Spiritual successor to KOTOKO’s first-season Shakugan no Shana opening theme ‘being’, BLAZE replaces fan-favourite Mami Kawada song JOINT as the opening theme for the second half of Shakugan no Shana II. The single has some big shoes to fill, being both KOTOKO’s first single since the amazing Real Onigokko as well as the replacement for a much-loved anime opening theme. So, does this latest KOTOKO release ultimately live up to expectations? Well…
KOTOKO – BLAZE (2008, Geneon)
3. BLAZE (Instrumental ver.)
4. Sociometry (Instrumental ver.)
Before Real Onigokko came out and showed the world that Kazuya Takase had not, in fact, completely forgotten how to make good music (despite what previous artistic failures such as the abominable ‘scene’ may have led fans to believe), I was just about ready to give up on the man. Time and time again the I’ve logo made its way on to horribly uninspired dreck thanks to his lazy production “style”, and even when he provided the music for Mami Kawada’s beautiful ‘triangle’ the song seemed to have worked despite Takase instead of because of him.
But then Real Onigokko came out, and it was like all those other failures never happened. Once again, Takase was back to making music that sounded like personal care and attention were both integral parts of the creative process instead of extraneous details to be tossed to the wind. And, to paraphrase that famous verse in the Bible, the fans saw that it was good.
But just like how shortly after that verse God buggers off and lets Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge, thus damning humanity to never again walk the hallowed grounds of Eden, Kazuya Takase had to go and get lazy again right after Onigokko. BLAZE, his latest half-assed money grab of a KOTOKO single, doesn’t quite reach scene’s astonishing heights of horrible, lazy songcrafting, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound like he’s giving it his best shot. Every aspect of BLAZE’s production reeks of a lack of effort, from the endlessly looped synthesizers (which sound for all the world like a keyboard preset) to the song’s ‘upbeat’ switch for the chorus that does nothing save for robbing the song of its only distinguishing features – it’s just all bad.
KOTOKO’s vocals go a little way towards saving the song, but it’s largely a case of ‘too little, too late’. Either way, her pseudo-denpa vocals during the main verse sections are at the very least more interesting-sounding than those in the chorus, and that alone gives the song an edge over its similarly uninspiring predecessor ‘being’. But once again, Takase’s laziness results in the squandering of the song’s only good point, as the second verse section is wholly indistinguishable from the first and KOTOKO’s denpa voice has never been enough to carry a song on its own. And besides, no matter how good a vocal performance may be, it’s still nothing when the arrangement behind it is this fucking worthless.
And things only get marginally better on the B-side.
Sociometry, Shakugan no Shana II’s second ending theme and C.G mix’s contribution to the single, represents a key difference between C.G mix and Kazuya Takase. While it is true that Sociometry isn’t really any more creative or original than BLAZE, C.G mix on autopilot is still far more entertaining than 90% of the other J-pop producers out there. Every aspect of Sociometry had been done before (and better) in C.G mix’s Prism Ark theme songs Genzai no Reqiuem and Ketsudan no entrance, but especially as a follow-up to BLAZE the song seems quite pretty in its own way. It’s not something you’ll find yourself going back to terribly often in the months to come, but at least it’s not as awful as its A-side.