’t made it obvious already, I absolutely love this band. Tokyo Karan Koron consistently produces memorable music that is equal parts catchy pop and interestingly complex compositions. It’s clear each member is extremely good at their respective parts, which is great on its own. However, they always seem to find that perfect mix of utilizing their skills to their fullest potential, while still creating cohesive and well written songs that aren’t overpowered by one part.They also seem like they’re having an extreme amount of fun playing together, and that sheer joy shines in their work. As I mentioned before when talking about “Spice”, there is a very playful nature to their music. The pure energy is so infectious, that I can always be in the mood to listen to them, no matter how I’m feeling at the time.
Tokyo Karan Koron’s music is so stellar, that I honestly feel bad for anyone who liked “Spice”, but never checked out their other material. For example, if one would only listen to “Spice”, they would never know about one of the strongest aspects of the band: the male/female vocal duets. Sure, you can hear a male voice harmonizing the melody in “Spice”, but I wouldn’t have known that Ichiro sings lead as well if I hadn’t checked out their other songs. Ichiro has a very impressive voice that includes a strong and well utilized falsetto, and Sensei’s voice is always gorgeous. However, these two sound their best when they sing together, and as much as I love “Spice”, there are much better instances of them doing this elsewhere in their discography.
Recommendations beyond the ED
Where do I even begin? Let’s start with a really good example of Ichiro and Sensei working their dual vocal magic. This song is the first track in their really solid first major label release, We are Tokyo Karan Koron. One problem I’ve had with these official music videos is that they like to put what is essentially ads for the band’s material in the video. While the ads themselves are actually quite amusing, often showing clips of the band messing around and performing live, it does suck that entire parts of the song are cut out to fit it in. For this song, the outro is cut, but I still feel it’s worth a watch.
For my next recommendation, how about something from their latest album release, Noon/Moon. “Shinkuro Suru” is another really fun song, complete with even more fun and somewhat chaotic guitar and keyboard action (and Satō Zenbu hilariously going nuts). It’s actually the song that before “Spice” in the album tracklisting. Noon/Moon itself is actually a double album. Disc 1 is basically solid song after solid song, and while “Spice” is still a standout, the other songs hold their own extremely well compared to the track. Disc 2 on the other hand has a few minor deviations from the band’s usual style that is certainly interesting despite not being as consistent. The album also does some really cool things with duality between the two discs. The first and last songs for disc 2 are different versions of the respective first and last songs on disc 1. Definitely worth a listen as well.
However, if I had to pick my absolute favorite Tokyo Karan Koron song other than “Spice”, it would have to be “Love Me Tender”. It’s an earlier song by them, and everything about it is just fantastic. From the stunning guitar work to the beautiful vocals. It’s a song I have listened to many times, and it’s always made me smile and raised my spirits up. It also shows the band at one of its more heartfelt moments, and it really works here.
Overall, Tokyo Karan Koron receives an extremely high recommendation from me. They truly have something special going on, and I hope that they never lose their spark.
This band perfectly exemplifies why I wanted to do this series in the first place. “Spice” is incredible, but it really is just the tip of the iceberg for this band. More of Tokyo Karan Koron’s music deserves to be talked about and listened to by Food Wars fans and fans of really fun and creative music alike. Out of the numerous reasons why I love Food Wars, I perhaps love the show the most for introducing me to this band.
Out of Tokyo Karan Koron’s four major label releases, I own three of them, and can say that they are all worth your time. Now, I fully understand the struggles of international shipping for these albums, so how about an album by them you can download directly off Bandcamp? That’s right, Go Nin No Entertainers, their second major label album, is available for purchase on Bandcamp. I’m not sure how French label Specific Recordings managed to get the rights to distribute it (and only this album, by the way), but wow am I glad they did. I would say that Go Nin No Entertainers is the best Tokyo Karan Koron album I have heard so far. The album is oozing with charm, and they manage to integrate some really interesting musical ideas while maintaining a level of consistency throughout the album.
So, have you heard any of Tokyo Karan Koron’s music? Is there a show that introduced you to a new band? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Thanks again for reading, and have a good one!