2017: Lists

As promised, bullet lists of my 2017 listening.

10 Korean albums

1. Epik High – We’ve Done Something Wonderful
2. IU – Palette
3. Zitten – Uni-verse
4. Red Velvet – The Red Summer
5. Glen Check – The Glen Check Experience
6. Dear Cloud – My Dear, My Lover
7. Oh Hee Jung – Short Film
8. Jonghyun – The Collection ‘Story Op.2’
9. No Reply – Beautiful
10. Fromm – REVE

10 Japanese albums

1. Luck Life – Life is Beautiful
2. la la larks – Culture Vulture
3. toconoma – Newtown
4. Evening cinema – A True Romance
5. Jyocho – Aoi Ie de Bokura Kurasu
6. Yogee New Waves – New Waves
7. Shinrizumu – Have Fun
8. Awesome City Club – Awesome City Tracks 4
9. Yoshizawa Kayoko – Yaneura Ju
10. She Is Summer – Water

15 Jpop tracks

1. Kamisama, Boku wa Kizuiteshimatta – CQCQ
2. Doughnuts Hole – Otona no Okite
3. Beverly – I Need Your Love
4. Half time Old – Outfocus
5. ShuukaRen – Love Your LIFE
6. Perfume – If you wanna
7. MAGIC OF LiFE – Senkō Hanabi
8. Nishino Kana – Girls
9. REOL – Endless Line
10. Ryokuoshakai – Mata ne
11. E-Girls – Kitakaze to Taiyō
12. Ling Tosite Sigure – DIE meets HARD
13. Che’Nelle – Destiny
14. Mili – Ikutoshitsuki
15. Silent Siren – Love Balloon

10 Anisong albums

1/ Yonezu Kenshi – BOOTLEG
2/ Annabel – Nylon Town
3/ binaria – Tsuzuri
4/ Sana –Hush a by little girl
5/ Aoi Shota – Zero
6/ Yorushika – Natsukusa ga Jama wo Suru
7/ Nishizawa Shiena – Break Your Fate
8/ Yasuno Kiyono – Namida.
9/ Sphere – ISM
10/ Tamura Yukari – Princess Limited

10 Anime Soundtracks

1. Hashimoto Yukari – 3gatsu no Lion
2. Hayashi Yūki – Ballroom e Yokoso
3. Kajiura Yuki – Princess Principal
4. Iga Takurō – Tsuki ga Kirei
5. Suehiro Kenichirō – Shōjo Shūmatsu Ryokō
6. Kevin Penkin – Made in Abyss
7. Ushio Kensuke – Devilman Crybaby
8. Evan Call – Jikan no Shihaisha
9. Ōshima Michiru – Haikara-san ga Tooru Pt.1
10. Yokoyama Masaru – Kabukibu!

20 Anisong themes

1. DAOKO x Yonezu Kenshi – Uchiage Hanabi (Fireworks theme song)
2. DAOKO x Okumura Yasuyuki – Step-Up Love (Kekkai Sensen & Beyond ED)
3. Yonezu Kenshi – Peace Sign (Boku no Hero Academia S2 OP)
4. Hayami Saori – Yume no Hate made (Haikara-san ga Tooru theme song)
5. ONE III NOTES – Shadow and Truth (ACCA13 OP)
6. GRANRODEO – move on! Ibara Michi (Saiyuki Reload Blast OP)
7. ORESAMA – Trip Trip Trip (Mahoujin Guruguru OP1)
8. ZAQ – Last Proof (Trinity Seven movie theme)
9. WEAVER – Dakara Boku wa Boku o Tebanasu (Sagrada Reset OP2)
10. Nakajima Megumi – Saturday Night Question (Net-jū no Susume OP)
11. angela – Zenryoku Summer! (Aho Girl OP)
12. SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Tielle & Gemie – gravityWall (Re:Creators OP1)
13. Kanda Sayaka – Ubiquitous dB (Sword Art Online Ordinal Scale IN)
14. Flower – Taiyō no Elegy (Shōkoku no Altair ED1)
15. YURiKA – Kyōmen no Namida (Hōseki no Kuni OP)
16. Luna Haruna – KIRAMEKI Lifeline (Urahara ED)
17. Isobe Karin, Yoshino Yuna, Lynn – behind (Just Because! ED)
18. Yasuno Kiyono – Chiisana Hitotsubu (Isekai Shokudō ED)
19. Aimer – Hana no Uta (Fate/stay night Heaven’s Feel: Presage Flower ED)
20. Luck Life – Refrain (Saiyuki Reload Blast ED)

10 Other Ani(artist) songs, charasongs, mixed-media, games, c/w tracks etc

01. Saito Soma – Yoake wa Mada
02. Kokia – Nostalgia [Yūkyū no Tierblade Fragments of Memory OP]
03. Kokia – Kimi ga Iru kara Tsuyoku nareru yo [Yūkyū no Tierblade Fragments of Memory ED]
04. Masuda Toshiki – iNiTiaTiVe [Dear Vocalist]
05. Taichi Yō – Under the Moonlight [Princess Principal charasong]
06. Kalafina – Tonbo [Hyakka Ryōran c/w]
07. Tomatsu Haruka – Anata no Shiawase ni Watashi ga nareru nara [Uchōten Traveler c/w]
08. Inoue Marina – Far Away [Shingeki no Kyojin charasong – Armin Arlert]
09. fhána – Que Sera Sera ~Pontochō ver~ [Moon River c/w]
10. Uchida Maaya – c.o.s.m.o.s

The English stuff gets its own post, up next.

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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

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

Ushio Kensuke – Koe no Katachi Original Soundtrack

This one has (anime) soundtrack of the year written all over it; a thing of real beauty. Musician Ushio Kensuke is better known by his solo project name agraph, and he is also a member of the electronica supergroup LAMA as well as performing support duties for Denki Groove. Koe no Katachi is his second anime soundtrack work following 2014’s excellent Ping Pong the Animation.

For Koe no Katachi we’re similarly blessed with two discs’ worth of greatness; a mix of playful electropop and minimalist ambient. The quiet moments obviously outnumber the upbeat ones given the pensive nature of the Koe no Katachi story but it’s never any less…amazing? Fascinating? Sublime? Not sure there are any adjectives adequate to describe the music.

Do yourself a favour, grab the OST on Amazon.

Sangatsu no Phantasia

The Kiznaiver anime’s ending theme is performed by Sangatsu no Phantasia, yet another doujin supergroup to have emerged in recent times. Consisting of:

Vocalist: Mia
Illustrators: Asami Natsu, loundraw, bob
Composers: Scop, n-buna, Yuuyu, 40mp, buzzG

Mia is a new vocalist of whom little is known. The composers are all Vocaloid producers. 40mp I have mentioned quite a few times before already, he’s got a pretty extensive credits list. Yuuyu is one half of smileY inc. alongside Otsubo Yuka, buzzG released a major album via Victor in 2011, the other 2 have been active producers. For the illustrators check out the pretty things they draw at:

Asami Natsu (pixiv, Twitter, tumblr)
loundraw (Twitter, tumblr)
bob (pixiv, Twitter, tumblr)


Sangatsu no Phantasia started life in August last year with day break, a scop song. You can check out their Youtube channel to see the videos they released before they signed a major record deal. Personal favourites of mine are 青に水底 (n-buna), video above, and 星の涙 (40mp). No links to their new videos cos yeah Sony is a bitch and region-locks their YT stuff.

The first single is okay but it is kind of telling that 花に夕景, the best song of the three, is a 40mp original. はじまりの速度is composed by ARCHITECT (Nagi Yanagi etc) with lyrics by Okada Mari (yeah her) while the other c/w track キミといた夏 is puzzlingly, a contribution by toku from GARNiDELiA.

It’s kind of a double-edged sword to have all these doujin folks going major – Sangatsu no Phantasia released はじまりの速度 (Hajimari no Sokudo) with Ki/oon (Sony Music Entertainment sub). I’m all for mainstream peeps getting to find out more about these talented people but I really do hope that what makes their music good doesn’t get hammered out of them for the sake of corporate yen.

Selections of 2015: Anime Soundtracks

Felt a little spoilt for choice this year and had a bit of trouble whittling things down a bit. I wouldn’t say that any of the 10 was outstandingly head and shoulders above the rest but they were each good in their own way. As usual, I can’t fathom the love for Sawano Hiroyuki ;;;

1.Ryo Kunihiko – Akatsuki no Yona (sample)
Obviously he’s one of my favourite composers of all-time so I’ll gratefully take whatever he offers up. Not quite 12 Kingdoms’ God-tier level, but pretty close.

2.Hec to Pascal – Hana to Alice Satsujin Jiken (sample)
A partial reworking of director Iwai Shunji’s soundtrack for the live-action film Hana to Alice that this movie was based on.

3.Kameoka Natsumi – Kantai Collection (sample)
I was expecting a recycled game OST but instead we get a whole new, lovely orchestral score from one of my new favourite composers.

4.Kato Tatsuya – Shokugeki no Soma (sample)
I wasn’t ever a fan of Kato’s earlier works but Soma has gotten my attention. It’s typical OTT shonen fare and I thought it went well with the series.

5.Iwashiro Taro – Arslan Senki (sample)
Let not the gloom and doom bother you, for it is a soundtrack of much grandeur.

6.Shibue Kana – Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju (sample)
The anime is set in the 60s-70s and features music across a wide spectrum – shamisen-centric pieces used as background music for rakugo, taiko music, blues, jazz and a couple of lighter pop tunes. Shibue Kana is a newcomer, aged just 24 and a jazz pianist who’s starting to compose her own music. Looking forward to more of her works!

7.Shiina Go – God Eater (sample)
Carrying on his good work from the games.

8.kotringo – Kofuku Graffiti (sample)
I hope we see more of this trend in the future – indie/pop musicians composing anime soundtracks. Clammbon’s mito is another one who did that in 2015, working on Kokosake.

9.Oshima Michiru – Rokka no Yuusha / Akagami no Shirayukihime (sample)
Neither show has an OST release proper as yet but just too good to not list.

10.Rasmus Faber – Gakusen Toshi no Asterisk (sample)
What did the show do in its past life to deserve such a soundtrack?

Other notables:
S.E.N.S Project – Ore Monogatari!!, Matsuda Akito – Hibike! Euphonium, Monaca team (Okabe Keiichi, Takada Ryuichi, Ishihama Kakeru) – Garo, Hijiri Anze – Hybrid Child

Refer:
Selections of 2015: Intro
Selections of 2015: SM Edition
Selections of 2015: 20 Favourite Anime Theme Songs
Selections of 2015: Anisong Albums

Selections of 2015: Anisong Albums

Albums selection is split into 3 categories this year. There should’ve been a fourth for Image Song/Character Song CDs…if there was actually anything worth putting in it.

Doujin/Utaite
So many utaite and doujin musicians are crossing over into mainstream anisong these days which is great ‘cos by and large, they make better music. Or rather, music that suits my tastes better.

1.sasanomaly – Obake to Omocha Hako (sample)
sasanomaly is the performing name for the producer nekobolo and he’s made a great album featuring remakes of his older material that used Hatsune Miku, plus a new song.

2.Kano – Merry (sample)
This album has been out 4 days, so does it warrant a spot here? I’d certainly like to think so. Certainly, I am relieved Kano is continuing her doujin activities despite signing a major deal with Warner Bros this year that led to single releases tied into Houkago no Pleiades and Heavy Object. Merry has Kano covering a bunch of popular Vocaloid tracks incluing Milkcrown on Sonnetica and Ballerico.

3.yuiko – Point. (sample)
She’s been getting more and more involved in mainstream works – recent credits include Afilia Saga, Show by Rock and Rhodanthe*, but rather thankfully her doujin output is still as fantastic as ever.

4.nameless x toa – 212 (sample)
nameless is a relatively new utaite on the scene and 212 is her first proper release in collaboration with the Producer toa, where she covers songs first recorded using Miku.

5.753 x ABSOLUTE CASTAWAY (Shimotsuki Haruka x Nakae Mitsuki) – Another Flower II (sample)
Two of my fave doujin vets collaborate on the excellent Mirage as well as cover each other’s songs. Shimotsukin doing Konpeito Retrotica is just to die for…

Other notables: 40mp – 1.7m, Hanatan – Flower Rail

Mainstream
1.Aimer – Dawn (sample)
I rarely find animusic ‘moving’ – the last time was probably when Okazaki Ritsuko was still alive. Aimer’s music is a step above that, especially when heard live – her voice has power to shake you to the core.

2.fhána – Outside of Melancholy (sample)
Read here.

3.Horie Yui – World End no Niwa (sample)
Read here.

4.Sawai Miku – Yuutsu Biyori. (sample)
Read here.

5.CHiCO with Honeyworks – Sekai wa i ni Michiteiru (sample)
I really like the band’s work with CHiCO (as opposed to with Sana) and this album is perfect pop-rock that appeals to the anisong and mainstream crowd alike. It’s amazing to see how popular Haniwa have gotten (almost 40k copies of the album sold!), and I’m really excited to see how much further they can push on what with their movie hitting in a couple of months’ time.

Other notables: Suara – Koe, Ito Kanako – REACTOR, Shoujo Byou – Kyousei Meridie

Compilations
1.H△G – Everlasting Night of Teenage Girls (sample)
Digital “best of” that features the same old songs, but now they’re available on iTunes worldwide! Maybe the next big thing?

2.Various – MEKAKUCITY M’s COMPLETE BOX (sample)
Technically the whole set is a soundtrack: 4 discs with 2 insert song CDs and 2 of the actual soundtrack but it’s the vocal songs that rule. Great covers/collabs of Jin songs by a bunch of very talented people.

3.Kuwashima Houko – Chronicle (sample)
The impossible happened – a revival of Hou-chan’s music career, albeit on a temporary basis in celebration of her 20th year seiyuu anniversary. Chronicle is a 3-disc compilation of her singles, chara songs and covers – a real fun ride for long-time fans.

Next up, soundtracks.

Refer:
Selections of 2015: Intro
Selections of 2015: SM Edition
Selections of 2015: 20 Favourite Anime Theme Songs

Selections of 2015: 20 Favourite Anime Theme Songs

As usual, in no particular order.

1.Spice. Tokyo Karankoron (Shokugeki no Soma ED1)
I’m always hyper suspicious when my favourite bands start having their songs used in anime but this proved a greater fit for Shokugeki than I ever would’ve imagined.

2.Korekara. Sakamoto Maaya (Tamayura ~Sotsugyo Sashin~ theme)
This is the first time Maaya’s composed a song for an anime and though she actually wrote it with her anniversary performance at Saitama Super Arena in mind, it does actually fit the show’s mood quite well. A song to connect the past and the future, Korekara takes on added poignancy after Matsuki Miyu’s passing.

3.Mikazuki. Sayuri (Rampo Kitan ED)
Great, great song. Shame about the anime.

4.Miiro. AKINO from Bless4 (Kancolle OP)
This song has been my ringtone for most of 2015!

5.SKY5. Avaivartika (Nihon Animator Mihonichi – Soko kara no Ashita)
Read here.

6.Rakuen Made. Uchida Maaya (Charlotte ED2)
The show was crappier than CR’s sub (Shisogapo, cough) but this one song was the one saving grace.

7.Harmonious Clover. Kurosaki Maon (Gakkou Gurashi! ED1)
Happy song about zombies.

8.Yoru no Kuni. Annabel (Gangsta ED)
Stereo Dive Foundation meets Annabel = Heaven.

9.ailes. TRUE (Junketsu no Maria ED)
Karasawa’s move into anisong was somewhat surprising but she’s been putting in a good shift this year with writing work on a number of popular titles from Aldnoah Zero to Euphonium to Shokugeki no Soma. The song that kicked off 2015 for her is still my favourite though – an underrated song from an underrated show.

10.CANDY MAGIC. Mimi meme MIMI (Yamada-kun to Shichinin no Majo ED)
Where Takao Yuki tries to write Supercell and does exceptionally well.

11.Ultra Super Hyper Miracle Romantic. Iguchi Yuka & Izawa Mikako (Valkyrie Drive ED)
Welcome to 2015’s annoying earworm.

12.Embrace Blade. Afilia Saga (Taimado Gakuen 35 Shiken Shotai OP)
I guess I’m partial to a bit of idol song every once in a while and this is my pick for 2015.

13.Asayake no Starmine. Imai Asami (Plastic Memories ED)
Another show where the ED song saved me from smashing cups after every episode.

14.Arashi no Ato de. Galileo Galilei (Taifu no Noruda ED)
I think the song fit the show perfectly. It’s also one of their better songs in recent times (compared to the subpar Climber…)

15.Ouka Ranman. KEYTALK (Rinne OP1)
There were so many great pop-rock songs being used as themes for the shonen-oriented anime – Gintama had bucketloads of them for example, but KEYTALK won the day (or should that be the year?) with another helping of their fantastic showa-kayo rock.

16.Tenkuu ni Mau Tori yo. yanagi nagi (Arslan Senki IN)
I was half-expecting Maaya to sing the in-show songs..but I’m not complaining. nagi’s had a year of many memorable anime themes and this is the grandest of them all.

17.Hanamaru Pippi wa Yoiko dake. AouP (Osomatsu-san OP)
Everything about Osomatsu-san caught me off-guard – it was so good in so many ways, including this fun, retro-styled opening theme.

18.Hoshikuzu no Sunadokei. Hattori Takayuki presents GUNDAM THE ORIGIN feat. Yu-yu (GUNDAM THE ORIGIN theme)
A song of beauty.

19.Sugar Song to Bitter Step. UNISON SQUARE GARDEN (Kekkai Sensen ED)
Kekkai Sensen turned out to be a slightly overindulgent, chuunibyou-anime-for-adults but it was hella fun, as were its theme songs.

20.Hangeki no Daichi. Kaji Yuki, Taniyama Kisyo & Ishikawa Yui (Shingeki! Kyojin Chuugakkou ED)
Chee-Han! Chee-Han!

It was tough to narrow the list down to 20 this year – my initial list was twice as long. Some of those that missed the cut:
Brave Shine by AIMER (FSN UBW OP2), Shiawase no Kaerimichi by Ueno Yuka (Wakakozake OP), Ienai Ienai by Hilcrhyme (Jitsu wa Watashi wa ED), Kimi wa Soleil by Wakeshima Kanon (Strike the Blood OVA ED), Shuumatsu no Love Song. Mizuki Nana (Cross Ange ED2), Saigo Made II by Aqua Timez (Gintama S3 ED2), Harmonious by Amamiya Sora (Aldnoah Zero Ep23 ED), FLYING FAFNIR by Trustrick (Juuou Mujin no Fafnir OP), Overdrive by Harada Hitomi (Valkyrie Drive OP)

…I’d better stop.

Refer:
Selections of 2015: Intro
Selections of 2015: SM Edition

10 Favourite Anime Composers

Voted on this a few weeks ago, posting my list here for posterity’s sake.

1.Kajiura Yuki
Still the meister for me.

2.Ichikawa Jun (市川 淳)
Yeah it’s one year++ since Ichikawa’s work on Mitsuwano caught my ear and I’ve been busy digging into his archives since then. Hinata no Aoshigure’s soundtrack is a particular favourite, as is the OST for dorama Fuyu no Sakura.

3.Nanase Hikaru / Itou Masumi
The RDG soundtrack & Natsuiro Kiseki’s image album was great.

4.Sasago Shigeharu (Choro Club, ko-ko-ya)
I didn’t think I’d ever be putting Sasago on such a list but I guess he’s done enough anime-related work at this point to warrant a spot. Choro Club has always been a favourite of mine with or without the ARIA association, and Sasago’s involvement with ko-ko-ya (Croisee, Ristorante Paradiso) seals the deal further.

5.Oshima Michiru
As consistent as ever in output and quality.

6.Ryo Kunihiko/Yang Bang-Ean
He’s certainly not prolific, seemingly preferring to spend time producing commercial jingles and directing music for the Sochi Olympics and Pyeongchang handover ceremony. But he has recently done soundtracks for Akatsuki no Yona and the movie Again -28nenme no Koshien-.

7.Kato Tatsuya
Kato’s one of the younger guns and he’s been doing quite a lot of work of late, some of which has been very good. Like Shokugeki no Soma.

8.Matsuda Akito (Nijine)
Name change but he’s still the same. Euphonium guy.

9.Anze Hijiri
Anime or not? Arranger or composer? He did do BL show Hybrid Child (great stuff) this year but mostly operates in video games.

10.Kameoka Natsumi
Randomly discovered Kameoka through the soundtrack for VN Ken no Kimi and was delighted to hear her stellar work continue on the Kancolle anime. She’s an orchestrator so her works are obviously heavy on the strings – check out her official site for more examples.

On the cusp: Hamaguchi Shiro, Yamashita Kosuke, Hashimoto Yukari

The last time the poll was held in 2010, my top 10 was:

1.Kajiura Yuki
2.Nanase Hikaru
3.Oshima Michiru
4.Muramatsu Ken
5.Mitsumune Shinkichi
6.Ryo Kunihiko
7.Nijine
8.Fujita Junpei
9.Okubo Kaoru
10.Anze Hijiri