From engaging stories to returns to their origins, drastic changes in sound, ambitious concepts, and outstanding performances. Time to celebrate the best albums released by male seiyuu and 2D groups in 2021.
Estimated reading time: 18 minutos
Time to wrap up the year with a feature about the best albums released in 2021 by male seiyuu artists and 2D groups.
The albums in this feature have impressive quality in their production, some in their performances, others in the concepts, or even how unique or refreshing the sound is. All are CDs in which male seiyuu gave their all to impress with outstanding performances that left me wanting more.
All are CDs that, since I’ve reviewed them, I can’t stop listening to them.
As you can tell, this is a highly subjective feature and it may happen that my choices of the best albums by Seiyuu Artists and 2D groups in 2021 won’t coincide with your choices.
All entries in this feature are ranked from 11th to 1st.
At the core of this ranking is:
- Rating given to the album review,
- Quality of the vocal performances,
- Production (mixing, mastering) quality,
- Overall enjoyment, and
- Replay value.
Now, without further ado, let’s start this feature.
#11 Miyu Irino “CHEERS”
Miyu Irino didn’t make a big fuss about “CHEERS“, keeping its promotions to a bare minimum and not participating in the music videos released so you’d be forgiven for having completely forgotten about this awesome single.
“CHEERS” is a perfect entry in Miyu Irino’s repertoire, basking on good vibes and approaching the big theme in his music since 2016 – life – in a mature way, giving way to a set of groovy songs in minimalistic nu-disco style, focusing on making you feel good.
It is hard to pick just one best song from this release as all songs resonate with me on various levels so I’d highly suggest you check it, especially if you love chill music that has a lot of emotion at its core and really rich, warm performances on top.
#10 SparQlew “Daybreak”
What does a change in concept do for a group?
For SparQlew it meant shifting from peppy pop music – that certainly was enjoyable to some – into nu-disco-inspired sound with a mature, masculine vibe about them – that has attracted a whole lot of people to their music.
And while this change could have also been “generic”, the group was all about having a unique, engaging sound among seiyuu units, getting a tad bit closer to what you’d call “idol” music.
For me, SparQlew changing concepts finally made it so that I got to properly enjoy their music and be completely addicted to their sound and performances – regardless of group or solo songs.
“Daybreak” is a fantastic album, the best in SparQlew’s repertoire and a release I believe has opened the doors for the group to get massively popular (here’s to hoping this concept remains with the group for future releases).
The leading track “Dance in the Twilight” is a fantastic song, having a really groovy sound at its core while embracing a laidback, hip-hop-inspired beat and featuring some of the most technical performances the group has delivered so far.
And when you get to the solo tracks, you’ll come across a lot of talent. From the emotional lyricists Takuto Yoshinaga, Shoya Chiba, and Yuto Uemura to the charismatic performance by Yuya Hozumi and Shun Horie’s haunting song + jaw-dropping performance, this mini-album has everything.
Easily one of the highlights of 2021.
#9 KAGARIBI “Display”
2021 was a massive year to the Dear Vocalist franchise, kicking off its 6th season of music + drama CDs with a twist: all vocalists released their 1st full-length albums, with fans voting for at least 5 of the tracks in each of those.
And out of the 6 impressive albums – seriously, all albums were genuinely good – I’ve picked a personal favorite among all CDs in the RAVING BEATS!!! series.
It is KAGARIBI‘s “Display“.
KAGARIBI is the band fronted by Judah (CV: Soma Saito) and this album ended up coming as a complete surprise, even for me, someone that is a big fan of the character and his path so far.
Judah is best known for an aggressive brand of rock with influences of punk-rock. Vocals are usually slightly low and raw, with all songs carrying a lot of emotion. However, what you find in “Display” is a love confession in the form of a rocking album.
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.
Quite rare to find within 2D music and surprising coming, once again, from a character that usually has an aggressive sound.
But will all songs together, the puzzle was completed and what we actually have is a romantic album overflowing with shredding guitar tunes. For those that follow the story, the romance does stand out. For those that don’t, this is an extremely awesome album to jam to, especially if you love rock music.
Consistency in the tracklist was key for this album to deserve a place at this top.
Somehow, fans ended up choosing songs that, when the tracklist was sorted, ended up creating a story, tieing loose ends, and wrapping up neatly with a set of 3 new songs that further flesh out the story and add another layer of novelty and versatility to Judah’s music.
Acoustic rock made its way to his repertoire for the very first time and, on the vocal end, Soma Saito was not shy about surpassing the quality of previous performances as Judah.
When 2021 wraps up, this rests as one of my favorite albums, one with a strong focus on storytelling and overflowing with good rock music and intense performances by Soma Saito.
#8 GYROAXIA “ONE”
Is this yet another rock entry? Yes.
GYROAXIA has been on a fantastic journey since its debut. The rock band fronted by Nayuta Asahi (CV: Jin Ogasawara) and part of the FROM ARGONAVIS franchise released a behemoth of a rock album in 2021.
“ONE” brought forward intense and intimidating rock songs, plenty of character development – particularly noticeable for fans of the franchise – and the improved vocals by Ogasawara.
The band’s sound shines in songs like “HELLO“, “SCATTER” and “MANIFESTO” but there’s much more to this band than what meets the eye.
There is a lot of emotion going on and Ogasawara has made sure that is noticeable in his powerful performances, dishing out solid clean vocals and going for monster screamo sections in some of the band’s songs.
This is an album that is high-octane, with songs passing by you in a flash, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. This is an album that will have you headbanging, shouting along to the songs, or even air drumming to the band’s insane drums parts.
GYROAXIA’s “ONE” is, easily, one of the best albums released in 2021 and the band is slowly but surely turning into one of the best currently active stemming from a 2D music project.
#7 Mamoru Miyano “Toumei”
Mamoru Miyano was back on his groove with “Toumei”, a single that will play around with your emotions as soon as the first notes kick in.
In “Toumei”, listeners will get to experience 3 polarizing styles of performances and songs by Mamoru Miyano, and oh man, this was so good.
It still has Miyano’s trademark style, it also caters to international fans with a song obviously with a Western pop vibe and it still showcases his talents as a singer. This is a good balance that makes the best out of his strengths as a solo artist.
The single’s highlight is “Toumei”, a beautiful, stripped-down ballad that will tug at your heartstrings. Miyano made sure to deliver a hauntingly beautiful performance that made it almost impossible to not get even slightly emotional.
But you still have nu-disco in “Question”, another song that I’d rank pretty high among Miyano’s best dance tunes, not to mention the feel-good track “Zanshou”.
This was the most consistent I’ve heard Mamoru Miyano in a long time. Glad to see him back on his groove, having fun while showcasing his talents as a singer and overall entertainer.
If you haven’t checked this single, I welcome you to do so. “Toumei” is a massive upgrade in which you find Miyano fine-tuning his music into a mature blend of trademark tunes, trendy songs, and tracks that highlight his singing skills.
#6 Shugo Nakamura “NATURAL”
Shugo Nakamura’s “NATURAL” is a collection of beautiful songs with a hopeful, bright outlook on life, plenty of good vibes, and some love in the mix.
In a way, this album perfectly encompasses who Nakamura is as a solo artist and, in another, it serves almost as a letter to his fans or even just those who appreciate his natural, semi-acoustic brand of rock.
This album is all about its semi-acoustic rock sound. Some songs have some sprinkles of pop, others of jazz, funk, and when he stops all the unplugged music, he goes all out electric for fast-paced rocking tunes.
But there’s a sense of continuity between the songs. All fill the same purpose, all have the same good vibes at their core.
Shugo Nakamura makes things sound easy when it comes to his performances. He does plenty of flourishes, goes up and down the scale within brief, tricky parts.
He has a lot of emotion in himself that carries over to his performances but he also can go extremely simple and raw as well as technical and fancy.
His versatility gave life to all the songs in “NATURAL” and, without notice, when this album wraps up, you’ll feel energized and with a smile plastered on your face.
#5 Koutaro Nishiyama “Laundry”
Koutaro Nishiyama is that seiyuu artist that I feel is extremely underrated. He’s crafty in his performances, going for melodic, whisper voice for his unique brand of citypop and nu-disco.
Something I deeply appreciate in his music – and it is something that is only done by him among male seiyuu artists – is how loungy his sound is. You can lose yourself in those chill instrumentals, melancholic atmospheric synths, or just in the good, danceable vibes brought in by the funky guitars and groovy basslines.
And in this album that is no exception.
The bass and guitar work in this mini-album is off the charts. It is fun, groovy, and extremely funky, capturing memories of a past some many have never lived, fleshing those out, and taking everyone for a nostalgic ride painted by neon lights.
“Laundry” has a collection of classy, dreamy tunes that have a loungy danceable sound and crafty performances by Koutaro Nishiyama that, once again, shows that he knows exactly what he is doing, making his unique singing tone and skillset as a singer shine.
#4 Toshiki Masuda “origin”
Consistency was key in making the world that Masuda wanted to create – exploring his guitar rock roots – come to life.
“origin” dives deep into Toshiki Masuda’s passion for rock music, bringing to the forefront powerful tunes nodding at all those influences while also keeping it interesting and emotional at all times.
It has several highlights, with “ordinary” standing out as the best song in the album, a song that explores a funky sound and in which fans will find Masuda performing on a higher key than usual.
“Asu wa kitto”, the resident emotional ballad will render you to tears thanks to its gentle instrumental, the hopeful message in the lyrics, and Masuda’s tender, smooth vocals.
But there’s also “Mousou merry-go-round” and “Koe ni naranai Koe”, songs in which you will find Masuda in his purest state as a solo artist. You can tell he’s having fun performing those shredding rock tunes and that excitement and passion carry over to the other – equally good – songs in “origin”.
“origin” is a massive improvement to Toshiki Masuda’s sound. His best album to date and a highlight in 2021.
#3 TRIGGER “VARIANT”
Next one up is TRIGGER’s astounding concept album “VARIANT”.
This is a statement album.
It is dramatic, aggressive, raw, and fragile in equal measures and it packs quite the punch while being completely different from the music the group has released before.
There’s a hunger to succeed and the will to fight well present in this concept album.
Coming together, improve together to be their best version of themselves and be as cohesive and perfect as a unit as possible.
TRIGGER sure pulled off every single one of those feelings, fleshing those out in a collection of songs that will be intense, heartbreaking, fun, groovy, and, by the end of it all, an intimate, deep look at a group that wants to be at the top while facing impossible odds.
And within this collection of songs arrives one of the best songs released in 2021 “VALIANT”.
It is unlike anything TRIGGER had released before.
The talented trio cast their allure and sexiness aside and don a dark and aggressive sound with quite the weirdly refreshing masculine intensity.
As a result, you can tell that the performance and instrumental in “VALIANT” perfectly encapsulates TRIGGER’s whole “growth” and “hunger” main concepts present in the album.
This is a song that adds hip-hop to the trio’s repertoire as well as the very first song in which all members rap. Coming from a group known for their sexy and elegant sound, this was a massive surprise but a welcomed one as the trio consisting of Wataru Hatano, Soma Saito, and Takuya Sato, absolutely nailed those parts as if it was their second nature.
TRIGGER is a versatile and talented group in constant improvement and pulling off, time and time again, the craziest of things that you’d think were “impossible”.
“VARIANT” is that “impossible” made “possible”. They are ready to claim their throne and won’t be satisfied until they achieve it.
#2 Makoto Furukawa “ROOM Of No Name”
Instead of a full-out jazz mini-album, Furukawa challenged himself with music genres he’s never performed before as a solo artist. And that’s how you have, a sexy jazz-meets-disco song, a full-on jazz track, R&B ballad, emo-rock, and a shredding rock tune.
“Forsaken kiss” is crazy good. Easily one of the best songs of the year.
Incredibly elegant, mixing all the right things in disco, funk, and jazz to create one of hell of an intoxicating song. This is Furukawa’s first sexy loungy tune and it is an absolute banger. And give credit where it is due because he performed the full song in English to cater to his international fans.
There’s much more within this mini-album from Furukawa’s trademark jazz sound in “Hai Glass” to a surprising appearance of R&B in “Yurikago to Clover” and even emo-rock in “Yuunagi o tsurete” or shredding, high-octane rock in “Craving”.
At its core, the whole album has the theme “desire” and the concept of “room” being explored in completely different ways.
With “ROOM Of No Name”, Furukawa showcased his control, technique, and versatility as a singer, delivering unique – some unexpected – performances.
How does an unshackled Makoto Furukawa sound like? Pretty darn good, I must tell you.
#1 Yuma Uchida “Equal”
A collection of high-quality songs creates wonderful stories to dive into and soundscapes in which you can lose yourself.
For fans of Yuma Uchida’s R&B pop sound, this album is an absolute treat. There are plenty of R&B songs to bask in, enjoy the good vibes, vibe to the groovy basslines, and appreciate the quality on the vocal end with outstanding performances by Uchida.
For those first coming across his music, this is a fantastic album that is easy-listening, had plenty of varied performances, and explores a couple of different music genres. Worth mentioning that Yuma Uchida is one of the best singers among male seiyuu so, if this is really the first time you hear about him and this album, you’re in for a treat.
From “HORIZON” to “Equal” there are noticeable changes in the vocal performances and overall sound.
As a sign of Yuma Uchida maturing as an artist, there’s a lot of funk going on, especially in comparison with his 1st album, which went more in line with dance-pop.
This change alone was enough to give a mature vibe to his performances and Uchida more than delivered a set of elegant performances to match.
“Equal” is filled with highlights. As I’ve mentioned in episode 73, my song of the year is “I’m not complete”, a song included in this album.
“I’m not complete” is a full-fledged emotional R&B ballad that could have been sung in the 80s, early 90s. The passion in Uchida’s performance, the gospel-style choir, the progression, or even the lyrics, will have your emotions completely messed up. This is a beautiful track with a memorable performance that lends a lot of elements from classic R&B ballads.
I don’t know why, but the way the song builds up, the way Uchida tackles his performance, those high, head voice notes, and that slow build-up to the climax sort of emulating Prince’s iconic ballad “Purple Rain”. That was the clear inspiration for this performance and even for the song’s composition, sharing a similar structure.
Favorites aside, all tracks are wonderful on their own.
As always, the album starts with an acappella song in which Yuma Uchida performs all parts within a group. That continues to be an impressing thing coming from him, further showcasing his versatility and massive vocal range.
Between oldies and new tracks, “Equal” showcases two different sides to Yuma Uchida, the solo artist. 2 sides that although different, are equally important, adding a certain “it” factor to him as a solo artist.
This is my album of the year.
I feel like this year, fans of seiyuu artists and 2D groups were spoiled with good albums and even some stellar singles and Eps/mini-albums.
The quality was still not up there with the crazy quality of all CDs released in 2020 (that was an exceptional year), but it was still an eventful year with plenty of quality releases, surprising performances, a lot of growth, new adventures, and some unpredictability.
Out of the over 130 CDs I reviewed in 2021, these 11 were the ones that left a lasting mark.
Either for their nostalgic tone or for how elegantly they sound, or even because of the obvious leap in quality on the vocals. Some made their way to the top because of their unreal consistency or for the unique stories that were told through a carefully crafted collection of songs.
More than ever, there are quality singers among male seiyuu, and with each year, it gets increasingly harder to pick favorites.
After this solid year, I look at 2022 with hopes that it is even better, with more mesmerizing albums and performances that will catch us all off guard yet still be pleasantly refreshing.
What were your favorite albums released in 2021 by male seiyuu or 2D groups? Share those in the comments!
You can find all the content in this feature on episode 74 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.
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