ALI PROJECT to release Best-Of Album this June

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ALI PROJECT has been around for quite some time. A very long time, in fact. My first exposure to them was in listening to “Coppelia no Hitsugi” (“Coppelia’s Coffin”) on the Noir soundtrack. From there, this duet of Arika Takarano and Mikiya Katakura have gone on to lend their voices to many a well-known anime series including Rozen Maiden, with “Kinjirareta Asobi” (also known as “Forbidden Game”) and “Baragaku Otome”, and Code Geass, with “Yuukyou Seishunka”. More recently, they’ve released their latest single, “HimikoGaiden”, a song which seems to fuse Middle Eastern musical flavors with their trademark ethereal gothic lolita sound and costuming (seen below):

A history that dates back 25 years is a lot of history to go through. And to celebrate all that, the duo will release a best-of album this June. On top of that, they’re also planning a series of performances in Chiba, Nagoya, and Osaka, Japan.

As of now, no details of which tracks made the cut have been released. It’s probably a given that their better-known anime songs will be present, which should delight the fans of their drawn-out gothic lolita body of work. With that said though, I haven’t kept up with their performances or releases since 2009, so let me know which notable tracks they’ve released since then!

AniSong World Matsuri has Yousei Teikoku Performance at Otakon

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Last year, Anime Expo started the concept of the AniSong World Matsuri, where many anime artists would be given the chance to perform in concerts around the world. Last year’s Anime Expo featured the likes of Eir Aoi, the Love Live girl band Aqours, Luna Haruna, JAM Project, and Lia. With that, the concept has expanded this year with performances at Anime Expo (once more), Shanghai, and Otakon.

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It is at Otakon that Yousei Teikoku will be added as a performer, along with the likes of JAM Project, FLOW, and T.M.Revolution. The band started up in 1997 with Yui Itsuki on vocals and from there, they have gone on to perform music that puts together a unique blend of heavy metal, classical, and techno to go with their gothic lolita stylings.

On the anime front, Yousei Teikoku has done the vocal themes for anime like Katanagatari, Kurokami, and Future Diary‘s “Kuusou Mesologie”. More recently, their works include Big Order‘s opening theme “DISORDER” and “Kyuusei Argyros” for Tokyo ESP and they’ll have a new single coming out on May 31st.

Although Yousei Teikoku has more recently begun performing overseas, this will be their first visit to Otakon. But not the US though since they’ve shown up in Texas, Boston, and Vegas in the past.

Anime Music Companies Announce ANiUTa Music Streaming Service

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After what seems like forever, the anime music industry has gotten their heads together and have finally come up with an anime music streaming service with over 50,000 tracks. The service, called ANiUTa, features a collaboration between the record labels FlyingDog, Inc., avex pictures inc., Frontier Works Inc., Kadokawa Corporation, Lantis Co., Ltd, Marvelous Inc., PONY CANYON INC., SUNRISE Music Publishing Co., Ltd., TOEI ANIMATION MUSIC PUBLISHING CO., LTD., and TOHO CO., LTD, covering a major chunk of the anime music publishing industry. Anime that will prominently be featured on streaming service includes hits like Attack on Titan, Free!, Genesis of Aquarion, Girls und Panzer, K-On!, Kantai Collection, Love Live!, Lucky Star, Macross Frontier, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Wake Up, Girls!, and Yuri!!! on ICE. On top of anime music, their lineup also includes music from games, superhero productions, and even Vocaloid.

The reason why I say this is a long time coming is because, aside from a few pieces of anime music and songs scattered over on Spotify, it’s pretty hard to find that stuff online. YouTube is decent for that, but if you’re looking for any OP/ED theme, you’re more likely than not to hit upon some horrible Nightcore version of the same song or a slightly sped up version to evade the content ID filters. You can also try going on some online anime music radio station to get your fix, but having a service with music on demand is better if you’re picky and like to curate your own playlists like I do.

The service does come with a price tag. Right now, the monthly subscription cost comes out to about 600 yen ($5USD). Paid users will have access to all tracks and special perks like pre-sale concert tickets and and exclusive items. If you’re a free user, you’d be able to search their catalog and listen to samples.

So far, it’s only available in Japan, but the plan is to roll it out worldwide within a year.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Opening Reaches 5 Million Views on YouTube

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Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid has been generating waves in the anime community this season, most notably for its cute characters crammed into a comedy anime that focuses upon Kobayashi and Tohru, a dragon from another world who decides to live with Kobayashi as a maid and, in the process, bringing more dragons to the yard.

But as good as the show is, there’s something to be said for its opening theme, “Rhapsody of Blue Sky”, sung by anison veteran Towana, who performs as the lead singer for fhána. The opening theme has caught their audience’s attention with its music and its shenanigans, bringing in over 5 million YouTube views in less than 3 months. Here’s a look at “Rhapsody of Blue Sky’s” music video:

Between the exuberant “CHU CHU YEAH” introduction and the overblown cheeriness, it’s kind of easy to see why this video managed to catch on. Just like the animated version, there’s a lot of energy and in the video, it’s through fhána’s Towana, who dances her way through the first stanza (somewhat expressionless countenance aside), before letting the blond sampler, Kevin Mitsunaga, to steal the show with his expressions and his moves as he grooves right along. The only way this video could have been better is if they maintained that scene in the anime’s opening visuals where people are spinning upwards.

With this success, “Rhapsody of Blue Sky” has risen to beat out all other videos to become the #1 most-viewed video on Lantis’s YouTube channel, beating out the myriad of Love Live videos that have seemingly been their mainstay.

Yuri on Ice Soundtrack Reviews

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Yuri on Ice went on to dazzle us with its energy, its paean to ice skating, and the development of its characters. However, none of that could have been accomplished without the music which not only captured the ice skating routines’ visual artistry, but also touches upon some of the characters’ struggles as they strive to become a champion.

When we reviewed the Yuri on Ice soundtrack, we saw it as an album that was very diverse and packed a lot of character. Where else would one find an album so wonderfully crafted, with such diverse fare as classical, opera, R&B, electronica, and jazz could coexist? It’s an album that is very nearly perfect and one that comes highly recommended.

On top of that, we also took a shot at seeing how well reviews could be done in video form. Our very own zzeroparticle took a stab at it, so let him know what you think about it. We’d love to hear some feedback about whether this is a format that could work in the future and what you’d like to see from it.

Thanks for sticking with us! Hope to see you around.

Amanchu!’s Anime Music Is A Mixed Batch

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One of the more enjoyable anime from last season was Amanchu!, a show about two girls, Teko and Pikari, who immerse themselves into the world of scuba diving. The anime itself is sourced from the Kozue Amano manga of the same name and is directed by Junichi Sato. The music also highlights composers and singers new and old, and I’ve gotten a chance to review Amanchu!‘s music in the latest batch. Here’s the rundown of my thoughts if you’re curious:

  • Amanchu! Original Soundtrack – I was actually hyped for Amanchu!‘s soundtrack when I discovered that the music would be composed by Gontiti, the acoustic guitar duo that did an excellent job with Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. Amanchu!‘s music proved to be pleasant, but the biggest sticking point is that it just wasn’t memorable enough. Laid-back acoustic guitar music can only take you so far, and without more compelling themes to drive it along, won’t lead to any sort of life-changing experience.
  • Amanchu!’s Opening Theme: Million Clouds by Maaya Sakamoto – I fell in love with “Million Clouds” when I first heard this. Maaya Sakamoto’s voice is crisp and clear, with all the serenity in the initial stanzas before bursting into an infectious exuberance that speaks to the thrill of discovery and takes you all the way to the end. Definitely one of Maaya Sakamoto’s stronger works.
  • Amanchu!’s Ending Theme: Futari Shoujo – This ending theme basically plays to the characters who sing it. In “Futari Shoujo”, we see Ai Kayano and Eri Suzuki, the two voice actresses for Teko and Pikari, respectively sing a song about friendship. Ai Kayano, who sings first, has a shy, quiet voice that matches Teko’s character while Eri Suzuki’s delivery is more extroverted, in line with what you’d expect from the outgoing PIkari. The overall tone is balmy and pleasant, but not altogether too memorable. On this album, I actually prefer the works of the group Misteria Feo, which takes Mina Kubota’s compositions into a more ethereal realm. A solid album overall though.

Boom Boom Satellites Ends Their Career with Kiznaiver opening

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The Boom Boom Satellites burst on the anime music scene with “Shut Up and Explode”, a song that packed the kind of energy that would help the song stay true to its title. The song, used as the opening theme to Xam’d: Lost Memories, basically put them on the map, and they’d go on to do other anime works including “Broken Mirror”, used in Gundam Unicorn.

So there’s a measure of regret when they announced that their song, “Lay Your Hands On Me”, used as the opening to the anime Kiznaiver, would prove to be their last. The reason for that is that vocalist/guitarist Michiyuki Kawashima experienced a brain tumor relapse. As a result, he’s suffering from partial paralysis and can no longer perform. This development had forced Boom Boom Satellites to cancel their concerts in Osaka and Tokyo last November.

Still, they’ve had a rich, 20-year career, as they’ve entertained fans in both Japan and the US where they made appearances at major US conventions like the NY Anime Festival back in 2010. Their compositional credits in the anime realm includes “Back In Black”, which serves as the main theme for the upcoming anime adaptation of Ninja Slayer.

So even though their performances will fade into the waves of time, there’s never a better moment to relive their best-known work, even now, “Shut Up and Explode” where the refrains of “Run Away” will forever burn into my memories:

Anison Singer Aimer Collaborates with Taka from ONE OK ROCK and Ling Tosite Sigure’s TK

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Since her debut on NO.6’s opening theme, it’s safe to say that Aimer’s stock has been soaring pretty high. Her music career has propelled her forward, giving her opportunities to work with composer Hiroyuki Sawano on Gundam Unicorn’s signature song, “RE:IAM” and then Yoko Kanno herself on the emotional “Dare ka, Umi Wo” from Terror in Resonance where she earned high praise for her ability to convey the desperation and glass-like fragility.

And the collaboration offers don’t seem to stop coming either. One of her next projects has her working with vocalist Taka from ONE OK ROCK. This particular project will be pretty meaningful for her because she has expressed an interest in collaborating with ONE OK ROCK in the past. Together, the two will perform on the song titled “insane dream”, featuring Aimer’s thick voice alongside Taka’s vocals.

If you’re curious about how that collaboration will go, here’s a sneak peek of the song on Youtube:

But Taka’s not the only artist that will work with Aimer on this single. There’s also TK from the prog. rock band Ling Tosite Sigure who helped Aimer produce the song titled “us”. Although this has been announced, there’s really no preview of the song to be had anywhere. But given Ling Tosite Sigure’s oeuvre, it should prove to be a unique track.

Finally, later this year, Aimer will be working with Yojirou Noda from the pretty popular band RADWIMPS! I hadn’t heard of this particular group until about a month ago, but when I sampled their music, it was pleasant and easygoing. RADWIMPS’s music packs quite a bit of atmosphere in their music and I figure that meshes well with Makoto Shinkai’s works. Whether Aimer will also see time on a Makoto Shinkai anime is anyone’s guess though.

Anisong Matsuri at Anime Expo 2016 Features Concerts by Sphere, JAM Project, and T.M. Revolution

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A couple weeks ago, we announced that the J-pop artist MICHI would be at Anime Expo. Based on the YouTube videos featuring her vocals, I concluded that she was competent, but not the kind of singer that would draw crowds to Anime Expo.

All of that changed when Anime Expo announced that they’d be hosting the Anisong World Matsuri in conjunction with the convention. And boy did they get some big names to commit into showing up.

The collection of singers feels a lot like a who’s who of Anison. You’ve got acts like JAM Project who’ve seemingly been around forever. New fans know them for their One Punch Man opening theme, but these guys go all the way back to 2000 when they debuted with “Kaze ni Nare” for Éx-Driver. Their better-known body of work includes Scrapped Princess’s, Gravion, and Mazinkaiser opening themes.

But that’s not all. There’s Sphere, whose singers might as well be the K-ON girls (with the addition of Haruka Tomatsu and Ayahi Takagaki thrown in for good measure), FLOW, whose work on Code Geass is pretty damned legendary, and T.M. Revolution whose work really needs no introduction since he’s collaborated with Nana Mizuki on Valvrave’s opening theme but whose work on stuff like Gundam SEED’s “Invoke” is far better known (and far better sounding). There’s more artists that you can peek at above, but that’s a pretty formidable lineup to say the least.

Unlike many of the other conventions, this one’s practically in my backyard. If you check on Daisuki’s website, tickets are still not yet available for purchase. But for an event of this caliber, I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out. So watch this space for updates and hope you’ll look forward to my concert reports like the ones I do pretty much every year!

Persona Artists Lotus Juice and Shihoko Hirata Perform at Otakon’s Pre-Con Festival

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The convention guest list continues to add on Japanese singers to their roles and this time, it’s Otakon that’s putting out their announcements. This year, rapper Lotus Juice and singer Shihoko Hirata will be making their appearances at the Otakon pre-convention festival, the Otakon Matsuri. Lotus Juice and Shihoko Hirata will be performing at the street festival on August 11 that takes place before the convention actually begins.

lotus juice rapperWhether you fall into the category of Persona fan or, like me, simply enjoy hearing from artists who’ve collaborated with composer Taku Iwasaki, this is a treat! Although my first exposure to Lotus Juice came with the battle theme from Persona 3, which he did with Shoji Meguro, my favorite performance of his was when he collaborated with Taku Iwasaki, rapping in Katanagatari‘s almighty “Bahasa Palus”, a piece that shines in its pure, unadulterated epicness! Videos of those works below if you haven’t heard him:

I doubt he’ll be able to perform “Bahasa Palus” at Otakon though. The Persona stuff is probably fair game.

Shihoko HirataAs for Shihoko Hirata, I’m not familiar with her works on the whole. The only time I’ve her vocals have been when they’ve featured prominently on Persona 4‘s game introduction and the anime’s opening theme. Compared to Lotus Juice, I don’t have strong opinions of her work in that I think her voice is suitable when it comes to matching Persona 4‘s overall atmosphere. She’s not someone who’s capable of blowing me away though. Serviceable and well… at least it’s not squealy J-pop. Examples of her work below:

As is the case with East Coast conventions, I won’t be able to make it, so it’ll be interesting to hear second-hand reports.

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