Sometimes there are things you want to ask about I’ve, but don’t want to use the comments thread or feel somewhat embarrassed about because you think these things might be common knowledge – and this is where the I’ve Sound FAQ comes in. Because sometimes you need it.
First, group-related questions:
What does “I’ve” mean? (answered by 愛撫)
The title of this blog was actually taken from the explanation for this question: 愛撫 (aibu) in Japanese means ‘caress’. Seeing as the Japanese phonetic alphabet lacks a ‘v’ sound, “I’ve” is actually pronounced like “I’be”, and thus I’ve means caress in a roundabout manner.
Who are the current I’ve vocalists? (answered by 愛撫)
While I’ve’s lineup has changed a number of times over the years, the current lineup (nicknamed ‘Love Planet Five’) is made up of Mami Kawada, KOTOKO, MELL, Eiko Shimamiya and Kaori Utatsuki. As of my writing this, the only regular vocalist in the collective outside of Love Planet Five is arranger/singer C.G mix: however, this in no way means these are the only vocalists I’ve works with. As two recent examples, in 2007 the Key visual novel Little Busters! featured a title theme produced by I’ve and sung by outsider Rita, and in 2008 an entirely Kazuya Takase-produced single for rookie singer IKU was released without the I’ve brand on the disc.
Where can I find a complete list of I’ve-produced songs? (answered by 愛撫)
Nowhere. Every database has its questionable omissions, but the three most complete archives on the web can be found at the following links (all in Japanese, unfortunately):
I’ve Sound Explorer song database (also has a discography section with all the ‘important’ releases and a BGM archive sorted by year)
I’ve Search (more complete album information, but database trickier to navigate than I’ve Sound Explorer)
Eternal Sound FUCTORY (Unparalleled levels of information regarding I’ve projects outside of the anime/eroge-music umbrella and obscure early releases like Vent Azure and I am calling you, but not the best place for looking up recent material)
Who makes up I’ve’s production lineup? (answered by 愛撫)
Traditionally, I’ve had been something of a vague collective with some 12 members at any given time, but the lineup has since been slimmed down considerably to the core group of Kazuya Takase, C.G mix, Tomoyuki Nakazawa, Takeshi Ozaki and Maiko Iuchi (also known as Miu Uetsu). Not-I’ve-but-close producer Yoichi Samada (aka SORMA) is also still active with the group, providing production for a good portion of Eiko Shimamiya’s recent album Hikarinadeshiko even while still technically outside the I’ve group.
Second, individual member-related questions:
What happened to AKI? (asked by Shin Shigure, answered by 愛撫)
AKI’s case is one of the sadder stories in I’ve history. From the beginning, AKI’s songs with I’ve were supported behind the scenes by KOTOKO and the pairing of the two girls’ culmination with Comiket-exclusive EP Dear Feeling produced one of I’ve’s finest early releases. What exactly happened has never been officially announced, but the most commonly-accepted story goes like this: KOTOKO was always supporting AKI from the very beginning, but after a while fans gravitated towards KOTOKO and ended up largely ignoring her partner, leading to AKI being in all essence kicked out of I’ve when time came for the first I’ve Special Unit (7 members, the current Love Planet Five lineup plus SHIHO and MOMO) to be formed. She has since either left music entirely or simply retired the AKI moniker: she hasn’t been heard from since her last song with I’ve, and any leads on information usually come up dry in the end.
光星 provides an alternate theory, that I’ve simply decided AKI wasn’t bankable as KOTOKO’s sidekick and brought in Kaori Utatsuki as a replacement: both theories are really equally plausible, because there really hasn’t been much written about the subject to confirm or deny either explanation.
What is a Mutant Dwarf? (asked by 電波の世界, answered by 愛撫)
Most simply, it’s the name of KOTOKO’s official fan club. But as for where the name itself came from, it’s a cartoon character drawn by KOTOKO (the blue-haired character in the banner of the website linked to above) that has some sort of special significance to her.
Is KOTOKO the only I’ve member with an official fan club? (asked by 電波の世界, answered by 愛撫 and 光星)
No. Mami Kawada held an ‘official fanclub-only’ showing of her concert film LIVE IN TAIWAN in June 2008, which developed several months later into m.a.l.l., which stands for “mami artist lasting live.”
Ordering I’ve merchandise from Japan
(answered by 光星)
Most of I’ve’s releases in the past couple years has been through Geneon Entertainment. These releases include singles, albums, and live DVDs. Most online retailers like CDJapan, Playasia, yes-asia, and Amazon Japan can ship these overseas without any markup, unless you consider the price of shipping a CD or two overseas a markup. Some of KOTOKO’s recent singles and her album UZU-MAKI can also be found on ebay for rather cheap, and though it appears that a few of the auctions are just Japanese retailers unloading excess product, others (particularly from seller AnimeCast) are straight up Taiwanese bootlegs. If there isn’t a picture of the actual product, be very careful.
Getting the other I’ve CDs and DVDs, like the I’ve Girls Compilation series, or the I’ve in Budokan DVD can be much more difficult and costly. The reason for this is semantic. Amazon Japan does not export software, primarily for legal reasons. Visual Art’s, the company that releases non-Geneon I’ve merchandise primarily releases visual novels, eroge, and other related software. When Visual Art’s lets Amazon Japan sell their merchandise, everything is labeled as “software,” with the exception of the I’ve in Budokan 2005 DVD. For example, Short Circuit II is labeled “software” while Blaze is correctly labeled under “music.” Occasionally, eroge CDs have been released on CDJapan, yesasia, etc., but those are few and far between, and none are available currently.
As for retailers that do ship “software” overseas, there are only two English-language options to my knowledge:
Anime Jungle is a Japanese retailer specializing in used media, with an emphasis on sentai and monster shows, as well as new I’ve CDs. They may also still take special orders, but their English-language customer service rep left three years ago, so it’s best to ask nicely and with simple language. In the past, they also occasionally received used I’ve CDs, (which is how I got my copy of Sora wo Tobetara) but I haven’t seen anything come up in a couple of years. Their surcharge is fairly nominal.
The other retail option is HimeyaShop, a retailer known about as much for their ridiculous surcharges (about 25% per item) as their extensive selection of import console and PC games. Here, you’ll find Short Circuit II, which originally retails for less than $28 equivalent, for $35. Nevertheless, they have all of the I’ve Girls Compilations, and unlike Anime Jungle, will likely take preorders for the next I’ve releases.
Some Japanese-language-only retailers like mangaoh may ship overseas, though I personally do not have any experience in attempting any orders from them.
On rare occasions, obscure I’ve merchandise will show up on ebay. One seller has a lot of the Comiket CDs up for sale at, quite honestly, overinflated prices. In fact, outside of a recent copy of regret, disc only, for $2.95, much of what gets put up is much more than what it would be sold for in Japan.
If all else fails, a proxy service might be necessary. This is especially necessary if you want to bid on items from Yahoo Japan or order concert goods from three nine. One proxy service I can personally recommend is Celga, who specializes in Yahoo Japan auctions, but can also order from pretty much any Japanese site. They, like all proxies, do charge a decent amount for their services; 10-20% of the item’s cost, plus bank transfer fee, plus shipping within Japan to the Celga office, as well as the cost of shipping the item overseas. I have found their staff to be very friendly with an excellent grasp of the English language, so making sure you get exactly what you want shouldn’t be a problem, as long as you have the money, of course.
Got a question for the FAQ? Send it in! E-mail all questions to aibumeanscaress[at]gmail.com, and hope the answers have been helpful.