I like my storytelling in songs, and DECO*27 takes my fondness of this even further with an album consisting of 12 tracks (13 for a bonus track on some CD versions) featuring an overarching plot. The 12 tracks span the 12 months of two 3rd year high school students DECO*27 calls Kouki and Shiori. The album explores their entire relationship: their confessions of their feelings for one another, their honeymoon phase, the hardships faced in their relationship, the final push that strains their relationship beyond repair that leads to their break-up and finally, their feelings after their separation.
Throughout my article I have referenced translated lines from the tracks, with the credit going to the original translator decentsubs. As for the title, I wanted it to originally be “A love letter to Love Calendar: DECO*27’s best album and my absolute favourite Japanese record ever”, but that’s a pretty lengthy one so I’ve said it here instead! Let’s dive into why I find it so incredible.
The album concept
DECO*27 often uses the same themes throughout his works, from adolescence, growing up and love. Love Calendar, despite being an album of his to not involve any Vocaloids at all feels the most genuine with mostly Utaite’s (Japan’s version of YouTube cover singers often based on Nico Nico Douga) singing his tracks. But DECO*27 does not leave out his roots within the Vocaloid scene even in this non-Vocaloid album, as fans of his will take notice of a handful of these album songs being covers of his well-known or earlier Vocaloid songs. But with two guests vocals and the majority of the album being sung by Topi, an Utaite with a sweet and soft voice but highly emotional delivery, and Marina (Angel Beats! fame) with a more mature sound, it reinforces how dynamic each track is and delivers it even more effectively for the storytelling purposes and emotions.
A track by track discussion
DECO*27 highlights each song’s lyrics in colours to indicate the perspective of the person singing it. Sometimes it’s Kouki in blue, other times it’s Shiori in pink, and sometimes it’s from only one of them for the entire song. I’ll split this discussion part up with three months’ worth of tracks, with my closing thoughts briefly mentioning the 13th bonus track.
The first song of the album “1 + 1 = 1” is sung in the perspective of Shiori, with Topi providing vocals. It’s the shortest of the tracks as it is the opener for the whole album. As it’s sung from Shiori’s perspective, it’s an extremely innocent track what with the highlight lines of it being her questioning if it’s okay for her to confess (Will it become a burden for you? Will it bother you?). The track flows perfectly into “RT”, switching the perspective onto Kouki at the same point of confessing while both DECO*27 and Topi provide vocals. This is the first telling of the red string of fate (Is it fine to tie the red-string of fate this way? / This red string won’t come loose right?). Many of the lyrics exude excitement and nervousness about it being each others’ first loves, from the overjoyed feeling of it being mutual (these exhilarating feelings), turning quickly into love and the certainty that they are fated to be together.
“Taking Sweet Shelter” is next, and it’s now sung by Shoko Nakagawa, the first of two well-known vocalists as guests on the album. It’s the first track to highlight the importance of giving and taking in a relationship for it to work; halving responsibilities and always compromising. This is even shown in the album’s cover art and used within the song of the umbrella cliché (First it was saying in unison: I like the rain. A dry right shoulder, and a soaked left one. Splitting it half and half, right? If it’s just you getting wet, it’s a bit unfair isn’t it?). Taking Sweet Shelter effectively encapsulates this feeling of sheer bliss of the honeymoon phase from the innocence of a first love being exciting (but someone saw us Our perfect crime crumbled away) and seeing only your special other and no one else around (The witnesses are you and me, that first kiss was such a sweet color). The song ends on a positive note as the couple are hopeful of their future (we’ll surely face countless fights and hardships but in those times when you have cried too much, let’s raise up that small umbrella).
“Egomama”, sung by Marina provides the most solid and mature vocals which is extremely fitting for the theme of “Egomama”. This is the first sign of the couple struggling. It’s perspective is from Shiori, who is doubting what love is now that she has found it. As shown throughout the previous song of compromising with a shared umbrella to avoid the rain with Kouki, she is doubting how much giving and taking is appropriate in a relationship. (Love is what so captivates us, yet this love at times leads to loathing). How much is too much where it becomes egotistical, and how little is too little that it’s selfish? (I’m doing this all for you,” I’m doing this all for me”). She concludes that by becoming one with Kouki, they can value one another in the same way.
“Light Lag” is back to Topi, and where we see the couple more stable and mostly coming from Kouki’s perspective. They already feel nostalgic of their initial blossoming of their romance, but it’s bittersweet with another reminder that it may not last (Just as light and sound, we have fates that are bound to keep both of us apart). The song puts emphasis on how they may be watching fireworks together, but the couple continuously looks at one another; the beauty isn’t about the fireworks but in seeing each other’s expression during the event (Yet all you had to say was it’s so beautiful you looked into the colors upon my face). It’s just like how fixated they were in seeing only one another back in “Taking Sweet Shelter”. And even when Shiori does not like Kouki catching bugs, she’s still staring at his expression (it won’t slow down my heartbeat, my eyes keep going back to you). And once more we go back to what Shiori learnt when dealing with her inner conflict (I could feel our hearts were beating at a quickened pace as one / With this equal pace we’re running at my pulse will lift off). At this point you can slightly hear DECO*27 providing his own vocals to the track, reinforcing this moment being the first time the couple are on the same page.
Now onto my favourite track of the album starring DECO*27 himself! This decision of having DECO*27 as a solo performance for this track represents the song being from Kouki’s perspective entirely. “27” shows that the couple are finally at the point where disagreements between the pair have become more frequent (things have become uncertain, as September has come around / Who will say sorry?), but despite this, Kouki is the one to initiate the apology by surprising Shiori with a birthday cake he baked. But he had yet to learn what her preferences are! (My favorite isn’t cheesecake you know, it’s strawberry shortcake / “Seriously?!” You say with an astonished face, but even that part of you, / I love it.) Shiori continues to be agitated by this but she’s still pleasantly surprised he would remember her birthday – the 27th. Nice one, DECO*27. (As you hide your crying face, your hanging bangs are so cute / That I’d always be by your side protecting you…I swore I would). Once more this final line is suggesting of negativity and doubt in their relationship, and it’s answered immediately with the roughest song from Topi to follow up with in the 7th month.
“Sandglass” indicates the moment that Shiori has been told that she is moving away from Kouki. (The color which follows my left hand, it is also the sound ringing between my ears) directly refers to their red string of fate being severed by the words her parents have told her. The sandglass means for the couple not only running out of time together, but also Shiori’s want to turn back time, as they are becoming merely memories (The beat that I trace with my fingertip, right now in my heart it is making a melody of sand). This is followed up with “Care Taking Guardian” where Shiori tells Kouki of the sad news because of her parent’s work. The chaotic and loud production of the track is very telling of Kouki’s distress at hearing it.
“Love Distance Long Affair” is exactly what you would expect from its name. It’s a slower love song that expresses the struggles of maintaining a long distance relationship. Since we know from “Care Taking Guardian” that Kouki could not do anything to prevent Shiori from leaving, we see first hand here how their newly forced living conditions is straining their relationship. It really hits how distance can affect a relationship with the simple line of (I can breathe just fine, and I’m still alive / And though I live, it’s a lonely life). Its whole chorus is a want, a need to still be with one another and even hearkens back to “1 + 1 = 1”. Shiori still wants to laugh, cry and get mad at Kouki, but she also asks if it’s okay to like Kouki, hug him, and still keep him as hers with the long distance. She’s asking for permission just like when she confessed. It’s tear inducing. But even now there is still hope (We’ll meet again / I’ll be waiting.)
My close second favourite track on the album is here with Aoi Yuuki’s “Heart’s Homing Instinct”. Once again there is a craving for the couple to see one another physically, this time relayed by Kouki (I really don’t want to become unwanted, but I still wish for it / That we can bear the painful times equally). Kouki has definitely matured at this point and is even craving the time they spent arguing with one another because that would mean he’d still be near Shiori (Being hurt, hurting you, It’s still fine). Kouki also holds hope for a future with Shiori in it alongside him (That even if we lack any type of landmark, we’ll still see each other and fall in love). It’s the most poetic and romantic Kouki has ever sounded (and cute thanks to Aoi), and he soon identifies the so-called non-existent landmark by the last verse thanks to Shiori guiding him (If you suddenly find something guiding your way, it’ll be the smell of that shampoo of mine you love! / Ah, my landmark is that smiling face of yours). And finally, the main line of the chorus is (When I say I’ve come home I want to hear you say Welcome back), a want of Kouki to live with Shiori, which in itself is a big deal for any couple! How damn adorable of him.
By this point with “A Constellation For Two”, their thoughts become even more overwhelmed and negative. This song immediately hearkens back to “Light Lag” from the line that says their fates will collide in the sky (I’ll become a star so that I can be seen by you). This track is the best one to trace back references as Shiori looks back on many throwbacks touched upon previous songs/her memories. There has been a consistent theme of the song’s mentioning space through making note of the sky to reinforce their distance in these later months, such as “Sandglass” with the red sky and their fate into the sky as previously mentioned. On top of this, the couple confessed and has their most valued memories happening during night (Our love, it blossomed in night).
This track mentions both factors, now saying (Night seemingly carried on endlessly, the inside of my futon felt like outer space). This is the most Shiori has felt so distant and alone, with the next line literally stating so (Since the breath of this love has seemingly come to a stop The air around me no longer has that sweet flavor). In fact, we make note of Shiori feeling distraught from the redness coming from her ears at the news of her leaving in “Sandglass”, but now (Since the beat of this love has gone still, My eardrums no longer tremble at its sound). We see Shiori be the most genuine out of all the songs here (Smiling side by side, we were watching the fireworks, weren’t we? But to be honest, I was really only watching you back then). She had previously thanked the fireworks for hiding her blushes. She references Egoselfish positively (It’s fine, even with a sense of egoism / Selfishness is fine too), and acknowledges Kouki knowing that their relationship would not stay stable (that the breath of this love would cease, You came to know it before I did). Then we see Kouki joining in with this line acknowledging Shiori feeling isolated in “Long Distance Love Affair” (You must have felt so very lonely, didn’t you? We couldn’t be together until the end). He further recalls his last line of “27” (Having wanted to be there for you and yet it’s become like this…). “A Constellation for Two” is the most heart-wrenching title of the album, especially evident with all the links made to previous tracks, homing in on how important knowing the lyrics are for this album. Props to descentsubs once again!
“Voice and Voice” is meant to be the final track, and it confirms the decayed state of their relationship and their thoughts on their first love coming to an end. Topi and DECO*27 once again provide vocals, with the latter being heard ever so slightly in the chorus. The song confirms how they both have accepted the end of their relationship, but they struggle to voice it (From behind I’ll surely be smiling, while crying all the same). They go on to force out the line (Smile and forget about me, meet another once more), but with Topi’s delivery, you can hear her trying to hold back and feeling pained to sing it. There’s a denial of relaying this by the last verse and they can’t hold back their anguish (I can’t smile anymore), but they still wish for the other to be happy (I just want you to smile). The final nail in the coffin is Shiori now accepting that their relationship would never survive (I knew that is how it was / I understood thats what it was going to be). She’s ended up on the same page as Kouki once again, but it can’t be as positive as either hoped.
Track 13 is the Piano Parallel Mix of Ai Kotoba, one of DECO*27’s most popular songs. Its addition into the album is not part of the overall story, but it certainly leaves the ending feeling more hopeful for their potential future meeting and rekindling of their relationship. This is even hinted at in the manga of the same name created by Mayu Minase.
There’s a lot of thought that has gone into this non-Vocaloid album of DECO*27’s, from the concept, consistent storytelling, art, and even the naming of its couple. For example, Kouki and Shiori coupled together can suggest a meaning of “guiding light” which I find so fitting when we consider the theme of the red string of fate and other hints such as Shiori wanting to become a guiding star to Kouki after their separation. Love Calender is my favourite album to come out of Japan ever, and dedicating an article to it is the least I could do to celebrate its existence. It’s worth shedding tears over, but it should also be cherished for how realistic and striking it is, production and all. Thank you, Deco*27!
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