As part of my ongoing quest to forever play the Carlos Mencia to Pink Wota‘s Joe Rogan, I’ve decided to shamelessly steal the subject of one of Vee’s most popular posts and call it my own by repackaging all the jokes with an “I’ve Sound” instant ramen flavour packet instead of an “Ayumi Hamasaki” one. And did you hear the one about those Mexican border-hoppers? Hoo boy! How crazy is the Mind of Mencia?
Anyhow, inspired both by rampant plaigiarism (shocking exposé on the unpaid interns I use to write all my “Maiko Iuchi sucks” jokes forthcoming) and the instantly infamous cover for daily-daily Dream!, I’ll be taking a look at the 5 best and 5 worst cover images from official I’ve releases (so no eroge soundtracks, although lord knows Aneimo 2nd Stage belongs in the latter category), with snarky commentary provided by the army of unpaid interns on whose bloodied backs this blog has been built. Because it’s for their own good.
Part one: THE BEST
It’s often been said that even a broken clock is right twice a day, and here to prove truth to that old adage are these 5 rare specimens of I’ve cover art that don’t openly suck harder than an illegally-modded Dirt Devil. And no, Denpa no Sekai, daily-daily Dream! isn’t one of them.
1. Mami Kawada – masterpiece (single, 2009)
Has absolutely jack shit to do with the single it’s attached to (I dare someone to find any sort of connection between the campy butt-rock of Maiko Iuchi’s unusually solid ‘masterpiece’ and the washed-out colours of this Undercover-inspired cover image), but considering that an image that looks like masterpiece sounds would probably have Kawada dressed in a skimpy vinyl “sexy nurse” outfit and lime-green novelty sunglasses, shooting beams of Photoshop lens flare at an 8-bit monster sprite from a barely-remembered videogame, it’s probably for the best that we get this wonderfully subdued image instead. That being said, if anyone wants to Photoshop the described cover into reality I think the blog finally found its new header image.
2. Eiko Shimamiya – WHEEL OF FORTUNE (Unmei no Wa) (single, 2008)
While Eiko has always been the ‘classy’ one of the group, few of her covers have managed to pull off the degree of simplistic elegance that the vaguely unsettling WHEEL OF FORTUNE cover affects. There’s a deceptive amount of things going on in this cover (did you notice the frame melting the first time you saw it?), and the image works both as a compliment to the delightfully creepy single and as a stand-alone piece. The similar cover given to otherwise-unimpressive Chikai was another highlight, but between the two WHEEL edges out its competitor by a hair.
3. I’ve Girls Compilation vols. 4 & 5 – LAMENT & OUT FLOW (compilations, 2003)
Occasionally hated yet often celebrated for the minimalist approach taken with the cover imagery, the matching LAMENT/OUT FLOW set remains a personal favourite for the clean, iconic nature of the design. The three coloured dots may be somewhat superfluous, yes, but otherwise these are two lovely examples of graphic design done right (something you won’t find too often when going over I’ve’s history). Doesn’t hurt any that these were two of the best compilation albums the I’ve team put out: the only question about these is why the hell they didn’t keep up the theme for the DVD that came packaged with the compilation albums.
4. KOTOKO – Special Life! (single, 2008)
Packed to the proverbial brim with the effortless joie de vivre that once seemed to be a given with every new KOTOKO release, the jacket image for Special Life! chronicles KOTOKO’s video-shoot trip to Saipan as exactly the kind of trip you always wished you went on when you were a kid: accompanied by the singer’s own pencil-crayon illustrations, it’s hard to look at the fake Polaroids on the cover and imagine the single’s contents delivering anything less than a massive rush of ecstatic joy. Of course, we all know the single itself is fairly dire far as these things go, but even the memories of C.G mix’s phoned-in production or its abysmal B-side can’t dull the effect of this particular graphical masterstroke. Looking at Special Life!, one sees a life that truly does seem special. Even if it’s a lie.
5. MELL – Proof/no vain (single, 2007)
Both a tribute to a classic music video and MELL’s classiest cover to date, Proof/no vain is quite simply one of the loveliest images to ever grace an I’ve release. A beautifully-angled shot with colours that evoke all of the A-side’s melancholy without any of its saccharine stickiness, the single’s cover image is too faultless for a heartless asshole like myself to write at any length about, so I’ll just leave it at “beautiful”.
Part two: THE WORST
1. Various – I’ve Remix Style: Mixed up (remix album, 2004)
It’s horribly tempting to just give this spot to every I’ve Comiket release, as even by the usually-abysmal standards of I’ve graphic design their Comiket releases have been notably, and reliably, terrible. However, picking a single most noticeable piece of flaming refuse out from the train wreck that is the art direction for their Comic Market exclusives we come to Mixed up, with a cover that would be perfectly fine if not for every single element of it.
First off we get the unnecessary list of arrangers and vocalists (it’s not like anyone buying a Comiket-exclusive I’ve release wouldn’t know these people already, and besides there’s a tracklisting on the back) sort of artlessly thrown up there, followed up with a particularly unconvincing ‘cursive’ font telling us that this album is “I’ve Remix Style”, an only slightly Engrish description of the album that wouldn’t be too offensive if it weren’t placed at such an awkward height above the crammed-in Impact font “MIXED UP” text. But, questionable font choices and unnecessary information overload aside, the real crime this cover is committing is in the form of that terrible, terrible cartoon drawing there. I’m assuming it’s some form of KOTOKO’s ostensible mascot the “Mutant Dwarf”, but regardless of what it’s supposed to be, the pot-bellied singer with the impossible eyebrows portrayed gives the album a distinct air of “bargain basement”, with a noticeable whiff of “cover designed by Takase’s retarded 12-year-old cousin”. By no means a bad album, but by all means a terrible cover image.
2. KOTOKO – Real Onigokko (single, 2007)
Arguably amongst KOTOKO’s best singles, and also a choice cut from the soundtrack of the absolutely dreadful-looking J-horror film Real Onigokko. Unfortunately, when designing the cover for the single, the design team seemed to place more of an emphasis on the latter attribute, resulting in what looks like a particularly terrible Vectrex screen with KOTOKO photoshopped in. It’s unclear what the objective of this particularly unenjoyable-looking game is, but given the data on the screen I’m assuming it’s about hunting down and killing the guy who designed the packaging for the single while blaring it (see the EQ in the corner) to constantly remind him of exactly what it is he screwed up on. Of course, being an 8-bit rendering the song is barely recognizable, but it should be enough to make sure the designer dies unhappy at the very least.
3. KOTOKO – Hayate no Gotoku!
The nicest thing I can say about this cover is that it actually isn’t the least-flattering photo of KOTOKO ever taken. But that would be a lie.
4. Eiko Shimamiya – Paranoia (single, 2009)
One day, while walking through a Tomb Raider 2 level as she is wont to do, Eiko Shimamiya started to realize that, through the power of her magical tennis whites, she had started to glow! Throwing her unexpectedly shaggy head back and closing her eyes to better feel the sensation of spontaneous phosphorescence, tragedy struck as she failed to realize some prankster had tied her wrist to a belt with an unsightly brown leather strap. Shortly after this image was taken, she discovered this cruel joke and wondered why the hell she was wearing a belt that pointlessly overlong in the first place, but the moment captured in this photo, titled “the ecstacy of luminescence”, was a beautiful one. Or that’s what I’m assuming went on, because this picture sure as shit doesn’t make any sense otherwise.
5. KOTOKO – daily-daily Dream!
Tragedy struck when both teams of KOTOKO clones that were competing in this Sunflower League baseball game were annihilated by a gigantic flaming baseball, despite the Stop-Motion Team and Coach Giant KOTOKO’s best efforts to stop the baseball-comet from destroying them, the stadium, their audience of sunflowers and lightbulbs, and in fact the entire KOTOKO’S 13TH SINGLE galaxy. However, whether the comet’s aversion would have saved the game seems doubtful: as can clearly be seen here, the Yellow Zeppelin Army had already begun carpet-bombing the area well before the comet came into view.