The future is in our hands: “Mirai wa Bokura no Te no Naka” and “C Kara Hajimaru ABC” from Kaiji

Following up on a post from a few days ago, today it’s a look at the opening of the first season and ending of the second of Kaiji, the anime adaptation of one of Mr. Fukumoto’s most famous gambling manga. I’ve written a lot about Kaiji already — it’s one of my favorite anime series, the story of eternal debtor and failed gambler Kaiji Itou:

I wrote a while back that I’m not big on punk, but I do like some of the classic late 70s/early 80s punk: the Clash, the Ramones, the really well known stuff, since I haven’t delved too much into the genre beyond that. This song came out a bit later than that — this version of “Mirai wa Bokura no Te no Naka” is a cover of the original from the Blue Hearts’ 1987 debut that I’ve heard was a big landmark album in Japanese punk. I’m far more used to the Kaiji OP cover, but the original sounds great too, and the cover itself isn’t too different from the original anyway.

On top of just being a fine song, “Mirai wa Bokura no Te no Naka” is a great fit for Kaiji and for the opening sequence, which really sums up the frantic feel of a lot of the series. If you haven’t watched Kaiji but have watched last year’s Squid Game, it’s pretty much Squid Game before Squid Game, only better (I did like Squid Game, but I thought it had a few serious trip-ups. I might still check out the second season.)

Kaiji is also the rare case of a series in which I love the first season’s opening and pretty near hate the second season’s. “Chase the Light” is just not my style at all. But be sure to check out the second season’s ending theme C Kara Hajimaru ABC, or “ABC Starting at C”, by Wasureranneyo, also a very classic punk-sounding song though a much newer one.

Who’s that girl hanging out with Kaiji? You’ll have to watch the series to find out.* It’s only 52 episodes long! Yeah, I get if you don’t feel like trying it out for that reason, but I promise it’s worth a try.

 

* Spoiler: she never actually shows up in the anime, though she’s referred to. She would show up in a hypothetical third season based on her appearance in the manga, but since we’ll never get a third season, this is the only time we’ll see her animated.

Another classic anime theme: “Nantokanare” from Akagi

Today and tomorrow’s posts deal with two more anime opening themes from series that are connected in my mind forever, even if they don’t have much in common other than the same creator and genre. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about both these openings before, but they can always use a second look, especially since both are from relatively old anime at this point (and the songs themselves are far older, especially the first.)

First up is Mahjong Legend Akagi. Sure, on the surface it’s a series about people playing mahjong, but it’s really far more than that. Original manga author Nobuyuki Fukumoto is known for his gambling stories full of psychological games and power struggles, and Akagi is packed full of them. Several years ago I wrote a complete synopsis of the first episode of the anime here, one of the few posts from back then that I’m not completely ashamed of now. (Partly kidding, it’s not all that bad, but still, eight years ago — I can’t believe it’s been that long.)

Back to the subject: you wouldn’t be able to tell from this OP that Akagi is about a insane teenage gambling genius who uses his skill to take on the yakuza in incredibly high-stakes mahjong matches. The OP animation does fit the feel, though: just the protagonist Shigeru Akagi walking around 50s Tokyo, and with the still under construction Tokyo Tower in the final shot before the 1 pin tile gets slammed down, a nice touch.

The song is also fitting, a real classic this time. Akagi aired back in 2005, but the OP theme “Nantokanare” comes from the 1972 album Furuido no Sekai by Japanese folk-rock group Furuido.* It has a wistful feel that fits well with the series — though it does get very intense, Akagi himself is an extremely cool and collected guy with an attitude that suits the feel of the opening. The full song is worth hearing, along with some of Furuido’s other work. Maybe I’ll feature them separately later on.

But tomorrow I’ll be back with that related anime OP. Some of you might already have guessed exactly what song that’s going to be. For the rest, I won’t spoil it. Until then!

 

* Another language note: I’m not sure whether these guys are supposed to be pronounced “Furuido” or “Fluid”. Google lists the band’s name as “FluiD”, but in Japanese their name is written 古井戸, meaning “old water well.” Since that’s pronounced furuido, I’m inclined to just keeping calling them Furuido despite Google disagreeing with me. I know Google knows everything and all that but I feel pretty confident, though it’s possible that the Furuido guys themselves intended for there to be a double meaning in their name.

My favorite rare/impractical musical instruments

If you’ve ever been in band or seen an orchestra, you might be familiar with the normal set of instruments sorted into the percussion, woodwind, brass, and string sections. There are dozens of interesting instruments in your standard symphony orchestra, some of which are also popular for solo performances (most of all the piano, along with some of the strings) and some not so much (bassoon? French horn? Definitely the triangle.)

But then there are the instruments that don’t even usually play in the orchestra and that barely get any attention except among the truly hardcore types, many of which are extremely low- or high-pitch versions of the more standard ones — think your standard soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones you find in a lot of jazz as compared to the more unusual sopranino and bass types, but even those are commonly used instruments compared to some. Today, since I don’t have any other ideas, I’ll run through a few of my favorites of these unusual instruments.

Contrabass flute

You know the flute, that small instrument with the light, flighty sound to it? The flute and the even smaller and higher-pitched piccolo are usually included in orchestras and show up in other contexts — the flute even features in some rock music (see Jethro Tull.) So we know what a flute sounds like. But this is also a flute:

The contrabass flute is the second-largest and second-lowest-pitched of the flute family, just above the subcontrabass that’s too ridiculous even for me. I really like the sound of the contrabass flute — it’s a versatile instrument judging by what this guy above can do with it. I also like how it’s shaped like a 4.

Sopranissimo saxophone

Speaking of saxophones, here’s one on the extremely high end of the spectrum, so high-pitched that it’s apparently difficult to even play. Your standard saxophone is easy to at least make a sound come out of — I’ve played an alto sax before, though extremely poorly.

But the sopranissimo, also known as the soprillo or piccolo saxophone, is only for the elite, far rarer than even the relatively rare sopranino. This instrument was theoretical for a long time; according to Wikipedia the technology to produce the first true sopranissimo only existed a short time ago, and the first of their kind were manufactured in the mid-2010s.

Sadly for this instrument, it’s really not in demand due to its combination of being so expensive to produce and so hard to play. All the more reason to enjoy it when you can. If I ever win a huge amount of money so that I can do whatever I want, I’ll buy one of these along with a contrabass flute and spend some time figuring out how to play and write for them.

Hurdy gurdy

Some instruments used to be popular and later fell into obscurity. That fate befell the harpsichord, which was displaced by the piano, and it extra-befell the hurdy gurdy, which wasn’t really displaced by anything as far as I can tell. This string instrument was commonly featured in western Renaissance music and has a unique sound that can still be found, albeit rarely, in music today.

Modern varieties of the instrument are sold online, but you’d probably need to dig around to find one, and they look to be a lot more expensive than your typical guitar or similarly sized string instrument. This seems to be true of any rare instrument, but the hurdy gurdy also looks like it takes some real upkeep to maintain in good condition. Still, it can be worth trying out if you want to be known at your school or in your social circle as “the one with the weird medieval musical instrument” if you think you can accept the responsibility of such a title.

There are plenty of other strange and interesting musical instruments out there that I haven’t covered like the completely ridiculous octobass, a massive version of the double bass that seems designed purely to hit the brown note. But if I kept writing about unusual instruments like these I’d be writing all day, so see you tomorrow with something new.

A look forward to next season: “Comedy” from Spy x Family

I didn’t make any secret of liking Spy x Family a lot last season. Just like almost everyone else who watched it judging by the other reviews and the extremely high ratings, so my own late opinion was nothing special. So of course I’m looking forward to the second cour of Spy x Family coming this fall.

Everything about Spy x Family was quality including the music, and especially the ending sequence paired with the song “Kiseki” or “Comedy” by singer/composer Gen Hoshino:

Typically if I prefer one theme over the other, it’s going to be the opening over the ending. For some reason that’s the case nine times out of ten (or in a few rare cases like Call of the Night I’ll like both of them equally.) The OP “Mixed Nuts” is a good time, but “Comedy” is more memorable to me. Or maybe I just like its smooth classy sound. I don’t know much of what else Gen Hoshino has done aside from the pretty all right catchy love song “Koi”, but if at least some of his other music lives up to “Comedy” I’ll have to check it out.

More action, more comedy, more Anya expressions

Take this as still another recommendation to catch up on Spy x Family if you haven’t already, but just as long as you like fun characters and an exciting story full of mind games (and quite literally mind-reading in Anya’s case.)

A short one today, but I’ll be back with more tomorrow. This month has been interesting, forcing me to think of something to write about every day. I hope I can keep it going until the end of August so I can satisfy my obsessive side.

Album review: 新世界の弟子たち (New World Disciples) by desert sand feels warm at night

More vaporwave! desert sand (never capitalized, so I don’t know what to do with it at the beginning of a sentence — whatever, I’m not following the rules anyway) is one or more people from England making ambient-sounding vaporwave, or post-vaporwave, or whatever this stuff is called. This group seems to be one of the most popular among the vaporwave crowd, and I can see why based purely upon a couple of listens to their album 新世界の弟子たち / New World Disciples. This is an hour plus of stretched out echoed/dreamy-sounding 80s/90s pop mall background music.

At least that’s what it sounds like to me. I’m pretty sure all these vaporwave guys use a lot of samples. That’s part of why I feel torn about the genre — I like the general sound and vibe, yeah, but some of the stuff I’ve heard just feels like the guy took “Mystical Composer”, slowed it down, and added reverb, which is fine but not all that interesting. If I want to hear that song or one like it, I prefer to listen to the original. But if the maker creates something new with those samples by making them flow into each other and setting a particular and consistent mood, that’s a different matter, and I think that’s just what New World Disciples does.

Unlike the dark ambient of an album like TOWERS, this music is relaxing, sounding like something you might hear in a mall you visit in a dream (and one that isn’t a nightmare — sadly not usually the case for my dreams, at least back when I dreamt a lot more.) That early 90s computer-generated album cover looks ominous to me with its red clouds and empty landscape aside from two of the pyramids of Giza, but the contents don’t quite match that feel. I especially like the first few tracks — putting those on loop might be a nice way to pass some time at work and maintain my sanity a little better.

I’m not in love with the whole album, especially with the pieces that contain very distorted/slowed singing. I got into that a bit with my look at Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports, but I’m not a fan of distorted human voices when they’re put into a context that’s clearly meant to be smooth or relaxed.* Thankfully, at least some of the tracks on New World Disciples don’t have any of that and work perfectly well as background mall music for me. If I ran a mall, I’d try to play this sort of music in there (only I probably wouldn’t run a mall these days considering their prospects — the closest one to me is dead and will probably never be revived. Maybe that’s part of why people feel so nostalgic over this music, because it commemorates a dead era?)

desert sand seems like a good artist to check out, especially if you’re into this kind of music. But if you are, I’m sure you already know them. They also have a nearly four hour-long album but I’m not quite ready to dive into that. Maybe if I get a massive 12-hour project I have to work on one day that’s just tedious and requires some BGM. Great album cover on that, though.

 

* Not a fan of a ton of vocoder like we used to get in some pop music either (though less because I find it creepy and more because it just sounds stupid.) That kind of vocal screwing around can work with Vocaloid for me though. Maybe it’s because I already know it’s electronic?

And something new: “Daten” and “Call of the Night” from Call of the Night

I’ve been writing about some old anime the last couple of posts, so how about a theme from a brand new one? Unless you’re reading this twenty years from now, assuming this site is still up then.

Call of the Night is a currently airing series about a 14 year-old boy, Kou Yamori, who’s absented himself from school. Instead of going to school, he’s sleeping during the day and going out in the dead of night to wander the empty streets. During one of these night walks, Kou meets and befriends the mysterious fanged girl Nazuna, who turns out to be a vampire in a shocking twist.

Kou decides he wants to be a vampire too because fuck society and being a responsible human being, a sentiment I completely sympathize with. But unfortunately for Kou, even though Nazuna gladly sucks his blood, she tells him she can’t actually turn him unless he falls in love with her, so he declares he’ll do just that much to her embarrassment.

Call of the Night is good so far, a lot of fun and very stylish, but there’s no doubt that the opening and ending themes add a lot to the experience. Both the OP “Daten” and ED “Call of the Night”/”Yofukashi no Uta” are original songs by the Japanese group Creepy Nuts, and they’re both perfect for this show. The ending has particularly grabbed people from what I’ve seen, and I can see why:

I’m not exactly a rap guy if you couldn’t tell — it’s a form of music I respect but just can’t get into that much, kind of like punk. But this song works for me. Or maybe I wouldn’t like it so much if it didn’t fit so well at the end of each episode of Call of the Night I’ve seen so far. It might fit so well because the original manga Call of the Night was named after the song — the anime getting the song as a theme must be a dream for the author.

I also love the animation in both of these and the show in general. I’ve never seen nighttime scenes depicted in anime as this series does them, making the night really look alluring. If I were Kou I’d be leaving the apartment at midnight too (and also to hang out with and get my blood sucked by my cute vampire friend/sort of maybe girlfriend? Yeah, that too.)

Take this post as a recommendation to check out Call of the Night, anyway, if that sounds appealing to you. It’s well worth a watch so far, and I’m hoping it keeps that quality up all season. Next post I’ll probably try to write about something that isn’t an anime theme — whether I succeed is another question. Check in tomorrow!

Just plain nostalgia this time: “Soramimi Cake” from Azumanga Daioh

Yesterday I wrote about an anime opening that I like from an anime I’ve never watched, and today I’m writing about an opening from one I have. If you don’t know Azumanga Daioh, it’s both a part of manga/anime history and weirdo internet culture history, a now 20 year-old anime adaptation of a four-panel comic created by Kiyohiko Azuma and published in the magazine Dengeki Daioh (hence the name, get it?)

Azumanga doesn’t get too much talk anymore that I see, probably just because it is pretty old. It’s a shame, though, because from what I can tell it’s the original godmother of the surreal school-based comedy — Nichijou, Wasteful Lives of High School Girls, and similar series owe a lot to Mr. Azuma.

But why did it blow up online? I’d say in part because it was a gif/meme machine. Just watch the OP:

“Soramimi Cake” is a catchy theme, but I think the bizarre animation clips in this opening really make it. The series itself also contains plenty of great bits such as:

and

and plenty of others. These were all over the place online back when I watched Azumanga around 2006-7 as a college student. As a result, listening to “Soramimi Cake” and seeing this OP trigger actual nostalgia in me, specifically of memories such as being sick and/or hung over in my shitty dorm room, watching video files of Azumanga episodes on my massively heavy laptop (and through 100% legal means, I promise. Really.)

(Look, we didn’t have streaming services back then and it was the only way to get anime without paying out the ass. You would have done it too.)

No, you’re not getting context for this. I don’t think there’s even context to give for whatever this is.

And that’s about all I have to say about Azumanga Daioh. I remember it being a good time, at least from the 15-16 year-old memories I’m digging up. Of course, it’s been so long that I can’t exactly write a proper review of it, not unless I rewatch it. Azumanga might be nice to watch in some sort of group format as well, though I don’t know how people set that kind of thing up. Maybe we can get a revival going?

Nostalgia without the memories: “Platinum” from Cardcaptor Sakura

I just had a procedure done where part of my back was sliced up and sewed back together and now I’m sitting around trying my best not to move too much lest my sutures break open. It’s not a fun day, and this had to happen on the second day of August, a month I promised to post at least once every day. Well, I’m keeping that promise, don’t doubt it.

I started feeling a slight pain as I expected after an hour or so, so to take my mind off of that I played some music while I worked — because of course I didn’t take off from work, because I’m a fucking dumbass. And one of the songs on the YouTube playlist I had set up is “Platinum” by Maaya Sakamoto, one of the openings to the popular 90s magical girl anime Cardcaptor Sakura:

As far as anime openings go, this one is pretty damn good. Very opening-theme sounding, if you can hear that, and optimistic but maybe with a sad tinge to it. It also has a somewhat nostalgic feel to me, which is strange, because I never watched Cardcaptor Sakura as a kid and hadn’t even heard this song until a few months ago. I vaguely knew about the show back when it aired, but in just the same way I knew about My Little Pony: it was a show for girls so hell if I was going to watch it.

Of course I know better now than I used to, but I still haven’t and probably won’t ever watch Cardcaptor Sakura anyway, so I don’t know much of anything about it, Sakura herself, or that winged bear fairy that hangs out with her. For that reason I can’t say I feel nostalgic over this song in nearly the same way as someone who actually watched the series as a kid, but there’s some kind of feeling there similar to nostalgia. It might just be my brain playing a trick on me, just like it does with a lot of city pop, music created in a time and place I’ve never experienced. I don’t know, is there another term for this feeling? I’ve seen it talked about often enough in relation to city pop, because I’m definitely not the only one to feel that way about the genre.

In any case, “Platinum” is a good song and it’s helping me forget about my back and the fact that I can’t move properly for ten days. Which is okay, because pretty much everything I do involves sitting in a chair anyway, including writing on this blog. On that note, check in tomorrow for another short post about an anime theme and whatever nonsense I come up with about it.

Listening/reading log #31 (June 2022)

I originally had something depressing written in this first line, but we don’t need any more of that right now, so I changed it. Chalk it up to my temperamental nature.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the music and the posts from around the community as usual. On the bright side, the proper album reviews are finally back, so if you liked those then that should be good news. And hey, happy Bastille Day to all my French readers too.

Mellow Dream (Ryo Fukui, 1977)

Highlights: Mellow Dream, Horizon, Early Summer

Starting with something truly mellow, just like the title says. Ryo Fukui was an excellent jazz pianist who put out a lot of albums I hadn’t heard until recently even though YouTube kept recommending his 1976 album Scenery to me. So for some reason I decided to start with Mellow Dream from the following year, maybe because I liked the bird on the cover.

So far all the Japanese jazz I’ve featured in these posts has been mostly the fusion kind, but Mellow Dream sounds a lot more like the older modal style, the kind you can hear on older classics by Miles Davis and John Coltrane and similar legendary jazz guys from back in the 50s and early 60s. It’s a bit hard for me to write about this stuff — I don’t love everything I’ve heard in this more traditional jazz style, but I do really like some of it depending partly on which instruments are more prominent in the mix. Prominent piano is a huge plus, so Mellow Dream worked for me. I’m a big fan of the piano/bass/drums combo, especially in faster-paced pieces like the title track and “Horizon”. “Early Summer” is also impressive, according to the liner notes an addition to a re-release of the album from a live performance at Fukui’s Sapporo club in 2006.

So if you like jazz, you can’t go wrong with Mellow Dream. Maybe you don’t need me to tell you — all the huge jazz fans probably know the guy well already anyway, and it’s not like I know what the hell to say about these pieces except that I like them. For some reason I find more to say about fusion. Maybe that’s why I’ve featured those albums a lot more? But this makes for excellent listening too, especially if you need some relaxation, and God knows plenty of us do these days.

NEWS AT 11 (猫 シ Corp., 2016)

Highlights: No idea, but I guess that’s not the point anyway.

And concluding with an album that isn’t so relaxing, or might not be depending on who you are. NEWS AT 11 is another sort of vapor/post-vaporwave/post-whatever album I found recommended on Bandcamp, like the dark ambient album TOWERS I checked out a while back. Produced by a Dutch musician working under the name 猫 シ Corp. (Nekoshi Corp.? I’ve seen it written as “Cat Corp.” too, which makes sense, so I’ll just use that from here on) NEWS AT 11 was very deliberately put out on September 11, 2016 — it seems to be a nostalgic look back to the period before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that shook not just America but the entire world.

The album achieves this effect by interspersing a lot of light/smooth weather report jazz and mall muzak with old ad spots with actual news report audio excerpts from the morning of September 11. But none of these excerpts deal with the attacks themselves as you might expect: they’re instead taken from the early morning reports before the attacks occurred and started getting coverage, with the very last clip ending just before the sudden cutaway to the breaking story.

The first half of NEWS AT 11 was an interesting listen. Its nostalgic effect, if you want to call it nostalgia, pretty much worked for me. I’d just started high school and was a few weeks into classes before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the subsequent “War on Terror” they sparked. So while I was still basically a kid without much in the way of adult concerns in that pre-9/11 world, I remember that world well. Both the news report and mall smooth jazz/muzak stuff sounds extremely familiar to me — not that I actually recognize any of the tunes, but the style is burned into my memory. Even the news clips take me back to those middle/high school days, most of them taken from NBC’s The Today Show that was usually on in the kitchen early in the morning before I had to leave for school. And the fact that these were all taken from that early morning of September 11, just hours and even minutes before that old world was shattered, adds a lot of meaning to the use of those clips (and even more so the fact that The Today Show was filmed live in Manhattan not far from the Trade Center.)

All that said, this nostalgic effect obviously won’t work for everyone. Hearing NEWS AT 11 takes me back to that childhood, growing up as a kid in America in the 90s, when the future seemed bright and people seemed generally optimistic and before that illusion was put to an end. Someone who didn’t grow up in that world likely won’t get as much from this album, though. I don’t know if there’s a lot of musical value independent of that either — I wouldn’t seek out any of the smooth jazz or muzak that NEWS AT 11 samples outside of this context, since I don’t actually like it much and never listened to it by choice to begin with. Now that I think of it, the same is also true for The Today Show.

I also don’t get at all why Cat Corp. filled the second half of his album with those “Weather Channel 1 – 11” tracks, which really do just sound like distorted excerpts from old Weather Channel reports and their accompanying smooth jazz soundtracks. These are claimed on the Bandcamp page to be “from a lost and found VHS”, though if that’s true then why someone was taping old Local on the 8s broadcasts for posterity is beyond me. A few like tracks 4, 6, and 8 on this side get into funky grooves that weren’t bad while they were on, but that’s about it (and 6 is sampled from Kenny G — shocked that he could make something I could tolerate for three minutes considering what else I’ve heard of his, but I’ll give out credit where it’s due. He wrote a halfway decent Persona shop theme! Though he still can’t come close to beating Shoji Meguro at that.) But how do these tracks fit the theme? I’m not sure. Maybe you can tell me in the comments if I’m missing something. (edit: I’ve seen it suggested that this part represents someone trying to block out the horrific news by switching to the Weather Channel that day. Maybe staying in bed and closing the blinds/curtains too. That angle makes sense to me if that’s what was intended by it.)

I think NEWS AT 11 mostly works as intended, anyway. Try it out, but keep in mind it’s more of a collage than a traditional album and that it indirectly deals with heavy and serious matters that might weigh on you depending.

I didn’t expect to write that much about NEWS AT 11, but it really did bring up some dormant memories in me and I ended up pouring them all out. Sorry about that. On to the featured articles:

Pokémon Sun and Moon (Extra Life) — Red Metal has a look at two classic Pokémon titles. Which I haven’t played, because I haven’t really played Pokémon at all despite it being practically required playing in my age group/general fan area. No, I don’t get it either, but I can still appreciate Red Metal’s review and you should too.

Thoughts on the Obi-Wan Kenobi series (WCRobinsion) — Just what the title says. I didn’t watch Obi-Wan Kenobi, but I’ve heard it was more interesting than the typical Star Wars fare we’ve come to expect in recent years. See WCRobinson’s look back at the full series for the details.

SPY x FAMILY Episode 12 Review – Best In Show (Crow’s World of Anime) – Crow concludes his episode-by-episode look at the big hit anime Spy x Family. I tried doing this sort of thing once three years ago and it almost killed me, so I respect bloggers who can go season to season and episode by episode like this. And Spy x Family is well worth that treatment.

Final Fantasy VII Remake – Episode INTERmission Review (Honest Gamer) — I’ll keep doing penance for probably unfairly dumping on the concept of an FF7 remake years ago. Not by playing it myself, because I don’t have the time to spare considering the other things I’d rather watch/play anyway, but by linking Stephen’s review of an extra add-on story to the game featuring Yuffie. I still remember her stealing my materia in the original game and chasing her down, but I did forgive her and ended up using her a lot in my party. I liked her at the time, and maybe you do too, so check out Stephen’s site for more information on this extra episode.

My Dress-Up Darling: Whole-series Review and a Full Recommendation (The Infinite Zenith) — If I didn’t convince you to watch this anime, maybe Infinite Zenith will with this more in-depth review.

Rogue Legacy 2 Review – Stuck in the Past (Frostilyte Writes) — Is Rogue Legacy 2 worth your time and effort if you’re a roguelike fan? The title of the post might give you a general idea of what to expect, but read Frostilyte’s review to find out about the sequel’s positives and negatives.

My Top 3 Ghibli Movies (They aren’t Miyazaki Films) (Dopey Likes Anime) — A look at three great anime films by Ghibli not directed by best-known Ghibli guy Hayao Miyazaki. These films deserve plenty of attention too, so be sure to check out Dopey’s post if you have an interest.

What I want from Atlus, as someone who has spent 70% of the past 4 years thinking about Persona 5 (Eleanor Rees Gaming) — Eleanor has written in great depth about Persona 5 for a while, so she has some interesting thoughts about what we might reasonably expect and what we should hope from Atlus in the future regarding the series.

Why draw anime girls when AI can do it for you? (Umai Yomu Anime Blog) — I find AI-generated images to be interesting but also sometimes terrifying thanks to the extreme uncanny effect they can produce. It’s somewhat easier to take in anime form since anime art is already stylized, and thankfully Yomu has covered some interesting AI tools to make your own waifu or hypothetical series complete with art.

Madoka Brings Back the Anime Demographic Question (I drink and watch anime) — Irina has a look at how manga and anime are classified with a special focus on the unusual overlap between shoujo and seinen (series made for girls and young men respectively) in series like Madoka Magica. Yuru Camp, Bisque Doll, and even Akebi’s Sailor Uniform that I’ve recently reviewed are all classified as seinen too, which you might find surprising. But maybe these series and their audiences aren’t always so well defined? I’m not the expert in this area, so be sure to read Irina’s post.

Vitamin C: Can Song is a Bopping, Shuffling Ode to Fruit & Veg (Professional Moron) — We listen to Can in this household. That’s to say I do, so I appreciate Mr. Wapojif’s post on their classic song “Vitamin C” from one of my favorite albums Ege Bamyasi (which I’ve featured in an earlier listening/reading log post, though I don’t remember which one.) And thanks to Damo Suzuki for warning me to get my vitamin C, or else. Or else what? It’s hard to say.

Why You Should Become a (Anime) Blogger (Side of Fiction) — Finally, Friendly Overlord Jacob gives the reader some excellent reasons for getting into anime blogging themselves. I can relate to these reasons myself, and maybe you can too.

And that’s it for last month. As for me, I’m going to be crushed by work for the next six months. I know this already. Even so, I’ll keep posting on the site on a regular basis because I’ve found that going for more than a week or two at most without writing something causes me to lose my mind. Most of all, this is why I write: to maintain my sanity.

But hopefully you can get something out of it too. I have a couple of games to cover this/next month along with plenty of anime, all from the backlog. There’s been more of a lean towards anime here just as I thought there would be if only because that’s something I can actually take part in without having to spend whole blocks of hours that I often can’t spare. I don’t see this situation ever getting better for me considering where I’m headed, but life is all about adaptation, right? And there’s plenty of anime to talk about anyway.

But as always, I’ll do my best to keep the subjects mixed up here at least slightly. At least I can commit to picking up on these monthly album reviews again. Until next time.

Listening/reading log #29 (March 2022)

Usual apologies for the extremely late post. Otherwise, as far as the news goes, the world is even more fucked than ever. With impending doom coming ever closer, let’s relax once again with good music and good writing.

Pig Views (Regal Worm, 2018)

Highlights: Rose, Rubus, Smilax, Vulkan; Revealed as a True Future Tyrant; Rose Parkington, They Would Not Let You Leave (all found here)

All this time I’ve been listening to progressive rock from the 1970s, and mostly the early 70s back during the peak of that genre. But there’s some damn good prog around these days too, and not simply made by guys who sound like pale imitations of ELP and Yes and the like (who I love, but I don’t need modern copies of.) I came across the band/project Regal Worm more or less by chance after getting a recommendation and then following a rabbit hole down Bandcamp. All the music on Pig Views is written and recorded by one guy from Sheffield, England named Jarrod Gosling who apparently plays every instrument known to man, accompanied by a host of guest singers and musicians.

That’s impressive in itself, but Mr. Gosling has written some fine songs as well, though the best ones are shoved onto the front of the album. I have no idea what the fuck the above three songs I linked are supposed to be about with their obscure lyrics in typical overblown prog fashion. But they’re catchy and have great atmosphere, so their meanings if they even have any don’t make a difference to me (though I’m admittedly a big fan of 70s Yes, and you can’t beat them if you’re looking for convoluted lyrics.) I’d much rather listen to music with no meaning or obscure meaning that I enjoy than music with a clear meaning that I don’t, but I suspect that’s true of anyone who likes prog at all. Regal Worm/Gosling seems to have a sense of humor as well, and I get the feeling that some of this music is meant to be playing on the more self-important aspects of the genre — see “Pre-Columbian Worry Song”, about concerns of falling into the ocean and off the edge of the world.

My only problem with Pig Views is that a couple of the songs drag on too long, and sometimes without much purpose — I’m thinking mainly of the epic-sounding “The Dreaded Lurg” which I feel doesn’t really justify its length. But there’s nothing bad on this album, even if the second half of it falls off a bit. If you’re looking for some weirdo modern prog in the vein of Gentle Giant or Van der Graaf Generator (and I’ve read comparisons to 70s Canterbury rock guys like Henry Cow too, who I haven’t really listened to (yet)) I’d highly recommend Regal Worm, and I may look into more of their/his work and more good modern prog in general.

Ambient 1: Music for Airports (Brian Eno, 1978)

Highlights: 1/1

More weird shit! But this one is a classic, sort of. At least it’s a classic in the ambient genre, and I’ve looked at ambient a bit in these posts, usually on the darker side, so why not go to the source? Music for Airports was created by legendary musician/composer/producer Brian Eno for exactly the purpose you’d think from the title: this album contains music made to be played at airports. It’s been years since I’ve been on an airplane or in an airport, so I had to imagine what it was like back when I had to haul ass through those long concourses. It might sound weird since air travel is so often seen as a hassle, but I actually miss that typical airport atmosphere, especially when it’s not crowded.

So I’m fine with the concept of “music for airports”, but even though Mr. Eno was a key figure in the development of the ambient genre and this is considered a great ambient album by a lot of people, I’m not in love with it myself. The big problem I have with the album Music for Airports is most of it doesn’t feel right for an airport. The only piece that seems to fit very well out of its four tracks is the opening “1/1” with its pleasant repeating piano loop — that one really makes me feel like I’m walking through one of those extremely long hallways with the massive windows looking out to the planes taking off and pulling in. But the following “2/1” features a vocal tone that makes me think of a synthesized chorus of angels, which is not a mental connection I want to be making at an airport, and especially not before boarding an airplane. “1/2” contains the same vocal synth tone but has more going on, though it still doesn’t relax me. The closing piece “2/2” is all right, but “1/1” is the only standout here in my opinion.

Still, again, Music for Airports is considered a classic in the ambient genre, so check it out yourself — maybe you’ll like it more than I did if you’re more inclined towards ambient. It’s also historically important, so if you’re deep into 70s and 80s musical movements beyond the most obvious pop/punk/disco/etc stuff this is an album you have to hear in any case. Eno made a whole series of these albums as that Ambient 1 title suggests, though the later volumes of Ambient seem a little vaguer in their purposes (like his following album Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror, which I don’t even know the meaning of. The Plateaux of Mirror just sounds like a James Bond movie to me.)

That’s all for the music. Yeah, both albums were bizarre progressive/experimental stuff this time, but if you want some more potentially satisfying music, check out my last post in which I went on at length about my favorite Touhou tracks. Now for the featured posts from around the communities:

While My First Impressions Were Tepid, I’m Warming Up to Night in the Woods (Adventure Rules) — I started Night in the Woods a few years back and only got an hour or two in before being annoyed out of the entire experience by the protagonist and her college freshman-ness, for lack of a better term. But I think I wasn’t being fair. For one, I was kind of like that when I was that age, so she might have just been reminding me of myself too much, but it looks like her attitude and the hometown she’s returned to are all tied into a pretty interesting story. Read Robert’s post for more insight on all that. I might have to give this one another shot one day.

Anime Review #77: Chuunibyou – Take On Me! (The Traditional Catholic Weeb) — Traditional Catholic Weeb brings his usual depth of analysis to the film Take On Me!, which is not about the 80s synth-pop group A-ha as you might think but rather a followup to the first two seasons of the anime Love, Chunnibyou & Other Delusions. I liked the first season back when I watched it last year, but not quite enough to watch the rest, so I can’t make any comment on this movie myself. But be sure to check out the above review if you’re interested (and I agree that Nibutani is the best girl in the series — her fighting with Dekomori was also a highlight of that first season.)

Winter Anime 2022 That Froze Over For Me (LitaKino Anime Corner) — With so many anime series airing every season, some of them just aren’t going to stick with you. Lita here gets into some of the less impressive anime of the past season and why they didn’t work for her so well.

Slow Loop Finale Impressions, Whole-Series Review and Recommendation (The Infinite Zenith) — After my extremely positive experience with Yuru Camp (and more on that soon once I finish the second season — I’ll also be checking out the film once it’s out/available!) I’ve been thinking I shouldn’t be so closed to the slice of life genre. I don’t know whether Slow Loop would necessarily be my thing (I was bored by the first episode of the extremely acclaimed slice of life Non Non Biyori if that tells you anything) but as with many of these series, there seems to be more to it than just “several girls hang out and do things together/shoot the breeze/etc.” Though a show just about that could be all right as long as it’s done well. I liked all the endless conversations in Monogatari after all, so I can’t just count a show all about banter out either.

Anime Corner: The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated! Review (Never Argue With a Fish) — From Chris Joynson, a review of The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!, a comedy that I thought was a bit overlooked last season and the season before (or was it before that even? Time is moving too quickly.) His take on the series is pretty different from mine, but it’s always interesting to see different angles on anime and other sorts of works.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: Sweets & Psychedelia (Professional Moron) — Mr. Wapojif sets out his thoughts on the classic children’s film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I say children’s film, but though I haven’t seen the whole thing in a while I suspect it would still completely hold up today, maybe even better than it used to for me, thanks in part to Gene Wilder’s excellent performance as the title character. It’s a good thing no one ever made an updated film version that didn’t live up to the first or the original novel at all, isn’t it?

Day Sixteen: Don’t Look Up (March of the Movies 2022) (The Visualist’s Veranda) — Kapodaco spent the month watching and writing about films, but unfortunately one of them was Don’t Look Up, a film that seems to have pissed a whole lot of people off with its general approach. I agree with Adam McKay’s message and agenda and all that, being someone who doesn’t want to see all of human civilization burn itself to fucking ashes. But I don’t get the impression that this sort of movie is going to help the situation.

There’s More to Dress-Up Darling Than Marin (Side of Fiction) — A look at last season’s big romantic comedy hit My Dress-Up Darling, focusing on the perhaps less noticed part of the central pair in that series, the male lead Gojo. He’s an interesting guy for sure (I say only four episodes in now, but I’ll probably be writing about him and the series in general at some point too.)

The 94th Academy Awards’ “Best Picture” Nominees Ranked from Worst to Best (Extra Life) — I really, really don’t give a fuck about the Oscars — the most I’ve cared about it ever was when Will Smith famously slapped Chris Rock in a move that made the ceremony relevant again for a lot of people, at least for a while. But Red Metal’s film analyses are always worth reading. There are at least a few on this list I should make an effort to see.

Look at these Preposterously Long Videogame Titles! (Arcadia Pod) — Some game titles are stupidly long for no reason at all, and Stephen K. gives us some of his favorite examples here. I thought that Summertime High School one was a joke, but knowing how lengthy some light novel titles can get I can believe it. My own favorite is still Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs The Soulless Army for its double colon title (though of course that “Shin Megami Tensei” was only shoved into the NA and I think EU titles for us westerners who didn’t know what Devil Summoner was, but they only ended up confusing us more — that’s just the way with these poorly localized titles.)

Two Years in Japan Review (Umai Yomu Anime Blog) — Yomu expresses his feelings about leaving Japan after two years spent there teaching. It sounds like it was a moving experience, and certainly one worth reading about.

Politics, as Usual, and My HOT Take on Rushia (The Unlit Cigarette) — This is yet another big case of VTuber drama, but one that says a lot about the whole performer-fan dynamic (that I got into purely by chance in my Needy Streamer Overload review about a week before this story came out.) The short version is that a popular Japanese VTuber named Uruha Rushia was exposed for potentially having a boyfriend, maybe, possibly, during a stream in which she received a message from a fellow online performer — a male one. Truly a horrible thing, isn’t it? If you’re wondering what the big deal about that is, you’re certainly not alone, but despite a lot of support from her fans, Rushia ended up terminated from the agency Hololive after its company Cover claimed she’d broken her contract by exposing certain information she was legally bound to keep quiet about.

It sounds like Cover is probably on solid ground with that claim, at least judging by the reaction from Rushia’s now-former colleagues (though Rushia’s role in that is up for debate too considering a possible betrayal of confidence made against her that led to the breach this post also gets into.) But this mess also raises a lot of questions about where the boundary lies between a VTuber’s online persona and their private self. The Unlit Cigarette featured a look at the Rushia situation last month that’s well worth a read, even if you don’t have a general interest in VTubers. There are plenty of weird social implications to get into here, after all, and those are relevant to a lot more people than just us weebs.

That’s all for last month. Almost nothing about games this time. Usually I try to keep a balance going there, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. But I’ve got a couple of games I’m probably going to finish soon that I’ll certainly be writing about, not this month but maybe in May, along with some anime I’ve got lined up, and maybe even the start of another deep reads series depending on how things shake out. My sense of impending doom isn’t going anywhere in any case, no matter what I do, so I may as well do whatever I want within reasonable boundaries, right?

On that note, I’ve started writing fiction again and have two short stories done in extremely rough draft form. I think I’ll be sticking to this format, at least until I retire in one hundred years assuming I live that long. A novel is just out of the question with my schedule. But I’m finding the short story format to be a pretty interesting and rewarding one, even if everything I’m writing is still terrible fucking hackwork. It will probably never see the light of day unless a relative finds them all on a hard drive one day after I’m dead and bothers to try publishing them. But until then, they’re safe and hidden where they belong (for now, at least.) Until next time, anyway.