So… today marks exactly one year since I posted my first translation – a translation of Shinra-Bansho’s wonderful Doppel. In the time since then, I managed to basically spam translations, release two albums, and I’ve discovered a whole bunch of new circles/bands along the way. It’s been a wild ride! So, before I do anything else, I just want to say thanks to everyone who’s requested translations, or has commented on/liked the stuff that I’ve posted, both here and on Youtube. I really appreciate it! Thanks for making this an exciting and worthwhile year.
Anyway, I thought I’d make a list. I was particularly inspired by Shion’s list, so I thought I’d try and write one of my own! I’m doing things a bit differently, though – rather than choosing my top 15 arrangements, I decided to choose my top 10 circles, and choose my two favourite tracks from their entire discography [along with some special mentions, since it’s so hard to pick just two tracks]. My circle choices are probably really safe/obvious, so don’t judge me too harshly… (I might make another list focusing on more obscure circles, but I’ll leave that for another time). I’ve added Youtube links to subtitled videos where possible.
Of course, this list is all based on my own opinions. One of the things I love the most about the Touhou community is how many different types of arrangers and arrangements there are out there! Feel free to comment if you like the same circles/like different arrangements/think I’ve made a dreadful mistake/anything else.
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10. t=NODE/Secret Messenger
a) Four Seasons
From 四季 -春- Dream of Wonder [C78]
I combined the two circles since t=NODE kind of ‘became’ Secret Messenger (and my favourite t=NODE tracks are by Yuy anyway – but watch out for the surprise appearances of RD in early t=NODE albums!). Putting that aside, what I love about Yuy’s arrangements is how they’re all stories. You could almost call them ‘tone poems.’ This one in particular embodies a kaleidoscope of different emotions, starting off in nostalgia, moving to fear and anxiety, before calming down and finishing on a more hopeful note. It’s almost 9 minutes long, but I wholeheartedly recommend giving it a listen.
b) 永遠 || Eternity
From 夢空歌姫 ～ Fantasy of the princess wings [C82]
This one’s a Secret Messenger track, and a vocal arrangement to contrast with my #1 pick. I like this one because you can tell a lot of thought has gone into the arrangement. Yuy only uses a few instruments to accompany the vocals, but they all work together. The electronic beats/percussion in particular are very effective – you could say that about all of Yuy’s tracks, I guess. Writing this up reminded me that I wanted to translate this song…
Honourable mentions: Flagilis Justitia [another haunting Kagome Kagome arrangement to go with the one above], Memoria, Disaster, In the garden of phantasmagoria.
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From ID [C85]
Thunderclouds of Magical Power, along with Magical Storm, make up my two favourite themes from Double Dealing Character. And, of course, they’re criminally overlooked by arrangers… >_> Anyway, RAT1959 has a way of creating a lot of ‘space’ in his arrangements. I just imagine I’m flying through a snow-covered mountain range whilst listening to this arrangement. RAT1959 also gets IZNA in a way that few other arrangers do, except for maybe NSY and (more recently) Eiji Hijikata (土方 英司).
From 東方PARTYBOX [C88]
Another arrangement by RAT1959. I actually thought it was by Shrimp to start off with. Anyway, this arrangement has a lot of ‘space’ too. That’s especially appropriate, given that this track is an arrangement of ‘The Mysterious Shrine Maiden Flying Through Space.’ I guess only time will tell, but for now, this is definitely my favourite arrangement of that theme. I like the guitar work in this arrangement, especially the shredding (or whatever it is) that goes on before the verses. I also love the melody of the verses, even though it isn’t based on the original theme!
Honourable mentions: WhiteRequiem, ミステリートレインに乗って, Laninamivir, oblivion, 696, Daybreak Fantasy, カナシミカナタ, Needle Word.
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a) クハシヤの廃園 || The Kasha’s Abandoned Garden
From Alkaloid [C85]
Yeah, I know everyone loves disco Hatsunetsumiko’s, and I love them too, but I still fondly remember the days when their arrangements were more subdued… Anyway, I love this one because it plays out like a sort of dark children’s song. It has a sort of ‘abandoned carnival’ feel to it. The vocals are also really effective – it feels like Chen-U crafts each syllable, which works with the lyrics to cement the song’s macabre atmosphere. It’s really effective!
b) Satellite Rendezvous
From Girls in the Mirror [C88]
I had trouble deciding which disco track I should put here, but I decided on this one – it’s not often that you find a Touhou vocal arrangement that doesn’t actually have lyrics. Vivienne scats the whole time, and it’s so fresh and lively!
Honourable mentions: Girls in the Mirror, drifter, DANCE with WOLVES, A Prayer, It’s You, Innocent World, Libertus, Origin of Love, Treasure, Drifter, C2U.
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7. Liz Triangle
a) World of Electrolytes
From laglange point [ARTS1]
Before this song came out, I was starving for good arrangements of ‘Blue Sea of 53 Minutes.’ But after listening to this one, I don’t think I need to listen to another one (okay, that’s not really true, since I like Butaotome’s version, too!). Anyway, the arrangement is typical of kaztora’s Liz Triangle style – lily-an’s vocals mixed with a backdrop of traditional and chiptune-style instruments. And azuki’s lyrics do what azuki’s lyrics do. I don’t think there’s a better trio in the entire Touhou community.
From reunion [C81]
Reunion was actually my first Liz Triangle album, and this song was the song that made me fall in love with them. I had no idea what it was about until I translated it, but (again) azuki’s lyrics do what azuki’s lyrics do. You wouldn’t think that an arrangement of Futo’s theme using the bit at the start as the chorus would work, but kaztora makes it work. He makes it work really well.
Honourable mentions: L50, Immortal Philosophy, 地球儀の旅, refrain, Little Dreamer.
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6. Shibayan Records
a) Fall In The Dark
From Mágico Catástrofe [C83]
I think Mágico Catástrofe will always be my favourite Shibayan album, no matter what else he comes out with. The other vocal tracks from this album are so good, but Fall In the Dark stands out – partially because it’s an arrangement of ‘A Soul as Red as a Ground Cherry,’ and I always need more of them. The chorus is also really catchy! Sing after me: “One, two, three, time to fall into the dark!”
b) オズネイ・ハマンはもういらない || I Don’t Need Any Oznei Haman Anymore
From ムソウマテリアライズ [M3-28]
There are lots of awesome tracks from Shibayan’s noise period, but for some reason I really like this one. I only have a vague idea of what an Oznei Haman is, but if I ever eat one, you can bet that I’ll be singing this song in my head the whole time. Using food as a metaphor for love isn’t something you see all the time, but it makes this song really powerful – can it actually make you feel hungry by listening to it? Possibly.
Honourable mentions: Clockup Flowers, MyonMyonMyonMyonMyonMyon!, Desert Years, GAZE IT!, 荊の城, わたしはこねこ.
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5. Diao ye zong
a) 葬迎 || Burial Meeting
From 屠 (Hohuri) [C86]
Try as I might, I can’t quite pin down what I love so much about this song. It isn’t even an arrangement of a Touhou theme, unless you count the last part (where we get a few short sections of ‘Legend of Hourai’). Maybe it’s the build-up? The whole song flows organically, and I love how RD adds in different instruments (and takes them away) to effortlessly control the song’s tension and release. Merami oversteps her vocal range a little when she sings 人間遊びを始めよう at one of the song’s many climaxes, but I don’t even mind. It’s so visceral. And don’t get me started on the lyrics! I think RD just… ‘gets’ Merami. She sings for so many different circles, but I think he’s one of the only arrangers who uses her to her full potential.
b) 捧げられたイメェジ || With an Expression of Sacrifice
From 薦 (Susume) [C85]
I love Erik Satie’s Gymnoipedies. I never expected to see them mashed up with a Touhou theme that isn’t Nitori’s theme. But somehow, RD makes it work. Circus Reverie is definitely on my list of favourite tracks from ZUN’s music CDs… and of course nobody ever arranges it. I think RD’s made about three arrangements of this theme, but only the instrumental one uses the main ‘melody’ [the one with the octave leaps in the piano]. I think that’s a bit of a shame since it’s my favourite part of the theme, but oh well. As you’d expect from RD, the lyrics are powerful and… somewhat demented, I suppose? They really fit well with the ‘unhealing’ theme of Dolls of Pseudo Paradise. I’d like to make an unhealing arrangement of Circus Reverie one day, too…
Honourable mentions: The Anonymous, (I’m gonna eat you up!), はじまりのワイゲルト, Tied Corruption, Mad Party, Sanae, げんきになったときのうた, Lonely Monster in the Desolation #0, Lost Dream・Generations, she’s purity, ←ALIVE.
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a) Plaza Ashitaka Mondo + Soon
From Bachi [C85] and Less [C86]
I’m bending my rules a bit and putting two tracks here. So it’s kind of a top 3, rather than a top two… Anyway, I love both of these tracks dearly, and in my opinion they’re some of the best that Sally has produced. Ashitaka Mondo’s there because it’s just amazing. Listening to it is like looking into a future landscape full of hope. Or something like that. It’s one of the only arrangements of Pristine Beat that I really enjoy, and Ranko’s totally in her element here. Soon’s there because I think it demonstrates just how much IZNA’s grown as a vocalist. I didn’t like her much to begin with, but now I can’t imagine Sally without her.
b) plaza Blue age
From Sadomasochism [C81]
Toyosatomimi no Miko is my ‘mascot’ of sorts, so I had to put in at least one arrangement of her theme! It’s full of power, the lyrics are meaningful, and I love the little rapping bit in the middle (it’s kind of like a precursor to what we’d see later in Plaza roboscape). NSY makes the most of the melodic sparseness of the original theme. By the way, I like the original version better than the redone ‘Plaza blue Rage.’ I think the extra sound clarity somehow hurts the ambience of the track, and the rapping part in the middle is missing.
Honourable mentions: Basically everything else… And let’s not forget about Min. Everyone loves Min.
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From 舞踏会のドスコナウォシチ [C83]
Fully instrumental circles are under-represented on my list, but Machikado-Mapoze is one of the best (which is why I was so unhappy when they disbanded earlier in the year…). Over the years, they released a bunch of wonderful classical arrangements – unlike some other orchestral circles, Machikado-Mapoze’s classical arrangements strictly follow the forms of their genres, which stretch from baroque suites to tangos to waltzes. There’s honestly something in there for everyone. Anyway, why do I like this arrangement so much? I think it’s the atmosphere. When I listen to it, I think of Renko x Merry on an old steam train, journeying through icy mountains. The flute effects are really cool (listen out for the train whistle!) and the harmonies are wonderful.
b) グリニッジ高空舞踏会場にて || When a Dance Party was Held in the Sky Over Greenwich, a.k.a. The Catcher in Greenwich
From The Catcher in Greenwich  and けーね先生の音楽教室 [C85]
I love this one for pretty much the same reason as the first track. I’m not even that fond of the recorder, but it works so well as a member of a larger ensemble! When I listen to this one, I think of Renko x Merry riding on a larger, ricketier steam train, dancing in comically large pairs of shoes. This one has two versions – I like the second one slightly more because it features the clarinet…
Honourable mentions: La java de verdure, The Hagoromo Legend of Tango, Seija’s Reversal, Cannibalistic Tango, Cantata ‘Let’s go to School!’, Summer-Coloured Crystals, La critica, ‘Shadow in the Sun’ for Recorder Consort and Piano,
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a) うたかた || Transient
From 少女煉獄 第三巻 [C88]
A recent addition. But from the moment I heard this track in the crossfade, I knew it would become one of my favourites. It’s mainly because of the chanted section. It’s a wonderfully inventive arrangement moment from Comp, and Ranko’s lyrics fit in beautifully. It also references Mokou’s dialogue with the player in Imperishable Night, which itself is a reference to an older work of literature. Basically, it’s really well-thought out, and I love it for that.
b) 非科学的表裏一体 || An Unscientific Symbiosis
From ありきたりな脳髄よ、今宵の月と踊れ [C87]
This makes it in because of the timpani. I always find myself tapping my feet along with it… Anyway, it’s basically everything I’d want from an arrangement of ‘Boys and Girls of a Science Era’ – there’s so few of them out there. It’s more laid-back than your average Butaotome arrangement, which I suppose demonstrates just how versatile they are as a circle.
Honourable mentions: 私家版 百鬼夜行絵巻 (Privately Published Night Parade Scroll), 残された星 (The Star That Was Left Behind), サーカスのナイフ投げ (The Knife Thrower of the Circus, Alone), 逆転の世界 (Turnabout World), 巡る業 (Returning Karma), Y, ない。 (Nothing.), 真っ黒な雪 (Pitch Black Snow), 夢紀行 (Dream Travel Journal), 響縁 (Echoed Bonds).
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a) Good Bye RAISE
From その日私は空を見上げた [RTS12]
If you’ve been paying attention to my Shinra-Bansho translations, you probably already know that I have an unhealthy obsession with azuki’s lyrics. I just love how he throws scientific concepts, religion, fairytales, and basically everything else together and comes out with lyrics that get at the core of human existence. This track is no exception – it’s a wonderful arrangement of Rigid Paradise, dealing with themes of death, the afterlife, and rebirth. There’s one particular part that I love:
“Continuing on towards death is a sign of living.
My heart aches – it’s proof of my existence.”
The song could have ended on a tragic note, but it rises above that and ends full of hope.
b) 蛙楽 -パレード編- || The Cries of Frogs -Parade Version-
From Doppel [ARTS1]
It was a tough to choose between this one and anjir, but this won out by the smallest margin. To this day, I still have no idea what was going through kaztora’s mind when he wrote the lyrics to this song, and I guess that’s one of the things that attracts me to it so much. The arrangement’s a lot heavier than the original version sung by Merami – it’s kind of like looking at the mirror and seeing a demented face smiling back at you. Mie does such a great job at giving this arrangement character, demonstrating versatility rivaling that of Merami herself. Overall, it relishes in its weirdness, and I love it for that.
Honourable Mentions: Basically everything else, but especially anjir! I love anjir! Also, I didn’t include the musicals because that would be a bit unfair, but they’re excellent, too. My personal favourite is their most recent one, その日私は空を見上げた || On That Day, I Looked Up at the Sky.
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So, that’s the end of my list (yet another massive wall of text)! Here’s to another year of translation spam. If you read this far, thank you!
4 responses to “1st Anniversary – My Top 10 Circles”
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Thank you Releska! Please bring more awesomeness in the Touhou stage!
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No TAMAONSEN, Undead Corporation, Unlucky Morpheus or Pizuya’s Cell?! BLASPHEMY. MADNESS. But at least you have Buta Otome and Diao ye Zong…
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I love TAMAONSEN, so it was painful to not include them this time… Honestly, it was a tough fight for spots 10 and 9, which is why I’d like to make another list one day >_<