May’n & Nakajima Megumi at Anime Expo 2010

July 6, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Posted in Kanno Yoko, May'n, Music, Nakajima Megumi, _live performances | 13 Comments

I’ll never forget my reaction the day kisekigurl asked me why I wasn’t going to Anime Expo since May’n & Nakajima Megumi were holding a concert there. In disbelief, I checked AX’s website, then proceeded to shriek and jump nearly high enough to hit the ceiling.

Having previously canceled my AX pass due to a lack of interest in attending, I re-booked and bought a concert ticket.

Thanks to a friend, I managed to secure spot C311, a ticket in the center section in the third row from the stage.

Concert report (and pics) after the cut.

Continue Reading May’n & Nakajima Megumi at Anime Expo 2010…


{single} Nakajima Megumi as Ranka Lee – Seikan Hikou

November 30, 2009 at 11:48 am | Posted in Kanno Yoko, Music, Nakajima Megumi | Leave a comment

Nakajima Megumi as Ranka – Seikan Hikou
ランカ・リー=中島 愛 – 星間飛行

(released June 25th, 2008)

1. 星間飛行 [Seikan Hikou]
2. ねこ日記 [Neko Nikki]
3. 愛・おぼえていますか -デカルチャーエディションsize- [Ai Oboete Imasu ka? -Deculture Edition size-]
4. 私の彼はパイロット -MISS MACROSS 2059- [Watashi no Kare wa Pilot -MISS MACROSS 2059-]
5. 星間飛行 -without Ranka-
6. 愛・おぼえていますか -デカルチャーエディションsize without Ranka-

Nakajima Megumi’s debut single, although it’s more of a character single since she’s singing as Ranka Lee. Kanno Yoko composed the first two vocal tracks, and was involved in the arrangement of the other two.

Oh yes, the “kira~!” song that’s almost a viral meme – Seikan Hikou is a cute poppy number performed as an insert song.  The guitar intro with Nakajima’s vocalizing is rather infectious. Nakajima’s vocal performance continues to impress me, she’s not only got a good voice, but she does a wonderful job making the song so Ranka-esque. She injects just the right amount of moe that it makes me want to give Ranka a little hug or glomp.  The instrumentals fit this song perfectly too, guitar, bells, and just a touch of strings – I’m also impressed with Kanno Yoko’s ability to churn out stuff like this. The entire song makes me want to get up and dance!

Neko Nikki – Used as a special ending song, the song’s about a young girl (Ranka) talking about how things like swings and watches and even cats have a diary of their own. And that if her own lips had a diary, they would record the amount of times she called her beloved person’s name. The melody and arrangement (dominated by a clean, repeated piano line) are both rather simple. Despite Nakajima’s wonderful performance on Seikan Hikou, it’s in songs like this that really let her voice shine. Neko Nikki is just so serene and innocent – I especially liked the “7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1” countdown parts, where Ranka is counting down to meeting someone (presumably Alto?).

Here we have the Deculture Edition size of Ai Oboete Imasu ka? (which was played as the ending theme during the Macross Frontier pilot episode). It’s a cover of arguably the greatest classic in Macross history. Nakajima’s voice is more suited to this song (I wasn’t too fond of the original due to the fact that Iijima Mari’s voice was too thin and nasal for my liking). Kanno’s arrangement of this is probably the most minimalistic I’ve heard from her so far – not that I mind it too much, but the ‘squirming’ synths got on my nerves a bit. It was much better during the chorus, with the backing vocals and more instrumentals.

And there’s another Macross classic cover – Watashi no Kare wa Pilot. It was an insert song in the episode where Ranka sang it for the Miss Macross 2059 contest. Nakajima’s cutesy side is back (I love it when she sings the “kyun kyun” parts!), and again, I prefer her rendition to Iijima Mari’s original. I like the arrangement of this one better too. The biggest problem I have with this is that there is only a short version – Nakajima only sang one verse and one chorus. Hopefully the later soundtracks will have an extended cut.

Favorite Track: Neko Nikki

Overall Grade: A-

{soundtrack} Macross Frontier OST 1 Nyan FRO.

November 8, 2009 at 11:34 am | Posted in Kanno Yoko, May'n, Music, Nakajima Megumi | 2 Comments

Macross Frontier Original Soundtrack 1 Nyan FRO.
マクロスF O.S.T.1 娘フロ。
all music composed by Kanno Yoko

As Macross Frontier has a lot of in-anime singing, this soundtrack features several songs from the two songstress characters. Nakajima Megumi is the seiyuu for Ranka Lee, and May’n provides the singing voice of Sheryl Nome.

(released June 4th, 2008)

1. Frontier 2059
2. Welcome To My FanClub’s Night! (Sheryl On Stage) (vocal: May’n)
3. What ’bout my star? (Sheryl On Stage) (vocal: May’n)
4. 射手座☆午後九時Don’t be late (Sheryl on Stage) [Iteza☆Gogo Kuji Don’t  be late (Sheryl on Stage)] (vocal: May’n)
5. Vital Force
6. トライアングラー [Triangler] (vocal: Sakamoto Maaya)
7. Zero Hour
8. What ’bout my star?@Formo  (vocal: Nakajima Megumi, May’n)
9. Innocent green
10. アイモ [Aimo] (vocal: Nakajima Megumi)
11. ビッグ・ボーイズ [Big Boys]
12. Private Army
13. SMS小隊の歌~あの娘はエイリアン [SMS Shoutai no Uta ~ Ano Ko wa Alien]
14. ニンジーン Loves you yeah! [Ninjin Loves you yeah!] (vocal – Nakajima Megumi)
15. 「超時空飯店 娘々」CMソング(Ranka Version) [Chojiku Hanten Nyan Nyan CM Song (Ranka Version)] (vocal – Nakajima Megumi)
16. Alto’s Theme
18. The Target
19. Bajura
20. キラキラ [Kira Kira]
21. アイモ~鳥のひと [Aimo ~ Tori no Hito]
22. Take Off
23. インフィニティ [Infinity]
24. ダイアモンド クレバス [Diamond Crevasse]

*some songs have already been reviewed, and are linked to their reviews

Frontier 2059 is a good instrumental to set the scene – I remember hearing it in the beginning of the early episodes. It’s just a symphony orchestra track, with emphasis on the brass and strings, with the decisive brass lines announcing the Macross ship and the colonies and the meandering strings giving the whole ‘drifiting in space’ feel.

Right after entering the colony, we’re treated to a concert with three “Sheryl on Stage” tracks. With a title like Welcome To My FanClub’s Night!, I was expecting something sparkly and cheesy, but I’m treated to a dramatic entrance with sweeping strings. This is a song that takes itself seriously, and May’n gives a solid performance here. She sings this full of Sheryl’s attitude – she knows she’s got it and struts her stuff. Not even the occasional LULZY Engrish can take away from that effect. Not a bad concert opener, even if it’s a virtual one.

I like how the audience cheering and the continuing beat segues right into What ’bout my star?, complete with even more Engrish. This is one of my favorite Sheryl tracks due to its sheer catchiness even though the chorus is just the repetitive “what ’bout my star?” I prefer this more flirty, lighthearted side of Sheryl. I love May’n vocal inflections during in the chorus. I also like the fake audience cheers – it gives me the feeling of listening to a live. Not too fond of the arrangement though, it’s a bit jarring in some instances.

Another neat transition to keep up the ‘concert’ feel. What’s different from the single version of Iteza☆Gogo Kuji Don’t be late is that there’s that fake crowd again in the background. I like the OST version much better in context, but the single would be more enjoyable on its own.

Vital Force just sounds like the typical welcome song for the military – I’m not too fond of brass (being more of a piano and strings person).  My favorite part were the drums and frantic strings in the end, although the piece ended very abruptly. This would make a good overture piece – I think it would do better than Frontier 2059 as an intro.

Interesting choice to put Triangler here, instead of earlier on. It’s still one of my favorites from the series, even though I’ve listened to it so much that I’m starting to get sick of it.

Nice electric guitars in Zero Hour, though I really think a string orchestra arrangement would suit the melody more. And the scratchy beat kind of annoys me. Thankfully, everything gets much better at the halfway point – that’s when the strings actually come in.

What ’bout my star?@Formo – Ranka covers one of Sheryl’s songs at the Formo mall – I remember that episode with the impromptu jam session well. Nakajima Megumi doesn’t have nearly the same power as May’n, but this version is much better – everything just sounds simpler. Nakajima’s pure, clear voice gives this song a refreshing feeling. It’s more like innocent first love instead of Sheryl’s womanly wiles. May’n sings part of it in the middle – and there’s what I fondly dubbed the “singing duel section” (in which Sheryl and Ranka compete for Alto’s attention). I was surprised at how well the two voices complemented each other.

Finally, an instrumental track I like. Innocent green captures the warmth of spending time in a grassy hill with the wind and the clouds to keep one company. The repeating piano line is soothing, and when more instruments join in, it’s not some huge orchestral blast – it manages to stay peaceful without becoming dull. The strings just add to the nostalgia and heartwarming mood.

Aimo (or, as I call it, “Ranka’s lullaby”) was the main reason I snagged this OST. I’m falling more and more in love with Nakajima Megumi’s honest, devoid-of-any-embellishment voice. Aimo’s melody is a perfect requiem/lullaby one, and Nakajima sings it with wonderful serenity, backed by sparse piano, harp, and bells. I find more and more that on this soundtrack, the simpler, the better. Pity it only clocked in at 1:30, I would have loved an extended version.

Big Boys makes me want to both giggle and loop it over and over again – it’s got that ‘adventure’ feel with a tint of playfulness – and reminds me very much of a more lighthearted version of the epic string themes on the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. Very catchy.

I groaned at the thought of another military theme, but Private Army proves to be interesting. The rhythmic pattern formed by the percussion and guitar is wonderful. I also really like the random runs in that plucked string instrument I can’t identify (I would hazard a guess at it being a harpsichord, but I doubt it…)

SMS Shoutai no Uta ~ Ano Ko wa Alien – here we get that song the SMS soldiers sing. I always found it silly but it’s fun to listen to, given how the guys in there are singing with such gusto. And I like the little whistle in it. This would definitely be fun to watch live.

Ninjin Loves you yeah! – here, Ranka sings about carrots in yet another 1:30 mini-song. The backing is just a bunch of cute sounding techno blips to match Nakajima Megumi’s even cuter voice. It would make a good children’s song, and I think I remember Ranka advertising a vegetable stand with this while dressed in a carrot costume. This suffers the Aimo syndrome – I would like an extended version of this as well.

Oh gosh, I can’t believe they actually put this here – the Ranka Version of the Chojiku Hanten Nyan Nyan CM Song…or more accurately, just the “nyan nyan” song. The Engrish-fied bad Mandarin Chinese makes it hard for me, as a semi-fluent speaker, to keep a straight face every time I hear this – not to mention the cheesy, pseudo-Chinese music. I still love it though.

Alto’s Theme is very much along the lines of what I expected – wandering, lonely, a bit hesitant, and even elegant. The beautiful harp runs and acoustic guitar set off the wailing oboe perfectly. This piece perfectly depicts Alto’s journey in figuring out what he wants to do – the uncertain steps he takes towards following his dreams of being a pilot and breaking away from his family’s theater group.

We get one of those “let’s get ready to sortie” themes with TALLY HO! It’s yet another polished, symphony piece that should soar but…just ends up sounding anti-climactic after the beauty of Alto’s Theme. Nevertheless, it does rev up the energy and would work well in anime scenes, just it’s rather dull by itself.

Okay, The Target is a battle theme – I love how the tension builds slowly by layers. Contrast is pretty good in this one too, there’s a moment of calm somewhere past the middle, then things go back to the foreboding “impending doom” feeling – and the build up again really kept me on edge, listening. And of course, we finally vanquish the enemy in the end with that ‘crucial moment’ sound.

So it really is Bajura? (I liked the “Vajra” spelling better). Bajura is a slow-burning piece that has a bit of The Target’s foreboding feel along with some attempts at sounding sinister and spooky. Arrangement is okay, but I expected more out of a theme for a mysterious alien species…

Kira Kira means “twinkle” and the rapid, light piano chords really sound like twinkling stars. For the most part, there’s an light, airy, almost dreamy quality in this piece which is enhanced by a darker undertone. It’s pretty, but can get a bit repetitive, especially in the first half. The second half with the strings gives it a ‘floating on clouds’ feeling.

Okay, I take back what I said about not having a longer version of Aimo. I forgot all about Aimo ~ Tori no Hito. It’s in a higher pitch than the original, which actually suits the floaty nature of the song more. The piano part is changed and strings are added to the arrangement. Nakajima also sings more freely, and the added bridge section is gorgeous. I’d be hard-pressed to choose one over the other – they’re beautiful in different ways.

Take Off – I can hardly tell all the catchy MF instrumental themes from each other – is it an re-iteration of another theme? Despite that, I like it, due to its liveliness…and the brass isn’t too pompous or overblown. At under 2 minutes, I wish there was a longer version of this with a fuller arrangement.

Infinity is one of Sheryl’s songs that I have mixed feelings about. I love the contrast between the minimalist accompaniment in the verses and the full-blown strings-and-all-that in the choruses, but there’s something about Infinity that just sounds so formulaic and manufactured – it would be hard for me to dissociate it from Macross Frontier. The vocals are fine, but I feel like something’s missing – I think a song like this should have gone for a higher energy level. Chorus melody is interesting and catchy enough, but the verses sound a bit limp.

And we end with Diamond Crevasse. After revisiting, I have renewed appreciation for it. And given how my music preferences have leaned toward the softer side as of late, I like this better than her showier material. Diamond Crevasse sounds the most genuine – May’n isn’t forcing her voice as much, and the emotions flow more naturally.

Final Thoughts: Thankfully less than half the tracks are instrumentals, because the vocal works are the true saving grace of this soundtrack. Except for a few standout moments, the instrumentals were quite uninspired and boring – they sound like any old piece you’d have a symphony orchestra perform. While that appeals to a wider audience, I prefer something more distinct and unique to the anime series it’s from. Kanno does her job in that aspect with the vocal tracks (almost a little too well in some instances). There’s a good variety spread across the Sheryl and Ranka songs and Kanno writes material that not only brings out the strengths of the respective songstresses well, but also fit the characters perfectly – Sheryl’s mature, more experienced ways (as a singer and as a woman) and Ranka’s innocent, earnest, chasing-after-her-dreams personality. Unless you’re a die-hard Kanno Yoko fan, this OST will really sound like a vocal album, and the BGM is mostly just filler.

Favorite Track(s):
[vocal] Welcome To My FanClub’s Night! (Sheryl On Stage), Triangler, What ’bout my star?@Formo, Aimo, Aimo ~ Tori no Hito, Diamond Crevasse
[instrumental] Innocent green, Big Boys, Alto’s Theme

Overall Grade: B+

{single} Sakamoto Maaya – Triangler

June 22, 2009 at 1:09 am | Posted in Kanno Yoko, Music, Sakamoto Maaya | 1 Comment

Sakamoto Maaya – Triangler
坂本真綾 – トライアングラー

(released April 23rd, 2008)

1. トライアングラー [Triangler]
2. ことみち [Kotomichi]
3. トライアングラー (w/o Maaya)
4. ことみち (w/o Maaya)

Sakamoto Maaya’s 16th single. Triangler reached #3 on the Oricon Charts and is Maaya’s best-selling single to date. This is partly because of its anime tie-in; the A-side was used as Macross Frontier’s first opening theme. Triangler was also heralded as the epic “returning single” for Kanno Yoko – who has worked with Maaya on earlier works. The duo split up before Maaya’s “Shounen Alice” era, but are back together briefly for any Macross Frontier-related works. Only the title track is composed by Kanno, though.

My first impression of Triangler was that it was in a much higher range than Maaya generally uses – her vocals have gotten stronger since her last single, especially her high notes. Triangler is about a love triangle involving two women and one man, and it’s sung from the perspective of one of the women – which ties in perfectly to the Ranka-Alto-Sheryl dynamic in Macross Frontier. Sure, Maaya does sound a bit screechy at times, but I still love the force she attacks certain notes with. Plus, it adds to the angst of the song. I know a lot of the Kanno Yoko faction of Maaya fans have been disappointed after all the anticipation, but I think Triangler is one of her best songs I’ve heard. Sure, it’s got “anime” written all over it, but the composition is solid, the chorus catchy, and Kanno’s fondness for key changes serves to liven up things a bit. I’ll admit, the bouncy background music isn’t particularly remarkable and I did expect more from Kanno given the experimental stuff she’s done in the past, but it’s not a bad route to go with J-Pop. My favorite part is the ‘bridge’ section of the background with Maaya’s whispery backing vocals and how it builds up for the final chorus.

I’ve noticed a trend in Maaya’s singles – since all of them I’ve heard so far have an anime tie-in of some sort, the A-side and B-side have this anison/J-Pop dichotomy. Kotomichi is a gentle, breathy ballad with mainly acoustic guitar accompaniment. It reminds me very much of her song Yubiwa – a quiet, sad song. Kotomichi means “differing paths” – the lyrics were written by Maaya herself and talk about two lovers having to part. Normally I would cringe at Maaya singing that high, but her airy high notes give the impression that she has been crying softly to herself (reminds me of KOKIA’s “Lacrima”). There isn’t much else to say that I wish Maaya would put out more songs like this – the simplicity and beauty of Kotomichi makes me hold to my belief that no matter what genre Maaya taps into, her ballads will always have a special spot in my lazy, music-reviewer heart.

Overall Grade: A-

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