I put ~ around Spring because the albums I’ll cover in this post go before Spring. Basically, the crap I alluded to in this post.
Actually the main reason I want to share these opinions is so I can write a sentence about something from Angela to Zwei. And it really reflects the sort of releases we’re seeing for the first half of 2013. There’s also some observable trends. The “vocaloidzation of seiyuu idol music” is really the number one thing. That, and the appeal of groups.
By “vocaloidzation” I mean it in a simple, one plus one sort of way. Just like how I can enjoy a Kuchiroro track because of the seiyuu connection (and also because Kuchiroro is ballers), same can be said of producing seiyuu music in a similar way–just treat their vocals as samples rather than cohesive part of an idol image. Well, the vocals are part of the idol image, may it be reduced more so in recent years, but you gotta wonder how many people stopped listening to the likes of Mamiko Noto because it kind of hurts. Well, maybe it’s better to say that thanks to vocaloid fandom, now there is another framework in which we can make idol music. Because as cool as showa-era idols are, it’s a tough thing to ask of anyone. The sad fact is that while there are a lot more pretty faces today among the seiyuu idol crowd, and there are a number of decent singers, the two still rarely overlap.
Joking aside, with Yuikaori graduating from StylipS (and I feel this is something they sort of planned from ages ago), or how the Yuki Aoi x Taketatsu Ayana combination is now a thing, what does this mean? On the other hand Itou Shizuka is still putting out stuff and there’s that Pikasha woman with her album debut eminent. Aniplex’s Hanazawa project is going swimmingly, and it really does complement the array of artists they have under their thumb. With competent production companies and pipelines, idols gonna idol…? Money will part from fools, all is well with the world. And let’s get a move on– [aff links ahoy]
(In no particular order)
Angela – Zero: It’s a shade less aggressive than their typical sound, but being less aggressive doesn’t mean Zero has more Atsuko going all ballad-y. The result is a small, original twist but ultimately not as entertaining as their pre-break albums. The more signature tracks still sound good, though, and you’ve heard them from the shows they came from.
Kalafina – Consolation: It’s also not as extreme as, say, their first two albums. It’s also less remarkable than Red Moon, which I think is their most “mature” album so far. That said, at least Consolation shows significant differentiation and development. I’m just not sure that actually means anything if Kajiura continues to write their songs. It’s nice to have a DVD version alongside the Blu-ray for the bonus material though.
Zwei – Re:Set: Wow these guys, great stuff, especially for a first major album. If anything it all feels a little “Too Much the Same feat. Itou Kanako” but otherwise it’s buy buy buy. Sold me at least. For the unaware, Zwei is a vocal/bass duo published by 5pb and when I make fun of them by the way of Kanako-san, it is not an exaggeration (much). I think they improve on the same formula by focusing on the rock aspect and appropriately addressing the vocals as a guide to rocking out, not the centerpiece of the arrangement. It’s at times catchy but also sufficiently contemplative. Again, it sold me.
Ayahi Takagaki – Relation: Sphere vocal fourth batter puts out her first full album. It’s kind of a weird sell because given her talent set, there’s just no way she can sing original pop songs better than the various covers she has done thus far. Takagaki’s vocal’s support power is on full display here, but that means her album lives and dies by the quality of songwriting. Which is to say, yeah, there’s promise but you gotta get better songwriters; unsurprisingly my favorite tracks are the non-conventionally structured ones. Yes yes I’m just making up euphemisms about Ayahime’s vocals here, since they aren’t bad, just… missing something.
Ayana Taketatsu – Apple Symphony: I came into this fully expecting a large serving of crap, so it’s not unsurprising to be pleasantly surprised by how Apple Symphony turned out to be somewhat entertaining. Still not much more than a joke from a cute girl, even if musically it does play to her strengths. At least it bears against repeat listening. Special edition is extravagant in a 2×2 DVD box kind of way.
Maaya Sakamoto – Singer Song Writer: It sounds like Maaya, it tastes like Maaya, it smells like Maaya. It’s too much Maaya. I like it enough but it won’t get more plays on my PMP besides just to mix things up. Back to Kazeyomi and Shonen Alice!
Haruka Tomatsu – Sunny Side Story: The very delayed 2nd full album from Tomato, it fits the profile of a seiyuu idol’s 2nd album. It’s probably better than I give it credit for, but it felt just too bland. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t like a lot of the songs on that CD when I heard it the first time in various shows.
Aoi Yuuki – Meriba: Not entirely horrible, but let it be said that it is a good thing she is doing that Petit Miladies thing with Ayanyan.
Shizuka Itou – Feeling Life: Announce marriage and solo album debut huh! Well, the funny thing is her pop singing voice is actually rather good for a seiyuu. It’s just that I think she has the same problem Yoko Hikasa has–she sounds better while singing when she tries to put on a voice, than when she sings naturally. I think with the right kind of songs and at the right pitch, she can have a nice hit or two. And you can tell when the songs that are faster paced and simpler to sing, she does better, ie., songs that are less technically difficult. Unfortunately, this appropriately-aged (feels like an early 00s seiyuu album) product yields no such thing, I think. Pass for the most part.
StylipS – Lightning Celebration: Since it’s really 1 track different (2 counting the intro instrumentals, which is nice but lol) from Step One, it’s largely a pass for StylipS curious types and really just for true wotas. Or people who skipped Step One and don’t care for the bonus video on that (which is kind of a big deal). Given this is the last StylipS release involving Yuikaori, there are plenty of reasons to buy this even if you own Step One… And yes the bonus CD has single vocals blah blah blah I think the team vocals are just fine. DVD version also available. It’s cheery idol pop, good energy and above average but otherwise unremarkable. Anison in, perhaps, the truest sense.
Maon Kurosaki – VERTICAL HORIZON: Rocking Ojou album is great for driving, and if you like her style and vocals, well, it’s exactly what is promised. I can see this getting old a little too soon, sooner than I would like. At the same time, it’s very much live house-focused style of music, and there’s just not enough of that in the anison idol format. I find Vertical Horizon hard to dislike personally
, especially given this is her debut album.
Faylan – PRISM: LOL did I say not enough. Actually I think Faylan dialed it back just a tad in PRISM. You can tell because the cover isn’t Faylan dressed in bondage gear on top of a jet plane, flying out from an explosion or something OTT. Well, majority of this CD are singles from various shows and games, so you know what you’re getting here–more of the same, and that’s a good thing when it comes to Faylan. It’s like she jumped to a great start on her first album, took a small dip, but remained steady since. At the same time you can probably give it a pass if you are meh about Faylan.
Momoiro Clovers Z – 5th Dimension: Do they count as Anison? I guess as a concept the group can never not be an anison idol group. I like it even more than their last album, and while that probably doesn’t say a whole lot, they were able to deliver on both charm and cuteness, while being endearing and not repulsively plastic-y (just a little plastic-y)… I just gave some top praise for a Japanese idol group. For a point of contrast, their first “recap” album comes out in a month, featuring new songs first time collected on CD. Anywya, the 5th Dimension is also available with DVD, besides BD.
Yousei Teikoku – PAX VESANIA: This is the stuff that makes me want to go to a Yousei Teikoku show. I mean, metal in my anison is always a welcomed sight. Or is this not metal enough to be metal? You could argue it either way. For the typical person who would hear their music, though, it’s soft enough of a mix to not be entirely repulsive, and hard enough to be significantly different. Keep it up, Yui and company, it’s a good reboot effort. This album made skipping Anime Boston this year just that much more difficult, as they’re a guest!
Mikako Komatsu – THEE Futures: I want to say she has the same problem as other good seiyuu when it comes to singing, but I actually think Komatsu got even the delivery worked out. The problem is that the songs on THEE Futures are just terrible. There are still a few salvageable tracks, that said, and I think the direction of the album is generally right. Mikako needs to do that old school ballad thing. But the songs are just way too weak. At least she’s proven to be one of the few seiyuu whose singing ability can be a total add to the quality of the album.
Kana Hanazawa – claire: I mentioned it earlier but claire is actually pretty good. If you liked Happy Ending from her Tempest gig, you’ll probably dig this whole thing. Credit it to Round Table, I guess, but he’s not the only contributor where solid writing that played to Kana’s strength as a chirpy, tone-settling chipmunk, a.k.a. small, shrilly Japanese voice actress. What makes her an valued otaku treasure as someone who can effectively emote with her speaking voice translate mostly to her singing voice, too.
Mai Aizawa – moi: A mini album. It’s rather intriguing because of the heavier rock influences, but other than the duet on the last track the whole thing is largely unmemorable. For people following Aizawa this is a nice pickup, but not much else.
Note 1: a lot of these albums come in different versions. I didn’t link the “regular” editions if a DVD or BD version was also available. Look around if interested.
Note 2: There are probably something that I am missing… Just nothing comes to mind. Or maybe it’s an album that came out and I didn’t know about? Let me know.
Note 3: So every one of the five K-ON girls is on track to have a solo album, or had already, except Sugar. Com’on Sugar!
PS. Ling tosite sigure – i’mperfect: LOL anison. Nice sound, not as extreme, I guess? But I dig it.
PPS. That Funta self-cover album? Just as you expected.
PPPS. I’m probably missing something. Chime in if you know what it is…