Category Archives: Seiyuu, Idol, Pop

Anisong 2020 Remote Special

One giant postscript that I should’ve added last post is the stuff that happened in 2020 after the world went into shutdown mode in the early days of the pandemic. Well, regarding anime music at least, there were a lot of online collabs in 2020 that are worth remembering and calling out as a result of musicians and similar types who lost gigs from the shutdown and had to make do with online and remote stuff, some free, because what else are we going to do other than Animal Crossing?

This better serves as its own post to remember what happened anyway, so a list. Also, I am not going to remember all the ones worth highlighting so any help in the comments is a great add.

The Seatbelt online project was pretty rocking, and the online Tanabata stream was really frigging good. I can’t understate how good that was. Like, that is once-a-decade level good. In addition to the big show (which has other YK stuff), there were a bunch of Youtube releases of re-recorded songs from the show. I even bought this vinyl, lol.

YOASOBI struck gold late 2019/2020 and Yori ni Kakeru was the third or second-most covered song in anisong-world, in 2020. I don’t know:

The First Take did fill a void in 2020 when we were void of the usual variety shows and live performance footage, so check out their channel. Even if they started in 2019, 2020 was a good year for what they do.

Watanabe Keiko’s vocaloid covers are pretty solid! I think the Crypton-sponsored Vocaloid social game launching brought a lot of that stuff back in the fore.

Then there are things like Yamamura Hibiku’s covers, which is in line with what indie artists do, pandemic or not. Maybe the song choice?

If you watched Kurocon, it was quite the covid event and we brought marble to our first show! They had been doing a lot on Youtube during the year. Micco from marble has her own covers during the lockdown here. Acoustic sets from some of their hits are on their official channel.

Continue reading

Anisong 2020

Why write a list when I can just point you to one that overlaps with mine a lot? Apologies but no Spotify playlist here orz.

You can ignore the ordering–it is not important. I will just append some of the ones I enjoyed that were omitted:

  • 700,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 no Sora de – Lights (Lapis Re:Light)
  • Literature – Ueda Reina (Wandering Witch OP)
  • Holy Passion Roses – Horie Yui, Matsuzaki Rei (Princess Connect! Re:Dive)
  • Daddy! Daddy! Do! feat. Airi Suzuki – Suzuki Masayuki (Kagyua-sama S2)
  • Goodbye Seven Seas – Jun Maeda x Yanagi Nagi (Kamisama ni Natta Hi)
  • Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan Shinshou – Sakura Ayane & Shin Teikoku Kagekidan (Shin Sakura Taisen OP)
  • Koori no Torikago – Amamiya Sora (Kimi to Boku no Saigo no Senjou, Aruiwa Sekai ga Hajimaru Seisen ED)

Other mentionables:

  • Fascinate – Velvet Rose (IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls) – Technically 2019 even though the CD came out in 2020. I just didn’t know about this song until 2020. Would have put it up in the previous section otherwise.
  • WOW WAR TONIGHT ~Toki ni wa Okose yo Movement~ – Mizuki Nana, RACHELL (D4DJ First Mix) – This cover is historic. Also I love the DJ WILDPARTY reference animation, it feels just like the real thing.
  • Kimi ni Aeta Hi – Itou Miku, Kito Akari (Adachi And Shimamura OP) – A proper seiyuu duet.
  • Parade d’amour – Opera Seria Kiramekiza (IDOLM@STER Million Live) – Managed to channel chills for me the same the way as Generations 04.
  • Hyakka wa Gekka ni Chirinuru wo – Hanasakuya (IDOLM@STER Million Live) – Appropriately time froze for me in that January weekend, and maybe for the rest of Million Live kingdom.
  • Kiseki no Kane (Taisho 29 ver.) – Shin Teikoku Kagekidan (Shin Sakura Taisen) – This song still has so much over me 10+ years later.

PS. Some more music.

  • Waver – Tadokoro Azusa – The title track of her self-produced album technically isn’t released until 2021/01/27 but it’s good!
  • Hana no Ame – Ueda Reina – I am tickled pink by this art project. Or her earlier album.
  • Wahl – Roselia – Nice album.
  • Sky Full of Magic – Lapis Re:Light – Generally a lot of fun, all the songs. Wish it included the Sky songs though.
  • Delicious Smile – Wataten 5 – Special image album from Wataten and it’s a great bright holiday spot in a dreary year.

PPS. I’m ready to put Database back on the list, but is NHK?

Dig Delight Direct Drive Disc Jockey: First Mix: Hopes

What is there to say about D4DJ’s TV anime? My approach to this is multi-fold. And personal, as my usual style…

Continue reading

Seiyuu Work: M

I read this and I’m like, either this brain is too small or it’s just not how it works. However I appreciate this point of view, focused on the male voice actor side of things.

But to look for – in a prospective seiyuu – qualities way far from what being a seiyuu entails, already tells us how the industry has shifted to the point that talent agencies believe that only seiyuu with good looks, that can sing and act are the ones that will be successful in the future. [emphasis removed]

What they are forgetting is that most of these seiyuu, unfortunately, will not survive the industry unless they are extremely lucky.

With the seiyuu rankings, the abuse and manipulation in the seiyuu industry that lead to some – unworthy seiyuu – to rise quickly in the ranks and snatch roles from talented voice actors that didn’t even had a chance due to rigged auditions – in which power plays and favoritism end up deciding most of the main cast in anime series – it is hard for seiyuu to thrive.

Is this fanon leaking? I don’t know…

Based on the handful of older seiyuu who’s given talks in the States, seiyuu industry started out as actors and actor-like talents getting into dubbing. Eventually specialized talents called seiyuu became a thing and really blew up in the 90s–and in a lot of ways the requirement for this is just a specialized actor with additional training/education.

The fact that a lot of the popular male seiyuu nowadays climb the entertainment industry ladder by leveraging fan fame because of their solo activity is pretty much textbook entertainment industry stuff. To me this is more of an indictment that you can’t grow your career purely on voice acting, especially if you are expected to be the primary financial provider in your family. There are only so many ways to monetize fame (traditionally, anyways), and if you make it long enough to be a veteran, there are only so many ways to you can continue the career outside of regular dub roles, such as being a teacher or write a book. I can see a lot of older female seiyuu working mostly just behind the scenes while married with children, because that option is open to them and they don’t have to bust their butts making a buck. I am not sure if I can see any successful men doing this short of the rare SuzuKens (who probably make as much as his wife actually) out there.

So it isn’t seiyuu are becoming like tarento–they are actors to begin with, and it is just like how things were many years ago. Just like how actors sometimes also show up in variety shows and whatever, except they don’t have to as much because they are paid a lot more doing acting on popular TV shows and films.

Yes, seiyuu have to do tarento things because voiceover alone doesn’t pay much, and it’s hard enough to get regular roles in a super competitive field. Even if you make it, it doesn’t really pay until much later, which means you have to “keep” making it, or expand the zone to get into other things like all other types of acting, music and general purpose entertainment. Plus, doing all these jobs open doors that might not otherwise be there.

It’s probably super important to highlight what makes a seiyuu a seiyuu–a set of specialized skills reflected in a seiyuu’s ability to create a character voice or a narration voice based on the customer’s needs. It is not something that is that easily done, and like acting there are different ways or styles (schools of thought) to accomplish this, which is going to also impact how seiyuu work with ADR people, directors, and other people running the project. This is the skill set that made seiyuu a distinct profession, which is not something the average generic JP geijokai tarento will have. In fact most people don’t have it. While any actor can probably do a dub, working with actors and specialized seiyuu are different, and it is something sound directors can figure out–still, directors would want seasoned veterans over people who are not experienced at voicing, no matter if they are tarento or not. That’s why they cost more.

On that note, the other major problem on that article (and the writer) is on “rank” because, again, ranking is not some controversial fandumb. It’s kind of boring. Voice acting in Japan is largely unionized work in which the major agencies agree on a set of pay scale, and industry-wide most agencies follow suit. Internally, each agency have varying systems on ranking their new hires and paying (and charging) out, and rank advancement. There are cases when a seiyuu’s career facilitates going freelance once it reaches a certain point. Different agencies have different priorities in terms of talent management (family friendly work vs. eroge, for example; or voice work versus general purpose versus seiyuu idol). Some agencies don’t do the ordinary cut until you are at high rank and is flat rate until then, etc. It can vary a lot.

Having followed IM@S over the years, it’s a good case study. Every time a new branch launches (although I’m not sure who is that for CG) some seiyuu gets on board as their first role. For example, Eriko Nakamura, Asami Shimoda and Manami Numakura. You can see what happened to them, and wonder as I do why Eriko isn’t married yet? Good for her. But those 3 are still doing well enough to stick with Arts Vision, which is still one of the largest seiyuu agency out there.

If you look at Million Live, there are now a handful of freelancers who have left the mothership, the latest being Asuka Kakumoto. Given it’s been over 7 years that these talents have been with the company, their future careers are well realized at this point. The three Spacecraft Millions each have achieved some degree of success, although arguably none of them are successful; at the same time, being able to participate in a project that do not have an ending in sight and is already relatively popular is a silver bowl of sorts, it is an auto-win.

Which is just to say, with the Million Live anime on the horizon does this mean Asuka gets to keep more of her gyara? Is it because of some internal rank issue? I have no idea, but these do play a role for someone who doesn’t have a lot of jobs otherwise.

More commonly, freelancing is a thing that happens when you think your career has either plateaued or you have a spat with management. Mostly the former. My hunch is also that managers are really in short supply, especially skilled and well-connected ones that can really develop talent. What happens when the manager that helped you out in your first 4 years gets bogged down with newbies and you think the agency isn’t going to help you much more, and you are ready to take on some administrative work to earn back some fees that otherwise goes to management? Again, there is already a pay scale for major work, and freelancing gives flexibility to let you take on smaller jobs or jobs that your agency would not have accepted, it’s not a bad option for established talents.

Re: IDOLM@STER at Songs of Tokyo Festival 2020

Songs of Tokyo Festival is an annual1 special program from NHK World, as part of its Songs of Tokyo TV segment. Songs of Tokyo showcases Japanese music acts with translation and feedback from global fans. Now that its 2020 fest had the ON AIR moment last weekend, it is free on demand viewing online here. The VOD expires January 31, 2021.

While Songs of Tokyo and the associated festivals have been going on for some time, it’s always pretty wild to catch the artists on domestic TV that I had to fly to Japan to see. NHK World is commonly broadcasted as a community program in metro areas in the west, or as a freebie in world packages in bundled television services like cable. It’s weird to be able to see all that at 1080 broadcast resolution, where as the real-time web stream looks like, well, a piece of crap. I mean, it probably looks fine normally for NHK programs but these live shows have a lot of visuals going on, and there were just not enough bits. In fact the VOD has the same mushiness look, just much better than the stream.

For this 2020 edition of Songs of Tokyo Festival, instead of in-person audience, there are a bunch of people put on 2 big TV in the venue (NHK Hall), Zoom-style. They act more or less like your typical studio audience.

Enough leading up, I think it’s time to reflect on this 25-minute TV segment that I’ve watched 4 times already in about 48 hours. First of all, the visuals in the back is full blown Mai-Note production value. Fans of IM@S lives will know it well, but I think this is more cranked up than usual given the set is just a giant half-circle LCD wall.

The 15th Anniversary song survived the Coronavirus and we got a presentation of it at Songs of Tokyo Fest. It’s the first time everyone’s seen it performed. It’s not even performed by the original cast–but this is the kind of song that everyone will get to perform. Nandodemo Waraou is also the first IM@S group song with SideM, which means dudes and gals get to sing together, a first for the franchise.

It’s an hour-long TV program including Nana Mizuki, BanG Dream (Popipa, Roselia, RAS), and IM@S. So that they gave ~22 out of 48 minutes of the time to them is already pretty great. In usual JUNGO fashion, team IDOLM@STER’s performance is crammed with little things. Let’s try to unpack some.

Continue reading