Posted by: Leek | April 30, 2014

Music Purchase in Review: Aikatsu! OP/ED Single 4 – SHINING LINE*/Precious

Not too long since the last one but it just so happens that two big Aikatsu releases got put together. Today won’t be as big a review since it’s just a single but it’s still a significant one for anybody following Aikatsu.

General Overview
SHINING LINE*/Precious is one of the last big releases for Aikatsu this year, right before the final album of the season hitting shelves at the end of June. This makes it the last OP/ED we’ll see for the second season and, assuming there’s no season planned, the last for the series. But that gloomy jabber aside, it’s not the end of the world with the movie on the horizon.

That being said, the single marks another big landmark as far as the OP/ED singles go. While the ED themes have always varied a bit, this is the first OP that doesn’t feature the vocalists for the three main characters. While Waka (Ichigo) and Fuuri (Aoi) have remained in the roster, Sunao (Ran), having graduated from STAR☆ANIS as of last year, was not called back to perform SHINING LINE*. Instead, her position is filled in by Yuna (Kaede/Kii) to add a third vocal onto the opening. While this seems like a very minor detail and useless trivia in most respects, it does feel a little empty seeing Ran’s original vocalist missing from the cast, especially taking into account that the graduated members have been called back to perform on various occasions.

Outside of this, the fourth OP/ED single doesn’t vary far from its predecessors and follows the same four track pattern we’ve seen time after time. So in the case that you’re a fan of instrumentals it might not hurt you pick this up rather than waiting for another Best Of Album.

Design
If you’ve seen the other OP/ED single packaging you’ll find that nothing was changed from before. It’s the usual jewel casing you get with any standard CD that features artwork of the main trio on the front. As for the back cover, the usual in-game models are featured with this single featuring the Double M pair. All of the artwork, as well as the CD itself, focuses on the theme of SHINING LINE aka the ribbon stringing together the various characters.

There’s not much to say otherwise. It would have been odd if they randomly decided to defy the design pattern they’ve kept for three singles. “Simple is best”, is the probably the best way to describe it.

Music/Track Progression Musical Overview
SHINING LINE*/Precious is one of the most unique OP/ED singles and, in general, it’s really hard to stack it against it’s predecessors. And I’m not just referring to the fact that Sunao is missing from the OP song. The fact is the musical style and general feel of the single doesn’t quite match up with what we’ve gotten every season. During the first season we had the neutral sound of Signalize paired with the iconic and upbeat Calendar Girl. The second half of season one was defined by the energetic and charismatic Diamond Happy followed by the more powerful sound of Hirari/Hitori/Kirari. And the opening set for the second season gave us the very upbeat techno sound of KIRA☆POWER alongside the incredibly classy ORIGINAL STAR. Overall, the singles up until this point have had a very consistent mix of upbeat sound to keep them from being too heavy. There was that one track to give you a good lift after or before another and that pattern has continued thus far.

The 4th single feels a little different however as both pieces shift focus to softer and more melancholic sound that both fall back very strongly on piano. I don’t want to say the single is depressing to listen to but it felt a little strange to not have the same lift somewhere during the single. Overall, the pair of songs chosen this time around just feels new and sets a very different tone. Given the events of the actual series, it is fitting but that doesn’t change the fact that I kind of missed having the same lift as the other singles.

Track by Track Breakdown

SHINING LINE* – The newest opening for the second season and definitely another unique step in a different direction. If I had one way to describe SHINING LINE* it would be that it feels the most unquestionably Anisong of all the openings. Not that I mean to use that as an insult but it generally feels slightly removed from what we’ve heard so far and more akin to what you’d hear in a standard anime. While the vocals and overall tempo are generally upbeat, the piano backing and general slowdown during the verses really create a song that brings your tension down more than you’d actually expect. Tie that in with the lyrics and the song bears a lot more weight than it’s predecessors. But with the overall direction the second half of the season appears to be taking, it is generally a good fit. Nothing about this is anything I mind as the song itself is incredibly charming. I think the only section of SHINING LINE* that never caught on with me was during the bridge.

Precious – Given all the upbeat endings we’ve gotten, Precious is definitely another unique step away from the norm. This time we take a step in the opposite direction towards a power ballad (that once again relies on piano backing). I can’t say it’s outstanding in any specific way but ballads like this all seem to blend together at a certain point. However, I do feel I’ve enjoyed it the most out of all the ballads that have shown up in the Aikatsu music pool (all three of them). And I do appreciate the touch that they had it performed by Waka, Fuuri, Risuko, and Mona rather than just handing it off to one of the pairs. Again, it’s a song that was well written given the current tone of the series. And I do give them credit for doing something different and using a ballad as an ED for the series.

SHINING LINE* OFF VOCAL – I’ll be honest and say that with the vocals removed from SHINING LINE* you’ll really learn to appreciate how great of a song it really is. While I didn’t say it in the vocal version, it’s very easily second to Diamond Happy to me when it comes to the OPs. While I appear to be ragging on it at certain times, I really do love the sound it captured and the individual guitar and piano parts are easily enough to keep me happy. If only it weren’t for the bridge. It actually bothers me less with the vocals removed so it could have easily just been something bothering me in the vocals during it than anything else. The progression of the song would be perfect to me otherwise.

Precious OFF VOCAL – While I had a lot to say on the OFF VOCAL track for SHINING LINE*, I have considerably less to say with regards to Precious. Again, it’s a good song but for some reason when I listen to the instrumental it begins to cut a little to close to Moonlight Destiny for me. But the focus on piano (moreso than strings) of Precious is probably what wins me over in the end. It really is a lovely song and if you enjoyed it in show and as an ending, then chances are the full version will just double the pleasure.

Wrap Up
In the end, I feel that the 4th single stands out in the way that it doesn’t necessarily overload itself anywhere. In every single up until this point I felt that I was personally buying the single for one track and one track alone. Calendar Girl, Diamond Happy, and ORIGNAL STAR all felt as if they carried their singles and this time around it feels a bit more well rounded. At the end of the day, I can say I feel satisfied with both tracks and walk away happy. It may be a step in a different direction but SHINING LINE*/Precious is still a great addition to the every growing library of Aikatsu music. Going back to what I said while introducing the single, the only sad thing is that it might be the last we’ll be seeing for awhile.

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