KOTOKO’s tenth maxi-single for Geneon records and the first song I’ve has produced for a live-action film, the titular theme song for horror film Real Onigokko is undoubtedly the most hotly-anticipated single of the year for I’ve. And now that it’s finally released, was it worth the wait? Well, it would be ruining the point of a review to answer that question here, so let’s go below the cut for that one.
KOTOKO– リアル鬼ごっこ (Real Onigokko) (2007, Geneon)
Around the time Shichitenhakki☆Shijoushugi! came out, I had decided for myself that Kazuya Takase was done. His production credits contain many of the best electronic compositions to come out of Japan, he founded the I’ve Sound collective all the way back in 1998, and up until very recently his name on a project was as sure a seal of quality as any. But with Shichitenhakki, we had a top-notch production from C.G mix as the A-side contrasted with a sloppy, unprofessional mess of a Takase-produced B-side and it became apparent that, after all these years of hard work, Takase had finally gone and tired himself out. His follow-up effort on Kaori Utatsuki’s lightweight “Chasse” was no more impressive, with Maiko Iuchi offering up a far superior song on the B-side and the full version of the title track adding nothing to the anime edit.
Given his lacklustre performance over the last year, the prospect of Real Onigokko was a less-than-pleasant idea: with both songs produced by Kazuya Takase, KOTOKO’s latest seemed doomed from the start. Not helping matters any was the cheesy-looking movie the song was attached to – admittedly I’ve has never quite been involved with the best of anime and the eroge their works have been attached to sometimes seem dubious at best, but one can’t quite help but worry for poor KOTOKO when her latest is attached to what looks to be a B-grade horror film.
However, putting aside whatever the reason for his previous slump may have been, Takase came through. Real Onigokko, apparent spiritual successor to Takase and KOTOKO’s 2005 industrial-horror epic “Collective”, has both artists in top form. KOTOKO’s vocals mimic her I’ve compatriots Eiko Shimamiya and MELL both, with ethereal verses reminiscent of the former’s Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and a powerful chorus that evokes MELL at her most passionate. But there’s more to her mimicry than simple copying; in assuming the vocal stylings of her fellow I’ve girls, KOTOKO further defines herself as the most versatile member of the collective.
Takase’s production, however, is unmistakably his. His trademark mechanical-sounding power chords (used to great effect on past songs such as the aforementioned Collective and MELL’s breakout single Red fraction) are back in full effect, working along with some great electronics to establish a beautifully claustrophobic atmosphere surely more horrific and thrilling than anything in Real Onigokko the movie.
Not to say the song doesn’t have its flaws, though. Real Onigokko’s 6+ minute runtime is a bit much, especially when considering a lot of that time is spent on repetition of the song’s driving power chords. It also isn’t helped any by the cheesy eleventh hour addition of likely-synthesized orchestral backing some 5 minutes in, but these are mere nit-picks. The fact of the matter is that Real Onigokko is Takase’s best single in years (all apologies to Red fraction), and were it not for a certain Shichitenhakki it’d undoubtedly be KOTOKO’s as well.
Yet unlike Shichitenhakki, Real Onigokko’s B-side doesn’t disappoint. The slinky, seductive ‘siren’ may not have quite the same initial punch of its A-side, but its subdued sexiness is no less satisfying. Reminding one in no small way of standout track “Abyss” off the last I’ve Girls Compilation album, KOTOKO’s vocals sound for all the world like the proverbial ‘sweet nothings’ whispered into a lover’s ear. It’s certainly far from raunchy, but that isn’t to say it doesn’t sound a great deal more, let’s say, intimate than your average I’ve song. As with Real Onigokko, production on siren is stellar as well – for anyone who had wondered if Takase would ever again make anything that sounds like his work on 2000’s 2-disc compilation “verge”, siren’s answer is “very much yes”. Might not be right up in your face the same way Onigokko is, but wait a few months and siren may very well be the one you keep going back to.