What is there to say about D4DJ’s TV anime? My approach to this is multi-fold. And personal, as my usual style…
As someone who fell in love with music at a young age via demoscene, the essence of the demo set of skills is really what’s being unfolded, a bit like the folds of Japanese origami. Visualization, art design, putting it all together with music, composing on top of beats, then mixing, and coloring it in like a bad Blingee? Without the byte-size limit of days of yore, I think that is today’s DJ scene in a nutshell. In the year 2020, the D4DJ anime starts by breaking this down, albeit in a specific context, but it is the means (the tools and mode), the place, the capital, and the labor.
As someone who follows anisong generally, the DJ development here is evolutionary and natural. When you have a set of music talents who are doing this DJ stuff, this electronica, some even quite famous by most metric, and they overlap with this…anime culture. By culture I mean electronic music and this Modern Otaku Japanese Media Culture thing. Being on the internet around the turn of the decade gave me that up-close look at some of the best. Then there’s people like DJ Kazu doing good work overseas and actually spin JP Otaku style DJ stuff (see below). Who are these creatives, and how do they bring a different dimension to a work for? D4DJ cuts through one layer of all that and let them breathe directly (also see further below).
As someone who follows also follows Anikura, from both afar and in person, the past 10 years was transitional, evolutionary, and a strange awakening. Worry not, it’s not just the tiger at home getting wary from COVID house arrest. The big picture view from idol otaku culture mixed with anime music is that what passes for commercialized brilliance put to cartoons has now grew into its own niche where people run in circles doing speed mixes to the JP Hamtaro theme, among other things. Pro/semi-pro wotagei groups and anikura events aside, there’s always the likes of Lumica which directly promotes & profits from this, uh, culture. Plus, a lot of amature creators still dot the landscape either at doujin events or the usual haunts like Soundcloud–it’s full of anisong remixes. That said, D4DJ is not directly in line with anikura but it is awfully adjacent, and some of their programming is directly overlapping or intended for this purpose.
As someone who follows Takagi Miyu since her debut under the Avex x 81Produce project Wake Up, Girls!, I have a particular take on D4DJ. I think the best way to explain it is to listen directly from the horse’s mouth, which you can listen to as podcasts off Spotify. Particularly, the episode with D-Yama, the tencho of Club Mogra in Akiba, is notable because he is how Myu (her nickname) first got her start as a DJ. [This is where I insert the story about the time when I won the WUG solo event ticket to Myu’s DJ debut event in Sendai but couldn’t go, and the whole WUG Bus Tour III thing.] As someone who was heavily influenced by certain aspects of game and anime culture which lead to her career today, the fact that Myu picked up DJing (before D4DJ even) and stuck to it hard, means so much to me–it’s literally your oshi actually doing something you care about, orthogonally to what you like her for, but also is something you like her for, without even trying to accept it. That said–
As someone who lives in the USA and is exposed to the whole family of Bushiroad-related fandom, I have a different take on D4DJ. In a lot of ways, this is Japanese business at its peak performance. You like cute anime girls in contextualized, interchangeable database narratives? After we did Idols, Theaters, Bands, now it’s DJs. Have you had your fill yet? The pros and cons of this approach aside, my main take is just that I’m glad Takagi Miyu is in a big Bushiroad project which will provide her steady work and exposure, especially for oversea fans. Please look after Miyu and Shinobu, y’all. I wish I can like all of this more, but the international Bushifam fandom is too yikes for me. Bushiroad is too yikes for me, that said.
As someone who watched anime for some time, and can possibly be a fan of the medium, D4DJ the TV anime is a solid story, with a theme-and-character first approach. The plot may be baby steps at audio production tools, concert promotion, and team building/crew gathering at 7 episodes in, the masterful touch of Director Mizushima really carried it thus far. This absolute unit of an anime creator only makes sense in this capacity in that he is enough of a club DJ to make sense of it all, AND even before getting named for the anime, he is the creative producer of Photon Maiden. With enough 3D anime experience under his belt, for once this Sanzigen production felt as if it had a life of its own, unlike every other Bushiroad anime since Milky Holmes (no bias).
As someone who’s watched DJ WILDPARTY play here and there, it was really, really special to see him become the model DJ in the ending segment for the D4DJ First Mix TV anime. The song itself is a duet between Mizuki Nana and RAS’s Rachell, so it’s got a lot of heft versus your typical character song ending theme. It’s powerful–enough that the music take center stage when performed by its virtual, cartoon DJ. That the whole ED is just Happy Around’s DJ tantou playing the song is a huge statement to me. It’s pretty cool that these fringe music creatives finally take center stage as two-dimensional girls take up the same gigs as they did, almost as if validating their way of life. Almost, because it doesn’t need any more validation. It is a vibrant and upright rave culture that is possibly one of the weirdest but most positive spotlight on today’s youth movement IRT electronica.
Lastly, as someone who is not completely blind, the notion of a rave is historic. It might not be as old as evoking the Muse, but this tradition surely dates back to the start of recorded music. The dictionary first marked the term Disc Jockey from the 1950s. In the 70s and 80s (and onward), the Rave itself was a cultural and political movement as it is today, that it is countercultural and underground, and ruffles old people’s feather today just the same as it used to. There is a proper TPO for a rave, and while it was never a wholesome, pure, or particularly one thing or another, this multitool of human mobilization through sound now is the showcase in the fore. We never asked Popipa to be HTT or even HTT’s inspirations, but besides playing our numbers, what will D4DJ play for us? This reconstructed notion of what Bushiroad puts forth–stripped of penlights but with glow bracelets–is a far cry from the anime con raves today or even the higher profile festivals state-side. To the folks outside of the movement which brought the creators of D4DJ together, what is a rave? Are we as clueless as Rinku? Does Maho (DJ Mash) know her history? Is it just people playing the greatest hits? What kind of hustle will we see? Will we go from the XLR prongs that goes behind a DDJ controller straight to posing as gangsters like the singers in the opening? There is a whole world in between those things and in some ways, I’m glad someone like Mizushima is behind the wheel.
PS. Yoshida-san, the Nippon Housou dude, plays a character, and also moonlit as DJ from time to time. If you have a CR sub you might be able to catch him play at Machi Asobi on his live-action variety shows.