By Yusuke Tsuruta / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterGuitarist Tomoyasu Hotei’s new single “202X” was commissioned as a song for the legendary manga “Hokuto no Ken” (Fist of the North Star), which is celebrating 35 years since it first ran in a magazine.
The song, characterized by heavy solid sounds, was inspired by the character Raoh, who was the rival of the manga’s protagonist Kenshiro.
“Hokuto no Ken” was carried in the Shukan Shonen Jump weekly manga magazine from 1983 to 1988. In the manga, a nuclear war has destroyed civilization and ushers forth a world dominated by violence. Kenshiro emerges as society’s savior.
“The manga is a science fiction piece depicting the end of the century and the story of an adventure filled with bold expressions. I think this manga is very much rock ‘n’ roll,” Hotei said.
The period in which the manga ran in Shonen Jump coincided with Hotei’s tenure as a guitarist for the popular rock band BOØWY.
“There are people who still cherish our songs from 30 years ago. I can connect that to this manga,” he said.
Related to the manga, Hotei released the song “Still Alive” in 2010, drawing inspiration from Kenshiro’s signature phrase “You’re already dead.” The theme for “202X” relates to Raoh’s iconic line, “Of this life I have not a single regret!”
“Everybody wishes to live without regret, although it’s difficult to do so,” Hotei said, adding that he incorporated the phrase’s meaning into the song.
“202X” begins with a heavy, impressive guitar riff. However, Hotei said he has restrained his iconically poignant, stimulating rhythms the past few years.
“I’m in my mid-50s. I aim to create a more mature world through my music by not merely mixing in edgy sounds from my youth,” he said.
The request to compose “202X” “ignited a dormant passion,” he added.
Hotei aspired to become a guitarist remembered by audiences when they heard his music on the radio or television.
“I hope [‘202X’] is the Hotei sound that my fans were waiting for,” he said.
It has been six years since he moved to London. When asked if living in the city had influenced his music, Hotei replied, “Very much so.
“It became less explanatory. Music there [in London] is basically dance music. I pick up dancing sensations even when listening to classical music,” he said.
Hotei fully understands the challenges he faces, as he must win over fans without relying on his success in Japan.
“My enthusiasm to win the hearts of audience members in front of me today has not changed since I was 19 years old,” he said. “On the contrary, I’m more confident about my guitar performance now than before. I feel like things will really heat up from now.”
Hotei has already started recording his next piece. Although he cannot yet share details about the work, he revealed, “The guitar performance is without a doubt the main part.”