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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Song of the Week! 24 June 2017

Summer is back once again, and we're here to honor once again (although a week later) a time-tested tradition for this Saturday corner: following up a new Taiko console game's reveal with one of its songs appearing under these lines.

It's also one of the few console debuts from the newly-revealed Taiko title for PS4, no less!

 Yokuoso Japari Park e (ようこそジャパリパークへ) Kemono Friends
Allx2 (78)x2 (116)x4 (242)x7 (449)
 Taiko 0 Y, Taiko PS4

One of Japan's quickfire Anime success stories of 2017, the Kemono Friends (けものフレンズ) series has gathered enough traction to be featured in Taiko no Tatsujin gaming through its opening theme becoming one of the latest non-cover playable renditions. Just with other previously-featured Anime media on previous Song of the Week features such as Love Live!, we ended up talking about another phenomenon that didn't start out as an anime/manga project in the first place!

Starring manga artist Mine Yoshizaki (吉崎観音) of Keroro Gunso (Sgt. Frog) fame, Kemono Friends started out as a namesake smartphone free-to-play game by Nexon on March 2015, in which players could experience RPG-styled gameplay in a gacha title that featured several anthropomorphic versions of endangered and semi-legendary animal species as the main recruit-able party members. Two months after the game's debut, Kodansha's Shonen Ace began the serialization of Furai's mini Manga series, going under the title of Kemono Friends: Yokuoso Japari Park e! (けものフレンズ ようこそジャパリパークへ!, lit. 'Kemono Friends: Welcome to Japari Park!'). The manga gives out an 'origin story' to the titular Kemono Friends and how they came to be in the fictional Japari Park, as the exotic zoo holds the elusive "Sandstar" substance that made its animals turn into human-looking girls that hold the same likeliness and living habits of their respective original animal forms.

By the end of 2016, it was announced that the mobile game would have been shut down, while the media project has been ported into a 12-episode Anime series in early 2017. Created by the Yaoyorozu animation studio and broadcast between January and March this year, the series built on the original manga's setting with a different story line, starring an amnesiac girl named Kaban who is trying to find out what kind of animal she is, together with Japari Park's Serval and many other Kemono Friends she finds along her journey. Despite the initially-fierce critic reception, the Anime series eventually managed to leave a mark of its passage for popularity means, as its first episode's official recording on Niconico Douga is the 2nd most watched Anime content of all time with 5+ million views, only lagging behind the 8+M viewing milestone achieved by the debut episode of Gochūmon wa Usagi Desu ka?. Kemono Friends' Anime popularity lead to the production of new video projects and an upcoming mobile game, as well as a live action stage play of the series which premiered in Japan this past week (14-18 June).

The Kemono Friends' popularity magnitude is also perceptible through the positive reception of its Anime opening theme, whose name was directly inspired by the KF manga's subtitle. Composed/lyricised by Masayoshi Oishi (大石昌良) with the instrumental accompaniment provided by Yu "masshoi" Yamauchi (山内優), this is another of those opening themes whose singers are actually some of the related Anime show's voice talents behind its characters! As noted by the song's subtitle in Taiko no Tatsujin, the playable version of Yokuoso Japari Park e is sung by the fictional units of Doubutsu Biscuits (どうぶつビスケッツ) and PPP (acronym for 'Penguins Performance Project'), counting 8 voice actress between a fictional Serval-Fennel-Raccoon ensemble and Japari Park's 5-idol penguin band. On the song's commercial release on February 8th, 2017, Yokuoso Japari Park e managed to peak iTunes's 3rd place, while also scoring unusual highs on Oricon (18th) and Billboard Japan Hot 100 (12th). The physical single even managed to become a Gold seller in Japan, with first-run copies selling out 9 days after its release and counting over 120k copies sold overall!

Six days before Kemono Friends' final episode broadcast, its opening theme got ported into Yellow Version as part of one of the Taiko arcade's first software updates for the lemon-colored firmware. Notechart-wise, however, it doesn't stray too far from the usual charting model of the 7-star Anime Oni blueprint.

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