Gravure Idol makes love to Anime Songs
…in one way at least. I admit I’m not sure how high soundwaves rank on the fetishes and the sexual devices charts, and I if I ever have the opportunity to find out, I’ll be sure to let you know the results of my research. On the other hand, a lack of information in that area is clearly not stopping 中川翔子 [Nakagawa Shoko] – though to be fair, the title of her latest release しょこたん☆かばー ～アニソンに恋をして。～ [Shoko-tan Cover ~ANISON ni Koi wo Shite.~] isn’t quite an all-out declaration of… well, you know. But it’s close enough.
Actually, I have a confession to make. I admire Shoko-tan (as she cutely (and her fans not so cutely) calls herself). She’s pretty much a full-fledged otaku (not referring to the warped American definition of the word), and she’s made it somewhat acceptable in her job as a gravure idol. (While not completely, I don’t think the social stigma associated with otaku in Japan will ever really go away anyways.) She has a contract with SONY as a singer, has a fledgling job as a seiyuu, and – while I’m not so interested in that particular aspect – looks really good in a bikini.
Basically Shoko-tan has what may very well be my dream job. And on top of that, she’s showed up in a tokusatsu show by virtue of liking the genre, she’s skilled at cartooning, she’s a crazy blogger, and she got to literally school Wada Akiko. (And it’s the last one that wows me the most. Really. Wada Akiko being schooled? An amusing thought in itself, but that it actually happened makes it even more so.) The only thing about her that I don’t admire is just her inability to cook. But hey, no one’s perfect (yet).
Her upcoming release will be a 5-song mini-album of her covering old anime songs. I mean old. (Well, I’d count over 7 years as old. Most are even older.) These are relative classics, not quite at Astro Boy (which is more legendary than classic), but certainly not Pokemon either (which shouldn’t count as a classic to begin with). But it won’t be her first – and it’s that first one we’re going to go over in this post.
Unlike most covers of old songs these days, I’m pretty certain Shoko-tan stuck with the original music in all her covers. So what I’m mostly going to be criticizing is how she sounds – you don’t mar a classic (nor do you get anywhere) by comparing the composition capabilities then to the machine-supported present. That’s like… comparing good old white rice to microwave taco rice-like fillings. Ew.
o1/ ロマンティックあげるよ [ROMANTIC ageru yo]: Is there anyone who enjoyed Dragonball Z in the audience today? Oh, good, did you also happen to watch its precursor series Dragonball? If so, you’ll enjoy this. If not, try not to be surprised when you listen to this song.
The ending theme song to the aforementioned Dragonball and originally sung by semi-legend Hashimoto Ushio, this is a fitting happy light-hearted song. Yeah, you read that right. Dragonball is a happy light-hearted anime. And Shoko-tan apparently knows what works with her because her voice couldn’t be more fitting. She goes up and down with the music and while she sounds a bit weak at some parts, she handles the chorus with no problem at all. And let’s face it, the chorus is the moodmaker for this song.
o2/ 乙女のポリシー [Otome no POLICY]: Any girl who grew up with Sailormoon ought to know this song. If not, SHAME ON YOU. Feel the pressure of millions of girls’ childhoods closing in on you! Okay, guilted enough?
Originally the debut single for younger anison legend Ishida Yoko, this is also the light ending theme for the second season of the magical girl series, Sailormoon R. Again, Shoko knows what works with her voice, because while she occasionally goes a bit too soft in her imitation of Ishida, she’s not ruining anyone’s childhood anytime soon either.
o3/ BIN・KANルージュ [BIN KAN ROUGE]: Okay, so you get forgiven for not knowing this one. I’m not sure how many people who would read this know about Creamy Mami anyways.
Yeah, that’s right, there was a magical girl anime called Creamy Mami, and this was an insert song. (Technically it was Mahou no Tenshi Creamy Mami, but since when does sticking a “magical angel” before anything sounding like it comes from a porno make it better? Yes, I’m aware the “insert” part isn’t helping.) Yet another light-hearted song Shoko-tan pulls off, but this time we get some more variety in her voice as she goes a bit lower, a bit childish, and sings cutely enough to make pink bunnies melt.
o4/ 残酷な天使のテーゼ [Zankoku na Tenshi no TE-ZE]: Anyone who listens to anime music ought to know this song. If not, SHAME ON YOU. Feel the pressure of millions of anime fans bearing down on you! …wait, didn’t we go through this already?
Yet another classic, but probably the most well known out of the 5 songs on this mini-album, you may also know this song as Cruel Angel’s Thesis. That’s okay, they’re the same thing. Sung by anison legend Takahashi Youko, also owner of one of the most dramatic and powerful female voices I’ve heard in Japanese music, and covered insanely by the cast of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Yep, that one.
If you didn’t have a clue from my description of Takahashi’s voice, this song is insanely dramatic. Backing choir, strong music with liberal drumbeats, and a relatively fast tempo. And Shoko… doesn’t sound half bad. Doesn’t hold a candle to the original, of course. But not only is this a great change of pace from the first three songs, it shows off her range and surprising vocal strength. Unfortunately, her higher pitch makes this sound like the previous happy songs at times, but her lower register in the bridges and choruses make it better.
o5/ 青春 [Seishun]: Everyone knows TOUCH, right? Whether it’s because Younha (and a bunch of other less-talented vocalists) covered the song of the similar title, you saw the movie adaptation, or because you’re a manga fan who’s come across Adachi Mitsuru one too many times, or maybe you actually watched the anime?
This is the second ending theme for that classic anime series. And once again, Shoko -tan surprises. This isn’t a light-hearted pink sugar pop attack, nor is it an all-out dramatic angel attack, it’s a sweet little love ballad. And Shoko sounds nothing like she previously did, going low and mature soft like she’s a cabaret singer.
I have to admit I walked into this album expecting to be a bit hurt. How well does an idol sing, right? Apparently, pretty decently if you’re Nakagawa Shoko. And I’m going to be looking forward to the five songs (featuring Rurouni Kenshin, Shoujo Kakumei Utena, Card Captor Sakura, ESPer Mami, and Gundam F91) on her next cover mini-album all the more.