Posted by: Leek | March 1, 2016

Music Purchase in Review: Aikatsu! PHOTO on STAGE!! SINGLE SERIES 02: Sentimental Berry

I’ve had quite a bit of trouble keeping up with everything with all the mess that the Stars announcement kind of created. I still don’t quite feel like I’ve settled back into the groove, but I’m sure it’ll come back once I get my bearings again. Sorry that I’m putting off the mini-album review off again for this, but it’s a lot easier to squeeze in a single review than a fairly full package release. You’ll get everything in due time.

General Overview
When the announcement for PoS first happened, my general excitement was in relation to the endless limits and possibilities concerning vocal and character combinations. Aikatsu has turned out a good amount of music over the past years, but only ever other song was designed to really fit a single character or unit. Otherwise, there was a lot of general songs that were just meant to fuel the arcade cabinets (which is far from a problem). So that is part of the reason why the first single wasn’t the most thrilling to me. I called it “safe” in about every way because it was. But this second single is essentially what I was waiting for in regards to the new project.

I assume most readers are probably pretty darn familiar with Aikatsu and probably thought, “Why these two characters?” when the CD was first announced. Mikuru and Otome are two characters that have no background together, and they’re also straight polar opposites in terms of personality. But it is kind of that unbalance that makes things like this fun, right? The single was made to entirely to play off of the imbalance between the two, and, versus the first installment of PoS singles, it feels a lot more well thought out. The center track written for the two feels spot on as well as the cover chosen. And, if it’s any bonus, both songs pair really well together in terms of sound. So I do hope a lot of what they did in this single carries over in the future and they don’t get too carried away with just trying to cash in off of fanservice.

This month’s release retains the same three track construction of last time. And, just as last time, I don’t plan to bend your ears further about anything other than direct track discussion.

Track by Track Breakdown

sentimental berry – “sentimental berry” is a slower paced pop tune which puts most of it’s emphasis on it’s vocal part. The main melody is otherwise handled by an acoustic strings part and backed by a fairly basic synth part to keep the song from being a straight ballad. The song itself is really far from anything complicated, and I really have no issues with that. I seem to often give a lot of credit to the songs in the Aikatsu library that really take risks, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate the simpler things. One of the things that impressed me the most in this song is that Remi has a pretty unique vocal tone (similar to Waka and Ruka) that kind of makes her stick out sometimes. And I don’t know if she just slightly altered her vocal a tone a bit (it was how I first reacted), but her and Mona blend incredibly well on this song. Overall, I just have no complaints about the song. The balancing of it just feels spot on, and it’s incredibly easy to just set on loop and kick back to.

shin chocolate jiken ~Otome & Mikuru Ver.~ – One of the most interesting things about the original version of “shin chocolate jiken” was that it was styled as a duet, but Yuna handled both parts by herself. And, since the parts just happened to be divided into a more adult vs. a cuter tone, it just so happens that the Mona/Remi (Mikuru/Otome) pairing works pretty darn well. I don’t think the two vocals blend as well as they do on “sentimental berry”, nor could they ever blend as well as a single vocalist performing both parts of a duet. But ruling out those two facts, it’s a pretty damn perfect cover. It’s hard to find a more perfect fit among the two groups to sing a cutesy part other than Remi, and Mona’s incredibly gentle vocals have proven to nail that mature tone time and time again. I don’t know if I’d be able to pick one version over the other, but I can safely say that this is a cover that you want to listen to at least once. It’s also a plus that “shin chocolate jiken” had a synth pop nature to begin with and goes hand in hand with “sentimental berry” because of it.

sentimental berry (off vocal) – Since the song mostly focuses on vocals, it’s another one of those instrumentals I don’t need to break down too much. But I do want to give credit to Yamasaki because all his music for Aikatsu so far has been on the upbeat side of things. So hearing what he produced here (particularly the strings part) was really impressive. I’ve never been particularly fond of many of the slower end songs in Aikatsu, but I feel like the balance Yamasaki creates in “sentimental berry” makes it fit the middle ground pretty well. Listening to it kind of slows your pace down a bit, but it doesn’t feel like it tramples it so far into the ground that the pairing of it and “shin chocolate jiken” feels off. With that in mind, I do look forward to what Yamasaki may turn out in the future, both in regards to PoS and Stars.

Wrap Up
I did promise to tell you if there was a PoS single that really deserved your money, and this would probably be one of them. I think if you’ve enjoyed the majority of Aikatsu music, or are particularly fond of either Mona or Remi as vocalists, this is easily a must buy. It’s such a solid pairing of songs that I can’t really praise enough, and it does make me sad that Mona only had so many chances to do songs as Mikuru. So on account Mona will be departing on her solo career soon, I would also recommend the single on that fact alone. While there are currently two known singles that she’ll still be on (both as Sumire), this is one of your last chances to get a chance to grab a single with her performing as Mona of Star☆Anis/AIKATSU☆STARS. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to grab this single if you get one.

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