Let’s not even go into detail about this– let’s just jump right to the review, shall we? I don’t want to embarrass myself by explaining why it’s taken so long for this to get posted. In any case, GACKT’s latest, and 39th, single, July’s Episode .0, is one of those weird cover/collab things he releases spontaneously from time to time. This time around, the origins of this single show just how used to Japan I’ve become over the years: Episode .0 and Paranoid Doll are vocaloid covers….
I don’t really know that much about vocaloids, except they’re allowed to have concerts now, and people actually go to them. My closest encounter with them is all the multitudes of cute girls who cosplay as this Hatsune Miku creature and post pictures of themselves all over the internet and wander around conventions trailing blue hair.
The songs on the single were originally released for Kamui Gakupo (GACKT’s vocaloid character), a lanky bishounen samurai person with long blue/purple hair (pictured below).
The artwork for the single also depicted this character for the limited edition, and GACKT affected an imitation of what Gakupo might look like in real life for the regular edition of Episode.0.
Although GACKT didn’t actually compose the songs for his 39th, this fact doesn’t concern me in the slightest. Jrockers are incredible talents when it comes to covering songs or working with other composers. Just think about the Kamen Rider releases (which were mostly good) and his Gundam covers. Great performances of great songs. GACKT also produced the entire single, which definitely contributed to the retention of all the flavor of his work. Actually, on that note, this single sounds the most like “him” that I’ve heard in a long time, and I bloody well like to hear those nuances back in his music.
There’s no lag-time: when Episode.0 starts, it starts, and it grabs you from the opening chords. The sound is all around solid and incredibly fresh. A mid-tempo track, the pacing and organization of the song felt like his more recent work, but the production of the vocals was definitely original Gackt–before all caps.
The quality of the music for both tracks is digitized and eclectic, which I think is a cool homage to the vocaloid origins. Also appreciated the koto elements in Paranoid Doll. They brought the samurai thing full-circle and also reminded me of The End of Silence and ZAN, and seeing as I thought that was a brilliant single, it’s a good association.
Actually the thing I liked the best about the songs on Episode.0 was simply the quality of GACKT’s vocals. With vocals like that, the background music could be blips and bloops for all I would know or care (but for the sake of the review, I listened intently, I swear). GACKT was so so on-top of his game for this, so brilliantly produced, and just, well, quite awesome. I feel like it’s been a while since that falsetto was showcased, and it seems like he really implemented a lot of the ornamentation and stylistic twists that were prominent in his old work. That “sound” being something I’ve missed in his new stuff, it felt really amazing to be hearing it again. Don’t mind me while I gush a little bit.
All in all, this is a very solid single. The tracks were cohesive, yet completely distinctive. The actual compositions were brilliantly written, totally refreshing and yet they were completely well suited to GACKT’s style. The blend of nostalgia and energy captured in the 2 songs will definitely put Episode.0 among some of my favorites from hereon out.
If you haven’t picked up your copy of Episode.0 yet, I absolutely recommend doing so. Great compositions, great performances, and great production have come together to make a great single.