Gravure Idol Puts Love in your Ears
中川翔子 [Nakagawa Shoko] is not quite a rising star yet. But she’s certainly not falling either, and thanks to one episode of Arashi no Shukudai-kun, she’s definitely rising in my books. (The girls in the audience were probably thinking many derogatory thoughts, between her otaku-ness and that she got to be up there with Arashi – but Shoko-tan was blissfully imitating Ayanami Rei. That takes amazing amounts of ignorance or plain I-don’t-care-why-should-you attitude, and either way it only makes Shoko-tan better.)
I think it’s pretty safe to say Shoko-tan, being the massive otaku she is, will be doing a number of anime cover albums yet. In that case, I have a plea – give me better titles to work with. しょこたん☆かばー×2 ～アニソンに愛を込めて!!～ [Shoko-tan Cover x2 ~ANISON ni Ai wo Komete!!~] is… well… not fun.
The album though, is. With a variety of styles, Shoko-tan hit me hard. In the ears. Slammed it in, and let’s not think of the weirder interpretations, thank you very much.
1) 1/2: Rurouni Kenshin fans, you’re up to bat. Upbeat pop with guitar riffs peppered throughout, Shoko-tan sings with wonderful energy and shows offs her capabilities, too. From a wistful daydreaming pace to a threateningly fast speed, her voice builds with the song. She manages the high notes pretty decently too though she comes down with a slight whine, and knows when to scream it out and when not to. I thought I’d been surprised enough with Cruel Angel’s Thesis from the first cover album – apparently Shoko-tan has more tricks up her sleeve. I am impressed and in love all at once.
2) 輪舞 -REVOLUTION [Rinbu -REVOLUTION]: From Shoujo Kakumei Utena, this song was originally sung by Okui Masami (who is undeniably an anime song legend), and I’m pretty sure every anime song rotation and fan has come across it at least once in their musical journeys. It’s always been a dramatic piece, and Okui’s passionate strong vocals – much like Nishikawa Takanori’s in how they’re very unrelenting – have never quite been imitated or done complete justice to. Well, I did a double-take upon the first vocal notes, Shoko-tan may not be Okui Masami, but she does a very good imitation. After that stream of weaker songs from the last mini-album, it’s a bit hard to believe she can do something like this successfully, but she did.
3) Catch You Catch Me: Out of all the anime Shoko-tan has covered songs from – this is the most recent, CLAMP’s major hit, Cardcaptor Sakura. (We don’t mention Cardcaptors around me. That touches a pretty sore spot as far as anime dubs go.) The first opening has always been light-hearted and cheerful, keeping in line with the fact that the show started off being very kid-friendly, and both the music and Shoko-tan’s vocals have done a 180 from the previous track. She still has the power in her voice, but it’s tinged with an adorable cuteness that just wasn’t in the album’s prior songs.
4) テレポーテーション -恋の未確認- [TELEPORTATION -Koi no Mikakunin-]: The return of Hashimoto Ushio-sung upbeat songs and anime with heroines named Mami! (ESPer Mami, to be specific.) And Shoko-tan’s weaker vocals, too. This can’t possibly be the same girl who sang Rinbu -REVOLUTION? But it is.
5) ETERNAL WIND～ほほえみは光る風の中～ [ETERNAL WIND ~Hohoemi wa Hikaru Kaze no Naka~]: Continuing the Shoko-tan surprises, the theme song to Mobile Suit Gundam F91 is done with amazing adeptness. The orchestral strings add a heaviness that Shoko matches, but she still keeps her voice light for the bridges instead of heading completely into the near-operatic route she took for Cruel Angel’s Thesis. It’s a sweet and beautiful ending to the album.
This was another pretty solid release – given more musical styles to work with, Nakagawa Shoko shows she can handle them (as long as she loves the song, probably) and that there’s a lot more to her than was shown in the first cover-album. SONY probably had a good idea of what they were getting into when they signed her – an all-out otaku – on, but as far as I can see, it’s not anything that could detract from her marketing potential and her surprising vocal ability. (In fact, I’m willing to bet SONY was banking on that surpris factor too.) I don’t even need lowered standards (as would normally occur for gravure idols-turned singers) to enjoy her vocals.
But more importantly, here’s what I want to hear on Shoko-tan Cover 3, a cover of Hohoemi no Bakudan from Yu Yu Hakusho. And forget whatever I said about no Pokemon in that first review, I want to see her handle the tongue-twister that is Mezase! Pokemon Master. Maybe a song from something more recent (unlikely, given how Shoko-tan adores the older stuff), or a not-so-classic, like… NANA? Regardless of whatever goes on there, I don’t know when that third cover album will be coming out, but I definitely can’t wait to hear that it will.