Wrapping up the year 2010, we have Hokago Tea Time II, by the eponymous group Hokago Tea Time. To understand why this album is special I have to first explain the anisong boom that happened in 2006 and only gained momentum with time.
Both anisong and moe anime have existed long before Kyoto Animation released the monster that was Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu, but without this work and this particular studio neither Japan nor the rest of the world would be quite the same without it. In 2006 with the release of Hare Hare Yukai, both Japan and the world would be overrun with a very particular subgenre of anisong called the “Character Song“, which in turn would fuel the Seiyuu Artist Boom.
Character songs, or “chara song” as they are also called, are songs that are released by the actors and voice actors that play these characters in various works. While they exist in other media aside from anime, they are most strongly associated with anime due to the overwhelming recent popularity of character songs in post-2006 anime works such as Suzumiya Haruhi, Lucky Star, Bakemonogatari and more recently major franchises such as Love Live and Bang Dream.
One studio in particular – Kyoto Animation, creator of works like Suzumiya, Lucky Star and K-On – was specifically credited with the modern anisong craze due to the rise of character and seiyuu songs in a September 2016 issue of Nikkei Entertainment. The songs that were tied into their anime creations frequently topped Oricon and karaoke charts at the time and it was due to songs such as Hare Hare Yukai that this subgenre became more mainstream in Japan.
The album Hokago Tea Time II features two discs, a “studio” mix and a “cassette” mix. Great chara song will often take the on screen characters and grant them a very specific musical flavor, which is immediately apparent in the songs on the “studio mix” (tracks 1 through 11 on streaming) and a trend that is noticeable throughout all K-On! songs.
Disc two, the “cassette mix” (tracks 11 onward on streaming), is where the magic lies for this release. Character lines pepper throughout the tracks, and sound effects are added to this side of the release is meant to make the listener feel like they are watching/listening to the magic of the “band” recording their first album much like what is shown in the anime series. You can actually hear the seiyuu “walk” towards the cassette recorder as the character talks about recording one song to the next.
Given the care and attention as well as the extremely well done recordings of each and every track, it is little wonder that these songs still remain incredibly popular among anime fans even 11 years later.