The Idol Trend In Anime Music or The Primordial Ooze (A Must Read For Anime Fans)

A lot of people are probably going to hate me for what I’m about to say, but I’ve kept this under wraps between me and a select few confidants for a while and now I’m ready to bring this essay on the Anime Music Industry to the anime community.  So I’ve noticed the recent upswing in female sung Idol-Pop music used in anime openings and I really don’t like it at all.  The problem begins with the fact that I find it to be wholly concerned with image over substance. 

 When I think of a good musical act I think first of technical abilitity and a unique sound to their music combining the talents of all those involved in the band to create a musical intepretation of their views on the world around them, or in the case of anime, their view of what the themes of the anime constitute.  Groups like Abingdon Boy’s School with their ability to play rock based instruments and their song Howling, which fits with the major themes of Darker Than Black very nicely should be the norm of the industry in a perfect world, but it’s not.  What is the norm however, are image based Idol Female Singers who are groomed and manufactured to appeal to the audience of male Otaku with their portrayal of sweet innocent personalities and their supposed abilitity to be multi-talented in different facets of the media, be it voice acting or singing anime theme songs.  This would be fine if I actually felt each of them were equally talented, or had the technical ability or genuine passion to create songs that really drive home the major themes and concepts present in the shows they are performing for, and it was fine for a while as this was the case for quite a while, Idols have been around in Japan for some time after all.

However, now we have reached a part where the anime isn’t choosing the singer to represent it so to speak, but the singer and her agency is choosing the anime from which to launch there latest single, regardless of whether it fits, and this is where the problem really begins.  In order to appeal to the widest possible audience the idols have to style themselves in the current image that is most desirable, and thus even though individually they may appear to stand apart from each other, when they are all pooling into the anime industry to launch their latest CD’s, they really start to become indistinguishable from each other in the eye of an anime watcher like myself.  I keep hearing the same types of songs over and over in anime ranging from Hot-Blooded Mecha series like Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann to Loli-Moe series like Lucky Star and Sky Girls, and anime music regardless of the shows genre and as a result of this idol trend and its image based nature is starting to become a Primordial Ooze of music.  Same pitch (High-pitched and Wailing), same song structure (Opening bit, instrumental as title card appears, second verse, brief pause, third verse right down to a specific beat count), same types of lyrics regardless of genre (combinations of dreams, sky, air, love, future, happiness, smile, crying, strength, stars, night, romantic sounds worlds in general) and as a result I’m not finding as much anime music to listen too these days as I have in past years.  

What I think needs to be done is to scale back the image aspect of this idol trend for starters.  I think studios need to at least consider their target audiences before choosing to go with the contract for the latest single from Chihara Minori for a Sci-Fi/Mecha Action series as well as to consider how they want their anime to appear to the core demographic that would be most interested in that type of show, outside of the Otaku with loose pockets that go gaga for their favourite idols.  Work on finding the right singer for the right series, and let the singers themselves sort out what contract they wish to pursue for an anime series that will best fit their abilities when performing their music.  In short as sexist as it sounds, let the idols stick with Harem series openings, it fits with the appealing image that idols portray, their songs generally fit the romantic themes of these series, and the demographic for harem series is the same as the type that would go out and by their favourite idols songs in a heart beat.  Match themes with matching animes, that’s how it used to be.

Secondly, give more male artists a chance to perform anime songs.  They may not have the image that idols have and they are likely to go out promoting themselves and the song quite as much, but songs from the opposite sex could be of great help in breaking up this Primoridal Ooze of indistinguishable Idol Pop that is boring me in anime music and I’m sure quite a few others.  In short with this idea and the one above at the very least the monotony of anime music today can be broken up somewhat, and even though it might not see the company as much short term profit as pumping out idol songs would, it could very well set the stage for better long term profit with but a more expense in the present.  I feel this is the case because a) it will bring in new demographics of anime music consumers over a period of time, and b) because like I read in a book about corruption in certain countries and how they make it an art, shaking down rabid Idol Loving Otaku’s all at once leaves less money to take from them in future, but shaking them down periodically leaves them a chance to invest their money in a way that would over time give them more buying power buying and make them even more valuable consumers for a variety of products that these studios can profit from selling to them.  Certain people in certain places often trumpet about one person being unable to make a difference in this industry because they aren’t in a direct position to influence decisions, but I say to those people, at least I’ve thought about it. 

And on that subject to those who have read this and have thought about it, I thank you deeply and await your comments


4 Responses to “The Idol Trend In Anime Music or The Primordial Ooze (A Must Read For Anime Fans)”

  1. 1 Mirrinus June 29, 2007 at 2:24 am

    I think you have a point. Looking back to the past year or so, I see that two of my favorite OPs were for Higurashi no Naku Koroni and Utawarerumono. Both are so simply because the songs fit well with the show. Higurashi’s OP fit the creepiness of the show perfectly, and was a constant reminder to the viewer of what the show really was about, despite all those fluffy sugary earlier parts of each story arc. Utawarerumono’s OP I liked for the instrumentals, which were rather oriental, and worked well with such a setting that borrows so heavily from ancient Ainu culture. Placing a generic idol song as the OP to either of these shows would have definitely detracted from its effect.

    Although personally, I care more about the instrumentals of a song than the lyrics or singer. I happen to like an ample helping of strings, winds, brass, and piano (sorry, don’t care too much for guitar or drums), and don’t really care if there aren’t any lyrics. You know what OP I thought worked like this? The OP to Ghost Hunt, which felt like the OP to a Spiderman movie. Yet, it still fit, IMHO.

  2. 2 deathkillz June 29, 2007 at 6:18 am

    I have also noticed this fact and the recent drop in quality in those types of songs. Many songs out there now seems so similar which is really bad when you think that they should all have their own unique stand point. Even for the Higurashi second trailer, the song sung sounded like kotoko (which wasn’t something I was totally fond of to be honest). And yea a lot of these songs lose out their novelty then over imitated as you would want something different.

    Though I do believe that sooner or later this will change when people realize this and start to moan heh.

  3. 3 鋼鉄の Beowulf June 29, 2007 at 8:55 am

    Good essay. I wouldn’t say that you are wrong but my understanding and opinion of the subject matter is different from yours.

    1. Idol/seiyuu songs have always existed. Maybe we’re seeing more of the seiyuu/idol songs in the recent season but they’re not new. When I first “really” got into anime, one of the 1st harem animes I watched was Sister Princess which had tons of seiyuu songs and seiyuu concerts. All I can say is that most of them can’t sing at all. It’s more obvious at the seiyuu concert since live performances are the ones that really show one’s vocal prowess.

    2.I think you need to take into consideration the kinds of anime that have these kind of openings. IMO, anime openings can be divided into 4 categories. They are “Jpop anime songs done by Jpop singers like Abingdon Boys School (included here due to Nishikawa Takamori), Ayumi, Koda Kumi etc”, ” songs done by anime singers like Yonekura Chihiro, Mikuni Shimokawa, Masami Okui, JAM project etc”, “songs done by obscure groups or individuals” and ” songs done by seiyuu and idols”.

    Primetime anime like FMA, G-SEED have the budget and sponsors which usually enables them to use the 1st group of songs but most late-nite animes don’t, hence the need to use the 3 other groups of songs.
    Quality suffers as a result and this in turn creates the generic sound and lyrics of most OPs/EDs.

    3. Another possible reason for your perceived rise in anime idol songs could be that of Haruhi and Hirano Aya’s related success. The huge success of her CD probably further cemented the belief of the anime companies that otakus are suckers who are willing to pay any price for their favourite merchandise. That is why we have 101 versions of Hare Hare Yukai being sung by every goddamn character from Haruhi. It doesn’t matter if the song is crap, otakus will still buy it. It’s even better for the companies if the otakus worship the idol instead. They will buy whatever CD the seiyuu idol releases regardless of series or quality. Frankly, Hirano Aya IMO is an average singer but the otaku worship of her and her songs is astounding.

    4. Regarding the suggestion that more male artists should be given the chance to sing anime songs, I don’t think that it will work. Prince of Tennis had tons of character songs done by male seiyuus and to be honest, they are not exactly top-class material. IMO, there is a lack of outstanding males solo artists in the Japanese music scene. What you have when it comes to males singing are rock bands, boybands and acts instead like Orange Range, Bump of Chicken, B’z, KAT-TUN etc. There are some outstanding male solo artists like Gackt and Hirai Ken but they are the minority. In addition, I don’t think these acts are too keen on doing anime songs due to what I term “Anime no Stigma”.

  4. 4 innominate June 29, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Nice article, Kaio! Pretty much, apart from the overgeneralization I would agree with your elaborations in context. I am simply not otaku enough to perceive the recent upswing, but to one as I, in the crudest of terms, if the song fits the theme and the voice fits the song, then it’s a good song. ^^.

    I share Mirrinus’ favourite for Utawarerumono, but I have yet to watch Higurashi. =D.

    Oh, but I do have to point out:
    (combinations of dreams, sky, air, love, future, happiness, smile, crying, strength, stars, night, romantic sounds worlds in general)
    These may be ideas touched on, but they are not necessarily the themes of the song itself, thus, a particular song may use the same ideas to expound on different themes from another. And as such, it is possible to experience slight variations in this aspect. ^^.

    Oh, but since I don’t speak Japanese it doesn’t matter anyway. Without focusing on the lyrics itself my personal bias would shift to the melody of the song, ah.

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