MARGINAL#4「STAR CLUSTER」(review)

marginal 4 - yuto, kenn, naozumi, toshiki
From L->R (Takahashi Naozumi, Masuda Toshiki, KENN, Suzuki Yuto) / Photo: animate.tv

“If there’s a more balanced seiyuu unit out there it’s without a doubt Marginal#4. (…)  They not only have the looks (…) but they also have the vocal skills and talent to back up those looks.”

The wait is over. Marginal #4 finally brings us their first Best of titled「STAR CLUSTER」. Founded in 2013 and created especially for Rejet’s event, RejetFes 2013 VIVA LA REVOLUTION, Marginal#4 finally comes with their 4th release.

The unit consisting of seiyuu KENN, Naozumi Takahashi, Toshiki Masuda and newcomer Yuto Suzuki, has poweruped and brings us a strong Best Of release. With a collection of already known tracks this release impresses, not only with those tracks, but also with the two new tracks opening and finishing the album. STAR CLUSTER was #16 on ORICON charts in it’s debut day which is something to commend. And is slowly starting to climb towards the top, having reach #9 on the ORICON charts on the second day.

STAR CLUSTER」is available in three different editions. Each edition comes with a different jacket (all regular editions). More details regarding the release:

marginal#4

Single: STAR CLUSTER
Release date: 23/04/2014 
Label: Rejet
Genre: J-Pop

Tracklist is the following:

1.STAR SYMPHONY#4
2.100万回の愛革命(REVOLUTION)!
3.妄想遊戯者(DREAMER)
4.燃えよ!LOVE★MUSCLE
5.超(SUPER)弾丸ラヴァー
6.LOVE★SAVIOR
7.永遠夢中KISS
8.恋せよ乙女! 
9.We're EGOISTIC STAR 
10.MASQUERADE
11.GALAXYLINER
12.O/Z
13.OVER THE RAINBOW
14.「もう涙を隠さないで」

Track by track analysis:

1.STAR SYMPHONY#4

Kicking off the best of we’re presented with one of the two new tracks presented to the fans. “STAR SYMPHONY#4” is a slow paced pop track resorting to the usual Marginal#4 elements: the sound doesn’t stay “stuck” to the pop side to their sound and brings the guitars, piano, live drums and the bass to complete their bright sound. Taking a look at the instrumental we are presented with an interesting track not setting the bar that high for what awaits us. Instead of kicking off with big instrumentals and incredibly upbeat tracks this is the perfect track to build up to the rest of the best of. Taking our focus from the instrumental we really need to pay attention to this incredibly talented unit. There’s not a single flaw in the vocal track, KENN and Naozumi show their pro singer skills since they’re the most experienced in the music business but Toshiki and Yuto don’t fall behind, showing why many people are now, more than ever, regarding them as good singers. Toshiki has a strong vocal, capable of being on par with Takahashi Naozumi, lowering a bit Naozumi’s usual high notes, making it more leveled for the rest of the band members. A good match up goes also to the other side: KENN and Yuto totally complete each other with their mid-tones. What’s amazing about them is that their voices are so close in range that, it’s almost impossible to tell who is singing what in some duo parts or even tell apart what is the vocal taking the spotlight in some spots because they sound almost the same. Of course for the trained ear is not a problem. Those familiar with each of those voices won’t have a problem whatsoever with distinguishing who is singing what in the track. Overall this is a mellow way to kick of an album full of great tracks. Nothing so impressive in comparison with some of their previous releases. 4/5

2.100万回の愛革命!

Kicking off with a battle scene, of course Marginal#4 like to put their own theatrics here and there, and most of the tracks kick off in the most interesting ways,  100万回の愛革命(REVOLUTION)!shows us a completely different view of the rising seiyuu unit. This track goes all the way towards a more rockish sound making good use of the raging guitars, sometimes taking the spotlight from the vocal performance with several solos throughout the track. A more “band like” sound that fits this unit like a glove. Instrumental wise this track has a lot of good elements. As referred earlier, the guitars are on top of their game but the drums and bass are full throttle on this one. A more pop-rock side to Marginal#4’s music and a nice change of pace when comparing this unit with the others in the business that often resort to a lot of heavy synths and forget all about that band sound that really enriches a track. On the vocal side we’re provided with a strong unit performance with all members sounding on key, reaching both highs and lows with no problems. It’s an already known track but nevertheless it’s still as entertaining as when it was first released. 4.5/5

3.妄想遊戯者

Keeping up with their pop-rock sound 妄想遊戯者 goes all out with the bass and drums taking the lead in this track. Naozumi and Toshiki deliver a strong performance befitting the addictive instrumental. They’re sexy whenever needed as well as fierce in the chorus, a good matchup between two good singers that turned this track, one of the most fast paced and amped up tracks in the album, a great piece of music. Instrumental wise just take a listen to it and you’ll be impressed by how solid it is. It’s rock but still with their pop elements provided by the synths. Fits incredibly well with the pop lyrics, turning out to be a fun track to listen to. Obviously this is not that kind of track you’re used to listen in a seiyuu unit, seiyuu units tend to choose the more heavy electronica, highly danceable sound but this is not the case. Thankfully enough this seiyuu unit knows how to deliver good tracks, saying no to awkward synths, overall awful instrumentals and nonsensical lyrics. Hyped up track full of energy. 5/5

4.燃えよ!LOVE★MUSCLE

Now we’re presented with the strongest matchup in the unit: KENN & Suzuki Yuto. It’s almost impossible to find a better fit to KENN’s vocals than newcomer Suzuki Yuto. Two soft, sweet and seductive middle toned voices that manage to deliver a solid performance with some parts to show off their skills, KENN’s vibrato and Yuto’s flawless high notes. 燃えよ!LOVE★MUSCLE provides us with yet another side to this unit’s sound. Still keeping the overall rock instrumental, this time we have some trumpets and bongos making their appearance in the track, enriching the already rich instrumental. A track that ends as fast as it started, and all that due to the fact that the track has an incredibly entertaining instrumental. Still, it’s not a big track to showcase this two talents in their entirety, something that a few tracks after is pretty well done. 4/5 

5.超弾丸ラヴァー

Here comes one of the strongest singles the unit has released so far.超弾丸ラヴァー is by far the best Marginal#4 track in the album. Lead by a melodic solo and then followed by the electrifying drums and bass, this track has all the essential elements to make this track the strongest and by far the most entertaining and fulfilling track of them all. The unit sounds flawless from start to finish, with each member taking their turns to show off their skills: Naozumi’s parts are full of his vibrato, Toshiki delivers his fierce, rough vocals, KENN goes in another direction showing a tender side, delivering some incredibly melodic parts and, to add the cherry on top of the cake, Suzuki Yuto goes all out in his singing, managing to be on par with each member, he sings tenderly, is fierce in the right parts and manages to deliver some impressive high notes. Overall the vocal track is one of the most complete on Marginal#4‘s repertoire. Taking our focus from the vocal track towards the instrumental we find such an amazing track. The guitars are all out on this one, with one of them being in “solo mode” throughout the track while the other delivers aggressive riffs. The drums are lightning fast, giving a bigger edge to their already “edgy” rock sound. There’s a lot of double bass usage on this one to delight all those double bass “junkies” out there. The bass plays a big role on this track, making all instruments follow its lead and maintaining the fast pace in the track. Needless to say, but taking all those aspects into equation we manage to have right here the strongest track of this best of. 5/5

6.LOVE★SAVIOR

Now going towards a more pop sound, this time resorting more to the synths than on the aggressive guitars and fast drums, LOVE★SAVIOR sounds great, be it for it’s instrumental or for the vocal performance. Instrumental wise we need to point out how good of an instrumental this one is. This is not as aggressive and fast as the last track, but it still manages to be a great pop-rock track. The guitars are there raging between riffs, the drums play a major role in this track setting the pace and the changes between tempo, leading the way for the remaining instruments. Vocal wise we have some voice manipulation in some parts but that is nothing that annoying, able throw someone off on their first listen. The chorus is addictive and highly amped up with its “BANG BANG” making us want to sing along. Toshiki Masuda gets his rapping assignment on this track making good use of his skills towards the outro while KENN, Naozumi and Yuto battle for the spotlight showcasing their vocal skills. Strong track, amped up where needed, with a good delivery vocal wise in the chorus and the instrumental is rock solid. LOVE★SAVIOR is a great track, no doubt about it. 5/5

7.永遠夢中KISS

Starting this track at full speed, Toshiki Masuda and Takahashi Naozumi present us yet another duo track in this album. This is also an interesting duo providing us with energetic, smooth vocals, capable of making this track one to behold. The instrumental is fast but precise with the guitars delivering powerful riffs and a pretty strong solo towards the outro. The drums are unstoppable from start to finish,delivering us an electrifying performance full of speed and energy. Strong chorus and overall solid work with the instrumental. The vocal performance is spotless. 5/5

8.恋せよ乙女! 
A track that comes in the aftermath of LOVE★SAVIOR, kicking off with that track still playing in the background. 恋せよ乙女! is a pop track through and through, a complete change of pace from the previous tracks, more rock oriented.

Resorting to the heavy synths, pads and piano parts, this track is still as smooth and not that annoying with all that electronica as its foundation. A track made to showcase KENN & Yuto’s vocal skills, leaving more than enough room for them to deliver each and every verse in the most committed and smooth way possible. It’s an interesting mix between both singers and the instrumental, completely different from the aggressiveness delivered by 燃えよ!LOVE★MUSCLE. Once again Yuto and KENN are here to deliver a strong performance with perfect highs and lows, in a track that is a delight to listen to. Thanks to the more danceable instrumental we get a track just entertaining as the previous ones but with the bonus that it is highly addictive + easy to dance to. 5/5

9.We’re EGOISTIC STAR 

And after all those duo tracks we get the Marginal#4 members once again together in this track. We’re EGOISTIC STAR  is an interesting track but it starts incredibly slowly with its 1:11min intro. Going away once again from the heavy synths we have a track all built around the bass and drums. It’s a track that doesn’t fail to impress with it’s rich instrumental: it’s not only the usual drums, guitars and bass doing the job right here. Strings, trumpets and the piano make their appearances and provide us an enjoyable instrumental piece. Still this mix doesn’t come as corny like it usually turns out in some units songs. Analyzing the vocal track we get a little bit of everything: slow, yet piercing vocals, “rap” parts and overall a fun performance with no concerns whatsoever with any of the vocal performances. 4/5

10.MASQUERADE

Time for a Masquerade, latin style!  The piano, the bongos and the castanets lead the way towards a track that has everything all the other tracks lacked: that sensuality that only latin music can deliver with no effort at all. Putting the electric guitars on the side and taking the acoustic ones, this track has only won with it. Trumpets, piano played in that Salsa style, and the minimal drums – complemented by the bongos – make this one of the most original instrumentals in Marginal#4‘s repertoire. Focusing on the vocal track I’ll be as short as possible: lots of sensuality from their vocals, this is, of course, already known territory for Takahashi Naozumi, this is pretty close to his music genre in his solo career. So no problems whatsoever when assuming control of this track, alongside Yuto that seems, more than ever, a relevant, highly important piece in this seiyuu unit, capable of delivering everything demanded with a precision few people have. Interesting to point out: in the outro the drums and the electric guitar go full out, with the guitar delivering a melodic solo befitting this seductive track. A track that will make you dance for sure, incredibly lively and fun track to listen to. 5/5

11.GALAXYLINER

This time we get another duo track. Toshiki Masuda and Suzuki Yuto take the wheel on this track and manage to blow our minds away. This is not a typical pop track, at least like Marginal#4 have done before, since it changes its tempo, time after time, after time. The intro, pre chorus, chorus and the outro go all in completely different speeds which makes this track an interesting yet confusing listen for some. It might sound a bit weird at first but this is one of the best duo tracks this album has to offer. The instrumental doesn’t go all out with the electronica elements neither does it go all out with rock elements. It has the perfect balance between rock and pop, resorting to strings, synths, synthetic drums with the guitars well back in the background. A track that is astoundingly addictive with both Toshiki and Yuto delivering the best of performances right here. This versatility that Marginal#4 members have of adapting to each other is to commend. Their voices fit so well that, even when you take one of them and choose another one to join him for a solo track, they still manage to sound incredibly well, fitting like a glove in terms of their singing tones. 5/5

12.O/Z

The last duo track of the album belongs to KENN & Takahashi Naozumi. The most experienced singers in this unit show what they’re made of and manage to impress us with this track. O/Z takes a more classy approach than the previous tracks, with a lighter instrumental resorting more to the strings, guitar and synths, putting on the side those heavy riffs or insane synths. This is one of those songs that is so subtle and sweet that will grab your attention from start to finish. Looking at the vocal performance we can only say good things. Both KENN and Takahashi Naozumi are known for being incredibly good singers, they have the vocal skills (just listen to those high notes that they deliver by the end of the chorus) and the stage presence that few have. They’re also able to adapt their vocals to any genre. We’ve heard them singing rock tracks and they fitted like a glove, we’ve heard them singing heavy eletronica pop and now we get to listen to them singing a classy pop track with lots of latin influences. Adaptability is one of these guys strengths and that really shows well in this track. 5/5

13.OVER THE RAINBOW

Reaching the final tracks in this album we’re presented with a ballad. OVER THE RAINBOW is a slow paced pop track putting the focus in vocal performance rather than on the instrumental. The instrumental is minimal, using only the essentials but still managing to come as a great track: there’s strings, piano, minimal synths and our well known drums, guitars and the bass. This is such a sweet track and that sweetness is really felt through Marginal#4‘s vocal performance. Beautiful song, delivered in the sweetest way possible. 5/5

14.「もう涙を隠さないで」 

Accompanied by the piano, Marginal # 4 show us how sweet they are. This is a very well designed track, a ballad with the focus entirely on their fabulous voices. While it starts out in a minimal way, with just the piano and the strings, the track builds up for a few seconds and present us the drums and guitars that help leading the way throughout the verses. The vocal performance is overwhelming: those high notes seem so out of reach but KENN, Toshiki, Naozumi and Yuto just hold on to them and make this, one of the best ballads I’ve heard in a long time. This is a one of a kind performance, the verses are delivered in the sweetest and most emotional way possible, making this beautiful ballad a powerful one. 5/5

Final rating: 4.5/5

If there’s a more balanced seiyuu unit out there it’s without a doubt Marginal#4. They have managed in just one year to get recognition and be the main focus of many curious seiyuu fans, and that is clearly shown by how good the unit has performed in the ORICON charts in the following two days after the release. They not only have the looks, – let’s admit it, they may have the most interesting seiyuu lineup in terms of looks out there – , but they also have the vocal skills and talent to back up those looks. We have a unit fully made of mid-toned vocalists but this unit still manages to fully adapt to different situations with Yuto and Naozumi getting high note duties, while KENN and Toshiki balance the unit’s sound. This is a seiyuu unit that has all the good elements to go really far: they have talent and they sound mesmerizingly well, so far all the singles released turned out to be good ones and this Best of doesn’t disappoint in any way, on the contrary, it has, more than anything, impressed us by how good of a Best Of it is. With that being said, we’re eager to listen more from this rising seiyuu unit in the future. Also we’ll be on the look out regarding the rising singers Toshiki Masuda and Yuto Suzuki. They have shown us that they can be on par with the most experienced of singers and deliver solid, impressive performances.

KENN, Suzuki Yuto
KENN, Suzuki Yuto / Photo: animate.tv
Masuda Toshiki, Takahashi Naozumi
Masuda Toshiki, Takahashi Naozumi / Photo: animate.tv

STAR CLUSTER」is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

Author: Vanessa Silva (midorin)

The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. Metalhead. Gamer. Based in Cascais, Portugal. Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus" was the catalyst to start writing about male seiyuu music.

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