It's quite normal to see artists going solo after spending several years in a band, but Japanese singer LiSA's experience is slightly different: she found her big break after singing in a virtual band. Girls Dead Monster is a band in the anime series Angel Beats! and LiSA voiced one of two fictional singers.
LiSA had sung in two bands since the age of 16 before being cast as lead singer Yui. An acronym of the second band, Love is Same All, gave her her stage name.
Sitting in the Regal Oriental Hotel and talking to Young Post through a translator, LiSA, whose real name is Risa Oribe, looks younger than her 27 years. She says that in primary school she was inspired by Japanese girl group Speed to make a career out of singing and dancing.
LiSA has become the go-to singer for anime theme songs, and is the voice behind the soundtracks of Fate/Zero, Sword Art Online, Day Break Illusion, and The Irregular at Magic High School. But she had never planned to sing for anime. Having sent demos to several companies, she landed the role of Yui out of the blue.
"I'd never watched any anime," says LiSA. "But after being in Angel Beats! I had more contact with it and I realised that they were excellent shows, with tonnes of fans." These fans gradually became her personal fan base which helped her launch her solo career. Last year saw the release of LiSA's second album, called Landspace.
LiSA attributes her success in anime music to the distinctive character of her voice. While she speaks in gentle tones, she can sing like a total rocker.
"I can handle a wide genre of music, like pop and rock," she says. She shows this in her two new singles, Bright Flight and L. Miranic, for which she wrote the lyrics. "They show my two sides. The pink, fluffy pop Bright Flight shows my happy side, while L. Miranic is a rock song, the theme of which is the colour black. Sometimes I can be quite aggressive."
This feisty attitude seems to have paid off for the singer. Landspace peaked at number two on Japan's Oricon chart, and earlier this year LiSA performed at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan. The honour of holding a concert there is comparable to singing in the Hong Kong Coliseum. But while she used to sing all the time, LiSA says since becoming professional, she actually practises less to preserve her voice.
"When I first started, I was really unsure about where I was heading. Now, I can perform overseas and hold concerts everywhere. It's a dream come true. And it shows that hard work pays off."