Archive for the Drama CD Category


Yuri Drama CD: Grand Stage Romance Review 2 Subaru Ryoya (グラン・ステージ ロマンスレビュー 第2幕「昴涼夜」)

November 25th, 2016

gsrrsrLesson learned. When one has a week-long migraine, one should not listen to Toyoguchi Megumi yelling at one for 40 minutes. 

Learned, because that is the bulk of the content of Grand Stage Romance Review 2, Subaru Ryoya (vラン・ステージ ロマンスレビュー 第2幕「昴涼夜」) – Ryoya yelling at you. ^_^;

You may recall from Ryoya’s original Grand Stage Drama CD, that she is imperious and demanding and that we, as the Christine to her Phantom, have a lot to live up to. As the second series Drama CD opens, we have failed to live up to her standard and she is furious with us.

One of the many things I like about the Romance Review series is that the behavior “we” engage in (as narrated by the otokoyaku) all seem really sensible. “Our” behavior makes perfect sense in the context of what’s going on. So, as Ryoya is ragging endlessly at us, at some point I thought, “Good god, Ryoya are you jealous?” And, all of a sudden, we hear the rustle of cloth, Ryoya reacts as if she’s been slapped and I thought, “we” just said that exact same thing to her face. Good.

Ryoya follows us to the park, where we meet up with Akabara-no-kimi, presumably for advice on how to deal with Ryoya.  Ryoya’s jealousy hits 4th gear. What follows was a series of intriguing conversations around this straightforward plot.

First thing of note was the excruciatingly adorable shift in Toyoguchi-san’s voice when Ryoya calls home. The imperious, demanding Phantom sounds, instantly like a daughter talking to her mom. I squeed and laughed out loud simultaneously. 

Also extremely enjoyable was Akabara-no-kimi’s gentle guidance. She said something that has had me thinking for days. When Ryoya reluctantly admits to being jealous of Akabara-no-kimi, Yui says, “So am I.” “Akabara-no-kimi” Yui points out, is a construct, a work of fiction, that she is always running after. I though that was a genuinely insightful line.

The final scene is our and Ryoya’s reconciliation. She admits to be having been a jealous ass and we agree that she has indeed been a jealous ass. ^_^ Our speaking parts are indicated by much movement of cloth, indicating expressive physical movement, and I had a momentary vision of us speaking in Japanese Sign Language with flamboyant, angry arm motions. It made for a great imagined visual.

The final track is Ryoya’s new image song, “Sleepless Night” in which her jealousy plays a part in keeping her up.

Ratings: 

Overall – 8

I very much enjoyed this CD, despite the shouting. In several ways it served to humanize Ryoya and also give us a backbone that we were not permitted in the original Phantom/Christine scenario. 

Here is Toyoguchi-san singing “Sleepless Night”. Enjoy.

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Yuri Drama CD: Grand Stage – Romance Review, Volume 1 [Hiou Akito] ( グラン・ステージ ロマンスレビュー 第1幕「陽央あきと」)

November 7th, 2016

61hburgghl-_sx425_Waaaaahhhhhh!!! You guysss!!!!!!! This is the greatest Drama CD ever made. EVER. I doesn’t matter if you don’t understand a single word of Japanese, just run out right now and buy this and listen to it!

Ahem.

It came as a pleasure and a surprise that the Grand Stage series of Drama CDs by étriere was given a second “season” as it were. So I began, as I did the first time, with Volume 1, Grand Stage -Romance Review  (Hiou Akito) ( グラン・ステージ ロマンスレビュー 第1幕「陽央あきと」), starring Ogata Megumi as the tease of Sora-gumi, Hiou Akito.

This is the gayest thing I have ever listened to in my life.

As I suspected it might, the opening theme for the series is now “Hisshou ~WE CAN FLY~” with all five of the otokoyaku voice actresses singing what would be a perfectly respectable boy band song.

The CD begins at an onsen, at which we and Akito share a room…and a bath, then dinner. Then we head into the bathroom for more bathing, and all the while Akito is teasing, sexy, playful and really annoying. She completely gets on our nerves when we say we like her and she jokes instead of taking us seriously. We storm off, angry.

Akito is distressed by her inability to be serious, but she just never really thought about how to be taken seriously before. She meets up with Kazamiya Eru, and the youngest otokoyaku turns out to be wise beyond her years. 

Akito takes us out, then brings us back to her place to wine and dine us. With some sincere effort, she confesses that she likes us too. And we live happily ever after! Yay us!

The CD comes with a printed short-story insert which continues our tale. Akito invites us to meet her family. They are lovely, of course, and so excited to meet us. As we and Akito walk the shore of her hometown, Yokohama, she reminisces about her childhood and her best friend. Miraculously, the best friend shows up and we get to meet Hazuki, who knew Asahi when. (Asahi, the we of the Drama CD knows, is Akito’s real name.) Hazuki and Asahi joke around, talking about the old days. We learn Hazuki was also an otokoyaku for a while. As the day ends, we are very glad to have been allowed into Akito’s life a little bit more. And we walk off into the sunset as a happy Romeo and Juliet.

I know I’m super biased, but holy crap is Ogata-san sexy in this CD. And did I mention how gay it is? 

The final track is Akito singing “Always on my Mind.”which you can enjoy via the official Grand Stage channel on YouTube.

The recent stage show definitely went for the fakey-BL aspect, based on pictures of the production, as I suspected it might. But this CD is pure Yuri. In the short story, Akito is referred to as “kanoujo”, ie., “her,” throughout. Ogata-san uses her voice to smooth-talk and tease through the whole opening scene, leaving this listener with no doubt at all, that this series is meant for us.

Ratings: 

Overall – 9

I am hoping like heck that we get a third series. These are just sooo good. ^_^ And to say that Grand Stage scratches all my itches, is an understatement. It’s got some of my fave voice actresses playing otokoyaku of of a musical revue troupe, romancing their female partners, on a Drama CD. It’s perfect!

 

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Yuri Drama CD – Grand Stage Daiundokai (グラン・ステージ 大運動会 ドラマCD)

September 25th, 2016

gsutk Welcome back to a joyful, squeeful look at one of Japan’s Yuri-est exports, The Grand Stage series of Drama CDs. Today we’re looking at the final CD of the first “season” Grand Stage Daiundokai (グラン・ステージ 大運動会), in which the otokoyaku of the Grand Stage Sora-gumi compete in a sports festival against the other groups. (Groups that, until just now, we didn’t know existed.)

There any number of goofy contests, including the bun-eating race, which poses a huge problem for Ryoya, who is disgusted by such low-class food. The otokoyaku are required to read romantic lines into a microphone for the service of the female fans and, of course, there is a relay race in which dramatic things happen and despite injuries and because of sacrifices…they win. Phew! It’s even okay that they don’t win the contest, because they gave it their all and two of them won special achievement awards and they bonded as a team, as nakama. Niji-gumi can have the trophy.

As promised, we meet Kohaku Minami’s older sister Kurea (Claire) who is voiced by Kitamura Eri, who also does Kohaku Minami. In fact, every time we heard the female fans cheering I giggled, knowing the the otokoyaku VAs were voicing the fans, as well.

In between the events, the “boys” performed a song. And as we are at the last  CD of this series I really wanted to take a moment and tall about the music and the singers.

Every other CD has begun with a song called “Yume on Stage”  (夢 on Stage) which I have repeatedly described as the most musically predictable song ever. I’ve found a link to it on what admittedly is some really shady site. Scroll down to click the green “play” button to smile at a song so musically predictable, you’ll know every note that is coming, right down the flourish in the final line. ^_^ It’s not hard at all to imagine a Takarazuka-like revue troupe singing it.

In this drama CD, they take a completely different tack. Last spring when I was in Japan, we spent a day walking around Sunshine 60, because we had nothing else to do particularly and randomly ran into a boy idol group performance. It was surprisingly pleasant. Well, the song from this Drama CD, called “Hisshou ~WE CAN FLY~” (飛翔~WE CAN FLY~) was something you can totally imagine a boy band singing. And you know what? They sing it *really* well!  So I found you a link on a shady site, so you can enjoy at least part of the song. And I want to apologize to Toyoguchi Megumi. Because in Maria-sama ga Miteru, as Sei sits at her graduation ceremony, she murders Aogeba Toutoshi, the song always sung at high school graduations in Japan, I assumed she couldn’t sing. She can. I offer my sincere apologies for not remembering actresses act.

Physical extras with the CD this time is a card with all five of the characters in street clothes (as opposed to costume.)

Before I wrap up, I want to mention the gags built around Akabara-no-kimi, Suoh Yui. She is positioned as the senior otokoyaku of the group, to whom everyone defers. And she is also presumed to be the most cultured and elite of them, even more than the aristocratic Ryouya. So when she asks to join her teammates for lunch, you can imagine the scene as the ranks of waiters carrying trays and  trays of French cuisine across the field. ^_^

After the relay, in which Hiou Akito has been hurt, among other calamities, Akabara-no-kimi offers to help Akito get to her personal physician, I had to laugh again, as Ryoya commented that if the fans saw Yui holding Akito like that, it would be mayhem. ^_^

Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable CD and great way to end the series.

However, it played more with the maleness of the otokoyaku more than was “Yuri.” There’s never any sense of irony as the otokoyaku read romantic lines to “girls” or speak of their partners. They are largely playing the part as boys, rather than as women who play boys.

Ratings:

Overall – 9

I’m more bummed than ever at the thought of losing Saiga Mitsuki as Akabara-no-kimi if they continue, since that is the plot of the live action stage event.  Oh well, I’ve got a bunch more of these to go, and I can always go back and enjoy them all over again.

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Grand Stage…on Stage!

August 29th, 2016

GSLToday’s post is via YNN Correspondent Brendan B, who wrote in with some amazing news! The Grand Stage series of Drama CDs are going live…on stage.

It’s such extraordinary news, in fact, that I didn’t want to lump it in with the rest of the news report.

First things first, Grand Stage Live will be held October 26, through October 30, at the Akasaka Red Theater in Tokyo. The cast has been announced and although it does not cast any of the voice actresses of the CDs, at least some of the cast has played male roles, included Ryuuto, who is playing Kohaku Minami. Ryuuto, Brendan pointed out, was one of the male villians in a Sailor Moon Musical.

The rest of the cast is as follows. Hiou Akito is being played by Nakayama Satsuki; Komori Misae plays Subaru Ryouya, Tanigawa Airi (a NMB48 member) plays Kazamiya Eru and Yuuto Irya plays Suoh Yui.

The story synopsis tells us that Grand Stage does a special Halloween performance every year and this year, Akabara-no-kimi, Suoh Yui is stepping down. A new surprising person is about to be named Top Star!

I’d guess that indicates a third series of Drama CDs (or at least a new one with a new seiyuu.) I’m okay with that, although I will be sad to lose Saiga Mitsuki. She was so wonderful as Suoh Yui in that 5th drama CD.

A recent article in ModelPress (in Japanese) actually talks about the Live event of the series and about women models playing “Ikemen” (attractive men.) Of course, the actresses are not playing attractive men…they are playing women who play attractive men, which is an interesting layer of mindfuckery.

Grand Stage Live has a Facebook page, and Twitter account, if you want to keep up on news.

I’m going to have to say, this is pretty big news. It’s a level of meta that is both appealing and really strange if you take a moment to think about it. ^_^

Thanks Brendan and if anyone is going to be in Japan in late October, and can see this, do let me know! I will demand a review.

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Drama CD: Kindred Spirits, Rain Kick (English)

August 28th, 2016

Drama3_BG1Let’s talk about representation. Let’s talk about canon and subtext and identity.

Years ago, I threw out a definition for recognizing “Yuri,” as opposed to “lesbian” content. Yuri could be seen as lesbian content without lesbian identity. I said this because if a character identifies as lesbian, there’s a higher chance that the story is LGBTQ, rather than Yuri. This is not a hard or fast rule, but an observational guideline. A predatory character identifying herself as a lesbian in a shounen manga hardly shifts the narrative to LGBTQ, but in most of the kind of things we watch and read here, identity is a key factor in the narrative being seen as lesbian or Yuri.

We’ve seen a lot of melding of the two labels over time, as artists like Takemiya Jin and Nakamura Kiyo poke and prod and overlap at the boundaries. And we just talked about how a cartoon can provide a lesbian narrative that is canon…but still subtext.

Today we’re going to talk about a series that has pushed “Yuri” as far as it can go by providing identity and overt text…without ever identifying as lesbian. Kindred Spirits on the Roof Drama CD Vol.3, Rain Kick (屋上の百合霊さんドラマCD第3弾「夕立キック」) manages this.

The story follows two of the popular Yuri Visual Novel’s couples – Maki and Seina and Matsuri and Miyu on a short summer vacation. Maki begins with an expository discussion with Yuna, the game’s protagonist, setting up the fact that Yuna is likely to take over president of the council next year. Maki confides in Yuna that a shop employee recently thought that she and Seina were sisters and that really bothered her. This refrain repeats several times during this CD.

Matsuri and Miyu have already graduated and are now living together. They set up a few days at a resort bungalow for the 4 of them. During the first few tracks I was delighted as the four spoke of the most banal things like who would cook what and their personal schedules (training for the runners, studying for almost third-year Seina.) It was so normal and human and a conversation that might actually happen it took me by surprise. But I should really stop being surprised at Kindred Spirits by now. It does “real” and “human” better than any other series ever.

The story has little drama, but is pretty chock full of identity.  We spend time with Matsuri and Miyu, discussing Maki’s concern about being seen as sisters. Miyu logically suggests that “sisters” is a guess by a stranger to make the close relationship of Maki and Seina make sense. Matsuri wants the two of them to be seen to “fit” together naturally in that way, they they belong together. Matsuri mentions her concerns when she confessed to Miyu, and says that by then, she had pretty much become comfortable with the fact that she was always going to be attracted to girls. (Aki also had a similar admission during the game.) They have  touching moment and a sneaked kiss.

Maki and Seina also discuss Maki’s concern. Ultimately she admits that she wants them to be seen as “lovers.” Seina is moved by this, and they discuss their lives in the future, together.

So, when we look at these relationships, they are canon AND overt text and, although the word “lesbian” is never used, there is awareness of identity in Matsuri and awareness of the way their relationships appear to others. And I find myself marveling at how sneakily this adorable Yuri series gets to talking some real shit to an audience that, in part, probably never thinks about this stuff at all. Damn.

As with Kindred Spirits Drama CD 1, Playing Girlfriend and Drama CD 2, Friendship Plans,  Rain Kick is available by download from Mangagamer’s website in 2 digital downloads, one with the full Drama CD, subtitled as a video file – so no Japanese comprehension needed-  and one with the CD insert images, extra voice tracks, original raw voice CD track, and translated credits and notes.

An excellent way to develop the characters. I’m absolutely looking forward to the 4th Drama CD, Kyuusei Radio!

Ratings:

Overall – 10

Unrelated to the issue of representation and identity, I fell in love with this series all over again when Seina was given a conversation about how she could tell the beams in the ceilings were for decoration only. I grinned my way through the “contractor’s daughter” talking about the way the building was constructed. The conversation is meaningless, unless the writers really gave a rat’s ass about character consistency. Which they did. And I love them for it!

I may bring back the Stargazer Award and award it to Okujou no Yurirei-san writers for exceptional writing in the face of industry tropes.

As we’re rounding the corner into the final quarter of the year, I’m looking at this series for my best of and thinking it’s going to be hard to beat it.

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