The concept behind the mini-album is actually quite simple and oh-so-stereotypically Japanese, Light Vs Dark. In our case, mi~ko created two new characters that represent both sides, namely こどもさいく for the Light Warriors and やみもざいく for the Dark Empire. Which side will prevail in this battle of Good and Evil? Leave aside your preconceptions from years of playing Final Fantasy and let our review give you each side's strengths and weaknesses.
1. ひとりでできるかな (MP3 sample)
Right off the bat, this song will sound like a long-lost "Amusement Pack" B-side. A nicer way to put it would be that the experience gained from writing such "theme park" songs sure served them here. "Can I do it alone?" is mi~ko's love song to comiket, in which a new fictional character challenges herself to go to the festival by herself, and the hilarious situations and moral dilemmas that follow. One thing for sure is that I will never translate this song (sorry Surasshu!) because the lyrics are kinda really messed up (in a good way) and would require taking way too many liberties on the translator's part. Overall this is a nice little song that shows off mi~ko's creative writing process more than it highlights kayamori's musical prowesses.
"Everyone! My stomach... is full!" And so begins track number 2. More insane lyrics that make little sense, backed by an instrumental track that could very well have been lifted straight from the first one. We're still on the "light" side of the album, so what we have here is a quaint and laid back track that really doesn't pack too much of a punch. Oh well.
This is a "grownup" (read: jazzy) version of the hectic ねばねば Uju theme song which came out in November 2008. I have trouble believing 柏森さん did everything on his own, as the drums in particular sound extremely professional, and I've seen quite a few drummers in my lifetime. Nevertheless, the standout aspect of this track is the exquisite piano line which never lets up. I am certain that most listeners will skip this track because it is not a "true" denpa song but really, this is Kayamori building a portfolio for his eventual post-MOSAIC.WAV career (all good things must come to an end). And on that grim note...
Finally, we come to the "dark side" of this album! This is a self-remake of 2006's brilliant 「恋のチェッカー・フラッグ」 (Checkered Flag of Love) which was cleverly renamed "Death Flag of Love" and remade into a... death metal song! For this occasion, MOSAIC.WAV collaborated with 柏木るざりん of Denkai Circle fame... oh what am I saying? This is the guy who wrote the ridiculously addictive Miko Miko Nurse OP, which chibi-tech jocks to no end (suddenly, everything comes full circle). Needless to say, this is a huge collaboration for our favorite denpa sound unit. So how about the track itself? Well the original was one of Space Akiba-Pop's best songs (possibly 2nd right after Love Cheat!) and the new arrangement is really interesting... but unfortunately Kashiwagi's constant death metal growls kinda ruins everything. It would have been way more interesting to have mi~ko do her own backups with the appropriate tone. The part between 1:42 and 1:56 completely blows my mind!
5. 地獄のヤンデロイド (MP3 Sample)
"Hell's Yanderoid"... how can you go wrong with a title like this? Compared to the previous track, mi~ko really plays the role here, giving her voice a sense of urgency rarely seen in her previous performances (I'm reminded of the Akibattler series in particular). This aspect really comes alive in the last moments of the song, when mi~ko breaks out the box cutter and switches into full yandere mode, complete with the psychotic laughter... some great acting on her part, if not a little scary! Koike-aniki is in charge of the arrangement and pulls a Visual Kei tour de force that seems to just have naturally flown from his fingers, despite years of creating "cute" songs. Somehow I really feel like playing Castlevania now! This is by far the mini-album's best track... and those lyrics look simple enough to translate...
6. あなたのせなかにfunny beat kiss.
I told you guys that Kayamori could play the piano well, right? If track #3 didn't somehow completely convince you, this sad song is more proof. This is the first "ballad" the band has performed in a long time, perhaps not since 2003's "GRANDE" and "Gamer's Actress" actually. I like the fact that they stuck this on an "unofficial" mini-album rather than on a regular single, because this is really a bone they're throwing the fans, not an accurate representation of the MOSAIC.WAV sound we're accustomed to. It gets really long and spacey towards the end, so it won't fit in well with the rest of your denpa playlist, but it sure feels refreshing once in a while.
So there you have it. The not-so-good tunes are greatly offset by track #5 and the opportunity to listen to creative remixes of past hits. 2008 was an outstanding year for the trio but despite the multiple releases towards the end of the year, 「こどもざいく・やみもざいく」 is a fine way for the unit to properly thank their fans who stuck by them for the past 5 years and 10 comiket events. Back to this article's opening question, which side won the epic battle for album domination? The Dark Empire for sure, thanks to the stellar 地獄のヤンデロイド and its complex arrangement.