WARNING: THIS IS A REALLY REALLY LONG POST.
On December 6th, 2000, a 20-year-old seiyuu called Nana Mizuki made her debut as a singer with a single called Omoi. Said single was rather average and it didn’t find any success: actually, it even failed to chart on Oricon, and the singles that followed it didn’t do much better either. Back then, she’d never imagined that 10 years later her music career would be a total success, to the point that she would achieve things nobody else had managed to achieve before.
Nana’s career took really long to take off: it took her 4 years of little success and 10 singles to reach the top 10 of the charts, and it wasn’t until last year when she finally managed to top Oricon with her 7th album ULTIMATE DIAMOND, becoming the first seiyuu to do so. It was also in 2009 when she started getting some exposure on TV music shows, which allowed her to get noticed by a wider audience -and not only by otaku who spend their lives locked in their rooms watching anime. Out of all those TV appearances, the most important one was without an her performance at Kouhaku Uta Gassen: it was the first time a seiyuu was invited to this popular end-of-the-year show.
And just as expected, this 2010 her success has kept growing: in January, she got her first #1 single – the first single from a seiyuu to top the charts- PHANTOM MINDS, which also became her best-selling single ever; her 8th album IMPACT EXCITER, released last summer, became her best-selling album as well; her exposure on TV has been getting higher and higher, and a few weeks ago, we learned that this year she’d be at Kouhaku again. Congratulations, Nana!
It’s impressive how far she’s managed to get, especially considering that all the odds were against her: crappy tie-ins for her earliest singles (the first decent tie-in she got was Nanoha and that wasn’t until 2004), not-so-good looks during the earliest years of her career (that hair… and those clothes… I’d like to know what her stylists were thinking about ._.’), and last but not least, the “stigma” of being an anisong singer AND a seiyuu. In general, singers who always rely on anime tie-ins usually remain unnoticed by the mainstream – they rarely / never get any promotion on TV shows, only otaku care about them, etc – but if you’re a seiyuu, this situation gets even worse: you’re doomed to be underrated. There’s an understandable reason for this, though: the vast majority of seiyuu out there can’t sing a note. But through years of hard work, and thanks to the support of her loyal fans, Nana has managed to show to the public that she’s one of the few exceptions. Nana isn’t just a “seiyuu who sings”, but rather a TRUE singer who also does voice acting. Actually, when it comes to singing, she’s one of the best live performers in the Japanese pop scene. And it’s great to see how people outside anime circles have noticed her talent and allowed her to enjoy her current success.
Through the 10 years of her career, Nana has released over 300 songs, and even though she’s mainly a pop-rock artist, she’s tackled many other different genres such as enka, opera, dance or even metal. Her sound has changed a lot throughout the years, too: while her earliest music was “cuter” and more “sugary”, it’s been gradually evolving into a more mature sound. Being such a versatile artist, she’s managed to gather many different kinds of fans, and with so many songs under her belt, I’m sure every person out there might find at least one Nana song that fits their tastes.
I’ve been listening to her since late 2007, but it wasn’t until 2008 when I became the huge fan I am now. Which means that I’m part of the so-called “post-Nanoha fanbase” (I haven’t even watched that anime), and, like most of these fans, I prefer her most recent material. There are plenty of Nana songs I love and very few ones I dislike, so choosing a favorite (or a few ones) is quite hard for me. But I’ve tried my best and I’ve made a list of the 35 Nana songs I consider my favorites right now. Note that the songs are listed in order of release date and not in order of personal preference (it would be almost impossible for me to do that accurately since my personal ranking constantly changes depending on my mood and other factors). That said, here goes my list!
1. TRANSMIGRATION (supersonic girl, 2001): Many fans, especially the most veteran ones, often list this song as one of their favorites, and I’m not surprised because this song was way ahead of its time: it was too good to belong to such a mediocre album like supersonic girl. I fell in love with it the moment I listened to it for the first time, and it’s still one of my favorites.
2. Mafuyu no Kanransha (supersonic girl, 2001): To be honest, I didn’t use to care about this song, but one day I suddenly noticed how beautiful of a ballad it is. It’s like the perfect winter ballad you feel like listening to in a cold December night like today.
3. Ano Hi Yumemita Negai (MAGIC ATRACTION, 2002): I love Nana’s old ballads; they have some kind of charm I don’t know how to explain. I wish she released more of these nice piano ballads nowadays…
4. Orgel to Piano to –holy Style- (MAGIC ATRACTION, 2002): Same as above.
5. JET PARK (DREAM SKIPPER, 2003): One of my favorites amongst Nana’s old pop-rock songs. It’s fun, energetic, catchy, and sounds great when performed live.
6. cherish (ALIVE & KICKING, 2004): I just love the way Nana sings this beautiful ballad, she puts a lot of emotion in it.
7. Miracle Flight (ALIVE & KICKING, 2004): This is one of the best cutesy songs Nana has ever released and it’s been one of my favorites since forever. One single listen of this tune is enough to cheer me up.
8. Tears’ Night (ALIVE & KICKING, 2004): Another epic song that has been one of my all-time favorites since the day I first listened to it. I’m not sure if this is my absolute favorite Nana song right now (it used to be, but right now there are other songs I love as much as this one), but if I had to make a list of my top 5 Nana songs, this one would be in it, that’s for sure.
9. WILD EYES (HYBRID UNIVERSE; released as a single in 2005): Like Tears’ Night, WILD EYES has been one of my favorite Nana songs since forever. Awesome from the beginning to the end.
10. Zankou no Gaia (HYBRID UNIVERSE, 2006): This song is already epic by itself, with powerful vocals and awesome instrumentals (I especially love the intro), but when performed live, it gets like 7777 times better. I adore it ♥.
11. Hoshizora to Tsuki to Hanabi no Shita (HYBRID UNIVERSE, 2006): Nobody seems to care about this song, but I personally love it. It’s quite different from the kind of ballad Nana usually sings, and that makes me like it even more. The last 2 minutes of this song are the definition of awesomeness.
12. Justice to Believe (released as a single in 2006): Another old favorite. A pity it never made it to an album (and no, the remix of this song included in THE MUSEUM doesn’t count, it’s way too long for my taste. I prefer by far the original version).
13. SECRET AMBITION (GREAT ACTIVITY, 2007): For me, SECRET AMBITION is, along with Pray and PHANTOM MINDS, the best Nanoha-related song Nana has ever put out. Nana’s rock songs are usually awesome, and this one is not an exception.
14. Heart-shaped chant (GREAT ACTIVITY, 2007): Awesome instrumentals, even more awesome vocals, and way too good to be just a b-side (luckily, it made it to the album). It’s also one of those songs whose live performances I enjoy the most. Simply EPIC.
15. Pray (b-side of MASSIVE WONDERS, 2007): As I said before, this is one of the best Nanoha songs ever; I still don’t understand why it never made it to an album.
16. TRY AGAIN (GREAT ACTIVITY, 2007): Why does everybody hate this song? I love it with all my heart. Listening to this song puts me in a great mood. The chorus is what makes this song truly awesome.
17. Chronicle of sky (GREAT ACTIVITY, 2007): Another fantastic upbeat song from Nana. For some reason, this song sounds to me like the perfect opening for some anime series based on a fantasy world. I love it.
18. Orchestral Fantasia (GREAT ACTIVITY, 2007): Everything I said about Heart-shaped chant before can be applied to this song as well, but I like Orchestral Fantasia even more. And the PV is so lovely ♥. It’s definitely one of her best songs.
19. Astrogation (ULTIMATE DIAMOND; released as a single in 2008): Even though I always liked this song, it wasn’t until UD was released when my love towards it increased to the point that it became one of my favorite Nana songs to date. The instrumentals are what make this song so great.
20. Trickster (ULTIMATE DIAMOND; released as a single in 2008): Nana + rock = epic win. Enough said.
21. DISCOTHEQUE (b-side of Trickster, 2008): I didn’t really like this song at first, and I even remember skipping it when listening to the Trickster single. But for some reason, it started growing a lot on me. It might be because of its overly cute PV, its catchy chorus or the CHU-RU-CHU-RU-CHU PA-RA-PAs, who knows, but the fact is that now I love it.
22. Garasu no Hana (SOUND OF DESTINY, 2009): Here’s another song not many people care about. I don’t have many character songs among my favorites, but this beautiful ballad is one of the few exceptions. I remember being completely obsessed with it when it came out, and I still love it with my heart and soul.
23. Shin Ai (ULTIMATE DIAMOND, 2009): This was the first time we got a ballad single from Nana, and it turned out to be amazing. The instrumentals are delicious and Nana’s vocals shine a lot in this song. It’s amazing how Nana can hit all those weird notes with no problems even when singing live ♥.
24. Etsuraku Camellia (ULTIMATE DIAMOND, 2009): This is one of the most original songs I’ve ever heard: a mixture of enka and metal. Add to it the most awesome PV Nana has ever gotten and as a result, you have one of the best songs she’s released to date.
25. Gimmick Game (ULTIMATE DIAMOND, 2009): All of Nana’s dance songs are excellent, but this one is my favorite. It’s so catchy I can’t help leaving it on repeat every time I decide to listen to it.
26. Mugen (IMPACT EXCITER, released as a single in 2009): I’ll never get why some people hate this song so much to the point they say it’s her worst song ever. I personally loved both the song and the PV; it was cool to see the “darkest” side of our dear Nana. I love it when artists experiment with different music styles and looks.
27. Eien no Utahime (Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva OST, 2009): Just three words: NANA SINGING OPERA. The song is REALLY long (it lasts over 7 minutes), but I don’t care: it’s awesome anyways.
28. PHANTOM MINDS (IMPACT EXCITER, 2010): Nana’s biggest hit to date totally deserved its success: it’s one of the best songs she’s released this year and also my most played song of 2010.
29. Silent Bible (IMPACT EXCITER, 2010): Isn’t it surprising to see how all of her most recent singles have made it to my top Nana songs? I know plenty of fans won’t agree with me, but I think that lately, the quality of Nana’s releases is being more consistent than ever. I think I’m running out of adjectives to describe how good my favorite Nana songs are, so I’ll just say I loved this one as well.
30. UNCHAIN∞WORLD (b-side of Silent Bible, 2010): Since the moment I heard that 15-second preview of this song, I knew I was going to love it. I can’t wait to get my copies of Live Games x Academy to finally be able to watch a live performance of this powerful tune.
31. Heaven in the Hell (Shinakoi Drama CD, 2010): Despite being a character song, it doesn’t sound like one at all. Instead, Heaven in the Hell has a sound more similar to that of Nana’s usual songs. Actually, it sounds a lot like UNCHAIN∞WORLD, which means that it’s equally epic.
32. Koi no Yokushiryoku (METAL GEAR SOLID PEACE WALKER OST, 2010): Another character song that turned out to be unexpectedly awesome. I especially love the way Nana sings it, her voice sounds great here. A pity they didn’t include the original version on IMPACT EXCITER instead of that not-so-good remix…
33. Mysterion (IMPACT EXCITER, 2010): This is one of those songs that never leave you indifferent: you either hate it or love it. It impressed me a lot since the first time I listened to it: I love how Nana manages to sing such difficult songs with no problems, and as I said before, I just love it when she sings rock.
34. NEXT ARCADIA (IMPACT EXCITER, 2010): This song is so much fun, I love it. I really like the arrangement, the introduction is awesome, the chorus is epic and I’m sure it’s one of the many Nana songs that sound much better when performed live.
35. Shichigatsu Nanoka (IMPACT EXCITER, 2010): A beautiful ballad composed by Mika Agematsu, who also collaborated with Nana for Heart-shaped Chant and Shin Ai. I love how Nana’s voice sounds here, and the harp that plays during the whole song gives it a very relaxing and peaceful feel.
Now, it’s your turn. Which are your favorite Nana songs? What do you think about the way her music and / or her career have evolved? Do you prefer her recent music or are you more of a fan of her earliest works? I love sharing this kind of opinions with the rest of the fandom, and I’d like to know about the opinions of other fans as well. Feel free to leave a comment, and happy Nanaversary to you all!