Impressive performances, unique sound, good vibes and high quality. It’s time to cover the best songs released by seiyuu and 2D groups in 2021.
Estimated reading time: 21 minutes
2021 was a year packed with important happenings for seiyuu artists.
From surprising solo debuts to new 2D music projects being launched and impressing everyone, massive tours in the middle of the pandemic, long-awaited comebacks, and crucial changes in the seiyuu and music industries, there was a little bit of everything.
2021 wasn’t a particularly impressive year, especially after 2020 being outstanding (it was a really special year for fans of seiyuu music). Well, the bar had been set really high, I guess it has now reverted to the way it was in 2019.
With that being said, you could tell there was more quality and variety in the music by 2D groups but when it came to solo artists, the same couldn’t be said.
Still, in the middle of all the generic songs or performances, there were at least 45 songs that stood out for their quality.
For this feature, I’ll cover the 8 best songs by 2D groups and the 8 best songs by seiyuu artists released in 2021.
I’ll talk a bit about the songs but if you really want to go in-depth, sometimes even down to how the songs are or should be produced, I welcome you to check the reviews I wrote about those songs in question.
If you want to get a taste of the best songs released in 2021, at the bottom of this article there is a specially curated Spotify playlist including 45 songs that stood out for their quality, unique tone, good vibes, and most of all, the outstanding performances by seiyuu.
Have into attention that this is a highly subjective article as I will be talking about the songs that impressed me or that I enjoyed the most in 2021.
Additionally, the songs in this article are not ranked.
I do feel like, depending on the day, some are the best of the best for me, in others, it’s a different set of songs. So yeah, I did not rank any of the songs. It’s just that, out of those 45 songs, these were the ones that impressed me the most.
Now, without further ado, let’s start this feature.
Best songs by 2D groups
Shu & Dai “Oto no LOOP”
Elegance at its best, Shu and Dai’s “Oto no LOOP” is a must-listen as well as one of the best songs released in 2021. The song is included in the Neo X Lied CD series in the TSUKIPRO franchise.
“Oto no LOOP” has quite the dirty, alluring touch on top of its experimentalism with electronica.
I absolutely love the dark and violent bassline and beat and how it contrasts with the dirty synths in the background or even the delicate strings and atmospheric synths in the chorus.
The composition itself is masterful and then, on top, you have the vocals of Yuichiro Umehara and Shunsuke Takeuchi, and let me tell you, they delivered an impressive performance.
I mentioned in this song’s review that, Yuichiro Umehara’s performance is a massive leap from what I’m used to. He’s grown a lot as a singer and he’s now able to be level with Shunsuke Takeuchi, easily one of the most consistent and versatile singers among male seiyuu.
You can expect Umehara going for falsetto, stunning high notes, powerful low ones, smooth vibrato, and even harmonize with Takeuchi. That is an impressive performance from him.
And Takeuchi made good use of his versatile range – between baritone and bass – to deliver an intense performance in which there were deep, low notes aplenty, clean falsetto, and several tempo changes.
Awesome song that fully deserves your attention.
In my opinion, the biggest and most impressive song of 2021 is TRIGGER’s “VALIANT”.
This is not a song you’d expect from the talented trio, the lyrics are extremely intense and the vocals are way different from usual.
A downtempo, triplets-filled hip-hop tune with an intimidating aura and plenty of rap on the vocal end mixed with their trademark clean singing.
This is almost like a completely different group has arrived, claimed the stage for themselves, and delivered the show of their lives.
It’s impressive. The aura alone is quite impressive.
“VALIANT” has a fierce, powerful attitude in the lyrics and performances.
The trio cast their allure and sexiness aside and don a dark and aggressive sound with quite a weirdly refreshing masculine intensity that you couldn’t find previously in their music.
You can tell from that performance and instrumental that “VALIANT” is a statement song. A track that perfectly encapsulates TRIGGER’s whole “growth” and “hunger” main concepts going on in the concept album “VARIANT”.
TRIGGER is still the same group with a sexy edge but now they also have an intensity and fierce attitude to them, not to mention that they got to showcase their versatility by challenging themselves to rap and sing within the same song, to an awesome end result.
Quite the impactful song, a masterful composition that does the storytelling for itself, strong lyrics, and outstanding performance make TRIGGER’s “VALIANT” one of the best songs released in 2021.
cozmez “Ain’t No Love”
cozmez’s “Ain’t No Love” is a one-of-a-kind rap song.
cozmez, no matter how much they search for it, they’ve never felt love and are still looking for it. Those feelings carry over to their performance with the beat being slow and violent, the bassline equally as aggressive, but besides that, the soundscape is empty.
The beat had me going but what I did not expect was how blunt and explicit the lyrics are.
The lyrics are pitch black, focusing on themes like drug trafficking, abuse, prostitution, and violence.
That’s a first for 2D groups or even seiyuu artists.
Explicit lyrics tackling heavy and delicate themes and doing so tastefully instead of FOR shock value. The story that is being told needs those elements. Those explain why the instrumental is this violent and why the performances have a “nothing to lose” vibe to them.
The deep, well-crafted story going on in the lyrics and that massive instrumental and performance surely deserve the shout-out as one of the best songs by 2D groups in 2021.
If you talk about the best songs released in 2021, Matenro’s “TOMOSHIBI” has to be in the conversation.
Regardless of whether you follow the Hypnosis Mic franchise passionately, casually, or not at all, if you listen to this song, you will get what it is all about.
“TOMOSHIBI” shows glimpses of hope yet it has an introspective tone covering 3 dark stories that are interwoven by fate.
For those emotions to come to life, you have a minor key melody on the piano, an emotional old-school downtempo hip-hop instrumental, and legato strings in the background.
Their rap carries a lot of weight and emotion, making each pounding beat, each violent bassline hit, and each melody hit harder than expected. The bonds, the struggles, hope, and defeat, pride and desperation, all play a role in life, all play a role in this story.
When this song wraps up, you’re left with one hell of a story, lots of questions, and a sense of emptiness. From the instrumental to GADORO’s lyrics and the Show Hayami, Ryuichi Kijima, and Kent Ito’s performances, I absolutely love this song.
Loulou*di “Final Direction”
This is another massive composition by Takeshi Hama, the genius behind Loulou*di and QUELL’s songs.
Rock, chamber music, and electronica coexist in “Final Direction”, song that will immediately sound like it belongs to a soundtrack to a “James Bond” movie. It is dramatic, somber, delicate, and grandiose. It has a sense of urgency and danger underlying it.
The composition alone is insanely intricate and multilayered, channeling a multitude of inspirations across different music genres.
There’s a classic touch to this track in the chamber music elements, with string swells – provided by a mix of violins and cellos -, as well as wind instruments (a bassoon is playing far in the background and you can also listen to a tuba and trombone in some sections), classic piano playing and harp melodies.
Then you have the electronica taking the form of dirty, violent bassy synths, a pounding beat, and atmospheric synths.
And then there are the rock elements present in the form of powerful – yet heavily processed – guitar riffs.
That’s what you can scratch from the surface of this song. I bet if this song was to be deconstructed, we’d have at least 8 other layers of fantasy to explore.
On the vocal end, Loulou*di has yet to disappoint. Really, this trio is absolutely flawless.
Toshiyuki Toyonaga is a force to be reckoned with, he’s everywhere, can harmonize with anyone, and has a vocal range that keeps on impressing.
Shunsuke Takeuchi has been improving a whole lot his control. Although he’s been pretty much spotless in the last couple of years, that extra bit of control makes it possible for him to hold faux bass vocals while sounding natural. As a result, his low notes are deep, robust, and full, adding that necessary bit of darkness to this dramatic song.
And wrapping everything up neatly is the otherworldly singing skill by Daiki Yamashita. He’s got the best skill set for these kinds of songs that demand dramatic performances with a lot of belting, crescendos, and harmonizations. He’s shown that with GROWTH and he’s absolutely comfortable for this performance.
As far as epic performances and unique songs go, Loulou*di has to be mentioned. This group is in a league of its own.
And “Final Direction” is an absolutely outstanding song.
GYROAXIA released a massive first album. “ONE” brought to the spotlight an aggressive brand of rock/punk-rock, plenty of screamo, and performances that will have you headbanging to no end (perhaps even look for a moshpit to have some fun).
Within the album there lies “HELLO“, a song that absolutely won me from the very first distant guitar melodies. The song goes loud, aggressive, and low. This is a mid-tempo hardrock tune with punk-rock influences in its drumming and plenty of heavy metal influences on the guitars.
The verses take you to the moshpit, the chorus brings a certain beauty that you could associate to visual-kei metal and the whole track just shines for fans of rock music. I know for certain that this song had me going.
And on the vocals? Jin Ogasawara upped his game to an impressive level. He tackled screamo – performing what is the longest screamo part in a song by a seiyuu/2D unit to date -, went for powerful clean vocals counting with plenty of vibrato and even some falsetto going on.
This is a performance to bask in. This is really one of the best rock performances by a 2D rock band to date and certainly one of the best in 2021.
Growth “Jiyu no Tabiji”
When it comes to creating fantasy worlds in which listeners can lose themselves, Growth is a masterful group.
The talented quartet part of the TSUKIPRO franchise and consisting of Shunichi Toki, Daiki Yamashita, Junta Terashima, and Yoshitaka Yamaya delivered an outstanding performance in a song that will make your jaw drop.
“Jiyu no Tabiji” brings to the forefront chamber music, beautiful harp melodies, a grandiose choir, orchestral instruments – such as timpani –, all with the focus on taking you on an epic adventure.
And on the vocal end, Growth continues to be in a league of their own with some of the most impressive melodies and harmonies going on in this performance.
Memorable song from a group with no match among 2D music projects.
FYA’M’ “Think about you”
Easily one of the grooviest songs released in 2021 and one that shows that voice actors in Japan are in a league of their own in terms of versatility and quality on the vocal end.
FYA’M’s “Think about you” is otherworldly. Not only the group has a perfectly balanced lineup that covers all vocal ranges for men – tenor, baritone, and bass (yes, there are variations within this voice tones) – as well as counting with percussion in the form of beatbox, but this group is performing in acappella as part of the buzzworthy mixed-media 2D project, aoppella!?.
I am a sucker for acappella performances, especially the style that gets closer to R&B or even gospel and this group knows how to deliver both. In “Think about you” you’ll easily be impressed by its low, punchy bass core sound.
The song is suggestive and their performance, mixing melodic clean vocals by Yuki Ono, Wataru Urata and the R&B riffing by Takuya Sato and Toshiyuki Toyonaga, not to mention the non-stop groovy beatboxing by Shugo Nakamura and Daiki Hamano’s bass notes and rap created a unique harmony that made this one of my favorite songs of the year.
Best songs by Seiyuu Artists
Mamoru Miyano “Toumei”
2021 was a complicated year. Still in the middle of a pandemic, seiyuu artists found themselves restricted in the ways they could interact with their fans in a close, warm yet safe way.
Out of all seiyuu artists, I feel like Mamoru Miyano suffered the most without the possibility of seeing, face to face, his fans.
Everyone that is a fan of his – or even mildly familiar with him – is aware he’s a people person and loves his fans in a way that he doesn’t even care about throwing his image to the side as long as he gets to put a smile or gets a laugh off of them.
He’s passionate about fans as much as he is about his music, and that shows in the way he approaches his performances.
So how does all of this connect with “Toumei”?
“Toumei” was a perfect song to convey his feelings of longing, love, and appreciation for his fans.
And Maaya Sakamoto wrote beautiful lyrics for Mamo, with him delivering a jaw-dropping performance that rendered his fans to tears.
You can feel the pain, the hurt, the longing, and the love in all words, as Miyano delivers those in a crystal-like way. Pure, honest, and straightforward, this is a song that will make chills run down your spine. This is a song that showcases Miyano’s outstanding skills as a singer.
Toshiki Masuda “ordinary”
“ordinary” is a song heavily inspired by Porno Graffiti, a popular Japanese band that you may know about because they’ve performed songs for anime series.
It has a rock fusion sound that brings out the best of funk through summery guitar riffs, adds a splash of jazz through the drums, and goes really funky with a punchy bassline.
The soundscape that you get with this song is something out of the 80s, early 90s.
While this sound wasn’t necessarily a novelty for Masuda, the performance certainly was unexpected.
Toshiki Masuda makes the best off of his vibrato to impress but there’s more to his performance. As soon as the song kicks off, Masuda’s singing is completely different from usual.
It’s contained, a bit subdued, almost whispered, keeping everything tight until the chorus kicks in. Then, he goes for a sweet performance on a higher range than usual and delivers one of the grooviest performances of 2021.
Tasuku Hatanaka “TWISTED HEARTS”
Tasuku Hatanaka upped his game in 2021 with the release of the buzzworthy single “TWISTED HEARTS”.
Now, this was quite an impressive single.
I am a massive sucker for 80s inspired music – I grew up listening to 80s music after all – therefore, whenever I find it in seiyuu artists’ repertoires and, better yet, it sounds like a genuine take on the sounds and melodies of that era, I can’t help but get insanely excited about it.
“TWISTED HEARTS” is that kind of song for me.
This single is all about its fancy 80s synthpop sound and dramatic lyrics and it gets really intense yet never sounding over the top.
This is Hatanaka’s best single to date and one of the songs on heavy rotation on my playlists.
Shoya Chiba “Criminal”
In 2021, SparQlew embraced a new challenge. The group released its 1st mini-album “Daybreak” and decided to showcase the individual talents of their members for 5 solo tracks. Out of those, Shun Horie‘s “Aoshigure” and Shoya Chiba‘s “Criminal” stand out as the best ones.
To avoid featuring two songs from the same CD in this feature, I’ll cover Shoya Chiba‘s “Criminal“, song that, out of both, had the most novelty to it as Chiba decided to showcase much more of his vocal range with a performance no one was expecting.
For those that may not know, Shoya Chiba is a tenor (singer with a high vocal range) however he has always performed pretty comfortably in his mid-tones, barely scratching the surface of his true vocal range.
In “Criminal“, listeners find Shoya Chiba performing in head voice, tackling high notes with a crystal-clear, sharp delivery.
It is quite impressive to find him this polished in a register he barely ever used. Let me rephrase it, prior to this song, Chiba had never shown he could pull off head voice. And he barely tackled high notes as the character songs he’s performed have never required that of him.
Well, in “Criminal” he showcases how much he’s grown as a performer as well as how much he holding to himself in terms of his singing skills up until now.
And he does so in a self-penned song (lyrics written by Shoya Chiba that are 99% in perfect English) with an emotional performance on top of a trendy acoustic rock-meets-tropical pop sound.
The song is danceable, addictive, and a perfect showcase of how Chiba has all the tools to warrant a solo debut.
Shugo Nakamura “Chocolate”
Out of nowhere, Shugo Nakamura released a loungy, acid-jazz track with strong influences of blues, especially noticeable in the guitar work.
“Chocolate” is the type of song that will transport you to an elegant soundscape. It has that classy touch of jazz, the playfulness of funk, and the technicality and emotion of blues in it and, allied to the way the song was mixed, putting you in the middle of the action, this song is even more impressive.
It feels cozy, it is stylish, it sounds really good.
This is the type of song I was not expecting by Shugo Nakamura but he absolutely knew how to deliver a memorable performance overflowing with falsetto accents in tricky sections, smooth mid-tones, and genuine care for the emotions he was adding to the performance.
Easily one of my favorite songs released in 2021 as well as Nakamura’s best to date.
Koutaro Nishiyama “Kesanai Shashin”
It’s no surprise by now that Koutaro Nishiyama really knows how to make fantastic use of his whispery mid-tones, having embraced a loungy, citypop-inspired sound that fits those like a glove.
And in the middle of his 2nd mini-album “Laundry” there’s a gem that many of you may already be aware of. It’s the melancholic “Kesanai Shashin”.
This song instantly put a smile on my face as those fast guitar hits made their appearance.
The “memories you don’t want to let go of” is a concept that sounds a bit tricky to pull off but if you think a bit, which music genre is extremely nostalgic and evokes memories of a time you haven’t even lived?
So yeah, Nishiyama completely nailed the concept for this song not to mention it is one of the grooviest songs I’ve heard in 2021, with lyrics that you can easily relate to.
And that dreamy, neon-lit soundscape this song has is exactly where I want to lose myself and simply take in the good vibes.
Makoto Furukawa “Forsaken kiss”
“Forsaken kiss” embraces a full-on funky sound with disco and jazz influences and a bit of electronica in the mix.
Its fancy piano melodies bring jazz to the conversation, creating an elegant soundscape in which you’ll want to sit back, close your eyes and let yourself go.
Then, adding an extremely groovy sound are the bassline and sampled beat, both focusing on going deeper and deeper to flesh out those loungy vibes.
You don’t need much time into the song to find yourself grooving to it. Its sound is addictive, the performance, no matter how odd and new it may sound, – after all, Makoto Furukawa performs the whole song in English and is embracing those groovy disco vibes while going in for the kill with a sexy delivery – shines and is intoxicating.
As far as memorable songs go, this song is right up at the top in 2021.
Yuma Uchida “I’m not complete”
This is not your simple, textbook ballad. It goes way deeper, it goes back in time to channel the best and purest emotions.
“I’m not complete” is a full-fledged emotional R&B ballad that could have been sung in the 80s or early 90s.
This is a song that starts in pianissimo, is delicate, minimalistic, and slowly grows in intensity, with Yuma Uchida showing why he is among the top 3 best singers among male seiyuu. He starts by lullabying you, easing you in the song.
Things start to get increasingly technical from the first verse onwards, reaching the climax in which he’s already well high up on his full tenor range, belting, shining with those ad-libs, adding R&B riffing to parts of the song that will make chills run down your spine.
It started and it ended as a simple performance but what is at its core is tricky to pull off, even for the most skilled of singers. Well, if there were still any doubts about Yuma Uchida’s talents as a singer, this performance completely dispelled those.
No one could have pulled off “I’m not complete” with this much emotion and make it sound this easy. The quality is unreal.
Those clean high notes, the head voice ad-libs, the R&B riffing, the way the song builds up to the climax… And when that gospel-style choir joins in…. This is seriously good. Not only the best of 2021 but quite possibly among the all-time best songs by seiyuu artists.
Best of 2021 by Male Seiyuu and 2D Units playlist
You can find all these songs and more in a massive Spotify playlist including over 45 songs that impressed in 2021. Hope you enjoy it!
What were your favorite songs 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 73 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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