Shota Aoi – Flower
David: Not knowing Shota Aoi’s work, this jacket grabbed my attention instantly. Whoever can pull off this gigantic floral fashion with a cutting stare to back it up gets instant respect.
Sakura Fujiwara – PLAY
Nhu: The cover of Sakura Fujiwara’s second studio album PLAY is a watercolor portrait of a girl walking down a bright yellow train track framed by nature painted in deep purples, blues, and greens. It’s an image of both maturity and youth, just like the singer songwriter and her music.
Koda Kumi – W Face inside/outside
David: The dual-design of Koda Kumi’s W Face is a perfect match for the performer’s split-persona — equal parts dance diva and soulful songstress. Kumi’s half-ready-for-camera cover portrait — face ready, but hair still askew — frames the killer element: the unguarded stare linking to the title track’s pointed personal lyrics.
AKB48 – Shoot Sign
David: The heroic showdown of AKB48’s wickedly-entertaining music video for “Shoot Sign” is previewed my favorite version of the multiple-CD releases. For all the fans who wished World Idol Pro Wrestling was real, this one wins for the kicks.
Charisma.com – not not me
David: Charisma.com made a big deal of shedding their OL personas, and MC Itsuka’s new haircut puts an extra F-you into the mix for anyone who expected more of the same (lollipop included).
YUZU – Iroha
Nhu: The yuzu citrus fruit goes through a really strange four-stage transformation on the cover of Yuzu’s Iroha. But for fans of the folk-rock duo, it probably makes sense. As their first greatest hits album covering the span of their 20 year career, it seems to show the birth of the band — sherbet on top of the yuzu (Yujin Kitagawa apparently named the band after the yuzu-flavored sherbet he was eating), moving into their young and ripe stages, then hitting their ultimate leveled-up form in the Takashi-Murakami-designed final psychedelic look.
Sayaka Yamamoto – identity
David: NMB48’s Sayaka Yamamoto makes a cool, subdued statement about standing out from the crowd and keeping your cool in the middle of it at the same time, forever a problem in the idol world.
DAOKO – Uchiage Hanabi
Nhu: Singer and rapper DAOKO is the quintessential Tokyo girl – hip and trendy AF. So it was refreshing to see her striking cover artwork for single “Uchiage Hanabi” where she dons a kimono, displays her beautiful side profile and hair ornament with sparks digitally-added onto her hair for extra ‘firework’ effect, as the song title suggests.