10 December 2011

Kansai Underdogs, Kanjani∞

Members: Shibutani Subaru, Yokoyama Yu, Maruyama Ryuhei, Yasuda Shota, Murakami Shingo, Nishikido Ryo & Ohkura Tadayoshi 

Top four (L to R): Yokoyama Yu, Nishikido Ryo, Shibutani Subaru & Yasuda Shota
Bottom four (L to R): Ohkura Tadayoshi, Uchi Hiroki, Maruyama Ryuhei, Murakami Shingo

Kanjani∞ (the ∞ is pronounced 'eito' as it's supposed to stand for 8 and since ∞ is hard to type the 8 can be used in place of it) is known for their Osaka roots, which means comedy as the most popular Japanese comedians come out of Osaka for the most part. All members were Kansai Juniors and their debut single was originally only released in the Kansai (Western Japan where the city of Osaka is located) area. And while Kinki Kids was the first group to debut with only Kansai members Kanjani8 is known as THE Kansai group for Johnny's.

The name of the group comes from two parts. The first, Kanjani, is actually a short version of Kansai Johnny‘s while the 8 comes from the Kansai TV station the group had a variety program on before their debut. Originally they were a seven member group but seeing as they had the 8 in their name they added another member to give them eight to complete the group.

The group was put together with the 3 Ossans and the Junior group V. West as well as popular Kansai Junior Nishikido Ryo. The group was not seen as official until they performed the play Another, which was a hit, and it was then Kanjani8 was considered to have truly become a group even though Ohkura Tadayoshi was added soon after.

They held their first concert in December of 2002, where they began their infamous Kanjani Sentai Eight Ranger skits. In 2003 Ryo and Uchi Hiroki joined the group NEWS for that group’s debut but they still remained active with Kanjani8. In August of 2004 the two debuted for the second time when Kanjani8 had their debut with the song Naniwa Iroha Bushi, which was released only in the Kansai region. The song was considered pop-enka and debuted on the enka chart at number one and when it was later released nationwide debuted at number one on both the enka and general charts. They did not get the usual national exposure though other Johnny’s groups got though.

Even with a good debut single the group suffered from that lack of national exposure and then in 2005 they were hit with a scandal when Uchi Hiroki was caught by police being drunk under aged. Because of his scandal Uchi was taken out of the group but as no other member of this group was caught in a scandal they did not have the hiatus that NEWS had when they had another member caught in an underage drinking scandal soon after.

As they shared two members with NEWS the group had to wait for when Ryo and Uchi were not busy with NEWS to do things with K8. Though because NEWS would perform with only six members they could work around this for the most part at first and then when NEWS had their year long suspension it was not an issue as Ryo was still able to be active with K8. When NEWS came back as a six member group they no longer had the leeway for Ryo to balance out the two groups that left whichever group he was not active with inactive. Near the end of 2011 Ryo announced he would be leaving NEWS because he felt being a member of two groups was becoming too much of a problem for both groups. Since then he is now only a member of Kanjani8 and the issue of scheduling for the two groups has been solved.

But during that year that NEWS was suspended K8 was able to pick up some steam that continued once NEWS came back and they had to go back to sharing Ryo with them. But as things stand now K8 is one of the most popular current Johnny’s groups and have several programs they are regulars on, as either a group or individual members, and more members have had the chance to get roles in dramas.

A couple of things that also set Kanjani8 apart from other Johnny’s groups are their popular skits at concerts, especially the Kanjani Ranger skits, as well as the fact that they also have their members double as a band, with each member, except Yokoyama, having an assigned instrument to play for their band songs.

While the group’s sound at first was pop-enka it has changed over the years to a pop-rock sound, especially once the group began to play as a band. This change was helped by the group switching from Teichiku Records main label to their sub-label Imperal Records as the main label is for enka artists while the Imperal Records sub-label is open to other genres.

Shibutani Subaru is one of the oldest members of the group and tends to have the lead vocals in their songs. He’s known as having the strongest vocals of the group and plays the guitar for when the group does a band song. He also writes a lot of lyrics, something he has done since his Junior days. He does projects with sub-units from time to time and even has a band with Junior band FiVe called Five Flat Flowers he performs concerts with from time to time. His ranger color is red, which for sentai series indicates that he is the leader.

Yokoyama Yu is the oldest member of the group and he’s one of the rare Johnny’s that has a stage name, as he was told that his real name was too difficult to read. In 2010 his mother passed away during a run of solo concerts he was performing at the time. He was rather close to her and when he went to her funeral all the other members of the group went with him. His instrument for their band songs are the bongos, most likely because even he will admit he's not good with instruments, he’s not much of a vocalist either which he also freely admits to. His ranger color is black.

Murakami Shingo, who is known by his nickname Hina, is the third older member of the group that make up the 3 Ossans. He gets his nickname for the fact that when he first joined as a Junior the other Juniors thought he looked like an actress named Hina. He tends to be the MC for the group.In the past couple of years he has been more and more drama roles. His ranger color is purple.

Yasuda Shota is considered the creative one and the one that can do anything. He has written a few songs for the group and stands out from the group with his fashion sense, or lack thereof depending on how you want to look at it. He typically colors his hair blond so he is easy to spot in the group. He is one of the guitarists in the K8 band songs. His ranger color is blue.

Maruyama Ryuhei ended up auditioning twice to join the agency as while he passed his first audition, and even had a magazine shot that day, his paperwork was misplaced so his parents had him audition again, where Johnny Kitagawa recognized him and the error made with his paperwork was discovered. He usually does the “rap” parts in K8 songs. He is the bassist of the group for band songs and his ranger color is orange.

Famous for his poison-tongue Nishikido Ryo for a time was a member of not only Kanjani8 but also of the group NEWS. Because he was in the two groups he has had a lot of exposure and is one of the most popular members of K8. He also has been in dramas, mostly as a co-star, and has gained popularity from that as well. He plays guitar and his ranger color is yellow.

Ohkura Tadayoshi was the last member to join the group and is the youngest. He was originally meant to be in V. West but did not want to join the group because he wanted to keep dancing. He did end up joining V. West anyway when it lost two of its members and he had to fill in as the drummer of the group. He is also the drummer for Kanjani8 for their band songs. He is one of the popular members from his drama roles and has even starred in. His ranger color is green.

From left to right: Murakami Shingo, Ohkura Tadayoshi, Nishikido Ryo,
Maruyama Ryuhei, Shibutani Subaru, Yasuda Shota & Yokoyama Yu

TRIVIA: V. West stood for FiVe West, as they were supposed to be the Kansai version of the Tokyo Junior group, FiVe.

Kanjani8 was the first pop group to perform in all 47 prefectures of Japan.

Kanjani8 have their own manga series which is currently called Ookiini Kanjani8.

Next Entry > Cartoon? KAT-TUN! 

Directory >
Johnny’s Juniors, full of rising stars and heartbreak
The Early and Rocky Path to Fame
Kondo Masahiko: Singer, Dancer, Actor, Professional Race Car Driver
Giving a New Meaning to Playzone, Shounentai
Hikaru Genji, Shining the Brightest and Crashing the Hardest
Otokogumi, Rocking It Old School
The Living Legend of SMAP
TOKIO, From Spaceships to the Over 30s World
Victory, Volleyball, Vegetable, Vicylce? V6
KinKi Kids, It's Not What You Think
Arashi, Storming to the Top
The Inseparable Duo, Tackey & Tsubasa
North, East, West, South ... It's big NEWS
Kansai Underdogs,  Kanjani∞
Cartoon? KAT-TUN!
Jumping to Their Dreams, Hey! Say! JUMP
Johnny's Black Sheep, Akanishi Jin
How to Debut Without Even Trying, Ikuta Toma
Kis-My-Ft2, Everybody Go (Roller Skating)!
Yamashita Tomohisa, Johnny’s Golden Boy
Entering the Sexy Zone
The 5Stars A.B.C-Z
International Ventures
Johnny's and Charity 
Odds & Ends


Kira said...

Thank you so much for posting these. They are so interesting and i'm always looking forward to the next entry.

Anonymous said...

Nice entry but there are some errors:

-Yokoyama is the oldest member of the group (born May 1981, Subaru was born September 1981).

-Kanjani8 has no leader. Yokoyama, Subaru and Hina are sometimes considered leaders in various ways but the group has no official leader (like Ohno is the leader of Arashi or Nakai the leader of SMAP).

-Yokoyama is usually considered the bongo player.

-the manga series is still currently running. It's been renamed Ookiini Kanjani8

Thennary Nak said...

@ Kira

You're very welcome.

@ Anonymous

Thanks for the corrections. I've updated the post to reflect them.