If I’ve noticed anything about the differences between American and Japanese subcultures (and there are a ton), it’s that Japanese fans are much more musically inclined. Remixes, medleys, arrangements, and mashups are all common place in Japanese fan videos, and it’s something that I really love about otaku culture that the West doesn’t have a proper analog to (at least not on the same scale).
While there are literally millions of different musical fan works, I want to focus on what are known as “Kumikyoku,” which means “group song.” They’re essentially medleys of songs that tend be massive, encompassing anywhere from 50-100 different songs within 7-20+ minutes. This practice appeals to me both as an anime fan and a music student. Sometimes, each piece of the medley is so subtle and sneakily placed that I think it would be impossible to pick out no matter how hardcore of a fan you are. These medleys do, I believe, require several listens to catch much of anything even if you have a tracklist in front of you.
This act of piecing together tunes that only fans would catch is similar to compositional techniques seen in the works of famous composers. Bach and other big names are known for inserting little inside jokes and Easter eggs in their pieces to catch the ears of careful listeners off guard. They add an extra level of enjoyment for those who put forth the effort, and I feel like these complex medleys are kind of similar.
In these medleys, we’ll often see (or maybe in this case, hear) songs with similar melodies, rhythms, and chord progressions transition into each other. Better yet, a skillful arranger will put several songs on top of each other simultaneously, which happens to be one of my favorite parts of any of these medleys. It’s just really fun to try to follow each song in different voices (typically electronica type music) and see where they go. I feel like I could learn a thing or two about arranging from these people.
There are a huge amount of similar medleys out there. Here’s a YouTube channel that carries many of them: KumikyokuNND
Here, I give only four of my favorite Nico Nico Douga Medleys (named so because that’s where they usually originate). I’m mostly only naming four because of how long they each are. I’ve also found that these are not very good to listen to while doing homework or studying because I get distracted with trying to identify every remotely familiar song that passes by.
4. “Ryuuseigun,” Orchestra Version
Now THIS is impressive. To gather this many like-minded people, who have some decent musical talent, into one place to perform a massive orchestral medley is pretty astounding. “Ryuuseigun” is one of the more famous medleys that follows a similar style as the “original” big Nico Nico Medley. The thing I’m most impressed with is the quality of the performance. Sure, it’s no Tokyo Philharmonic , but the fact that it’s just a group of fans performing a fan arrangement is ridiculous. Performing medley type music is always difficult because of the constantly changing rhythms, as well possibly keys and tempi.
Favorite part: The “Dango Daikazoku” euphonium solo (6:24) from Clannad, followed by the “Wind Scene” sax trio, from Chrono Trigger.
I’m not sure if things could get more high-energy than this one. It’s simply called “☆,” and all of the tracks used in it have to do with stars or space, though things like “Dango Daikazoku” may feel a bit out of place. It follows the formula for most conventional medleys by utilizing a quick tempo and synthesizer magic. Given its (relatively) short length, it’s something that even people with short attention spans can enjoy. The massive song overlap at the end is sure to provide you with some nice ear exercise though.
Favorite part: The beginning, with Mario’s “Starman” theme going into the popular song “Heavenly Star,” which is used in a lot of medleys and also appeared in Lumines and No More Heroes. This is followed by Kirby 64’s “Pop Star” theme, which is super bubbly like the original.
2. “Kake Nukeru Anime Song Medley III”
This guy is incredibly talented and his musical know-how really shows in his arrangements, which switches up songs just about every four bars. The way he connects all of the songs by their similar melodic fragments and rhythms is almost ridiculous and is executed incredibly well. Packing 100 songs into 11 minutes is a little bit ridiculous.
Favorite part: The seamless transitions beginning at 2:24 with Sword Art Online’s “crossing field.” It’s followed by Kamichu!’s “Ice Candy” and then flawlessly to Jinrui’s “Real World.” The party keeps rolling with “My Soul, Your Beats!” from Angel Beats! and then finally to the opening of Little Busters!. The first time I heard this, I think I caught myself with my mouth hanging open thinking, “did he really just do all that?”
1. “Nico Vivace”
Where YouTube had the, let’s face it, uninspired “YouTube Style” to celebrate viral videos of 2012 (which more or less only featured two songs), “Nico Vivace” is one of many fan videos that was made to commemorate videos that were popular, or continue to be popular, on Nico Nico Douga. What makes this medley incredible is the editing that went into the video itself. As someone who isn’t really familiar with a lot of the memes that come out of the site, there are a lot of…interesting things to be seen in the video. Not only that, but the musical arrangement is fantastic as well.
Favorite part: Pretty much the whole first five minutes. The transitions from Hatsune Miku’s “Tell Your World” to OreImo’s “irony” to Evangelion’s “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” are fantastic. I also love the KyoAni “duet” with “Fuwa Fuwa Time” and “Lost My Music,” which is really cleverly done.
What are your favorite Nico Nico Medleys, or anime medleys in general?