At the beginning of August, I read an ANN article about the release of a legitimate fan remix album featuring a variety of otaku favorites. That the DJ, Pete Ellison, a.k.a., INITIAL P, bothered to get official permission to produce the album struck me the most, considering how few seem to worry about the legitimacy of selling anything fan-made, even as fanart rules are slowly sweeping through the Artist Alleys of various conventions. A week later, while I was at Anime Overload in Austin, I checked my inbox and was very surprised to find an email by Ellison asking if I would review the album. When I got home the following Tuesday, Anime Love Hardcore had already arrived on my doorstep.
There are ten tracks included on the disk, and as I don’t know about half of them, I went and listened to the original versions of the unfamiliar songs ahead of time. A majority of the tracks are pretty oldschool and a majority also have female vocalists. I’m not quite sure which subcategory of anime fan Ellison is aiming for with the selection, but I imagine that licensing issues severely limited his choices for this album, and given that, the variety isn’t terrible.
As always, when I review music, they are just “first impressions” and I write what immediately comes to mind my first time listening through the album. Since it’s a remix album, I’ll pause a bit more between tracks to compare to the original, but it’ll be harder for the ones I’m not familiar with, even if I did listen to them beforehand. To be honest, I tend not to like remixes of songs I like, even when they’re official, but sometimes they manage to make the original better, so we’ll see! But whatever, let’s go~:
TRACK 01: “Catch You Catch Me” (Cardcaptor Sakura) — INITIAL P, feat. TOKI
A disembodied female voice announces the first track and reminds me vaguely of SARA, a co-host of Toonami back in the day. Lapse into some very energetic beats before introducing the vocals… TOKI’s voice is cute and handles the lyrics well, but feels a bit monotone against the continued energy of the accompanying music. The beginnings of the verses relay a nice innocent energy, but as each verse progresses, the slight, apathetic monotone returns. This kind of fits with the original song, but considering the source was much more lax in energy, tempo, and tone, I’m a little conflicted with halfway transition.
The remix is much more upbeat! But the vocals do not reflect this, and she sounds a bit too tsundere. Nevertheless, TOKI’s voice is strong, clear, and consistent, and definitely carries the song through to the end, even as the background beats get a bit repetitive as we round the four minute mark. It’s a good song, and I think it stands well on its own, so even if you’re not familiar with original, it’s enjoyable. Hell, it may be more enjoyable that way.
TRACK 02: “Sobakasu” (Rurouni Kenshin) — INITIAL P, feat. DIANA GARNETT
Starts with a lot of stuttered repeating. You’ll forgive me for my total lack of familiarity with DJ terms because I’m sure there’s a specific word for it. Trademark techno beat starts up quickly enough and some really sweet vocals go with it. There isn’t as much going on in the background here as in the previous track, but while the vocals feel a little muted, the energy and emotion is much clearer. Diana Garnett demonstrates some really beautiful high and sustained notes leading into the second chorus and — oh, hey, slight warbles definitely make it more interesting to listen to. More of the stuttered repetition as we move into the bridge, as well as some suspenseful scales for tension. Garnett’s sustained notes near the end are especially nice, even if the higher ones get a bit close to the height at which it starts to hurt my head.
Another good song though. Knowing the original “Sobakasu” a bit better actually made me appreciate it more since I think this remix recaptures a lot of the same energy and sincerity, as well as the slight nostalgia associated with the series. DJ and vocalist compliment each other very well here, and I’m looking forward to this next track…
TRACK 03: “Zankoku na Tenshi no Te-Ze” (Neon Genesis Evangelion) — INITIAL P, feat. DIANA GARNETT
A little unrecognizable here in the beginning… ah, there it goes. Intro is pretty liberal, but it’s still “Cruel Angel’s Thesis.” Garnett’s vocals continue to impress, especially considering how quickly some of these lyrics are going. Her pronunciation is spot-on and her energy again matches very well with the accompanying beats. I’m actually really enjoying the remixy bits here just because they are so different from the original while still retaining what it needs to be the same song. The bridge is lovely and maintains enough variety to keep things interesting while gearing up for the final verses… Aw, it seems that the final verse, chorus, and half-verse are abbreviated considerably. It’s a little disappointing to not have the grand finale of the song, especially since it’s my favorite part.
All the same, this was an excellent track. I am thinking this album would be a great asset to anime cons and clubs hosting raves and dances since a popular complaint is that people want to play popular anime themes, but many of those themes aren’t really meant for dancing to. This solves all those problems!
TRACK 04: “Heart of Madness” (Fist of the North Star) — INITIAL P, feat. YOSUKE
Another song I’m not familiar with, but it starts off as manly and foreboding as I’d expect it to… Vocals are nice! They resonate really well and the music does well to punctuate the Engrish words and phrases, making them more impactful and manly! Laser sounds in the background create the feeling of some kind of epic battle, and a high-pitched half-echo adds to the oddly spacey feel. To be honest, it is kind of easy to lose yourself in this song and just bounce along to the manly beat, haha.
TRACK 05: “Delicate ni Sukishite” (Creamy Mami) — INITIAL P, feat. TOKI
Starts off pretty wacky and tangy. I’ve never even heard of Creamy Mami before this, so this is a pretty blind dive in, but ahhhh, TOKI’s vocals are much more adorable here than in “Catch Me Catch You.” They’re still a little apathetic in parts, but the voice is just so moe. <_< The contrast between very energetic music and slightly off-putting (but still moe!) vocals is less stark as well, and I almost get the impression this is some little girl singing karaoke in front of a crowd in an oddly deadpan way. Like she knows she has incredible talent, but just doesn’t care enough to smile when she sings or dance or anything. She is just up there, singing with a blank expression, and it still sounds amazing. As we ease into the final chorus though, the ends of her notes feel a little more genuine, or at least like she cares.
TRACK 06: “Theme from Lupin the Third 1978″ — INITIAL P
The theme from Lupin the Third is already pretty remixy to begin with, considering its general lack of vocals, but the intro here still manages to take it to the next level. It has the distinct impression of a video game level. Particularly an oldschool Sonic level. Complete with random sound effects that kind of sound like warping or collecting rings or something. Minute and half mark has some minor vocals, but they’re still very overshadowed by the music. In my head, Lupin and the gang are running through a Sonicesque casino level collecting jewels while being chased by Mecha Sonic in a cop uniform. Yup. Bridge introduces some tantalizing sparkle sounds. Perhaps they’ve reached the last safe? Final run through the verse and chorus is the final chase! And at the end they crash through a window and fall to their escape vehicle of choice!
…I’d say this was a pretty fun and successful remix, lol.
TRACK 07: “Grip!” (Inuyasha) — INITIAL P, feat. DIANA GARNETT
Not my favorite of Inuyasha’s extensive and awesome musical collection, but it starts off in an almost unrecognizable manner, just like “Cruel Angel’s Thesis,” before diving into the very familiar intro melody. Garnett’s vocals start off rather muted, but once again her pronunciation is perfect and her voice incredibly steady and strong. Volume and energy increase at the first chorus and I’m getting incredibly nostalgic. “Grip!” might not be my favorite song from the series, but it is still a good song, and both DJ and vocalist are doing a lovely job with it. Vocals in the second verse are less muted and again, Garnett pushes passionately towards the chorus. Bridge adds a secondary, repetitive voice in the back that compliments the variety of sounds and beats thrown in. Final chorus is on par with the rest and the outro carries us nicely to the end. :3
TRACK 08: “Sorairo Days” (Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann) — INITIAL P, feat. TOKI
For some reason the first part of the intro made me think of a fairy tale… part following that doesn’t give away the song, and it isn’t distinctly “Sorairo Days” until the vocals… and even then, it is a little awkward. The pitch seems a bit off, a bit flat, and TOKI’s apathy clearly returns as we get into the first chorus. As the first song I’m really familiar with that TOKI has sung, I think I’m pretty unhappy with it. The flat monotone definitely doesn’t fit here… second verse seems to improve somewhat, and there are some differences in volume/mutedness when we get to the second chorus, but the energy just doesn’t seem to be there, and I keep wanting to hear Shoko Nagakawa’s original vocals blare through.
The accompanying music doesn’t really betray many of the original’s melodies either, so the bridge feels like a different song entirely. Slower vocals in the bridge sound strangely innocent and hesitant. Music speeds up as we lead into the final chorus, but her voice then goes back to the way it had been for the previous verses. Overall the song has a pretty subdued feeling about it. While the music remains upbeat throughout the song, TOKI’s vocals really bring it down and the remix doesn’t feel nearly as vibrant and energetic as the original. The first real disappointment of the album.
TRACK 09: “Gekkouka” (Black Jack) — INITIAL P, feat. YOSUKE
Intro begins with an indistinct voice in the back, standard remixy-sounds, a brief female voice, then more music before YOSUKE’s manly vocals start the song and carries the melody beautifully. I wish more of the melody were reflected in the accompanying beats, but the beats are pretty standard and repetitive here. Progressing into the second verse, I have to say that as well as the vocalist manages, he doesn’t quite have the range and variation of Janne Da Arc’s yasu. Still, the slight warbling keeps it different, and the bridge brings back that indistinct intro voice as well as a chipmunk-like secondary. Pretty weird, but not bad. Final chorus and outro are more or less the same.
TRACK 10: “Moonlight Densetsu” (Sailor Moon) — INITIAL P, feat. DIANA GARNETT
Starts off pretty boring. Indistinct male murmuring? And there we go, the incredibly familiar melody striking through the intro. Garnett’s vocals once again start off beautifully and sound particularly delicate and charming here. The clarity of each lyric is again impressive given the speed of the song. Don’t really feel like the music suits the vocals in the chorus, but it isn’t that big a deal. Emphasis on certain notes here and there give more life to the song as well. Bridge is awkward and does nothing to remind me of the song, but everything is better when the vocals come back… music/vocal compatibility rise with the following chorus, though I still feel like the melody is a little forceful when the vocals are absent. Going into the second bridge, the music is thankfully less random, if a bit boring. To be fair though, the original gets pretty repetitive too. Does on for a while though… Oh hey, that wasn’t a second bridge, that was just an insanely long outro! Well, damn.
OVERALL: I’m actually really impressed. I admit I wasn’t expecting a whole lot mostly because I know I tend to dislike heavy remixes, but these tracks felt more like liberal covers than remixes to me, which may be the same as a more conservative remix… I would not consider them “hardcore” by any means. INITIAL P manages to put interesting twists on each track without going overboard into the realm of obscurity. For some tracks, like “Gekkouka” and “Moonlight Densetsu,” I actually think he could have pushed the boundaries a little more, but I would still hesitate to suggest anything too crazy since heavier remixes tend to drown out vocals, which is usually the part of the song I gravitate towards the most. And considering all the vocalists featured on this album are supremely talented, that would be a shame.
I still feel that TOKI was a weird match for most of her songs, and “Sorairo Days” is the only track on the album I don’t really like because of the it, but given a song with a tone more appropriate to the mood and impression her vocals give off, I think she’d do a wonderful job. YOSUKE’s voice was really nice to listen to, though I wonder if he would have been able to demonstrate a wider range given a different selection of songs. I felt like his performance in “Gekkouka” could have been better, but that may just be because I like the original so much. Diana Garnett was my hands down favorite of the lot though, and I think for now, “Grip!” is my favorite track on the album. The energy and sincerity she demonstrates through her voice really serve as the backbone to most of her songs.
I wish this album were longer.
As I said already, Anime Love Hardcore is totally for anime con dances and raves. With this, you get sufficient beats to move your body to, but you still get to hear the melodies and lyrics of a handful of old favorites. It keeps the anime theme going strong at a dance that sometimes feels a little irrelevant at a convention celebrating Japanese media.