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LABEL: Epic RELEASE DATE: November 16, 2004 GENRE: J-Pop
// review by Matt

Say hi hi to your old Puffy pals.

Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi is the soundtrack to the animated show of the same name which was produced for Cartoon Network. The show was about the fictional lives of definitely real Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura, who make up the Japanese pop band, Puffy, who had to then change their name in the USA to Puffy Ami Yumi because, well, Puff Daddy was all offended and stuff.

This soundtrack contains a few songs written for the show... well, two songs. There are also a number of other songs from Puffy's illustrious history, including songs in complete Japanese despite there being English versions available. Let's get cracking, then.

TRACK #01 - Hi Hi
The opening theme to the TV show, at full length. This is a catchy pop-punk song with a toe-tapping drum beat. It has the beautiful vocal harmony of Ami and Yumi's singing. The lyrics are rather uninspired but easy to ignore. It ends pleasantly with some crowd noise. It serves the purpose of filling the silence with some noise, albeit not impressive noise. It was fine as an opening theme, but the full length song just feels like an unnecessary extension.

TRACK #02 - Friends Forever
This song is a reworking of "Invisible Tomorrow" from Nice, Puffy's first U.S. album release, but this time with English lyrics. While it is slightly slower than the version from Nice, it benefits from memorable lyrics that I can't help but sing along to, even if only in my head to avoid undue embarrassment while on public transport. The lyrics are actually very close to the original Japanese lyrics in meaning and feel, which is always appreciated. It could probably do with being a little bit faster, though.

TRACK #03 - Planet Tokyo
As heard on Nice. A pleasant, infectious chorus with some fun verse lyrics to memorize. The final chorus and the outro are what really nail the song though. The guitar work and drumming are just exceptional as the song draws to a close. A truly ear-hooking track and one of my favourites from Nice.

TRACK #04 - Joining A Fan Club
Written exclusively for the show, Joining A Fan Club tells the story of a girl who joins a fan club and gets suckered in by the whole fan culture, drawing connections to how it almost becomes like a religion for the young people wrapped up in it. The song has some confusing but noteworthy lyrics, such as "filling her bathtub with T-shirts and 8x10s", which just...

The song makes some really brutal digs at the entire fan club culture built around pop music, which is bloody hypocritical considering the cartoon was made to pander to anime fans and those who enjoyed Teen Titans. Also, lest we forget the soundtrack, which was released to rake in some quick dollars, too.

At the end, the song shifts to a reflective perspective. After the car crash, that hunky pop singer just wasn't the same.

TRACK #05 - Forever
This is the slow ballad, and boy, is it slow! A mellow, almost pleasing song, but somewhat marred by the few lines of Japanese thrown in just for a laugh. It's OK; it's doesn't move me at all, but I honestly couldn't imagine the soundtrack without this one.

TRACK #06 - V A C A T I O N
The first of the entirely Japanese songs is upon us. This is a very different sound than I would normally associate with Puffy, but the backing music fits perfectly with the cartoon's theme, which is probably why they featured the instrumental version quite a bit in the show.

It has a beautiful surf-sound guitar solo slap bang in the middle and is great fun to listen to. I wouldn't consider it stand-out by any means, but a very solid track by Puffy standards. It is sung solely by Yumi, who usually sticks to being the backing vocals and it works surprisingly well considering.

TRACK #07 - Love So Pure
A sleeper-hit, multiple listens made me realize how great this song is. The first verse is nice, but the chorus is just delightful. It's still on the ballad-y end of things but I wouldn't change a thing about it. There is some incredible voice harmonization in the background of verse 2.

The guitar solo is, as per Puffy norm, just right. Not overstated, not too subtle. Even though it mostly meanders around the main chords, it does so with good pacing. The following chorus plays the song out nicely and smoothly, leaving me pleasantly moved whenever I hear it. The little chiming in the background is beautiful.

Just a shame it has to fade out instead of end properly. Hate it when a good song is hurt like that.

TRACK #08 - True Asia
The choice of the Japanese version over the English version seems odd considering that it exists and was available to use. The song reeks of "Don't Let Me Down" by ELO; I think they stole the backing right from it.

But what they do to work upon the track is the important part. The bridge and chorus are just astounding. They go beyond what I think I could possibly express in words. I love how one of the few words in English is "panda." The final chorus, as per usual, builds up into a happy climax.

I consider this one the strongest song on this album, and it was actually a rather early hit in Puffy's career back in Japan. Asia no Junshin, as I prefer to call it, is a solid, strong track that unfortunately results in this soundtrack peaking around half-way through.

Ends perfectly.

TRACK #09 - Boogie Woogie No.5
Catchy, bouncy, plain fun. This is one of those jump-up-and-dance-like-a-stupid-idiot songs. The righteous chorus makes up for the bland yet still notable verses, even if only for the slightly detuned trumpet blasts and yells from the backing singers. The little piano breakdowns are pleasant, too. The emphasis on the brass instruments to stitch parts of the song together is most appreciated.

The key change near the end is just perfectly placed — especially with the final chorus being louder, happier, and bouncier!

With most Puffy songs, however, it just feels like it's a little bit too slow. It could be cranked up another ten or fifteen beats per minute and really work better as a result. It has a very long outro, but such a very short fade out. But you know what they say...

TRACK #10 - That's The Way It Is
The easiest description for this would be "surf sound." It even has a short reworking of "Day Tripper" by The Beatles after the first chorus, which culminates in securing that 60s sound even stronger. A large number of Japanese musicians are strongly influenced by The Beatles.

Yet again, the chorus is where That's The Way It Is really shines. After the second chorus, a melodious harmonica solo almost tugs at my heart strings with its unadulterated beauty. Oh, and then we get a short reworking of "Please Please Me", also by The Beatles, because you know, the more the merrier.

Overall, pleasant. Probably my favourite part of the song is the "arigatou, ne~", and in general, the amount of rhyming "ne~" with "ne~" that is happening throughout the chorus. Ends properly without a horrible fade-out, perfect!

TRACK #11 - Sunrise
This is the punk song this soundtrack needed. This song is fast, sharp, viscous, and pumped. A lot of fun to listen to because it features the beautiful dual-singing between Ami and Yumi the entire way through. The song is just about getting up and running towards the sunlight, breaking out of darkness. And that's why it's one of the most solid on the album. It also ends marvellously with no fade-outs here!

TRACK #12 - Into The Beach
Rock hard and loud! Punky and very welcome! Like a mixture of The Sex Pistols and The Who. Still, moderately bland.

Beautiful chorus, but just too short. Chorus could have repeated two or three times and it would have only added to the song. As per usual, it's a punch-up between the solo and the chorus as to which part makes the song, but I'd be inclined to say the chorus this time.

Nice ending.

TRACK #13 - December
And the award to most jarring genre jump on the album goes to December, which goes into full-on feudal Japanese ballad mode. But it's perfect. If there's a standout track on this album, December is clearly it, though still not my favourite. It is frightening, dark and sad, yet with a bittersweet, reflective chorus.

The emotions that a track like this makes me feel, they really are potent. The whirling synth that sounds almost like a crying fish in the background of verse 2 is just something else, it really is.

This is the song that makes listening to album worth the time, and it deployed at just the right moment to be as refreshing and powerful as it is. The song is about the beauty of snow, and winter itself, but I don't really get that feeling from it instrumentally. It's weird enough to get away with the blatant disconnection between lyrics and the use of minor chords.

TRACK #14 - Teen Titans Theme
The Teen Titans Theme doesn't fit with the album at all. It's on here to appease the fans of Teen Titans, because that too was a show with which Puffy AmiYumi helped. It certainly doesn't fit straight after December, and barely fits on this album at all.

As for the song, yeah, it was great, once. As a bonus track slapped on the end of Nice, for the exact same reason, mind you — oh, you know Puffy AmiYumi for Teen Titans, so here's the theme for you! Not. Bloody. Gosh-darned. Interested.

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For an album released to make a quick wad of cash from the Puffy AmiYumi trend and followers of the show, the track selection is well varied and gives many examples of what Puffy have available to offer. Still making music, and having released a new international single in April of this year, Puffy should hopefully show no signs of going away yet.

But if they do, you could probably do worse than pick up this album if you want to experience some of the legacy they have left as a band. Still, the lack of Urei, which featured at least twice over the ten episodes of the show I managed to see, is shocking. It isn't like they ran out of CD space.

This soundtrack was mass produced. It is easy to find and inexpensive to buy. I'd recommend it on those factors alone.


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