I first came across Supercell the same way I’m sure many people have: the ending theme to 2009′s hit Bakemonogatari, Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari (The Story You Didn’t Know). I remember being captured immediately by the opening guitar melody, then Nagi’s gorgeous singing about 10 seconds in. It was one of those songs that I fell in love with immediately. It was only natural that I immediately looked up just who this “ryo” and “nagi” as mentioned in the ED sequence were. Since then, Suprecell has quickly become one of my favorite bands, and 2010 was a fine year for the band. We’ll look back at some of my favorite songs that it released this year.
Supercell’s Wiki page has plenty of info on it, including the peculiarity that there is actually just one musician and no performers in this band. This peculiarity makes talking about Supercell a bit of a strange endeavor. Do you use the plural pronoun “they” when describing it, as is the standard for bands? Or do you use the singular pronoun “he,” because the actual music is composed and written by just one person? Furthermore, when Ryo does a piece of work, such as the background music to the OVAs Cencoroll and Black Rock Shooter, do you say that Supercell did it, since, for all intents and purposes, it’s equivalent, or not, because the rest of Supercell, the visual artists, weren’t involved?
I don’t know. I’ll refer to Supercell using the pronoun “it,” as it is a single unit, a band, after all, and I guess it makes sense to separate the works that Supercell did, which includes visual art (in the form of nothing more than album covers, really) and the ones that Ryo himself was only involved in. It’s all very confusing and, really, it doesn’t matter. I can’t think of any other musical band with one visual-arts-only member, much less where the vast majority are visual-arts-only.
Then there’s the issue of capitalization. Traditionally, names like Supercell, Ryo, and Nagi are capitalized, but every official text that I’ve seen have been all lowercase. Of course, that’s something that resonates with me, since my screenname lvlln is meant to be in all lowercase. Lvlln just looks weird. So in short, just writing about this band introduces some unique issues. I’ll stick with capitalizing them as expected. It makes the text easier to read.
With 2009 being the year Supercell went professional, 2010 was its sophomore year, and what a year it was! It strengthened its ties to the anime world with another anime ending theme, the opening theme to a PSP game, the ending theme to Type-Moon’s new (now-delayed) visual novel Witch on the Holy Night, and most recently, the theme song to a manga. Not to mention the extremely hyped but ultimately disappointing Black Rock Shooter anime, which was based off its song by the same title, and for which Ryo composed the music.
2 of these songs continued what I think of as Supercell’s “unrequited love” series of songs, which started way back in December of 2008 with its upload of Hajimete no Koi ga Owaru Toki (When the First Love Ends) and continued with the aforementioned Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari.
Anyway, here are 5 of my favorite releases by Supercell from 2010, in chronological order: Sayonara Memories, Kocchi Muite Baby, Utakata Hanabi, This Star Sparkling Night, and Hero.
Sayonara Memories, released in February of this year, was Supercell’s 2nd single, its followup to Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari and also featured nagi on vocals. Though the single had 2 more tracks, the title track really was the only good song among the 3. I consider this to be the 3rd of Supercell’s “unrequited love” series.
Like Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari, Sayonara Memories was accompanied by a music video that showed the story of the song being told. This video was a bit more traditional, though, in that it featured clips of the band actually singing the song interspersed with clips from the story. The thing to note here is that the singer (and main character) in the video is not Nagi, the actual singer! Sony is clearly aware of the mystique of having Supercell’s performers remain semi-anonymous behind their online screennames, and they hired an actor (Sakura Ema) to play the part.
In more ways than just the video, Sayonara Memories felt a lot like Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari part 2. If you read the Wikipedia articles on both songs, you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart:
“Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari” is a J-pop song with instrumentation from electric and bass guitars, drums and piano. According to a book of sheet music published by Yamaha Corporation, it is set in common time, and moves at a quick tempo of 165 beats per minute in the A major key throughout the song. The introduction starts with only piano accompanying Nagi’s vocals, and uses a bridge with added guitars and drums to transition into the first verse. Another bridge is used between the first and second verses; both verses use the same music with different lyrics. After the third verse, a break is employed, followed by the fourth verse. After a short outro, an instrumental coda is used to close the song. … The lyrics tell the story of a girl with an unrequited love who was never able to convey her feelings to the person she loved.
“Sayonara Memories” is a J-pop song with instrumentation from electric and bass guitars, drums, piano and violin. According to a book of sheet music published by Yamaha Corporation, it is set in common time, and moves at a quick tempo of 160 beats per minute in the B major key throughout the song. The introduction starts with only piano accompanying Nagi’s vocals, and uses a bridge with added guitar, drums and violin to transition into the first verse. The song continues with the second and third verses, which also serves as the chorus melody, before employing another bridge. The musical structure used in the first three verses is repeated for the next three with different lyrics. After a short seventh verse, a break is employed, followed by the eighth verse. After a short instrumental outro, the song ends with Nagi singing “Aa, yatto ieta” (ああ やっと言えた?, “Ah I finally said it”), referring to a love confession at the end of the eighth verse.
The lyrics tell the story of a girl with an unrequited love who was never able to convey her feelings to the person she loved.
…yeah. One difference I noticed was that Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari has no chorus, whereas Sayonara Memories has one, a quick shout of “Sayonara Memories!” reminiscent of the short choruses of “Melt!” in Melt and “Arigato, sayonara” in When the First Love Ends. However, in all those songs, no line other than the short 2 or 1 word choruses are repeated, giving them that stream-of-consciousness storytelling feel. Story-wise, the trip to see the shooting stars was replaced with the daily walk to school (fitting for the shift in theme from summer to spring), and middle school was moved to high school, but they’re pretty much the same songs. Not that that’s a bad thing, since they’re both great songs. And though Sayonara Memories has no ties to anime, it is clearly using the same tropes and themes seen in many of today’s high school anime.
Kocchi Muite Baby (Come Over Here Baby)
Supercell’s first Hatsune Miku song since When the First Love Ends was released in July on a collaborative single along with Livetune’s Yellow, as the opening song for the PSP game Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 2nd. Though I don’t like the song that much – it’s decent, not great – I do respect that Ryo was finally exploring a theme other than unrequited love with a major song. Instead, this song has a more aggressive, playful tone, similar to that of Love and Roll, the second track from the Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari single.
Plus, both the game’s opening video and the in-game animation were great. The song is one of the most fun to play in the game, because of the fast, dynamic camera shots and fun choreography. It also has Ryo’s trademark scream, which he’s used in all sorts of songs including Melt, World is Mine, and Oishite Ageru (the only one officially released with Nagi). At 3:30, it’s a more typical pop song length and much shorter than Supercell’s other main songs which tend to run over 5 minutes.
With this, Supercell returned to the anisong world, as a 90 second cut (just 1/4 of the whole song!) of it was used as the ending theme for a series of episodes of Naruto Shippuden. I’m no fan of Naruto, but the ending sequence accompanying this song was great, literally putting Sakura in the position of the singer and even having her lips mouth the song at parts.
Utakata Hanabi – literally Water Bubble Fireworks but commonly translated as Ephemeral Fireworks or Transient Fireworks – has the singer reminiscing about a summer festival when she spent the evening watching fireworks with her love. Like other songs in Supercell’s unrequited love series of songs, the details aren’t clear, but the singer’s feelings are, as is the importance of this moment in her memory.
The tone a bit of a departure from the other songs in the series, in that this song does not end with hope for the future and letting go of the past. Rather, the singer seems unable to let go of her sorrow, perpetually stuck in that moment that she knows she can never experience again. The overall mood of the song is also much more somber than When the First Love Ends, Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari or Sayonara Memories. The tempo remains a slow burn throughout, never speeding up to the high tempos of the other 3.
Utakata Hanabi also got a music video which you can see above. It was the first not to feature live actors since Supercell’s Nico Nico Douga days. The art and animation style is unique and somewhat psychedelic, and it perfectly complements the song, showing us depictions of both that summer evening that the singer is remembering and how the singer is feeling now as she remembers. It took me a few viewings to warm up to it, but the way it visually represents the lyrics to the song is truly compelling.
Due to the slower pacing and more depressing mood of this song, it’s not quite as enjoyable as the other songs in the unrequited love series, but it’s a great piece of music nonetheless. However, it really got outdone by the second track in the single:
Hoshi ga Mattataku Konna Yoru Ni (This Star Sparkling Night)
Technically, this is the 2nd “side A” to the single, though it is still the 2nd track and wasn’t released to the public until the CD release in late August. You can read the lyrics that I translated. It is the ending theme song to Type-Moon’s new visual novel Witch on the Holy Night, which was delayed from its original 9/30 release date to Christmas Eve of this year.
This was my preferred song from this split single, and I believe it shows Ryo taking a major step away from the “unrequited love” theme that he had been pounding on so hard. Even his early songs, including the hit Melt as well as the less well known That One Second of Slow Motion, played on that theme.
Instead, this song was all about the new beginning of a relationship. The subject material is reminiscent of Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari, in that it’s about the singer looking up at the stars with the boy she has a crush on. Unlike that song, this one is not about looking back to that day with regret, but rather about being there now, at the moment, when the two begin to fall in love. Along with the general theme of the lyrics, the faster, more upbeat tempo contrasts greatly with the depressing mood of Utakata Hanabi and makes it just a more fun song to listen to. Instead of Nagi’s beautiful voice being used to express regret at the first love, we get to hear her express the joy of the first love.
I find it noteworthy that this song actually has a real chorus, the full line, “On this star sparkling night.” The line is always followed by a different line each time, as is the tradition for choruses in Supercell’s songs. Also noteworthy is that at 4:28, it is over a minute shorter than Supercell’s 3 “unrequited love” songs with Nagi, 2 of which are over 6 minutes long and the shortest (Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari) clocking in at 5:41.
Hero has yet to be released commercially, only being released on the internet at the end of November. Like This Star Sparkling Night, I posted a translation of the lyrics to this.
Also like that song, this is about budding first love. We get to hear Ryo and Nagi expand their horizons further by having the singer be a male this time, with a crush on a girl. Nagi has quite a high voice which is part of her appeal, but somehow she manages to make it sound boyish enough for most of the song, raising it to make the parts when she’s singing the girls’ speech stand out.
Hero is the latest song to be released by Supercell, and that it continues the theme from This Star Sparkling Night gives me hope that Ryo has gotten out of the rut of making the same “unrequited love” song over and over again. All those songs have been excellent and remain in my playlist to this day, but it’s good to see his works evolve. Of course, there’s the risk that this is the new theme he’ll latch onto, but This Star Sparkling Night and Hero have already differentiated themselves a bit with the different perspectives, and I wouldn’t mind hearing what ideas Ryo has to play on this theme.
So all in all, even discounting that horrible Black Rock Shooter OVA, 2010 was a pretty huge year for Supercell. Still no full albums since its first one, but 1 online release plus 3 CD singles (and another song called Kibou no Neiro to be released at Comiket the end of this month) is certainly nothing to sneeze at. More importantly, the releases have continued to impress me. 2 anime from 2009 for which it did the ending themes – Bakemonogatari and Cencoroll – are set to get sequels next year, and I’m hoping that Supercell once again gets that responsibility for the sequels. Either way, Supercell has managed to tie itself to some very powerful and popular companies, including Sony, SEGA, Shaft, Ordet, Good Smile Company, and Type-Moon, and I’m confident we’ll be hearing more hits out of it in the coming years and more.