Interview: Yousei Teikokuby Kim Morrissy,
“You're getting quite fired up, aren't you, my subjects?” says the woman in black as she gazes down imperiously at the crowd. Then, with a shrug of her head, she asks, “Are you enjoying yourselves?”
The woman in the gothic Lolita outfit is Yui Itsuki, the lead singer of Yousei Teikoku, although her fans prefer to call her “Yui-sama,” the Grand Dictator of the Fairy Empire. Today is her final day on tour, but she shows no hint of weariness at all as she addresses her subjects.
It's my first time watching Yousei Teikoku in concert and I have no idea what to make of the spectacle. All the band members are dressed in black leather outfits, and the heavy distortion from an electric guitar fills the tightly packed venue. On the surface, the band looks and sounds like a typical heavy metal and electronic group—if it wasn't for Yui-sama, that is, who dances gracefully about the stage and sings a mix of Japanese and German lyrics in a sweet yet eerie voice, as if she's chanting a spell.
Despite Yui-sama's youthful appearance, Yousei Teikoku is a long-lived band. In fact, they're even older than Lantis, the mega anime music label that currently publishes their music. Yousei Teikoku was originally formed in 1997 as a two-piece band, and although the group has gained new members along the way, it retains Yui and Tachibana (the rhythm guitarist) as the core members. They've produced songs for a long list of anime over the years, including The Qwaser of Stigmata and My-HiME, but it wasn't until their breakout hit Kuusou Mesorogi (The Future Diary’s opening theme song) that their popularity skyrocketed in Japan and overseas.
Although I'd only listened to a handful of Yousei Teikoku songs before going to their concert, I could easily understand the appeal of their music as soon as I heard them live. Most of the songs played at the concert could be classified as symphonic metal music, but they also possess a strong Gothic sensibility. It's an utterly unique combination of styles and influences.
I was also charmed by Yui-sama's magnetic personality and how she effortlessly joked with her audience and kept them engaged throughout. It was clear within a minute that she didn't take her backstory as the “Grand Dictator” of a Fairy Empire remotely seriously, and neither did the other band members. Although Yui-sama spoke with somewhat archaic Japanese, referring to her fans as “subjects” and the tour itself as a “ceremony,” she frequently cracked self-deprecating jokes and made small talk to the audience. She wasn't the only one to drop the “too cool for school” act for comedic effect; the drummer tried to spin his drumstick in the air and catch it with one hand, only to fail on both occasions.
For an edgy-looking goth metal band with some fetishistic choices of costume, Yousei Teikoku comes across as endearing more than anything. You can see some of that reflected in their interviews, but it's also something that's best appreciated live, where you can hear Yui-sama's quirky way of speaking. (“Why the heck are you calling me cute?” Yui-sama demanded aggressively at one point, as the cheers roared around her.)
The good news for American fans is that it's becoming easier to watch the band live than ever. Yousei Teikoku has performed overseas a handful of times before, and they'll be returning to America this year for the Anisong World Matsuri at Otakon, where they'll be busting out their songs alongside the likes of JAM Project, T.M. Revolution, and FLOW. (For more information, click here for the event's Facebook page.)
You can also buy their songs, including their latest single "flamma idola" from iTunes—but beware! It's the means through which Yousei Teikoku intends to subjugate the entire world. The band's bio states that the Fairy Empire has fallen into ruin because people don't believe in fairies anymore, and thus the Grand Dictator seeks to restore the Empire by dominating the human realm. This whole backstory is intentionally ridiculous, but inside that concert hall in Tokyo, that crowd really had obeyed all of Yui-sama's commands as if they were her loyal subjects. I left the concert hall feeling more intrigued than ever.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to ask Yui-sama some of my questions after the concert:
ANN: Well done on finishing your latest tour. I noticed that you have very passionate fans. How do you feel about being called cute when you're supposed to be a Grand Dictator?
Yui-sama: Well, it is the truth, so I can't blame them.
ANN: At your concert in Tokyo, you remarked that you've been getting more female audience members lately. So what was it like in the past?
Yui-sama: Back then, not even one-tenth of the crowd were girls, but these days it's gone up to 30 or 40 per cent. I'm very gladdened by it.
ANN: Where did you get the idea for the title of your latest single “flamma idola”?
Yui-sama: Undoubtedly they came from the theme of the lyrics, idols and fire.
ANN: This will be your first time performing at Otakon for the Anisong World Matsuri. How do you feel about it?
Yui-sama: It's my first time going to Washington DC. I'm very happy about experiencing new soil, and I'm very much looking forward to performing live there.
ANN: You've performed in America a few times before. Are the American fans different from the Japanese fans?
Yui-sama: Americans and Japanese both love the same anime. I don't sense any difference in their level of energy at the concerts. But I'm very happy about how they work so hard to memorize difficult Japanese lyrics in order to sing along.
ANN: Will you be performing any songs from your latest single at the Anisong World Matsuri? Is there any song in particular you'd really like to perform?
Yui-sama: I will of course perform my latest single. I'd also like to perform songs that will get Americans fired up, like Geki and Patriot Anthem.
ANN: Do you think there's much difference between your anisongs and your other music?
Yui-sama: I think that the lyrics of anime songs ought to complement the anime. With original songs, we are freer to make lyrics and compositions according to what we want to express.
ANN: Besides performing, is there anything else you want to do in America?
Yui-sama: I'd like to chill out around Florida for a month. After that, I'd want to do a tour around the States. I didn't mean to make this answer about concerts, but it just ended up that way.
ANN: Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans at Otakon?
Yui-sama: To everyone who attends Yousei Teikoku's concert, whether they know of us or not, I promise to deliver the greatest performance on stage.
Let us meet at Washington DC!
NOTE: For further information about the band, you can check out the following:
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