L'arc-en-Ciel is a Japanese Alternative Rock band from Osaka, formed in 1991. Founded by bassist tetsuya and vocalist/guitarist Hyde (not to be confused with the late hide of X Japan), with then-rhythm guitarist HIRO and then-drummer PERO, they had a successful start in their hometown in 1992. In the same year, both HIRO and PERO left; they were replaced by current rhythm guitarist ken and drummer sakura. in 1997, sakura was expelled from the band due to being arrested for marijuana possession; That same year, he was later replaced with current drummer yukihiro.
They were initially signed to Danger Crue Records, but after releasing their debut album, Dune in 1993, in 1994 they signed a contract with Sony Music Entertainment Japan under the Ki/oon division. and, eventually, becoming one of the best-selling and most prolific musical acts in the Japanese rock music scene.
Originally a Visual Kei (more specifically, Visual Shock) band, they have dissociated themselves from the scene since 1994. How far they have distanced themselves from the Visual scene is debatable, but despite the fact that they loathe Visual Kei and being labelled as a Visual band, they still maintain some close ties with many Visual Kei bands and artists; the band's members have all worked with or are working with established VK artists from all over the scene. In addition, they still showcase, from time to time, the wild hair and exotic outfits characteristic of 1980s-mid 1990s Visual Shock bands. Even in recent years, they continue to target their established Visual fanbase alongside the Periphery Demographic of casual J-rock fans and Bishōnen fangirls. They are widely credited for bringing Visual Kei closer to the mainstream and, consequently, the first proto-Oshare kei band. They are also credited as the first post-Visual kei band, mainly because of their "dissociation" from the scene in the early 1990s.
Members (All members use Stage Names):
- hyde: Vocals, guitar (1991-present)
- tetsuya: Bass guitar (1991-present)
- yukihiro: Drums (1997-present, became an official member in 1998)
- ken: Guitar, backing vocals (1992-present)
- sakura: Drums (1993-1997)
- HIRO (1991-1992)
- PERO (1991-1992)
- Dune (1993)
- Tierra (1994)
- Heavenly (1995)
- True (1996)
- Heart (1998)
- Ark (1999)
- Ray (1999)
- Real (2000)
- Smile (2004)
- Awake (2005)
- Kiss (2007)
- Butterfly (2012)
L'arc-en-Ciel and their works provide examples of the following tropes:
- all lowercase letters: averted with their name, but played straight with the members' stage names.
- Ambiguous Gender: Zig-zagged in recent years, but more or less played straight in their early days.
- Aerith and Bob: yukihiro, tetsuya, ken, and hyde
- Berserk Button: Visual Kei. They're highly notorious among Visual Kei fans (and some fans of non-Visual rock for that matter) for pretty much being the only band that openly loathes Visual Kei,* . despite having been Visual Kei* and maintaining connections with avowed Visual artists, and despite their own singer being in a Visual Kei project and even going as far as imitating artists from the scene onstage with L'Arc.
- Bishōnen: Every single member.
- Bolivian Army Ending: The music video for the song "Driver's High" ends with the band driving their car off a cliff to evade the police, Thelma & Louise style.
- Costume Porn: Has become a near-constant element of their visual style, which leads fans to wonder how far they have distanced themselves from Visual Kei in the first place.
- Cover Version: Of Marilyn Manson's "Irresponsible Hate Anthem"
- Disproportionate Retribution: sakura can be argued to be a case of this. Seeing as there were open methamphetamine users in the Visual scene (and elsewhere in the rock/metal scene) at the time of his marijuana bust, bands releasing songs about the joys of heroin, and similar, that he and L'Arc caught so much hell for a bag of pot just seems, especially over 15 years later, incredibly pointless and disproportionate. (There has been some thinking that it wouldn't have been quite so big a deal if LeC hadn't been providing the ED credits song for one of the most popular shonen properties in history at that very moment.)
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: All of them, at one point or another.
- Expy: No, hyde is NOT an expy of hide, but a blatant copy of his contemporary at the time, vocalist Atsushi Sakurai of Buck Tick. He has also took on the image of Dir en grey vocalist Kyo, and in recent years, seems to be impersonating Miyavi.
- Follow the Leader: They formed in 1991, at a time when Visual Shock bands were gaining commercial and critical success. Since then, they've been riding the Popularity Polynomial.
- Genre Roulette
- Gratuitous English: ''Crash into the Rolling Morning Flash I'm the Coolest Driver's High''
- Lighter and Softer: Than their contemporaries.
- Long Runner Lineup: The band's lineup has been mostly stable ever since yukihiro became an official member in 1998.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: On average, around 4 to 7, though they can go down to as low as 2.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Their style is usually Alternative Rock, with a huge emphasis on the "Alternative" part. Exactly how alternative they can get depends on who you ask and how many elements of different genres you can single out on each and every song.
- Protest Song: They have a few, mostly due to hyde, who tends to go this direction in his solo work as well:
- bravery is a protest of the Japanese media and of gossip about the band.
- Pieces and its PV use a cursed knife that drives people to murder as allegory to protest the Cycle of Revenge (the knife is the cycle, if someone just resisted its pull to kill...)
- As One from Awake, is an anti-war protest song and Religion Rant Song pleading for people to stop waiting to be saved and to seek peace and unity for themselves.
- Existence, also from the Awake album, is an anti-war protest song themed around the suffering of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Hoshizora, also from the Awake album, is hyde's lament of war inspired by the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and by the child victims of The War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Remix Album: Their special album P'UNK IS NOT DEAD is a compilation of punk remix versions of their own songs (where they pose as their alter ego "P'UNK EN CIEL").
- Snow Means Love: Snow DropFate is strange, isn't it? That time that has stopped and rusted
Brings morning to even this world
As we start to walk, the warm snow falls on us
As if we were blessed lalalulala lalalulala lalalulala
It was as if you had put on a white veil
- Spiritual Successor: They played alternative rock in the 1990s and popularized it in a scene which was dominated primarily by hair metal and thrash metal worshippers.
- Trope Makers: Oshare Kei.
- Ur-Example: Of post-Visual Kei.
- Visual Kei: Played straight, inverted, subverted, and subverted again like hell. Again, EXACTLY how far they have distanced themselves from the subculture is debatable, but they still put effort into sporting extravagant visual styles and wild hair, as well as maintaining connections with other VK artists.