Japan impresses in every single thing. Be it with their animation industry or even the music business, Japanese artists are always with their hands full with multiple projects at once and manage to excel in what they do.
With that being said, seiyuu often deviate from their usual job (dubbing anime/commercials/movies) and many times are introduced to the music business via voice acting; sometimes we have musicians introduced to voice acting and in the end we see that most of the times we are surprised by the amount of talent some artists (seiyuu and musicians) have.
Juggling between their usual job and still getting in the studio to record a single/album and sound as good as they sound while voice acting is something, at least, commendable. Nowadays seiyuu units are something pretty common in Japan and we see that by only looking at the variety and quantity of those. In the early 90’s very few seiyuu would even think about being part of a “seiyuu unit”, that was pretty uncommon since in the 90’s since voice actors didn’t have the need to show their face to be known and receive recognition for their work by the otaku community.
The times have changed and now, more than ever, seiyuu have that need to be in public, take care of their looks and excel in almost everything that is presented to them since the majority of the otaku community consists on female audience and the looks + talent are a good combo when trying to remain relevant in a business overflowing with seiyuu (the seiyuu business is so relevant that only in Japan there are more than 130 voice acting schools, so think about how many voice actors there are in Japan fighting for a role…). Because of the big amount of seiyuu units this top is split into three parts (#1 to #10 / #10 to #20 / Honorable mentions).
I’ve compiled the seiyuu units analyzing the quality of the songs, singing experience and sales (my friends, those are pretty relevant in Japan since illegal downloads are a crime there the music business moves how it should move here on the west -> sales = more releases / few sales = units disband – this is how relevant sales are in Japan).
Sometimes embracing the music business is a way to try and boost their fanbase, other times is just the seiyuu having their fun doing something that they love besides voice acting. Whatever the reason behind their formation is, what’s important is that these selected seiyuu units have excelled in their own ways and made a place for themselves in the music business. The following top was made with the main goal of spreading the word about some seiyuu units and their work besides voice acting and who knows? Maybe you get to know some seiyuu units you didn’t know about. Now let’s start this off!
#1 – ELEKITER ROUND 0
By far the best seiyuu unit there is in Japan. ELEKITER ROUND 0 or simply ER0 are a seiyuu duo/band consisting of Shinnosuke Tachibana, known voice behind characters like Tomoe in Kamisama Hajimemashita, Soma Asman Kadar in Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) and Beelzebub in Makai Ouji: Devils and Realist, and Satoshi Hino known for lending his voice to Toma in Amnesia, Akito Takagi in Bakuman. , Sai in Naruto Shippuuden and Sousuke Inukawa in Hakkenden Touhou Hakken Ibun. Being in the seiyuu business for more than 10 years, these two voice actors decided in 2010 to form ELEKITER ROUND 0.
With already 4 mini-albums on their belt and another two to be released between this and next month, ER0 have put themselves on an amazing spot. With their vivid and aggressive rock on their first mini-album titled 零ERφ (Zero), passing by the speedy rocking “Maria” from their third mini-album titled “Maria” or the more seductive songs like “孤独の太陽” from their 4th mini-album “Forbidden Lover” or even the romantic and heartfelt ones like “Summer Snow”, “キセキ” (kiseki), “二つの雫-namida-” (written by Satoshi Hino) or even “少女と箱の唄” (written by Shinnosuke Tachibana), ELEKITER ROUND 0 show us that they sound incredibly good in every one of those sides of their sound. With only 4 years of experience on their belt, ELEKITER ROUND 0 have established themselves as one of the best seiyuu units that hasn’t originated from an anime (you know like STARISH, QUARTET NIGHT or HEAVENS) in Japan.
Pure talent with incredibly addictive pop-rock delivered by two powerful vocals, a tenor (Shinnosuke Tachibana) and a baritone (Satoshi Hino). Writing the lyrics for the majority of their songs, at least the ones that they sing solo on the mini-albums, the duo shows us that ELEKITER ROUND 0 is not only a gimmick to boost their popularity but also a place where they can express themselves through music and tell the stories they come up with, especially Shinnosuke Tachibana that is quite a good writer, so good a writer that is currently writing the story in his own serialized manga “Hakoniwa no Fräulein”. Satoshi Hino lately shows the heavy influence that the Phantom of the Opera has had in him, inspiring songs like “月夜の仮面舞踏会 ～Masquerade～”, a song with a story slightly different from the original Phantom of the Opera but still heavily influenced on it. A group that is constantly growing and gradually showing us, be it on a live setting or on album, that they are the real deal when it comes to seiyuu units.
All in all these guys impress from the very beginning with their pop-rock created to enchant the listener. They might not top the charts like E.M.U did in the past or like ST☆RISH do today but they’re still an incredibly relevant seiyuu unit.
#2 – E.M.U
One of the most successful seiyuu units Japan has presented us. E.M.U (Entertainment music unit) formed in 1995 and later disbanded in 2000 consisting of Hideo Ishikawa (vocals, drums), Hikaru Midorikawa (vocals, bass), Ryotaro Okiayu (vocals, guitar), Nobutoshi Canna (vocals, lead guitar) and Daisuke Sakaguchi (vocals, keys) sold over half a million records and sold out arenas time after time with their addictive pop-rock.
A seiyuu unit beyond everything else we have now in Japan where members activity is set to a minimum (basically learn the dance routine if it has a dance routine and sing the lyrics) and probably the only seiyuu unit with so many big names of the seiyuu industry together, almost like an all-star Seiyuu unit. Thinking about seiyuu units like this one today I only can think about ST☆RISH and even they only have to sing and sometimes dance (still they’re an all star seiyuu unit). E.M.U were the very definition of a seiyuu unit or if you want to call them “boyband” go ahead, they played their music, sang, wrote some of the lyrics and on top of that managed to also perform live dance routines to go with all that, if you want to talk about tiring and draining activities in the music business these guys had all of them checked in the same project.
A seiyuu unit that, for many people, won’t be forgotten but that by many new in the seiyuu fanbase / otaku is completely unknown, unless you take the time to look for this kind of information or you were already a seiyuu fan in the 90’s.
Starting in the mid 90’s and going on until 2000 they were kings on stage and quite possibly one of the best seiyuu units to date.
#3 – ST☆RISH
It’s almost impossible being part of the seiyuu fandom without knowing these guys by name. Another all-star seiyuu unit this time with some of the best seiyuu the late 00’s have presented us and currently the most successful seiyuu unit topping charts like there’s no tomorrow. Kenichi Suzumura, Kishow Taniyama, Hiro Shimono, Takuma Terashima, Kousuke Toriumi, Miyano Mamoru and Junichi Suwabe are the members of this seiyuu unit originated from the Shoujo anime “Uta No Prince Sama”.
With at least six members fully involved in the music business, some more seriously and almost fulltime like KISHOW (GRANRODEO), Kenichi Suzumura and Miyano Mamoru and others with their solo projects like Takuma Terashima (solo and with G.Addict) or exclusively group projects like Kousuke Toriumi and Junichi Suwabe (Feromen). The only member who isn’t a musician or has a music project is Hiro Shimono, besides that this seiyuu unit is bound to be one of the best in Japan with so many experienced voices ranging from the deepest tones (Junichi Suwabe) to the mid-toned (Miyano Mamoru, KISHOW, Suzumura, Toriumi and Terashima) and higher-pitched ones (Hiro Shimono) .
With an amazing range of voices and incredibly well done J-Pop instrumentals provided by ELEMENTS GARDEN (these guys are giants in Japan when we talk about music arrangements for series / anime / debuting seiyuu music projects and games), ST☆RISH are simply addictive and will clearly top this TOP in the future, establishing themselves as the top male seiyuu unit.
#4 – QUARTET★NIGHT
Another seiyuu unit originated from the shoujo anime “Uta no Prince Sama”. QUARTET★NIGHT is a seiyuu unit with fully experienced seiyuu in the music business, Tatsuhisa Suzuki from OLDCODEX, Tomoaki Maeno, Showtaro Morikubo and Aoi Shouta all have their solo projects with several singles / albums released to date. With this great amount of experience these four mesmerizing voices simply blow away everything as soon as their music starts playing. With two deep vocals provided by Tomoaki Maeno and Tatsuhisa Suzuki, plus a mid toned vocal provided by Showtaro Morikubo, all that’s left is the cherry on top of the cake: the angelic, sweet voice provided by young seiyuu Aoi Shouta. The ingredients are all set, all that’s left is to analyze what these guys can do together. One thing is for sure when you listen to a song where the QUARTET★NIGHT seiyuu give their vocals to: utter perfection. Last year one of the most anticipated releases was ポワゾンKISS, the dancefloor oriented J-Pop song premiered in April in the anime “Uta No Prince Sama” and later released in June that made the DVD in which it was bundled reach #1 on the Oricon charts, a more than impressive goal for a debuting unit.
#5 – HE★VENS
Led by seiyuu royalty Hikaru Midorikawa, HE★VENS are a new seiyuu unit originated from the shoujo anime “Uta no Prince Sama”. HE★VENS consist on Hikaru Midorikawa, Daisuke Ono and Tsubasa Yonaga and from the very first time the song “HEAVENS★GATE” played on live tv, many people anticipated this release more than anything. Once again we’re before a seiyuu unit with fully experienced seiyuu in the music business: Hikaru Midorikawa was part of super seiyuu unit E.M.U and Zero Phoenix, Daisuke Ono has his own solo project and Tsubasa Yonaga is part of seiyuu unit Trignal. With this amount of talent and experience in the music business nothing fails when it comes to singing. The blending of voice tones is done with perfection ranging from the deep tone provided by Daisuke Ono, mid-toned by Hikaru Midorikawa and the high-pitched tone provided by Tsubasa Yonaga. With only one song released there’s not much that we can say about their sound. We’ll have to wait to see if this is not a “seiyuu unit happening” just because certain anime needs more singing characters. After the explosive performance on “HEAVENS★GATE” I’m interested to listen more from them and see how they perform on a live setting.
#6 – D.A.T
A relatively new seiyuu unit formed in 2012, D.A.T consisting of Daisuke Ono and Takayuki Kondo, have proved that they have something interesting and relevant to show us with their electronic pop. With one single released so far “VS / SWEET NEST” and another one on the way titled “NOCTURNE -DRASTIC DANCE-／BLUE MOON”, they keep showing us that what they sing is by far the most addictive J-Pop that we could listen to. With two mid-toned voices, Daisuke Ono and Takayuki Kondo sound on top of their game be it singing rap parts on “VS” or the highest notes available like in “SWEET NEST”. A very adaptative unit with plenty of talent to explore in future releases.
#7 – 神谷浩史+小野大輔
The Japanese golden duo Hiroshi Kamiya and Daisuke Ono are a natural choice for this TOP. And why is that? Well not many seiyuu manage to stay together as much time as these two have been working so far, be it on anime, radio or singing. With a considerable amount of singles and mini-albums released, plus the album “Stories” released in 2011, HiroC and OnoD show us that a good partnership with two spotless, dedicated and overly talented seiyuu could only mean a great music duo. With rocking songs like “DIRTY AGENT” and more dance driven songs like the most recent release “Glow My way“, these guys keep improving their skills at an amazing rate sounding today, more than ever, flawless and totally in sync.
#8 – フェロ☆メン
Visual-kei J-pop unit, フェロ☆メン or simply Feromen are a seiyuu unit consisting on Junichi Suwabe and Kousuke Toriumi. Two seductive voices with engaging songs written by both to go along with their extravagant looks. Junichi Suwabe (41) and Kousuke Toriumi (40) are two of the most versatile and known seiyuu in Japan and have worked numerous times together. They’re both part of Sta☆men and STA☆RISH (seiyuu unit that originated from the shoujo anime “Uta no prince-sama”).
Their sound ranges from the pretty traditional J-Pop to the more electronic, dancefloor oriented Pop, songs like the electrifying “IMMORAL WEDDING” or even the seductive “禁忌の薔薇 ~Aphrodisiac~” are great examples of how well they manage to go back and forth between those two sub-genres in Pop music. With deep vocals provided by Junichi Suwabe, swaying everyone as soon as he starts singing and Kousuke Toriumi lending his mid-toned vocals capable of tearing some minds apart if given great use to with his versatile tone ranging between the higher notes and the lower ones. Overall, this is not a seiyuu unit to overlook at all, they are talented in both singing and writing their lyrics and they are also considerably daring in the seiyuu music industry well, just look at all these seiyuu units and you’ll see the looks are pretty normal but these guys take the visual aspect of their music to a whole new level. Worthy members of this TOP 20.
#9 – Marginal#4
Marginal #4 is an idol unit created especially for Rejet’s event, RejetFes. 2013 VIVA LA REVOLUTION. Rejet’s boyband has managed to gather quite a few new promising talents ( Yuto Suzuki and Toshiki Masuda), an already established good singer (KENN) and a veteran when it comes to singing (Takahashi Naozumi). Marginal#4 sound incredibly well in their three singles “100万回の愛革命(REVOLUTION)！”, “Masquerade” and “LOVE★SAVIOR”.
Their pop is attractive joining rock elements here and there with great solos and riffs, daring synths and speedy drums. Not only these guys have the looks but they also have the talent to overwhelm us with their singing sounding more than on sync on the choruses. An interesting musical act that, sadly can’t be seen on stage other than on the RejetFes, but still an interesting group of talented seiyuu and singers well worth this #9 on our Top 15.
#10 – CELL DIVISION
Now disbanded, CELL DIVISION was a seiyuu unit consisting of Wataru Hatano and Tatsuhisa Suzuki that enchanted many people with their R&B / Pop. With two deep voices and instrumentals that totally fitted with those, CELL DIVISION were considerably appealing with songs like “One night stand” and “Sweet Depression” being their best songs out of the two singles they released as a unit. A jewel lost in time that now very few people know of but a seiyuu unit that had a lot of potential and sadly disbanded before showing us their full potential.
So far the TOP is the following:
1 – ELEKITER ROUND 0 2 – E.M.U 3 – ST☆RISH 4 – QUARTET★NIGHT 5 – HE★VENS 6 – D.A.T 7 – 神谷浩史+小野大輔 8 – フェロ☆メン 9 – Marginal#4 10 – CELL DIVISION
To see the [part 2] of the TOP 20 Best seiyuu units just follow the link. HERE (Part 2 to be released next Sunday 09/02/2014)