Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Some Yuuki fans already liked her singing in songs like "Platinum," a World God Only Knows character song; and "Gangnir," a song from Symphogear. But for me, those were just okay: good attempts by a seiyuu who can sing a bit.
This album, however, is a different thing altogether. It's a work of art. I've probably listened to it over 20 times and enjoy it at least as much now as the first time I heard it.
It's a dramatic concept album. The songs are from the point of view of various inhabitants of a miniature garden, part of which is an amusement park.
Ao-chan sings differently in every one, bringing her seiyuu skills to bear on creating a character and a singing style that matches the character.
She is hardly a singer of the same quality as a Takagaki Ayahi or a Hayami Saori. Her voice isn't "pretty" or trained. But she communicates, she hits the notes, she creates interesting rhythms, she can bring out the melody in a song, and she can rock out in the songs that call for it. One high note in Sugar Loop is amazing. But the main thing is that she makes an effective drama out of each song.
Anyway, here are brief samples from each track, with details and a bit of comment. The album itself can be purchased through CDJapan or YesAsia. My favorite tracks are tracks four through eight.
1.Miniature Garden Mirage ハコニワミラージュ
music/arrangement Inai Keiji 井内啓二. lyrics Nakano Aiko 中野愛子.
A little girl gazes pensively up into the sky. This gentle introductory song exposes Ao-chan's voice completely -- and it passes the test. In fact, I wish there were more songs like this with less orchestration to obscure the details of her singing.
2. Song of the Merry-go-round Horse's Tail 回転木馬としっぽのうた
music/arrangement bermei.inazawa. lyrics Iwasato Yueho 岩里祐穂.
A little cat looks around the amusement park for its mistress. In an interview, Ao-chan says she tried to get into a cat's mentality. "I sang myself into being a cat," she laughs. Ao-chan's cat voice has a funny lisp, and her rhythm and phrasing do conjure up the cute kitten. Pako-pako poko-poko, kimi wa doko? "Where are you?" Piko-piko peko-peko, boku wa neko! "I'm a cat!" Ao-chan's voice dances through a movement of feeling from puzzlement to sudden innocent self-satisfaction. Very cat-like.
In the music video of this song, Ao-chan's own little white cat is featured. Ao-chan says that she had never done a music video before, but the staff let her ask for things she wanted to appear in it and when it was done, she was amazed to see a video filled with things she liked. Even the horse's-head mask she wore at one point was her idea.
3. The Jet Coaster and the Colour of the Sky ジェットコースターと空の色
music Oonagi Itsuki 大凪樹. arrangement Oonagi Itsuki 大凪樹, Uesugi Hiroshi 上杉洋史. lyrics Iwasato Yueho 岩里祐穂.
A ride on the roller coaster. Scared, eyes closed, but hopeful and positive. This is the song on the album that I like least, but it's still pretty good. Yuuki's voice gives the song energy, even though her voice's basic harshness is too much for me here.
4. Ferris-Wheel Clock 時計観覧車
A bird with red wings sings about the "wingless kid in a red dress" who likes to ride the Ferris wheel and join him in the sky. This is one of my favorite songs on the album, a real pop song, filled with sweetness and longing by its lyrics and by Ao-chan's voice.
Yuuki was a fan of DECO*27 before she made the album, and he was a fan of hers as a seiyuu. In an interview he said he liked working with her and if he gets another chance might try just having her sing above a guitar, with less orchestration. She gives the song the motion of the Ferris wheel, he said, and enlarges the song's world.
5. Baby Dolly Alice
music/arrangement Kawada Ruka 川田瑠夏. lyrics Fujibayashi Shouko 藤林聖子
A little girl sings that she loves her blue-eyed doll Alice, and looks forward to being with her alone when her parents go out. But when thunder booms, and she needs Alice for comfort, she finds her discarded. She gathers her up and swears never to be separated from her again. Another of my favorites, which Ao-chan decided to do in a cute, high burikko voice. And what a voice, with so much colour and movement, and such expressiveness in the delivery. Cutesiness raised to an art form.
6. Sugar Loop シュガーループ
This and the next song are my favorites on the album. Here we have DECO*27's strong pop rock belted out by Ao-chan. She says she wanted to sound like a boy just before his voice broke. The lyrics are about a couple on a whirling coffee cup ride, staring across their cup at each other's smiles, the centrifugal force not pushing their hearts apart at all. In this clip you hear a wonderful high note that I was amazed Ao-chan could produce.It doesn't sound as good in a 192kbps mp3 as in the original, but you get the idea.
7. Night Parade
music bermei.inazawa. lyrics Nakano Aiko 中野愛子
And this is my other favorite track. It was the first track they recorded, and bermei.inazawa was amazed that Ao-chan could follow its complex patterns from the start, never getting lost. This is also the darkest and most dangerous track. Night falls, the gates of fairyland open, and creatures who should not be alive come parading along, beckoning her to join the eternal parade. Yuuki conveys a whiff of eery danger as she dances through the complex rhythms.
8. Sunlight on the Miniature Garden ハコニワソレイユ
music/arrangement Inai Keiji 井内啓二. lyrics Nakano Aiko 中野愛子.
And now we end back at the beginning, with Ao-chan's voice at its sweetest, against a spare background that highlights rather than concealing it. The sunlight shines on a dancer wearing a panier skirt that rises like wings. She raises her open hands to the sun.
Now, I have to add here that I doubt Ao-chan can sing nearly this well live, without the technical wizardry that probably kept her voice mostly on pitch in this album. She will appear in a Symphogear live in September with Takagaki Ayahi and Mizuki Nana. She says she will be taking vocal training all summer. In fact, vocal coach Asami Kousei 浅見昂生 is prominently credited on this album.
I'm not sure whom to credit for the success of this album, which I judge an artistic success, and which sold well enough to rank #14 for its first week on the charts. I can't tell from the credits who is really the producer of the overall album, as opposed to the creators of each track on it. And Ao-chan says they took a lot of her suggestions for the music video, but also says that by listening to this album, you learn some of what is in her mind. So perhaps she herself influenced the way the songs were written. I don't know.
Yuuki has recently mentioned that she already liked DECO*27's music, and she said the same thing a year ago. At that time, she also said she liked the Net musician hachi, and the collaboration between Rad and Bump, as well as Kanno Youko's work. She has also said she is a fan of the music-drama group Sound Horizon. Both hachi and DECO*27 use Vocaloid in their work.
Music clips are included as "fair use" of copyrighted material.