Welcome back to the usual review corner! This time we’ll talk about just the newest vocal album: as I said in a previous post, any talk about Nekokenban 20 will be reserved for the final part of the Nekokenban retrospective. But now leeeet’s goooo…
Like last time, my copy of the album is not here with me. So here is an AC screenshot.
Let’s start with the design! It’s a Shoujo Rengoku album, so we have some of the best arts in the whole discography, in a classic Japanese style! But the cover art is a bit better than those inside the booklet because Ane loves Yachie. The featured girls this time are Yachie Kicchou (on the cover), Keiki Haniyasushin, Mayumi Joutougu, and Saki Kurokoma: the four characters from the later stages of Wily Beast and Weakest Creature.
While there is a big focus on Touhou 17, the general theme of the album is “animals living in crowds”, so the other half consists of re-arrangements of 3 songs about animal-ish girls, and a new Hifuu song. Humans are creatures who live in crowds, too.
Now, for the usual track-by-track! As usual, there will be translated lines provided by myself and Robin, but below each one of my talks, I’ve also added a small comment by him about the general meaning of the song. This might be intentional or not, but each track seems to be an “answer” to the previous one. Considering that some of them are re-arranges, this is amazing.
1. Guuzou Utopia
“Let’s turn our backs on the laws of nature in a utopia shutting out those in the animal realm.”
Tied with another track as my favorite from this album! Guuzou Utopia is short, freaking short. There are rhythm game tracks that are longer than it, and I’m not even joking (my dear Akarui Mirai, for example). But in my opinion, it’s perfect like this. I love its fast rhythms, and the stark contrast it has with the original theme. Rhythm game treatment or riot. (I know Rokubun no Ichi and Kirei na Niji won’t get it because they will definitely be overshadowed by Yachie’s Legs – the video and that song about haniwa propaganda)
“Let me be your leader and cling to me to get through hurtful times”
2. Kirei na Niji
“God, idol, loved one, biological parent – They are all the same person.
I’m made by you.”
Mayumi’s theme and arrangements got kinda ruined for me due to that song mentioned above, but thanks to Kirei na Niji (and Shinra-Bansho’s Haniwa Sanka), I managed to get over it! This song seems also quite popular among my group of friends. It’s kind of a unique take on the theme, sounding less like a marching/military song and more fitting for a song all about Mayumi herself, but still keeps its essence.
“I cling to you, but I feel this relationship is not quite enough to satisfy me”
3. Ashita mo Haremasu you ni Shoujo Rengoku ver
“For example, if these peaceful days continue
I want to play here forever”
A Paprilicious rearrangement of a 10 years old track. It sounds more melancholic, and it makes me feel like I’m underwater… fitting for a Candid Friend arrangement!
“I pray for good times to come again; until then my friends give me strength”
4. Rokubun no Ichi
“Ah, your voice won’t reach even if you cry out.
When you shouted, it pierced through the broken sky.”
The most standard Pig track here, fitting as the one about the cover girl. The verses reminded me of a Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei opening for some reason.
“You should stop praying and start relying on yourself to change your situation”
5. Mizu wa Nagare Kawa to natte yuku Shoujo Rengoku ver
“Going through a roadless road
It’s a journey of not losing to the rain and the wind”
Another Paprilicious arrangement of a very old track from one of the first albums. Less upbeat than the original, this one makes me feel like I’m on a solitary journey in a ship…
“I’ll make it through hard times, move on and change by myself, while not losing sight of my true self”
6. Shikaban Hyakkiyakou Emaki Shoujo Rengoku ver
“A mass of ego that fleetingly and frailly decays”
The final Paprilicious song? Maybe. Or maybe not. Anyway, here we have a rare example of a re-arrangement that turns out better than the original song. I never liked Shikaban Hyakkiyakou Emaki, but in this style it’s perfect! It’s more upbeat than the typical Pap stuff, and not really in her typical style. There is much more focus on the percussions and JP flute, the piano shines more in the outro.
“I’m watching as you change and figure out who you are while watching over you from the side”
I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again: please don’t take your BUTAOTOME lyrics from the Touhou Kashi Wiki on atwiki. They are often subjected to typos and it’s also easy to detect that the lyrics have been googled up and aren’t 500% faithful to the booklet. At least the typo wasn’t carried over in the singing, unlike An’ya Kouro on Magic Lantern.
“I hope that my neigh at the end
Of the three realms will reach you.”
Me: “LOL, BUTAOTOME writes character-centered lyrics, they don’t write cheesy falling-in-love-reaching-for-you sheet!”
…and we got this song. Thank you, Ranko. Perhaps Saki misses her prince (now princess)? Anyway, this is the other favorite of mine! I really like the original Dark Pegasus, and I’m quite satisfied by this take.
I think trumpets will become Comp’s new favorite extra instrument. :insert Hoenn joke here:
“Your path has led to us losing sight of each other, but since I’m relying on you, I can’t let go”
“The provisions of humanity were tested. We struggle, flounder, and dream again.”
This was my favorite track from the XFD, but with the full thing, I prefer other tracks. It’s short, and the refrain appears 3 times with not even a slight change of words. However, I still love it, and mostly for the same reasons I said in the pre-release review: I always have a soft spot for Hifuu songs by BUTAOTOME, I really love how swingy it sounds, and we have some trrrrrilling rrrrrs! This is a song about our current times, without excessively trying to be motivational. It’s an arrangement of Unknown Flower, Mesmerizing Journey/Michi no Hana Michi no Tabi rather than one of the missing Hifuu originals (I like to think one of BUTAOTOME’s undisclosed goals is to make vocal arrangements of every original theme from Renko and Merry’s saga) because that theme somehow represents the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake, an event that greatly affected Japan and the doujin world, and now we are facing even greater difficulties.
“I’m faced with a similarly bad situation again, but this time I don’t want to let it end the way like last time”
Shoujo Rengoku 5 is an album that has more than meets the eye (and the ears). My very first reaction wasn’t the happiest one, but the full thing, and digging deep into the concept made me reevaluate it a lot (also, thank you Ane!). This is definitely one of the better entries in the Shoujo Rengoku series (my personal ranking: 3 > 1 > 5 > 4 > 2… but maybe I will swap 1 and 5, and 4 and 2. But 3 is still the best). This album is also BUTAOTOME’s tribute to Wily Beast and Weakest Creature, a game they certainly loved, but with their own spin on it. I think the four Touhou 17 tracks are some of the best arrangements of themes from that game, but the other tracks also deserve a listen. So yeah, I recommend this album!
This album is supposed to be the last one with Paprika as a member, but I don’t get the feeling of this being a “final album with a long time friend”. The latest commissioned tracks, and even most of the new songs here are already without the piano, but I think there is still a chance for a final track with the cat, perhaps for Winter Comiket.
And that’s all for this review, thank you for reading!