Review Summary: One Room Survival is a post-video game project gone right, one that unfolds like a colorful pop-up book, and gives all things fictional a day in the sun.
Neji Taihei lives a seemingly ordinary life in his Japanese apartment. He goes to school for the day, then comes back and reads magazines, meets women, and plays around on the computer. His day-to-day activities are mundane, but they’re what make up the entire story of Roommania #203
. In this Sega Dreamcast game, you take on the role of a god living in Neji’s apartment. He can’t see you, but you can mess with his head and tell him to do things like eat and go to sleep. When he’s out, you can rearrange his furniture, and even lock the door forcing him to climb through the balcony. He’s really just an ordinary dude though, who watches TV, chats with friends, and listens to music. His favorite singer is the Japanese songstress Serani Poji.
Serani Poji is indeed a fictional artist in a fictional video game. Two girls, Tomoko Sasaki and Yukichi, got together to record the music that was going to be played in the game Roomania
as Serani Poji. Sasaki was already experienced with video game music, having done soundtracks for Sega games like Ristar
and NiGHTS Into Dreams
, and Yukichi was in a pop band called Cecil
, meaning they were all set to record Serani's music with skill. Since then, Yukichi went back to her band and Yumi Higashino came to sing for Sasaki, where they continued to make music beyond the video game and Serani Poji became a “real” artist. You might think from the album’s title that One Room Survival
contains the music from Roommania
, but the album you're thinking of is their debut Manamoon
. This is Serani’s sophomore album, released to pursue the girls’ music career rather than play make-believe for a video game.
With their first “real” album, Serani Poji kept their Roommania
charm intact, and they began to take themselves seriously as artists. Not that they really had to do anything different when making this album, but the girls’ were just as inspired to write music for themselves as they were when they were writing music for a game. One Room Survival
could have easily been a pathetic attempt at using their Roommania
exposure to launch a career, but the girls’ have proven to still be ripe with ideas and can still make excellent pop music. The singing is handled by Higashino, who can often be heard crooning for most of the album. What she lacks in variance she makes up for with great chemistry with the music. She basically fits perfectly with the instrumentation Sasaki brings to the table, which is often just as delicate and cheerful as her vocalist.
Serani’s music can be classified as “shibuya-kei”, a subgenre of pop music in Japan that utilizes lounge, soul and French balladry (among other genres). Serani also incorporates light electronic elements to their songs, solely for the sake of adding a sort of “bubbliness” to their music. Their shibuya-kei sound contains several different styles and genres, but traditionally none of these songs are distinctly one specific genre. When used properly, albums of the genre can have great variety and One Room Survival
is no exception. Opening with the title track, One Room Survival
begins floating away in a dreamy electro-pop fashion, typical for J-pop, but nonetheless glimmering with cutesy appeal. Here you can find one of the album’s many excellent choruses, which are insidiously catchy and blissfully fun for the listener. “Rabbit Panic” makes a perfect fit for the fun Japanese pop sensibilities of One Room Survival
, but it isn’t quite a home run as a song. You can appreciate the enthusiasm during the chorus of “la la la/la la la/usagi”
(which means “rabbit”), but it really isn’t a successful hook, and vocal melodies aren’t quite as impressive on this track. You’ll most likely be more impressed with the third track, “Where is Smiley?”, gracefully wearing another gorgeous chorus and also a very upbeat and breezy melody. With this song you catch a glimpse of the album’s cutesy themes, from the adorable idea of someone wondering where their “smiley” went, to the buoyant tale told in “A Fisherman’s Story”, a slightly tropical acoustic pop tune. Other genres heard on the album include lounge heard on “Lovelabor” and “Pipo Pipo”, and the Pizzicato Five
-inspired dance music from “Happy End Is Coming”.
One Room Survival
isn’t a very long album, but that’s not a problem when the songs are a very breezy and fluent listen. There’s plenty of variety to keep the album afloat with life and color, though some might get tired of Higashino’s static whisper. Her voice is very much so a huge chunk of the charisma here, so it’s sad that it’s so easy to overlook the little nuances she uses to keep the album interesting. It borrows from most of the songs that come before it, but the song “Mune-Aki” really shows a fully-realized sound for the group, and imparts a child-like playfulness in the spirit of keeping things tender, quiet and blissful. “Mi Nie We Bon”, the “proper” album closer, would then be putting the child to sleep, as you can feel the eyelids closing to a warming, gentle lullaby. In a way, you can even feel the god in Neji’s room telling him to go to sleep through his mysterious, submissive powers.
The verdict? Serani Poji successfully materialized into a “real” thing, when you consider it was originally intended to be a fictional pop singer. One Room Survival
is a post-video game project gone right, one that unfolds like a colorful pop-up book, and gives all things fictional a day in the sun.
"One Room Survival"
"Where Is Smiley?"