Just a week ago, I was talking excitedly to friends about how Ichiro Mizuki was back on his game. He was scheduled to give a mini-concert for the Mazinger Z 50th anniversary broadcast. Which makes sense—the singer and the show are pretty much inseparable in the minds of fans. And then, a few days later, he was gone.
His nickname was Aniki: “big brother.” I never met him, never even got to see him perform in person, but it hit me just how many parts of my life his music has touched. And after his passing, I discovered even more. Almost singlehandedly, he was a background soundtrack for so many of my memories.
For any fan, there’s a point at which you realize exactly who a person is. I first learned who Ichiro Mizuki was during an episode of Jonathan Ross’s Japanorama. The series highlighted anime, manga, pop culture, fashion, and so much more. It was a rare “Learn about Japan” series that wasn’t parroting back semi-inaccurate facts we’d heard a million times before. The more I learned about Aniki, the more I realized he was inescapable, and that was a good thing.
The same friend I watched this show with went on to show me VHS recordings of super robot anison concerts. And of course he was there, too. Before long, it was hard to believe there was a time I didn’t recognize his voice.
JAM Project and Beyond
It’s no surprise that Ichiro Mizuki was behind the formation of JAM Project. The anison supergroup features (at present) five singers whose own careers are massively impressive. Masaaki Endoh, Masami Okui, Hironobu Kageyama, Hiroshi Kitadani, and Yoshiki Fukuyama are perfectly matched. Together, both with and without Aniki (and with previous group members), they’ve made music for Super Robot Wars and numerous anime.
My friends and I have been fortunate enough to see JAM Project in concert twice, and have always wondered what it would be like if Mizuki joined them for a show. Sadly, we’ll never know firsthand. The closest we’ll get are videos… like this Top 20 anime theme medley:
The things Ichiro Mizuki has done with his life and career are numerous. He sang for anime, tokusatsu, games, and more. And appeared in many of the same. He was the go-to for giant robot themes, to the point that even parodying them meant going to Aniki. He had his own Hover Pilder a la Mazinger Z… which someone stole. Once, he even gave a mini Ace Attorney concert. As far as I know, only photos of that event survive. We’ll have to imagine for ourselves how his Steel Samurai rendition would have sounded.
Some people feel so much larger than life that their absence seems to unbalance the world. Aniki was one of those people. There are so many fantastic heirs to the world of anison, but we’ll never see his like again. He brought decades of joy, and set up generations of singers to do the same. If you’re just now hearing of him for the first time, join us for a listen. Here’s a great place to start: