2020 Year in Review: year of change in the seiyuu and music industries

Time to look back on the biggest things that happened and all the changes we’ve witnessed in the seiyuu and music industries in 2020.

2020 was no easy year. It was messy, unpredictable, frustrating but, at its core, a year of change.

We’ve all had to deal with a pandemic that disrupted the lives of everyone however, I don’t want this article to turn into a world news feature so let’s stick to talking about the seiyuu and music industries.

There were a lot of changes as well several interesting things that happened.

In this article I will go over some of the most important things that happened in 2020 in the seiyuu and music industries.

I won’t cover everything because this article would easily go over 10.000 words and you and I know that no one has the time to read such a long article.

I also didn’t went over the things that didn’t happen – the cancellation of big, anniversary events for franchises or yearly live shows. That’s too depressing and, after this year, I want depressing stuff far away from me and also, from you that are reading this article.

So, things will be kept simple while giving you a good overview on what happened.

This is quite the long article (20 – 30 minutes to read it completely) so strap on and hope you enjoy it!

Big debuts

I’ll start with one of the most exciting things happening this year: the debuts.

Whether it was solo debuts, new units introduced in already established 2D music projects or new seiyuu units, 2020 had quite a few new players joining the game.

However, it is worth noting that, in comparison to previous years, 2020 was a rather quiet year in terms of debuts.

Below are some of the biggest debuts of the year.

Koutaro Nishiyama

Koutaro Nishiyama

Koutaro Nishiyama‘s solo debut came as a surprise to me and many more of his fans.

While it is true that Nishiyama has been part of plenty of 2D music projects, he’s never really came forward to explicitly say that he wanted to have a solo career.

His solo debut was announced around May 2020 but the mini-album, CITY, was only going to be released in the Fall.

Usually, when seiyuu make their solo debuts, the announcement comes 1 or 2 months before the debut release hits stores. Nishiyama had to wait almost half a year for that to happen.

It seems that his debut was planned for much early in the year – especially given how he already had the music video for Mahirodoki no Stella recorded by May 2020.

Still, Nishiyama made a successful and long-awaited debut with CITY, mini-album that charted pretty high on Oricon’s charts.

Gakuto Kajiwara

Gakuto Kajiwara

Gakuto Kajiwara‘s solo debut was really just a matter of time. Kajiwara has been on the spotlight for his rap skills as leader for the fancy hip-hop team, BAE in the Paradox Live franchise.

He also has always shown passion for composing music and singing, posting several covers of popular songs on his YouTube channel.

So, it was well-known among his fans that he has the talent to be a solo artist however, when would he get a chance at showcasing his talents?

With only 3 years of career as a seiyuu, Gakuto Kajiwara turned into the youngest ever male seiyuu to make a solo debut – most seiyuu, up until recently, only ventured to the music industry around their 7th year as seiyuu – and he impressed.

He joined Avex – music label that also houses the Paradox Live franchise – and released his well-received debut single, A Walk.

Sir Vanity

Sir Vanity

Easily the most hyped up debut of the year was Sir Vanity.

The band was announced on April Fools and many, including myself, thought it was a joke.

Why?

Because Yuichiro Umehara had previously mentioned that he wasn’t interested into venturing to the music industry.

However, things changed and actually, Yuichiro Umehara was going to be in a band alongside close friend and Nikukai member, Yoshiki Nakajima.

Sir Vanity were officially announced on April Fools and soon, the band announced that they had established their own music label – VANITY RECORDS -, were going to kick off a radio show and then… months later announced their debut release, Vanity / Haruka.

The band was received warmly by fans, charting high on Oricon and iTunes’ charts.

Double Face

Double Face

Double Face came as an unexpected addition to the already packed Ensemble Stars!! franchise.

Many fans weren’t happy that the franchise was adding yet another new unit after, a couple of months earlier having added 2 new groups. The sentiment throughout social media was that fans weren’t in for more new groups to join.

Still, Double Face – duo comprised of MaM‘s Madara Mikejima (CV: Kousuke Toriumi) and Kohaku Oukawa (CV: Tasuku Kaito) – made their debut with Ensemble Stars!! ES Idol Song season1 Double Face in October and it was a fairly well received release.

Fujin RIZING!

Fujin RIZING

In 2020, Fujin RIZING! joined the ARGONAVIS from BanG Dream franchise.

The band have a unique brand of pop-rock that features brass instruments in the lineup, creating a really fun and upbeat sound.

Fujin RIZING! count with Yoshiki Nakajima (on vocals and saxophone), Atsushi Abe (Bass), Makoto Kaneko (guitar), Kodai Sakai (trombone) and Yoshino Hiroyuki (drums), although only Yoshiki Nakajima and Kodai Sakai played their instruments live and performed in the sound-only live shows held throughout the year.

This was one of the groups that made a lot of fans of the ARGONAVIS from BanG Dream franchise go crazy.

The first song that the band cover was none other than the classic T.M.Revolution song, HOT LIMIT (notoriously known for not only the iconic visuals but also the insanely tricky B flat notes that any singer covering this song has to tackle).

Pretty awesome debut that added more variety to the ARGONAVIS from BanG Dream franchise.

εpsilonΦ

Epsilon Phi

Also debuting this year in the ARGONAVIS from BanG Dream franchise was εpsilonΦ (epsilon phi), band consisting of Yuki Sakakihara (on vocals), Gakuto Kajiwara (vocals and guitar), Taichi Ichikawa (bass), Kei Minegichi (synths) and Shinnosuke Tachibana (drums).

The band’s sound is intense, closer to pop-punk or, in some instances, full on punk-rock that fits really well within the franchise and, at the same time, showcases a different side to Yuki Sakakihara – that was best known for his angelic, versatile vocals as part of Readyyy Project’s La-Veritta – as well as Gakuto Kajiwara’s singing skills.

Fans were over the moon with the announcement of their debut and quickly, εpsilonΦ turned into a fan favorite.

pioniX

pioniX

TSUKIPRO – SQ and ALIVE – kicked off their Neo X Lied series and newly joined duos infinit0 (part of the fictional talent agency, Tsukipro) and TOBARI (part of the fictional talent agency, Sunpro) joined hands to create the super group, pioniX.

This joint group came as a surprise to many fans of the TSUKIPRO franchise and soon, many fans were excited about the possibilities that a lineup with infinit0’s Rei Sukigawa (CV: Hinata Tadokoro) and Roa Mikaze (CV: Mizuki Chiba) and TOBARI’s Shio Amagi (CV: Yoshiki Nakajima) and Kuroi Hashiba (CV: Tetsuei Sumiya) could pull off.

Electronica and rock morphed into an unique, intense rock sound and the four member’s vocals were in perfect harmony.

Although this ended up not being a debut that had a lot of hype surrounding it, it is worth mentioning the quality of their music and how their vocals are among the best within the 2D music industry.

Loulou*di

Loulou*di
Loulou*di

Right before the end of 2020, the Hana-Doll* had a new group joining its ranks.

Loulou*di made their debut with the album “Univers” and swept everyone off their feet.

With one of the best lineups among all 2D music groups – including Toshiyuki Toyonaga, Daiki Yamashita and Shunsuke Takeuchi -, and a unique sound that is a middle ground between Growth and QUELL, albeit slower, more mature and intense in its presentation, Loulou*di arrived and impressed.

In my opinion the best debut in 2020.

New music projects

2020 was a pretty slow year overall in terms of announcements of new 2D music projects.

If you payed close attention to the 2D music industry what happened was that most music projects added new groups or continued rolling as they were without making new additions.

For a big chunk of 2020, there were no new projects around.

That’s when PERFECTION NOISE was announced in September 2020.

PERFECTION NOISE

PERFECTION NOISE - NOISE NOVA

PERFECTION NOISE is the name of the newest franchise by TEAM Entertainment – creators behind the popular DIG-ROCK franchise. It is part of the recently announced new TEAM Entertainment sub-label, Spica.

The releases in this franchise include drama tracks + music (like the DIG-ROCK franchise) and solo CDs include situation drama CD parts + a solo song (much in the style of Dear Vocalist).

The franchise counts with one group, NOISE NOVA, who are labeled a “dance and vocal unit“ well versed in EDM, rock, hip-hop and ballads.

NOISE NOVA count with a star-studded male seiyuu lineup that includes Shoya Chiba, Soma Saito, Ryohei Kimura and Kaito Ishikawa.

The group has a double-center formation that takes advantage of the faces of the group and powerful vocalists, Narumi (Shoya Chiba) and Sena (Soma Saito). Ryohei Kimura and Kaito Ishikawa are, respectively, sub-vocal and sub-rapper, counting with little time on the spotlight.

Their debut release “True Place” showed that we were before a group hungry to be on top of the 2D music project’s ladder, with powerful vocals, all-rounded performances and a sound that is as intense and unique – for its blend of music genres – as it gets.

Then, in November 2020, the PERFECTION NOISE franchise kicked off their solo series with Narumi Kurazuki and Sena Ichijo having their go at it, to exciting, different results.

Awesome debut of a group that has a complete, all-rounded lineup as well as versatility in their sound that reminds me a lot of QUELL and Anthos*. Their debut was solid, hoping to see where this group goes next with their sound and performances.

ENLIGHTRIBE

ENLIGHTRIBE

Although this project still has to release music, ENLIGHTRIBE comes with a rock x character project label on itself, which is promising.

I am not one to care much for the stories behind the music projects, instead I enjoy music for what it is, but if you’re the kind of 2D music project fan that loves to get into the lore, there’s a pretty gritty, social status-related story going on in this project that may pique your interest.

2021 will be a year filled with music releases by FAM, SHIFTYZ and ESMERALDA. Looking forward to it.

Seiyuu got closer than ever to their fans

Seiyuu tried their best to be closer to their fans in 2020. Part of if was due to the quarantine time that everyone in Japan had to endure in the 1st quarter of 2020.

With seiyuu stuck in their homes and talent agencies going mostly silent about their talents, seiyuu fans were worried about their favorites.

It seems that even seiyuu noticed those worries and decided to be active and, at the same time, closer to their fans by launching their own YouTube channels and social media accounts.

Up until February 2020, there were very few seiyuu on YouTube creating content.

The high-profile name on YouTube was – and still is – Natsuki Hanae that creates and produces his own content, something that is quite impressive.

If you’re a fan of Hanae’s you know how packed his schedule is.

Hanae is one of the most sought-after seiyuu of 2020 and it is safe to say that he has little to no free time to even be a streamer or a content creator.

Natsuki Hanae
Natsuki Hanae

Surprisingly, Hanae is pretty active as a streamer and content creator on his YouTube channel. He’s a passionate gamer and an awesome host, which makes his videos a joy to watch, even if you’re not that big of a gamer.

His activity on the platform led to other seiyuu to start trying their luck on the platform however, it wasn’t until March 2020 that we’d get almost every popular male seiyuu – and even some rookies and veterans – on YouTube, the majority with gaming channels but others even went as far as documenting their lives and show how things in the seiyuu industry work.

Others enlisted the help of fellow male seiyuu, close friends of theirs, to hang out with them.

Yusuke Shirai
Yusuke Shirai

Yusuke Shirai is the obvious name to mention when it comes to seiyuu that started a YouTube channel that is more than gaming, in fact, he does not focus on gaming but more on variety content.

During lockdown, he was the source of content for many seiyuu fans, especially those that were worried about the wellbeing of seiyuu during lockdown such as Kento Ito, Shunichi Toki, Shintaro Asanuma, Soma Saito, Yukihiro Nozuyama and more.

He’s also went over how the seiyuu industry works, recordings and auditions. This was refreshing as most seiyuu usually tend to avoid going into detail about those.

Tomoaki Maeno
Tomoaki Maeno

Tomoaki Maeno went the games and sports route. His fans can attest to the fact that Maeno is a massive fan of sports, especially Baseball but that’s not all.

He also went as far as to let his fans know how recordings work, especially for BL, a field of work in which Maeno is really active as a big-time voice actor.

Subaru Kimura
Subaru Kimura

Subaru Kimura initially went the goofy way with content that is a bit niche, as it’s more focused on his geeky passion for Coca-Cola but around the summer season, he opened 2 personal YouTube channels showing Kimura “ON” and “OFF” work.

It is really interesting and as far as candid content goes, it’s a really good look into the life of a voice actor.

Ryohei Kimura
Ryohei Kimura

Ryohei Kimura took his passions for alcohol and games and created a gaming channel in which he plays games at his own pace while with a slight buzz. Light-hearted and fun content can be found there.

While for seiyuu, launching a channel was a bold strategy to earn more money, at least, some to cover for their losses due to cancelled events and recordings, those channels ended up keeping company of their fans in these trying times.

I compiled all the cool and interesting YouTube channels by your favorite male seiyuu in a guide released in March, Ultimate Entertainment Guide for Male Seiyuu fans. This is quite the long piece so pay attention to your mobile data.

Music on streaming platforms worldwide

Purchasing music from your favorite seiyuu or 2D music projects can turn into an insanely expensive hobby.

And depending on the country you live in, it’s not even an option given how expensive are customs fees.

Fortunately, to counter both piracy as well as to cover for your needs without spending money, music labels in Japan started to be a little bit more open to the idea of featuring music by male seiyuu on streaming platforms worldwide.

This enabled seiyuu music to be found on those platforms at random – and, who knows, maybe even attract new people into following seiyuu or, at least, be curious about it – and made long-time users finally get their chance at streaming the music they love or new releases and, in a way, pay seiyuu for their work.

Still worth noting that streaming services/platforms pay miserably their artists. It is said that you need at least 100.000 listens to get $1 of royalties.

Seiyuu can’t really live off their music being on streaming platforms. And yes, by listening through those you are paying them for their work, but it’s not what should be paid to them.

You get the gist.

In 2020, the seiyuu and music industries started to open to overseas fans – because we exist and we are a lot – and made music by some of our favorite seiyuu and 2D music projects available worldwide on streaming platforms.

KING RECORDS, Lantis, Sony Music Japan, PONY CANYON and many other music labels made music from their artists available worldwide.

Mamoru Miyano, Shouta Aoi, Yuma Uchida, Soma Saito, Daisuke Ono, OLDCODEX, Shugo Nakamura, Tasuku Hatanaka, GRANRODEO, UMake and many more artists – too many to name – have made their music available – and, at times, entire catalogues – in 2020 on streaming platforms worldwide.

Make sure to look for your favorite artist/band/2D music project’s name on those platforms.

If no names turn up and the artist you’re looking for has a name with kanji, make sure to search using the kanji <- although the music is available worldwide, some music labels insist in using the kanji names that are not easily searchable using “vanilla” foreign keyboards.

Digital releases


Now that I am on topic, I want to talk about digital releases. This wasn’t a common practice in Japan, for seiyuu or 2D music projects to release music exclusively in digital format.

In 2020, that was considered more normal and you had seiyuu like Soma Saito tacking a groundbreaking trilogy of digital releases, whereas Wataru Hatano, Kenichi Suzumura, GYROAXIA, Yuma Uchida, TRIGGER, GRANRODEO, Re:vale and more artists released digital singles.

It is still not a trend but for seiyuu, especially those active in the music industry and finding themselves in a bind to release physical releases – a note that Japanese factories were in lockdown for a long time, delaying the release of many music releases – found in digital releases a safe outlet to be active, release music and earn some money while locked inside of their homes creating.

Call me old-school but I am not a fan of digital releases. I am a collector and love having the physical editions in my hands, it adds a different value to the release. But I understand why it is so appealing for other people, still… guys, opening the CD jewel case, going over the booklet… Those are experiences that digital can’t replace.

I will only purchase digital when importing the releases would double or triple their price. Or singles that given their price, are not worth importing. On top of my head I can name all the VAZZROCK and Tsukipro releases that I purchased digitally via OTOTOY instead of as physical copies.

Digital singles ensured that, in 2020, the creatives among seiyuu in the music industry weren’t waiting and kept creating. And that is all what matters.

Seiyuu spread their wings to fashion


2020 was a year in which seiyuu’s creativity was off the charts. It is well known that there are seiyuu out there that are talented in a wide variety of fields, some of those creative. And there are seiyuu that are really passionate about fashion.

Well, those were pretty active in 2020 creating their own brands or collaborating with existing ones.

Additionally, due to the fact that many seiyuu found themselves struggling to come by and others – the really popular ones – saw their earnings drop considerably, many seiyuu tried their luck at launching their own clothing or apparel brands.

Seiyuu fans already know that the pioneer in this field is Takuya Eguchi with his brand, EGUMI and collaborations with jewelry brands, but many more seiyuu joined in the trend of designing clothing for collaborations with other brands or even launching their own ones.

Yuki Kaji, Yusuke Shirai and Yoshiki Nakajima launched their apparel brands in 2020, both venturing through a territory that their fans weren’t expecting.

Soma Saito and Miyu Irino created their own collaboration lines with Japanese apparel brands.

Daiki Yamashita and Nobuhiko Okamoto collaborated with a couple of designs with an apparel brand.

There are many other seiyuu that went the fashion route but these are the highest-profile collaborations or brand launches of the year.

Live streams for everyone


Up until 2020, overseas fans seldom got to watch their favorite seiyuu live.

That is something that made many want to live in Japan or wish seiyuu, anime and 2D music projects would change their ways.

Take the live streams to everyone.

And they took (sort of).

After all, the seiyuu, music and anime industries didn’t have any other option early this year other than to adapt to the times or go on silence for as much time as it need to solve the Covid-19 pandemic. The latter would kill off those projects and make seiyuu go under the radar.

So, we got live streams of new events and even of older content.

Lantis was proactive in holding live streams of some of their artists’ live shows, something that fans really appreciated.

The IDOLiSH7 Road To Infinity live stream was their most successful but there was also live streams by SCREEN mode and GRANRODEO.

Then, we got the no-audience live shows by UMake and the sound-only live shows by ARGONAVIS from BanG Dream franchise, both pioneers in these formats of live streams/live shows.

ARGONAVIS from BanG Dream
ARGONAVIS from BanG Dream franchise

Then, we go the no-audience live shows by UMake and the sound-only live shows by ARGONAVIS from BanG Dream franchise, both pioneers in this format of live stream.

UMake TRIPPERS tour BD
UMake (Yoshiki Nakajima and Kento Ito)

Worth mentioning that UMake and the ARGONAVIS from BanG Dream franchise were the quickest to adapt to the changes. UMake had Covid-19 interrupt their live tour not once but twice and ARGONAVIS from BanG Dream were riding on a lot of momentum and stopping wasn’t an option if they were to announce new bands and introduce them to their fans.

I found it really impressive how both started their own brand of live streamed live shows.

UMake with the no-audience live shows and ARGONAVIS from BanG Dream with the sound-only live shows.

Pretty innovative ideas that made possible for both to be active in the music industry while most projects and acts were still trying to figure out what to do.

If up until 2020, fans had to rely on illegal downloads of streams held via Nico Nico, in 2020 most streams were free, not region locked and available on YouTube, the world’s leading video platform.

This was a massive leap, one that I seriously didn’t expect would occur, as Japanese companies are usually really strict about music rights and the sort and fear that, by making content available for free on YouTube, people will still steal it and earn money off of them.

If there is anything that the success of several live streams have taught us is that fans will actually tune in for those live streams, watch those over and over again, share them with their friends and on their social media and few – if any – will bother with redistributing it on other platforms.

At the same time, projects and seiyuu get exposure to a wider audience and, for a change, we, overseas fans, got to watch live streams of events that, hadn’t the pandemic hit the world and changed the way the seiyuu and music industries work and how we consume our media, we had never gotten the chance to watch at the same time as those in Japan.

Thankfully, we got hours and hours of awesome live shows, some with audio only, others being full live DVD streams, others even featuring live commentary by seiyuu themselves.

There was no shortage of content, as you can tell by this massive compilation of entertainment content in the Ultimate Entertainment Guide for Male Seiyuu fans released in March 2020.

Big Anniversary

GRANRODEO

It is undeniable how much GRANRODEO have helped shape the music industry for seiyuu.

The band fronted by Kisho Taniyama a.k.a KISHOW and counting with the guitar genius e-ZUKA in its ranks celebrated their 15th anniversary in 2020.

They were the first ever band fronted by a voice actor that I came across way before kicking off The Hand That Feeds HQ, so this anniversary was also really special for me, as they were, alongside Mamoru Miyano, the main reason this website exists.

They have been a band that has continuously evolved and experimented with new music genres but at their core they are one of the most exciting and versatile rock acts in Japan.

KISHOW’s charisma and mind-blowing technique alongside e-ZUKA’s nostalgic guitar riffs that channel guitarists from the 70s, 80s and 90s – pretty much the type of rock music I have been listening for all my life – made them instant favorites of mine, as well as a favorite band for many of you now reading this year in review article.

15 years of experimentalism, 15 years of breaking rules in rock music, 15 years ruling anisong. 15 years being themselves and not bending to trends.

GRANRODEO have been awesome and a band that has helped define a generation of seiyuu fans as well as helped change the panorama for seiyuu wanting to venture with their own rock band projects.

There’s a lot to thank GRANRODEO for as their contributions to the music industry have been invaluable. Happy 15th birthday GRANRODEO.

Quality music released in 2020

There were a lot of top tier music releases in 2020. I dare say that this year was overflowing with music with a lot of quality, more so than in previous years. There were still your dodgy debuts or weak, uninspired music projects like always but those were few in comparison with previous years.

The quality raised and the bar is getting pretty high to beat when it comes to what kind of singer a seiyuu must be.

When it comes to naming the albums of the year, that’s the difficult task. Plenty of awesome moments, exciting songs, heart-breaking performances, outstanding compositions and flawless releases (composition and production side) hit stores in 2020.

As I went through the music I reviewed in 2020, I found myself naming several releases that were among the best in 2020.

were some of my picks in my 20+ favorite releases of the year list.

Emo singer-songwriter vs Jazz artist/lyricist

There were 2 massive releases hitting stores later in 2020 that had most people incredibly excited for: Soma Saito‘s “in bloom” and Makoto Furukawa‘s “from fairytale“.

Soma Saito’s “in bloom” and Makoto Furukawa’s “from fairytale”

2 of the best and most technical + creative solo artists among male seiyuu going head-to-head with their own full-length albums, releasing on the same day and, coincidently, supporting each other on social media, showcasing once again their respect and friendship on what was a pretty important day for both.

The excitement and anticipation was there.

Saito and Furukawa are doing their own thing and pretty much impressing everyone as they spread their wings as lyricists and songwriters/arrangers (in Soma Saito’s case).

Soma Saito in bloom
Soma Saito

Saito had the difficult feat of overcoming the quality of his 1st album, quantum stranger.

Usually, artists struggle to have a solid sophomore album, especially if their 1st album was deemed “really good” or their “masterpiece”. So he had that pressure over him for “in bloom“.

Makoto Furukawa
Makoto Furukawa

Makoto Furukawa had no pressure to beat anything in his repertoire however, the 1st album is always important and should be a statement about who the artist is and what can fans expect of him.

So, although there wasn’t pressure to “beat” anything, there was some to make “from fairytale” a memorable album.

As someone that thoroughly enjoys the music both have been creating so far, straying away from trendy music or flat-out performing pop just because it’s what sells, I couldn’t help but to anticipate both releases and hope they’d meet my expectations.

They went further and blew my expectations out of the park.

Both releases stand out with ease among all music released by male seiyuu in 2020.

Even if you are not a fan, you’ve got to hand it to them, they pushed the boundaries of what is the “acceptable” sound for seiyuu to embrace, they were doing their own thing (Saito with complete creative freedom whereas Furukawa only had a hand in the lyrics for his album), avoiding going the boring and repetitive pop route, they delivered songs with depth, stories that connect and with a production value that those, like me that are music production geeks, will bask in.

Makoto Furukawa is a master at performing jazz music and you can tell that he loves it by how fun and engaging his performances are.

He’s feeling it and, as a result, you can’t help but to enjoy the flamboyance and swing of his jazz sound. It is addictive and tasteful.

It is fresh among everything male seiyuu have been doing as solo artists.

However, between both albums there’s one that takes the crown as album of the year.

Soma Saito "in bloom"

It’s Soma Saito’s “in bloom“.

Although initially skeptical about what turn would his sophomore album take – especially with the digital single trilogy “in bloom” being wrapped up neatly -, I still had faith that Saito would come up with something unique and really on brand with his image as a singer-songwriter.

There were positive messages going on about he now has total creative freedom – even arranging his own songs and doing collaborations with other artists and producers outside of his long-time trusted composer and bandmaster, Saku -, he also had mentioned that his fans encouraged him to unveil the dark, decadent songs he’s composed but was, up until recently, afraid of releasing to not taint the image people have of him as a voice actor.

He was unshackled by his fans.

This was the first time that I’ve come across a seiyuu – as a solo artist – not bending to trends and being genuinely supported by their fans that want to see/hear his “true self” as a composer to be free. Fans were supportive of him doing what he wants. Mark that as a first.

And what we got was an album that stands as the best in 2020.

in bloom” is intensely dark and contrived, packing a lot of contrasting emotions in those complex, multi-layered lyrics penned by Saito.

The melodies are introspective, mature and on a level that you’d never say this was created by a voice actor. Few are the voice actors that challenge themselves to write – or want to write – their music. And it’s okay because, in the end, each seiyuu has in their head what is the image they want for themselves as solo artists and what they want to show while at it.

As a result, few are those that bare their hearts, their emotions to their fans in the way Saito did in “in bloom“.

Love him or hate him, it’s more than obvious by now that he’s a generational talent.

The best singer-songwriter of his generation among seiyuu, a talent that, in my opinion, shares the same pedestal as the genius singer-songwriter Toshiyuki Toyonaga.

The quality on the production side for “in bloom” is off the charts.

The mixing for all songs is flawless (the cleanest ever), sound levels are impeccable, the mastering is easily the best Saito has had in his music (the songs flow seamlessly, getting progressively more intense and slower paced, perfect to leave a rather bittersweet aftertaste when you wrap up listening to the album).

The choices of music genres and instrumentalization were tasteful, not to mention that Saito strayed away from conventional pop and rock music structures and did his own thing.

Some times there’s no chorus, others you barely have lyrics and are left sinking in the dark, melancholic soundscape, he played around with vocal parts and many more cool details that you can explore the more you listen to this album.

Vocally, this is the best you get from Saito (for now, I bet he’ll surprise us again in 2021). His emotional range has been pretty good since way before his debut as a solo artist but he has been growing by leaps and bounds with every release he makes.

Isana” is spine-chilling and it’s not only because of the shoegaze rock instrumental that leaves you drowning to your “death” in song. It’s those haunting, muffled, distant vocals that deal the final blow, that say the last goodbye, that send you off. The apparent contained way in which he performs that song carries much more underneath.

Impossible not to be touched and have a weird aftertaste after listening to that song (last time I was this touched by a song was with Shouta Aoi’s “I am”).

Like “Isana”, the album has plenty of other tracks that showcase the genius that Soma Saito is as a composer and singer.

I seriously invite you to check the album with an open mind – if you’re not a fan of Saito – and give it a try, see if something connects with you. I’ve had non-fans tell me that it was a pretty weird, spine-chilling experience that left them thinking.

They also said that they found his music to be too dark. If you’re not familiar with his music, it will be a natural reaction.

Few albums and few artists have that talent, that power to touch the listener and make them stop and go over what they just listened to.

I also invite you to read the review I wrote a couple of days ago, it is a perfect companion to the release, as I shed light over the details in composition and the moods you’ll be experiencing.

THTFHQ’s Artist of 2020

Soma Saito carpool

Needless to say, Soma Saito is THTFHQ’s Artist of 2020.

Reasons he gets this title:

  • Groundbreaking digital singles trilogy – the 1st ever trilogy by male seiyuu – under his belt,
  • Complete reinvention of his sound,
  • Composed and wrote all his music + got 1st arrangement credits,
  • Improved technique – currently developing a dependable vibrato, further polished his high notes, wasn’t shy about using head voice in his performances,
  • Unshackled himself of fan expectations and what his image is and wrote + composed the music that he loves, that best represents him,
  • Strayed away from trends and went with unique, unconventional yet tasteful compositions,
  • Consistency and perfectionism found in all music of his released in 2020,
  • in bloom” is album of the year (reasons can be found above as well as in the album’s review here at The Hand That Feeds HQ)

Before we say goodbye to 2020

Let’s be honest, this year sucked but each of these things made it a bit more bearable for many of us, those that happen to have a passion for male seiyuu and music.

Hope that, with this article, you can wrap up 2020 with, at least, some positive vibes and know that, even in the middle of the mess that was 2020, there were plenty of positives to take from it.

Here’s my wishes that 2021 is as awesome as this year – minus the pandemic – or better in the seiyuu and music industries. I don’t want to jinx it but after this year, we all deserve a proper, good year.

Let me know in the comments your highlights of the year!

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).

Comment