With the music industry currently saturated with 2D music projects, there was a big effort in bringing refreshing concepts and music to the spotlight. In this article, get to know some of the 2D music projects that launched and took the spotlight – for various reasons – in 2021.
Estimated reading time: 21 minutes
If you’ve been following the news about new 2D music projects, you may be thinking to yourself: this article is going to be incredibly long.
And that’s because there were, at least 12 new 2D music projects to launch in 2021. Some of those explored music in refreshing ways in 2D music projects, others gave a unique spin to an already winning formula.
There were 2D projects flaunting star-studded casts and others being more modest while betting on up-and-coming stars or even underrated – yet incredibly skilled – singers among male seiyuu.
From rock to pop, EDM, R&B, ballads, acappella, and heavy metal, in 2021, fans of 2D music projects got to experience a lot of variety and have plenty of unique and interesting projects to choose from.
Let’s go over 12 of those 2D music projects that were launched and active in 2021.
If there is one project that has been the talk in town in 2021, it’s aoppella!?.
The 2D mixed-media project brought to the spotlight the beauty of the voice, with seiyuu performing for the very first time acappella songs within a 2D music project.
aoppella!? is an original project built on the themes of “youth” and “a cappella”!
The project counts with 2 groups: Lil Happy and FYA’M’ that have completely different approaches to acappella music, counting with unique lineups.
Lil Happy is the upbeat, crystal clear, and incredibly delicate acappella group comprised mainly of tenors and baritones. Their music gives off a youthful vibe that fits really well with the whole concept of this project.
FYA’M’ (Read: fame) is an R&B-ish acappella group. They do have instances in which they channel barbershop acappella or even add a bit of gospel to their performances which makes them, at least for me, the most exciting group in this project.
Their lineup is packed with highly technical singers covering all vocal ranges – tenor, baritone, and bass –, which leads to memorable performances with a lot of power, a rich bass sound with some sprinkles of allure on top.
This group has a perfect balance that makes them incredibly consistent.
In 2021, both groups participated in 2 CDs, releasing 2 original songs per group as well as covered several popular J-pop and J-rock songs that brought a lot of attention to this project.
If there was a project that was buzzworthy, at least in the first half of 2021, it was aoppella!?.
TOKYO COLOR SONIC!!
Another buzzworthy project in 2021 is TOKYO COLOR SONIC!!.
The ambitious mixed-media franchise launched by sprout and Coloration features a star-studded seiyuu cast on top of its refreshing premise.
This franchise counts with an 8-character cast, with characters split into 4 different “buddy” units of singer + songwriter.
The franchise has 4 teams of singer + composer, these present unique dynamics, and depending on the vocals and music genres present in each song, fans have gotten to experience exceptional performances.
Team 3 consists of Towa (CV: Gakuto Kajiwara) and Mirai (CV: Ryohei Kimura).
Each team released a CD in 2021, and as a whole, the franchise released its theme song “Begin on buddy” performed by the vocals of the franchise: Shoya Chiba, Soma Saito, Gakuto Kajiwara, and Shunsuke Takeuchi.
This really is a dream lineup that I believe ended up being overshadowed by odd mixing in most of the songs released this year. It’s hard to appreciate vocals with the instrumental blasting over them, almost completely covering tricky vocal sections or undermining an emotional performance by the cast.
There’s a lot of potential for this project and lots of good ideas going on but it does seem that although TOKYO COLOR SONIC!! has been attracting attention on social media, which hasn’t translated – at all – to their CD sales that have been completely underwhelming.
With a special live event taking place in 2022 featuring the whole main cast, I’m hoping something new and exciting, quite possibly a new CD series, may be announced and those mixing quirks are ironed out to put the focus on the vocals instead.
Still, if you want to check a unique 2D music project that isn’t about idols and brings rock, pop, and electronica to the spotlight, TOKYO COLOR SONIC!! is well worth your time.
STATION IDOL LATCH!
When it comes to unique concepts for 2D music projects, STATION IDOL LATCH! doesn’t fit the bill. It has both idols and channels a bit of those vibes from the Miracle Train anime.
Still, there’s some novelty to this project.
STATION IDOL LATCH! is the name of the mixed-media franchise created by AOI Pro., Amuse, and Origamix, supervised and in collaboration with JR East.
This franchise counts with a 30-character cast, with characters representing the 30 stations in the Yamamote line, the iconic train line that circles central Tokyo.
Each character has its design and personality inspired by each of the 30 neighborhoods.
STATION IDOL LATCH! is going to count with anime, manga, games, novelizations, music CDs, concerts, special events, among many other things.
Then, the cast includes some veteran seiyuu – with Kazuhiko Inoue having a role with the spotlight on him -, something that is usually rare for projects that bet, first and foremost, on music and idols as its selling points.
Still, you have a healthy mix of veteran seiyuu, stars, and up-and-coming seiyuu so if you’re into pop, dance music, or even a bit of rock, the STATION IDOL LATCH! franchise may be quite the interesting pickup.
The oddball of 2021 is, undoubtedly, Charisma House. This is a project that no one really knows what it is specifically about however, its quirky music and drama tracks have certainly attracted some attention.
At the same time, given that this project was announced as having EVIL LINE RECORDS (best known for housing the Hypnosis Mic franchise) as its creator, fans were incredibly excited to see what would come out of this.
So there was a lot of hype around it when it was announced but to this date, December 2021, no one really knows what it is about.
There’s no simple way to even start explaining what this project is about. It is weird and quirky and if you’re into weird, unconventional projects, I believe this will be up your alley.
Charisma House has the tagline “just ordinary boys” but all characters do have their eccentricities as shown in the sarcastic debut song “Mecha Mecha Charisma” by Shichinin no Charisma, group comprised of all 7 cast members: Yuki Ono, Masahiro Yamanaka, Katsumi Fukuhara, Kenta Hosoda, Hyuga Saku, Genki Okawa, and Tomohisa Hashizume.
There is still not much out there about this project but it is starting to shape up to be quite the ride for its fans.
Gambling seems like it has been a big theme in 2D projects – not necessarily related to music.
However, in 2021, there was one 2D music project that decided to embrace the dangers of gambling with music and thus, GAMDOL was launched.
GAMDOL is an original mixed-media project that puts in the same stage idols and gambling. The project follows the idol group Gambét (read: “Gambit”) through voice dramas + music releases.
Gambét (read: Gambit) is a 5-member idol group led by Sho Mikado (CV: Junta Terashima). The group’s lineup includes as well Hibiki Tougo (CV: Shoya Chiba), LUKE (CV: Yuki Sakakihara), Yuusei Kannagi (CV: Jin Ogasawara), and Rihito Kise (CV: Taito Ban).
And in October 2021, the group released their first single “Boku x Kimi Checkmate”. The single explored pop and hip-hop, giving two different sides of the group that fits perfectly with the dark twist to the franchise’s story.
Despite the exciting lineup, I feel like the lack of exposure – for example, for not making the single available on streaming platforms – was, in a way, responsible for part of the lack of interest by most fans of 2D music projects.
The project was also unlucky as hell to be announced in the exact same week as “Live us”, a project that gathered a lot of interest. So, there’s that as well.
As far as what we have available right now, Gambét does have its charming points, the seiyuu lineup is really interesting bringing in a lot of rising stars in the industry, and the music although not unique is certainly entertaining.
Live us is an original mixed-media project following a dramatic story that is fleshed out through voice dramas + music releases.
There are 5 different artists – between groups and solo artists – that aim at giving color to the world they live in, one of human conflict and deep environmental issues that ended up leading to the ban to live shows.
The music genres explored in this project are quite interesting with classic J-pop, K-pop, R&B, rock, and electro-pop represented by α-TuNe, StrelitziA, ZiN, unknown order, and TapeTum.
Listeners can expect a mix of stars and up-and-coming talents in this project although not all have singing duties.
Those include Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Yoshiki Nakajima, Shogo Yano, Shugo Nakamura, Shun Horie, Yukihiro Nozuyama, Yohei Azakami, Yuki Inoue, Kouhei Amasaki, Chiaki Kobayashi, Haruki Ishiya, and Seiichiro Yamashita.
It seems that, out of all projects launched in the 2nd half of 2021, this is the one that attracted the most attention from 2D music project fans. I dare say it is because of the addition of K-pop music to this project.
Still, if you want to check a project with an interesting story and equally good cast, “Live us” could be the thing for you.
A survival 2D idol project. Now, that’s something new.
VS AMBIVALENZ is a 2D music project by NIZISTA (best known for HANDEAD ANTHEM). It has a pretty unique format in which only 7 out of the 14 members will make it to the final group.
Each seiyuu voices two characters and by the end of the voting, they will be voicing the one character that was most voted of both.
And who votes? You.
And do you have to purchase a CD to get a serial code to vote? No.
VS AMBIVALENZ wants everyone to participate and vote freely for their favorite characters. This alone is refreshing because most 2D music projects want you purchasing something to have access to a voting slip.
Then the cast is pretty interesting, mixing experienced seiyuu with up-and-coming talents.
The cast includes Shintaro Asanuma, Makoto Furukawa, Chiaki Kobayashi, Reiou Tsuchida, Tasuku Hatanaka, Kengo Kawanishi and Ayumu Murase.
VS AMBIVALENZ‘s theme song “Go My Own Way” was partially unveiled in September and is going to be released as a physical single later this month but there’s already a lot of excitement for this project mainly due to no one really knowing which characters will be in the final 7-member group.
If you’re into EDM and pop music, VS AMBIVALENZ arrives to fill in that need for you.
There’s no denying that this is the most hyped-up 2D music project of the year, however, I don’t believe that hype was met with something impressive.
Impressive as initially claimed by Agematsu? Hardly.
ELEMENTS GARDEN’s Noriyasu Agematsu, renowned composer that you may know for his involvement in the music composition of some of the most iconic Utapri songs as well as the one helping out with Dance with Devils and GHOST CONCERT, created, in collaboration with A1 Pictures and Aniplex, VISUAL PRISON.
The announcement made me incredibly excited for it because it stated it was about “visual-kei”. Visual-kei rock music would be the main focus. And I am a massive fan of visual-kei rock.
When was the last time we got a full-on “visual-kei” 2D music project? Oh, yes, last heard in 2017, with FlyME Project. It’s been a while so I was pretty excited.
The keyword here is “was” because after listening to the music, I don’t believe Agematsu’s ambition to create a dark fantasy world with the beauty of visual-kei aesthetics and sound was achieved.
It was close, but it doesn’t feel like the real thing.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of awesome rock tunes in the VISUAL PRISON franchise, really. As a mixed-media project, I find its strength to be the music.
The rock music is exciting at times, fanservice-y – for those that fancy it – and there are standout performances there (mainly courtesy of ECLIPSE’s Toshiki Masuda and Shouta Aoi that went all out with musical-inspired performances).
But it is far from being about visual-kei music. Perhaps the aesthetics but not the music.
Still, I feel like, if anything, VISUAL PRISON’s music is an appetizer for all the awesome visual-kei rock (and many other music genres that embrace that fashion movement) that there is to discover in the music scene in Japan.
At least I do hope it has piqued the interest of the viewers/fans to actually look for bands/artists that embrace visual-kei aesthetics and explore typical themes closely associated with the movement.
So yeah, VISUAL PRISON’s music is not quite up there in terms of quality to what OSIRIS, Fantôme Iris, or even MEDICODE and Drink Me have released.
It looks cool, may sound cool, but ultimately the impression I get from it is that this is a really shallow approach to visual-kei as a concept. Still, a good way to attract people to the scene and perhaps fall in love with the quality and sheer talent of some of their artists and bands.
Although ENLIGHTRIBE was announced in 2020, the franchise’s bands only kicked off their activities in 2021.
This is the 2D music project that I believe many people have been sleeping on.
ENLIGHTRIBE is a full-scale 2D rock music franchise by movic with a big focus on character development.
The focus in the story seems to not only be about the lack of freedom, but also a battle between classes with the 3 bands part of its lineup representing that social stratification.
In ENLIGHTRIBE, only the vocalists of each band perform the songs.
With two CDs each, the 3 bands in its lineup – FAM, SHIFTYz, and ESMERALDA – give you more than enough reasons to check this project out.
A hidden rock gem filled with shredding guitar riffs, some of the most intense basslines I’ve heard in 2D music projects, and an assortment of refreshing vocals by seiyuu that, despite not being extremely popular, are incredibly talented, showcasing more than once their technique, control, and skills as rock frontmen.
If you’re into rock music and love 2D music projects that put the spotlight on voice actors that you don’t usually find helming these types of projects – yet have an outstanding quality -, then ENLIGHTRIBE is really a 2D music project well worth checking out.
Anything that is rock or visual-kei related is usually my thing but Visual Karma hit a lot of wrong boxes right off the bat.
The project was launched with a name that, according to copyright laws in some countries would consist in a confusing name that would betray expectations of those that, by mistake, would think it was VISUAL PRISON. Literally, Agematsu could sue them because of that.
Then, without even a song performed by the cast – only a snippet of what sounds like a really awesome song, still with no vocals – they start to be extremely aggressive with merchandise sales.
If there is something I’ve learned while working as a marketer and PR specialist is that you never, ever, try to make a sale without showing what you are about.
Is a preview of a song – without vocals – and some artwork enough to have the loyalty of fans and thus, have them purchasing merch right off the bat?
And everyone working in marketing knows that that approach will not work. People will get fed up with the project before it takes off. And as you can tell by all the projects I mentioned up until now, Visual Karma may only be known for having a confusing name with the more popular VISUAL PRISON project.
This is frustrating because visual-kei rock is a staple in Japan when it comes to the rock panorama. It’s a fascinating blend of a fashion movement with music that doesn’t have a match anywhere else in the world.
And Visual Karma is a frustrating project because it could focus on that. It could thrive on that concept.
Instead, the project decided to focus completely on merch sales. Guys… the project is about music.
I believe people want to know about the music, perhaps the characters and seiyuu before even thinking about spending money on merch of a project that showed little or nothing to warrant people entrusting them with money.
That’s just predatory and salesy.
Well, VISUAL KARMA seems to have a promising premise but as I mentioned, they have yet to premiere any music performed by the cast so…
Bandai Namco can still turn it around but people are already pretty pissed off for it sharing a name with VISUAL PRISON so… I feel sad for the voice actors that are caught in a project that may never end up taking off.
THE LAST METAL
In the opposite direction went THE LAST METAL.
The project not only explores heavy metal rock music for the very first time among 2D music projects – I’m talking about symphonic metal and speed metal, genres that have never been explored, at least on the male seiyuu side of 2D music projects.
Contrary to Visual Karma, THE LAST METAL went all out with its announcement presenting the cast, visuals and releasing a 2-minute-long song featuring the band’s 4 vocals showcasing serious rock frontman vibes.
They did not push any merch sales off the bat and focused on showcasing music, especially of a music genre that I believe won’t find many fans among international fans – as the international fanbase leans more towards idol and rap projects – still, the effort is there.
Vul Productions really focused on showcasing their hardwork and it showed in all materials they shared with the media and general public.
This is a project about “authentic heavy metal rock music” with a focus on character development and with a “revenge” story at its core.
So far so good. THE LAST METAL is a 2D music project with a lot of promise and I really hope people actually follow and support it as the quality is there, the vocals aren’t the same old that we know and love, instead bringing in unexpected – yet incredibly talented – names to the main cast, and let’s not forget, this is the first-time heavy metal music gets the spotlight.
As far as rock projects go, THE LAST METAL shows a lot of promise and hopefully, it lives up to the excitement around it, its music and cast.
What happens when you put seiyuu × cooking × music × The Romance of the Three Kingdoms in the same place?
Dragon’s Bite appears. This is one of those 2D entertainment projects that happen to have music at its core but in no way, it is stated that it is a 2D music project.
Because of that, the franchise may have released 9 main character songs however, none were released on CD so it is rather hard to keep track of the project and its releases.
The cast for this project is mainly comprised of up-and-coming talents Takeo Otsuka, Tetsuei Sumiya, Daiki Hamano, Takuma Nagatsuka, Yuki Sakakihara, Yuichi Jose, Kouhei Amasaki, Shugo Nakamura, and Tatsumaru Tachibana.
The project struggled in its first months to gather some attention due to its format and concept however, it got a massive visibility boost when, a couple of months ago, the franchise welcomed a new group led by Soma Saito, and including Kento Ito and Takuya Eguchi as the unit Oath of the Peach Garden.
The music is more about the cooking than the iconic story, still, there’s an interesting mix of heavy rock and EDM going on in this project.
Really, do check Ro$$o Cor$a’s songs because Shugo Nakamura, Daiki Hamano, and Tatsumaru Tachibana absolutely rock the stage.
Additionally, in case you’re curious about the project, they have several videos on their channel that have drama parts and music to give you an insight on each character in this franchise, so there’s that as well that makes this project fairly welcoming to the most curious people out there that, at the same time, want to save money when checking out new projects.
I’d suggest you give this project a shot. It is weird. Its focus is a bit all over too many things but the music is so, so good.
In 2021, we got more 2D music projects than in previous years however, this time around, many were focused on music + drama instead of being mixed media.
The big focus on story is a good plus for those that love to immerse themselves in the lore that, later on, influences the songs that are released within those franchises.
I can’t help but notice that many of the 2D idol projects launched in 2021 – regardless of with star-studded casts or not – weren’t that well received.
The music industry is currently saturated with many projects of similar nature and, as such, even those that stray a bit away from the norm are put in the same bowl and people end up ignoring them.
Unless you really are incredibly passionate about 2D music projects and follow/check everything there is out there – I’ve got to commend you, that doesn’t sound easy – or, like me, you cover the almost 60 different projects out there (and over 170 groups) and even the new additions yearly, it’s quite possible that some or even most of the projects in this article are a complete blur to you.
And believe me, that’s perfectly fine. 2021 was jam-packed.
What were your favorite 2D music projects launched in 2021? Share those in the comments!
You can find all the content in this feature on episode 71 of SEIYUU LOUNGE, The Hand That Feeds HQ’s official weekly podcast in video format.
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