I haven’t been to an in-person anime fan event in nearly three years thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, when I arrived in San Jose for 2022’s Crunchyroll Expo (CRX) and hear “FLY HIGH!!” playing, and seeing people sing along and get excited was an experience I had missed. Couple in the fact that Burnout Syndromes performed at the convention, and everything felt perfect. Before their Sunday performance, we got the chance to sit down for a roundtable interview with the band, which included press from Asia Pacific Arts and the Reno Gazette-Journal.
If you’re unfamiliar, Burnout Syndromes is one of the largest bands in the anime space, having created anime themes for GINTAMA, Haikyuu!, Dr. STONE, and more. The band is made of three members, Kazuumi Kumagai (Lead Vocals & Guitar), Ishikawa Taiyu (Bassist & Back-Up Vocals), and Hirose Takuya (Drums & Back-Up Vocals). The trio has been together for nearly two decades and performed last year at the Virtual Crunchyroll Expo and are back to launch the New Crunchy City Music Fest‘s first year with ATTARASHI GAKKO! and SiM.
Diving right into anime, Mai Nguyen from Asia Pacific Arts inquired about the process of creating anime theme songs, asking the band to explain their process. Kumagai explained, “When we’re tasked to make the opening, we read the manga learn the pace and the tempo of the manga itself. We want the fans to get excited when they hear the opening song, so we want to make sure that we carry that energy over from the manga.”
Having attended the convention virtually last year, I asked Burnout Syndromes about the songs they are most excited to perform during CRX 2022, and in front of an audience. To kick things off, Kumagai chose the first Dr. STONE opening, “I really like performing the Dr. STONE opening, “Good Morning World!” it’s the first opening of the series so it brings a lot of power. It’s basically everyone’s introduction to the show. So, we thought about that being the introduction to our setlist as well to open up our show [at CRX 2022].”
Taiyu then shared his choice, “I really like Hikariare. So the first time I performed [it] overseas was in France and we had the audience sing along with us and that’s something that they don’t even do in Japan in some cases. So, it really showed me the power of that song in particular and how it had a worldwide influence.”
From drummer Takuya, his favorite is also from an anime. He explained, “I really like performing Blizzard, it’s the opening for Mashiro no too (Those Snow White Notes). It has a lot of Japanese style influence so far as the instrumentation. It’s not something that we’ve really performed overseas so I really want to see the audience’s reaction when they hear this song.”
Not to be dismissed, Burnout Syndromes’ music spans the gambit of the J-Pop genre, evolving over time and embracing new and experimental sounds. This includes their anime themes which have not only resonated with fans but showcased the band’s creative range and ability to bring an entire story to life in just one song. this beauty and creativity has been showcased across their long career. This long trajectory leads perfectly into the question from Jason Hildago from the Reno Gazette-Journal which asked about how the band’s sound has changed.
Kumagai explained, “We did start up as a traditional band as what you would think of as guitar, bass, and drums. Over time we really got to get exposed to a lot of other types of bands worldwide and that influenced how we treated our instrumentation as far as including electronic sections in our music as well.”
With ever-evolving sound and so much time together under their belts, Nguyen asked Burnout Syndromes about how they’ve managed to keep well, burnout, away during their time together. Frontman Kumugai answered, “We’ve been together [17 years] and there were plenty of times that we thought that we may have a falling out, and there have been disagreements. But there’s always been something that has held us together. Whether its the ties to our anime components or maybe it’s just the idea of fate that’s brought us together, there is something that’s pulling us along. And I think that the power of that something that will keep us going for quite a while.”
To wrap up, we asked the band what their dream projects are (none of which are in current production). Kumagai answered first, “There is a manga called Asahinagu and its based on Naginata, which is a sport like kendo. The rules are very similar but the instrument that you use to hit each other is much longer. The manga is extremely interesting and exciting and if that ever got turned into an anime I would love to do the theme song.”
Taiyu added, “Lately I’ve been into American works and right now I’m pretty hooked on Rick & Morty and would love to do music for them.” And to round it out Takuya added working on an already existing anime to the list, “This has already been made into anime but its called Mushoku Tensei and its a fantasy setting and that’s not something we’ve worked with yet. So,I thought about what it would be like to work on something with a fantastical element.”
Burnout Syndromes performed Sunday, closing out CRX 2022 to a packed stage, and I mean packed, even I was turned away initially because of capacity. However, once in, I got the chance to experience one of my favorite Japanese bands performing songs that have meant so much to me. Pulling together fans in one space from across anime fandoms is a unique power that only a band as iconic as Bunrout Syndromes can pull off. And none of this is more clear than when the band gave the crowd a choice of which song to play for the encore. Having just heard the Haikyuu theme “FLY HIGH!!,” the crowd decided to press replay, and with sounds that could be heard from even outside the concert hall, the band closed out New Crunchy City Music Fest with a bang.
Crunchyroll Expo 2022 took place in San Jose from August 5th to the 7th at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. To jump into Brunout Syndromes vast catalog of music check out their official YouTube channel.