Bet nobody saw this one coming, eh? Ladies and gentlemen, Aibu’s back.
Various – I’ve Girls Compilation vol. 7: EXTRACT (2010, Visual Art’s)
Some 4 years after seemingly dumping the venerable I’ve Girls Compilation series in favour of various Comiket-exclusive compilations far out of the average non-Japanese fan’s reach, I’ve did the unthinkable and announced an I’ve Girls Compilation volume 7. And, as if to make an already tantalizing prospect even sweeter, the bloody thing would be a 2-disc monster; the first of its kind since verge back in 2000. Clearly, if not an outright sign of the apocalypse, this was a sign that I’ve still does sort of like their fans, a prospect definitely more welcomed than the end of the world, albeit less expected.
So, as an event, it’s definitely pleasantly unexpected, but how is it as an album? Well, it hits and it misses. Unlike the I’ve Girls Compilation series’ previous 2-disc outing, EXTRACT lacks any originals save for the apparently prerequisite title track, leaving the eroge songs to fend for themselves and, more importantly, forgoing any semblance of continuity between tracks. The songs aren’t really arranged by vocalist, theme, arranger, original release date or anything of the sort – they’re just sort of thrown together. Usually this isn’t too much of an issue, but at points the album seems somewhat haphazardly thrown together, with snoozers like KOTOKO’s endlessly dull a piacere handily killing the compilation’s momentum only 3 songs in and, most puzzlingly, the fluffy nothing of a Kaori Utatsuki track Shiroi Rinbukyoku following up the album’s hardest song. Thankfully, most of the songs bleed into each other fairly well by nature of their design, but there are still some transitions that can best be described as “hurting.”
However, luckily enough, most of the songs themselves aren’t exactly hurting. There are midtempo filler tracks (such as the aforementioned piacere and Rinbukyoku), sure, and more Maiko Iuchi presence than any sane human could ever wish for (10 of the album’s 25 tracks, which is unquestionably too much), but there is also a healthy selection of the best that I’ve has put out in recent years to make things as painless as can be. Mami Kawada’s dilemma, each of the C.G mix and KOTOKO collaborations, and both of the MELL songs are more than welcomed, particularly the surprising presence of LAST IN BLUE, a 7-year-old gem that might just be the best song MELL’s ever recorded.
Criticizing EXTRACT feels somewhat like looking the proverbial gift horse in the mouth; the resurrection of the I’ve Girls Compilation series alone seems more than worth living through unpleasantness like the Airi Kirishima songs, the C.G mix/KOTOKO songs’ fundamental sameness trifling when they’re all so great when taken on their own merits. Hell, the presence of cosmic fluke Bizarrerie Cage almost even makes up for the fact that Maiko Iuchi completely fails to provide anything else of merit to the compilation.
In conclusion, EXTRACT fails to meet some fans’ expectations of a triumphant return to form for the compilation series – expanding to 2 discs leaves space for far too many filler tracks, and at least half the album could’ve been ditched with only a positive impact on the album’s quality, but the standout tracks are some of the best in the series. And, really, in the age of the custom playlist, do filler tracks even matter anymore?