Listening/reading log #13 (October 2020)

I’m writing this a few days before possible absolute freakout time here in the States. We’ll probably be okay though. And if we aren’t, then we aren’t. Let’s just ignore that shit for right now and talk about some good music and good writing from fellow bloggers, because there’s not much else to do at this point aside from your civic duty if you’re an eligible citizen. And if you’re a non-American reader, please forgive all our social media meltdowns that will happen either way on Wednesday morning.

Okay, fine, that’s all I’ll say about it now. On to the music. This time the emphasis is on smooth relaxing stuff for maybe obvious reasons.

Aja (Steely Dan, 1977)

Highlights: Black Cow, Aja, Deacon Blues

Yeah, I like this album. And I like Steely Dan in general. I know people have shit on these guys for their music being too smooth or slick or whatever but I don’t give a fuck, because they sound good to me. If you don’t know them or only know their name from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Steely Dan started as a full band doing sort of jazz-influenced rock stuff in the early 70s (their first album Can’t Buy A Thrill is great too, and “Do It Again” is another one of those “you’ve definitely heard it even if you don’t know the title” songs.) However, they soon morphed into basically two guys, Donald Fagan and Walter Becker, and a bunch of session musicians playing much more jazz-influenced stuff that has very little or nothing to do with rock music anymore and shouldn’t be judged on that basis anyway.

But that’s fine with me, because these guys knew how to write good songs that stick in your head. The opener “Black Cow” is an interesting one about the narrator chewing out his cheating lover along with a reference to the Black Cow cocktail, a drink I’ve never had and never will (Kahlua, half-and-half, and Coca-Cola — the first two sound okay, but cola mixed with alcohol has always tasted horrible to me.) And then there’s the big hit “Deacon Blues”, a melancholy one about a musician who never quite makes it but keeps playing seedy clubs even after his dreams are dead. The title track is nice and calm too, and also less depressing unless I’m missing something.

Aja is a great album to play late at night when you’re in a weird mood or coming down off of a buzz. It sets that kind of mood that for me is unsuitable for any other time. Very relaxing and smooth, but a downer if you pay too close attention to the lyrics. Which seems to be the case for a lot of Steely Dan. Messrs. Fagan and Becker weren’t the happiest guys, at least when it came to how they expressed themselves in their music. Not that I need any help being a depressive myself, so the effect on me is minimal. Anyway, I like it.

Piano Collections NieR:Automata (Various, 2018)

Highlights: Really the whole thing

Speaking of depression, here’s an officially released piano arrangement album based on the soundtrack of NieR:Automata. As acclaimed as this game was, I have seen people say they didn’t like it, but I haven’t seen a single person not at least praise its soundtrack. Both the compositions and performances are as amazing as they were for the much less praised earlier PS3 titles.

Piano Collections totally does justice to twelve of the songs from the game with just a piano. And that’s all there is on this album: one piano, at least as far as I can tell. So if you’re not into solo piano stuff this is one to skip, but even then I’d suggest giving it a little listen to see how well pieces like “Copied City” and “Vague Hope” adapt to this format. It’s mostly pretty relaxing too, at least if you can get past the sad feelings brought up by a few of these if you’ve played the game (“Voice of No Return” and “Vague Hope”, those are the ones for me.)

Cafe de Touhou 3 (DDBY, 2011)

Highlights: Locked Girl, Scarlet Tea Party

Another game-based album, but this one is a fan work. Maybe it’s weird to throw in a doujin album based on a series about magical girls shooting lasers and bullet hell patterns at each other. I don’t know. But I know that I like DDBY. I covered Tokyo Active NEETs a while back, and like their work, this is basically jazz takes on BGM from the Touhou Project series. However, DDBY gets a more chilled out feel to their music in parts, and the effect is more relaxing than the NEETs’ aggressive approach. Not that I like one more than the other; it just depends on my mood which I prefer at any time.

If you can’t tell from the characters on the album cover, this is based on music from Touhou 6: Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, which like all the other Touhou games has an excellent soundtrack already. I couldn’t find much about this album around so you’ll have to take my word this time, but I did post a link above that contains a sample from the group’s own site (“Vintage Girl”, based on Flandre’s theme, the blonde girl on the left with the Christmas light wings who will kill the shit out of you hundreds of times if you even manage to reach her.) My favorite on the album might be “Locked Girl” — best girl Patchouli for some reason isn’t featured on the cover, but her theme gets a really nice sort of bossanova-sounding treatment.

Honestly I could fill these sections up with Touhou doujin albums, there are so many of them out there. I only own a few myself, but I love the ones I have. ZUN is a great composer anyway, but these arrange albums really add to his work outside of the context of his games.

Now for the featured posts:

The Writing on the Wall: Why The Last of Us Part II Was a Predictable Disaster (Extra Life) — Here Red Metal follows up on some of the issues he raised in his review of The Last of Us Part II, connecting these with the extremely questionable approaches certain game producers, developers, and journalists have taken towards the audience of gamers. If you have any interest in these or even if you’re just part of that audience (and if you’re reading my site, it’s likely) then you should check this article out.

Mommy’s not here, gotta fight! The Persona 3 Retrospective, Part 6(b) – Characters: Yukari and Junpei (Lost to the Aether) — As long as Aether keeps writing analyses of Persona 3, I’ll keep posting them here. This part breaks down two of the most interesting and maybe most realistic characters in any Persona game.

Medium Matters: School-Live! II (Confessions of an Overage Otaku) — Anyone who’s enjoyed a manga or visual novel and then was disappointed by how the anime handled the source material can relate to this post. Overage Otaku uses the example of School-Live, a manga-turned-anime about high school students trying to live normally during a zombie apocalypse, to show how exactly that kind of mangling can happen.

Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle (Lex’s Blog) — Sometimes adaptations go really well, though, like the subject of this post from Lexine: a thorough review of the original novel that the Ghibli classic Howl’s Moving Castle was based on.

Film Review: Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm (2020) (Mid-Life Gamer Geek) — Mid-Life Gamer Geek reviews the new Borat movie, which is something I wasn’t expecting at all this year, but it seems like Sacha Baron Cohen’s style to come out of nowhere and surprise us with a sequel after a decade or however long it’s been since the first one. At least this time maybe we won’t have to hear people saying “VERY NICE” over and over like we did back then. I hope not anyway.

The Song of Saya – A Continued Look at Gen Urobuchi’s Earlier Work (Jon Spencer Reviews) — I’m always up to read another take on Saya no Uta, and Jon Spencer has an interesting one, raising a few issues that I hadn’t thought of. But I won’t spoil them — do yourself a favor and read his post.

The Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov (Professional Moron) — And here’s a review of just a plain novel. Mikhail Bulgakov wrote some crazy fiction that was often a criticism of the Soviet system he lived under, which as you can imagine got him into trouble with the authorities during the repressive reign of Stalin. I haven’t read The Heart of a Dog, but I want to after reading Mr. Wapojif’s post on it.

Indie Variety Hour – Steam Autumn Festival (Frostilyte Writes) — I missed out on it, but Frostilyte has covered the Steam Autumn Festival lineup of featured indie game demos, playing and writing about a select few that look interesting.

Genshin Impact has me addicted (Nepiki Gaming) — Nepiki is addicted to Genshin Impact. I hope he can get some help with that! But it does look like a nice game, an interesting mix of gacha and MMO. For my part, I’m done with the hellish world of gacha. I already fell into a different entertainment-related hell recently; I can’t take two.

Truth About Anime Blogging: Expectation Vs Reality (Anime Everything Online) — Even though I’ve written about anime, I wouldn’t call myself an anime blogger. Silvercrowv1 can, though. This post breaks down some of the myths associated with blogging in general and with anime blogging in particular that writers should consider before diving into a project. I like to use the word “fuck” in my writing too much for most advertisers to probably be comfortable with, but if you want those ad dollars you should absolutely read this to gain an understanding of what it might take.

Funimtion VA and script writer Jamie Marchi responds criticism on edited English Dubs (Matt-in-the-Hat) — The quality of anime dubbing is something people get into heated debates about all the time. Which is already kind of pointless when the subs option exists, but it certainly shouldn’t extend to the sort of threats that Funimation VA Jamie Marchi has reported she’s received. On the other hand, I don’t think her response to the critics helps — it looks to me like yet another “paint every person giving negative feedback with the crazy brush” tactic that we’ve seen so often, along with a typical sex-based insult that I think is both low and beside the point (and partly related to the issues Red Metal raised in the first link above about disdain for the audience.) I guess I’d be pissed if I received such threats too, but is that an excuse? No matter how you feel about that, Matthew is a great writer to follow, so be sure to check his blog out.

Uzaki-Chan wants to Hang Out!: Nothing unseen about it. (Shallow Dives in Anime) — Another interesting take on the Uzaki-chan anime that riled so many people up. It’s also nice to see the Unseen Japan site account get poked in the eye a bit. To be fair, they do raise important social issues, but then they proceed to trash their credibility by getting mad over anime girls, which I see as both a waste of time and effort and a ridiculous stand to take in the first place. But then I’m obviously biased about that. In fact, maybe this is a subject for a separate post.

Blogtober 2020 – Doki Doki Literature Club (Gaming Omnivore) — And finally, Gaming Omnivore joins the Literature Club.

That’s all for this month. As for the coming month — maybe it’s too early to make solid plans at this point if I end up living in SMT4-version Tokyo here in a few days. If I don’t, though, you can expect more stuff on anime and hopefully a couple of games (though I’ve had too much work lately to get through what I’m playing right now.) And maybe a post full of complaints. You like those, right? I hope so. Until next time.

18 thoughts on “Listening/reading log #13 (October 2020)

  1. You can’t go wrong with Aja or Steely Dan in general. That’s another personal favorite of mine.

    And The Last of Us Part II was a perfect storm of bad that could only have happened this year between Neil Druckmann’s immature refusal to take criticism and the press’s antagonistic relationship with their audience. I do somewhat sympathize with the press because they stand opposite to some really shady figures (TheQuartering, as I mentioned in my editorial, being one of them). On the other hand, it is their own lack of ethics and inability to be civil that created platforms for people like that.

    I have to admit I was a little worried about including a political rhetoric in that editorial after criticizing other journalists for doing the same, but I think I was able to set up the appropriate context for it. That is, not unlike The Last Jedi, The Last of Us is rather chauvinistic and conservative despite Mr. Druckmann’s best efforts. The sequel was thus a very poor attempt at course correcting, which failed because it still came across as chauvinistic during certain story beats.

    • I thought your talk about politics in that post was appropriate, yeah. At the very least nobody should argue that you can’t talk politics when you’re responding to people who are already doing that, and then in a heavyhanded sort of way.

      I know what you mean about those seedy characters the journalists were dealing with, though. Guys like TheQuartering and One Angry Gamer represent the worst part of the audience, the one that the journalists get to pretend is most or all of us when it benefits their own narrative. It’s too bad said journalists so often lower themselves to that level rather than maintaining higher ground and being reasonable.

      Yeah, I like plenty of Steely Dan’s music. It’s admirable how much they just stuck to doing their own thing.

      • Ah, good. I’m glad I was able to do that without coming across as a hypocrite. I think the key is to have it make sense in context as opposed to going the Owen Gleiberman route by injecting it where it clearly doesn’t belong.

        And I’m not afraid of to say it; those guys suck. TheQuartering especially comes across as an deeply unpleasant person; even in the one photo in which he is grinning from ear to ear, he looks extremely bitter. He’s kind of like Jonathan McIntosh in that regard. But otherwise, there seems to be a bit of double think amongst games journalists in how they write in such a pretentious fashion, yet assume most of their audience is on par with One Angry Gamer, TheQuartering, or, for that matter, that Upper Echelon Gamers guy. It’s as though whether or not journalists think their audience is rational depends entirely on what suits the narrative at the time, so it’s not terribly surprising that with such a flippant attitude that they would have trouble retaining an audience (because they, in effect, haven’t successfully cultivated one).

        Steely Dan has always been a favorite of mine, but it’s kind of amazing going back and looking at their golden age in context because they were really out-of-step with the trends at the time, yet managed to become a sleeper hit. They’re associated with the 1970s, but it’s kind of difficult to actually associate them with that decade.

  2. Thank you for the tag! I need some serious help with this addiction of mine huh :P. I knew going in beforehand that if I were to end up liking this game, it would most likely become a Fate/Grand Order situation again: playing it pretty much every day of the year, sometimes even multiple hours. On one hand, I certainly regret it because this is yet again a daily investment (even though that’s my own fault; I don’t have to after all), but on the other hand I’m… also kind of happy that I was able to discover a game again where I can truly spend all my hours in and enjoy everything the game and community has to offer. It has been a serious while since I’ve played a game like this, and most of the times when I did they were MMOs. Still, I should maybe take it a bit easier now haha

    Also, thanks for the tip about that Touhou album, I’ve never heard of it before! I’m definitely going to give that a listen during work or writing!

    • I know how much gacha stuff like this can suck you in. But if you’re having a great time with it, that’s a fine thing. Genshin Impact definitely looks more immersive than the couple of other gacha games I’ve played. Feels weird that I never touched F/GO since I like Type-Moon, though.

      No problem! DDBY has made a bunch of these albums that are floating around out there with a similar feel. It’s very nice stuff.

  3. Thanks for the mention! I wasn’t entirely sure how I wanted to approach writing a summary of my feelings after playing DDLC until I had the idea to write down some keywords that came to mind when thinking of the game and put them together in a poem-like…thing similar to the sections within DDLC. It was different and I had fun writing it, so…idk

    Growing up and listening to classic rock stations it was hard to not hear Steely Dan songs like “Do It Again” or “Reelin’ In The Years”, but I’ve come to really like some of the other laid-back jazzy songs. Another weird side note about Steely Dan is the fact the drummer that played with Fagen and Becker’s college band The Leather Canary was none other than Chevy Chase.

    • Absolutely. I think this was a great way to approach DDLC, especially given how different it is from most VNs.

      Yeah, I did hear those songs a whole lot on the radio, and a lot of “Dirty Work” as well. I didn’t know that about Chevy Chase, though. If he’d stuck with music, I guess we never would have gotten the original Vacation, so it’s good he went into comedy instead.

  4. Thank you for the shout-out.

    Took me a hot minute to finish listening to the linked stuff.

    Steely Dan was easily the stand-out, but that might have been because I was listening to everything following a fighting game session between midnight and 1AM. To your credit, it DID bring me down off of that high (which I needed, so thank you).

    I think I like the originals better for the NieR stuff, but the piano track for City Ruins, which is my favourite track, still gave me the same ASMR ticks that the normal version does so there’s that. Probably a weird anecdote to keep track of in regard to certain pieces of music hahaha.

    And I know I’m posting this…later and certain events will have transpired by the point you’ve read this so I hope you’re holding steady and doing well. Regardless of the results. 🙂

    • Definitely! Steely Dan is good cooldown music, I think. I also agree about the NieR stuff — if I had to choose between the original OST and the piano collections, I’d take the original, but I do like the different feel this album has. As for the ASMR, that’s something I never really got. I’ve heard a lot of people just don’t get that feeling from sound, but I’m sure there’s some science behind it I have no idea about.

      And thanks very much for your wishes. It has been crazy here in the news the last two days of course, but things are peaceful where I live. I think we’re looking at least at some strife in the next few weeks, but hopefully only the kind that happens in the court system. As much as I like SMT, I absolutely would not want to live in any of those games, at least not the mainline ones.

      Anyway, I did my part and I can’t do anything else, so no sense in worrying about it.

  5. Man, that opening paragraph. So true. This is a man who has seen it. This is a man who KNEW.

    As always, thanks for the shout out! And thanks for doing these posts! I find it really interesting, seeing the other good posts out there outside of my usual blogging circle.

    • Yeah. From some of what you’ve written, it sounds like you’ve seen it too. I just hope it all comes to a close soon!

      And certainly! I’m really liking your Persona 3 analysis. As for these posts, I pretty much got the idea from other writers on WP and added the album reviews because I wanted to write those but had nowhere else to put them, but I guess it’s working out.

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