Unicorn Jr. “Pandora Box” (Review)


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Rejet‘s third endeavor in the music business comes by the hand of their most recent brainchild “Unicorn Jr.“. This rookie trio consisting of Shouta Aoi, Chiharu Sawashiro and Toshiyuki Sumeya bring us a new look into the Iwasaki/Mikoto music collaboration as well as showing us brand new faces and voices to add to Rejet‘s roster. A mix between an already established singer, a rookie seiyuu/singer and a stage actor would prove to be a little bit difficult to imagine working out but – both Marginal#4 and Lagrange Point showed us that theses mixes can and work.

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Left to right: Toshiyuki Sumeya, Shouta Aoi, Chiharu Sawashiro

With a sound completely different from their seniors, Marginal#4 and Lagrange Point, Unicorn Jr. have a sound more fit for the dancefloor, where guitars have almost no place in and the synths reign undisputed. With a sound fit to appeal to the younger masses, do Unicorn Jr. have what it’s needed to make it to the heights Mg#4 and LP have reached?

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Single: Pandora Box
Label: Rejet
Release date: 13/05/15 
Genre: J-Pop

Tracklist:

01.PANDORA BOX 
02.ワガハイはネコである!!! 
03.MIS(S)LEAD 
04.Q 
05.PANDORA BOX -off vocal- 
06.ワガハイはネコである!!! -off vocal- 
07.MIS(S)LEAD -off vocal- 
08.Q -off vocal-

Track by track analysis:

01.PANDORA BOX

Pandora Box impresses with it’s heavy amount of synths right from the very beginning. Resorting to pads, strong sequences and see saw synths the track doesn’t have the slightest hint of guitars and live drums. Well if this isn’t a track fit for the dancefloor for what is it? It’s an upbeat mid-tempo dance pop track that might sound a bit overwhelming and cheesy in its first seconds into the track but quickly the track redeems itself. The vocals are something incredibly new for everyone as only Shouta Aoi has an active singing career and the others might be a little bit difficult to identify in the track. If you to know who is who, here is a small hint: 1st into the verses – Shouta Aoi / 2nd into the verses – Chiharu Sawashiro / 3rd into the verses – Toshiyuki Sumeya. With this in mind we need to point out that both Sawashiro and Sumeya impress in their own aways in this track. Chiharu Sawashiro shows that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. He follows the footsteps of his older sister Miyuki Sawashiro when it comes to be an impressive singer. With his mid-toned, slightly rough vocals he impresses with his “suave” approach to the song. On the other side we find Toshiyuki Sumeya that impresses with the differences between his “casual” voice – incredibly rough – and his singing voice – that turns out to be slightly higher pitched than expected. Still the mix between these three voices sounds entertaining and fresh. Energetic way to kick of this single. 4/5

02.ワガハイはネコである!!!

The funky bass and brass lead the way as guitars make their first appearance, a brief one to boot. The instrumental leaves a bit of the overwhelming electronica elements and brings some interesting instruments to the table: the bass and brass come alongside the shakuhachi in the outro. Well conceived instrumental that only lacks because of the whole “cat” theme. The vocal performances are just ok, nothing amazing but certainly out of our confort zones – I’m not gonna spoil that part for you, you’ll notice those parts as you listen to the song. Lacks substance in the lyrics and the instrumental fails to truly amuse us. 3/5

03.MIS(S)LEAD

Oh the good old times when we got a cinematical intro provided by Rejet…. MIS(S)LEAD brought those back, if only for a few seconds. Synths alongside heavy drums and strong guitar riffs? Yes, please. The chorus might be one of the best the golden duo Iwasaki/Mikoto has produced so far both lyrics and music wise. Its build up from the pre to the chorus (including it) is well executed and the vocal execution of that part is really stellar. The way all the voices blend in unison and deliver those lyrics in a powerfully emotional way, actually had the ability to put me in awe. Well done Unicorn Jr.MIS(S)LEAD is the gem of the single. Not only has a strong instrumental but it also has a solid vocal performance by the trio. Full marks. 5/5

04.Q

To conclude this debut single, Unicorn Jr. present us “Q” (Question), a mid-tempo track deviating a bit from the highly danceable pop from Pandora Box and the powerful rock performance in MIS(S)LEAD. This is a sweet, mid-tempo track resorting to funky guitars, sweeping synth pads, those “snary” drums and the downside – the occasional vocal manipulation. Instrumental wise this is quite a simple track that had all the elements to be a close one with the previous track but tat vocal manipulation really puts you off. It’s excessive, the vocal track was good enough not to need it but oh well… What can we say? Besides that part the track not only is entertaining besides its mid to slow tempo in the verses and the vocal performances follow its entertainment with not only gentleness but also energy. A shame that the vocal work was almost ruined with auto-tune. 4/5

The single is available in a digest video available on Rejet‘s official youtube channel.

Final rating: 4 stars

Unicorn Jr. impress in their debut single. Between heavy dance pop and rock, the unit shows us that they can deal with both genres delivering befitting performances worthy of putting a smile on our faces. The mix Shouta, Sawashiro and Sumeya worked well for a first try and we hope the unit grows as well as both Marginal#4 and Lagrange Point have grown. Once again Daisuke Iwasaki invested in new talents – the big bet is on Chiharu Sawashiro, as he’s the only one that is still a bit “new” to the fans. If he’s nurtured as Yuto Suzuki in Mg#4 then we’re off for a wonderful ride with Unicorn Jr.

On the other side Shouta sounds, for the very first time, like he has the lower voice tone. It really impressed as we were expecting him to be struggling to maintain the vocal tones leveled in the choruses – if you don’t recall him struggling to maintain his vocals close to the mid-tone check “Poison Kiss” from Quartet Night -. His vocal growth is noticeable in this single and his experience is quite obvious as well. Last comment about the vocal performances: Sumeya has an interesting singing voice tone but it might prove difficult to level it to the other members as he’s quite often on a higher key than the rest of the unit.

To complete this review we need to mention that Iwasaki and Mikoto brought us completely different music than anything previously done by the other Rejet/Pitagoras units. Seeing as both of them struggled to make good singles in the “Red Hot Saga“, “Bingo!!!!” period for Marginal#4 sacrificing their quality in comparison with Lagrange Point (that skyrocketed their way into the top of seiyuu units with their 3 perfect straight strikes), we were expecting havok (yeah, we’re that dramatic) with three releases in the same month. Spacing the releases instead of releasing them all at the same time is proving to be less hazardous as way before. So far, so good.

Unicorn Jr. sound good and are worth checking out! A bright and energetic debut with a solid single.

Pandora Box” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

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