Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hirano Aya -- "Thank You" for Making Love Gun #4

From Hirano Aya's blog (click images to enlarge):

#4 on the Daily Charts

"Love Gun" has been released!!
#4!! ☆~(ノ><)ノ
Thank you so much!!
I'm really happy.
Since I haven't been able to update the diary for a while,
Maybe I'll give a bit of a look backstage...
Today I'll show what the PV set looks like.

In the Morning

Rock in the morning
Here comes the big obstacle: the guitar.
I had my guitar and was practicing in the green room
Right up until we started.
Do the results show?

No Strength in My Shoulders

I'm trying too hard and moving too much, I'm told.
The proof is that I broke a pick during the intro.
I thought we shouldn't stop during recording,
So I used my fingers to pick
And ended up bleeding around the first knuckle.
Trying too hard (´~`;)

Pretty Well Used to It (´∀`)

Even though I have to work at lip-synching,
I gradually settle down.
The person in the picture looks properly cool.
But once I start moving, I'm done for.

After Filling My Stomach

This is a shot while they're changing the set!
Empty head. Clean mind.
...nnn. It's hard o(><)o

Studio Scene

This is what it's like in the studio!
That distant bit of pink is me.
It takes a lot of staff.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hirano Aya's New Single Debuts at #4

Well, it looks as if her constant work, constant practice, and constant publicity are paying off: Hirano Aya's "Love Gun" debuted at #4 on its first day on the Oricon singles charts.

This is the first of three singles in three months for Aaya, and it's a rocker. I was unconvinced after hearing bits of it earlier, but having seen and heard the whole thing, now I'm sold. The music and the singing are both good entertainment.

And we really can see some results of the fact that one of her favorite singers is Avril Lavigne. I tend to think of Japanese hard rock as rather weak, but this has something. Some Japanese fans continue to regret the loss of their innocent teen Aya, but she is more interested in becoming a sexy young adult.

I enjoy the sexy/humorous/artsy music video, as well. Here's the video on YouTube. It's provocative, but as in her blog, she makes fun of herself, too.

Here are the lyrics. They are largely Japanese, but there is quite a bit of Engrish in them, courtesy of Aya, who wrote them herself.

The anti-Hirano forces on 2channel are howling, but now I think it's in fear rather than delight. Aaya may really have a singing career. Ever since I started taking an interest in Aaya a year ago, people have been posting that she is finished. And all that time, she has actually been getting more popular.

There's no doubt that some of her success, if it comes, will be based on her looks and the sexy clothes she's starting to wear, rather than her music. But that would not make her unique among singers. And she actually is beginning to rock. She's no longer quite the wannabe rocker that she seemed to me before.

And she does play guitar, as we see her doing in the video. Although I would be surprised if her playing has been mixed so it is very audible. She's pretty modest about her playing when she mentions it in her blog.

Aaya turned 20 on Monday, and exults over it on her blog. It's been a long time coming, she says. Now as an adult, she says she feels a sense of responsibility and is determined to be "a woman who will not be defeated."

She has also just started a stint as host of the radio show "Radio Animelo Mix." She started the first show saying she wasn't sure whether she was more nervous or more sleepy...but she was hungry, too. And she slipped through three different versions of her voice in the first minute. She is apparently the first host who has not had a partner, so it was Aaya gabbling on for 25 minutes, sometimes amusing, sometimes peremptory, always personable. The previous generation of hosts was a dynamic duo of Gotou Yuuko and Shintani Ryouko.

The staff of stores in Akihabara won't be defeated, either. There are big displays for the single, with various come-ons embedded. One sign lists her three upcoming singles and says: "Buy them. That's an order from the brigade chief (i.e., Haruhi)."

Another display (below) has Konata point out Aya's zettai ryouiki ("absolute territory" -- the space of flesh between high stockings and skirt) on a "life-size" poster they are giving away with every purchase.

UPDATE: Charts for Thursday 11 October are out, and Love Gun is down at #9. Still not bad. We'll see where it ends up for the week. I am liking the PV more and more, myself.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Fall Season -- 19 First Impressions

Of course, it's ridiculous to judge a season after one week. Especially for me, since I usually like almost everything at first. But here are some first impressions.

After the first episode, one show is clearly the best, for me: Blue Drop. It has real characters and emotions and an intriguing story combining girls-school relationships with science fiction. A yuri relationship is apparently to come. The animation and backgrounds are quite rich, the music is good, and the voice-acting is superb, featuring Yajima Akiko (Crayon Shin-chan), Sawashiro Miyuki (Shinku in Rozen Maiden), and Yukino Satsuki (Ai in Planetes). It's the only real drama this season, besides shounen adventure shows like Gundam00 and Dragonauts.

Tthere are a number of shows based on bishoujo games. Clannad is the one that impressed me most, if only for its detailed KyoAni animation and the wonderful seiyuus (Nakahara Mai, Kuwashima Houko and Okiayu Ryoutarou were the most impressive in episode one). The story and relationships are building, too.

ef-a tale of memories was also delightful. The music by TenMon, who does music for Shinkai Makoto (Byousoku 5cm), is sublime. The Shinbou-inspired animation/backgrounds are very artistic. I love them, but some people find the complexity and whimsy distracting. The show is giving us a twist on the normal harem plot by following the stories of three couples rather than one. It may have a bit of Kanon/DaCapo magic.

D.C. Da Capo II is the closest to a standard harem show, but seems to be maintaining the quality of its predecessor. The story takes an unusual turn right in the first episode, with a nicely orchestrated confession.

Kimi Kiss ~pure rouge~ is the least like a standard harem show, at least on the surface. Episode one was a little pale, but that stands to reason from the director of Honey & Clover. Hopefully it just means this will be a mature and well-modulated version of the genre. The seiyuu cast is incredible: Koshimizu Ami, Tanaka Rie, Mizuhashi Kaori, Kawasumi Ayako, Ikezawa Haruna, et al.

Myself;Yourself is another show with a standard harem feel: the protagonist comes back to the town he lived in five years before and meets the girls and boys he knew then, who have all grown up into senior high students like him. But there are interesting relationships in the offing, especially with the beautiful tsundere miko and the lovable dojikko meganekko.

Goshuushou-sama Ninomiya-kun is pure sex farce, like a version of Girls Bravo. But it is based on a novel that won a fantasy novel award, so I expect there will be more to it as we go on. It seemed to me quite well done, with a protagonist and leading lady it is possible to feel sympathy for -- even though he is indifferent to women and she is a succubus. The absurd comedy is funny. And there is lots of moe and fanservice.

We also have three slice of life-type shows. Sketchbook ~full color's~ is from a comic strip centred on a shy girl who relates to the world by constantly sketching it. Her confusions, and her friends, make her a wonderful figure. And so does her VA, the superlatively moe young actress Hanazawa Kana.

Mokke is from another manga, about two sisters living in the countryside. The younger one (Mizuki Nana) is adventurous and vulnerable to spirits. The elder (Kawasumi Ayako) is her responsible protector, who has the ability to ward off the spirits. I was less thrilled than I expected to be, but I will be back for ep2.

Minami-ke is the story of three sisters, each with their different character: onee-san (Satou Rina), crazy middle one (Inoue Marina), clever and quiet younger one (Chihara Minori). I found it a bit disappointing, myself, a very pale imitation of Ichigo Mashimaro. But it does have promise, especially with the good VAs. Inoue-san is especially good, but her character sounds too much like an attempt to copy Miu from IchiMash for my taste.

There are a couple of shounen SF adventure shows, but neither of them cured me of my indifference to the genre. Gundam00 involves a secret force of especially powerful Gundams that intends to stop the wars plaguing the world by defeating all the combatants: to stop violence by violence. This interesting premise gives me some hope, but I still can't really get into the thrill of battle. The cast is good, featuring Miyano Mamoru, Miki Shinichirou, and Kamiya Hiroshi.

Dragonaut ~The Resonance~ features an all-star cast of seiyuu most of whom have worked more in bishoujo anime than in shounen: Ono Daisuke, Chihara Minori, Suwabe Junichirou, Sawashiro Miyuki, Gotou Yuuko, Mizuki Nana, Sugita Tomokazu, Chiba Saeko, Kobayashi Yu, Hirano Aya. Aya totally floored me with a good performance as the evil, big-boobed antagonist. But my interest in this concerns only the seiyuu and the potential romance. Even when there was something that should have packed an emotional wallop, the show seemed to suck the life out of any emotion, for me.

Shakugan no Shana II seems to have a slightly more mature character design than the original, but the stories look as if they will be just as boring. I do care about the romance aspects, but I can't wade through all the monster garbage to get to them. Nevertheless, people who liked the first series should like this one, too. Mine is a minority opinion.

One shounen comedy show, Bamboo Blade, is a school sports comedy that features a nice, clean drawing style and that I enjoyed far more than I expected to. Perhaps You're Under Arrest: Full Throttle falls into this category, too. The story is extremely simple, even iconic, but it is executed well and I enjoyed this show far more than I expected to, as well. Settle in for a glimpse of the 80s.

Rental Magica is a comedy with a set-up something like Ghost Hunt: a company that rents out sorcerers of various kinds. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, as well. It seemed a simple show, but the characters and voice actors were good: Fukuyama Jun in soft mode, Ueda Kana, Takahashi Mikako, Itou Shizuka, Suwabe Junichirou.

Shugo Chara is pure shoujo comedy/adventure aimed at early teens. The protagonist is a shy and needy girl who puts on a cool, tough front. One day she finds three eggs in her bed which hatch into guardian characters that help her transform into a magical girl. There are other good and bad young wizards whose world she now becomes part of. All that having been said, the characterization and the voice-acting are excellent. Based on one episode, this show could be a lot of fun.

And then there are a couple of shows that just don't fit any category, except perhaps that they are hoping for a female audience. Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro is a comic supernatural adventure featuring a normal girl and a demon detective who loves to eat mysteries and forces her to help him, so that she has become a famous detective simply by accompanying him. I enjoyed episode one, especially since Neuro is played by the great Koyasu Takehito, and the girl by Ueda Kana.

And Kaiji follows a lazy thief and gambler who is caught by guaranteeing a friend's gambling debt and consigned to a ship on which other similar unfortunates have to compete in a gambling game to pay off their debts. A strange, hard-edged drawing style works well here. As long as we can sympathize with the unlikeable protagonist, this show could be a trip.

As usual, I enjoy a lot of the new shows. But the only one to really stand out for me is Blue Drop: a yuri school drama with a science fiction background, directed by a man whose other show was Yukikaze, which was pure psychological science fiction, and featuring some seiyuu that are real actors.

There are some shows I haven't seen yet: the interesting-looking Hero Tales, and Kawaii Jenny, which animates actual dolls. And the highly promising Shion no Ou, Genshiken and Ghost Hound are yet to come, as is Moyashimon, which has a very weird premise, involving bacteria with personalities, I believe.