Saturday, 9 May 2009

Under the Scope: In-depth とろ美 profile

Welcome to the first edition of Under the Scope! We'll try our best to pick one denpa-related artist every month and dig up as much dirt share as much information as possible. The title of this column references the fact that denpa artists are but a microcosm of the grand universe of JPop, hence the scope part. We begin with "Mortar Beauty" とろ美, surely one of the most mysterious artists out there, even to her Japanese fans.

とろ美 (Toromi, real name unknown), was born in Tokyo at an unspecified point in time. Her professional career as a voice actress dates back to 2002 and includes many different jobs such as game narration, anime performances and even writing comic books, however this article will focus on her activities as a musician. But for the sake of perspective, it is necessary to take a closer look at her breakthrough performance.

He first listed role is that of Mii, one of the many characters in Petit Ferret's extremely popular yet ultimately one trick pony ぽぽたん (Popotan) adult PC game, which spawned the nauseating Caramelldansen internet meme. Both the opening and ending themes were written and performed by UNDER17 and Toromi clearly developed an affinity with the soaring duo, as she was chosen to perform the insert song 「みいタンの魔法でポン!」, which was penned by Momoi and composed by Koike-aniki. The game was later ported to PS2 but unfortunately for Toromi, Momoi took over the role of Mii in the anime series. Every other voice actor was replaced, so there was no speculation that their relation had turned sour. Besides, Toromi had already found herself a new occupation: she would also become a singer.

She kept composing songs, including a few more for the Popotan series, but those all ended up on compilation or bonus discs. Her first release eventually came out at the Summer 2006 Comiket (C70), in the form of an eponymous 2-song single CD on which Toromi assumed all composition duties. It presumably sold very well, since she hit the following C71 with not one, but two mini-albums. The first one was 「たちつてとろ美ちゃん Ver1.2」 which featured four songs, again all self-composed and performed. Much more interestingly, she also offered a split mini-album with none other than 井上みゆ (INOUE Miyu). The surprising part was how evenly the pair split the duties: Miyu sang Toromi's lyrics and vice-versa, but better yet they sing together on two of the four tracks! Here's a sampler MP3. Unfortunately, this CD 「みゅ~とろん」 has become very rare (until a recent repress) and also marked the last time they worked together, on disc at least.

Toromi wasted no time in 2007 and hit the Spring edition of M3 with yet another mini-album, this time entirely composed by the talented ピクセルビー (Pixelbee). Given the occasion, they decided to name this effort 「トロピクセル」 (ToroPixel). It was hailed as a "dream combination" and certainly gave the hard-working Toromi a significant popularity boost amongst the insatiable moe/denpa-hungry scene. But M3 releases are sometimes considered "previews" of greater things to come, so Toromi stepped up her game for C72 (Summer 2007). 「T:DRIVE」 was released to much acclaim and remains to this day her most popular work, if only because its sales were in part fueled by the fact that this compilation contained some exclusive C:DRIVE theme songs (hence the title), so eroge fans were sure to snap this one up. Pixelbee was still behind the scenes, but she also enlisted the help of many other musicians. One of them was ロドリゲスのぶ who composed 「恋するメディスン3錠半」, an image song that's arguably one of the better-known Toromi tracks out there.

The success of T:DRIVE would be hard to follow-up, not only in terms of song quality, but quantity. 「PROTOROTYPE」 was distributed in low numbers at C73 since it only contained three short songs. Along with an original new track, it featured two themes used in MeroMeroCute and C:DRIVE games, so it probably sold alright with the two games' respective fans. Truth be told however, 「T:DRIVE」 was still selling like hot cakes at C73 and thanks to it, she started multiplying radio and internet TV roles as well as played a number of concerts that year.

Thus began 2008 for Toromi. Some of her first appearances looked painfully awkward, but she quickly loosened up and started assuming the role of a sidekick on the popular "MATT the MAD WORLD" Akihabara TV program on Stickam, a position which she still occupies to this day. But let's focus on the music. The aforementioned Caramelldansen "internet phenomenon" was in full swing and since Toromi was sorta related to it (being that it originates from a game in which she played a major part) and that Spring M3 was around the corner, what better idea than put out a single based around this popular new "dance"? Marketing strategies aside, 「とろ★ウマ」 contained three new songs and not one, but TWO versions of Caramelldansen, both composed by her longtime friend あいかわらずな. Surely the album must have sold well, but in retrospect it was a pretty tacky move. Or is this thing still popular?

The あいかわらずな and とろ美 pair reunited for Comiket 74 (Summer 2008) for what can be considered Toromi's first full-length album. Indeed, the nine songs on 「トロヅクシ」 totalize 33 minutes of intense denpa/moe songs, sometimes with obvious punk rock influences to boot! The highlight is probably "Baby Star Hunter", which is heavy on the "picopico". There is also somewhat of a ballad on there in the form of 「コミルカラフ」. An interesting fact is that hardcore Toromi fans perform their ヲタ芸 (otagei) dance regardless of which song she plays, something that she is in favor of (!) unlike some other idols who shall remain nameless.

December 2008's Comiket 75 marked the release of the most recent Toromi album to date, since she opted to skip out of the May 2009 M3 event. 「エトロジィ」 is another album that's on the longer side of things, with 6 tracks included for good measure. There are no gimmick tracks like the previous mini-album, except maybe for the dubiously-named 「レンアイコンセント」 which can be read either as "Love Consent" or "Love-making electrical outlet" which takes its full meaning when you consider the type of illustrations she usually draws for her albums. Oh Toromi-chan, please never change. There is a very nice sampler video on Niconico, but you can also check out individual trials on the official website. You'll quickly notice that this album is a bit more laid back than previous efforts, perhaps this is a hint of things to come.

Which all brings up to current events. Although she "skipped" the latest M3 in terms of new music, all signs point to a new mini-album for C76, but this probably won't be announced until July. She was still at M3 in some capacity, as two of her older songs were included on C:DRIVE's 『Memorial Song Collection 2006-2009』 compilation (also featuring MOSAIC.WAV). Plus she was there in person to sell her previous albums and greet her fans. Recently she performed at the DENPA SONG NIGHT event, which tells you a lot about her style and fans. She's also cosplayed and performed as Hatsune Miku a few times. Clearly the best way to stay on top of all things Toromi is to consult her diary on a daily basis. Yup, that was certainly two creepy things to say in one sentence. We aim to please!


Hopefully this article helped shed some light on an otherwise very mysterious artist that even denpa fans have barely ever heard of, it at all. In time, her previous albums should get reviewed on this blog, but either way you'll definitely be reading more about her on this blog in the near future...


Anonymous said...

Fuck-buckets the cat ears... the cat tails, the moe... my god. Interesting young lady, cute girls and rifles are sure to enhance any live. Oh that collection cd thing where she was cos-playing miku was awesome... Those tracks were so great. Stuff like this makes me wish I was in japan right now... think of all the girls that need me as their fan...

Oh the akiba tv thing, do you know anyone who ups that stuff, or its not in demand enough? I'd love to get my filthy paws on some of those shows as well...

primulis said...

She is awesome. I think, I'm in love.