Iconic experiences, epic comebacks, important celebrations and uniquely crafted music in a wide variety of music genres left a mark in 2023.
Time to wrap up the year with a feature about the best albums released in 2023 by male seiyuu artists and 2D groups.
Some of these are fairly recent, others were released early in the year. And some of these albums explore so many music genres yet they remained surprisingly consistent throughout, something that impressed me a whole lot.
Let’s celebrate the top 10 best albums of 2023 by male seiyuu artists and 2D groups. And yes, every entry in this episode is ranked so prepare for tough choices from me.
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 2023 won’t coincide with your choices.
All entries in this feature are ranked from #10 to #1.
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.
#10 – Kenichi Suzumura “ROOTS”
Kenichi Suzumura‘s music never fails to captivate, and his latest release, “ROOTS“, is no exception. In this mini-album, Suzumura delves into his passions, his journey, and his origins, all condensed into five compelling tracks. Throughout the album, you can sense his passion, nostalgia, and pride, beautifully reflected in his performances.
As someone who appreciates collaborations between seiyuu artists, the collaboration between Kenichi Suzumura and Showtaro Morikubo, was an absolute delight. Morikubo’s energy infused the release with a unique vigor, a departure from what one would typically associate with Kenichi Suzumura’s music.
“ROOTS” is a passionately crafted mini-album that showcases Kenichi Suzumura’s talents in a refreshing light. It allows him to shine even brighter than usual, revealing new dimensions to his artistry.
While this is a niche album – given how few people were talking about it or even singing its praises – it is well worth your time. As always, Suzumura arrives, drops a diamond of an album and wraps up the year without anyone noticing he was here. While genius, I would love for his music as well as his talents as a singer and songwriter would be more appreciated.
#9 – UMake “ATMOSPHERE”
“ATMOSPHERE” is an album that may have went under the radar for many but oh boy, wasn’t this an awesome album by UMake!
It perfectly captures the duo’s laidback, cozy vibe and simple semi-acoustic rock sound. Although the duo has this sound and vibe since their start, they have improved it over the years an in “ATMOSPHERE” you can feel it by how much they experimented with music genres, composition styles, and even their lyrics.
The ethereal and dreamy music, along with the warm vocals of Kent Ito and Yoshiki Nakajima, feels like a warm blanket on a cold day.
The standout tracks on the album are the self-titled song “ATMOSPHERE” and “drop”.
“ATMOSPHERE” showcases the duo’s fancy performance with exceptional guitar work and powerful vocals. “drop” features groovy bass and one of UMake’s best choruses, with perfect drama and tempo.
Additionally, “UMake’s Styles” displays the duo’s versatility with insanely fast rapping and 80s-style singing. That song is crazy but also adds a lot of quality to the album as a whole even if tone shifts a bit.
“ATMOSPHERE” is a fancy, laidback, and incredibly sweet album. It is the perfect album to play when you want to feel loved or just want to relax.
#8 – IDOLiSH7 Franchise “BEYOND THE PERiOD”
While many people will discard this album as it is mostly a compilation and with music featured in a movie, I feel like this album fully deserves more attention.
“Growth” is the central theme of the new songs in “IDOLiSH7 LIVE 4bit Compilation Album BEYOND THE PERiOD“.
This album simulates a live show experience, featuring intros, intermissions, and an “all star” type of concluding song. Previously released songs appear as shortened versions in this album, encouraging newcomers to explore the full versions for a complete understanding.
Among the new songs, Re:vale’s “Journey” appeared slightly underwhelming, not fully matching their recent music quality. Nevertheless, it’s an adventurous and interesting track. IDOLiSH7, TRIGGER, and ŹOOĻ, on the other hand, delivered impressive performances.
IDOLiSH7’s “NiGHTFALL” exudes warmth and teamwork. ŹOOĻ’s “STRONGER & STRONGER” surprises with its dreamy hip-hop and R&B blend. TRIGGER’s “BEAUTIFUL PRAYER” shines with an addictive nu-disco sound.
The “all star” song, “Pieces of the world,” exemplifies a well-composed, emotionally charged composition. Its soaring strings, emotional performances, and storytelling elements create an epic experience.
“IDOLiSH7 LIVE 4bit Compilation Album BEYOND THE PERiOD” caters to longtime fans while intriguing newcomers with its lyrical storytelling and impactful instrumentals. This is a must listen.
#7 – SparQlew “we will…”
SparQlew keeps impressing. By now it seems that the group only knows one way: up. And this is what has consistently made their music quite impressive since the release of “Daybreak”.
The latest mini-album, “we will…” is filled with highlights starting from “All my heart.”
This one combines a late 90s R&B pop vibe with a cool tropical pop twist. It’s catchy as hell and one of the most exciting releases of 2023.
The sub-unit songs on the album deserve some serious recognition too. They dive into rock music, each in their way.
Hozumi and Yoshinaga bring the noise with a high-energy, riff-driven rock track. On the other hand, Uemura and Horie go for a heart-melting rock ballad. It’s a nice change that lets fans appreciate the unique skills of the group members.
All in all, SparQlew nailed it again with “we will…”. If you haven’t checked this mini-album, do it. It is well worth your time, especially if you love pop and rock music with a fancy twist.
#6 – Tetsuya Kakihara “Waratte Ite…”
By now, Tetsuya Kakihara is a male seiyuu artist whose work I am instantly excited to listen to.
When it comes to his singing skills, Kakki has improved a whole lot in recent years, now boasting a colorful, emotional, and powerful voice with a lot of control. His unique breathing singing style – not to be mistaken with “whisper style” of singing which feels and sounds completely different from what he does – continues to be a trademark.
In 2023, he released “Waratte Ite…” and this album was all about exuding laid-back vibes and showcasing his impressive technical prowess.
It seems that the concept of “Waratte ite…” is all about bringing happiness, warmth, and a sense of being loved and appreciated to his fans and listeners.
He masterfully achieves this through a collection of six songs that incorporate chants, choirs, unconventional compositions that break free from traditional patterns, groovy tunes, and soul-stirring ballads.
“Waratte ite…” not only leaves you with a broad and proud smile but also invokes tears and goosebumps. If you’re seeking a musical journey with a well-defined concept, “Waratte ite…” is the mini-album for you. It’s an invitation to smile widely and cherish the experience.
This is yet another near-flawless album by Kakihara and one of the best albums released in 2023.
#5 – Yuma Uchida “Y”
An album full of surprises yet an album filled with previously released songs. I was – and still am – quite critical about Yuma Uchida’s “Y” being called a new CD when in fact, only 3 songs out of 13 are effectively new.
But putting that aside, this is a genuinely awesome album, one filled with unique twists and turns that best depict Yuma Uchida’s path as a solo artist until now at the same time that they showcase completely different sides of his.
With rock, pop, EDM, jazz, and R&B taking the lead, this is the most eclectic album in Yuma Uchida’s repertoire so far. Perhaps that is what makes it not arrive as the album of the year. Perhaps it is the fact that the album only has 3 new songs.
But when you listen to this album from start to finish, I can assure you that there will be several moments in which your jaw will drop in awe. Be it with Uchida tackling hardrock with hints of hardcore, his mature take on Jazz music, or even the intoxicating and sexy vibe of some songs, Uchida brings with him a selection of songs that will leave you wanting more and more.
As it is, “Y” is a strong album that further solidifies Yuma Uchida as one of the best and most versatile solo artists among male seiyuu.
However a, perhaps, rushed want to present fans with new music – and then featuring said music – the digital singles – all in this album – removed most of the magic it could have had.
If this is your first time coming across this album – especially if you skipped the digital singles – this is easily one of the best albums of 2023 but due to how experimental it is, it fails to have a conductive thread in terms of tone and vibe, something in which “equal” excelled and that’s why, in my opinion, this album fails to fully satisfy me.
#4 – XlamV “climb”
It is an understatement to say that XlamV is an insanely talented group.
If the digital singles – also included in this EP, “Climb” – were an indication of anything, it was that you and I were experiencing the birth of a new group set on delivering quality performances that stray away from what is a trend, instead focusing on what makes sense taking into account the outstanding vocals at their disposal.
I’ve loved the build towards XlamV’s debut, starting with 14 members, each seiyuu voice two (and eventually, only one of those they voiced would make it to the final lineup), and then, through a series of voting rounds – mind you, free voting rounds as you didn’t have to purchase any CDs or pay for anything to have the opportunity to vote – get to decide the final 7 members for the group.
Starting with a big lineup and refining it to a reasonable number of members with voice tones that work well was something I was not expecting would happen, especially when there was a popular vote in the mix.
This is one of the rare cases in which fans created a behemoth of a 2D pop group with not only an amazing seiyuu cast but also characters with voice tones that feel right in the lineup.
The journey for this group has been quite amazing since its official debut in 2023 and the series of digital singles – culminating in this EP – proves this group has everything to be in conversation as the biggest surprise of the year and one of the best 2D groups active in 2023.
It is rare to have a group so in sync vocally right off the bat, but XlamV has impressed in this regard.
While everyone is impressive on their own I feel like there are a couple of seiyuu that deserve the spotlight again.
I keep on being impressed by Makoto Furukawa‘s evolution as a singer, now being fully confident in his falsetto and high notes (mind you, this is something he didn’t have in his singing skills until recently). He is proving to be lethal both on his natural low baritone range as well as in a faux tenor/high baritone, hitting those high notes and pulling off falsetto flawlessly.
At the same time, Chiaki Kobayashi continues to be a show stealer for me. He is confident in his performances and the warmth he carries on his vocals always end up attracting my attention. He is also surprisingly consistent and cohesive in his performances (in comparison with the few 2D group experiences he had before joining the group).
Worth mentioning as well is Tasuku Hatanaka who honestly carries the group on his back for most of the performances, doing a bit of everything on the vocal end from driving a song forward to harmonizing with others and providing a lot of power to the group’s core.
Wherever you look, Hatanaka is there for XlamV’s performances which is impressive. I still wonder why not more people appreciate this and give him credit for being an awesome and technical singer you can always rely on as well as the driving force for this group.
XlamV’s “Climb” easily enters the top 10 best CDs released in 2023, bringing refreshing performances and a stylish sound that will have you come back for more.
#3 – Kent Ito “Hanabi”
An official 1st EP arrived, and fans were impressed.
It is the perfect balance between a quality singer wanting to create music that not only is unique and stylish but that also entertains his fans in unexpected ways.
There is nostalgia but also a happy, warm feeling coming off from his music, and that, I believe, makes him unique in the seiyuu artist’s landscape.
The quality of the instrumentals is high – now with Ito in charge of the composition for some of the songs -, and Kent Ito’s vocals are so sweet and smooth to the ears. Also worth mentioning is that one of the best songs of the year, “Amber” is a collaboration with composer Zakbee with whom Kent Ito has worked in the Hana-Doll franchise as a member of Anthos*.
In “Hanabi”, you will find yourself wanting to hear more and more.
Kent Ito’s “Hanabi” is an amazing entry in his repertoire, setting a high level of quality for future releases while showcasing the vocal prowess of one of the most experienced and technical singers among male seiyuu.
#2 – Sir Vanity “Midnight Sun”
Since its debut in 2020, Sir Vanity has been shaking up the rock and pop scenes, setting itself as one of – if not the most – exciting band fronted by male seiyuu to debut in the last couple of years.
With a unique approach to rock and pop music, a thunderous bassline at their heart, at the same time that fans get fancy synths and drums and twin guitars and vocals, courtesy of Yoshiki Nakajima and Yuichiro Umehara, Sir Vanity has been turning heads around.
And the time arrived to turn even more heads with the release of their first mini-album, “midnight sun”. Fans can find in this release stylish songs and performances that range from minimalistic to incredibly intense, stylish, and groovy. And everything sounds amazing with this band. They aren’t following a formula. They are creatively experimenting with their skills while, at the same time, keeping a consistency across their repertoire that is impressive.
The vocals of Nakajima and Umehara fit incredibly well with each other as well as with any music genre that is thrown at them.
On the other hand, their evolving sound, mixing influences from various music genres, creates a stylish, muscular yet emotional rock sound that makes you hit that replay button time and time again. This time around even acid-jazz was added to their sound and it sounds downright amazing.
As 2023 wraps up, Sir Vanity’s “midnight sun” stands out for its consistency and quality on the vocals and instrumentals and is, easily, one of the best albums of the year.
#1 – Trignal “Ironna Katachi”
The surprise of the year for more reasons than you would have expected.
Not only Trignal made a comeback after 5 years of hiatus but the trio arrived to release what was, instantly, my album of the year.
“Ironna Katachi” is unreal. So good and so unique, especially in the group’s repertoire.
When I reviewed this album, I instantly noticed just how genuinely confident the group was. Their sound was polished to the littlest detail. The sound is mostly loungy, with a lot of jazz, space, and nu-disco going on yet still with the occasional pop tune and a really interesting downtempo rock song in there as well.
You can tell from the presentation of this album just how much the group matured.
Their sound – which was already amazing in “Tricolore” – was vastly upgraded to fit with the group’s current singing skills and talents and the whole vibe about their songs showcases just how experienced and mature the group now is.
The intro to this mini-album is pure class and confidence in my opinion. “CHASE THE DESTINY” is nothing like their usual music, fully embracing a comfortable style of rock, and then comes the big surprise, “Tashikani bokura wa”, easily the best song in this album and one of the best released in 2023.
“Tashikani bokura wa” is, single-handedly, Trignal’s best song released to date.
“Iroai” brings jazz music to the spotlight, and “Honey Ready Go!!!” got a massive upgrade with a new arrangement and a new take on the vocals by all members. “INFIORATA” is the song that most closely resembles the sound that Trignal used to have, however with a completely different approach to it. The mature approach to their – once – bubbly pop sound made the song stand out to me as the focus was on making each member sound good whenever they got the spotlight for themselves.
And wrapping up this mini-album is “Iwaba hitotsu no Love Song”, a fun pop tune with ska influences and a jaunty sound that will make you bounce as you listen to it.
Trignal’s 5 year stop made this mini-album all the sweeter but believe me, even if you are not approaching this CD from a longtime fan perspective (like I am), you will still understand why this is the best album of 2023.
Trignal nailed it with “Ironna Katachi”. This is not only their best album to date but also the best album of 2023.
2023 wasn’t necessarily a prolific year in terms of the number of albums released which explains why some of the entries in this top are actually mini-albums or EPs.
Still, the albums that were released focused on quality and on showcasing growth, something you can find across every single one of the albums I just mentioned.
Maturity – both for seiyuu artists and 2D groups – is something that, up until recently, wasn’t necessarily explored. 2D groups continued to release the same old music without any upgrades. Seiyuu artists used to do the same thing over and over because it worked.
In 2023, I believe we got to see different sides to most male seiyuu artists and some 2D groups or even franchises went all in embracing the idea of “maturity”, vastly improving the music of their artists.
Experimentalism is noticeable if you check these albums against some of their previous ones. Trying new music genres, performing in completely different styles, adding a surprise or two in the performances. Just the fact that male seiyuu artists were trying new things made me quite excited for the music that was released this year.
In my opinion, the only thing missing this year were full-length albums by Makoto Furukawa, Soma Saito, Toshiki Masuda and Mamoru Miyano, the heavy hitters either because of their unique take on their music or, in the case of 3 out of the 4 seiyuu artists I just mentioned, for being sales monsters.
Other than that, the albums we got in 2023 were innovative, stylish and daring at times and I loved every bit of it.
Which were your favorite albums released in 2023 by male seiyuu or 2D groups? Share those in the comments!
You can find all the content in this feature on episode 178 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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