Music Japan – Shinseiki Anisong Special 4
Last year, some of you may recall that I posted live performances by May’n and Nakagawa Shoko from NHK’s Music Japan program. Those were actually a part of the third “New Century Anime Song Special”, and just over a week ago on January 16th, the fourth half-hour special was aired. The filming of the live event at NHK Hall actually took place back on November 22nd and featured more songs than were televised; however, of the ones shown, there was a special collaboration between Mizuki Nana and May’n that I caught wind of just a couple of weeks ago. All it took was mention of a rare duet of Macross Frontier’s “Diamond Crevasse” ending theme to get me eagerly anticipating this special, which also featured a bunch of good anime songs from both past and present. This includes the last live performance by Angel Beats’ Girls Dead Monster, where both marina (Iwasawa) and LiSA (Yui) took to the stage together. If you’re like me and enjoy seeing anime songs that you’ve heard from your favorite series performed live, then be sure to check out the videos after the break.
Tegami Bachi REVERSE ED1
The first performance featured was by a relatively new artist named Piko, whose singing voice will surprise just about everyone since he’s 100% male. I’ll be the first to admit that when I heard “Wasurenagusa” as the ending theme to Tegami Bachi REVERSE last season, I was completely convinced that I was listening to a female artist. It was only about a month ago when I saw the music video for the song did I realize otherwise. Quite frankly, I’d be hard-pressed to imagine that any unsuspecting listener wouldn’t be fooled by the amazingly feminine voice that he still has at the age of 22 (DOB: 1988-03-11). Impressive would be an understatement whether you care for the androgynous vibe or not, as is the fact Piko got noticed posting covers of songs on the Japanese streaming video site, Nico Nico Douga. It was there that he was dubbed “Ryouseirui” 「両声類」, meaning that he has a singing voice of both sexes. Lately, it’s been pretty clear that the online approach is much more effective than the street performance one, as more and more aspiring singers and composers are making it big through anime (e.g. Supercell and now MARiA).
Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A’s OP
In case there’s any doubt, Ono Daisuke did do the narration for this special, and his voice can be heard introducing the special collaboration between Mizuki Nana and May’n. The first song they performed together was Nana’s 2005 hit, ETERNAL BLAZE, which rose to the No. 2 spot on the weekly Oricon charts after it was released. It was her first single to rise so high, before her seventh album Ultimate Diamond in 2009 debuted at No. 1, making her the first voice actress to ever reach the No. 1 position in the weekly album or single charts since Oricon’s inception in 1968. It’s easy to overlook how much Nana’s achieved in her music career when she fits so seamlessly into anime as another seiyuu, but she is without the doubt the pinnacle of female anisong singers. There’s a reason why she’s a mainstay at Animelo Summer Live, the biggest annual anime song concert in Japan. For fans of Lyrical Nanaho, this song will be quickly remembered as the opening theme to Nanoha A’s, a series where Nana co-starred in as Fate Testarossa. May’n is undoubtedly the “junior” by far and large in this special collaboration, but she does an amazing job in this duet with Nana.
Macross Frontier ED1
As Nana is the pinnacle of female anisong singers, the thought has crossed my mind on what it would be like if she were cast to sing the songs for the franchise that’s all about music — Macross. Her success as an artist and a seiyuu makes it seem like she would’ve been the perfect candidate to play the “Galactic Fairy” Sheryl Nome in Macross Frontier, though I gather casting her in that role would’ve made the universe implode on itself or something. After all, if we’re talking about the Lynn Minmay of the anime world, Nana would probably be it. This short duet of Macross Frontier’s love ballad only went on to reiterate that she’d be a perfect for a lead songstress role, as her voice fits beautifully in this song. Naturally, May’n deserves all the credit in the world, setting the standard that I’m comparing Nana’s rendition to. While a lot of artists perform duets with Nana at the aforementioned Animelo Summer Live, I’m quite amazed by how well this pairing’s voices compliment one another. In the past three years, May’n's also become a regular at the event, so perhaps we’ll hear their version of “Lion” in the future. No disrespect to Nakajima Megumi who also sings really well, but that would be utterly awesome to see and hear.
Senjou no Valkyria 3 Theme Song
In hindsight, it’s easy for me to say that I would’ve loved to see a Macross Frontier version with Mizuki Nana, except that would’ve prevented May’n from resparking her music career and becoming a prominent anisong singer of her own in recent years. Since Macross Frontier, this 21-year-old has shown that she can perform with the best of them, and the Macross F Galaxy Tour FINAL concert she performed at Budokan with Megumi was a prime example. I never heard her song “If You So Wish” prior to this special, but I was immediately taken back by how powerful the vocals in it are. It starts off slow, before coming to life and showcasing May’n's vocal range. I found myself looping this performance over and over again, suggesting that I should really check out her second album “if you…” coming out on February 23rd. As noted, it’s the theme song for the upcoming Senjou no Valkyria 3 (a.k.a. Valkyria Chronicles III) PSP game slated for release on January 27th. While I don’t know how well the song suits the game, I can easily say it suits my ears. This is worth many listens.
Rozen Maiden ~ traumend OP
If there’s an artist whose music I can’t quite seem to appreciate most of the time, it would be ALI PROJECT’s with their dark and mysterious style. They adopt an unusual Japanese Aristocrat-style and a lot of times their songs aren’t that pleasant to listen to — something that I’m “ignorantly convinced” is entirely on purpose to distinguish their type of music. Be that as it may, there are still a handful of ALI PROJECT songs that I like, and the opening theme to Rozen Maiden ~ traumend is one of them. Their group is actually a mainstay in the anisong sphere as well, and they’ve performed at almost Animelo Summer Live concert since its exception (save the first one). Vocalist Takarano Arika is very capable of singing “normally” much like I’ve heard her during those concerts, which is probably a cakewalk for her compared to the ALI PROJECT songs she sings. If there’s one thing that I can always appreciate about their music, it’s the complexity of it. “Seishoujo Ryouiki” performed here is less so, and that may be why I actually like it.
Super Robot Wars OG: The Inspector OP
Of course, if we’re going to talk about anime music at all, it’s obligatory to have the very group that has it in their name, Japanese Anisong Makers Project. The group was founded by the very famous and highly-prolific 1970 theme song artist Mizuki Ichirou, and is now comprised of various other big name anime, video game, and “tokusatsu” music artists. Of those, co-founding member Kageyama Hironobu is undoubtedly the most popular, earning the name “Prince of Anime/Tokusatsu Songs” back in the day. He’s really well-known for singing the songs in Dragon Ball Z, namely “Cha La Head Cha La” and “We Gotta Power”, and has flown to various countries around the world to perform them. Even now, JAM Project are the go-to guys for super robot and “sentai” music, which is why you see Endou Masaaki singing parody songs for Mitsudomoe and Fukuyama Yoshiki for Mayoi Neko Overrun, the latter of whom also sang all of Nekki Basara’s songs in Macross 7. In addition to Kitadani Hiroshi, rounding out the regular members is the only woman with the “credentials” to sing with these guys, Okui Masami.
Having sung anime music all her career and serving as a producer for Animelo, Masami in conjunction with JAM Project is synonymous with the big annual summer event and Super Robot Wars’ theme songs. Admittedly, I didn’t think too much of “MAXON” when I heard it as the opening theme to Super Robot Wars OG: The Inspector, but I was blown away by this live performance of it. It starts out accappella style and sounds like a choir before they take it to the skies and MAX THE POWER! Those following SRWOG will know that it’s the show if you some testosterone-pumping manliness, and this group of 40-year-olds shows us just why that is. No matter how I look at it, “awesome” is an understatement. (Revolving Stake!)
Angel Beats! INS
I originally wasn’t aware that Girls Dead Monster was at this Music Japan special, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw “marina/LiSA” in parentheses after their name. This is also the first time I’ve ever seen marina before, who hasn’t garnered nearly as much attention as LiSA after Yui took over as the vocalist for the band in the series. Along with the all-girls band performing here, LiSA was featured in the music videos for Little Braver and Day Game, and is likely the main vocalist writer/composer Maeda Jun had in mind all along. Or at least, that’s what the surprise announcement by LiSA about her solo debut this spring seems to suggest.
As the last live event for “Gldemo” before they cease activities under that name, it sure didn’t disappoint. A never-before heard duet that we weren’t privy to in the anime, along with a shower of meal tickets to replicate Operation Tornado. The latter almost had the same surreal effect despite the lack of sparkling, plus each of the pieces of paper had “Beef Udon: 300 yen” printed on them to look like actual meal tickets. Personally, I would’ve put “Mapo Tofu” in tribute to Tenshi, but how’s that for attention to detail? In addition to Crow Song, there were performances of Alchemy and Day Game that were unfortunately left out of the televised special. Surprisingly, there was no Thousand Enemies performance either, which I figured would’ve been the most meaningful as the song Iwasawa left behind for Yui.
Shining Force Cross (Arcade ver.) Theme Song
The honors for closing out the concert went to Nana with her performances of two songs, “Juujika no Spread” and “NEXT ARCADIA”. Only the theme song for Sega’s 2009 Shining Force Cross arcade game was included in the television program, but “Juujika no Spread” is notable since it’s the fourth track on her 2010 Phantom Minds single (opening theme to the Nanoha movie). It was her 21st single and the first one to reach No. 1 in the Oricon charts, making Nana the first and only seiyuu to have both an album and a single at No. 1. She really does it all, with the only real downside being that I don’t get to hear her in more anime roles. A powerful voice as always and she has the perfect image and personality to be an anime idol.
Compared to the third Music Japan Anisong Special, there were a lot more songs in this latest one that I was either familiar with or took an instant liking to. The only performance that I didn’t include in this post was Kudou Mayu’s “HeartCatch Paradise”, the ending theme to HeartCatch PreCure. It’s not a song I’m familiar with so I didn’t really have much to say about it. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the other performances as much as I did, along with whatever insight into the artists I was able to provide (if any).