1991–1996: Early Career
In 19th February 1991, bassist Tetsuya Ogawa, later band leader, recruited vocalist Hyde along with guitarist Hiro and drummer Pero, and formed a band under the name of L'Arc-en-Ciel. After a year of gaining notoriety in their hometown of Osaka, Hiro left the band on June 12, 1992. Tetsu convinced his friend Ken Kitamura to quit his university studies (he was an architecture major at The Nagoya Institute of Technology) and join the band as the guitarist. Pero soon left the band on December 30, 1992. In 1993, a new drummer, Yasunori Sakurazawa, joined the band.
On April 1, 1993, the band released their debut album Dune under the indie label Danger Crue. The album was a success and rose to number one on the Oricon indies charts, catching the attention of some major labels. In 1994, L'Arc-en-Ciel signed on with Sony's Ki/oon division, releasing their second album, Tierra that same year. Heavenly followed in 1995. True, released in 1996, became their first number-one, million selling album.
1997: Sakura's departure
In February 1997, drummer Sakura was arrested for illegal drug possession (heroin). He officially quit the band on October 4, 1997. This proved to be the lowest point in the band's history. When news of Sakura's arrest became public, there was an immediate official response and CDs were removed from the shelves. "The Fourth Avenue Cafe" for Rurouni Kenshin was immediately replaced with former theme "Heart of the Sword" after only six episodes of running time. Their next single "The Fourth Avenue Cafe" was postponed. It was eventually released in 2006.
Over the next few months the group continued to be featured in magazines, but only as a trio. "The Zombies", which was notionally recorded as the "copy band", sang their songs. They also covered Marilyn Manson's "Irresponsible Hate Anthem". The return from the break was marked by the appropriately named Reincarnation 97 Live in Tokyo Dome, with their new drummer, Yukihiro Awaji (former drummer with Zi:Kill and Die in Cries). The first concert in Tokyo Dome had an attendance of 56,000, which sold out in four minutes, a record at that time.
In 1997, "Niji", the first single after Sakura's departure, was released with Yukihiro listed as a supporting member. Not long after the release of the single, Yukihiro was signed on as the official drummer for L'Arc-en-Ciel.
1998–2000: Blockbuster success
Their 1998 single "Winter Fall", became their first number-one single on the oricon charts. They released the album Heart in February 1998. Ark and Ray were released simultaneously on July 1, 1999, and became the first Japanese albums to be released simultaneously in many other Asian countries. Both topped the Oricon music charts, with Ark occupying number one and Ray at number two. The release of ark and ray marked the high point of the band's career, with each selling over two million copies.
Real followed in 2000, which was the last CD of new material for some time, although many more compilation and remix albums would follow. "Stay Away" from the album Real was featured in Drummania 4th Mix, making the song playable on the machine.
2001–2003: Go to solo projects
The compilation Clicked Singles Best 13 was released in 2001, with twelve songs chosen by fans online in Asia and an additional thirteenth song, "Anemone". L'Arc-en-Ciel's last new song before their hiatus, "Spirit Dreams Inside -Another Dream-", was released on September 5, 2001. The song was adopted for the closing theme song to the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
After "Spirit Dreams Inside", the band went on a hiatus as the members began working on various solo projects. Hyde released two solo albums (Roentgen and 666) and starred in the movie Moon Child with the popular Japanese soloist Gackt. Hyde also played the part of Adam in the movie Kagen no Tsuki (Last Quarter), based on the manga by the same title. Ken founded Sons of All Pussys with L'Arc-en-Ciel's former drummer Sakura. Tetsu started Tetsu69 and Yukihiro sang with Acid Android.
2004: Comeback and U.S. concert debut
In June 2003, L'Arc-en-Ciel performed a series of seven concerts in Tokyo called the Shibuya Seven Days, during which they announced a new album for release the following year. The band released "Ready Steady Go" in February 2004, its first single in more than three years. The song was used as an opening for a popular anime series, Fullmetal Alchemist. It topped Oricon weekly single charts. A cover of the song is used in a video game for the Nintendo DS called Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. The single was followed by "Hitomi no Juunin", in early March. The album, Smile, was released on March 31. Shortly afterwards, on June 2, 2004, the single "Jiyuu e no Shoutai" introduced P'unk-en-Ciel, a partial change, for the first time on CD with "Milky Way".
On July 31, 2004, L'Arc-en-Ciel made their North American concert debut at the anime convention Otakon, held annually in Baltimore, Maryland. Approximately 12,000 people attended the concert, which was held at an outside venue for the first time in Otakon's musical guest history, at 1st Mariner Arena. They were also the first Japanese act (and to date, the only) to perform at the Arena. On May 31, 2005, Tofu Records, Sony Music Japan's U.S. label, released the much-anticipated DVD of the Otakon 2004 concert Live in U.S.A. On June 25, 2007, L'Arc-en-Ciel signed a deal with HMV America.
2005–2006: Asia live tour and solo projects
In 2005, the band released various singles, including "Killing Me", "New World", and "Jojoushi". These were later featured on their album, Awake, which was released on June 22 with twelve tracks, including "Lost Heaven", the closing theme of the Fullmetal Alchemist movie. The band's single, "Link", released on July 20, 2005, was also featured in the movie as the opening theme, which was included by their next album Kiss.
In August 2005, the band went on their Awake tour, which was limited to Japan. The tour featured displays of anti-war sentiment, reflecting similar lyrics of the songs of the album. The Japanese Awake tour was followed by the Asia Live 2005 tour, with performances in Seoul and Shanghai, closing with concerts in Japan. Japan's two concerts took place at the Tokyo Dome.
Following the Awake and Asia Live tours, L'Arc-en-Ciel's members turned their attention back to their solo projects. Tetsu began recording with a new band called Creature Creature. Yukihiro rejoined Acid Android, which released its newest single, "Let's Dance", on April 5, 2006. Acid Android joined Mucc, another Japanese rock band, to perform two concerts in Shanghai, China in April of 2006.
Hyde composed "Glamorous Sky", the theme song to the film adaption of the manga Nana starring pop singer Mika Nakashima. It was the first time Hyde composed music for another vocalist. Hyde's latest solo album, Faith, was released in Japan on April 26, 2006, accompanied by a five month tour throughout Japan between April and August of 2006. After signing on with Tofu Records, four small concerts were scheduled in San Francisco and Anaheim, California in the United States. Hyde made his U.S. debut in July of 2006, the first of L'Arc-en-Ciel's solo projects to extend internationally. On August 23, Ken released a solo single entitled "Speed".
2006–2008: 15th anniversary and Europe concert debut
On November 25th and 26th, 2006, L'Arc-en-Ciel played two shows at the Tokyo Dome to celebrate their 15th anniversary, entitled L'Anniversary. It sold out in two minutes, breaking their former record. A poll was created on the official website during the weeks before the concert which allowed fans to pick which songs they would like to hear at the event. The concert was later shown on the WOWOW channel on December 23, 2006. It was also broadcast on February 8, 2007 on Korea MTV.
L'Arc-en-Ciel later recorded the song "Shine" to be used as the opening song for the NHK anime, Guardian of the Spirit. They kicked-off their Mata Heart Ni Hi Wo Tsukero 2007 tour in Japan. L'Arc-en-Ciel released the single Seventh Heaven on May 30, 2007, which topped the Oricon charts. The song My Heart Draws a Dream, used in a Subaru commercial, was released as a single on August 29, 2007, and made the #1 spot on the Oricon charts. The song Daybreak's Bell was used as the first opening for the anime Mobile Suit Gundam 00. It was released as a single on October 10, 2007, topping the Oricon weekly charts as well. From November 14 to December 25, 2007, there was a limited edition single titled Hurry Xmas, along with two new DVDs coming out in September and December, titled 15th L'Anniversary Live and Chronicle 3 respectively. Their new studio album Kiss, released on November 21, 2007, debuted at the number-one position on the Oricon charts.
L'Arc-en-Ciel performed the Theater of Kiss tour, which was held from December 22, 2007 to February 17, 2008. The song Drink It Down, used as the Japanese opening song for the PS3/Xbox360 game Devil May Cry 4, was released as a single on April 2, 2008, and topped the Oricon weekly charts. The band went on the Tour 2008 L'7 ~Trans Asia via Paris~ which covered several major Asian cities, as well as Paris, France. On this tour a definite live show hiatus until 2011 was announced. L'Arc-en-Ciel media continue to be released, a double A-side single, "Nexus 4 / Shine" and a DVD, Tour 2007-2008 Theater of Kiss were released on August 27, 2008.
P'unk-en-Ciel (パンク アン シエル ,panku an shieru?) is an alter ego of L'Arc-en-Ciel. Introduced in 2004, Hyde takes over guitar, Ken the drums, Yukihiro plays the bass, while Tetsu performs the vocals. P'unk-en-Ciel's songs have a more punk sound and their music is usually heavier and faster with a different tone due to Tetsu's vocals. Hyde wears a pirate patch over his left eye in P'unk-en-Ciel performances. Yukihiro is known to wear a gas mask; however, this has only been seen once at a live concert during their Smile tour in 2004.
Each member is called in capital letters Tetsu P'unk, Ken P'unk, Hyde P'unk and Yuki P'unk. Each member produces one song of their choice, and they alternate their productions.
P'unk-en-Ciel is the revision of D'ark-en-Ciel, the former being a special event that took place during the early L'Arc-en-Ciel years when Sakura was the drummer. The only material released from them is the 18-minute B-side "D'ark-en-Ciel" found on the (then) unreleased The Fourth Avenue Cafe single.
Their songs are recorded and used as B-sides on singles from 2004 and their performances can be found as extras on Live DVDs. They also featured television personality Sayaka Aoki with their song "Round and Round 2005".
Their recorded versions are:
* "Milky Way" found on the "Jiyuu e no Shoutai" single (Produced by Hyde P'unk).
* "Round and Round 2005" found on the "Killing Me" single (Produced by Ken P'unk).
* "Kasou Heisei 17 Nen" (Flower Burial 2005) found on the "New World" single (Produced by Hyde P'unk).
* "Heaven's Drive 2005" found on the "Jojoushi" single (Produced by Yuki P'unk).
* "Promised Land 2005" found on the "Link" single (Produced by Tetsu P'unk).
* "Honey 2007" found on the "Seventh Heaven" single (Produced by Ken P'unk).
* "Feeling Fine 2007" found on the "My Heart Draws a Dream" single (Produced by Yuki P'unk).
* "Natsu no Yuutsu (夏の憂鬱) [Sea in Blood 2007]" found on the "Daybreak's Bell" single (Produced by Hyde P'unk).
* "I Wish 2007" found on the "Hurry Xmas" single (Produced by Tetsu P'unk - it also has a PV).
* "Dune 2008" found on the "Drink it Down" single (Produced by Ken P'unk).
P'unk-en-Ciel can be seen on live on:
* Smile Tour 2004 DVD performing "Milky Way".
* Asialive 2005 DVD performing "Round and Round 2005".
* Are You Ready? 2007 Mata Heart ni Hi wo Tsukero! (またハートに火をつけろ！) DVD performing "Honey 2007" and "Feeling Fine 2007".
* Tour 2007-2008 Theater of Kiss DVD performing "Natsu no Yuutsu (夏の憂鬱) [Sea in Blood 2007]" and "I Wish 2007".
* Hyde – vocals, guitar
* Tetsu – bass, backing vocals
* Ken – guitar, backing vocals
* Yukihiro – drums
* DUNE (April 27, 1993)
* Tierra (July 14, 1994)
* heavenly (September 1, 1995)
* True (December 12, 1996)
* HEART (February 25, 1998)
* ark (July 1, 1999)
* ray (July 1, 1999)
* REAL (August 30, 2000)
* SMILE (March 31, 2004)
* DUNE 10th Anniversary Edition (April 21, 2004)
* AWAKE (June 22, 2005)
* KISS (November 21, 2007)
* Clicked Singles Best 13 (March 14, 2001)
* The Best of L'Arc-en-Ciel 1994-1998 (March 19, 2003)
* The Best of L'Arc-en-Ciel 1998-2000 (March 19, 2003)
* The Best of L'Arc-en-Ciel C/W (March 19, 2003)
* Ectomorphed Works (June 28, 2000)
* "Floods of Tears/Yasouka" (/夜想花, November 25, 1992)
* "Blurry Eyes" (October 21, 1994)
* "Vivid Colors" (July 6, 1995)
* "Natsu no Yuutsu ~Time to Say Goodbye~" (夏の憂鬱 [time to say good-bye], October 21, 1995)
* "Kaze ni Kienaide" (風にきえないで, July 8, 1996)
* "Flower" (October 17, 1996)
* "Lies and Truth" (November 21, 1996)
* "Niji" (虹, October 17, 1997)
* "Winter Fall" (January 28, 1998)
* "Dive to Blue" (March 25, 1998)
* "Shinshoku ~Lose Control~" (浸食 〜lose control〜, July 8, 1998)
* "Honey" (July 8, 1998)
* "Kasou" (花葬, July 8, 1998)
* "Snow Drop" (October 7, 1998)
* "Forbidden Lover" (October 14, 1998)
* "Heaven's Drive" (April 21, 1999)
* "Pieces" (June 2, 1999)
* "Driver's High" (August 11, 1999)
* "Love Flies" (October 27, 1999)
* "Neo Universe"/"Finale" (January 19, 2000)
* "Stay Away" (July 19, 2000)
* "Spirit Dreams Inside -Another Dream-" (September 5, 2001)
* "Ready Steady Go" (February 4, 2004)
* "Hitomi no Juunin" (瞳の住人, March 3, 2004)
* "Jiyuu e no Shoutai" (自由への招待, June 2, 2004)
* "Killing Me" (January 13, 2005)
* "New World" (April 6, 2005)
* "Jojoushi" (叙情詩, May 18, 2005)
* "Link" (July 20, 2005)
* "The Fourth Avenue Cafe" (August 30, 2006)
* "Seventh Heaven" (May 30, 2007)
* "My Heart Draws a Dream" (August 29, 2007)
* "Daybreak's Bell" (October 10, 2007)
* "Hurry Xmas" (November 14, 2007)
* "Drink it Down" (April 2, 2008)
* "Nexus 4"/"Shine" (August 27, 2008)