Anime Toonz, volume IV
by Rachael Carothers,
Click below for a clip of the song "Koi no Mikuru Densetsu "
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Back in 2001, label Fuego Recordings began releasing their Anime Toonz series. Each volume features a j-pop singer covering a number of anime theme songs on top of a dance beat. On July 29, the fourth volume of the series hit the shelves. This time around it's voice actress Yukari Fukui handling the vocals.
First up is Fukui's own “Michi naru Basho e,” the opening theme for Saint October. The original version of this is so pretty, it seems wrong to back it with a dance beat. There isn't really any point in the five-minute song where the vocals match up with the background sounds. Separately, the two are quite nice. Together, it is a complete mismatch.
The first cover is Tommy february6's “Lonely in Gorgeous” from Paradise Kiss. It takes almost three full minutes before the vocal track starts. Prior to that, we are treated to a rather heavy dance beat. Sadly, this is the best part of the song. The vocals aren't terrible. However, the background sounds overtake the vocals to change a charming pop song into a harsh club number.
One of my biggest music pet peeves is when someone takes a ballad and just sticks a random dance beat behind it. However, “Inori ~You Raise Me Up~” (“Prayer ~You Raise Me Up~”) from Romeo x Juliet does it the right way. The vocal track is sped up slightly and the backing music is toned down just a bit in order to match the vocals. Surprisingly, this makes it one of my favorite tracks on the disc.
“Motteke! Sailor Fuku,” (“Bring It! Sailor Uniform”) the crazy theme song from Lucky Star, pops up next. While the slower chorus and bridge parts are a pretty good fit for a dance tune, the insanely fast paced verses are just too fast for this beat. You can hear the beat trying desperately to keep up with the vocals, only to be defeated until the chorus saves it. Ideally, the verses would be slowed a little bit to keep up with the beat but then it wouldn't be the song we all know and love.
Gurren Lagann is currently playing on the Sci Fi network. The opening theme song, “Sorairo Days,” (“Sky Colored Days”) is also on this album. Amazingly, it doesn't make a bad dance song. The background sounds speed up and slow down accordingly so it matches the vocals extremely well. It's also varied enough to keep it interesting instead of repeating the same thing over and over, which challenges “Inori” for the title of my favorite song on the album.
The third ending theme for Bleach, “Houkiboshi,” (“Comet”) is another song that makes a decent dance mix. However, the background music uses softer sounds instead of harsh drum beats in order to match the softness in the vocals. Unfortunately, the vocal track is still a little too soft. It ends up getting lost in the dance beat once in awhile. If it had been mixed just a tiny bit louder, this would have been a really great song.
Despite the fact that Heidi, Girl of the Alps, the anime series featuring the song “Oshiete” (“Teach Me”) as its opening theme, is almost a decade older than Fukui herself, she handles the high notes of the song very well. The original song featured quite a bit of yodeling but that has been changed to ‘la la la’ in this version. Even though the vocals here are good, it doesn't make a good dance song. It sounds like something Disney would do to their older songs to make it “hip” for the new generation. That's never a good idea.
“Onna no ko Otoko no ko” (“Boys & Girls”) is another cute song that sounds weird as a dance mix. The School Rumble theme song was so adorable when Yuko Ogura sang it. Fukui's voice just doesn't have the same ‘cuteness’ factor to it. Adding a rather boring dance beat behind it drags the entire tune down. Instead of keeping the cute, they completely destroyed it.
If you pretend that “Koi no Mikuru Densetsu” (“Mikuru's Love Legend”) has absolutely nothing to do with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, you might actually love this song. In the original, Mikuru is not supposed to have any sort of singing ability at all. In this version, they sped the song up and put a filter over Fukui's voice. The backing music has a harsh beat during the verses but then it practically explodes into an amazing sound that is softer but not slower. Fans of Haruhi may not like this since it's not anything like the original but if you can look past this, it's a perfect dance song.
Doreamon is one of those anime series that seems like it's been around forever and has, as a result, ended up as a cultural icon. “Doreamon no Uta,” (“Doreamon's Song”)the theme song for the 1973 anime series is the last of the ‘original’ works on the album. Unfortunately, it's extremely repetitive and a lot of the sounds are annoying. There's this loud buzzing noise around the 1:41 mark that almost made me turn the song off completely. I find it difficult to believe there wasn't a better way to change the song.
The final two tracks are remixes of songs that we heard previously. This version of “Michi naru Basho e” is a lot faster than the first version. Since the background sounds are faster, it matches the vocals better. It would have been nicer to leave out the opening track and use this one instead. Sadly, the same can't be said for the second version of “Inori ~You Raise Me Up~” This version is also faster but they've also raised the pitch on the vocal track, giving Fukui a chipmunk voice. The instrumentals are good but the vocals were trashed.
These types of dance songs are not my favorite. Instead of taking a good song and ruining it with a different backing beat, they should just make their own dance songs from scratch. There are some gems to be found here but, for the most part, it's annoying to see anime theme songs reduced to this. Fukui's vocals are generally good, though it would have been better to have a plain cover album of her singing anime theme songs without the dance hook.
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