September 11, 2020

PLAYLIST: Spotlight on Kenshi Yonezu

Join us as we get into the musical vibe of our films with GKIDS Playlists. Whether it’s a song we just can’t get out of our head when thinking about a movie, or exploring some of the musical artists directly tied to a film, GKIDS Playlists explore music from around the world that are inspired by the films we love.

We’re taking a look at one of Japan’s most popular current artists – Kenshi Yonezu. From humble beginnings self-producing music on Vocaloid software under the name “hachi”, to becoming the first Japanese artist ever to his 5 million YouTube subscribers, Yonezu has grown to a household name. Gliding with ease between pop, electro, and rock, Yonezu’s mastery of a number of musical styles makes him one of the most exciting, dynamic figures working in music today. Check out our playlist of some of our favorites of his, and continue reading as we highlight some of the ways he’s touched the GKIDS collection specifically.

In talking about Kenshi Yonezu, it would be simply negligent not to start with “Lemon.” The smash hit ranked #1 on Billboard Japan’s annual cumulative charts for 2 years consecutively, making history as the first-ever act to do so. Currently at over 600 million views on YouTube, the video has broken the Japanese record for the most views, and won’t be leaving our heads anytime soon.

On top of releasing some of the top-selling albums in Japan over the past few years, he has marked a particular space in lending his voice to various theme songs for anime series and films. Fans of My Hero Academia are likely very familiar with “Peace Sign” – the opening theme to the hit series. 

Looking back to 2017, Yonezu collaborated with another current hitmaker, DAOKO, on “Uchiage Hanabi” – the theme song for the hit film Fireworks. Like Yonezu, DAOKO had an early start releasing her self-produced music available online. She’s also no stranger to massive collaborations and viral electro-bops, sporting a resume of collaborations including J-Rock superstar MIYAVI, DJ TeddyLoid, and collaborations from the Japan Animator Expo. Written, composed, and produced by Yonezu, the song pairs DAOKO’s transcendent vocals with stunning moments from the film in the music video, which elevated it to mega-hit status, garnering over 350 millions views to date.

Fast forward to 2019, Yonezu released the ethereal “Spirits of the Sea” – the musical theme to the recently released film Children of the Sea. A fan of Daisuke Igarashi’s award-winning manga for many years, Yonezu stated to Billboard that he had “been dreaming about becoming involved in some way with the original manga,” and the song was cited as a personal favorite of his from the year. “Spirits of the Sea” swiftly rose to No. 1 on Billboard Japan’s Hot 100, and like “Uchiage Hanabi,” boasts a music video that beautifully ties together the film’s otherworldly visuals with the powerful theme song.

On August 4th, 2020 Yonezu released his long-awaited 5th studio album, STRAY SHEEP, along with a music video for the track “Campanella.” In celebration of Yonezu’s watershed year, and specifically contributions to various GKIDS titles over the years, we’ve assembled a playlist of some of our favorites of his, and hope you’ve found a new artist to join the hype train for!


Children of the Sea and Fireworks are available now on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD.



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