What to Know About Queen Bee’s Singer, Avu-Chan

Summary

  • Avu-chan, the lead singer of Queen Bee, is a trailblazing transgender Japanese artist, known for her unique charisma and diverse gender presentation in her vocals.
  • Queen Bee gained popularity through their performances for anime and movies, with their music being featured in popular shows like Dororo and Tokyo Ghoul :re.
  • Their recent rise to super stardom came after the release of the anime Oshi no Ko, where Avu-chan’s song “Mephisto” became one of the most popular songs of the year and introduced a wider audience to Queen Bee.


One of the most exciting emerging J-rock artists working today is Avu Barazono (or Avu-chan), the lead singer, composer and lyricist of Queen Bee (Ziyoou-Vachi). Avu-chan is of African-American and Japanese descent. She’s also one of the few openly transgender Japanese artists, which makes her a real trailblazer in the country’s music industry. With her unique charisma, growing discography and catalog of music that’s featured in Dororo, Tokyo Ghoul :re, Devilman Crybaby and most recently, Oshi no Ko, she’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Avu-chan does most of her work in Queen Bee, an eccentric band who aptly described themselves as “fashion punk.” The group brings an interesting blend of sounds to J-rock, mixing punk, kayokyoku (a subgenre of Japanese pop) and even disco. Avu-chan, who has often spoken about embracing both the feminine and masculine aspects of her identity, showcased a diverse gender presentation in her vocals. She’s able to switch between deep guttural sounds and an impressive falsetto at the drop of a hat. This was just one of Avu-chan’s many impressive talents.

Updated on January 8, 2024 by Angelo Delos Trinos: Avu-chan and Queen Bee recently became massive global stars and the internet’s new J-rock act thanks to Oshi no Ko. Although they were already popular in Japan before the anime dropped, Queen Bee’s fame hit critical mass in 2023. This article was updated to reflect on Queen Bee’s stellar rise to stardom, and Avu-chan’s inspiring story.


Avu-Chan & Queen Bee Began by Performing Songs for Anime & Movies

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Queen Bee was formed in 2009. The band was originally comprised of Avu-chan and some classmates. They quickly attracted professional attention and built up their reputation by performing in school festivals, live houses, and small venues. After some reshuffling of members, it currently consists of Avu-chan, Yashi Akitorii (Yashi-chan) and Hibari-kun. Their previous members include Yuki-chan, Gigi-chan, and Ruri-chan, who was reported to be Avu-chan’s real-life sister. They parted ways amiably and on their own terms. All the members’ names are pseudonyms, and their personal details are largely unknown.

Following the release of their debut album “Witch Hunt” in 2011, the band signed on to Sony Music to release their second album, “Peacock,” later the same year. They quickly became a rising name, and were even dubbed “the Japanese Hedwig,” in reference to the counterculture musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Unsurprisingly, Avu-chan admitted to Ginzamag that she felt a strong connection to the titular Hedwig and Angel from Rent because of how they defied traditional gender roles and expectations. It goes without saying that Queen Bee’s creative performances and music were already making waves even before their official debut.

Queen Bee’s rise to the top was best embodied by the songs they performed for cult anime like Devilman Crybaby and Dororo. They also performed music for Japanese TV shows like Spooky Romantics, and films like Love Strikes! and Sadako. From 2012 to 2017, Queen Bee released three more albums that all garnered great sales and reviews. With their rapid growth as a group and growing presence in popular media, Queen Bee became a J-rock mainstay. By 2019, their next album, “Ten,” was hailed as an “industry-shaking” album. “Ten” made it to #1 in iTunes in Japan and peaked at #4th on the Oricon chart. Without waiting for even a year, Queen Bee released their next album, “BL,” in February 2020. They quickly followed this up on February 23, 2023 with their latest and most recent album, “12D” (Jūni Jigen).

In 2018, Queen Bee burst onto in the anime scene with “HALF,” the ending theme for Tokyo Ghoul :re. The song converted into some well-deserved overseas publicity, accompanied by a popular music video directed by Sayaka Nakane. Avu-chan revealed in an interview with Spice that HALF was informed by her struggles as someone of mixed descents living in the conservative and isolationist Japan. She never understood others’ fixation with her descent, since she never saw herself to be “half” of something whole. HALF was a perfect fit for Tokyo Ghoul: re not just because of its punk style, but because Avu-chan’s personal history paralleled the anime’s themes. The anime based on Sui Ishida’s manga of the same name tackled the prejudice and insecurity that Ken Kaneki felt as someone who was half human and half Ghoul. HALF reflected this in both a narrative and meta way. In 2019, Queen Bee returned to Tokyo Ghoul’s world by providing the theme song for the live-action movie Tokyo Ghoul S.

Avu-Chan & Queen Bee Hit Super Stardom Through Oshi No Ko

the 2023 hit anime official poster - Oshi no Ko Poster

Oshi No Ko

A doctor and his recently-deceased patient are reborn as twins to a famous Japanese musical idol and navigate the highs and lows of the Japanese entertainment industry as they grow up together through their lives.

Release Date
April 12, 2023

Creator
Aka Akasaka

Cast
Rie Takahashi , Yumi Uchiyama

Rating
TV-14

Seasons
1 Season

Production Company
CyberAgent, Dogakobo, Kadokawa, Sentai Studios, Shueisha

Number of Episodes
12 Episodes

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Avu-chan and Queen Bee really achieved super stardom when Oshi no Ko aired in 2023. Avu-chan sang “Mephisto,” the anime’s ending song and a non-album single, and starred in the music video as well. Much like HALF, Mephisto was the perfect song to cap every episode of Oshi no Ko’s first mega-hit season. Mephisto’s lyrics and the video showed the Faustian bargain that came with becoming a celebrity. In the video, Avu-chan played a fictional version of herself, who was consumed by Japan’s notoriously unforgiving entertainment industry and its rabid fandom. It ended with her being stabbed to death by a distraught fan. These greatly paralleled Ai Hoshino’s grim fate in Oshi no Ko’s feature-length pilot, and carried over the anime’s dark look into entertainment’s underbelly.

Mephisto quickly became one of the most popular songs of 2023’s anime, and it even became a meme thanks to its appropriately melodramatic use in the anime. Every time Mephisto’s strings played in an emotionally heavy episode of Oshi no Ko, viewers knew that someone was about to say a stunning cliffhanger just before the credits dropped. In its own silly way, the memes that used Mephisto were proof of how far Avu-chan had come. Queen Bee was already a big deal in Japan before Oshi no Ko premiered, but they and Avu-chan broke through the international mainstream through the critically acclaimed animated adaptation of Aka Akasaka’s manga of the same name. Oshi no Ko was one of the highest-rated anime of 2023, and it introduced a wide audience to Avu-chan. In the same year, Avu-chan performed the hit ending song for the immensely popular music channel The First Take.

Avu-Chan & Queen Bee Have Nowhere Else to Go but Up

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In addition to Queen Bee, Avu-chan is also a member of the band Gokumonto Ikka. The band is a “super band” comprised of chosen members from the biggest musical acts in Japan. Besides Avu-chan, Gokumonto Ikka included bassist KenKen from Rize, drummer Tatsuya Nakamura from Blankey Jet City, and guitarist Ryosuke Nagaoka from Tokyo Jihen. In a 2011 interview, they mentioned that their influences included Perfume, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and the Kano sisters. Compared to Queen Bee, Gokumonto Ikka performs and releases singles and/or albums sporadically. Their last performance was at the Rising Sun Rock Festival of 2018, but they haven’t officially disbanded or gone on hiatus. It’s only a matter of time before they return with another hit.

Outside of music, Avu-chan acted on stage in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, on TV in the aforementioned Spooky Romantics, in the Toyota commercial DAS × Auris Buttocks Drive!!, and even dabbled in voice acting in Devilman Crybaby as the demon Zennon. She was also cast as the titular star of Masaaki Yuasa’s latest anime movie, Inu-Oh. At the pace Queen Bee is currently on, it’s safe to say music is their main focus, at least for now. Going forward, the sky is the limit for Avu-chan. It’s no exaggeration to say that Avu-chan really is a one-of-a-kind artist.

The entertainment industry and general audiences haven’t seen anyone like Avu-chan before. In a short amount of time, Avu-chan and Queen Bee left a lasting mark on J-rock, and they haven’t slowed down. More importantly, Avu-chan and Queen Bee really broke new ground when it came to trans and gender-nonconforming representation. Avu-chan and her band’s meteoric rise—especially in a country as traditional as Japan—is nothing short of awe-inspiring. They showed that constrictive gender roles were meant to be defied, and that both the Japanese and international audience were more than ready for LGBTQ+ artists. It could even be argued that audiences have always been ready and welcoming of LGBTQ+ artists, but the industry took too long to answer this demand, or ignored an undeniable truth for as long as it could. Whatever Avu-chan and Queen Bee serve up next, fans inside and outside of Japan eagerly await their next artistic masterpieces.

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