2021 in Review: Albums that Went Under the Radar in 2021

More often than not, outstanding albums go under the radar for fans of seiyuu artists or 2D groups. Time to celebrate the hidden gems of 2021.

Estimated reading time: 21 minutos

As much as I love to write about the most impressive and buzzworthy CDs released, I also love to check the more “obscure” 2D music projects or even CD releases by underrated seiyuu artists.

And there, I often find hidden gems. Songs with a lot of quality, with performances that impress, and telling stories that will resonate with you.

Most of the CDs featured in this article either did not sell that well in Japan, international fans of 2D/seiyuu music barely care about them, or went under the radar because they aren’t from hyped-up, incredibly popular projects/seiyuu.

What all these CDs have in common is high-quality music, unique or surprising performances by talented seiyuu that fully deserve your love.

A note that this is a highly subjective article featuring my picks for CDs that went under the radar in 2021. Perhaps you have a different opinion on some of the entries or believe other CDs were even more underrated than these.

If that is the case, I invite you to leave your suggestions in the comments.

These CDs are all highly recommended and there may be some that suit your tastes and others that don’t. So check this feature, pick the entries that piqued your interest and have fun!

As such, the entries in this feature are NOT RANKED.

Without further ado, these are the 12 albums by male seiyuu artists and 2D groups that went under the radar in 2021.

Wataru Hatano “Breakers”

Wataru Hatano‘s music is usually – and surprisingly – underrated and in 2021 it was no expectation.

The talented seiyuu and solo artist has been on a good spell since 2019, and, in my opinion, “Breakers” arrived to steal the show in 2021 with a sound that fans had never heard before from Hatano (and is a rarity for seiyuu artists).

I’ve said it in its review, “Breakers” – the song – is a massive surprise even by Wataru Hatano’s standards.

He does frequently experiment with his sound, not being particularly tied to a music genre or style of singing however, he had never tried anything that happened in this single.

And “Breakers” is the type of song that is so empty in its core, it’s almost like a void yet it is so rich and hauntingly beautiful.

This is a chilling song with a crystal-clear piano melody at its core but beyond that, there is not much going on in the instrumental. Slowly, deep, bassy synths join in and the song takes on a different shape, bringing an eerie twist to the spotlight.

But let’s not forget its b-side that is a certified banger.

Heart To Heart” is an elegant funky tune that adds a lot of bounce in this single, bringing a groovy bassline and playful guitar riffs to the spotlight while Wataru Hatano takes center stage and absolutely owns this performance.

When “Breakers” wraps up, you’ll be left thinking you want more. This was, easily, one of the best CDs released in 2021 and it arrived late in the year which is all the more impressive.

ESMERALDA “THE BRILLIANCE”

ESMERALDA -THE BRILLIANCE-

This is, quite possibly, the most underrated entry in this list. ESMERALDA is a rock band part of the ENLIGHTRIBE franchise that has a dark, dramatic, and heavy sound. Hard-rock is their thing but, at times, they do channel some visual-kei vibes.

This is, currently, one of my favorite 2D bands for how robust their sound is, or how fearless they are about making the band’s sound feel aggressive and incredibly violent while, at the same time, incredibly gentle and delicate. And on vocals, Junta Terashima has been an absolute beast.

He really nails those performances as if it is second nature for him. His vocal range is not as wide as other baritones but hell if he can’t shine with his vibrato, hits, and bits of falsetto, insane crescendos, and all the techniques you can think of. He is talented and versatile. Once again, he’s underrated just like ESMERALDA is yet, still worthy of all the attention you can give him.

Out of the 2 singles released in 2021, it was difficult for me to choose 1. Both have awesome performances, are filled with shredding rock tunes and the vocals are so emotional and powerful that you’re left on the edge of your seat, goosebumps all over.

Yet, I had to pick one so I did bring “THE BRILLIANCE” to this conversation. This is the most recent out of both entries and it has an absolute banger in there.

“THE BRILLIANCE” includes a set of dark, emotional, and violent rock tunes. There is beauty in decadence and both “El Dorado” and “Radiance” showcase that, making chills run down your spine as quickly as they make you headbang along.

“Radiance” is simultaneously one of the best songs released by 2D groups in 2021 and the best rock song by a 2D rock band to grace us LAST year. This is the type of song that will get under your skin, having you screaming along to the lyrics, feel those emotional vocals by Junta Terashima. This is a song that has Junta Terashima performing crescendos with legato and vibrato, all at the same time.

When the single wraps up, you’ll instantly hit that replay button. And I honestly don’t know why this band isn’t popular or why no one talks about their outstanding music.

If there is an underrated CD released in 2021, it is this one.

EROSION “What is mine”

If you’re into rock music and like it to be aggressive yet always with a melodic twist and good vocals to complement it, EROSION is the band for you.

The 5-vocal rock band stemming from the CARNELIAN BLOOD franchise has been on a steady journey of impressive CD releases and “What is mine”, the band’s first full-length album neatly wraps everything up in the first season of CDs, bringing at least 1 new song into the mix.

I say 1 song but depending on the edition you purchase, there are different new songs alongside the new self-titled track “What is mine”. Since I only got the regular edition, I can’t really speak for the other new tracks but as it is, know that the regular edition more than wraps things up neatly.

The band fronted by Shoya Chiba but also with powerful vocals by Ryota Suzuki, Arthur Lounsbery, Toshiyuki Toyonaga, and Yuya Hirose was on a roll in 2020 and arrived in 2021 with their 1st album.

Listeners coming across this album will find several shredding guitar tunes like “RAD HEAD”, “Get out!!!” and “From a spicy peak” but there’s also introspective moments from songs like “Lighthouse” or even “Vigilante” and even an electronic-rock tune in “Sha’ming”.

The quality has only been increasing for EROSION and this album more than perfectly illustrates it, going chronologically over the songs released in 2020.

As it is, EROSION’s “What is mine” is a fine showcase of a muscular rock sound by a band that, even with its occasional hiccups, has one hell of a lineup and is still one of the most exciting 2D and 3D outfits currently active in the music industry in Japan.

Loulou*di “Idéal”

Louloudi Ideal

For a weird reason that I really can’t pinpoint, Loulou*di, easily one of the most technical and unique 2D groups currently active, is not popular.

I’m talking about a group that has 3 of the most technical singers among seiyuu in its lineup. It has the best singer among male seiyuu in their lineup.

Loulou*di should sound good. And they do. Way too good. Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Daiki Yamashita, and Shunsuke Takeuchi are a force to be reckoned with on the vocal end.

They have Toyonaga’s massive vocal range and versatility at their disposal, Yamashita’s otherworldly control and technique, and Takeuchi’s bassy vocals and unique R&B delivery.

And with each release, having Takeshi Hama as their composer, the group has been impressing with unique soundscapes almost taken out of a movie soundtrack and performances that will make chills run down your spine.

All of that culminates in “Idéal”, Loulou*di’s best CD to date.

The leading track “Final Direction” has the right amount of drama, longing, and violence going on. It is a complex, layered song in which aggressive basslines and bassy beats coexist with delicate chamber music. It has a build-up straight out of a James Bond movie. It’s one of the most exciting and intricate songs I’ve heard, with a composition that, if you’re a geek about it, you’ll gasp at how complex and perfectly put together it is.

And on vocals, the beauty of having a group with top-tier singing skills and good chemistry shines.

And its tie-up track, “Butterfly Knife” goes the picturesque route, taking the listener on a journey through a fantasy world as a banjo leads the way. This was as unexpected as the leading track for this CD. Loulou*di does have its fair share of cinematic tunes but nothing that would go the adventurous, picturesque route.

The CD sold poorly in Japan which was shocking given the sheer quality in it. It’s good to see that the reception by international fans was much warmer but still, I feel like this is an extremely underrated CD that deserved all your attention and more because it is plenty of fun but also really intricate.

Akito Sakisaka “Down to Zero”

PERFECTION NOISE vol.3 Akito
Akito “Down to zero”

Out of all songs released in 2021 by the PERFECTION NOISE franchise, it was Akito Sakisaka’s “Down to Zero” that impressed me the most.

First off, Kaito Ishikawa is finally sounding good as a singer, even if a bit strained in some parts, a result of unfamiliarity with his own singing tone or even how to tackle certain parts that require a different technique, but he showed a lot of improvement that left me thoroughly interested in “Down to Zero” and, actually, on listening how can Ishikawa develop from hereon.

Like all songs in the PERFECTION NOISE franchise, “Down to Zero” is not necessarily following a trendy sound and, instead, revisits sounds and melodies from the past, mixes those with a bit of hip-hop and rock and what you get is one of the biggest surprises of the year.

As a result, “Down to Zero” is a song with a strong attitude, quickly showcasing that in its hard-hitting trap instrumental, the edgy guitar parts, and the overall downtempo.

And like all songs from NOISE NOVA – or even the solo tracks – it is extremely underrated yet of a high-quality and with a refreshing sound that more than deserves your attention.

pioniX “Haru Oshimu”

pioniX Seasons Haru oshimu

Out of all 3 entries in the “SEASONS” CD series released in 2021, pioniX’s “Haru Oshimu” was the one that impressed me the most.

On this CD, fans can find the cinematic song “Harukaze”.

“Harukaze” is a layered and rich song that builds up from a strong acoustic core into a beautiful semi-acoustic pop-rock tune with one hell of an amazing chorus.

There’s a delicate, gentle vibe going on in the stripped-down verses and the song manages to build up into a beautiful cinematic track.

The fast piano notes in the chorus are like a flock of birds far in the sky, flying freely as flowers bloom, the soundscape emitting a beautiful pink, warm tonality courtesy of pioniX’s emotional harmonies.

And those harmonies were delivered by the extremely underrated but highly technical Hinata Tadokoro, Yoshiki Nakajima, Tetsuei Sumiya, and Mizuki Chiba, a quartet that has insane chemistry, not to mention their vocals fit in perfect harmony.

This is a fantastic display of quality not only on the vocal end but also the outstanding imagination on the side of the composition of this song.

Jin Ogasawara “Only one thing”

Electro rock and punk-pop made their way to the spotlight with Jin Ogasawara’s “Only one thing”.

The talented voice actor and singer made his solo debut in 2021 with this single and I can safely say he did leave a good impression.

However, due to Ogasawara not being popular and the music label he joined being a minor one, none of the singles he released in 2021 gained that much attention.

Although I’ve mentioned plenty of times how I feel like his solo debut was rushed, I also feel that among the rushed solo debuts in the last 2 years he is, alongside Gakuto Kajiwara, one of the best singers, having a massive potential to grow further.

So yeah, while still not that popular, you can’t deny that Ogasawara not only has improved a lot as a singer since he joined the FROM ARGONAVIS franchise in 2019 but also put in extra effort for his solo career, sounding even better than usual.

And now, in a solo capacity, he is showing what he’s made of. “Only one thing” is a simple song at its core but its nostalgic sound and Ogasawara’s refreshing performance turned it into one of my favorite songs released last year.

Anthos* “Meet”

Anthos* Meet

Anthos* kicked off 2021 by welcoming a new member to its lineup and that means, the insanely high and raspy vocals of Shun Horie.

With the addition of a skilled tenor to the lineup, the group presented a different dynamic, now having more power available for the main vocals to unleash, serving as a good contrast to the powerful rap duo within the group, Daiki Hamano and Seiichiro Yamashita.

I’ve got some reservations about the direction that Anthos*’s music has taken this year, slowly straying away from their trademark ethereal, dreamy sound.

Tropical music was big in 2021 for this group and intense EDM also had its place among the 5 new songs released last year. While these aren’t particularly new additions to their music, they’ve now taken the spotlight away from their original loungy sound.

I don’t know about you but the group improved a lot on the vocal end but their music took a couple of steps backward.

Still, out of all releases in 2021, Anthos*’s “Meet” was the best one and certainly one I had on repeat for quite some time.

It balances relatively well the group’s new take on their sound as well as it still retains elements of their trademark dreamy sound. It works well while showcasing a new dynamic on vocals that, from day 1 is working as if Shun Horie had been a part of the group since their debut.

For those fans of intense EDM or laidback tropical house, Anthos*’s “Meet” is an interesting entry to check. One CD that went under the radar – like all music in the Hana-Doll franchise – but fully worthy of your attention.

Sir Vanity “Ajisai”

Out of nowhere and after a 1-year hiatus, Sir Vanity, seiyuu rock band fronted by Yoshiki Nakajima and Yuichiro Umehara, announced their return to music activities.

The band first released “Ajisai”, single with only Yoshiki Nakajima on vocals. This was surprising in itself, as most fans were expecting the band’s comeback to be with a song featuring both vocals.

Well, the song was released on Nakajima’s birthday so it has his special touch and feelings in it.

And that’s why I chose this song over “Hero” to talk about in this feature.

In a way, “AJISAI” draws inspiration from SID, something that I absolutely love about it. That contrast between robust rock sound and the refined melodies that a more traditional piano-focused sound has is something that suits the band well.

That addition of “beauty” to an otherwise “dark” and “grim” song made the song shine in Sir Vanity’s repertoire and is a big reason why I ended up choosing this song over the fast-paced “HERO”.

In a surprising turn of events, this song only had Yoshiki Nakajima on vocals, delivering an emotional performance on top of this melancholic instrumental.

Underrated song by an underrated band and one of my favorites of 2021.

Momochi “Magen no Ai”

Momochi Magen no Ai
momochi “Magen no Ai”

Momochi‘s “Magen no Ai” is, easily, one of the best entries in the RAVING BEATS!!! CD series in the Dear Vocalist franchise.

This is quite the twisted album, befitting Momochi’s twisted view of what “love” is.

“Magen no Ai” is an interesting look into what is one of the most intriguing and twisted characters in the Dear Vocalist franchise. Baring his heart out comes with a price and it is violent yet extremely alluring.

There is allure, darkness, a twinge of violence in Momochi’s music but in this album, things crank up as he goes in for the kill – well, a confession, but it sounds oddly dangerous – and while admitting to his violent, twisted ways of approaching love, he also is extremely forward for a change about his feelings.

That results in an intoxicating, pitch-black, dangerous yet deeply alluring album that had me in awe throughout. Power and intensity in minimalism. Class and elegance in traditional Japanese music. Dark and twisted in upbeat songs.

Momochi’s music is all about contradictions and the music perfectly fleshed out those.

And on vocals, Toshiyuki Toyonaga displayed to everyone his skills, first off by fully embracing the characters’ feelings – something that you are only aware of when his performances start to come off to you as strangely intimidating and intense -, then by going all out with his singing skills.

There is clean singing, raw rock vocals, enka-style of singing, and even rap and Toyonaga absolutely nails all of those. It’s quite impressive to listen to and the album heavily benefits from his comfort and how natural he sounds in Momochi’s place – really, as Momochi.

Like all releases in the Dear Vocalist franchise, “Magen no Ai” was extremely well received in Japan – the country in which the franchise is really popular – but barely anyone overseas cared for it.

Thankfully, the album is now available on Spotify internationally which helps bridge the gap in popularity that this franchise has from Japan to overseas. Still, for the sheer quality it has, it shocks me that this album was barely talked about by international fans of 2D music.

KAGARIBI “Display”

KAGARIBI Judah Display cover

Simultaneously one of the best albums in 2021 but an incredibly underrated one, KAGARIBI’s “Display” is back again for a year-end feature.

A love confession in the form of a CD. That’s unheard of when it comes to music released within 2D music projects. And yet, the member with the most aggressive rock sound in the Dear Vocalist franchise was the one that pulled off an album that, surprisingly, has a strong romantic vibe going on.

This is unexpectedly wholesome and one of the reasons why, out of all CDs released in the RAVING BEATS!!! CD series in the Dear Vocalist franchise, this was the one that impressed me the most.

The genuine growth that Judah goes through in this album is noticeable without even listening to the drama tracks that are a common storytelling device in this franchise.

There’s a rawness, a sense of his heart being bare and honest in the way he realizes he’s infatuated with someone, then goes through misunderstandings with that person, even disappointing them.

Then you have the turn around as he finds himself alone with his thoughts and realizes he does depend more on the person he loves than what he thought and he wants – even sacrificing himself – to mend his ways and be, once more, accepted by the person he loves. From the hard-hitting “Display” and “Escalation” to the romantic “Kasetsu” and the confessional songs “MY BLEACH”, “I can’t say goodbye”, “Hisho” and “Saiai”, KAGARIBI’s “Display” is an impressive CD with a strong focus on cohesive storytelling.

Another reason I chose this CD is also because of its consistent tracklist. It is worth noting that fans voted on which songs would make it to the album, minus 3 new songs that would be for sure on it.

So that consistency in the tracklist helped make KAGARIBI’s “Display” sound as romantic as it does.

Then you have the music side. R.O.N continues to be one of my favorite composers, always crafting new, refreshing songs that are perfectly tailored to the stories that each character has going on as well as what their bands are all about. From shredding tunes to romantic acoustic tracks and even electro-rock, he does it all and, in this case, Judah’s music shines because of it.

And then you have Soma Saito, the final reason I picked this album out of all others. Taking into account all albums released in the RAVING BEATS!!! CD series, he was the voice actor that showed the most growth as a performer. He started with a lack of confidence but with each release, he embraced his role further, and by the time songs like “Kasetsu” or “MY BLEACH” play, you’ll notice how much Saito has embraced his role as Judah as well as how much he’s improved as a singer.

So you get “growth” in a double dose with this album. A voice actor growing alongside the character he portrays. There’s nothing more awesome than this.

While there may be flashier CDs in the RAVING BEATS!!! CD series or perhaps stunning performances in other CDs – there were and I do welcome you to check all CDs, as they are now available on Spotify -, Judah’s or KAGARIBI’s “Display” is the entry that impressed me the most. And while it was an album that had a good performance on the Oricon charts, it is extremely underrated among international fans.

If you do have the time, enjoy good character development and intense rock music with smooth low vocals on top, this is a good CD for you to check.

GRANRODEO “Bokutachi no Gunzou”

GRANRODEO Bokutachi no Gunzou

Wrapping up this feature is GRANRODEO’s stellar concept album “Bokutachi no Gunzou”.

I’ve always noticed that GRANRODEO’s songs featured in anime series are always massive hits and gain a lot of attention.

However, when their music is not featured in anime, and the band has entire freedom to create the music they want, pushing their own creativity to new limits, not many people actually pay attention to them.

And when GRANRODEO released their best album to date, not many people paid attention to it which baffles me.

This is one of the best and most emotional albums I’ve had the pleasure to listen to in recent years.

It starts really innocent but the journey you go through following the story’s protagonist across the various songs in this concept album will render you to tears.

This is a simple concept album focused on the themes of youth, nostalgia, love, and loss. And everything flowed incredibly fast with seamless transitions between songs not signaling when a new chapter was starting.

Following a protagonist from their school days until their death is just brutal. The highs and lows, the lessons learned the passions, and fun along the way, all hit like a truck when this album wraps up.

And it is thanks to the genius of KISHOW, in charge of the lyrics, and e-ZUKA, in charge of giving life to those with cinematic soundscapes, that when I look back to 2021 I say that “Bokutachi no Gunzou” not only was one of the year’s highlights but also an album that personally resonated with me.

A gem in the middle of GRANRODEO’s stellar repertoire, a mini-album that deserves to be listened to from start to finish with no interruptions.


When I look back to all these albums I can’t help but hope more people would love them.

The quality performances by experienced singers or singers quickly evolving their skills, music composed by some of the best composers in Japan, or even the sheer variety or consistency you find here to put all these CDs on the same or, at times, higher level than what was considered buzzworthy or trendy in 2021.

You have shredding rock, catchy pop, fancy, loungy electronica, old-school hip-hop, ballads, pretty much everything in here yet, due to weird reasons, some of these CDs didn’t get that much of a reception.

So yeah, I hope this feature article gave you a taste of these 12 CDs and, in some way, has piqued your interest in any of those. After all, these 12 albums and artists – there’s many more – deserve all the love they can get.

If you’re curious, do check the links to the reviews that I added to this article. There are a lot of gems left for you to uncover and fall in love with.

Which albums released in 2021 by male seiyuu or 2D groups do you feel like are underrated? Share those in the comments!

You can find all the content in this feature on episode 75 of SEIYUU LOUNGE, The Hand That Feeds HQ’s official weekly podcast in video format.

If you prefer content on the go, you can also find the content in this feature in the sound-only version of SEIYUU LOUNGE.

You can find the podcast on the following platforms

YouTube

Spotify

Apple Podcasts

Google Podcasts


Vanessa Silvahttps://www.handthatfeedshq.com
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. Also, the only person managing everything The Hand That Feeds HQ related. In 2011, I stumbled upon Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus". Since then I have been writing about male seiyuu music. You may find me writing almost essays whenever music is really good (not limited to, but it happens a lot with Soma Saito's music). I also host the male seiyuu-centric podcast, SEIYUU LOUNGE (see Spotify link in this profile).

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