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Music / PassCode

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From Left to Right: Kaede Takashima, Nao Minami, Emily Arima, Hinako Ogami

PassCode is a Japanese Idol Girl Group from Osaka, produced by Koji Hirachi (平地孝次) – who also composes and arranges all their songs – managed by We-B Studios agency, and signed to Universal Music Japan.

Known for their energetic stage presence and ensuing wild live shows, tight musicianship and dancing, robotic sound through liberal use of processing, screaming, and ability to fuse multiple genres within a single song, they are often compared to the all-male "electronicore" group Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas and could credibly be called the Queens of the alt-Idol scene.

The current lineup consists of:

  • Nao Minami (南 菜生) [Date Of Birth: 1996/11/27] (July 2013–present)
  • Kaede Takashima (高嶋 楓) [D.O.B: 1993/12/25] (Feb. 2014–present)
  • Hinako Ōgami (大上 陽奈子) [D.O.B: 1998/6/22] (July 2015–present)
  • Emily Arima (有馬 えみり) [D.O.B: 1999/3/7] (August 2021-present)

The group's notable former members:

  • Yuri Kurohara (黒原優梨) [D.O.B: 1993/10/11] (Feb. 2013–October 19, 2015)
  • Yuna Imada (今田 夢菜) [D.O.B: 1994/12/17] (Feb. 2014–August 3, 2021)

PassCode lists its official "birthday" as October 26th (the day in 2016 they released their first single under Universal Records), and it traces its history back to 2014 with the release of their music video "Asterisk" on February 23rd and their first single, Nextage, on September 26th. However, its true nucleus was about a year earlier, and it took some time plus a LOT of member turnover to discover what musical direction the group should take. That direction turned out to be, in essence, All of Them at once as a group of four girls.

For a very brief period in Summer 2015, after Hinako Ogami joined, PassCode became a five-girl group. But that October, original leader Yuri Kurohara abruptly left, bringing it back down to a foursome. The lineup remained consistent for nearly six years until main screamer Yuna Imada retired in August 2021 due to declining health. Just three weeks later, the group announced they'd recruited Emily Arima, who had been Ladybaby's screamer until that group's disbandment.

Unlike many self-styled Idol groups, PassCode performs with a live backing band, and has done so consistently since mid-2016. Perhaps in part because of this, the atmosphere at the group's shows is known for being extremely rowdy, with moshing and crowdsurfing normal sights. The girls themselves would traditionally encourage this "freedom" and feed off it, though sometimes the crowds got too rowdy and the girls would have to announce a request for fans to back off. Additionally, Japan's strict Covid protocols instituted in 2020 following the reopening of public performances (PassCode happened to be one of the first groups to resume live shows) also put a severe damper on what fans were allowed to do – loud cheering was banned, for example – and their very first pandemic-era shows were all-seated affairs with only clapping allowed, much to the palpable annoyance of the audience and the girls.

As of 2023 the group has toured Japan multiple times, played multiple music festivals – including finally making it to SummerSonic in 2019 – and also performed abroad in Taiwan and South Korea. While the majority of their 2020 shows had to be cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, their 2020 single STARRY SKY reached #1 on the Oricon and Billboard JP charts upon its release that May. In December 2020, they announced a 2021 tour to support their 6th (third "major") album STRIVE that would culminate in a performance at the prestigious Nippon Budokan on February 12th, 2022 – over a year later.

In September 2023, as part of their wider GROUNDSWELL tour, the group played their first gigs in the West – three shows across the United States, something they had mentioned wanting to do as far back as 2018.note 

CD Singles

  • Nextage (2014)† 
  • Now I Know (2015)† 
  • Never Sleep Again (2015)† 
  • Miss Unlimited (2016)† 
  • Bite the Bullet (2017)† 
  • Ray (2018)† 
  • Tonight / Taking You Out (2018) {this is a double-A-side single}
  • ATLAS (2019)† 
  • STARRY SKY (2020)† 
  • Freely / FLAVOR OF BLUE (2021) (double-A-side single, also the first to feature Emily Arima)

Extended Plays

  • REVERBERATE (2022)
  • GROUNDSWELL (2023)

Studio Albums

  • All Is Vanity (2014)
  • Virtual (2016)
  • Zenith (2017) {their "Major Debut Album", the first after being signed to Universal}
  • Locus (2018) {an "Early Works Reconstruction Album", redoing 10 of their 26 pre-UMG songs}
  • Clarity (2019)
  • Strive (2020)

Compilation Albums

  • Ex Libris PassCode (2018) {meant for international markets, it's basically Locus with a few more songs added}
  • PassCode THE BEST -LINK- (2021) {the final PassCode album Yuna worked on}

The group's Youtube channel is here. Their official website is here. Their twitter feed is here, wherein may be found links to each girl's official accounts.

Compare Ladybaby, a newer younger group of similar style (minus the vocoder); and Perfume, who also use tech to sound robotic and have been produced by one man since their beginning. Contrast Band-Maid, who fit squarely into the hard-rock genre, play their own instruments, and write their own songs – though PassCode has performed "Versus" shows with them; and Babymetal, who started out Alt-Idol but employ multiple composers, focus chiefly on the lead singer, and go out of their way to avoid most Idol trappings, although both groups focus very heavily on live shows and audiences respond to both in similar ways.

Has an entry on The Other Wiki, plus a less-comprehensive one in English.

Tropes relating to PassCode

  • all lowercase letters: A few of their songs.
    • "over there" and its followup "from here"
    • "bite the bullet"
    • "rise in revolt"
    • "horoscope"
  • April Fools: On April 1st 2022, the group posted this music video, featuring the PassCode girls in over-the-top cute idol outfits. They also changed all their social media profile images to the cute costumes for just over a day. The song title, 「恋するチェリーときどき花粉症」 (Koisuru Cherii tokidoki Kafunshou), translates to "Cherry Infatuation, Sometimes Hay Fever".
    • Later that year they took it one step further when, during their Fall Linkage Tour, they announced their opening act would be ぱすこーど (pronounced "Hiragana-PassCode") and performed not only the April Fool's song, but three songs from the 2013 era.
  • Auto-Tune: Overused for effect to go along with the electronica parts of their songs. They use a different program to create the robotic sound at live shows – probably something like VocalSynth, since the actual "Auto-Tune" software was meant for studio post-production and could not produce such extreme effects in real-time until long after PassCode adopted the style.
    • A few of their songs don't use any manipulation at all. These are typically the lighter songs that also lack screaming.
  • Big Eater: Multiple videos portray Kaede as one.
    • In addition to the shot of her happily devouring curry at the end of the "XYZ" video, she's the only member eating something (chicken) during the street shots in "Nextage".
    • She gets distracted by a plate of hanami dango during the chase scene in "Ninja Bomber". Hinako rescues her… but Kaede still grabs a skewer and eats it while running.
    • Hinako is one of these in real-life to the point her introduction to fans on social media is, "I like eating and thinking about food." Somewhat ironically, she is the thinnest member of the group.
  • But Now I Must Go: Invoked in the STRIVE for Budokan 2021 Documentary where, after a soul-crushing scene of Yuna suffering multiple panic attacks at the final show of the first leg of the tour, it suddenly cuts to a voiceover (with text) of Yuna announcing her retirement from PassCode. She thanks the fans for their support and asks them to continue supporting the rest of the group.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Through 2014, as seen in the earliest music videos, the girls' costumes consisted of matching rose hoodies and white tanktops with the group's name on it. Each girl had a different logo color. Before that, in 2013, members wore solid-colored shirts with their colors. While the shtick has been gone for years, the girls' colors still surface occasionally, e.g. whenever some entity sends them flowers for a show.
    • Yuri was red
    • Nao is pink/rose
    • Kaede is yellow
    • Yuna was blue
    • Hinako didn't join until around the time this was dropped, but it's purple.
    • Thus far, Emily does not have a color – she has been associated with pink, red, and black.
  • Flipping the Bird: Often at live shows, particularly whenever Yuna drops an F-bomb while screaming.
    • The choreography for "rise in revolt" involves all four girls giving audiences the finger multiple times.
    • Emily, as expected, carries on this tradition, as she was well-known for it in Ladybaby.
  • Genre Mashup: Even by Alt-Idol standards, PassCode mixes, mashes, and smashes genres with gleeful abandon. The girls themselves are often singing heavily vocoded J-Pop while the keyboardist (or backtrack) is playing chiptune technopop and the rest of the band are shredding hard rock or speed metal. Add to that mixture Yuna/Emily, who is almost a genre unto herself.
  • Get Out!: Sung outright at the end of "Never Sleep Again", in English no less – "Get out of my face!"
  • Girl Group: What they are, at least if one discounts the all-male backing band.
  • Gratuitous English: Just about every song the group has ever made has some, especially post-Yuri. More often than not, the English is correct, although the intonation and stress may not be.
    • This applies to song titles as well. The vast majority of PassCode's songs are originally titled in English, and a few songs that aren't are English words transcribed in katakana. Examples:
      • 「アスタリスク」 ("Asterisk")
      • 「オレンジ」 ("Orange")
      • 「ドリーム・メーカー」 ("Dream Maker")
      • 「カタルシス」 ("Catharsis")
    • Yuna has stated in interviews that her English skill is poor. Yet she often has the most English in songs due to her screams; her pronunciation tends to be the best of the four as a result.
  • Harsh Vocals: A core part of the group's sound in 90% of their songs. Yuna Imada was in charge of this until her retirement. After that, Emily Arima took over. More than one person has done a double-take upon hearing the death-voice that comes out of Yuna.
    • Making this all the more amusing is that Yuna was by far the smallest member of the group, at 149cm (4'10⅝"), and also an extremely shy Girly Girl off-stage.
      • She has admitted in interviews she was uncomfortable with the screaming for a long time.
    • Kaede can scream rather well, though she's no Yuna. She and Yuna have a ping-pong scream-off during "Club Kids Never Die". They also do this in "Taking You Out".
    • Nao also likes to scream during live shows but hers is not a true "death-voice" like Yuna's, Emily's, or Kaede's.
  • Idol Singer: What they all expected to be going into the group (and what Yuri and Nao were pre-"Asterisk" – ditto Yuna and Hinako in their previous gigs). Every single member expressed shock at the harder line PassCode ended up taking.
    Nao: "When we heard [Asterisk], we thought, 'Wait, what? What the hell is this song?!' […] At the time, Yuna-chan and Kaede-chan entered thinking they would be doing cute Idol things, so I wondered if it would be okay."
    • However, Nao also said in an early 2017 Natalie interview that Hirachi had picked her brain in late 2013 about changing the group's musical direction and he ended up using her musical taste as partial inspiration for "Asterisk".
      Nao: "He asked me, 'What kind of music do you want to play?' I recommended some of my personal favorite rock bands to Hirachi-san. But at first he told that it was a little too heavy for an Idol. 'Is it too heavy? Well, I'm an idol,' I thought to myself. About six months later, the loud "Asterisk" was created (laughs). 'It's getting heavier!' I said."
    • The joke subunit "Hiragana-Passcode" plays this hilariously straight, as the members dress in hyper-feminine clothes and sing some of the original 2013 PassCode songs. Emily sings in falsetto.
  • The Leader: Until late 2015 it was Yuri Kurohara. Then she left. Now, though no leader is officially designated, it's undeniably Nao Minami, the only member remaining from the group's earliest days. She does most of the talking during audience interaction, including introducing songs and "directing" the band, and her profile is listed first on each of the band's official portals even though she's not the oldest member (that's Kaede).
    • Perhaps as a result of this, Nao has been seen on more than one occasion trying to calm down and/or psych up the notoriously asocial Yuna right before going onstage.
    • When Yuna announced her retirement in August 2021, Nao's message had prominence after management's and Yuna's. In it, she displayed a great deal of empathy for her friend and seemed to say she feels PassCode is her baby.
    • Nao did it again a couple weeks later, heavily implying recruiting Emily Arima to fill Yuna's vacated slot was ultimately her call, and insisting Emily shouldn't try to be Yuna.
      • Nao later heavily implied in a 2022 interview that she was glad to have Emily helping her onstage to hype up the audience during shows.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Their single "Taking You Out", as shown in its music video, was made to promote the mobile racing game Asphalt 9, and the girls are playing it for the majority of the video. The sidebar on PassCode's official website has a link to the game just to drive (heh) the point home.
  • The Oner: Except for the very end, the music video for "over there" is shot in a single long take.
  • Precision F-Strike: They've got a few, usually from Yuna while screaming, which she will invariably punctuate during live shows by Flipping the Bird. This did not change one iota when Emily took over screaming, as she was already known for her love of cursing in English.
    • Though it's difficult to tell due to Engrish, "Club Kids Never Die" has one right before the bridge.
    • Yuna has a random one about two-thirds of the way through "Moon Phase".
    • Yuna gets a nice F-bomb during her solo verse of "Miss Unlimited".
    • During the 2017 ZENITH Tour Final, Nao opened one song by screaming "Everyone fucking jump!!", repeating herself in Japanese by chanting 「跳べ!」 ("Tobe!", a harsh imperative for 'jump'). She has done this in myriad live shows since, including but not limited to their 2018 "Versus" Final.
    • Emily, never one to avoid this trope, added one near the beginning of "Taking You Out" where Yuna's original line was essentially gibberish.
  • Self-Empowerment Anthem: PassCode has several songs that can qualify. Often in the English lyrics.
    • "Seize the Day!", if it's not obvious enough by its title.
    • The majority of "MISS UNLIMITED", including lyrics like "Don't put limitations on yourself", "Believe in yourself; keep faith no matter what happens", and "Get your ass up!"
    • The end of "bite the bullet" has this stanza:
      So let's blitz through one step at a time / There's nothing to be afraid of / You are who you are forever
  • Singer-Songwriter: Nao is very slowly leaning into this. While she does play an instrument (guitar), she has never composed the group's music. However, she did write the lyrics for "horoscope" on CLARITY and "yours" on STRIVE. Both songs are slow rock ballads, at odds with usual PassCode fare.
    • Emily Arima wrote her own scream lyrics for Ladybaby's last year of songs and, being a classically trained pianist, has composed her own short pieces. Following Ladybaby's disbandment, she began writing lyrics for other projects. However, she refers to herself as a Screamer-Songwriter.
  • Song Style Shift: To be expected from a group that essentially mixes all the genres. If they're not fusing everything at once already, switching from rock/metal to technopop or vice-versa for a bridge is common. So are tempo changes.
    • Played for Laughs in their very first music video "Asterisk". It begins with a bouncy piano riff as the girls, in a park wearing street clothes, jump two-by-two into frame, waving at the camera and smiling. Exactly fifteen seconds into the song, the drummer counts off and Yuna screams as the video cuts to a dingy room and the hard rock starts.
      • During live performances, the cute intro is cut, instead starting with a scream.
    • "Link", one of their 'lightest' songs, has a jazz piano bridge in between the rock. On stage, Yuna would do a few ballet moves during the bridge.
  • Self-Referential Track Placement: "4" from CLARITY is indeed the fourth track on that album. It was also the fourth song on the setlist during the Clarity+ Tour and the fourth song on the second disc of the LINK compilation.
  • Spiritual Successor: invoked The 2016 song "from here" to the 2014 song "over there". The video was filmed in the exact same location and features the three remaining members reuniting and meeting new member Hinako.
  • That Syncing Feeling: Hard to believe, but Yuna did not do her own screaming at first because she had zero experience – the earliest songs use someone else's voice for screaming and at early live shows she mimed to a backtrack. She admitted in her solo interview to feeling guilty about this. By the time of Virtual and its tour though, the screams are 100% her.
  • Stage Names: Played for Laughs, just like everything else with ぱすこーど (hiragana-PassCode).
    • Nao → Naonyan
    • Kaede → Kaepyon
    • Hinako → Hinapoko
    • Emily → Emirun (Emilun?)
  • Uncommon Time: "Same To You" starts out in a standard fast 4/4, then changes less than a minute in to 6/8, then back to 4/4, and then two-thirds of the way through switches to 8/8. Unusually for a PassCode song, the tempo itself – the click-track they listen to at live shows – never changes.
  • The Unintelligible: Invoked. Yuna's shout verses are rarely if ever included on official lyric sheets, meaning fans often have to guess what she's screaming at them. She can certainly be more understandable than deep "cookie monster" vocalists (her successor Emily included), but that's counterbalanced by her shouting often being a mix of Japanese and English.
  • Vocal Evolution: During her first year or so in PassCode, Yuna's death-voice was… lacking to say the least. She soon stepped up her game and by the middle of 2016 had become everyone's favorite tiny screamer. For proof, just listen to the early music videos – or All Is Vanity – and then the same songs on Locus (produced nearly four years later).
    • Emily has been death-screaming nearly as long as Yuna, but didn't begin to refine her technique until she joined Ladybaby in early 2018. By the time LB ended, her screams had improved noticeably, though even her fans agreed Yuna was far beyond her. After Emily succeeded Yuna in PassCode, her screaming leveled up again – on "Freely", her screams sound like a mix between End-Stage Ladybaby and Yuna.
    • Hear also the progression of Kaede's scream from 2016 to 2019. She still hasn't quite reached Yuna's or Emily's level, but she's become an excellent screamer in her own right.