Japan's Biggest Pop Diva Returns To Video Games

Illustration for article titled Japan's Biggest Pop Diva Returns To Video Games

Selling over 50 million albums in Japan, Ayumi Hamasaki is one of Asia's biggest popstars, posting a number one single every year since she debuted in 1998. Now she's bringing her music to one of Japan's biggest role-playing franchises.


During the mid-1990s, she co-hosted a music program that was broadcasted on Nintendo Satellaview, which was the Nintendo developed satellite TV add-on for the Super Famicom game system. But it wasn't until 1998 that she released her smash hit debut, launching her highly successful career.

Like Madonna, Hamasaki continues to reinvent herself for her albums and is a national style icon, creating trend after trend. She's a regular in ads, whether it be selling cameras, donuts or make-up. She's spawned her own clothing label, cartoon and variety program.

Even with the rising popularity of rivals like Kumi Koda, Hamasaki's impact continues to be felt on fashion, music and culture. But there's more to her than image. In early 2008, the popstar blogged (via the BBC) that her left ear "doesn't work" anymore. Japan's big pop icon was deaf in one ear.

"Nevertheless, I would like to continue as a singer," she continued. "That's why I would like to continue singing until I reach the limit with my remaining right ear."

"I won't stop. I won't make excuses," Hamasaki wrote. "As a professional, I would like to deliver the best performance for everyone."

This came months after Hamasaki ended her long relationship with Tomoya Nagase, singer of the boy band Tokio, which might be best known to Kotaku readers for the Xbox 360 "Do! Do! Do!" commercials.


Not one to slow down, Hamasaki continues to record, appear in concert and on television. She's even providing the theme song for upcoming role-playing game Tales of Xillia. This won't be her first game theme, as she previously provided songs for Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams.

In 1998, she burst on the scene from the clubs of Shibuya. Hamasaki isn't the best singer, she isn't even a great dancer. But rather, she is a talented lyricist, and in an industry filled with pre-packaged pop princesses, Hamasaki was encouraged early on to write her own songs. She's since moved on to not just composing her own music, but overseeing her album art and music videos.


And like Madonna or even Bowie, Hamasaki is hard to pin down: her music jumps from genre to genre — from ballads to techno to rock to, yes, video games. Next year, Tales of Xillia, complete with an Ayumi Hamasaki theme, will be released on the PS3. She won't stop, she won't quit, and she's not making excuses.

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Man, I've lived in Japan for the better part of a decade now, and let me just say this: the further away you are from both Japanese music and Japanese TV, the better!

Speaking of music, Japanese pop music tends to be so so so so so incredibly vapid and transient. There is almost no concept of "classics" in Japanese music. Everything is meant to be consumed and tossed aside, nothing at all is constructed to last any sort of test of time.

That is one of the problems with the Japanese pop entertainment scene, much more so than America, it is a "fad" dominated scene...and so the overwhelming majority of artists out there doubles (triples?) down on the "sound of the moment" or the "movement of the moment" or the "look of the moment". So when ANY amount of time passes, and you look back, it is so steeped in "that moment" that really all you can do is laugh and say "man, music/fashion was CRAZY back then...just what the hell were we listening to/wearing?"

PS: I have no idea why...but Ayu is by far and away the ita-sha queen of Japan.