J-Generation’s best J-Pop and J-Rock album/single jackets for 2012.
Koda Kumi – JAPONESQUE
David: This pose perfectly captures the balance of sex and style that has made Koda Kumi an international success. A killer shot for a killer album.
Berryz Kobo – Be Genki Naseba Naru
David: The superhero personas of Berryz Kobo instantly grabbed my attention with these designs straight from a modern-day comic-book shelf. If Berryz Kobo had a comic, I’d buy it.
mini – Electro Hako Banban Picasso
Nhu: Studded shoulder armor and strappy disco-ball tiled shoes are a strange combo, but mini makes it work whilst posing with that awesome neon light bolt.
Minori Chihara – D-Formation
David: Elegant, understated sc-fi with a surprising hint of menace (–are those cables going in… or out?) reminiscent of 80’s fantasy novels.
Angela Aki – Blue
Nhu: Aki is a classy lady rocking a pretty blue dress and… a pair of Converse. She’s also levitating!
Atsuko Maeda – Kimi wa boku da – Act 1
David: Leave it to AKB48’s Atsuko Maeda to portray domestic tranquility with ominous signs that the roof is about to come crashing in.
Moumoon – No Land
Nhu: At first glance, my attention is drawn to vocalist Yuka’s refined face. I’m quick to think I see a crown on her head (that’s what I expect), but on closer look, it’s a carousel! With all the little details, she’s pretty much wearing a mini-Fair in her hair and pulling it off elegantly.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – Candy Candy
David: Outrageously kawaii, Kyary channels her inner Shiina Ringo. A perfect visual summary of the artist’s style.
DE DE MOUSE-Faraway Girl
Nhu: I’m attracted to this simple cover of a drawing of a little girl.
Hitoto Yo – Kayoukyoku
David: Dreamy and ethereal, Hitoto Yo invites you into her magical world.
HALCALI – HALCALI no Okawari
Nhu: It’s a HALCALI bentou or Japanese-style lunch box. Edible, though? Rather not!
Nampa Boys – Plunge
David: This makes me laugh every time I see it. Nampa Boys go all out to live up to their name. No shame, no apologies.
Kana Nishino – GO FOR IT!
Nhu: Kana Nishino is cute and pretty as usual in this cover for “GO FOR IT!” Normally a solo artist, she’s not solo on this cover. In the right-hand corner is a little bow-wearing, bunny that steals the spotlight… this little cheerleader is really what screams, “GO FOR IT!”
Pes from RIP SLYME – Megame no KISS
David: Imaginative, playful, and original, this trippy cover gave me a disturbingly dark Ralph Bakshi flashback.
esu-efu – Sing Future
Nhu: This mini-album cover reminds me of a time when I was younger and wanted to travel into space… except, I still do. My mode of space transportation didn’t quite look like the plane in this cover, but my space travel dreams look and felt as vibrant as this artwork.
Kaela Kimura – MAMIRERU
David: Kaela Kimura has always been crazy, but rarely does she forsake her normally cute cover imagery to let loose her inner psycho.
Kanjani8 – ER
Nhu: I’m a big fan of the Limited Edition A and B covers of “ER,” the single and theme song for Kanjani8’s superhero movie, Eight Rangers. Limited Edition B groups all eight in a ready-to-lay-a-smackdown-on-you pose. I love the regular edition artwork the most, though — a collage of their faces and helmets. I’d expect this of an indie rock group, like Polysics, for example, but not for Kanjani8!
Misato Watanabe – Serendipity
Nhu: Everyone grows plants in their homes, but in this cover album, a tree grows through the floorboards of Watanabe’s room. It’s a quirky cover as the singer sits looking off into the distance, dog in lap, while a garden grows around her.
Mayu Watanabe – Hikaru Monotachi
David: This special-edition jacket for Mayu Watanabe’s Oricon-topping single was designed by hot pop-culture artist Aki Akane.
Perfume – Spending all my time
Nhu: I love the dresses and poses of these ladies. Nocchi (left) has the best pose of the three. The more broken-doll-like, the better!
Ayumi Hamasaki – Party Queen (Box Set)
David: Technically not an album jacket, but special mention for maximum party packaging.
Yellow Fried Chickenz – One
David: You can’t beat Gackt’s capacity for self-deprecating humor. With these dual covers for his (now RIP) YFC project, Gackt shows us he gets the joke.
Man with a Mission – Mash up the World
Nhu: Rocking wolves plotting world domination.
Tokyo Jihen – Tokyo Collection
David: Elegant and perfectly poised, Shiina Ringo personifies the band’s famous crane symbol. Tokyo Jihen (again, another RIP) went out with class.
L’arc-en-ciel – Butterfly
Nhu: A gorgeous cover of butterflies hugging the model’s body like a gown.
Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas – All That We Have Now
Nhu: This cover shows a lone figure walking into an ominous future. Above the figure and the clouds, the sun and album title are breaking through, and a colorful cosmic heaven framing the earth’s landscape. The message I get from it: Your future ahead is unknown, but bright.
KISHIDAN – Nipponjin
David: Outrageous and over-the-top, who else would have the balls to to try to out-Sgt-Pepper the Beatles?
TsuShiMaMiRe – SHOCKING
David: Posing as their alter-egos THE SHOCKINGS, the 50’s glam sci-fi pin-up style is a great re-birth for TsuShiMaMiRe on their new self-owned label.
Halloween Junky Orchestra – Halloween Party
David: Capital-“E” Epic cover for the utterly mad collaboration by HYDE (VAMPS), Acid Black Cherry, DAIGO (BREAKERZ), kyo (D’ERLANGER), Tommy february6/Tommy heavenly6, Tatsurou (MUCC), Tsuchiya Anna, Aoki Ryuuji, K.A.Z (VAMPS), Hitsugi (Nightmare), Aki (SID), RINA (SCANDAL) and Kanon Wakeshima.
Gacharic Spin – Nudie Rhythm
Nhu: I’m tempted to say these are strategically-placed instruments, but really, the ladies are small, and those instruments are huge. I wonder what went through their minds when taking this photo — each member has a different expression on her face. From left to right, they’re giving us serious, content, dead-pan, and cute — probably the same faces I made when I first saw this cover!
SEKAI NO OWARI – Nemurihime (CD/Book)
Dave: A classy special package with cool design and subtle elegance… plus clown-headed DJ Love.
LM.C –Strong Pop
Nhu: “Strong Pop’s” psychedelic cover is fun and vibrant, just like the duo.
amazarashi – Love Song
David: I hadn’t followed amazarashi until this jacket grabbed my attention and invited me into their trippy, alt-rock world. My fault for not getting into this adventure earlier — well worth it.
FLiP – XX emotion
David: All boys are secretly afraid of the girls’ bathroom. This jacket scared me right away — somebody in that room’s about to get a beat-down.
girugamesh – Zecchou BANG!!
David: girugamesh goes full-Kurosawa in this Seven Samurai-inspired cover.
Shonannokaze – Entenka
David: Seriously, I give props to a band for not even trying to hide the truth — they just want to sell some CDs!
Tommy February6 & Tommy Heavenly6 – FEBRUARY & HEAVENLY
David: Tomoko Kawase’s overt gluttony is on full display for the (evil-)twin-album set celebrating her 10th anniversary as solo “Tommy”.
Animetal USA – W
David: Wicked “Ghost Rider-ish” tribute fully embraces Animetal USA’s over-the-top nostalgia for head-banging days gone by.