Anime, Film, Japanese

“Tarento” Shows a Glimmer of Talent: Shokotan’s Gurren Lagann Film Single

August 6, 2010 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook “Tarento” Shows a Glimmer of Talent: Shokotan’s Gurren Lagann Film Singleon Twitter

The last time I spoke of Shoko Nakagawa, it was in most unpleasant terms. Her single for one of many Pokémon films left me wanting to turn off my ears. I didn’t want to hear it.

So when I was asked to check out another Shokotan single, I was ready to put put either two earplugs in my ears or one bullet in my head. I just didn’t understand the appeal of this J-pop star.

Well I finally got a glimpse of why people may enjoy her work. Maybe it was just a bad first impression with that ultra-childish Pokémon music. This time, we have her theme song for the second Gurren Lagann film, entitled “Namida no Tane, Egao no Hana” (trans. “Seed of Tears, Flower of Smiles”).

Our review of the full single, including its two B-Sides, are to be found after the jump. Can this “tarento” prove to have something truly valuable to add to my growing collection of Japanese music?

I have not yet seen the second Gurren Lagann film (full title: Gurren Lagann The Movie: The Lights in the Sky are Stars). Though I will say, based on my exposure to the TV anime, it’s definitely good stuff. And Shoko Nakagawa (aka Shokotan) is not a stranger to the series, as she has sung other theme songs for the series in the past. But this single for the film really did stand out to me.

“Namida no Tane, Egao no Hana” is a great 4/4 dance track; a kind of dance-rock-pop that’s got equal parts minor-key hesitation and glittery J-pop confidence. Mix that in with a batch of super-produced percussion and strings, and you have a perfect stew of memorable J-pop-stuff. Of the thousands of Japanese pop/rock theme songs I’ve heard for games and anime, I’d honestly rank this one in a top 100.

The same cannot be said for the B-Sides on this single (released under catalog number SRCL-7023 in April of 2009). “Gozen Rokuji” (trans. “6 AM”) is the kind of music that an “up-and-at-’em” kind of person would listen to at 6 AM to wake themselves up. Me? Turn off the music, and the alarm clock, and let me sleep in. And if you play this song at noon, it will remind me that I’m still not a morning person. Too peppy, too perky. Oh Shokotan, please stop! You are too happy and this song is too much of a pest for me to continue listening!

The third track on the single, “Milky Kiss,” has synths all around it that remind me simultaneously of two different Sega franchises. The first, which you can hear very well in the beginning, is Sonic the Hedgehog. The second, which you can detect at other points in the song, is Lunar (the old Sega CD “The Silver Star” version). So, Jun Senoue meets Noriyuki Iwadare? Musically, it’s fun and interesting. But Shokotan’s voice ruins the mix for me. She needs to take on that darker, more pensive timbre from the opening track, even if this is a major-key candy-pop sort of track. That’s the only time I can really dig her style: when she’s willing to sound like a real human and not a pleasure robot chick.

All told, I’m glad I heard this single, if only because it’s given the wildly popular Shoko Nakagawa a chance to redeem herself in the eyes of this skeptic. I’m still cautious, but now I know that with the right team of musicians and producers behind her, she can produce something I can actually enjoy. Keep pairing her with anime like Gurren Lagann and with less Pokémon and I think we’ll be in business. Not that my opinion matters much over the screaming masses of Japanese girls who think this young lady is the cream of the crop. Let’s just say that this jaded guy thinks even manufactured pop stars like Shoko Nakagawa deserve a chance to prove themselves to the careful listener. And every now and then, you’ll find something worthwhile … right?

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