Eternal Sunshine of the Naked Mind
It’s official. The Otakon AAA posts have been undeniably the most read posts I have typed up… ever. Between this blog and the old version of it (with all its downloads) combined. People are still searching them up, never mind incoming from other sites for those three posts alone. And clearly anything else I may have to say won’t attract nearly as much attention. But let’s try it anyways.
If you haven’t realized it by now, I’m also an anime fan. Not closet, just casual. I used to be focused on it much like I’m focused on J-Pop (Culture) now, but one of my favorite things about that particular industry has always been the voice actors.
Oh yes, the seiyuu. Seki Tomokazu was my favorite of them all. So when he was announced as a guest for Otakon, I was immensely pleased too. Unfortunately, in my AAA frenzy, the only Seki-related event I did make while at Otakon was half of his panel in the Main Hall on Saturday, but he is still undeniably a funny and talented man. Not the handsomest, not the smoothest, and that he smokes is a turn-off, but he’s still funny and talented with a voice that makes me melt.
Okay, enough singing praises. Seki, like most seiyuu, makes a living off his voice, and got around to releasing 3 actual albums where he was singing as himself, unaffiliated with anything anime or tokusatsu, with a general titular theme of “Mind”. (I’m conveniently ignoring the Kamen Rider cover album.) Surprisingly, the first of these, Naked Mind, was with avex back in 2000, and even more surprisingly, it was (executive) produced by the same “Max” Matsuura Masato that brought Hamasaki Ayumi to fame.
Of course, though, it’s nothing amazing. Vocal quality, production quality – even the CD booklet’s just a jacket cover with a quarter-folded printed lyrics sheet that has a collage of sepia shots of the recording process and Seki being a dork throughout. Seki and the production team weren’t trying to wow anyone or drop his day job as a seiyuu, and it shows clearly that this was an experimental thing following the relative success of some other seiyuu singers.
But I paid money for this back in high school, so you’re going to sit through this with me.
o1/ Flash Back: The opening track is undeniably cheesy. Oh so cheesy. House music backs Seki speaking in what is apparently supposed to be an orgasm-inducing breathy sexy voice. In
English Engrish. The accent makes it all the funnier. Or worse, depending on how you react to Engrish. The music is nice, though, employing a synth-created backgrounds and it would’ve been perfectly fine as an instrumental. But the words just make this something to laugh at.
o2/ Stay with me: The first actual song on the album is surprisingly a pop track with a disco dance beat. The apparent hook of “some like it honey” is a bit odd, but considering this album dates from 2000, I don’t suppose I can say much. The chorus is catchy, though Seki’s jumps to higher notes aren’t completely smooth, and the ending’s rather fun.
o3/ Singin’ Love 4U: This song is crack. Seki undeniably had fun singing this too, playing with his voice and pitch to provide his own backup vocals. The lyrics are riddled with cheesy English – “Everytime I will promise kimi no tame ni Singin’ Love 4 U”, “Rock me tonight” – but then again, this song was written by the same Togashi Akio who had a hand in AAA’s Friday Party. (Yes. I just completely further linked the two outside of Otakon and 5 years before AAA debuted. I went there. Leave me alone.) The man is better off as a composer – speaking of which, the music here is minimal. Synth beats with guitar chords and a few notes popping up here and there, but the point of the song is Seki’s vocal variations. This song is pure amusement, especially when he sounds like a rejected muppet. And I’m glad I bought this album because of this song alone. It makes brains spazz.
o4/ 君のいない夜 君のいない朝 [Kimi no Inai Yoru, Kimi no Inai Asa]: We head into R&B with this song, and frankly, Seki’s voice isn’t suited for it. His voice isn’t especially smooth, and has just a bit too much power. I keep imagining this song with vocalists like Hirai Ken, Miura Daichi, and Yamamoto Ryohei and it turns out better every time. That said though, any problem with the song is purely with Seki’s vocals, because it’s a decent track and the vocal melody is rather nice.
o5/ interlude: The album may not be hip-hop or from m-flo, but I just can’t seem to get away from these, can I? That said, this is 4 minutes of dance music, both a space filler and a money maker, but it’s also rather nice for dance music. CUBLIC knew what he was doing.
o6/ Makin’ Better Place: This is… well, your average pop song. The music is rather relaxing, with a bossa nova hint, and Seki’s vocals reflect as much through the stanzas. Then the chorus comes with its descending melody, and it sort of feels like he’s singing out on a street corner with copies of himself doing the harmonies. I really don’t know how better to describe it, because the song is nothing special but for having Seki sing a different genre of music and the mental image it gives me.
o7/ Nothin’ In My Hands: We’re back to disco pop with this, and it’s nothing too distinguishable from the bastard lovechild of Stay with me and any anime song until we hit the three bridges of the song where thanks to the magic of vocal filters he plays his own refrain and sounds different. Seki does hit the mood perfectly throughout the song, and this is the first track on the album where there’s a hint that he might be more than just a decent singer who happened to get an album break.
o8/ キミがいる [KIMI ga iru]: A cover of the song by band GALLA that also served as an ending to the anime series Initial D. I could throw in a m.o.v.e reference but I’ll spare you it. The original song was an acoustic guitar ballad with rock buildups, here the rock has been replaced with synth. This is also the single best track on the album (amusement factor aside), as Seki completely delivers vocally, making the song his own.
o9/ Naked Mind: I cannot tell a lie. The opening snaps make me think of Ben E. King’s Stand By Me. And the general composition of this song seems to be the same – the music is done almost a capella, with snaps and vocal injections and only some light triangle punctuation. It fits Seki’s vocals rather well, because the man is more an emotional than a technical singer and this lets the feeling in his voice show through.
This is in no way an especially good album. But it did pave the way for his next two albums, where Seki’s singing improved audibly. All things considered though, sitting through this has reminded me why I liked him so much. Okay, sitting through one track. Singin’ Love 4U. That just made the entire album worth it.