Posted by: Leek | July 2, 2014

Music Purchase in Review: Aikatsu! Second Season Mini Album 1 – Pop Assort

Yeah, don’t chew on that title too long. Somehow this got done before the FAV double mini-album release and I still plan on doing those. It just might take longer because there was more to cover and I dropped out of the groove.

General Overview
Pop Assort marks what would have been the last huge music release last year for the first season. But since staff managed to pack a ton of new music into the latter half of the season (where the first half was dry as heck) it means that we’ll be seeing, at the least, one more mini-album like this before the series finale.

With that in mind, it’s hard to compare this release to the previous mini-album. With so many tracks to work with it wasn’t just a matter of, “let’s just throw everything on here that wasn’t on a CD”. No, there was a bit of adjustments to what tracks made it and what didn’t. So if you see a notice a track that showed up later in the series on this CD, where a older track was left out, you can just blame whoever constructed the track list.

Much like last time, the mini-album is similar to it’s predecessor in that there are no instrumentals (an unfortunate thing for a few of the tracks). There are a total of eight tracks on the CD with six coming from something you should have heard if you follow the anime and the remaining two being CD exclusive (for the meantime). And, much like the last CD, I’m sure a lot of these tracks may not show up in these forms if another best of album surfaces so you might want to pick it up if you want the “original” mixes.

Design
Just like last time, I find it hard to go on too much about the album design just because it’s generally been the same as the entire season. This time WM gets the cover and sets the very vibrant, summery theme for the entire booklet. So, if nothing else, at least they managed to address the season they released it in well. I will give them some extra credit for at least that much.

Not that I’m complaining. Ichigo and Akari (in game models) are featured on the back so I can only hope that Akari may get one shot at being a cover girl for the next album. One can hope anyway.

Music/Track Progression Musical Overview
So, I’ll be honest with you. When I heard the title “Pop Assort” way back when the album was announced I had a good guess of what would show up on the album. Aikatsu! is, ultimately, an idol anime and a lot of the music written for it has pretty strictly pop standards. But you’ll always hear me compliment the writing of it for hitting well across the board and there’s all those times where they manage to escape from the genre pretty quickly. Despite it’s title, Pop Assort is no exception. And there are at least three tracks that manage to stretch the definition of Pop pretty darn far. So it’s better to think of it as “Assort”ment of genres that were “Pop”ular at some point in time. Alright, so I stretched that one about as much as the staff. The point is, they probably had better choices that fit the pop genre over what they chose. But I guess had they done this they would have ended up with a mess of tracks that would have made no sense on the latter albums.

So hopefully you can tell that I’m trying to get at the fact that Pop Assort has a good variety as always. Despite it’s namesake, you don’t have to worry that it was just loaded with too much of the same thing and it’s generally a very, very colorful listen at the end of the day. The only thing I regret is the presence of the bonus track. I’ll most likely get into it more when I go track by track but it’s the one song that feels not only misplaced on the album but in the Aikatsu series in general. While I’ve probably banged on a few other Aikatsu! tracks before, this is probably the first example where I really don’t think it had any business being written. But I’m an asshole like that.

Track by Track Breakdown

egao no Suncatcher – The current trademark song of WM and one of the unquestionably pop songs on the album. A slightly slow paced techno pop song, it’s not my favorite but it’s really not something I hate. And, to go back to the release timing, it’s not a bad song for summer. One of the things that lights up the song the most is it’s a good chance for Mona (aka the newer member of STAR☆ANIS) to get some limelight. And she does blend in well with the existing vocals so it’s nice to hear more of her at this point. It’s just I never seem to like any of the songs that Risuko performs in. Maybe her voice just doesn’t resonate with me, or maybe all the songs that are written with her in mind don’t. I really can’t say it’s a bad song for that reason alone but it definitely doesn’t ring any bells too strongly for me.

CHU-CHU♡RAINBOW – If you had to pick one song to truly embody the theme of this album (despite the fact WM is on the cover) it would probably be CHU-CHU♡RAINBOW. Otome as a character has had a few songs appointed to her vocalist (Remi) as a solo but none of them truly screamed her character. CHU-CHU♡RAINBOW is probably the one song that breaks that pattern very easily. And, to be honest, the song is what any Otome fan would want to hear. It’s an upbeat, candy colored pop song that will make you think you’re strolling across a rainbow. It’s just cute and will put you in a good while listening to it. I believe this is one of the solo tailored songs that just sits so perfectly on point that I can’t find a real complaint.

Sweet Sp!ce – Continuing the previous trend of perfectly tailored songs (but not necessarily pop) comes Sweet Sp!ce. Ever since introducing Seira as the wannabe rocker it felt a little odd that she never got to show that face outside of the first episode. And, let’s be honest, the rock version of idol katsudou was hardly a great way of doing it. But we’re in the present now and it only took so many months before someone finally ok’d the idea of going a little punk for one song. The result is Sweet Sp!ce, and it’s a rather great result. The real charm of it is that the song isn’t anything over the top or special. It’s just really clean instrumentation and writing to create energy. I can imagine writing the set list for a STAR☆ANIS concert would be fun just because you have a rather large and expansive choice of songs to choose from. And a song like Sweet Sp!ce that really just breed energy is always a welcome set piece. My only complaint is that I don’t get an instrumental version.

eien no tomoshibi – You know before I cut my hair and my voice dropped two octaves (maybe about 12-13 years ago), I was really big into the visual kei / J-Rock scene. While eien no tomoshibi isn’t being performed by a bunch of dudes, the sound of it definitely reminds me of something I would have been listening to during that era. Sure it’s not the hardcore over the top stuff but probably moreso what got carried over into the modern generation. I will admit that hearing something like this always leaves me a little nostalgic and I can only assume the entire thing was written for Yurika’s character. And, since Moe graduated along with Sunao, I assume it’s why the two performing it are on board. When all is said and done it’s a colorful addition to the CD but very, very far from pop. Maybe 12-13 years ago it could have been filed in the “popular music” category but I can’t say that argument holds up nowadays.

aurora princess – To fill the spot of the cooldown song, aurora princess shows up right near the end of the CD. A soft lullaby above anything else, it is incredibly relaxing to listen to (especially when you take into account the song preceding it). I kind of wish I had something more to say about it but it’s doesn’t freakishly stand out or break the idea of the album like any of the other songs. Unfortunately, it’ll have to happen to at least song on an EP or album eventually. It is a good song and if you’re looking for the ballad of the album then this is the only real place to look. It’s cute; it’s relaxing; just don’t fall asleep listening to it.

mitorejaano! – I feel like when the track list for the album was being thrown together someone just flat out asked, “What style are we missing on this mini-album?” And someone must have responded with stage play / musical. And, with that in mind, we have the sixth track to show up on the album. I’ll be honest, I can never take away creativity points from MONACA when it comes to putting together the music for Aikatsu! but I can’t say it doesn’t come out of left field sometimes. Maybe I’m just taking the album title too seriously or maybe I’m just still bitter that Otona Mode didn’t make it on the album. All of that aside, it’s still a good song to listen to if you enjoy the genre. Don’t let my babbling distract you from that fact.

idol katsudou! ~Ichigo & Akari Ver.~ – So this is the fourth or fifth full version of idol katsudou! to come out in some form. I’m pretty sure if I had reviewed every Aikatsu! CD up until this point I would have had run out of things to say about it a long time ago. But I won’t lie in saying that this might be my favorite version. Why? Well for one because two is a really good number for singing. I’ve never been big on large group singing and I think duets always capture individual voices just enough. The second reason is because I like Akari (and by extension Ruka) so to hear her actually show up on the CD is nice. And since it will probably be awhile (if never) that they’re given a solo song, so this is what I have to settle for at the moment.

kira kira days – I’ll admit that when I saw the track list for Pop Assort I scratched my head when I saw a bonus track. There seemed more than enough music that they didn’t really need to do it so I decided to go out of my way to see who wrote it. I had zero clue as to who it was and couldn’t connect any dots to anything they had done before. Usually, this results in either a really good thing or a really bad thing (it just so happened to be the latter). kira kira days just falls into the most boring category for me. Everything about it is predictable and, personally, predictable has never been fun to listen to. It really just doesn’t do anything exceptionally well and it’s really like that ride you’ve gone on one hundred times at the amusement park. Not because it was fun but just because you kind of can’t avoid it. So instead you just kind of sit through it and roll your eyes the entire time.

Wrap Up
Jokes aside, Pop Assort was a well thrown together album and it does potentially the best job of any of showing how colorful the Aikatsu! music library can get. However, I still have my beefs with some of the song selection in hindsight and probably question whether or not the bonus track was really that necessary. Sure, it’s free music but it’s a shame that the last track on the album has to be such a mood killer. That aside, it was great to see a lot of what did show up on the album and there’s plenty of good music sitting on the wings for the sequel mini-album to follow up with. Would I have liked them to have just done all this as more mini-albums with instrumentals included? To be honest, yes. Am I happy that this allows me to get a lot of the music faster? Of course. Long story short, if you’ve been a fan of the recent onslaught of music in the second season then this is definitely a must have in your library.

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