When I started listening to iri at first I approached her music as “this is what DAOKO could have been”, as I usually and wrongly do with all the artists in the similar genre. But no, DAOKO could not have been iri, as iri is all about style, melody, flow, and these are not what early DAOKO was known for. No song of her relies only on her vocal performance, her every song is a complete thing in itself. And the best demonstration of this is her Shade album.
Oof, this is a tough choice. I love amazarashi as a whole, but I can’t really pinpoint which album I prefer to others. In the end I chose Chihou Toshi no Memento Mori because it’s the most diverse one. It has their trademark dark and moody songs alongside some of their more accessible — and popular — tracks.
One of my biggest regrets in Japanese music is that I only discovered Salyu this year. She’s hard to characterize and her music is hard to put in a single genre. It’s pop, folk, sometimes rock, alternative and so on. This particular album contains city-pop, jazz and ballad-themed songs. Some are moody, some uplifting, some calming. It’s diverse, yet still provides a holistic experience.
Ai Higuchi rapidly rose to become one of my most favorite Japanese vocalists. She’s not flashy, but she doesn’t need to be. She relies solely on her amazing voice and her perfect mastery of it. She’s probably the best live singer from those that I actively follow. This album provides the best examples of her usage of her own voice. It also includes Zensen, the song that shot her popularity up.
Leo is one of the few singers I follow since their debut. She had a great debut, her youthful energy carried in places where her lack of experience failed. Later she had some kind of a slump from my point of view, but this album is a great recovery. DUO perfectly encapsulates her growth not only as a vocalist, but as an artist in general. It’s made in a style that fits her like a glove: a mature, if a bit oldschool, groovy and melodic music that frames her developed voice. It’s also very obviously inspired by Shiina Ringo, and it’s a good thing in this case.
majiko, the owner of the most “juicy” voice from all the artists that I follow. This pick is simply a case of it containing the biggest amount of the songs that I love. Hibiwareta Sekai is one of my most favorite songs ever, and other ones are also very good.
Reol is truly one of a kind. She’s never afraid of experiments and is just a cute little ball of craziness and talent. Jijitsujou is not just an album, it’s a statement. Statement of her being ready to be the next big thing. Kinjitou could have also been a good pick, but the previous album is a lot more coherent in its style and the main theme, and also has two of my most favorite Reol tracks, so I decided to go with Jijitsujou.
Haruka to Miyuki, the most underrated pick from my list (this album isn’t even on Spotify). Their folkish-alternativish rock and their atmospheric performances sound like nothing else, but sadly not even their anime opening could bring them popularity, which is a great injustice. This album has all their best sides: moodiness, atmospheric and melodic music that goes alongside their voices and not serves as a backdrop to it, WILL (Ending Note) is eerily haunting, my favorite song of this band.
Now, this being my “favorite album” list is the only reason this album is merely 2nd. Kalk Samen Kuri no Hana is easily the best Japanese album that I’ve ever heard. This is the only album that I never put on shuffle. It’s a holistic solid thing, that needs to be listened to in the order. It tells you a story, it traps you, it makes you feel things you never knew music can make you feel. Shiina is a genius.
There are many games that had a lasting impression, but I want to highlight a game called Katamari Damacy.
This game does so much with so little: a simple gameplay mechanic of rolling stray objects into a ball. From not being able to roll a stray rock because it’s too big to rolling continents into your giant ball of doom. It’s very fun. It was one of the few times when I thought “What a stupid idea… what a genius idea!”
2. Favorite female video game character.
This is a tough question, but the answer probably is the Boss from MGS3. The way she’s written, presented and developed make her by far the best character in the Metal Gear Solid universe for me. I don’t believe Kojima could have written such a character, so I give all the credit to Tomokazu Fukushima.
3. A game that’s so bad but so good.
Not many people know about the game called Michigan: Report From Hell. And rightly so. It is very, very bad. But it’s hilariously bad. Nothing works properly in this game, so you shouldn’t even try to play it correctly. When you deliberately fail and go for the worst possible solutions is when this game is the most fun.
4. A game that hit an emotional spot in your heart.
For me to get emotional about a game it needs to make me feel empathy for its characters, make me care about them, and then set up an emotional moment in a proper way. This is much rarer than one can expect, sadly enough. But telltale’s The Walking Dead managed to make me care very deeply. Lee Everett and Clementine are written so well, their relationship is developed so well, and the conclusion hits so hard
5. Favorite game developer or studio.
This one’s easy. It’s CD Projekt. They seem like the last remaining beacon of hope in today’s video game industry. I love the way they make their games, how they treat their fans. I really hope they continue being awesome.
6. Favorite male video game character.
Balthier from Final Fantasy XII. He plays the leading man, who else?
7. 5 of your favorite OSTs.
VA-11 Hall-A OST by Garoad
Shadow of the Colossus OST by Kō Ōtani
The Witcher 3 OST by Marcin Przybyłowicz & others
Final Fantasy XII OST by Hitoshi Sakimoto
Lineage II: The Chaotic Chronicle OST by Bill Brown
8. A game that not enough people talk about.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. While Divinity: Original Sin 2 was on a genre-revolutionizing rampage, PoE2 was quietly released and it was an improvement upon its predecessor in every way possible. It pays homage to the great Infinity Engine titles of old and essentially is just a polished child of those. Story is good, writing is good, gameplay is good, yet it’s overlooked.
9. Favorite antagonist.
Luc and Sarah from Suikoden III. What makes a good antagonist? A sound motivation, logic behind his actions, charisma. Luc and Sarah have this all. Sarah is an antagonist, Luc is a villain, but none of them are even remotely evil. They were just doing what they thought needed to be done. And I may or may not have been rooting for them by the end of the game.
10. Favorite game as a kid.
Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! I still love this game. But as a kid I could just replay it repeatedly. Such a fun and well-made platformer. Need to play the remake eventually.
11. 5 of your favorite video games.
5. Neverwinter Nights
4. VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action
3. The Witcher 3
2. Final Fantasy XII
1. Shadow of the Colossus
12. A game series you’ve never been interested in.
Halo games always looked soulless and bland to me.
13. Favorite NPC or a party member.
Fran from Final Fantasy XII. I love her voice, I love her look, I love her part in the story. Also fuck you she’s not just a fanservice character.
14. A game that never gets old.
15. A game everyone should play at leas once.
Shadow of the Colossus or its remake for PS4. There’s just nothing quite like this game still. This game was a pure genius in how it managed to convey its atmosphere. A single guy trying to defeat 16 colossi all by himself. The scope of it was breathtaking, the feeling of loneliness it conveyed left you speechless and the resolution left you sobbing. Do yourself a favor and play this game.
16. A game that inspires you.
Final Fantasy XII once inspired me to try to write a fanfic. No one will ever read it for the greater good of humanity.
17. Favorite genre.
Role Playing Games. I like seeing stats grow and I like making decisions that matter and I like exploring and I like fighting monsters and I like completing quests and
18. What game you REALLY should have played by now.
Bastion. I am ashamed.
19. Favorite indie game you played recently.
I haven’t played any recent indie games, but the favorite indie game I played recently is The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth.
20. A game that truly scared the shit out of you.
Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly. I was smol and this moment scared the shit out of me almost literally.
This text was initially posted on the RJM Discord server.
BAND-MAID® are a peculiar group. I first discovered them through someone’s YouTube reaction video (don’t ask). They don’t really look the part and judging by their visual you would really think that they ought to sound like this. Imagine my surprise when I heard a very solid rock music coupled with not a cheesy anime vocal that I pretty much expected to hear. They really did rock. At first I found it just amusing, five girls dressed as cute maids making the most contrasting with their image music possible. But as I listened more and more I just forgot about this weird gimmick and came to appreciate them for what they did. I love how they sound: hard rock and power metal elements in their music are well-combined with Saiki’s and Miku’s vocals and the end product is something very distinct.
4. Yousei Teikoku
Yousei Teikoku is the closest Japanese band I know of that creates the type of music I enjoy from the western musicians — gothic metal. If you disregard Yui Itsuki’s vocals their music sounds like something Epica or Delain would produce. What sets them apart is the way they incorporate other elements into their music. Many of their songs feature heavy electronic distortions, and you shouldn’t be surprised by the dark ambient ring to their sound. The other thing that makes them notable is Yui’s vocal. She uses her range extremely well: high notes give way to low whispers, sweet and cheery expression can be replaced with haunting and cold when needed. All in all their music is very melodic and extremely satisfying to listen to if this is your cup of tea.
3. Kishida Kyoudan & THE Akeboshi Rockets
I don’t know if it’s only me, but I feel like Kishida Kyoudan & THE Akeboshi Rockets have a very distinct sound to them. It’s funny, but some of their songs somehow remind me of Russian rock of 80’s and 90’s. I may be out of my mind but that’s how I feel. Their music aside, I just low how sharp and clear ichigo’s vocals are. Her voice is very distinct to a point where you won’t mistake her for anyone else if you listen to her even once. Many people know this band through their many anisong appearances, but I found them when I had my annual ‘I must find some good-sounding doujin artists’ tic. By the time this occurred they have already had their memorable anime debut with Highschool of the Dead, but I was just not aware. I think they are quite known to people who are into Touhou stuff.
2. Ling Tosite Sigure
I don’t think there is anyone quite like Ling Tosite Sigure. They qualify as progressive rock, alternative rock, post hardcore and a shitload more genres but they may as well be considered their own genre. Shit TK does is out of this world, really. His music is distinct, his voice is distinct, and you can’t ever possibly forget his creations. Even in his collaborations he leaves an enormous stamp of his music. Take his collaboration with Aimer for example. The song ‘us’ is unlike anything Aimer has done before; TK managed to make Aimer use her voice almost to its limit.
Ling Tosite Sigure’s own music is a glorious mess of seemingly disjointed guitar riffs, metallic-sounding drums and interconnected vocals of TK and 345. Yet somehow it works and it works amazingly. Their music manages to make me listen to them more and more and more and more.
1. Haruka to Miyuki
Haruka to Miyuki to me is a duo that not just creates music, it’s a duo that tells me a story (mind that I don’t know Japanese, it’s just the way their music makes me feel). By definition they are a folk-rock duo, but it goes far beyond that. The way their lyrics are constructed makes it seem like Haruka and Miyuki are haveing a conversation during singing, or are telling a story together. Their sound is dominated by amazing drum and guitar work, and they are one of the few artists whose live performance videos I enjoy more than their studio albums or music videos.
This text was initially posted on the RJM Discord server.
5. Leo Ieiri
I discovered Leo Ieiri when I was lurking in the Interwebs searching for my favorite Japanese artists’ subbed interviews. One of the random interviews was that of a cute girl from a singing competition of some kind. I found out that her name was Leo Ieiri and that she was singing the song called “Shine”. Her emotional vocals and clear and melodic voice instantly gripped me and I started to frantically Google her name in hopes of finding more of her songs. Search results told me that her debut album was scheduled to be released in a month from that date. So yes, I discovered Leo even before she released her first studio album. What I like the most about her is how funky her songs sound, and how happy she looks while singing. Her songs are not the pinnacle of J-pop’s evolution, in fact they are very much in line with the industry, but I still love her for her voice and for the feeling that I get from witnessing someone’s career unfold before me from the very beginning. She’s also mad pretty.
Sanketsu Shoujo Sayuri — this name popped up in my YouTube recommendations when I was looking for some street performance videos. Immediately interested (as I have a good history of stumbling upon good shit), I clicked on the video and got instantly smitten. A petite raincoat-wearing girl, standing at a Shibuya crossroad, holding yellow guitar and singing… She was not singing, she was pouring her soul into that microphone before the dumbfounded crowd that gathered to watch a street performance on a rainy evening in Tokyo. To say that Sayuri is emotional is to say nothing. Each and every song, each and every performance, each and every music video or a live show is electrified with her energy, her emotions overflowing and flooding space, time and senses. She takes you on a journey of her expressions. You don’t just listen to Sayuri, you experience her.
Oh YUI, my first true love in the J-Pop world. Most people came to know about her through her various anisong performances, but it was different for me. More… trivial. It was my birthday and people were sending me their best wishes through various ways, and one of my friends decided to congratulate me with a song. That song was YUI – Happy birthday to you you. It was a love at first listen. And it was an all-encompassing love: I loved her voice, I absolutely adored her music and guitar play, I liked how she looked. Her music quickly became a mainstay in my playlist, and she was the first singer whose songs I never skipped — I loved them all. I even watched the movie she starred in — Midnight Sun — even though my opinion on Japanese cinema industry is quite low. It’s hard to say if I liked the movie on its own merits or if I liked it because of YUI, but yeah, I did like it. And even though she ended her music career, she still has a place in my heart.
2. Polkadot Stingray
One of my more recent discoveries, this band managed to capture my heart like no one did before or since aside from a certain girl I’m sure none of you can guess the name of. They are funky, they are fun, they fill me up with sunshine whenever I listen to their songs. It’s hard for me to pinpoint the main cause of my infatuation with them, so I’ll blame it equally on Shizuku’s quirky voice and their upbeat and spirit-lifting music. Every time they perform they look like they enjoy all this shithousery so much I can’t help but smile. Their good vibes are contagious and I can’t help but feel better after I receive the healthy dose of Polkadot Stingray.
Pretend that you’re surprised. Yes, I love Aimer. Yes, my love for Aimer is borderline obsessive. It’s actually quite hard to put into words just how much does she mean to me. Her music is not just music. Her songs are not just songs. Her voice is not just a voice. They are special. She’s my escapism, my drug, my sedative. Listening to her is one of the few ways I can relax and calm down. She never failed to calm me down. Whenever I listen to her I feel bewitched, taken, enchanted. When I listen to her, nothing matters. I cried when I watched her Budokan live. She’s just so gorgeous and cute and amazing and happy there, I just couldn’t help but cry. I listen to her daily, I feel really uncomfortable if I haven’t heard anything Aimer for a day. I’m addicted, and I love it. Yes I’m aware that this part makes no coherent sense, I don’t care, just bear with me.
There is no doubt in my mind that I am her biggest fan. Doesn’t matter if someone has listened to her more than I did, or if someone knows all her lyrics word by word. I just simply know that no one feels the way I do. There is a person that understands me and supports me, and I’m happy that this person also likes Aimer.
I am the biggest fan of Aimer because she has become the part of my life.