NEW YORK – Puffy AmiYumi still hold center stage when it comes to the J-pop craze in the U.S.
Simply known as Puffy in Japan, Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura have been popular ever since their debut with the single “Asia no Junshin” in 1996. And they are still drawing crowds on their current U.S. tour to promote their new album, “Splurge,” released July 25.
Ten years is an extremely long run for a pop star, but Puffy AmiYumi show no signs of losing steam. They were appointed goodwill ambassadors for a “Visit Japan” tourism campaign earlier this year, and their hit animated show “Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi” on the Cartoon Network in the United States is helping them build a young fan base.
In an interview this month, the duo downplayed their success, saying it was simply a combination of sticking to their ideas and pure luck.
The last 10 years have “felt short because I enjoy my work every day,” Ami said. “I’m sure we are very, very lucky. We just did our style of music with our own beliefs.”
As for their trend-setting fashions, often imitated by fans, Yumi said, “I don’t really have a strong policy about my style. I want to do everything, I want to wear everything and I want to try everything — that’s it.”
The two said their performances in the U.S. were nearly identical to those in Japan, although they have playful half Japanese, half English exchanges between songs in the U.S., reading their English comments from small notepads and making fun of each others’ pronunciation as well as telling offbeat anecdotes about the energetic members of their band.
Asked about how U.S. audiences connect with their music given the language barrier, Ami said Americans dance and and react to the songs, with some couples embracing during the love songs.
Yumi said she enjoys a lot of American music without understanding the lyrics.
“I think (the audience) just love our tunes and our rhythm,” she said.
Fans of all ages at their July 11 concert in New York City for the River to River Festival didn’t seem to mind the language barrier.
“I just really like J-pop — it sounds really good,” said John Ingoglia, 23, adding that he hopes to visit Japan in 2008.
William Kahn, 12, has been watching “Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi” since it began.
“I really like the music and the songs, even though I don’t understand them,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to hear Japanese songs.”
Gillian Orwoll, 14, said she and her sisters watched the show and were Japanese animation fans.
“My sister brought us here, though,” Orwoll said. “She’s trying to teach herself Japanese.”
Dad, Mark Orwoll, 52, who brought his daughters to the show, jokingly said he preferred Japanese rock group Bump of Chicken.
Ruth, 83, and Bill Myers, 91, said all they knew about Puffy AmiYumi was that they are from Japan.
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