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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Namco Original Showcase: School Matters Songs

Unlike many other Namco Original song series which are defined by either its creator/s or part of their title (or in some cases, both), this one features songs revolving around an overarching theme behind their lyrics. For this song series' case, that theme is the Japanese school system, featuring key moments/elements of its trail. As the Taiko Team started to group the following songs as related into a series through some of their blog entries, the School Matters topic has been considered a series-worthy one from fans as well.

Just like the Space/Time Division songs, this series has started from a song featuring unmo as the singer, regardless of the fact that none of the later songs (as to date) feature her voice. Another element that links these songs is the fact that composer Kawamoto 'Kawagen Collagen' Yoshinori (川元義徳) has been involved in first line for their creation and/or notecharting.

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-School Matter Series-




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Sotsu Omeshiki (そつおめしき) feat. unmo
Version
Allx4 (159)x6 (319)x7 (442)x10 (797)
 Taiko 0 M, Taiko 3DS 2, Taiko Wii U 2, Taiko +, CD March 2014
200
 none
 so2ome


The female vocalist with the sweet calming voice, simply called 'unmo', is on a roll. Right after providing her voice for Sorairo's final DonChare song, Jikuu Chou Jikuu 1-Ka, she pairs up with composer Kawamoto Yoshinori (川元義徳, also known as Kawagen Collagen) right after to produce this lovely song as the final unlockable song for Taiko Momoiro's Don Point collection.

Sotsu Omeshiki is a mashup of three different phrases: 'sotsugyou' (卒業) 'omedetou' (おめでとう) and 'shiki' (式), which mean 'graduation', 'congratulations' and 'ceremony' respectively. It has pretty much the same meaning combined (con-grad-ulation ceremony, among other combinations), and the theme of the song and lyrics reflect the title accurately, speaking of high school students reminiscing about the three years they've spent together on the same routine, which suddenly feels special in hindsight, and singing their school anthem together one last time.

With the soundtrack CD for Sotsu Omeshiki being released recently, there are also brief remarks from the composer and vocalist regarding their works. Kawagen Collagen is a newbie to composing songs for Taiko no Tatsujin, and is largely inspired by prolific contributor Oogami Masako (who is most known for the ac. series of Namco Original songs). unmo remarks on the highly abbreviated nature of the song title, and liked the cute, girly, yet hopeful nature of the song, which is clearly aimed towards the high school female group.

The charts however, are aimed dead straight at Taiko no Tatsujin veterans and those transitioning from one difficulty to the next. With a very high BPM of 200, it's a great hurdle to clear no matter what your current skill level is. The Muzukashii chart is cluster-heavy, with hardly any breaks in the song, while the Oni chart features unrelenting streams of 5-note clusters and 3-note clusters in succession. Those are easy to get used to with practice, but the main attraction in the Oni chart is a long stream filled with tons of Kat notes towards the end of the song, a significant threat to those aiming for a Full Combo due to its speed. The stream outstrips the difficulty of other similar songs such as mint tears, and the stamina requirement is on par with that of Black Rose Apostle (Ura), though this is still easier.

The total note count on the Oni chart is 797, which is pronounced as 'na-ku-na' (泣くな), meaning 'don't cry' in Japanese, once again sticking beautifully to the school graduation theme.

 Yureru Pleats Jikkouiin (ゆれるプリーツ実行委員) feat. Yako Danchinomiya (feat. 団地ノ宮弥子)
Version
Allx4 (129)x6 (188)x7 (319)x8 (484)
 Taiko 0 K, Taiko PS Vita
 136
 none
 ???


Momoiro Version's firmware success has seen the second school-themed song for the Namco Original genre, thanks to the singing voice of Yako Danchinomiya (団地ノ宮弥子) and the music-creating talent of Oogami Masako, who was responsible for all the remaining parts (composing/arrangements and lyrics).

Yureru Pleats Jikkouiin (lit. Pleats-swaying Executive Committee) focuses on a school aspect that isn't the final graduation goal: cultural festivals! The so-called Bunka-sai (文化祭) are yearly-held school events in which students can display their artistic achievements to everyone, as these are often open to the public to attend. Cultural festivals tend to have different names in base of the kind of school hosting them, and they're obligatory events for the students in order to graduate in most institutes, from nursery schools to high school and universities. For the students, however, cultural festivals are also seen as a valuable occasion to break from the usual study courses and to express their talents and dreams as they wish, as also this song's lyrics suggest.

Notechart-wise, the song's Oni mode plays in a very similar way to Sweet Sweet Magic, featuring clusters of many different sizes and a nasty 1/24 cluster trap at the end of the song, ready to nullify several Full Combo plays at the very last second. Watch out!

 Shugaku Travelers (シューガク トラベラーズ) Yuka Uchiyae (うちやえゆか)
Version
Allx4 (186)x5 (333)x5 (408)x8 (721)
 Taiko 0 Mu, Taiko Wii U 3
 172
 none
 shugkt


Some months after the release of Yureru Pleats Jikkouiin, Kawagen Collagen -together with the two Danchimomiya sisters- teased the creation of another school-related track during October 2014's Taiko Team livestream, promising its inclusion on Taiko games in the near future. Eight months later, said song managed to come out as one of Murasaki Version's Don Challenge songs for the month of June.

Shugaku Travelers is about the feelings that are felt during the graduation trip, right after the fulfillment and commotion of graduating from school/university. The song features features the singing voice of Yuka Uchiyae (うちやえゆか), the older sister of the Danchimomiya duo. The song is composed and arranged by Shock Tarou (ショック太郎) from the independent unit blue marble (of super star shooter fame in Taiko lore); the lyricist TonCHAN (とんCHAN) also comes from said band.

Shugaku Travelers's Oni mode chart relies more on constant stamina-draining portions rather than many cluster combination changes or near-end traps, also relying on fatigue-inducing single note/5-note cluster streaks during Go-Go Time zones we've already seen in other recent songs like Caramel Time☆.

 Natsumono☆ (ナツモノ☆) Tanqun Democracy (たんきゅんデモクラシー)
Version
Allx3 (182)x4 (304)x6 (556)x6 (728)
 Taiko 0 Mu, Taiko Wii U 3
 160
 none
 72mono


The School Matters song series didn't have to wait another arcade firmware change for a new installment... Let alone another month! Murasaki Version's month of July was greeted with another song which was also brought to us by other artists from the 'Girls Pop Mania' mini-album.

After singing about graduation trips, how about a song about the joy of the well-earned Summer rest after a year of studies of any kind? That's the message bouncing in Natsumono☆, the second Namco Original song sung by 2-child singing act Tanqun (たんきゅん). The 'Democracy' part for the artist reference in the song's subtitle indicates that the song has been made with the help of songwriter Go Takuro (郷拓郎), one of the two members of the 2007-forged unit detune.

Beginner's exhaustion are the key words for Natsumono's Oni mode chart, whose high note count for a 6* song rivals the one of other past songs in Taiko games like Juumensou (colorful version). The main factor behind the low Oni rating lies on its clusters that, while frequent and ranging from 3 to 5 notes, are almost entirely made of only Don or Kat notes, save for the very end.

 Houkago☆Magician (ほうかご☆マジシャン) Marine Base (まりんべーす)
Version
Allx4 (151)x6 (276)x6 (429)x8 (585)
 Taiko 0 W
 160
 none
 ???


Sharing the same BPM of Natsumono is White Version's song representative of the series, telling the whereabouts of an after-school magic class. Will you learn magic tricks that transcend the visual effects spectrum? You'll have to join this class to find out!

Houkago Magician (lit. 'After-School Magician') is made by a seemingly newcomer artist that goes under the name of Marine Base (まりんべーす), under whose alias -again- lie a couple of already-contributors to the Namco Original song genre! Behind the name, in fact, are independent composer Mamoru (マモル) and singer Mariko Takei (武井麻里子), the latter previously seen as part of the since-disbanded blue marble unit in the Girls Pop Mania track super star shooter. In one of her tweets, the singer has also kindly shared the song's lyrics nearly post-song launch, for everyone to enjoy!

In one of White Version's score ceiling-accurate Oni charts, Houkago☆Magician is here to challenge players with its progressively-denser 1/16 cluster formations and many hit-balloons to pop along the way to completion.

 Gasshou Stabofe! (合唱スタボーフェ!) with Tama☆tai (たま☆たい) feat. Danchinomiya (団地ノ宮)
Version
Allx4 (138)x6 (242)x6 (???)x9 (673)
 Taiko 0 R
 156
 none
 ???


Continuing with Red Version, the next School Matters track has also been one of the first songs to have a preview clip of it got posted on one of Bandai Namco's Youtube channels (link), together with t+pazolite's DokuLO CANdy♡.

As the Gasshou part of the title leads to think, this song's main theme is school choirs, with the one featured on this song being about... Stabofe? This apparently made-up word is actually a pun with the word 'Festival', as one tweet from composer/notecharter Kawagen Collagen (link) points out that repeating the Stabofe in succession may lead to one conclusion: the word Festival's first syllable has been translated to the end! The Danchinomiya sisters from former School Matters song are the main vocalists, while the nicknamed Tama☆tai provides the chorus' voice.

Gasshou Stabofe's Oni mode is prone to chart comparisons to Yureru Pleats Jikkouiin, in that both songs heavily rely on 1/16 clusters on varying length as their main difficulty point, with this track going more on the side of longer clusters for yet another ceiling-accurate challenge.

 Sotsu Omeshiki 2-ban (そつおめしき2ばん) feat. unmo
Version
Allx4 (159)x6 (287)x7 (451)x10 (792)
 Taiko 0 R
 200
 none
 ???


Song continuations are quite the rare trend in Taiko gaming, but Kawagen Collagen and unmo's popular Sotsu Omeshiki warranted an additional version, with the couple of artists making a "2nd Verse" continuation of the same song and the same Kawagen coming back for its Taiko notecharts. As if this renewed care to the popular Namco Original wasn't enough, he also recorded a 'full version' of Sotsu Omeshiki with unmo, merging the original song with the newly-made 2-ban version into a track that has taken the name of Sotsu Omeshiki Full (そつおめしき・ふる). This version is freely available for everyone to listen on Bandai Namco's Japanese Youtube channel, at this link.

There's little to talk about 2-ban's notecharting techniques, as the stamina-draining, cluster-oriented approach is roughly the same one featured in the original Sotsu Omeshiki, only with less long clusters on average (=no long note streams) and more 1/24 mono-color cluster trickery. Kantan modes for both version of Sotsu Omeshiki also share the same amount of notes!

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