Selections of 2016: Soundtracks

Thoughts of the year: Do you end up rating soundtracks higher because you’ve watched the show or played the game? Can you truly enjoy the nuances behind the score not having known the source material beforehand?

Dorama

1. Asa ga Kuru by Ichikawa Jun
No anime-related works for Ichikawa in 2016 but he did compose this very fine soundtrack for Fuji TV drama series Asa ga Kuru (a show that nobody watched).

2. Seirei no Moribito by Sato Naoki
Kawai Kenji’s soundtrack for the Seirei anime adaptation in 2007 was quite close to perfect, Sato matches him with an epic score for the TV version.

3. Dame na Watashi ni Koishite kudasai by Dewa Yoshiaki & Habuka Yuri
Dewa has been doing quite a bit of anime work in recent years (Flying Witch, Nagi no Asu kara etc) but it’s this pop/rock-oriented soundtrack for the Fukada Kyoko-Fujioka Dean-headlining adaptation of a josei manga that really stands out.

4. Shokubutsu Zukan by Haketa Takefumi
Haketa, a long-standing favourite of mine and he often gets tapped for uplifting, heart-warming type shows and movies, which is exactly what Shokubutsu Zukan is.

Game

1. Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna [I am Setsuna] by Miyoshi Tomoki
The soundtrack from the Tokyo RPG Factory game published by Square Enix is almost entirely piano-based, with just a bit of percussion and that one chiptune track. Oh, and one vocal track featuring the wonderful kotringo. It all sounds boring on paper but Miyoshi makes the piano do exciting things.

2. Caligula by Various
A mixed instrumental-vocal soundtrack for the PS Vita RPG, featuring music by Tsukasa Masuko and songs from an army of popular Producers (40mp, Chocho P, Mikito P, Polyphonic Branch etc). Vocals are provided mainly by the seiyuu Ueda Reina. The BGMs ain’t so hot, the songs most definitely are awesome.

3. Sekaiju no Meikyuu V Nagaki Shinwa no Hate [Etrian Odyssey] by Koshiro Yuzo
A 3-disc beast from the guy who’s made some of my favouritest game OSTs ever (Streets of Rage, Shenmue, Revenge of Shinobi). This is straightforward, epic battle and beautiful fantasy world kind of music, though not as adventurous as he has been in the past.

Anime

1. Koe no Katachi by Ushio Kensuke
Read here. Soundtrack of the year. Of the decade even.

2. Battery by Senju Akira
You know what you’ll get from Senju – heart-rending, strings, violins, emotions. Which is more than a boring anime like Battery deserved….

3. Amanchu! by GONTITI
While not quite their best work, Gontiti provide enough variety to keep the listener interested. Also helps if you’ve seen the show and heard how the music fits in with the mood of the Amanchu world setting.

4. Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni by kotringo.
First track is an orchestral rendition of the melody from O Come All Ye Faithful in an anime movie? Okay, you got my attention. It’s something different from kotringo., someone who I obviously have a lot of love for. And it really is quite good.

5. Regalia The Three Sacred Stars by Takahashi Ryo
Takahashi is a newcomer to the anime soundtrack composition scene (his only previous credit was the Galko anime) and his work here is stellar, which is more than I can say of the anime’s production process.

6. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju by Shibuya Kazue
Follows up her good work on the Rakugo OVA with more jazz-centric, classical pieces.

7. Yuri!! on ICE by Umebayashi Taro & Matsushiba Taku
Such a diverse selection of music – both vocal and instrumental, both classical and contemporary, that helped bring the characters’ skating programmes to life. Some of the Engrish is a bit iffy (hi Phichit’s music) but the music is otherwise faultless. Umebayashi’s Yuri on ICE track in particular, is my vote for best anime instrumental track of 2016 – it evokes so many emotions and tells [Katsuki] Yuri’s entire life story within its 3 minutes and 40 seconds.

8. Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge by Mizutani Hiromi
Classical pieces with a European flavour – tango, pavane, waltz. A strangely good fit for a series about a boy who is too lazy to be alive.

9. orange by Tsutsumi Hiroaki
Tsutsumi’s had a great year, with Kuromukuro also another standout work of his. He’s a guitarist by trade so his soundtracks are packed with acoustic guitars, (electric) banjos and mandolins, which is a nice change from the usual strings and blings.

10. Tonkatsu DJ Agetaro by Fujiwara Daisuke
Like the cool kids would say, this soundtrack for this anime is ‘dope’. Or ‘lit’. Rainy Lenny is the chill track of 2016. I need this disc on vinyl man. Seriously speaking though, when was the last time I heard/liked a purely club/dance-oriented anime soundtrack? Maybe we’d have to go all the way back to Boogiepop Phantom from 2000(!).

Others: Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari by Hashimoto Yukari, Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions by (K)NoW_NAME, Norn9 + Nonette by Kevin Penkin, Kuromukuro by Tsutsumi Hiroaki, ClassicaLoid by Hotei Tomoyasu, tofubeats etc

Ps: of the 17 on the lists, I have watched/played 7 of them.

Refer:
Selections of 2016: Intro
Selections of 2016: 20 Favourite Anime Theme Songs
Selections of 2016: Anisong Albums

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Selections of 2016: Anisong Albums

Notes:

1/I was considering splitting off a separate category for utaite but a lot of them have gone major while still releasing doujin stuff/with circles & it’s tough to draw the lines. So I didn’t.

2/I still find it vexing that Lantis has got so many talented songwriters/sound teams working with them yet they still managed to produce so much blandness. Sampled a couple of their seiyuu artists’ stuff (Ueda Reina, Tadokoro Azusa, anything on Kiramune) and it was pretty mediocre.

3/FlyingDog’s really trying to step up and muscle in on that seiyuu idol pie with a raft of debuts in these 2 years (Aisaka, Numakura, Toyama, Shimoji) but I can’t really see how any of them are different from each other. There’s also Chisuga Haruka, and now Nakajima Megumi’s making a comeback…eh. It’s like a talent pageant trying to find the next Maaya, and they’re all second runners-up with nobody wearing the crown & holding the sceptre.

4/Of course I celebrated when Hayami Saori finally got her record deal (I did too when Hikasa Yoko and Toyama Nao did). But then they actually started putting out music and I was deflated.

On to the lists.

Artists/seiyuu/utaite
1. Crimson Stain by 96neko (sample)
A very talented utaite who made her major debut in 2016 with 2 mini albums titled Crimson Stain and 7S. You may also have heard her sing the insert song in Kagewani or featuring on Shanranran, miwa’s opening theme for Flying Witch, plus she’s performing the opening theme for the currently airing Kuzu no Honkai. Crimson Stain easily stands out as the better of her 2 minis – a very strong, cohesive set of catchy rock songs.
Faves: Crimson Stain, Gaiken to Naimen (外見と内面), Yoake to Hotaru (夜明けと蛍)

2. Kimi no Heroine ni narutakute by Mimi meme MIMI (xfade)
Read.
Faves: 1/2bunko (1/2ぶんこ), Tentekomai (天手古舞), Chachacha (チャチャチャ)

3. nowhere by Kano (sample)
Read.
Faves: Ko-so-a-do Kotonoha (こそあど言ノ葉), Ima o Kakeru Shojo (今をかける少女), Stella-rium

4. What a Wonderful World Line by fhána (xfade)
Not quite as good as Outside of Melancholy but fhána at their worst is still better than a lot of others’ best. I like them better when they’re not writing annoyingly catchy songs for anime, when they take more risks with the arrangements. There isn’t so much of that on What a Wonderful World Line, but there is a song entirely in English (Relief, which is great).
Faves: Appl(E)ication, Relief, Critique & Curation

5. TRY! by Chisuga Haruka (xfade)
Nothing flashy about Chissu’s style; she’s just got a good set of pipes and has great material to work with. I’d hope she gets an adequate amount of support in the future but…I’ll not hold my breath.
Faves: Anata no Haruka-san (あなたの春香さん), Refrain (リフレイン), Anata no Hohoemi (あなたのほほえみ)

6. M(Other) EP by sasanomaly (sample)
Read.
Faves: All songs are great!

7. Hakoniwa Dramatic by Amatsuki (xfade)
Amatsuki’s a male utaite who’s also gone major with King Records, and his records are being released in Europe via JPU Records. His style is cheery Jrock which is perfect as anime opening themes so it’s perhaps a little surprising he’s only had the one major feature in Digimon Universe. Look out for more from this talented guy in the future.
Faves: Hoshizukuyo (星月夜), Niji no Muko e (虹の向こうへ), , Nagareboshi (流れ星)

8. Spring Tracks -Haru no Uta- by ClariS (sample)
Sometimes I hear their anime themes and think -mehhh- but then you get to the albums/EPs and they’re always something special. This one here is a special spring-themed concept EP featuring one excellent original track plus covers of 4 classic Jpop tunes.
Faves: all are good!

9. Mijikayo, Inari Jinja no Hazure Nite by Kagenui Hana (xfade)
An excellent debut album by utaite Kagenui under the EXIT TUNES label, featuring covers of popular Vocaloid songs as well as a kakioroshi by Mikito-P. Kagenui is a very balanced vocalist who can go both high and low; very much looking forward to her future output.
Faves: Keshogiga (化生戯画), Shojo Fuzei (少女ふぜゐ), Astro Notes (アストロノーツ)

10. keeno song collection -feat female singer- by keeno (xfade)
Producer keeno’s songs get a shiny makeover featuring the vocals of JILLE, Shiina Hekiru and lasah – they were already good with Miku, now they’re 10 times more awesome.
Faves: fix (feat. lasah), depth (feat. JILLE), grief (feat. lasah)

Others: Innocent Age by Chihara Minori, Tsumugi no Uta by Miyashita Yu, slow light, slow glass by Annabel, Space Echo by nano.RIPE, Yume o Miru Imi by Osamuraisan

Compilations
1. ABCAS CHRONICLE by Absolute Castaway (sample)
26-track compilation of Nakae Mitsuki’s best doujin songs, with a few new re-recordings.
Faves: Konpeito Retrotica (金平糖レトロチカ), Tasogare Tonbo (黄昏トンボ), Aoi Kanariya (青いカナリヤ-Acoustic ver.-)

2. Best selection –starlight- & -sunshine- by Tomatsu Haruka (sample)
I haven’t really paid Tomatsu’s solo career much attention in the last 4-5 years, but listening back to this collection reminds me of how she’s been blessed with good songs, like the Sphere girls all have. Never mind the singing.
Faves: Hoshi no Stage (星のステージ), Nanairo Michishirube (七色みちしるべ), motto Hade ni ne! (motto☆派手にね!)

3. MD2000 ~ReLIFE Endings Songs~ by Various (sample)
Read here.

4. Utawareru Itsuwari no Kamen & Futari no Hakuoro Song Collection by Suara (sample)
The Utaware series is where Suara hit it big time and where her best material remains. New versions of Musouka and Kimigatame sweeten the deal.

Character Songs, Games, Misc etc
1. Walkure Attack by Walkure (sample)
I have no love for Macross Delta but the music, different story. With songs written by a varied army of mainstream Jpop writers…and a certain person called Aneta Umuya. I wonder who? *chortle* Attack just kind of shades Trap for me, but they’re both good.

2. Magic-Kyun! Renaissance Solo Disc 2 – Suminomiya Aoi by KENN (sample)
It was a close shave between KENN’s disc and Aoi Shota’s Disc 5 (Tsukushi Monet) but this won the day for having marginally better songs

3. Tsukiuta. Girls Series – July: Himekawa Mizuki by Ishigami Shizuka (sample)
The Tsukiuta. series’ music is very diverse thanks to the array of Producers involved and my personal favourite is Hitoshizuku x Yama △. The added bonus of course, is that their songs are performed by Ishigami Shizuka, the current love of my life.

4. Nil Admirari no Tenbin ~Teito Genwaku Kitan~ theme songs by Annabel & Suara (sample)
This otome game series (by Idea Factory) is apparently popular enough to be getting a sequel as well as an anime sometime in the future. The original, released in April 2016, got a pair of wonderful OP/ED themes: sanctuary by Annabel and Honoo no Tori by Suara.

5. Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm Vocal Album by Various (sample)
In the 2000s it was common for anime to get separate character song/vocal albums performed by anisong artists (people like Yozuca*, coorie, Hashimoto Miyuki etc) but they’re much more of a rarity nowadays since Lantis prefers to sell discs by way of having cute seiyuu idols sing. For 2016, Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm was one of the few shows that bothered, offering a nice mix of Elements Garden songs sung by Kicco, KOTOKO and Ceui.

6. Fantas/HIP Girlfriends! single versions by Various (sample)
The Keijo!!!!!!!! ending theme was performed by the four main girls and they each got their own single version that included solo renditions of Fantas/HIP Girlfriends! along with another new recording. All four (Lynn, M.A.O, Hondo Kaede and Onishi Saori) are competent singers and thankfully, they each got very good songs – Hondo’s Touch Your Heart is the pick of the bunch for me.

7. Arashi no Naka de Saku Hana by Yoshioka Aika (sample)
The OP/ED tracks from the PS Vita Hakuoki game. I guess it’d be fair to say Yoshioka’s career depends on Hakuoki remaining popular. I’ve always liked all of the franchise’s music though, so obviously I don’t mind.

Refer:
Selections of 2016: Intro
Selections of 2016: 20 Favourite Anime Theme Songs

Selections of 2016: 20 Favourite Anime Theme Songs

My list for 2016 contains many songs not traditionally considered as ‘anisong style’. Yet bands like Luck Life (along with nano.RIPE) would normally be more at home on mainstream rock labels but Lantis are snapping them up. Established acts like Bump of Chicken, Ling Tosite Sigure and Brian the Sun write songs specifically for an anime. Radwimps composed an entire anime soundtrack. Aimer is popular with fans at both ends of the spectrum. And heck, Frederic songs can even be performed by seiyuu!

So anisong is cool now. I shall stop being elitist. *repeat mantra until 2018

My non-elitist list (not necessarily in order)
1. Namae o Yobu yo. Luck Life (Bungo Stray Dogs S1 ED)
I loved how this was used in the anime, with important scenes and cliffhangers segueing into the ending via the catchy guitar riff of the song’s intro. My favourite anisong of 2016 by a country mile.

2. Hopeness. ZAQ (Kokaku no Pandora OP)
ZAQ cited Mouse on the Keys as an inspiration for this tune – the intro’s piano line was a dead giveaway.

3. Akanesasu. Aimer (Natsume Yujincho S5 ED)
A perfect song that invokes all the right feels for a show like Natsume.

4. I & I. Leola (Fune o Amu ED)
Simple, no-frills r’n’b ballad from a simple, no-frills anime about dictionary-making.

5. Genesis. Stereo Dive Foundation (Dimension W OP)
Club music is an underexplored sub-genre not just in anisong but in Jpop in general. R.O.N is as amazing as ever, he made Kyoma spastic dance!

6. Signal. TK from Ling Tosite Sigure (91Days OP)
You know TK anime songs are always gonna be epicly good.

7. Answer. BUMP OF CHICKEN (3gatsu no Lion OP1)
Something about this song just resonates with me, the way Guild (off Yggdrasil) did.

8. Refrain Boy. ALL OFF (Mob Psycho 100 ED)
I guess this was the only thing I liked about Mob Pyscho.

9. Yuuki no Tsubasa. Machico (12sai S2 ED)
Honestly did not expect to hear such an excellent slice of retro Jpop stuck in a little girls’ anime. It’s in fact, better than 95% of the tripe that inhabits the upper rungs of the Oricon chart these days…

10. DOUBLE. MAGIC OF LiFE (Joker Game ED)
I still think this should have been the opening and Quadrangle’s also quite excellent Reason Triangle the ending theme instead….

11. Million Clouds. Sakamoto Maaya (Amanchu OP)
A basic song for Maaya but sometimes, simple is best.

12. Hoshi to Tsuki no Sentence. Kitakore [Ono Daisuke & Kishio Daisuke] (B-Project ED)
Sound like a typical boy band song to you? It was written by TM Revolution (lyrics) and Shikura Chiyomaru (composition). Also, this song was looping non-stop in Animate stores when I was in Hokkaido last summer, so I can’t help it – it’s stuck in my head permanently.

13. Innocence. Lamp in Terren (Ajin: Shototsu theme)
This song is so amazing and fits the world of Ajin so well and I’m so desperately disappointed the TV anime’s second season elected to use hideous songs by the collaboration that looked good only on paper (I’m sorry, angela x fripSide. You sucked!) instead.

14. Chiisana Bokensha. Kayano Ai (Konosuba ED)
Yes I am cheating since the original song features 2 other people (Takahashi Rie and Amamiya Sora) but this version is the only one that matters.

15. Kamiiroawase. Binaria (Danganronpa 3 Zetsubo-hen OP)
Yanaginagi + Annabel dream team project returns with a major debut and an awesome song!

16. Aini. Creep Hyp (Kyokai no Rinne S2 OP2)
I’d thought they were too weird for a Takahashi Rumiko anime but it worked better than I expected. It was perfect, really.

17. Belief. May’n (Taboo Tattoo OP)
Oh heavens! I actually like a May’n song! Hell freezes over!!!

18. Love is MY RAIL. Suzuki Konomi (Ange Vierge OP)
2016 was the year I really started to appreciate Konomin. Great, great talent and so good live (even if she forgot her lyrics w)

19. Mivv Dream. Uchida Maaya (Active Raid IN)
If I could give an award for ‘lyrics of the year’, this song would win it.

20. ninelie. Aimer x Chelly (Kotetsujo no Kabaneri ED)
No matter that I can barely make out Chelly’s contribution to the song unless I really try, this is one of the iconic anisong of the year from an anime that divided viewers.

Close, but no cookie
Chronograph. Natsushiro Takaaki (Future Card Buddyfight Triple D OP1)
Kuusou Triangle. chouchou (Haruchika ED)
Be My Steady. Galaxy Standard [Miyano Mamoru, Hirakawa Daisuke, Eguchi Takuya, Suzuki Tatsuhisa, Ono Yuki, Toyonaga Toshiyuki] (Prince of Stride Alternative ED)
Rin! Rin! Hi! Hi!. Hashiguchi Kanaderiya hugs The Super Ball (Nanbaka OP)
Maybe. Brian the Sun (Amaama to Inazuma ED)
Kara no Kokoro. Anly (Naruto Shippuden OP20)
Zero Tokei. Oda Kaori (Norn9 ED)
Soul Buster. Ayane (Soul Buster OP)
Magi-Kyun! No.1. ArtiSTARs [Umehara Yuichiro, KENN, Hatano Wataru, Eguchi Takuya, Aoi Shota, Ono Yuki](Magic-Kyun Renaissance OP)
Fantas/HIP Girlfriends!. Lynn, M.A.O, Hondo Kaede, Onishi Saori (Keijo!!!!!!!! ED)

———————————————–
Refer:
Selections of 2016: Intro

Selections of 2016: Intro

Happy New Year (belatedly) to all 3.5 of my readers! It’s a fashionably late start this time, thank you Father Christmas for the festivities.

Notes:

1/The older I get, the less time I have for my many hobbies. Something’s got to give and in 2016, Korean culture was it for me. Watched very few dramas; listened to virtually no Korean music and I’m happy to report I didn’t feel like I missed anything.

2/In 2017 I hope to trim even more fat off my playlists and only listen to music that really matters to me, especially older stuff – got to rip more of those CDs to revive that forgotten series of articles about converting my collection to digital format!

3/I give up on listening to albums the years they’re released in. I still got a ton of backlogged albums that only the Lord knows when I’ll have time to listen to. Maybe I should give up on making these review posts too?

Onwards!