Posted by: 愛撫 | 04/05/09

Anthology review: I’ve 10th Anniversary “Departed to the Future” Special CD Box

Released to celebrate I’ve’s 10th anniversary (more or less, since the group was officially formed in 1998 yet their first recordings weren’t released until 1999), the Departed to the Future box set contains new singles and live recordings from each of the 5 members of Love Planet Five, as well as a DVD of the recently-made “Departed to the Future” film (which won’t be reviewed here). So, how does this new set fare? Read on to find out!

 Various – I’ve 10th Anniversary “Departed to the Future” Special CD Box (2009, Geneon)

gncv-100_01

Tracklisting:

KOTOKO – snIpe

  1. snIpe
  2. Close to me… -I’VE in BUDOKAN 2009 Live ver.-
  3. snIpe -instrumental-

MELL – 殻の蕾 (Kara no Tsubomi)

  1. 殻の蕾
  2. 美しく生きたい -I’VE in BUDOKAN 2009 Live ver.-
  3. 殻の蕾 -instrumental-

島みやえい子 (Eiko Shimamiya) – Paranoia

  1. Paranoia
  2. To lose in amber -I’VE in BUDOKAN 2009 Live ver.-
  3. Paranoia -instrumental-

川田まみ (Mami Kawada) – L’Oiseau bleu

  1. L’Oiseau bleu
  2. 風と君を抱いて -I’VE in BUDOKAN 2009 Live ver.-
  3. L’Oiseau bleu -instrumental-

詩月カオリ (Kaori Utatsuki) – end of refrain ~小さな始まり~ (Chiisana Hajimari)

  1. end of refrain ~小さな始まり~
  2. Senecio -I’VE in BUDOKAN 2009 Live ver.-
  3. end of refrain ~小さな始まり~ -instrumental-

The review:

Any set aiming to capture the length and breadth of the last 10 years with I’ve has a lot to live up to, and the idea of doing so by releasing 5 new songs with the current lineup of vocalists seems patently ridiculous at best. The set’s inclusion of live cuts from the 2009 I’ve at Budokan group concert makes some attempt to reconcile the core conceptual audacity mentioned above, yet even as such the decision to focus on live renditions of the girls’ debut efforts rather than the songs that represent them best strikes one as questionable.

MELL, for example, made her debut with I’ve’s first eroge Hakidame-trASH- (吐溜) back in 1999, and while the game’s cute ending theme Utsukushiku Ikitai is by no means a bad song, the Dancemania affectations and simplistic arrangement dates it considerably, rendering it more a quaint reminder of how silly so much of early I’ve was than a fitting representation of the original I’ve girl. Some effort is made to salvage the song in the updated live version, adding guitars to the arrangement and MELL upping the energy quotient appropriately, but as will be a running theme in this review it’s a case of “too little, too late”: the MELL who made that song was one still struggling to find her voice, easily outshone on early efforts by her more easily-recognizable peers AKI and Ayana.

On the A-side, MELL’s contribution to the set’s roster of singles ranks as one of the better in the box, and is indeed one of the few that truly achieves the goal of distilling a 10-year career into 6 minutes. Kara no Tsubomi begins with some of the cutesy vocals that carried MELL through much of her earlier awkwardness (and which would resurface in what was perhaps the only enjoyable bit of otherwise dire single Virgin’s high!) before building up to a song that would be perfectly suited as a theme song for a mecha anime. The C.G mix production doesn’t break any new ground, certainly, but the song has enough of a drive to make its derivative aspects far more easily forgivable than they might been. Touring guitarist Takeshi Hoshino joins in with the arrangement, and while it’s hard to detect much of a difference between Hoshino’s assistance and that of fellow I’ve contributor Takeshi Ozaki, Ozaki’s contributions have helped make some of the most memorable songs in recent I’ve history so the comparison isn’t at all a bad thing.

Eiko Shimamiya, however, doesn’t fare quite as well. Paranoia, while saved from comparisons to her recent solo failure Hikarinadeshiko thanks to being inoffensively bland rather than painfully bad, fails miserably when taken as the supposed representation of what Shimamiya ‘sounds like’ both now and as a retrospective. Lacking both the passionate tenderness of her ballads and the murky horror of her anime work, the song seems more than content just being. The song also suffers from Kazuya Takase’s newfound inability to craft a hook, its 5:37 runtime disappearing from the listener’s mind as soon as the next track starts up. But, seeing as generic unremarkable songs intended for anime series forgotten before the end of their season run seem to be the new way of business at big bad record label Geneon Universal, there’s little doubt that this bit of passionless dreck was just what the doctor ordered.

Doing much better with her B-side, Shimamiya’s “To lose in amber” is still a great song and the guitars added in the live arrangement liven it up nicely without becoming too overbearing as they could have easily become in a slower song such as this one. From the regal electric piano hook to the chorus sung with more heart than she bothered putting into the entirety of Hikarinadeshiko, the song was good back in 2000 and it remains so wonderfully. And interestingly, despite being more or less her I’ve debut, the song actually works as a forecast of what was to come for Shimamiya: the formula established with To lose in amber would carry her through many a compilation release, and even if it might not have been her best song it still shows who she is wonderfully.

Continuing on the mediocrity tip from Paranoia, we come to Mami Kawada’s embarrassment of a single. Straining too obviously to hit high note after high note, the piano-focused song seemingly plucked from the ending of some lamentable eroge-turned-OVA shows off brilliantly everything that Kawada is awful at. Firstly, while Kawada has proven herself more than capable of handling something with a slower tempo in the past, all of her successful songs in this vein have been ballads and L’Oiseau bleu is pronouncedly free of lament. In fact, the song is overflowing the kind of sickly-sweet obnoxiousness that made her recent songs My Friend and Aozora to Taiyou impossible to stand, and while Geneon saw fit to leave Aozora to Taiyou off the tracklisting for SAVIA (one of the few things I can genuinely say the label was right in doing), there’s no such mercy when it comes to the contents of Departed to the Future. Summery piano, light acoustic guitar strumming and fake strings all suggesting a bright, happy ambiance unbecoming of the girl who recorded JOINT, one would really love to hope that there won’t be too many more songs like this on her horizon. Or, if there are, if said recordings don’t end up sullying the good name of C.G mix as this one did.

Kawada’s live track, Kaze to Kimi wo Daite, was originally a good song (one of her few eroge tracks worth noting), but the live recording turns it into a great one. With Mami sounding far more sure of herself than on the original recording, the performance of the song can best be described as a ‘tightened’ version of the original. Shorter runtime, a better vocal and the welcome addition of electric guitars to the previously fully-electronic arrangement all contribute to one of the best live tracks of the set, and even if it isn’t necessarily all that indicative of Mami’s body of work it’s a welcome addition to the tracklisting.

Harder to analyze is the Kaori Utatsuki single, end of refrain ~Chiisana Hajimari~. The choice of Tomoyuki Nakazawa and Takeshi Ozaki as production team was something of an oddball selection, considering the comparative lack of history between the Nakazawa/Ozaki team and Utatsuki when compared with her more frequent collaborators Maiko Iuchi or C.G mix, and it doesn’t quite work. The song isn’t bad by any means, and unlike Paranoia it’s not too horribly dull to be remembered, but it sounds too much like Utatsuki treading water to truly be worth a recommendation. There’s nothing in the song that she hasn’t done before, and Ozaki’s guitars keep sounding like they want to break out and really rock the place, but they’re too polite to actually make good on their promise. Kaori may have more hidden potential than any of the I’ve girls, but at this rate it’s never going to be used for anything.

While the majority of the live song selections are fairly well-mastered recordings, the recordings from Utatsuki and KOTOKO both sound frankly terrible. Not too much due to bad performances, although KOTOKO’s is admittedly questionable, but through a general muddiness to the sound that renders both Close to me… and Senecio unpleasingly messy, instruments largely impossible to separate from each other and forming more of an unintentional ‘wall of sound’ feeling than the more distinct melodies of the original compositions. Neither track is anything to write home about, unless for some reason one really needs an example of how KOTOKO songs used to not be all that good.

And speaking of KOTOKO, her ‘snIpe’ has quickly proven itself to be the fan favourite of the box, and even with my long and storied prejudice against Maiko Iuchi I have to confess she did a good job with the single. Evoking in no small way her recent Mami Kawada single ‘masterpiece’, Iuchi produces a slick little number clearly intentioned as a reminder that, despite a number of recent missteps, KOTOKO is still the main attraction of the I’ve roster. Her vocals are strained, sure, but that’s more or less been how KOTOKO’s always sounded. The song, of course, doesn’t really tell the listener what KOTOKO is ‘all about’, of course, but in order for a song to truly accomplish that it’d have to mix I’ve’s trance style with industrial metal and denpa and who knows what else, and the prospect of such a freakish Frankensong makes me somewhat grateful that Iuchi decided not to try in that regard. A good song with a good hook, and it reminds you of her previous works (particularly the Prism Ark themes) without being openly derivative of any.

Overall, the Departed to the Future set suffers from a daunting price tag and an unnecessary packaging model (there was no reason whatsoever for the box to contain 5 CDs and 6 DVDs), but the actual music contained within, particularly the live tracks from Kawada and MELL, actually comes as a pleasant surprise for those who have come to expect only the worst from I’ve recently. Granted, it’s unlikely that any of these songs will live on as classics quite like I’ve triumphs like Re-sublimity or Red fraction have, but considering the apocalyptic anxiety surrounding the release, it’s failed to drive a stake through the heart of I’ve and sometimes that’s enough.


Responses

  1. you’re right about the live tracks. Mami’s live version of ‘Kaze to kimi wo daite’ makes the song became my favorite song once again. x3

    but the others… well, if only they put WHEEL of FORTUNE, Re-sublimity>/b>, and Red fraction instead. -_-;;

    and about L’oiseau Bleu… i dislike the song since the preview and still not fond of it until now… not even the usual PV effect can make me like it. Mami is so beautiful in the PV and i usually ended up loving the song because of the PV, but not this one.

    after many times of listening to this boxset… my favorite list would be like this:
    1. snIpe
    2. end of refrain ~Chiisana Hajimari~
    3. Kara no Tsubomi
    4. Paranoia
    5. L’Oiseau Bleu

  2. Wow I was waiting for a review like this. :D

    And from what I observed, it looks like many people really like snIpe but truly granted that it was really the most remarkable song of all. Well I hope Maiko Iuchi composes more songs like this.

    And I’m having a hunch, she will be one of the candidates of “The best composer” at the end of the year if such works continue — especially now that I’m liking more her recent works (masterpiece, snIpe and Bizarrerie Cage).

  3. Paranoia & Kara no Tsubomi happen to be my favorite tracks in the whole box. I like end of refrain, but it continues the trend that the producers all think Kaori is incapable of writing her owns lyrics. That is with the fact that we’ve heard two really good songs that she’s written by herself.

  4. I could do without Mami & Kaori’s singles, but the rest were pretty solid. The lives were nice additions, though.

  5. In my opinion I will really have to disagree with you on snIpe. The problem with it is not at all the instrumental part of it but the way KOTOKO sings. I don’t think it is a song that should be made for her she isn’t bringing that edge to the song that would make it pop like MELL or Kawada Mami would.

    I think MELL’s song was the best because it plays to her strong vocals and fits her fancy and dark like attitude she tends to bring with her music. I think that if anything MELL could have done snIpe properly because to me it just seems like KOTOKO can never seem to carry the right tune for her music recently and this really shows that. Re-Sublimity played to her strengths along with Tsukiyo no Butokai and Chercher and many others from the past. This one like I said would be just another example of her not doing her best. She seems to be trying to copy MELL and not effectively either.

    With the release of both Real Onigokko and other darker songs among the other artist the whole dark and industrial thing shouldn’t be what makes them pop. Kawada Mami needs to do more songs like JOINT that rock our world, MELL should continue with her powerful vocals and dark industrial songs and the others continue as well at what made them good. Not try and do whoever is having the best music right now and copy that. Especially if you can not pull it off like KOTOKO seems to be doing.

    Now don’t get me wrong I like KOTOKO as a vocalist I just don’t like her taking what could be a great industrial styled sounding song and making rather dull and strange sounding with her constant ups and downs in her vocals that really just don’t work for her. Find a happy one side of singing and stick with it. That is all I have to say for now on the subject.

  6. Kara no Tsubomi is my favorite but snIpe was a good one too.

    And about the review, I think I agree almost with everything this time.

  7. @Suzaku- It’s easier said than done. To stick with one sound as a musician will eventually be one’s downfall. It is best to play towards a singer’s strengths, but it’s also okay to try something new. As for KOTOKO’s vocals in snIpe, I will state that she has been having medical problems for the last fre months, not sure how that’s affected her performances, but it definately could have something to do with it.

  8. @Suzaku: well, i did notice that somehow KOTOKO seemed to try to imitate MELL on a certain part ever since i heard the preview. but overall, the song is great.
    and about KOTOKO sticking to one side only… well, i gotta agree with SAME for this. people with get bored if she sticks to same pattern all the time.

  9. I’m going to agree with the previous 2 posters here. The thing about musicians is that they can only be successful doing a particular style for so long. Experimenting with different genres and ideas is what makes artists unique and while it may not work out in their favour, it provides a different and interesting approach to music. Without it, the music we listen to would be static and restrained. The reason I love I’ve Sound so much is that they make music dynamic by covering large ranges of styles, using different arrangers and creating new ideas every time a song is created. While admittedly this creativity is reaching its limit, their ability to experiment is still evident. Given how proven I’ve Sound has already managed to become, I wouldn’t expect their music to remain like this for very long. I previously said that I hated how Departed to the Future turned out, but you have to remember that it was one of their first experiences making a feature-length film. And hey, that didn’t work out so well, so chances are, they’ve learned from the mistakes and now have a basis to improve upon if they ever wish to do something like that again.

    tl;dr Wow. I started typing and didn’t realize how long I made my post…

  10. @RSSRII: yours is still shorter than Suzaku’s above :P

  11. Well allow to further go on from what I was saying. I guess what I am meaning to say though is that I think it would be nicer and much better for Ive vocalists to stick to the style that fits them best like MELL does. Though it is good to have some different styles of songs every now and then it is much better in my opinion to stick to what you are good with and continue to make good music that you excel at.

    I love KOTOKO in Re-Sublimity and would like to see more work like it, it was not a style she stuck with she tends to sway to the more pop like things. MELL sticks with the dark and edgy feel of things which I am sure will continue much to my delight. Mami tends to jump from the rock thing to the pop thing and then to the trance and every in-between. I would like to see her stick with the rock thing seeing as how JOINT was such a success why not make more like it to make more money and please more fans. I guess in the end of it all though the one thing I would like to see them continue with what makes them good and not ruin things or make them not as good as another person could have made them.

    It take away from the song and I don’t think it is right when a vocalist does that especially when the vocalist could have done another song much better than another. Maybe I am wrong to think like such but I would just think that Ive would like to do more things to make more money and continue making good music that more people will buy. After all this is a business and the more people by things the higher in demand it will be but I guess if you just want to make big money and then little money they may just continue this thing of good and bad until they finally just stop or get on the band wagon and Ive could then blossom and become a huge sensation all around the globe.

  12. @Suzaku: you don’t mention Kaorin. Kaorin stucks on the same pattern with denpa and sweet songs. but she still didn’t even get an album. even when people want to see whether she could do any other type of songs.

  13. @Suzaku>> Well I think the one factor you’re pointing out depends on the composer or arranger. Well not solely to them but a huge percentage really depends on them. So I don’t really blame the girls if they perform like the recent ones.

    “MELL sticks with the dark and edgy feel of things which I am sure will continue much to my delight.”

    I mean, if you’re MELL, can you really do a “darker” version of RIDEBACK when it sounds like that? Takase did all the composition and arrangement. All MELL could do is write the lyrics — she didn’t composed nor arranged it. Maybe if MELL would do the composition, the piece itself could’ve changed (but I don’t know if that will benefit the single or it will even worsen than the one we’re hearing now).

    Same with the other I’ve girls as I see it.

    And as much (or least) as I can see it, the mostly to blame are the composers/arrangers themselves when their “experiments” fail but when you look on the other side, they’re more on the “suitable one” than making the “powerful one”. One good example of this BLAZE.

    Yes, some people may find the song suitable as the 2nd opening theme for the “unfirey” Shakugan no Shana II but I know most of the people here considered it a disappointment.

    >> Just my two cents. :D

  14. The thing about I’ve is that their sound changes most of the time, and the I’ve girls get to play around with different styles. I loved the fact that MELL started out with Utsukushiku, went to FLY TO THE TOP and Sayonara wo Oshiete, and arrived at Red Fraction.

    I think MELL has a pretty awesome range, actually, maybe even more so than the rest of the girls.

    That said I still prefer old I’ve songs compared to new ones. I do hope they’re “separating” from Geneon for good.

  15. @Naddie, your comment fits perfectly what I think about MELL.

    And Yuki-chan, I’m other guy who wants an album of Kaorin, she’s the Ojou-sama of I’ve and I think that she deserves, once and for all, a brand new production in the band, c’mon! enough of hearing “Senecio” or “Do yo know the magic!” everytime she performed on stage! ¬_¬.

  16. @Naddie: i agree. MELL does have a very large range. She is able to sing ballads, rock, trance, cutey (although it’s only FLY TO THE TOP) and even a metal-sound song like the recent Bizarrerie Cage. plus she also sang ENGRISH. xD xD

    @pedro: i really want Kaorin’s album, but i don’t want her album to be like IKU’s album, which is a lullaby album for me.

  17. Geh–it would be a nice touch if one of its past members also made a special appearance…

    …But KOTOKO is enough for me.

  18. […] course, since its sister releases snIpe and L’Oiseau bleu already received their due in an earlier review, I ask only that you draw your attention to the new Eiko Shimamiya release Super scription of data: […]


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