Review | TOKYO COLOR SONIC!! “Begin on buddy”

The Tokyo Color Sonic!! franchise wanted to impress everyone from the get-go however ended up going overboard with the mixing in “Begin on buddy”.

Tokyo Color Sonic is the name of the mixed-media franchise created by sprout and counting with character designs by the popular illustrator Ryo Fujiwara.

This franchise counts with an 8 character cast, with characters split into 4 different “buddy” units of singer + songwriter.

Tokyo Color Sonic counts with drama + music in its CDs.

To know more about this project, make sure to check our quick guide to it.

Review

Title: TOKYO COLOR SONIC!! Prologue
Label: sprout/COLORATION
Release date: 30/07/2021
Genre: Electro-pop

Tracklist:

1 - 6 - DRAMA TRACKS
7 - Begin on buddy

Track analysis:

7 – Begin on buddy

The Tokyo Color Sonic!! kicks off its activities with “Begin on buddy”.

This song is quite the interesting “opening” track to the project, not setting for a specific sound or music genre.

You can tell that by the intro itself. There are influences of funk, pure pop, hip-hop, electronica, and even a bit of rock. All those hits and bits of influences were put together to create this bouncy and fun track in which the bassline and guitars shine.

Speaking of those, the intro brings wah-wah guitar riffs to the spotlight, spreading their funky charms while a punchy bassline lays a red carpet for the synth hits and splashy beat.

The verses are rather clean – although the vocals are a bit too quiet for my taste – and incredibly groovy, giving plenty of opportunities to the group’s members to shine however… the chorus is an absolute mess.

The chorus proves to be the trickiest part in this song and that’s not because of its complexity on the instrumental side: the English parts are long and a mouthful for the performers in the first part of the chorus.

Not helping that is the fact that the mixing in that part puts the bassline, beat, and vocals in the same loudness levels – in simple terms, all parts have the same volume (I’d argue that the instrumental has the upper hand in loudness with the vocals sounding rather quiet), making it difficult to focus on a specific part and, while it may not be the case, makes the vocals sound like everyone is slurring while there are actually at least 3 rock-solid English speakers/performers tackling those parts.

Listening with more attention to the vocals only – and this will be a frustrating exercise if you’re that willing to understand the individual vocals in the chorus – you can tell, that everyone is actually performing their parts well.

Prepare yourselves as I’ll be diving deep into this matter below.

There’s barely any slurring of the English parts, despite what may be the first impression. I know, it sounds… weird. That’s the mixing, not the vocals themselves.

Let me explain to you why the English parts in the first half of the chorus are actually clear (deep down).

Shoya Chiba struggles a bit with the pronunciation but, once again, the chorus has long parts in English and those are incredibly fast – which is even trickier to pull off when you’re not a native speaker or not used to sing in English that fast. So that’s basically a non-issue (unless you want to be really nitpicky).

If you isolate the 4 vocal tracks (remember that I mentioned this was a frustrating exercise) you notice that basically everyone pronounced the English parts pretty well.

Kajiwara had the cleanest go at those, Takeuchi and Saito were pretty much even at a high level and Chiba may have struggled a bit but his pronunciation was still easy to understand.

But when you listen to that chorus without paying attention to a specific voice – basically paying attention to the unison in the first half of the chorus – it does not sound good. Why?

The pressing issue lies with the fact that all 4 vocal tracks are at the same loudness levels (notice why the chorus sounds messy: all 4 vocals + the instrumental are in the same loudness levels).

Follow me on this one – because it’ll get a bit confusing – also, while not necessary, if you have a good pair of “neutral” high-definition headphones, that specific part of the chorus will be easier to spot and to understand why it’s not “clean”. For those listening to the song using bass-centric headphones/in-ears, the chorus will sound awful because there’s even less clarity to begin with.

Once again, below I’m only talking about the chorus section, more specifically its 1st part (the unclear one).

So you have Saito eclipsing Chiba’s vocals (same vocal range yet Saito has more power and control, and is covering a wider range by lowering his vocals to faux baritone in some parts while going higher in others).

Kajiwara is completely eclipsed by Takeuchi (Takeuchi is a bass performing as a faux baritone in this track and his delivery is strong).

When Kajiwara and Saito are in the same parts, none stand out because, weirdly, the vocals’ sound levels are low to bring the instrumental forward.

Chiba and Kajiwara are performing in the same register so they almost eclipse each other if not for some quirks in their performances (both are performing in a mix of high and mid-tones and have about the same level of skill and control as singers).

The only vocals mix that works remotely well (and it’s not perfectly) in the 1st part of the chorus is that of Saito and Takeuchi. That’s because Saito reverts from faux baritone to tenor and Takeuchi also reverts from faux baritone to bass. And of course, as contrasting singing tones, those stand out.

So, you have a tenor VS bass in that part. They have the same power and emotional range with a slight difference in skill level as singers but that’s barely noticeable in this performance.

That’s the only time when the English lyrics in the 1st part of the chorus are at their clearest point and there’s truly no one being eclipsed (due to how contrasting the vocals are, leaving the mid-range available for Kajiwara and Chiba to harmonize).

And that carries over to the second part of the chorus, the cleanest in which the synths are not as crazy and intense.

If you notice, the mixing in the last chorus is already different. There the vocals are clear for the whole chorus. That’s how it should have been for the whole song.

But as you can tell, that’s a brief part. Some of you would even say that it is a barely noticeable detail.

And you’d be right.

I really went deep with this analysis and that’s because of how messed up the chorus sounds, especially in its first half. Also, I wanted you to understand why it sounds bad from a music producer/composer perspective.

To put it simply: there’s no balance in the vocals mixing. There’s no balance in the overall sound levels. That’s a weird stylistic approach to the mixing. A valid one but still odd.

Why take the instrumental track to the top, to the front of the vocals (I kid you not, to the front of unison vocals during a chorus that has long lyrics performed in English <- couldn’t have picked a worse place to crank up the instrumental sound), when what should be “sold” with this song is the vocals/performances?

I honestly would love to know. This is PERFECTION NOISE all over again in terms of mixing (in case you’re wondering, that’s a genuinely good, hybrid 2D music project that started off with the same issue).

Just like what I said about PERFECTION NOISE, I sure hope the other songs in the Tokyo Color Sonic!! franchise don’t follow the same mixing/production style.

It doesn’t flatter the vocals and honestly, neither the instrumentals.

Mixing issues aside, let’s analyze the vocals – minus the chorus.

On the vocal end, listeners find Shoya Chiba, Soma Saito, Gakuto Kajiwara, and Shunsuke Takeuchi.

On a first look and without listening to the song, this lineup does not sound balanced at all: 2 tenors (Chiba and Saito), 1 baritone (Kajiwara), and 1 bass (Takeuchi).

However, that’s just on paper and without taking into account the skills that each singer has.

Chiba can dabble as a baritone while he’s a tenor. His normal vocal range is somewhere between both and he’s crafty in his performances.

Saito has a massive vocal range (he’s one of the few vocal chameleons among male seiyuu) so you can pretty much ask him to perform in a certain style and he’d most likely pull it off as it had always been his thing.

Kajiwara is rock solid as a baritone – the essential middle ground for the group, holding everyone together – and has a lot of power in his delivery.

Takeuchi is incredibly creative and versatile as a performer, being able to be a natural bass, a strong baritone, or even dabble as a faux tenor.

That lack of balance in the lineup is completely put aside as soon as you notice that this is a group with a good balance between experience + proven quality and exciting new talents brimming with talent.

So how did the quartet fare?

Minus the chorus, and not taking into account how everyone goes, from time to time, to the background (a result of bad mixing), the group fares rather well.

Takeuchi and Saito are doing almost everything in this song, both dabbling in more than 1 vocal range for their performance (Saito as a tenor and faux baritone and Takeuchi as a bass and faux baritone).

They sometimes serve as an accent to some parts in the group performance, with their vocals being panned and shifting places in the soundstage in order to grab your attention to other details. When that happens, Saito is in his high notes and Takeuchi in his low tones.

Chiba and Kajiwara do the work at the top, putting to use their mid-toned vocals and unique skillsets. Chiba brings a bit of vibrato and harmonizes pretty well with whoever is picked to join him in the verses, Kajiwara has power for days in his voice and his delivery is really clean.

Individual parts for each member are few and really brief but every single one is genuinely good.

When it comes to group harmonies – once again, please forget the first part of the chorus -, the 4 members sound really well. That’s when the versatility and experience in this group shines, with the group having a really smooth, warm tone.

After this lengthy review, it’s safe to say that the Tokyo Color Sonic!! franchise wanted to impress everyone from the get-go however, they may have gotten a bit too excited and went overboard with the mixing in “Begin on buddy”.

There are several positives to take from this song that actually make me excited for this project:

  • the song had the potential to be awesome and shows interesting ideas going on behind the sound;
  • the vocals direction is solid, with the matchups working well for most of the time; and
  • there’s a lot of talent and versatility in this lineup that, used well, can lead to impressive performances.

Yes, the mixing is not good in the chorus (you can argue that the vocals sounding a bit “quiet” in the verses is also an issue). But that can be overcome in upcoming songs, at least I hope it’ll be.

For newcomers, the chorus in “Begin on buddy” will be a “love it” or “hate it” situation seeing how it comes way too strong on you.

Still, if you’re on the fence about whether to check this project or not, I’d suggest you give it a try and listen to at least 3 songs on it. That is usually enough to give you a sense of what to expect of a 2D music project.

On my end, I’m curious about how the quartet will fare together – if there’s a new group song – and how their personalities will show in the songs created in their respective “buddy” teams.

All in all, “Begin on buddy” had the potential to be something really impressive but failed the mark with an overly “enthusiastic” sound mixing in the chorus.


TOKYO COLOR SONIC!! Prologue is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.


TOKYO COLOR SONIC!! Prologue” is available for streaming on Spotify.


Do not support piracy. Remember to support the Tokyo Color Sonic franchise by streaming via official outlets.

SUMMARY

The Tokyo Color Sonic!! franchise wanted to impress everyone from the get-go however ended up going overboard with the mixing in “Begin on Buddy”. Issues are found in the chorus with a weird mixing putting vocals and instrumentals with the same sound levels. That leads to a lack of clarity in the first part of the chorus, making it sound like the fast, English lyrics are being slurred when they're not. It's also noticeable - however, not as worrying - that the vocals' sound levels in the verses are a bit lower than the instrumental. Thankfully, the instrumental in those sections is a bit quieter. If you can go past those mixing issues, "Begin on buddy" is an exciting song full of interesting ideas and performed by a star-studded lineup. A good yet not perfect greeting card to the Tokyo Color Sonic!! franchise.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Begin on buddy
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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