The Music of Samurai Flamenco

Reviewing tie-up singles from SPYAIR and Mineral Miracle Muse

One word that probably best describes the most recent entry to Fuji TV’s noitaminA block is “savvy.” Samurai Flamenco is about a tokusatsu fan who never grew up and ended up becoming a real henshin hero. References to classic Kamen Rider and Super Sentai tropes are littered throughout the series. Most if not all of the cast has done tokusatsu or live stage work.  The production has even borrowed Akira Kushida and Takayuki Miyauchi to provide show-within-show themes.  I was hoping that the themes for Samumenco, both released recently would provide an equal amount of savvy.

I feel that as anime themes go, rock is a minority, but is the preferred genre of choice for fans in the States. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of our own garage band dreams, as can be evidenced by Rebecca Hollcraft and, of course, Eyeshine.

SPYAIR is a band that definitely scratches the alt-rock itch, and have the backstory to match. The originally five-member outfit formed in 2005 and was self-produced before signing an indie contract in 2009. One year later, Sony Music picked them up and the rest is history. They’ve done themes for Gintama twice, Bleach, and even made the soundtrack for The Amazing Spider-Man. Now, they’ve brought their talents to Samumenco. Their single “Just One Life” streeted in November and is very much the banger you would expect. If you aren’t jumping up and down during the chorus, you probably aren’t awake.

I personally think that trying to find meaning in anime lyrics isn’t all that helpful, but for “Just One Life,” it’s moderately interesting. Momiken’s lyrics talk about treating the past as a former life. Not that we need another YOLO song in our lives, but the concept, combined with SPYAIR’s musical chops made me think of another show about the oddly-timed loss of adolescence that had a killer soundtrack: FLCL. Now to be fair, SPYAIR is nowhere near as ubiquitous to the Samumenco soundtrack as The Pillows were to GAINAX’s experience, and SPYAIR is a lot harder by rock standards, but let’s be honest. When you’re drawing favorable comparisons to arguably one of the most influential acts in anime, you’re doing pretty well. The B-side “Radio” is just as entertaining as the A-side but less noteworthy except that it sounds like Ike likes to end the title word with ヲ instead of オ. It’s not a major thing, unless you think that since the ED single is done by an idol pop group, and because knowing your ヲfrom yourオis important, this whole thing is ironic. My take: eat more fiber. You’re straining too hard.

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As far as pop groups go, Mineral Miracle Muse follows the long tradition of not-real artists producing real singles. The clearly-not-an expy-of G3 Princess consists of two toku vets and their musicality is definitely not in question when I’m listening to Samumenco’s ED “Date Time.” Another nod to the series’ savvy comes in the opening riff, which may or may not be a reference to the other job of the actress who plays the lead of the group, Mari. Unfortunately, while being very good, I don’t hear “great” out of it. For one thing (and this may purely be a byproduct of having HelloPro fans as friends) there’s no solo work. I would think a manic tsuntsun pixie like Mari would demand putting her own stamp on things, but alas there isn’t. Maybe I wasn’t expecting the right kind of pop group, but on the other hand, “Lion,” “Someone Else,” and just about any song of import from Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei had solos while being fun pop tunes. Instead, MMM has to resort to the levels of “Star Rise” which is still not a bad place to be in.

If you want songs with truly meaningful lyrics, then you’re unfortunately stuck with the single’s B-side “Inu no Policeman.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun upbeat dance number that’s a bass boost short of being mistaken for a Bemani track. However, “Inu” is about as subtle as a Taylor Swift songbook. In the anime, Mari has a thing for guys in uniform, especially Samurai Flamenco’s resident straight-man cop, Goto (voiced by Tomokazu Sugita, natch). So the entire song is about favorably comparing Goto to a police dog and how Mari is a lost cat waiting for her noble rescuer. The chorus is even less subtle.

Alternatively, this song could be about Doggie Kruger. In fact, this song should be about Doggie Kruger. I accept this headcanon.

To summarize 300 words into a single meme, my expectation was Morning Musume but the reality was AKB48. This is not a bad single, but nor is it great. However, it is still quite enjoyable, especially as satire. Just don’t think about these songs too hard.

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