Guardians of the anime flame

Re: Animus

There's something utterly fascinating about anime lore.

If Disney hit a home run with its 'happy-ever-after' storylines, Jap-inspired anime toons pack a meaner wallop with their stunning visuals, inspiring plots and subliminally-compelling soundtracks.

Admittedly, anime has seeped into Pinoy pop culture by leaps and bounds. With the advent of even more online platforms, more generations are rekindling their long-standing passion for the modern Japanese art form that took the world by storm as early as the 1950s.

Who hasn't been roused to action by the theme songs of Voltes V, Dragon Ball Z, Ghost Fighter and those other cartoons that we all grew up with?

This year, anime fans have a reason to rejoice. They may now relive the soundtrack of their cartoon binge-watching youth, thanks to the groundbreaking efforts of Manila's premier anime band, Re: Animus.

Re: Animus started out mid-2022 at Pete’s Place, a by-invitation-only jam venue down south often frequented by an odd mix of musicians.

Initially, the anime concept was merely a novelty. As a refreshing break from the fiery instrumental jams, someone would cue off a riff from an anime tune—and the others, all lit up in a nostalgic frenzy, would obligingly play along ‘til the end.

In no time, the concept for a full-on anime band seemed irresistible to the band’s core group, comprised of Anton Atengco (guitar), Kiko Montecillo (keyboards), Emmar Lawan (drums), Kate Adriano (bass) and Michelle Adriano (guitar/backing vocals) and John Kristoffer Gomez (vocals).

From the get-go, insiders knew that this wasn’t just an ordinary band. Just like their revered anime characters bestowed with magical superpowers, they’re all fleet-fingered musical wizards blessed with ear-gasmic, mind-blowing chops.

The femme fatales, Kate and Michelle, are the daughters of revered blues icon Nitoy Adriano. Anton is an unsung guitar hero with a steady following in the underground jazz and fusion circuit. Kiko is the resident keyboardist of Mojofly and is also an in-demand session player. Kris is himself a super shredder, composer and multi-instrumentalist, while Emman has also paid his dues in various bands and dabbles competently across all genres.

It's not surprising to know that the core members of the band are also self-confessed otakus, whose penchant for Jap geekery runs the whole gamut from video games, cinema, fashion, art, all the way down to sushi and sashimi.

The raw fury of their collective musical genius can be gleaned from the manic crowd responses to their spot-on renditions of the instantly-recognizable opening themes from Slam Dunk, Dragon Ball Z, Cowboy Bebop, Ghost Fighter, Attack on Titan, among many others.

Dead serious with their unrelenting vision to be the country’s premier anime band, Re: Animus acknowledges the challenges of nailing the anime sonic template, which covers anything from big band jazz to glam metal.

Guitarist Anton Atengco elaborates, “The value of self-practice and commitment has always been the band’s core element. Modern J-rock and J-pop is complex and prog level. We’re dealing with lots of chord and key changes, even as far out as genre shifts in one tune.”

With the vast catalog of anime songs over the past decades, how do they build up their playlist?

“We try to cover all generations of anime. We can go as far back as the late ‘70s and ‘80s to what was popular then and memorable to this day, such as the Voltes V theme from ’77. There’s a lot of positive response for the ‘Batang ‘90s stuff,’ and it’s equally important to keep tabs on what’s new and upcoming for the current generation,” Anton reveals.

These pied pipers of anime are definitely luring back diehard anime fans back into the fold, rekindling a tsunami-like wave of nostalgia.

“There was one gig where someone approached us to thank us about how the music brought him back to a time when he still had teeth, then smiled and pointed at his missing front teeth. Some folks have told us that they never thought they would hear these songs played live in this day and age,” Anton proudly reminisces.

What’s the story behind the band’s name?

Kris explains, “Initially, I was thinking Anime Music, then got the idea of just grabbing the first syllables of those two words, which became Animus, which also had a cool meaning in itself. But since a quick google search yielded so many other bands having the same name, we added the Re: prefix, which could mean anything: rebuild, reconstruct, revive, etc. That’s how we ended up with Re: Animus.”

With the stealth of a ninja and the allure of a geisha, Re: Animus aims to welcome the New Year with guns blazing, hoping to headline major cosplay events across the metro and broaden their fan base and online video content.