Black Bullet ED Single – Tokohana – Review

yanaginagi tokohana Black Bullet

Album Title: Tokohana
Anime Title: Black Bullet
Artist: yanaginagi
Catalog Number: GNCA-0343
Release Type: OP/ED Single
Release Date: June 04, 2014
Purchase at: CDJapan

Track Title Artist Time
01. Tokohana Yanagi Nagi 4:26
02. Wasurenai Tame ni Yanagi Nagi 4:31
03. Cross Road Yanagi Nagi 4:49
04. Tokohana (instrumental) Yanagi Nagi 4:27
05. Wasurenai Tame ni (instrumental) Yanagi Nagi 4:31
06. Cross Road (instrumental) Yanagi Nagi 4:49

Review: Professionally-produced albums isn’t a phrase I take much stock in, especially where J-pop is concerned. “Tokohana,” the title track from yanaginagi’s latest single used as Black Bullet‘s ED theme is certainly professionally produced, but is a less-than satisfying experience because it fails to take advantage of yanaginagi’s vocals. The better songs are the B- and C-sides, where the her vocals are far more expressive, leaving me to wonder if it’d be better to give her more control over the entire production process.

To “Tokohana’s” credit, its mysterious aura, with an ethereal chorus thrown in, creates breathless anticipation by suggesting that the song will progress into darker realms of suffering before seeing the light of redemption. But once that section passes, the song becomes an uninspired fast-paced J-pop track that pumps up its energy without providing an outlet that would have listeners hanging on to every note. Yanaginagi’s vocals are monotonous (or at least, as monotonous as yanaginagi can be), creating a uniformity that’s boring: throughout the verses, her dynamics fluctuate little. Whether that’s “Tokohana’s” composer Shinya Saito’s doing or something else entirely, this lack of dynamism means that the song is not built up and does not show any feeling of progression.

So by the time the chorus rolls around, there isn’t much to look forward to. Yanaginagi’s vocal bursts lack the spark that would have emotions inflamed and the followup lines sound more like a literature professor’s dutiful explanation than anything exciting. Perhaps it’s the language barrier that’s the issue here, but I’d prefer that emotions are shown rather than told. Afterwards, there’s a fistful of instrumental rhythm and energy that is anything but nuanced, leaving my senses dulled by Saito’s overeagerness. Interestingly, the song is at its best when the instrumentation stays quiet and yanaginagi is allowed to express herself more. Lesson to the wise: keep Shinya Saito out of yanaginagi’s way.

This plea’s validity is strengthened in “Wasurenai Tame ni” where yanaginagi’s experience with doujin music yields a track that’s pleasant and, more importantly, plays to her strengths. Its slow, piano melody, with a flickering synth for accompaniment, evokes a serene setting in which yanaginagi can quietly move me through her singing. When she enters, her delivery, which includes a fuzzed/muffled measure, provides a gentle buzz as she rekindles a memory from ages past. The stanzas are also pleasant; when she sings, her voice moves up and down in a way that tickles the eardrums and keeps me engaged. Best of all, the instrumentation fits yanaginagi’s idiom, complementing her singing by enhancing her ability to express herself. All together, the track might be a bit plain compared to her previous works, but it’s nevertheless enjoyable for the vibrant vocals which envelope listeners in its warmth.

Finally, we come to “Cross Road,” which takes its melody from “Danny Boy,” a traditional Irish tune. In reworking this song, Akifumi Tada, the arranger, gives the source material more of a pop-ish feel, making it a far cry from the nostalgic emotions that the original conjures up. Yanaginagi’s faster tempo also cuts loose any trappings of the original’s sentiments, but in its place, the spark of optimism that it confers upon the listener is enjoyable, leading one to think that no obstacle is too tall to overcome. Given that this song was used in a commercial for correspondence education courses (see the video after the rating), it’s a fitting message to be sending to potential customers.

Since her departure from supercell, I haven’t been following yanaginagi’s progression that closely aside from a few doujin songs that she’s performed. So based on what I hear here, not having ryo’s music to back her up hasn’t been a hindrance since her vocals are strong enough to overcome a composer’s limitations. What it can’t overcome, however, is if the composer decides to let the instrumentals overwhelm her delivery. “Tokohana” is disappointing in this regard, but thankfully, “Wasurenai Tame ni” and “Cross Road” are an affirmation that her vocal abilities are as solid as ever.

Rating: Decent

Black Bullet ED 1 – Tokohana

Black Bullet ED 4 – Wasurenai Tame ni

Cross Road commercial

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Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

5 thoughts on “Black Bullet ED Single – Tokohana – Review

  • June 15, 2014 at 5:55 am
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    Well, first of all, I’d like to say I’ve just recently discovered this blog and I really appreciate what you guys do, sometimes it’s hard to find good reviews of anime music, and it’s also a theme that, I think, deserves more attention, especially with OSTs.

    About this album itself, I actually enjoy “Tokohana” and Nagi’s vocals (since with supercell her voice really grew on me), these endings and Sagisu’s soundtrack were the only good thing of the anime, after all. Although I do enjoy more listening to “Wasurenai Tame ni” and “Cross Road”, they fit yanaginagi better, imo. I’ve more or less followed her progression after supercell and even if she doesn’t shine as much as she did, I agree that her talent is still strongly present; she’s definitely one of my favourite singers right now.

    Regards from Spain!^^

    Reply
    • June 15, 2014 at 11:50 am
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      @Klonos Heart
      Thanks for dropping by! It’s a site that’s come about as a labor of love for all the good music in anime, be it OSTs or vocal themes that’s crossed my path. Really awesome to know that others are interested as well.

      As for “Tokohana,” I can see people enjoying it. For me, when compared against some of her other works (and it’s hard not to keep stuff like “Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari” and “Hero” in mind), “Tokohana” is pretty far from even a middle of the road Yanaginagi song. Maybe I just have higher expectations for her.

      On her post-supercell work, I did like her collaboration with Jun Maeda on “Owari no Hoshi no Love Song,” so if nothing else, her vocals are indeed in good form.

      Reply
      • June 15, 2014 at 1:07 pm
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        That’s true, while I find it a decent track it is really far from those or other works, but I liked the change of style to a more supercell one when her EDs in Jormungand and Nagi no Asukara are quite different, then, still, some of them were also better than Tokohana…

        I didn’t know about that album with Jun Maeda, I guess it’s because I’m not very familiar with that composer, thanks for mentioning it, I’ll surely check it out.

  • June 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm
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    WHAT A SINGLE REVIEW THIS IS RARE. Anyway nice post! I really admire your way with words.

    Unfortunately, this single was also a bit of a miss for me. While Nagi’s vocals are very attractive (definitely one of anison’s better singers) the arrangements/compositions of her songs often don’t click with me. However, have you heard her single Aqua Terrarium? IMHO it’s the best song she’s released in a while.

    Also, since you mentioned her Jun Maeda collaboration, any songs in particular stand out to you? One of my favourites was Flower Garden. Not sure sure why, but I’m a sucker for songs with odd time signatures, and Flower Garden had a decent portion of 13/8 or something.

    Reply
  • June 17, 2014 at 9:54 am
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    I can agree with this one. I feel the main song is a bit lacking or ordinary compared to some of her other works. I just love her work on the Owari no Hoshi no Love song album…some of those are so great!

    Reply

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