Sound Decision
Azumanga Daioh, Hanaukyo Maid Team, Love Hina, Para Para Max

by Jonathan Mays,

Para Para Max US Mix 2 —Geneon

Woah. Who knew anime remix music could be... good?

If I'm reading the booklet right, Kentaro Fukushi, Takeshi Watanabe, and Shunsuke Minami deserve some serious praise for producing Para Para Max, a whirlwind of anime theme songs that runs circles around the rotting corpses of remix CDs like AnimeToonz 1 and 2. Yoko Ishida performs as cheerfully as ever, and the selections are top-notch, with everything from Gundam Wing to Sailor Moon Stars. The funny thing is, you can't buy the original versions of most of these songs in America. This disc is like early Christmas for longtime anime fans, though newcomers will probably feel like they've been left in the dark.

Besides the excellent song choices, I like this disc a lot because it avoids the two things that make me hate remix CDs: a backbeat that's ungodly loud, and clashing notes. No, it's not in the class of somebody like Paul Oakenfold, but it's light years ahead of most anything else I've heard done to anime themes. In fact, it would be really awesome if somebody stuck these in a Dance Dance Revolution game, especially the US Bonus Track, a non-stop thirteen-minute mix of the other 20 tracks. Come on, Konami!

Hanaukyo Maid Team —Geneon

If you were an ambitious fourth-grade string player, Hanaukyo Maid Team would be the kind of music that you would want your school orchestra to play. It's easy enough that you don't have to worry about the bad kids screwing it up for your concertmaster who is convinced she's the second coming of Itzhak Perlman, and it sounds cool enough that you can boast to your band friends without being mocked for slogging through old-people music while they were at the football game having a jolly old time with Star Wars and Hail to the Redskins.

You may have heard of composer Michiru Oshima before. She wrote the epic (and Christmas-y) score for Fullmetal Alchemist, and the not-so-epic one for the Sailor Moon drama. If you're expecting more of the latter, you will be extremely pleased, as many of the themes are variations on the Sailor Moon ones. I think she wrote both scores at about the same time. As for Fullmetal fans, sorry, there's too much camp in these woods.

Because I have nothing better to do with my time than track down obscure anime composers and ask them pointless questions, I found Oshima and asked her if she's coming to the US anytime soon. "I might," she said. "My work has taken me to Russia, Austria, France, and sometimes America." Just thought you'd like to know.

Love Hina: Hinata Girls Song Best 2 —Geneon
Azumanga Daioh: Let's Sing —Geneon

I suffered through Love Hina, and I suffered through Azumanga Daioh, and I could not distinguish them, so I am reviewing them together. Top to bottom, the singing is obnoxious and the songwriting insipid.

Hey, did you know insipid was one of the ten most-searched words on Merriam-Webster's online dictionary this year? As long as I'm on the subject, these soundtracks are the reason I've been a J-Pop refugee recently. When I saw the laundry list of voice actors turned inept singers on the back covers, I knew my friends would have endless contempt for me if I even thought about playing them on the speakers. So I found a visual filibuster in the form of a Korean drama that was on TV at 3am, and during the day I built a fortified levee of Shostakovich that was strong enough to keep even a drop of AzuDaioh from seeping into my consciousness.

But it was far too little and too late. In the words of ICv2, a "tsunami of Love Hina merchandise" made its way across the Pacific nearly two years ago, and with Azumanga hot on its heels, it became clear to me that an all-out pandemic was already inevitable. I had two choices: call a conclave of J-Pop fans and demand that they disavow any knowledge of Love Hina or Azumanga soundtracks, or preserve my integrity, suck it up, and review the darn things.

So here I was, prepared to admit that Cherry Blossoms Blooming ~musical version~ is actually a decent song, with a lazy, sort of spooky intro that gradually gets faster and faster until the voice actors can barely keep up, and that Let's make it! makes up for it with a melody that will make you cry and then cry some more when you realize it's stuck in your head. But then I found an article that suggests the latter's power may already have been captured and channeled for a worthy cause. And now, once again, all is right with the world.

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