Happy Solstice, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to boot! Does that cover everyone and everything? Hope so
Thank you, Mike; very festive! Since I’m in the middle of planning/expediting a big move (yes, another #@$%&*^ one), I don’t have much time for a typical hours-long-in-the-making post. So rather than fudge around trying to force the issue and just type for the sake of typing, how about some year-end mood-setting and celebration instead? I’ve rounded up a nice diverse assortment of holiday treats and goodies; if one thing doesn’t suit your fancy, please feel free to move on to the next!
THE MUSIC AND ANIMATION SECTION:
Ian Anderson with (and without) Jethro Tull has always celebrated the holiday season well, releasing many Christmas-themed songs over the years. One of these chestnuts is the lovely “Ring Out the Solstice Bells,” which follows in this lively animated promotional video from 1976:
No Christmas post (of mine LOL) would be complete without a gathering of several of Kate Bush’s holiday-feeling songs. “December Will Be Magic Again” has been among my most-loved Christmassy songs from the first moments I heard it. It’s perfect; it even has jingle bells! Here’s a (fittingly) beautiful live version of it from her 1979 Christmas special (and thanks to fellow HomeGrounder Symphonyofflowers who posted these and also provides the lyrics on the vid’s page):
If Kate is to your fancy (and why wouldn’t she be?) then please enjoy a couple of more warm and soothing songs. Not so coincidentally, the first up is “Warm and Soothing” and is just (but not just) that:
Incidentally, that was the B-side to “December Will Be Magic Again.” Yes, holidays can be melancholy too… not to mention COLD! Keeping with the “warm-n-toasty” theme, Kate invites you into “The Warm Room”…
…annnd now for something completely different!
THE ANIME AND MUSIC SECTION:
Minorin, Taiga, and Ami, in the Holiday spirit~
(Well, “completely” and “different” depending upon your perspective.) Anyway. Today I was searching YouTube for a video of “Oh Holy Night”, and thinking there was a performance of it in the anime Toradora floundered around for quite a while getting lost in the countless TD clips. I remembered what a great anime it was and also my ongoing desire to buy the Limited Editions one day that I keep forgetting about since I can’t afford them at the moment. I’m very picky about what titles I buy, and Toradora was one of the best romantic drama-comedies I’ve ever enjoyed. The animation may be great (and it is very good in TD) but if the characters and story don’t grab me, there’s little interest for me in any title. But the cast here is wonderful and believable, the roller-coaster of a story unpredictable and funny, and the visuals are top-notch with a slightly unique look to the designs. I want it.
...very, very... "unique"
Briefly (betcha never thought I’d type that!) the basics are this: scary-eyed Ryuuji lives with his partying mom and their bird Inko-chan (!) in an humble-but-clean abode (despite his scary looks handed down to him by his father, Ryuuji’s a clean-freak). In the towering apartment complex next door lives Taiga (aka “The Palmtop Tiger” due to her size and volatile temper) who is Ryuuji’s direct across-the-alley neighbor, and living alone separated from her parents. They attend the same school as her friend Minori and his friend Kitamura. Things are (relatively) simple at first when it’s just a matter of Taiga liking Kitamura and Ryuuji pining for Minori; Ryuuji and Taiga team up to help each other gather the nerve to approach their loved ones (aka “obsessions” LOL) and confess their feelings.
Ami, Kitamura, Minori(n), Taiga, and Ryuuji
Simple, that is, until Ami enters the story, a stuck up, self-centered, manipulative student and sometimes model, who gets things pretty stirred up… She’s a very interesting and complex character whom I couldn’t stand at first, but grew to appreciate later on, thanks to her character’s development. Turns out that the “Oh Holy Night” song turned out to be “Holy Night” and wasn’t the song that I was thinking of at all. It actually was good enough to consider posting here, but the spoilers involving Ami and Taiga shouldn’t be revealed to those curious about watching the show. It’s very cute though xD
So I’ll put up a couple of other Christmassy TD clips with somewhat lesser spoilers! I guess it can’t be helped
Especially if the above interested you, here’s a voiced (and subtitled) segment of a majority of the above scene where you can hear the acting quality, especially of Taiga’s seiyuu, Rie Kugimiya. Note how fleshed-out the characters are with the actual dialogue and scenarios revealed; you understand Taiga’s sad attempts at enjoying her bare-bones Christmas, and witness how these young people exhibit genuine care for one another; a quality lacking not only in cartoons but in general these days. Also wonderful in the series were Minori’s and Ami’s voice actresses, Yui Horie and Eri Kitamura; but this clip is all about Taiga/Rie-chan. Enjoy this holiday “Vanilla Salt”-y taste of Toradora
Awesome scene, huh? I looked for a Rie Kugimiya Christmas pic but couldn’t find one So, here’s one of Rie Tanaka (who voiced Chobits‘ Chii, among many others)!
...a Rie-chan of a different flavor~
Incidentally, and since I’m kind-of on the subject of voice actresses, they oftentimes double-up on a series and aside from voicing also sing the show’s Opening Theme (OP) and/or Ending Theme (ED), which are usually released as singles and sell quite a lot. Also, to explain the above “Vanilla Salt” reference that only those who know about the show will get: the ED to Toradora is called “Vanilla Salt”, and sung by Minori’s seiyuu, Yui Horie (one of my big faves, who also voiced Kanon‘s Ayu). The only subtitled version I could find is Low-ish Quality, but it has the lyrics subbed so it can tell a bit more about the characters’ points-of-view (and I should add that one doesn’t have to be Japanese to appreciate the universal joys and pains of what these characters experience; remember and re-live, if you dare ):
And well-deserved congratulations to Taiga, who won the Topaz Necklace in this year’s International Saimoe League (ISML)! Here’s a cute poster that Kholdstare cobbled together to celebrate and commemorate her victory:
EDIT: I just discovered that starting with episode 5, the only way to watch the remainder is to pay a supposedly small fee which I haven’t checked out since I can’t afford *anything* right now, even “small fees”
Bah, Humbug! :-<
OH! THE “OH HOLY NIGHT” SECTION!:
As it turns out, today my friend Denise sent me this lovely video of Celtic Woman doing their rendition of “Oh Holy Night,” live from Dublin! Perseverence furthers, eh? This beats Eric Cartman’s version by a long shot! (Or a shot anyway; that South Park segment is pretty funny…) Please enjoy this most Christmassy of Christmas songs
NOW it feels like Christmas! My best wishes of the Holiday Season to you and yours; and let’s remember what this season is really about: _____, _____, and _____. Fill in the blanks; more are available ;-)
Peace, and goodwill towards our fellow Beings
And wow, that did turn out to be another hours-in-the-making post o.O Hope you enjoy reading it, and please feel free to leave your comments! Bye-bye-eee…
I’d like to extend my best wishes for Thanksgiving Day to you and yours! Despite the severe trials and tribulations of the past several years I do have much to be thankful for, and so will focus on what I have today and not what I wanted yesterday. In this way tomorrow will follow as it should and not as the random fates will determine; there’s too much negativity and cynicism spreading all around in these dark days, and I won’t allow them to infect and diminish my future days if I can at all help it. Being grateful for what I have is one way to keep grounded and appreciate what is already in my possession: family, friends, and you, Dear Visitor!
Rather than tie up the fleeting moments of your holiday busy-time with a long and preachy post regarding all of the above as it relates to Thanksgiving, I thought I’d just share a few of inspiring AMVs that I found recently. (One of them I did, anyway; the Kate videos I’ve been playing a LOT in recent years.) One thing that I am most grateful for is/was the discovery of anime and the ongoing examination and exploration of it. Rarely have I come across anything so fulfilling, moving, and meaningful as it relates to our very real 3D lives, reflected in the 2D lives of these characters and stories. The AMV format provides both visuals AND music to translate the emotion and sentiment so exceedingly well, and that’s another thing I feel grateful for.
The weights of the world that these characters in my favorite anime shows deal with are many of the same issues that we do, and many deal with them very bravely, despite the crushing pressure of real life and real death, and everything in between. As such, they are exemplars, which is what I designed Lily Godwin to be, so there’s a lot of resonance between my work and that of anime-related storytelling. I find it inspiring that a medium can deliver such wonderful sentiment in an age where sentiment is derided as being a weakness, which it decidedly is not. So, whatever your own pressures, please do not give up, as hope and faith can deliver wonders and reward to you, if you persist.
Don’t give up, because you are loved
And, not to put TOO fine a point on it (how can you?), a Public Service Announcement from Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel:
Keep these things in spirit, mind, and body, and your tomorrows may prove to be brighter despite the dimness of the present days. Hey, it could happen!
In fact, just sayin’ it could even make it happen! See?
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and thank you for your visit
I’d been meaning to do a Halloween post for several weeks now, and then a funny thing happened: Time Flew! Wow. I hate when that happens…
So, just pretend you’re two weeks late in getting here, and please “enjoy” the horrors to come! I spent a whole lotta time on YouTube picking samples from what I consider to be the best horror anime out there (that I’ve seen), and picking good AMVs is always such a major challenge! The music has to be good (according to my tastes LOL), the quality has to be high as possible, and the AMV has to be compelling enough to prod the Viewer into wanting to watch the anime its based on. That’s the theory anyway…
This first AMV served all qualifications perfectly. AND! Without knowing who the artist was, I got turned onto another very creative musician whom I’d NEVER have thought I’d like! I love when that happens! You may already have heard it, but it’s new to me ;-)
Fullscreen it for full effect!
Looks like I’ll have to add Soul Eater to my “To Check Out List”; it looks deliciously warped! Also, one horror anime I haven’t seen that I really want to is Hell Girl, but I’ll probably buy that outright since it’s been released here
Wow… I took a short break after the Summer anime season ended and spent a week painstakingly reinstalling and modding my Fallout 3 game. AGAIN. Fallout: New Vegas is about to be released and since I can’t afford it I decided to get a few more miles out of the original. After indulging my (former) gaming habit I returned to my anime sites to prepare myself for the new Fall Season (see way below). I discovered that it had already begun, and I was already behind! WAYYY-YYY behind! I previewed around a dozen titles and by the time I was done with them, a dozen more popped up :-O
So, I’m digging myself out at the moment. I’m sure that I’ll winnow the list down to maybe eight or so to track, but right now things are a bit… unwieldy LOL And by the way, I’m not going to be adding these new series to My Anime List until I decide to follow them, so you won’t notice the “victims” being dropped in the sidebar widget. I suspect that there’ll be more than a few mediocre titles that’ll be joining Panty and Stocking With Garter Belt in the Recycled Bin. God, that anime… Ren and Stimpy meet Beavis and Butthead… ON AHCIDDD!
So, what to do? Thanks to the previously mentioned Real Life Crisis (can’t find work, no money, little to eat, shaky living arrangements and etc etc etc ad infinitum ad nauseum), I’ve reduced my interests to just one thing, and the one thing that provides me with the most bang for the buck is…anime! I get such a wonderful mix of stories, movies, serials, music, enjoyment, emotional investment and its rewards (euphoria, joy, melancholy, and pain) all rolled up into one medium! I’ll be back to my (very) diverse number of interests when I can afford them, and writing about them, but for now… a few things to share.
And lest we forget about my raison d’ etre, I’m also doing work on my novel, UNBOUND. What it is I can’t say, but it should prove to be quite interesting (AND NO, I DON’T HAVE A DEAL!!! )
My buddy Kholdstare found an AMV on YouTube last night that had previously been taken down; it’s long been one of my favorites and featured the regrettably little-seen anime Figure 17. The quiet, peaceful song, called “Glass Vase and Cello Case”, performed by Tattle Tale, is so fittingly beautiful that it stays stuck in my head for a long time after hearing it, and for that I’m very grateful ‘cos it’s such a lovely song. It fits the scenes chosen from the anime so perfectly! I never heard of either the song or the artist before; this is what I mean when I say that through anime (the shows and the AMVs) I’m able to keep getting exposed to new music whereas I’d feel overwhelmed by how much I need to catch up with in the music world. Being a former music-junkie, this is like drink to a man in the desert. And, this is what I mean when I say that “Music Is Life!”
The above Anime News Network link will bring you to the Figure 17 encyclopedia page (which has a Preview on it); I’ll explain a little about the plot as it relates to the following AMV so that you’ll know what’s going on: Tsubasa (hairclip) and Hikaru (tiny ponytail) seem to be a typical set of twins, except that they’re not, by any means. Hikaru is an energetic, curious, and enthusastic girl, who stands in stark contrast with Tsubasa’s withdrawn, shy, and quiet nature. In fact, Hikaru is an alien lifeform that has mimicked Tsubasa and duplicated her, yet becoming a distinct individual. This AMV does away with the entire alien concept and instead focuses on the bittersweet relationship between the two 10-year olds, as Hikaru strives to make Tsubasa, her companion and friend, happy, even while she discovers the joys of being alive; being human. Once the Mission is over though, she knows that she’ll have to leave…
Full-Screen it for Full Effect, doncha know…
What, you wanted to see the aliens? Oh, okay… hope you like Evanescence as much as I do! This’ll flesh out the story a bit, though the ending is a bit abrupt and sad…
I had wanted to include Figure 17in my “AMVd” series but there simply aren’t that many good F17 AMVs out there, as it wasn’t very widely watched (at least here in the West). That colorful link is to the Wikipedia article on it for the curious to help remedy that little situation .
Horo from Spice and Wolf
One series that I’m happy to see gathering fans is Spice and Wolf, one of the funniest, unique, and very well-written stories about an ancient Wolf-Spirit which takes on the form of a (what else?) young girl. A traveling merchant named Lawrence encounters her, and their adventures are related in the subsequent episodes. There’s a lot of clever dialogue, and the focus on medieval-era economics is both educational and perplexing. But then I would say that, given my aversion to mathematics and such. Wrong-brained *sigh*
Anyway, I do love this show; it’s very genuine, mature (and funny), and intelligent, and the leads are such wonderful characters! The medieval-type settings and backgrounds are beautiful and lush, and downright creepy when appropriate (The Dark Woods *shudder*). The following award-winning AMV uses appropo period-sounding music (“Spanish Lady” by Celtic Woman) to great effect:
Normally, I dislike AMVs that include subtitles, as they’re so distracting. The scenes chosen should relate whatever sentiment the maker wants to deliver without text, in my humble and not-very-informed opinion. The following clip is an exception; if you are curious about the delicious chemistry between the two leads Lawrence and Horo, these dialogues will serve very well! You also get a nice summing up of Horo’s existence, along with her craving for apples and beer! One she holds well, the other… well, not so much
Did you enjoy it? If so, you can watch it streaming at Anime News Network, right now! Allthirteen episodes of Season 1 are up for your viewing pleasure, all free and legal; give it a shot and please let me know what you think of it ;-)
Saki from Eden of the East plus text
That brings us to another underappreciated but brilliant anime: Higashi no Eden, aka Eden of the East. Beautifully-drawn characters and backgrounds inhabit a unique story filled with intrigue, suspense, romance (in a roundabout way LOL) and humor; it was pretty much a continuous joyride through its 11 episodes, although the ending will be hit-or-miss with you, depending on whether you can catch the follow up movies that give a better sense of closure. Well… one does anyway :-P Well worth watching if the genre suits your taste!
various stills from Higashi no Eden
The story starts in Washington D.C. where a young attractive Japanese visitor named Saki encounters not only the wonders of day-to-day life in America (quite the foreign country) but also a suddenly-appearing naked man holding only a gun and a Very Special Phone. Chaos and hilarity ensue; something about a group of “Saviors” who can help rebuild Japan after a series of missile attacks strike, who each have a load of cash, an operator who will grant every request, and a death sentence for those who fail. Check for yourself!
For further proof that anime is gaining wide(r)-spread acceptance, Noel Gallagher of Oasis did the superb opening song “Falling Down”, joining the ranks of Radiohead (Ergo Proxy), David Sylvian (Monster), and someone-I-can’t-remember-but-will-hate-myself-for-forgetting to have performed their original music for a series. For an extra special treat (and another to follow!), here’s a LIVE version of Noel and Co performing the full version of ”Falling Down” (the OP) to backdrops and scenes from the anime. Very cool:
If you found that interesting, ANN just listed it as streamable on their site, so do check the series out if you can. The encyclopedia link above will take you to where you can watch it free and legally! Noblesse oblige! GOGOGO!
The Cast from Higashi no Eden
And now for something unique and different, a mind-blowing video that originally used the extended version of “Falling Down” but the audio got yanked (sound familiar?). Just imagine the song playing in the background of the fantastic imagery from the anime, or follow the instructions on the YouTube page The words are from the lyrics for “Falling Down,” in case you were wondering, and the relaxing replacement music is entitled (oddly enough) “A Relaxing Tune” by Musicshake. Very High Quality visuals!
Kind of a laid-back and quiet Saturday night/early Sunday morning here, and I’ve just watched a few AMVs that deliver in spades what is so hard to describe to the non-believer about anime: the raw, powerful, and beautiful emotive expressions of happiness, pain, joy, sadness, and yes, love, in all its bittersweet splendor. For some reason, nearly all the clips I picked are backed with instrumentals, so not much singing or talking tonight, just sharing
Our first treat is an AMV entitled “Sensitive Sky of Anime” that features over 55 animes; it was created by Timmie Ng for the 2010 Tsunacon contest in the Netherlands. I’m not normally a big fan of multiple anime samples in AMVs, preferring a single anime per clip, but this one is an exception. Might have to expand my horizons! I like doing that anyway :-D
The song he chose as its backing is the beautiful number “Shattered” by Trading Yesterday. One of the benefits of hunting for AMVs is the opportunity to hear music that I otherwise wouldn’t, like this one. It’s really hard to get out of my head, and to be honest, I don’t really want to! I loved how Timmie used the drummer girls to punctuate their appearances in both the video and the song; you’ll see what I mean. K-On!‘s Ritsu and Angel Beats!‘ …uhh… she didn’t give her name, I don’t think… but the two add a nice touch to a powerful video. Enjoy!
Since the Sky was that video’s theme, it’s not surprising that there are plenty of “Shinkai-skies” in it, as Makoto Shinkai’s skies are so well-known among anime-lovers. I’m a huge admirer of his and so you’ll probably see quite a few of his works here (search “The Haystack”)! He did a lot of the work on ef – a fairytale of the two; you’ll probably recognize his scenes once you see just a few of them. Truly breathtaking!
Speaking of… here’s a very short but exquisitely-beautiful AMV featuring the ef characters in an entirely new light -or lack of light! In Osnar’s “Nuvole d’oceano” (“ocean’s clouds”) he casts the players in sillouette to brilliant effect (ironic, I know!), and for the perfectly-matched solo piano background music chose Ludovico Einaudi’s “Nuvole Bianche” (“white clouds”). Check out how the sillouettes are haloed with color after the kiss; such a lovely touch. To give you an idea of how labor-intensive these AMVs are, this one took months to complete! I’d say it was worth it
Still relaxed? Good Take deep breaths… there’s no hurry; life just makes it seem that way. We’ll just speed it up towards the end…
One of the many things I appreciate about anime is that it portrays characters as if they were living beings rather than cartoonish stick-figures. (Well, most of the time LOL!) Anime tells stories far more mature than the medium suggests at face value to those unfamiliar with it here; many of these aren’t the stories for little kids as they might appear! Well, they could be, but we’re so maniacally overprotective in the West that it’s pretty unlikely anytime soon. Learning through observing stories of these realistic characters dealing directly with loss, disatisfaction, and trauma that complement the equally-effective tales of love, virtue, and redemption would better prepare our young ones for lives in The Real World, as opposed to being coddled into spoiled, instant-gratification-seeking, violence-glorifying reprobates who expect the World to revolve around their inflated egos, courtesy of not only the Media, but our complicit Society in general. Who, on the whole, are pretty much the same…
Oops, /rant off
Expression tells everything, as you’ll see in this next short but moving and highly potent clip. It amazes me how so very expressive these animators can make their players! Nunchuck put together a piece of touching beauty, reflection, melancholy and sadness with his -I swear I am not making this up- “Whoaaa Did you see that Unicorn?” (No I didn’t dammit!) This clip demonstrates the importance of viewing anime in the highest resolution possible, because the quality of the source material is so critical to one’s appreciation and enjoyment. The way he used masking to place the anime characters into Real World backgrounds so seamlessly is astonishing. He uses the classic Shinkai films The Place Promised In Our Early Days and 5 centimeters per Second as the basis for it (plus another entitled Pale Cocoon), and chose Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ sublime “What Must Be Done” as background; more piano-heavy music to keep the mellow mood flowing
Time to pick up the pace! Well, a little anyway…
Wow – I just noticed that for my next clip I’d picked not only another Tsunacon AMV tournament entry but that it’s also by Timmie Ng, who did the first one up top! (I swear I’m not stalking him LOL) In this AMV entitled “Serenata Immediate Music” (I think; credits iffy), Timmie chose ef – a fairytale of the two as his anime for this 2009 contest, and a song called “Serenata” (I think) to back it up; don’t know who performs it but it sounds really familiar! Maybe because I’ve played this like 6 times tonight? o.O
Yeah, I know I’m selling ef pretty hard Really, I do love the story and characters so much… and I wish they’d hurry the hell up and RELEASE IT IN NORTH AMERICA FER CHRISSAKES!!! And since they’ve taken so damn long to put it out here they can bloody well release BOTH seasons at once and in a box set! I’ll be waiting
For my tastes, the studio that really brought their characters to such vivid life through intuitively-grasped and observed expresson, movement, design and sheer personality has been Kyoto Animation. Their “triple crown” of masterpieces (in many peoples’ opinions), Air, Kanon, and Clannad, really pushed all the right buttons in my heart. It’s no coincidence that the three main girls of each show are among my handful of Most Favored Anime Girls Ever (respectively Misuzu, Ayu, and Nagisa). The studio’s attention to detail has improved so much along the way that each successive release is exponentially better, it seems. Their second season of K-ON!! just wrapped up, and it was everything I’d hoped, but we’ll save the K-ON! reportage for another time; that’s a whole ‘nother ball o’ wax! Whatever that is. Come to think, it’s a WHOLE lot better than a ball of (ugh) wax!
Anyway: A tribute to the Triple Crown that features scenes from all three shows, which is fitting since all of them were created first by Key/Visual Art’s (sic) who collaborated with KyoAni to produce them to very high reviews. This next clip is entitled “The Words You Say” and put together by Kitaeryu, and features the song “Promise of a Lifetime” by Kutless. (I hope you’re viewing these Full Screen and in the highest quality you can!) I especially liked how he used Clannad‘s Girl and Junk-Boy from the Imaginary World as central characters watching the AMV as if a movie screen, almost MST3K-style! Nice touch
I’ll bet you’re ready for something a bit more heavy now? Time to wake up! This last AMV really has it all, especially the awesome guitar-crunchy backing song by Sixx:AM called “Life Is Beautiful”. We’re back to multiple animes again; unfortunately the list isn’t credited. That’s alright; all you’ve gotta do is enjoy them
Nice guitarring there, mates! Great song on the whole, too, and a nice one to finish off with. I think I’ll buy that one!
Hope you enjoyed this little journey; all questions and comments are welcome, so don’t be shy!
Now go out and Live Life; keep looking for that Unicorn :-)
This entry was just gonna be another “A Quick One While He’s Away” kinda post, but I thought that it would be too… mundane. If you, Dear Visitor, are going to come visit Alastor’sReflection allll the way from -well, wherever it is you’re coming from; I’m sure it’s far- then I at least ought to offer you something to make it worth your while. Hopefully. Because I like you. I really do.
In fact, I was looking around for a present for you on That Infernal Timesink named YouTube when I remembered that I have a Favorites list that I never seem to get around to playing. So, while I was there putting off mulling over what to blog about and whether, I thought of a compromise: I’ll put up a few random Favorite videos, and not have to bore the Visitor with (or type out) details of the depressing Real Life stuff such as unemployment, instability, and…
Oops, I almost did. I can’t imagine why anyone’d be interested in that boring kinda stuff anyway LOL
So: Some time ago when I blogged about the anime ef – a tale of memoriesand posted several related AMVs, I missed this lovely one that follows (if it was out there). As the majority of the ef AMVs seem to do, this one features the pairing of Chihiro and Renji. It’s not the greatest ef AMV, but it’s pretty good. It features the song “Here We Are” by Lene Marlin, which plays very well with the scene selection and progression of the anime’s edited clips:
A major reason why I dig AMVs so much is that they expose me to songs which I’d otherwise not be listening to or hearing (two different things). The most poppiest of pop songs which sounds ugh on the radio can, when matched with a sensitive-and-concisely-edited anime, provoke a highly-pitched emotional reaction in the Viewer. It interests me whenever art-works manage to penetrate and reach so far inside of us… that is an Artistic Success no matter the “genre,” at least in my book
The relationship of Chihiro and Renji is surely high-pitched; how could it not be? Here’s the short synopsis courtesy of the Anime News Network Encyclopedia: “Renji meets a girl named Shindou Chihiro at an abandoned train station. He soon learns that Chihiro suffers from a type of amnesia where her memory span only lasts for 13 hours. He also discovers Chihiro’s dream of writing a novel, but she has never been able to fulfill that dream due to her condition. Renji then decides to help her fulfill that dream.”
Having a vested interest in writing you can well imagine that I might be drawn towards both of these characters
So, IMO, here’s the best ef AMV: “Paper Image,” created by Koopikeva and integrated with the sublime song “Gravity” by Sara Bereilles. I’d never heard of Sara before this, so this AMV not only turned me onto her talent, but also to her great song, which, if I’d heard on the radio might have put me to sleep! But with the beauty of the anime, you want to keep watching and waiting on the lyrics with near-bated breath! This is a perfect composition:
Awesome. Incidentally, the actual music from the ef series is performed by Tenmon, and its OST is probably my favorite anime soundtrack. Poke around the haystack of Alastor’s for the needles of Tenmon’s mentions; there’ve been a few of them. Or just wait. I’m sure it won’t be long before I’ve come up with an excuse to put some up here
(EDIT: Oh look, a space!
(For the ef-uninitiated, Yuuko (playing the piano in the clip) and Yuu (playing the violin) are the central characters of ef - a fairytale of the two, and their lives (and fairytales, as it were) are interwoven with the lives of a handful of other associates’ pairings, love triangles, and fateful encounters, of which Chihiro and Renji are but two.)
… yeah, I do promote this series pretty hard LOL It’s my favorite anime-story, has many favorite characters (Yuuko <3) and a typically dynamic Tenmon soundtrack. Brilliantly done, and you don’t even realize it while you’re going along (but you do suspect…)! The meticulous timing of certain plot elements and the manner of the reveals was breathtaking; the writing was as whole-heartedly dedicated to depicting its story as the direction, animation, and music composition were in their own parts. The whole of ef, you realize after finishing its two seasons, truly is greater than the sum of its parts!
Anyway, I like it. Edit off!)
Moving on… Avril Lavigne is another artist whose music I might have missed (assuming that there is no radio in this imaginary world), but catching this great Kimi ni TodokeAMV reminded me that she really does have some talent! The short clip is simple and sweet, much like this wonderfully romantic anime itself is, and offers up a convincing and touching portrayal of first love. Do you remember yours…?
Okay, and now for something completely different!
What is this I don’t even -
While watching this next one I laughed ’til the tears came outta my eyes. LITERALLY! Courtesy of Loudon Wainwright III’s “I Wish I Was a Lesbian” this AMV utilizes several old-school animes in quite a unique way. The initial narrative porton uses scenes from the ultra-wack FLCLseries (aka Fooly Cooly), and the character’s lip-synching with Loudon’s voice is spot-on, which adds to the hilarity. Enjoy!
Speaking of FLCL… (and yes you should buy this 6-episode series because it is totally unlike anything else. And it’s cool. Mostly that.)…
You don’t see very many good FLCL AMVs. The show’s utterly random nature, unpredictable characters, and very incoherent plots make it difficult to edit together a consistent theme to go along with its chosen song’s lyrics. You’ll see what I mean LOL Hit or miss, to be sure. This following AMVs maker used “It Ends Tonight” by The All-American Rejects to very good effect along with the scattershot explosive animation from Fooly Cooly. Do not try to figure anything out about the story from this short; you’ll break your brain. Trust me on this. Wait until you see the show for yourself! (Caution: spoilerish activities ahead…)
…and that’s certainly a nice point to leave off. I mean, I’m kinda drained. You?
I finally finished another epic-length series: after 47 episodes, NANA is over, and I’m already missing the characters and their stories very much. The fairly vague open-ended ending doesn’t help any either; forget about closure! Nonetheless, by its end I was quite satisfied and fairly fulfilled, but for all the unanswered questions. But consider: how many TV series end a season fully answering everything? Not too many!
Ai Yazawa's cover of the NANA manga
This is a series that screams its throat raw, lights its lighters until fingers burn, and stomps its feet in impatience for a second season. Sadly, its creator Ai Yazawa has been recuperating from an illness and the future of the manga is still uncertain (let alone the anime), so we hope for the creator’s speedy recovery, mainly for her better health, but also so that we can read, listen to, and watch her intriguing, deep, complex, and highly-charged story of the two Nanas and the rippling (and broken) concentric circles of their complicated lives.
Several of NANA's cast members
One of the best elements involved the two bands, Nana Osaki’s punkish Black Stones (or BLAST), and the farther-along-the-road Trapnest, which Nana’s ex now plays guitar with. Ren was BLAST’s first guitarist until he left it (and Nana) for Tokyo in order to pursue a professional career with the rising (and more conventional) star of Trapnest, which features a bewitching singer named Reira. Their bass player, Takumi, was a crush of Nana Komatsu (hereafter referred to as Hachi, which was Nana’s nickname for her, meaning “puppy”), and since a connection existed between Nana O., Ren, and Takumi, well… let’s just say that shit happens! Things get complicated. And that’s just the simple stuff!
All of the characters, ALL of them, are very well-written as are the various plots, subplots and twists, of which there are many. The role of Nana O. especially deserves praise, as she is just amazingly complex, driven, and utterly cool; a “broken rose” indeed. There’s quite a bit of laugh-out-loud comedy too, which serves to lighten things up considerably, which is definitely needed given its serious look(s) at relationships of various types. Despite the somewhat average animation, the direction by Morio Asaka is stellar, and you become so engrossed with the story that any faults become invisible. That’s how it was for me; I rated this anime as a “Masterpiece” despite the way-outweighed flaws that I don’t even remember anymore. I believe that we must be forgiving of an anime’s flaws and celebrate what it is that works, as long as the story delivers.
The uber-cool and tragic (but rarely emo) Nana Osaki
If you love music, and prefer realism and more mature themes of true-to-life relationships in your anime, then NANA is right up your alley. If you’ve known musicians (aspiring or successful), romantic-but-immature and mistake-prone young women, and the attractions that opposites have towards each other, do check this series out! You’ll most likely see someone you know…
Nana Komatsu, sweet yet self-centered, and mistake-prone in love
A short time ago I posted my mid-point thoughts about NANAhere, or just scroll down a bit to the “Slice(s) of Life” two posts below. This here post is just to say that, at its end, NANA was a great ride (despite the quixotic ending). And, you can watch it streaming at Anime News Network for free! Legally! Just go to the ANN Encyclopedia page and click the “Watch Now” button. Simple!
Speaking of ANN,this timely review of the final two box sets just appeared several days ago; if you want to read a very well-written and articulate review of the final episodes (by Carl Kimlinger), it’ll definitely wet your whistle He is a little harsh on Hachi, but since I “know” her (i.e. girls like her) I get her, even if I disagreed with most of her decisions, most of which caused me to headdesk repeatedly…
Now, a last word about the beat of NANA, the music. This OST must be amazing; when I get some money I’m going to buy it for sure! On the one hand we have the up-and-coming Black Stones, raw, punk, and rusty-razor-blade edged, fronted by Nana. In the opposite corner stands the established Trapnest; successful, wildly popular and idol-ized, who play a more traditional (and popular) sound with their precious vocalist Reira. Right smack-dab in the middle is Hachi, who would be torn between the two if she knew any better. But our little Hachi-Nana is a trifle clueless, let’s say…
Trapnest's enchanting (and insecure) Reira
Anyway, a treat! It took me a few hours to find a video that interspersed clips from the infrequent concert scenes in the anime with live footage from the singers who voiced Nana (Anna Tsuchiya) and Reira (OLIVIA Lufkin). Apparently there was a promotional event in Los Angeles where both took the stage performing some of the theme songs, two of which are here. You’ll be able to not only sample the two bands’ different styles but also glimpse the “real” bands in the anime. Kind of like “life imitating art imitating life,” which is a pretty cool concept! The first song is “Rose” and the second “A Little Pain”:
Personally, I prefer the “official” music video for “A Little Pain,” mainly because Olivia is just so damn beautiful; she really captures Reira’s essence here. Enjoy :-D
…and here’s Anna Tsuchiya, performing the music-video of another NANA theme, “Lucy”, done the Nana and BLAST way!
If the genre(s), theme(s), and character(s) of NANA suit your fancy, give it a shot! You won’t regret it; one of the best anime I’ve been priveleged to experience. All it needs and is lacking is a real resolution, and hopefully a continuation is in the works that will provide one
I was going to add an addendum to the previous post showing a few of the more interesting Openings for the shows listed below, but I kinda got carried away sidetracked during the typing of this. I didn’t want to put up too many vids in one post, and after my Visual Art’s/Key pieces it would have run pretty long. Make that very long. Now it’s short. -er :-P So basically, now this entry’s just an excuse to show the Angel Beats! OP since I’m a sucker for girls playing pianos (see the ef – a fairytale of the two trailer later on in this post), and it’s a typically great VA/K composition that I’d like to share. Plus, I love Angel/Tenshi/Kanade, or whatever name she’s going by! One of my newest favorite characters…
Sticking to the tried-and-true Visual Art’s/Key formula of having outstanding OPs and EDs, it sounds like they have another winning song on their hands. Performed by Lia, the Angel Beats! theme (“My Soul; Your Beats!”) carries on the tradition of very strong musical “bookends” for their shows, as the following samples will demonstrate. (The studio that created the above anime is P.A. Works, and the following shows are done by Kyoto Animation.)
(Before we embark, let me warn you against reading any of the YouTube comments if you manage to go there; too many losers and assholes enjoy spoiling these precious stories there. The Visual Art’s/Key stories are intricate and interwoven both technically and emotionally, replete with deeply felt tragedy and happiness, sorrow and joy which you won’t want ruined for you, or the experience lessened for you in any way. Don’t give those worthless miscreants the pleasure of reading their infantile remarks and spoil yourself in the process.)
That being said, first up is an extended version of the OP from Air, again composed by Key and performed by Lia, the moving “Tori no Uta”:
I should point out that a large part of each series’ budget goes toward the song production; there’s a lot of money generated from singles and CDs featuring anime OPs and EDs (not to mention Insert Songs) and their airplay over radio. Therefore the OPs and EDs quality oftentimes outshines much of the regular programming! Here’s another very popular song; Lia performs the gorgeous OP from Clannad ~After Story~ “Toki wo Kizamu Uta”:
Their (that is, Visual Art’s/Key & Kyoto Animation) work on Kanon‘s OP is certainly memorable, as this clean (no text) Blu-Ray version for “Last Regrets” clearly shows, sung by Ayana this time (‘cos Lia apparently can’t be everywhere). And if you find this version too short, here’s a link to an earlier post that includes towards the bottom an extended version of “Last Regrets” that will knock your socks off! Well, it will if you’re a Kanon fan (Plus, it has the lyrics in English and romanji as well.)
…not to mention their collaboration on the Kanon ED, entitled ”Kaze no Tadoritsuku Basho” (“The Place Where the Wind Arrives”). Pay attention as you listen, if you will, to the animation, backgrounds, and expressive features and mannerisms of these wonderful characters in this special extended version, and then go out and find the anime and watch it! (A word of advice: To get the highest detail (highly suggested), choose 480p from the video’s toolbar; I tried repeatedly to keep it from defaulting to 360p to no avail. Makes a BIIIIG difference!) Also, pay no attention to the brief and pretty lame rap verse near the end and its strange “translation”; just enjoy everything else:
…oddly enough, I can’t get enough of Ayu running to the beat of the song
So, the combination of visuals, direction, and music really make the OP/ED, but more importantly, the deep, well-developed characters even more deliberately drive the emotional impact home. But you’ll have to watch the animes to discover those little secrets It’s no coincidence that the Triple Crown of the Visual Art’s/Key titles of Air, Kanon, and Clannad are not only among my Top Ten anime of all time, but each features a main character who just happens to be among my top handful of “extra-special beloved girls” among all of anime: Misuzu, Ayu, and Nagisa, respectively. Many of the other characters are up there as well; even though they all start out as mysterious “blank slates”, by the end of each series we get to know them very well, and cherish them, and their stories, quite a lot. (Just check out those colorful li’l Anime News Network links for each shows’ ratings as evidence!) Now Angel Beats! continues in that tradition, although how the story plays out will determine where Angel finishes in that special niche
I mentioned girls playing piano being a weakness… here’s Yuuko (yet another in that select group) from an ef – a fairytale of the two trailer that features clips from both seasons where she speaks to you a little bit (it’s translated). The instrumental music by TENMON is nothing short of breathtaking, and the artwork by Studio SHAFT (what’s with all the capslock???) is sublime; probably their best work…
So yeah… I’m glad that I switched horses in the middle of the stream! Those other Spring 2010 OPs I was going to include just don’t compare, yet they are memorable in their own right. We’ll cover them soon
To my utter (but delighted) surprise and shock, I’ve just read about Michael Lynche’s well-reviewed cover of Kate Bush ‘s sublime “This Woman’s Work” on (of all shows) American Idol. Since I rarely watch television at all, and resist everything spurted out by any Hype Machine, I missed it. A small regret, one which I shall attempt to remedy by searching YouTube so that I might share it with you…
Hmm… I’m sure there must be something up by now… Ah! Oh. Well. Here’s one from early March, but nothing from tonight’s show yet. To be honest, I’m not sure if Michael performed TWW again as a “save” or whether he begged his earlier performance be used as his save. Sorry, the article wasn’t clear and neither am I as I don’t watch the show. Still, any offering of Kate’s music into the general public’s perception merits a great big Thank You from myself and Kate’s legion of devoted fans who are all-too-often dismayed at her lack of recognition here in the States. Really. Don’t get me started on that.
ANYWAY! Here’s a nice clip of Michael Lynche’s performance along with the judges’ remarks; he even won Simon over!
Okay, Mike… that wasn’t bad, and as I said, Big Props for picking it out
No doubt his point of reference was Maxwell’s cover of it (I’m merely assuming though based on the lack of Kate’s exposure here), and since this clip from MTV’s “Unplugged” series includes the lyrics, I’ll post it here:
NOW. If you want to see how it’s really done… here’s Kate’s version:
/rant: You know… I have to say: I think that the “music video” has single-handedly ruined the pleasure of listening to music. Not a popular notion, but as far as MUSIC goes, it has. True, there are inumerable video visual treats that have been given us over the years, but let’s talk music, shall we? JUST the music. I guarantee you that if you just turn out the lights, close down your eyes, open your mind and ears and listen, with no distractions, that you’ll hear and more importantly, feel, a whole lot more than in simply sitting on a couch with life bustling, lights blaring, and video visuals sucking all the beauty and feeling out of the song, and the lyrics, and the Art-Work of the artist’s performance. Depending upon the song and the source, of course. Unfortunately, so much music in recent years has become, as Frank Zappa once wisely observed, “product”, and the performers such self-conscious and sensationalistic ego-strokers, that the actual art of music-making has become in danger of producing all flash and little substance.
Give yourself in to the music as much as the Artist has done in creating and presenting you with their Work. Especially this woman’s work!
As she says on her very first record, “Please feel it.”
Back to business: Here’s a nice montage from the movie that probably best-delivered Kate’s music to the West, John Hughes’ film She’s Having a Baby. Notice the difference in presentation between video and film-making; it offers much of the same sentiment as the above video does (with a bit of preliminary exposition), and is very moving:
BUT… there are some pretty damn good music vids out there to be sure! This is one of my all-time favorites, Kate’s Cloudbusting, featuring another fave, Donald Sutherland, portraying the intriguing figure of Wilhelm Reich, with Kate acting as his son (!), Peter, whose “Book of Dreams” was the inspiration for this song and mini-movie. Symphonyofflowers has thoughtfully provided the lyrics on the video’s page if you’re interested in reading them (and you should be!). Crank it up!
If you need any further proof that Kate is an incredibly gifted Artist then you’re most likely just a bloody cynic and there’s no hope for you. Unless her music’s just not your thing, strokes/folks and all that, which is fine. But she should be properly recognized as a great, unique, illuminating, and beautiful Talent given us; do try to sample Aerial(her most recent album) for proof. You’ll hear nothing like this record ever again, it’s quite safe to say; it’s funny, quixotic, inspired, mournful, happy, even “painterly” and ultimately, exhilarating! To put it short, she’s a Force for Good, beneficient, benevolent, and bountiful. I’ve loved her for years and will continue until the day I die, as I have her Work for constant companionship and comfort. Thank God.
There’s plenty of hateful, materialistic, and/or mean-spirited music out there, and for some reason it’s selling and very popular. I’m sure that there’s no connection at all to the rapidly-spiraling descent of humanity into malevolence, bleakness, and madness, right? Right. *cough*
“Ooh, I just know that something good is going to happen
I don’t know when
But just saying it could even make it happen…”
Light up your life, will you? And spread it around. Hate the hate… and not each other. Illuminate the World, not darken it!
“I want to be up on the roof
I’ve gotta be up on the roof
Up, up high on the roof
Up, up on the roof
In the sun…”
Times are hard; I don’t need to tell you that. If you’re working, have family and friends, and reasonable shelter, then you have most of what you need. If you still feel that you’re lacking, then getting the rest is up to you. But sometimes just getting the basics can be a daunting task, especially in this economy, business climate, and plain spitefulness and maliciousness of the world in general. People can be so hard, just like the times they live in…
Anyway, enough of that despair and pessimism. And we should say “ENOUGH!” but we don’t and continue on our not-so-merry way. At times during my nine-month and ongoing job-hunting (in an 18.9% unemployment rate location), I’ve felt like just giving up. It’s been a constant and growing life-or-death pressure from behind to determinedly keep on going, ever mindful of the chasm that plunges on either side of my crumbling path as I climb that damn mountain over and over again, feeling just like Sisyphus. Aside from my stubborness and desperation though, one song has always kept me going, instilling me with hope and faith and reassurance. For all those reading who are feeling equally desperate, despairing, and hopeless, I’d like to share this wonderful and inspiring song with you.
Written by Peter Gabriel and performed with Kate Bush, it’s called “Don’t Give Up.”
DON’T GIVE UP
In this proud land we grew up strong
We were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail
No fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
I’ve changed my face, I’ve changed my name
But no one wants you when you lose
Don’t give up
‘cos you have friends
Don’t give up
You’re not beaten yet
Don’t give up
I know you can make it good
Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we’d be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn
Drove the night toward my home
The place that I was born, on the lakeside
As daylight broke, I saw the earth
The trees had burned down to the ground
Don’t give up
You still have us
Don’t give up
We don’t need much of anything
Don’t give up
’cause somewhere there’s a place
Where we belong
Rest your head
You worry too much
It’s going to be alright
When times get rough
You can fall back on us
Don’t give up
Please don’t give up
Got to walk out of here
I can’t take anymore
Going to stand on that bridge
Keep my eyes down below
Whatever may come
And whatever may go
That river’s flowing
That river’s flowing
Moved on to another town
Tried hard to settle down
For every job, so many men
So many men no-one needs
Don’t give up
’cause you have friends
Don’t give up
You’re not the only one
Don’t give up
No reason to be ashamed
Don’t give up
You still have us
Don’t give up now
We’re proud of who you are
Don’t give up
You know it’s never been easy
Don’t give up
’cause I believe there’s a place
There’s a place where we belong
Yes, there is. Don’t give up, and keep fighting. There are LOTS of things to fight for these days… survival is just the first. No one said that it would be easy, but if more of us keep fighting for change, then we can make it so, and hopefully life will become easier. Keep hoping and try to think positively, okay?
"When early youth had passed, he left his cold fireside and alienated home to seek strange truths in undiscovered lands. Many a wide waste and tangled wilderness has lured his fearless steps; and he has bought with his sweet voice and eyes, from savage men, his rest and food." (from 'Alastor, or, The Spirit of Solitude', by Percy Bysshe Shelley,1815)
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