L'Arc-en-Ciel ("The Rainbow" in French, stylized as L'Arc~en~Ciel) is a Japanese rock band that was founded in 1991 in Osaka. The group has sold over 15 million albums, 16 million singles, and millions of merchandise, including videos. In 2003, they were ranked 58 on a list of the top 100 Japanese pop musicians by HMV Japan. While they first got their start as a visual kei band, they have not had any association with the movement since their major label debut in 1994.
1991–1996: Early career
In February 1991, bassist tetsuya (then known as TETSU) recruited vocalist hyde (then known as HIDE), guitarist hiro and drummer pero. Together, they formed a band and named themselves L'Arc-en-Ciel. A year later, after gaining popularity in their hometown of Osaka, hiro left the band on June 12, 1992. tetsuya then convinced his friend ken to quit his university studies and join the band as guitarist. However, pero then left the group on December 30, 1992. The following year, sakura joined as L'Arc-en-Ciel's new drummer.
On April 1, 1993, the band released their debut album Dune on the independent, but well-known, record label Danger Crue. The album was a success and ranked number one on the Oricon indies charts. This caught the attention of some major labels. In 1994, L'Arc-en-Ciel signed a contract with Sony Music Entertainment Japan's Ki/oon division. They released their major debut album Tierra that same year. Their third album Heavenly followed in 1995. In 1996, their fourth album, True, became their first to sell over a million copies. However, the success would be short-lived.
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, the group's CDs were removed from the shelves in record shops. Their song "The Fourth Avenue Cafe", was replaced as the fourth ending theme of the Rurouni Kenshin anime after only four episodes. In addition, the release of the "The Fourth Avenue Cafe" single was postponed. It was eventually released in 2006.
Over the next few months, the group continued to be featured in magazines 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 a concert entitled Reincarnation 97 Live in Tokyo Dome. During the concert, they also revealed their new drummer yukihiro, former drummer of the groups Zi:Kill and Die in Cries. This concert was also the group's first performance at the Tokyo Dome and had an attendance of 56,000 people, with the tickets sold out in a record-breaking four minutes.
In 1997, "Niji", the group's first single after sakura's departure, was released with yukihiro being listed as a support member. Not long after its release, yukihiro was signed on as the official drummer for L'Arc-en-Ciel.
1998–2000: Blockbuster success
L'Arc-en-Ciel's single "Winter Fall", which was released in 1998, became the group's first number one single on the Oricon charts. They subsequently released their album Heart on February 25, 1998. On July 1, 1999, the group released two albums, Ark and Ray, simultaneously. These two albums became the first Japanese albums to be released simultaneously in other Asian countries outside of Japan. Both albums topped the Oricon music charts, with Ark occupying number one and Ray at number two, with each selling over two million copies. This release marked the commercial high point of the group's career.
Their next album Real, released on August 30, 2000, was their last studio album for some time. The song "Stay Away", was featured in the arcade game DrumMania 4th Mix.
2001–2003: Hiatus and solo projects
The compilation album Clicked Singles Best 13 was released on March 14, 2001. It includes twelve songs chosen online by the group's fans. It also includes an additional thirteenth song, "Anemone". Their album Real was re-released as a Super Audio CD on July 4, 2001. "Spirit Dreams Inside (Another Dream)", L'Arc-en-Ciel's last new single before their hiatus, was released on September 5, 2001. The English-language version of the title track was adopted as the Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within's ending theme song.
After "Spirit Dreams Inside (Another Dream)" was released, the band went on a hiatus. During this period of time, the members began working on solo projects. hyde released two solo albums (Roentgen and 666) and co-starred in the movie Moon Child. He also played the part of Adam in the film Kagen no Tsuki ("Last Quarter of the Moon"). ken founded Sons of All Pussys with L'Arc-en-Ciel's former drummer sakura. tetsuya started his solo career as 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 all of their previous singles, with the exception of "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 entitled Shibuya Seven Days. During this event, the group announced that a new album will be released the following year. "Ready Steady Go", the group's first single in more than three years, was released in February 2004. This song was used as an opening theme song for the popular anime adaption of Fullmetal Alchemist. The single topped the Oricon weekly singles charts. Additionally, a sample of this song was also used in a Nintendo DS game called Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. The group subsequently released another single, "Hitomi no Juunin", in early March 2004. This was followed by the group's album, Smile, on March 31. Shortly after, on June 2, the single "Jiyuu e no Shoutai" was the first to feature a song by P'unk-en-Ciel.
On July 31, 2004, L'Arc-en-Ciel made their North American debut at the anime convention Otakon. Approximately 12,000 people attended the concert, which was held at the 1st Mariner Arena. They were the first Japanese band to perform at the arena. On May 31, 2005, Tofu Records, Sony Music Japan's U.S. label, released a DVD of their 2004 Otakon concert. On June 25, 2007, L'Arc-en-Ciel signed a record 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 complied onto the album Awake, which was released on June 22, 2005. It features twelve tracks, including the "Lost Heaven", the ending theme song of Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa. Another of the band's single, "Link", was released on July 20, 2005. This song was also featured in the movie as the opening theme song, and was included on their next album, entitled Kiss.
In August 2005, the band went on a nationwide tour for their album Awake. It was followed by another tour titled Asia Live 2005, which had the band performing in Seoul and Shanghai and ended at the Tokyo Dome.
Following these two tours, L'Arc-en-Ciel's members turned their attention back to their own solo projects. tetsuya began recording with, veteran metal vocalist of Dead End, Morrie for his solo project Creature Creature. yukihiro regrouped his band Acid Android and released the single "Let's Dance" on April 5, 2006. Acid Android joined Mucc to perform two concerts in Shanghai in April 2006.
hyde composed "Glamorous Sky", the theme song of the film adaption of the manga Nana. The song was sung by pop singer Mika Nakashima, the first time hyde composed music for another vocalist. In addition, his own solo album, Faith, was released on April 26, 2006. hyde also went on a five-month tour throughout Japan to publicize his album. After signing with Tofu Records, he held four small concerts in the United States in July 2006, making his US debut. This was the first of L'Arc-en-Ciel's solo projects to be held outside of Japan.
On August 23, 2006, 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. The tickets for these concerts were sold out in two minutes, breaking the previous record, which was also set by them. A poll was created on their official website, during the weeks before the concert, which allowed fans to pick the songs they would like to hear at the show. The concert was later broadcast on the WOWOW channel on December 23, 2006, and was subsequently broadcast on Korean MTV on February 8, 2007.
L'Arc-en-Ciel recorded the song "Shine", which was to be used as the opening song for the NHK anime Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. In the spring of 2007, the group kicked-off their Mata Heart ni hi wo Tsukero 2007 tour in Japan. They also released the single "Seventh Heaven" on May 30, 2007, which topped the Oricon charts. Their song "My Heart Draws a Dream", which was used in a Subaru commercial, was also released as a single on August 29, 2007. This single also topped the Oricon charts.
L'Arc-en-Ciel subsequently recorded the song "Daybreak's Bell", which was used as the first opening theme for the anime Mobile Suit Gundam 00. This song was released as a single on October 10, 2007, later topping the Oricon weekly charts. 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 studio album Kiss was released on November 21, 2007, and debuted at number one on the Oricon charts.
L'Arc-en-Ciel then performed the Theater of Kiss tour, which was held from December 22, 2007 to February 17, 2008. The song "Drink It Down" was used as the Japanese opening song for the PS3/Xbox360 game Devil May Cry 4. It was released as a single on April 2, 2008, and topped the Oricon weekly charts. The band went on a tour, entitled Tour 2008 L'7: Trans Asia via Paris, which covered several major Asian cities, as well as Paris, France. On this tour, a live show hiatus until 2011 was announced, although new material would still continue to be released. Their double A-side single "Nexus 4/Shine" and the DVD Tour 2007-2008 Theater of Kiss were released together 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, titled 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 named "Bless" on January 27, 2010. This was used as the theme song for NHK's broadcast of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Also, tetsu announced that he had changed his stage name to "tetsuya" and released his first artist book. The book, which ranked number six amongst the Talent Book Charts, featured early live pictures and a 30,000 character interview with the bassist.
On March 10, 2010, L'Arc-en-Ciel released their fifth "best of" album, entitled Quadrinity: Member's Best Selections. It contains 4 CDs with 7 tracks per band member, chosen and remastered by each of them. The first press edition of this compilation also came with a DVD that includes a variety quiz show with the band titled The L'Arquiz.
2011–2012: 20th Anniversary and world tour
On January 1, 2011, L'Arc-en-Ciel celebrated both their 20th anniversary and the New Year with the midnight concert L'A Happy New Year! at Makuhari Messe. On February 16, 2011, they released the compilation album Twenity. This album consists of three parts: Twenity 1991-1996, Twenity 1997-1999, and Twenity 2000-2010. A box set entitled Twenity Box was later released on March 9, 2011. The albums are an all-around "best of" collection of the band, and it covers everything from the formation of the group, including their hit singles till to their newest works. Twenity 1991-1996 covers their work from their album Dune until their album True. Twenity 1997-1999 covers the releases from their single "Niji" to the single "Love Flies". Twenity 2000-2010 covers 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.
Later, it was announced that L'Arc-en-Ciel would provide the theme song for Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: The Sacred Star of Milos, entitled "Good Luck My Way". This is their fourth contribution to the Fullmetal Alchemist 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. All of the proceeds from the concerts were donated to the Great East Japan Earthquake relief efforts. Additionally, 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 October 12, the second 20th L'Anniversary single was released, entitled "X X X" (Kiss Kiss Kiss). L'Arc-en-Ciel was subsequently approached by the producers of the Wild 7 live-action film to perform the movie's theme song. Entitled "Chase", the song was released as the group's third L'Anniversary single on December 21, 2011.
L'Arc-en-Ciel then announced that they will be releasing their twelfth studio album, and gave fans who bought "Chase" a sneak peek 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, the same day. The band's twelfth album, Butterfly, was released on February 8, 2012. It includes all their singles from the single "Drink it Down" onwards and four new songs.
The band's 2012 world tour took them to Hong Kong on March 3, Bangkok on March 7, Shanghai on March 10, Taipei on March 17, New York on March 25, London on April 11, Paris on April 14, Singapore on April 28, Jakarta on May 2, Seoul on May 5, Yokohama on May 12–13, Osaka on May 19–20, Tokyo on May 26–27, and Honolulu on May 31. Their show in New York was originally scheduled to be at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on March 23, but was later moved to the main arena. Making L'Arc-en-Ciel the first Japanese artist to be the lead act at the legendary venue. They ended the tour by returning to the US for two nights in Honolulu, Hawaii on May 31 and June 1, the latter being for the group's fan club members only. At the first day, the mayor of Honolulu Peter Carlisle made a surprise appearance and declared May 31 "L’Arc~en~Ciel Day", saying he felt the band "made a great contribution to cultural activities, and built a bridge of friendship between Hawaii and Japan".
2014: Return to the National Stadium
On March 21 and 22, the band played a two-day concert at the iconic National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, where they also played and announced the future release of their new single "EVERLASTING".
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 self-titled B-side 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". On February 8, 2012 P'unk-en-Ciel released their first album P'unk is Not Dead, which contains all twelve songs they released up to that point.
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 Yuu-utsu [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 – lead vocals, occasional rhythm guitar (1991–present)
- Originally used the name HIDE.
- tetsuya – bass, backing vocals (1991–present)
- Originally used the name TETSU, then tetsu.
- ken – guitars, backing vocals (1992–present)
- yukihiro – drums, percussion (1998–present)
- Former members
- hiro – guitars (1991–1992)
- pero – drums (1991–1992)
- sakura – drums, percussion (1993–1997)
- T.E.Z P'UNK – lead vocals
- Originally used the name TETSU P'UNK.
- HYDE P'UNK – guitar, backing vocals
- YUKI P'UNK – bass, backing vocals
- KEN P'UNK – drums
- Studio albums
- Dune (1993)
- Tierra (1994)
- Heavenly (1995)
- True (1996)
- Heart (1998)
- Ark (1999)
- Ray (1999)
- Real (2000)
- Smile (2004)
- Awake (2005)
- Kiss (2007)
- Butterfly (2012)
- List of best-selling music artists in Japan
- Acid Android
- Sons of All Pussys
- discography at MusicBrainz