||This article needs attention from an expert in Japan. (November 2008)|
Yumi Yoshimura (left) and Ami Onuki (right) performing as Puffy at Japan Expo 2009
|Also known as||Puffy AmiYumi|
|Genres||Pop rock, pop punk, power pop|
|Labels||Sony Music Japan
Sony BMG, Epic, Bar/None, Tofu (US)
Puffy (パフィー Pafī?, romanized as PUFFY) or Puffy AmiYumi is a Japanese pop/rock duo that is signed with Sony Music Japan. The group continues to go by the moniker of PUFFY in Japan, but in order to avoid legal naming conflicts with Sean Combs, have adopted the name Puffy AmiYumi in the United States. They sing in Japanese and English.
Ami Onuki, whose nickname is Jane, and Yumi Yoshimura, nicknamed Sue, were scouted by Sony-affiliated talent agencies and put together in the mid-1990s. The band gained mainstream success in Japan during 1998, following the release of their Jet album and tour in support of it.
When she was in high school, Ami sang for a band called "Hanoi Sex". In her sophomore year, the band auditioned during the Sony SD Audition and passed, becoming employees of Sony Music Entertainment. Years went by with little action by either the band or the record label, as Ami took vocal lessons and attended a professional school to learn how to become a better performer. Eventually the band dissolved, leaving only Ami under Sony's employment. She was encouraged to stay, despite lacking a band and a clear musical direction.
Separately, Yumi had learned of the Chotto Sokomade talent search underway by Sony Music Artists when she was "around 18". She also auditioned and passed. She moved on her own from Osaka to Tokyo, where she eventually met Ami by chance in the Sony Music offices and then at a concert after-party, when the two hit it off. Both felt alone within the large Sony organization and neither were confident in their abilities as solo artists, so even though Ami had already recorded a solo CD under the guidance of former Unicorn front-man Tamio Okuda (it would later become half of solosolo), they requested Sony pair them as a duo.
When paired together, their voices blended well and they had a close rapport. Producer and American pop musician Andy Sturmer christened them "Puffy", and is considered by Ami and Yumi as "the godfather of Puffy". Ami had previously met Tamio Okuda at a SPARKS GOGO concert, and he had produced her then-unreleased solo CD. He was eventually signed on to produce Puffy's first album AmiYumi. Their debut single, "Asia no Junshin", launched Puffy-mania. Asked if they were surprised by the attention after its success, Yumi told an interviewer "... everything that was put together for that song all came together and made it happen, but we didn't expect it. It was luck."
As "Puffy-mania" exploded, they became multimedia stars, including hosting their own weekly TV show Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Puffy with guests such as Lenny Kravitz, Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, and rock band Garbage.
Puffy in the United States
Puffy made their first US appearance as part of Music Japan's "An Evening with Japan's All-Stars" showcase at the 2000 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. After their performance at SXSW, attorneys for Sean "Puffy" Combs sent the band a cease and desist letter asking them to change their name. After changing their name in the US to Puffy AmiYumi, they told Entertainment Weekly:
Yumi: It doesn't bother us at all. We respect the fact that Puff Daddy is Puffy in the U.S.
Ami: The bottom line is that we don't know what puffy means. We were given our name by somebody else six years ago, and we really don't have a clue.
The name "Puffy" most likely comes from Andy Sturmer's conscious or unconscious recollection of the night he and his band-mates/friends in the (as of then un-named) band "Jellyfish" were trying to come up with funny/catchy band names. "The Puffy" was one of the titles presented by Roger Joseph Manning's friend Greg Hillegas. a laugh was had by all, and the conversation moved on. Somewhere on a legal pad in Roger or Andy's archives is that complete list...
After Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Puffy ended production in 2002, Puffy focused on performing in the United States. Several of their previous Japanese albums were released for the US market and they recorded theme songs for the animated series Teen Titans and SD Gundam Force. They have also done a cover version with Cyndi Lauper of her hit "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". They were also interviewed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! by Jimmy Kimmel  and performed their songs "Hi Hi" and "Akai Buranko" (Red Swing) on the show. They came back to the US in 2006 for their Splurge Tour.
On November 19, 2004, an animated series featuring cartoon versions of Ami and Yumi, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, premiered on the United States' Cartoon Network. Although they are voiced by American actresses, the real Ami and Yumi star in short live-action segments taped in Japan. The show also features some of Puffy's music. Cartoon Network's Japan service started airing episodes of the series (in English with Japanese subtitles) in 2005. In October of that year, TV Tokyo began airing a Japanese-dubbed version of the series, which eventually also went to CN Japan on January 8, 2006. Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi also debuted in other countries such as Mexico, dubbed in Spanish, transmitted on Cartoon Network.
Yumi: The Cartoon Network show has given us a great opportunity to introduce the music to a new audience. When we toured, after the Cartoon Network show started, so many little kids came to our show. We always wanted as many people as possible to listen to the music.
On January 16, 2006 Ami and Yumi were appointed goodwill ambassadors to the United States as part of the Japanese government's campaign to encourage tourism in Japan. They kicked off their 10th anniversary tour in Japan on April 14, 2006, then toured the East Coast of the United States with the PuffyAmiYumi Tour '06 Splurge! Splurge! Splurge! from July 8 to July 19, 2006, coinciding with the premiere of their new television show, Hi Hi PUFFY Bu.
Their music has been largely a collaboration between producer Tamio Okuda, American singer-songwriter Andy Sturmer, and Ami and Yumi themselves. Ami and Yumi's vocals are likened to U.S. vocal sister group The Roches. They often sing whole songs together with harmonies and their sound borrows heavily from The Beatles and other artists such as ABBA, The Who, and The Carpenters. Both Ami and Yumi themselves have openly admitted that their music is hard to put into just one genre because of the many different influences.
Backing band members
- 1997–2000: Saku Saku Morning Call
- 1997–2002: Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Puffy
- 2003–2006: Teen Titans
- 2004–2006: Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi
- 2006: Hi Hi PUFFY Bu
- 2011: Usagi Drop (Episode 9 voiceover)
- 2013: Teen Titans Go! theme
- J!-ENT 50-PAGE SPECIAL FEATURE: Puffy AmiYumi 15th Year Anniversary featuring interviews from 2000-2010 by Dennis A. Amith. Accessed December 5, 2010.
- "Puffy 10th Anniversary Book 'Ayumi'", Ami Interview Chapters 1 and 2, Sony Magazines Inc., 2006
- "Puffy 10th Anniversary Book 'Ayumi'", Ami Interview Chapters 1 and 2, Yumi Interview Chapters 1 and 2, Sony Magazines Inc., 2006
- Whelski, Tina. "Feature: Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi". WOMANROCK, August/September 2005. Accessed December 7, 2006.
- Amith, Dennis A. "Prepare for the Puffy Invasion". nt2009 Entertainment, March 2001. Accessed December 7, 2006.
- Bruner, Rob. "Sayonara, Puffy". Entertainment Weekly, April 3, 2001. Accessed December 7, 2006.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4N5Xfx7qLc Interview with Jimmy Kimmel
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_lNbB3enN0&feature=related Performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
- Fuoco, Christina. " LiveDaily Interview: Puffy AmiYumi ". LiveDaily , July 19, 2006. Accessed October 16, 2007.
- Cartoon Network Unveils Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi Float For the 79th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Time Warner press release, October 31, 2005. Accessed December 7, 2006.
- "Puffy appointed goodwill ambassadors to U.S. for tourism", Kyodo News, January 16, 2006. Accessed December 7, 2006.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Puffy AmiYumi.|
- Official Japanese site
- Official English site
- Puffy AmiYumi at the Internet Movie Database
- J!-ENT Puffy AmiYumi interviews from 2000-2007
|Japan Record Award for Best New Artist