U.S. Debut Is a Sort of Homecoming for Pop Star Duo Porno Graffitti

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Japanese pop stars Porno Graffitti – Haruichi Shindo, left, and Akihito Okano – make their U.S. debut Saturday at Club Nokia, as part of Anime Expo 2013. (Photos by MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Arts & Entertainment Editor

Sitting in a meeting room well removed from the zaniness currently known as the 2013 Anime Expo, Akihito Okano reflected on the reach of the art form that has emanated across the globe from his homeland.

“I’m very proud to see my culture, Japanese culture, spread throughout the States and other countries through anime and manga, because Japan has been influenced a lot by so many things from America,” said the vocalist of Porno Graffitti, the multi-million-selling pop band that makes its U.S. debut Saturday at Club Nokia. “If we can continue this trend and deepen the relationship, and we can evolve musically through that, it would be a really great thing for me.”

Okano and co-founding member Haruichi Shindo are among the featured guests at Anime Expo, which runs through Sunday at the L.A. Convention Center. The group debuted as a trio in 1999, and since then has enjoyed particular success in creating music for some of the best-known productions in Japanese animation of recent years, including “Bleach,” “Gyakuten Saiban” and “Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic.”

“It’s been about 15 years since our debut, and I like to think we’re a more mature, more experienced band now,” Okano said. “Music has evolved quite a bit and I think we always try to explore new ideas so that our music evolves as well.”

The young men from Hiroshima spirited their group name from the 1990 album “Pornograffitti” by the American hard rock band Extreme. Okano said as fledgling musicians, they felt a special connection to Los Angeles, having been captivated as teenagers by the live music scene of the Sunset Strip at the time.

Shindo smiles as Okano listens during a press conference Friday at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

“When we were in school, we listened to a lot of music from the glory days of metal music in L.A.,” Okano explained. “A lot of that music came to Japan, and we were watching guys with long blond hair and really tight pants, and a lot of our image of the West came from the scene in L.A., so I think there’s a special connection there.”

Shindo agreed that the pull of Los Angeles made sense for the group to play their first stateside concert here, and that he felt a little starstruck upon their arrival a few days ago.

“It’s safe to say there’s been a lot of L.A. influence in our lives. I loved the movie ‘Terminator 2,’ and when we landed in L.A., we could see a lot of the landmarks that were in the movie,” he said.

Anime Expo, billed as North America’s largest celebration of Japanese culture, runs through Sunday at the L.A. Convention Center. For more information, visit www.anime-expo.org.

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