Doujin, Game Music, Japanese, Reviews

GensouYuugikan: -Fantastic Casino- (Review)

December 6, 2012 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook GensouYuugikan: -Fantastic Casino- (Review)on Twitter

When it comes to Touhou Project, there seems to be an endless stream of music coming out on the doujin music scene every year. A cursory look inside stores specializing in doujin products in Akihabara reveal large swaths of retail space dedicated to all types of Touhou Project music. Monthly sales ranking from shops such as Toranoana also reflect the dominance of Touhou Project although Vocaloid-related music appears from time to time to shake up things up. Nevertheless, it becomes a bit of a workout to sort through the horde of music out there, especially for the uninitiated.

Enter Arte Refact’s GensouYuugikan -Fantastic Casino-. Released originally during Reitaisai 10, the annual doujin event dedicated to Touhou Project, the 10 track album featuring a veritable who’s who of major doujin music groups with Touhou Project being there common link. This concept album’s theme centers around the idea of what it would be like if Gensokyo, the place central to the Touhou Project series, had a game center in it. Alongside this theme is the character, Marisa Kirisame’s adventures through said game center. The anachronistic theme aside, I had rather high expectations for this album given the star power driving it. As mentioned before, with such a wide variety of arranges, remixes and so forth out on the market, it can be difficult finding a gem in an endless sea of music.

Did Arte Refact nail it on their release? Or perhaps this is simply the case of more of the same? Hit the jump and find out!

Before diving into the review itself, a bit of background on the artists that make up Arte Refact. Headlined by the producer, fandelmale of Kimi no Museum, Arte Refact’s other members include SYNC.ARTS, C-CLAYS, SoundOnline, and poplica*. Each of these groups bring a diverse set of musical styling to this super group, whether it be Kimi no Museum’s acoustic rock arrangements, C-CLAYS’s pop rock vocals, or dBu music’s many forays into electronic, jazz and rock arrangements. Given this illustrious group’s popularity with Touhou Project fans in Japan and in the West, expectations were high.

Given the game center theme, it is quick to assume that there may be a lot in the way of perhaps chiptune or video game flavored music. With the first track, GensouYuugikan -introduction- by Doubu Usagi (dBu music), you get a bit of that video game feel as the track moves from a slow piano piece into a quicker, groovy jazz rendition. Keeping in mind the title of the album though, this first track has more of the feel of a casino than a game center. As the album progresses though, this appears to be deliberate.

PLAY&PRAY, the second track on the album composed by PHEVOTT of Kimi no Museum, brings in a cheery, swing styled vocal track which flow nicely from the end of the first track. By this time, the theme of the album starts to come into question if any of the arranges would really have a video game-like feel to them. However, there is a cleverness to this album that may not be clear to listeners who do not understand Japanese.

For starters, game centers in Japan are more than just arcade cabinets as it is also common to find UFO catcher machines, medal games (ie. slot machines and other types of “gambling” games) and even large screened, multiplayer horse racing simulators. Judging from the titles of the tracks alone, such as the fast-paced Kami Sabita Keibajou (Sacred Horse Racing Track) a play on the song Sacred Ancient Battlefield ~Suwa Foughten Field from Mountain of Faith or the choral Medal Game [Esoteria], one can see that tracks like these reflect the different aspects of a Japanese game center. In the case of Medal Game [Esoteria] composed by Doubu Usagi, the choral vocals reveal the tale of Marisa Kirisame blowing her money on medal games in order to hit the jackpot. Knowing the humor in the lyrics certainly add to the enjoyment of this track but I worry that this may not be as interesting for those that are lacking in Japanese ability or translated lyrics.

Despite these assumptions, I was aptly surprised by Rhythm Red by Yatoki Tsukasa (SoundOnline). The beginning of the track reminded me of music games like Beatmania with the “Select Music” voice over the sound effects of switching between music tracks. Given the type of music one may expect in music games, the track was fitting in its electronic stylings. The “Stage Fail” voice over at the end of the track did elicit a chuckle out of me. Another track, Chasing down by Gojou Kai (SYNC.ARTS) had a Eurobeat feel to it and given the lyrics it reminded me of Initial D and the Eurobeat music it seemed to spawn. While personally not a fan of Eurobeat music per se, I had to admit that the track was rather fitting.

To close out the album, the final track GensoYuugikan – Penniless Magician by Dobu Usagi goes back to the initial slow pacing of the first track. The title itself is fitting as it is implied that Marisa Kirisame must’ve been broke after throwing down money on arcade games, medal games, horse racing and UFO catchers. Again, we see the cleverness in the game center theme of the album. After the many high energy tracks in the album, the almost melancholic feel of the final track gives the album closure. A fitting touch.

While GensoYuugikan -Fantastic Casino- is an enjoyable collection of Touhou Project music, I couldn’t help but feel that it could have been more than what was presented. While the cleverness of the album theme was certainly impressive, I feel that overseas fans may not appreciate it as much without working knowledge of Japanese. You take that away, and a good chunk of the tracks do feel like just about every other arrange or remix out there. However, this should not take away from the professional feel of the music or the skill of the vocalists. If its groundbreaking arrangements that you are seeking you however, you may be best served to look elsewhere. But if the theme of the album makes sense, then certainly you are in for a musical treat.

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