Hello and welcome back to another album review in the J-Music Exchange/Rate segment! If you happen to be new here, this is a fun thing I’ve been doing with my good friend/fellow Japanese music fan Leap250 where we both pick out an album from our libraries, exchange/listen to them and later give our overall thoughts on our respective libraries. While this has been a great opportunity for both of us to expand our Japanese music tastes, we hope all of you get to experience that as well with our recommendations. Also, this month means that Leap and I have now written a total of 70 reviews across both of our blogs! Crazy.
And like always, we base our album choices on a specific theme each month. It was my turn for March, and because of a particular EP that I’ve been waiting on for a while finally came out, I came up with the theme of singer/composer pairings. It seems that this type of music artist/group formation has started to become a trend these past few years, with ultra popular duos like YOASOBI (Ikura & Ayase) and Yorushika (suis & n-buna) being the prime examples. Since then, a good amount of singer/music producer combinations (many of them being rooted from the Vocaloid music scene) have spawned or come to light, which definitely has given us a lot of talent to appreciate and fantastic music to listen to.
That said, here are our choices: Leap went ahead and gave me FantasticYouth’s 2021 release titled BlueGuns, while I tossed over 1440 by newly-formed duo Arika.
Let’s jump right in!
FantasticYouth (ファンタスティック・ユース) is a music duo unit formed back in 2017, consisting of composer/arranger/rapper/vocalist Low Fat and vocalist/lyricist Onyu. Commonly referred to as ‘Fanyu’ by fans, the duo met through social media and posted their first video as a collaborative unit in December 2016, where they covered the famous Vocaloid track “DAYBREAK FRONTLINE”. That video would end up generating over 10 million views on Nico Nico Douga as of this post’s publish date, and was the duo’s turning point as musical artists.
Fanyu started to take off only months after their formation, as they performed at the Niconico Super Party event at the Saitama Super Arena. And after many indie releases on Niconico/YouTube, FantasticYouth made their official major debut in December 2020 with the release of their single, “The Earnest Game” (“Mattou Shoubu” in Japanese). Since then, the duo has released multiple singles and a full length album. FantasticYouth also has had a known presence in the anime world, as they provided the ending themes to shows like Arifureta 2nd Season and the second season of Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu.
FantasticYouth – BlueGuns
- Fool Show / 莫迦芝居
- Collapse Salvation / 決壊SALVATION
- DONSTA / ドンスタ
- The Earnest Game / 真刀勝負
- Moral Crumble / 品行崩壊
- Flow,Flow,Flow / ウゴクオト
- The Earnest Game (English ver.)
Leap’s Thoughts on BlueGuns
I first found out about FantasticYouth from a cover of OrangeStar’s DAYBREAK FRONTLINE (https://youtu.be/DeRNbnJBB1c); a video from back when the duo of at the time fledgling utaite Onyu and composer LowFat had yet to come together officially as a singer/composer unit. However you already see the charming dynamic that their pairing posseses as early as back then, which is this quaint combination of Onyu’s crystal clear and powerful vocals and the gritty and rough rapping style of LowFat that together make for a nice sort of contrast.
Although LowFat proactively joining in on the vocal aspect of their music is already unique enough to the scene as it is, the way FantasticYouth has since been able to intertwine Youth Pop and Rap is also not something you see all that often, which I would like to think makes BlueGuns as a release stand out even more.
Al’s Thoughts on BlueGuns
1 ► giving it 110%
When Leap suggested this album to me, I told him that I had a feeling I’ve heard of FantasticYouth before but couldn’t remember where or how I did… then I later found out that they performed the ending to Komi-san wa, Comyushou desu. 2nd Season: a show I watched and enjoyed very much (including the ED). Crazy how this world (or maybe in this case, my memory) works.
That said, my previous encounter with FantasticYouth kinda does have an interesting connection to some of my thoughts on this album, mainly when it comes to the overall themes and sounds heard on it. Because when you compare a more mellow and piano-centric song like “Koshiberi Biyori” (the title of the Komi S2 ending and arguably their most well-known original song), it’s fairly different than what was heard on BlueGuns. FantasticYouth takes on a much more fast-paced, electronic/rock/pop combination of styles throughout this album and you get to hear it right out the gates with their first track, “Fool Show”. A barrage of different sounds and instruments just hits you in the face, from the quick percussion to the subtle synths to even the inclusion of a classical-sounding piano. It’s definitely a rollercoaster of a song (at least it was to me) and a powerful start like that definitely gives you a good taste of what’s to come. Even the next track, “Collapse Salvation”, had some similar qualities where it has a lively melody and a nice display of that instrumental mish-mash. While it does sound ‘same-ish’ from the previous song, I think it still does a good job of setting the tone for the rest of the album.
Loudness is something that you’ll hear me talk about throughout this review, as that was one of the main themes that I noticed while listening to this album. It seems that FantasticYouth really likes to perform music in a strong and powerful manner; it was even heard in that Komi ending theme where Onyu and her vocals just went hard in the final seconds of the chorus. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s being expressed in the music or the vocals or both, or whether or not the song is fast-paced or more mellow… this duo really likes to put the pedal to the metal and I think they do it pretty well. For example, in a relatively more steady-sounding song like “DONSTA”, the loud percussion, Low Fat’s intense rapping and that atmospheric backing sound gives it that familiar ‘oomph’ that we’ve heard in the album so far.
And one interesting thing I also noticed throughout these songs is how the aforementioned classical piano was being used. Just like other songs that include a similar combination, the subtle piano playing added a completely contrasting-yet-fitting layer when mixed in with everything else. But the most notable aspect I couldn’t help but to enjoy was how that piano was heavily implemented in certain parts of these track. The way they essentially ‘paused’ and had a short interlude where everything calmed down for a bit and we get to hear a short classical piano section, like in “Collapse Salvation” and “The Earnest Game”… I think them including a brief break in some of these hectic songs was a nice touch and was done pretty tastefully.
2 ► fantasticyouth’s dual vocals
When it comes to the vocals on this album, I actually thought FantasticYouth’s way of expressing them was quite intriguing. Similar to many vocalists who have been involved with doujin/indie style music, Onyu has a very strong voice and you can tell she goes all-out with her singing. The way she’s able sing in a higher pitch and keep up with the pace makes her voice fit extremely well with the duo’s style of music. But on top of that, the other half of FantasticYouth, Low Fat, also has a chance to show off his vocals through rapping.
Two reasons why I find this interesting: one, it’s certainly a unique contrast when you hear normal singing and rapping being combined in the same song. The sudden change of vocals was a bit off-putting at times, but I think it was done in a way where it didn’t feel too out-of-place. Both of their vocals fit their overall music style nicely, in my opinion, and it’s honestly comparable to when a rapper has a feature or a verse on a pop song, or something along the lines of that. Plus, the way they harmonize in certain choruses or parts was actually nice to listen to.
The second reason being that when it comes to these vocalist/composer duos, you usually don’t get to hear the composer actually sing. There are some exceptions, like how Yorushika’s n-buna surprisingly got to be the main vocalist for a recent release of theirs in “451”, but I thought having Low Fat take on some of the vocal responsibilities in this album was a refreshing change and something new to experience. Plus, he’s a pretty decent rapper.
3 ► how loud is too loud?
Now I know I normally don’t talk about many negative points whenever I do these album reviews cause frankly, I don’t have a lot of issues with the albums Leap gives me. I am a very easy person to please (lol) and I usually have a ton of positive things to say about these records. But whenever I do have some gripes about an album, they tend to be pretty minor and what I’m about to mention falls in the same category.
On the topic of ‘loudness’, I kept noticing that a handful of songs on BlueGuns were very loud, in terms of volume. Some tracks like “Fool Show”, “Collapse Salvation” and “DONSTA”, it felt like the music drowned out the vocals in certain sections of those songs, especially during the chorus. I do listen to music at a fairly high volume, so I assumed the problem was on my end. But after listening to those tracks over and over, and even testing out different sets of headphones (and streaming services), I realized that there may have been a tiny sound production issue for some of these songs.
Not trying to make this a huge deal, nor is it something that makes or breaks my opinion on this album, but I will admit that it was a little bothersome. I did enjoy hearing Onyu’s vocals throughout this record and having them be slightly taken over by the more powerful-sounding instrumentals in a few songs… as much as I’ve been liking their sense of loudness, this might’ve been one area where they should’ve toned it down a little (lol).
While I’m not too savvy when it comes to indie-rooted vocalist/composer duos, I have listened to the obvious ones like YOASOBI and Yorushika. However, when compared to those two, FantasticYouth does bring a different kind of style and atmosphere, and I think it was shown very well in their BlueGuns album.
Their expression of electro, rock and pop was fun to listen to, and even in some instances, had something new to discover. Especially when it came to their vocals, as, like I mentioned earlier, you don’t normally get the chance to hear the composer sing in these types of artist groups. And most notably, the amount of energy they put out when they sing or perform their music… you can’t help but to recognize and just appreciate their efforts as a collective unit.
While I did have some light gripes about this album, BlueGuns is still a cool release and one that people should take a listen to, especially if you’ve enjoyed their anime features.
Aaaaand that’s all I got for you today!
This review seemed a bit short, but I hope you still thought it was interesting. Hopefully we’ll get to hear more anime artist features from FantasticYouth!
And as always, definitely go head on over to Leap’s blog where he reviewed the EP I gave him for this month: 1440 by Arika. This was an anticipated release for me, so click here to read his thoughts!
Thanks for reading!! 😀