Listening/reading log #14 (November 2020)

Well look, it’s December already and cold as fuck suddenly. I like winter better than summer, but that still doesn’t mean I like below freezing temperatures. I’m not that much of a masochist.

But what better time than to listen to some nice unplugged music, maybe around a fire with coffee spiked with at least 1 part whiskey out of 4? No, not even Irish cream, I mean whiskey. This month I’ve picked a few albums that I think fit that setting, along with the usual great, insightful posts from around the community here.

Please to See the King (Steeleye Span, 1971)

Highlights: The Lark in the Morning, Female Drummer, Cold, Haily, Windy Night

Last month, I started my post by recommending Steely Dan, and this month I’m recommending Steeleye Span. The names are remarkably similar, but these guys have absolutely no resemblance otherwise, because Steeleye Span was an English band playing originals and adaptations of old English/Scottish/Irish/Welsh/etc. folk songs.

Please to See the King mainly features singing and a bunch of acoustic instruments (but no drums, weirdly enough — even though “Female Drummer” is a song on this album.) Most of the songs are pretty catchy and memorable, with plenty of energy behind them. And they seem to deal with common problems from the old days, such as being a young woman disguising yourself as a man so you can join the military (“Female Drummer”), getting knocked up by a knight who runs away from his fatherly duties (“Cold, Haily, Windy Night”), and meeting the Devil (“The False Knight On the Road”.) And there’s even a nice innocent-sounding song about a bird that’s actually about something else entirely (“The Lark in the Morning”.)

I really don’t know anything about the folk music of Britain and Ireland — all I’m familiar with are these songs and Thin Lizzy’s version of “Whiskey in the Jar”, so I’m a total novice in this area. But I know I like this album. It’s good music, that’s all. A few good songs to drink and sing along to as well if that’s your thing.

Greatest Hits (Simon & Garfunkel, 1972)

Highlights: I Am A Rock, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Scarborough Fair, and most of the rest of it

Does recommending a greatest hits album fuck up all my credibility and kick me out of the serious music critic club? I guess it probably does, but hey I don’t care, because I was never in it and wouldn’t want to be anyway. And Greatest Hits is the only Simon & Garfunkel album I ever owned, and I’ve owned it for a very long time now, so I’m putting it up here. If you don’t know them, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were an American folk-rock duo who put out some great music back in the late 60s/early 70s. Simon was the music guy and Garfunkel the vocals guy, but they both sang in a lot of their songs and captured a sound that nobody else could imitate.

The songs are mostly really good as well, with some absolute classics you’ve probably heard like “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, “Scarborough Fair” (the “parsley sage rosemary and thyme” one), “Mrs. Robinson”, and “Sound of Silence”. “I Am A Rock” is a great one too — I can really connect to the protagonist of that song, what a surprise. A couple of the songs here don’t do anything for me, but I like most of them, and I think these guys are well worth checking out.

I do have to single out one song with a terrible message, though: Cecilia. Your girlfriend cheats on you and you beg her to come home and then rejoice when she does? Personally, I’d change the locks and tell her to go to hell — and I’d expect to receive exactly the same treatment if I did that to her. You’re just asking for trouble otherwise, aren’t you? Maybe I’m the weird one in this case, I don’t know. I did mention I’m not a fan of NTR recently, so it’s no wonder I don’t like this song. (edit: I just found the other interpretation of “Cecilia” and I like that one a lot better. I had no idea about it until now, but then I wasn’t raised Catholic — if you were, maybe it would have occurred naturally to you. Okay, this is enough about one song, on to the next album.)

Das Lied von der Erde (Gustav Mahler, 1909)

Highlights: It’s all good

Okay, so maybe this one doesn’t fit the theme so much. Really, I’m just posting Das Lied von der Erde (or The Song of the Earth) here because I’m tired of some people dumping on late 19th/early 20th century Austrian composer Gustav Mahler.

Well fuck that. Just listen to this work of his, apparently produced at a depressive period of his life (which really comes through in the lyrics.) The song itself is supposed to be based on some old Chinese poetry that was translated into German and adapted to be set to Mahler’s orchestral compositions. The various parts hits all kinds of tones, starting with “The Drinking Song of the Earth’s Sorrow” which sure sounds like a depressed drunk dude yelling about the sorrows of the Earth, and then moves on to quieter, more contemplative sections, and then back to the sweeping material.

The performances in the modern recordings we have are usually great and the whole thing feels like a ride, even if I still don’t have much of an idea about what the point of it is. I guess to lament about how life sucks and we’ll eventually die anyway? If that’s the message, then I can completely understand it, but as with Magma’s Mekanïk Destruktïẁ Kommandöh, there’s probably something deeper going on here that I’m not getting. Anyway, this is one work to use if you want to show someone that classical music isn’t all stodgy, boring stuff. Maybe it still won’t work, but that is a misconception I’d like to blow up completely.

Now on to the featured posts:

Revisiting my view on Anime Gatekeeping (I drink and watch anime) — Irina again examines the issue of gatekeeping in the anime fandom(s). It’s a complicated problem, and one that I have my own opinions about (more on the game side, but some of the problems there are similar.) Whether you agree with her approach, Irina takes on the issue with a lot of care and insight, so be sure to check it out.

#Controversed: Don’t Attack Actors and Voice Actors, Be a Force of Positivity (Mechanical Anime Reviews) — Apparently some people have attacked voice actors online because they don’t like certain characters they voice, which is completely insane. Scott addresses this problem and calls for civility and positivity in this post.

Autumn Adventures in Kyoto (Part 1) (Resurface to Reality) — A tour of some beautiful parts of Kyoto in the autumn from browsercrasher. Again, I wish I were there. And it’s more than just the virus keeping me from traveling. But maybe one day. At least great travel posts like these can let me go there in my mind.

Why I love autumn (A Richard Wood Text Adventure) — Continuing the theme, Wooderon expresses his love for autumn. It’s my favorite season as well, but sadly it’s finished where I live because we’re below freezing here now. At least we actually had an autumn this year — it’s not a given where I live that it will last more than one week from blazing hot to freezing cold. I hate this place.

Watch Out, They Move, They Diss You Loud! The Persona 3 Retrospective, Part 6(c)-Characters: Akihiko and Mitsuru (Lost to the Aether) — Aether continues his ongoing Persona 3 analysis series with this look at two of my favorite characters from that game, Akihiko and Mitsuru. If you only know Akihiko from his appearances in the Persona Q and Persona 4 Arena, read Aether’s analysis to discover how much deeper of a character he is than the cardboard cutouts those games present.

I Love Meta-Gaming (in Hades) (Frostilyte Writes) — Frostilyte uses Hades and Monster Hunter World to illustrate how meta-gaming can add a lot of value to your gaming experience. It’s the kind of thing you might not actively think about too much, but it makes a difference!

Knives Out (Rian Johnson, 2019) (Extra Life) — Is the newest Rian Johnson film better than The Last Jedi? Red Metal gives his answer to that question in this thorough, indepth review of Knives Out.

The Anime Encyclopedia – A review (Reasons to anime) — If you were wondering whether The Anime Encyclopedia is worth buying, read Casper’s review. Really, any reference book that craps on anything Disgaea-related without even bothering to know who the characters are is fit only for $1 bargain bin hell, or better still a garbage dump.

Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland – Meruru, Warrior Princess (MoeGamer) — And finally, if my review of Atelier Meruru DX didn’t convince you to buy that game right away, check out Pete’s feature on it. Anyone who thinks video games are lacking in strong but realistically flawed female characters needs to play an Atelier game, because the series is full of them, and Meruru is one such protagonist. (Now I just need to find the time to play Atelier Totori…)

And now for the final month of this cursed year. I have a few more post ideas to work on, and I’d like to finish 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim before the year is up — but no guarantees, since it seems like a very long game with a lot of twists and turns. It’s great so far, though. I also have a few VNs I’m still working through, including a certain newly released kinetic novel about catgirls working in a bakery. What could I possibly be talking about? Maybe you’ll find out soon. Until then!

Listening/reading log #12 (September 2020)

No, I didn’t forget — the monthly recap is here. And this marks a full year of them. It’s weird to think, I had the idea for this post series when I was at the office, which is somewhere I haven’t been now for the last half-year since the work-from-home plan was put into place. But I’m okay with that. I would honestly be fine with never leaving my apartment again. In fact, I’ll just sign up for that Singularity thing where we get to become consciousnesses in a massive universal computer network or a simulated universe or however that’s supposed to work.

As usual, I’m going to highlight some excellent posts from around the community here, but first, here are short looks at a couple of albums. This time I wanted to do something more seasonal. Everyone likes Halloween and it’s October now, so here are two real classics that I like but also find to be spooky. Well, maybe more unnerving than spooky. I’d include that Boards of Canada album I covered in the very first one of these posts, but I already wrote about it. It’s pretty chilling too; check it out if you’re into that.

Duck Stab!/Buster & Glen (The Residents, 1978)

Highlights: not even going to try

The Residents might be the most bizarre band ever created. It’s hard to call them a “band” actually; the names and even the number of Residents have always been unknown, and some of what they do involves other media like film or falls more into the realm of performance art than music alone. And even though they tour and do live shows, the performers always wear various disguises, most famously giant eyeball-helmets, sometimes with top hats and full formal suits included. Maybe that’s where Daft Punk got their own helmet disguise idea from?

However, I didn’t pick Duck Stab to highlight because of any of that. It’s rather because this album creeps me the fuck out. None of it’s “scary” exactly, but it can be kind of unnerving in parts. The Residents are known for their deconstruction of pop/rock music, and you can hear that happening right here — most of these songs should sound pretty close to normal with beats, melodies, verses, choruses and all that, but everything is just “off” enough to sound completely bizarre instead. Some of the songs sound intentionally ugly, like the opener Constantinople that seems like it was made to try to get you to turn the album off in its first ten seconds. Or Semolina, which sounds like a Beach Boys song produced in Hell. Laughing Song and Birthday Boy are genuinely creepy as well.

Listening to Duck Stab, I get the feeling that the Residents could have easily made a good album full of regular rock and pop songs if they’d wanted to. Even though a lot of it’s ugly, this music is also interesting and even catchy sometimes. It’s very obvious that these songs weren’t just some shit they threw together but were written, probably with a lot of care. The Residents just chose to make the songs fucked up on purpose, with clashing instrumental parts and vocals and lyrics that almost make sense but not quite, resulting in something that I think resembles an Uncanny Valley effect for music. Captain Beefheart did the same sort of thing in the 70s; this reminds me a lot of his album Trout Mask Replica. It’s worth looking up Duck Stab if you’re into that kind of strange music (and if you haven’t heard it, look up Trout Mask Replica too!)

Mekanïk Destruktïẁ Kommandöh (Magma, 1973)

Highlights: no

More weird stuff from the 70s. And yeah, the title is meant to be written that way. Both the album and song titles, and even the lyrics themselves, are written in a fantasy language that sounds a lot like German but isn’t quite. Magma was a French band, however, and the only French prog band I know anything about. Like the Residents, these guys were known for their strange compositions, but Magma’s are different. Mekanïk Destruktïẁ Kommandöh has separated tracks with titles but feels like one full piece, almost like an old opera with characters singing and sometimes yelling and ranting in this fantasy language over organs, pianos, and pounding bass and drums.

There’s a story behind the whole piece that looks spiritual in nature, but I can’t tell what’s going on with it. Maybe it’s an extremely high-minded concept album like Yes’ Tales from Topographic Oceans about some esoteric religious ideas. But I just think the music is cool aside from whatever the lyrics might be about. The first parts sound ferocious and martial and can even get a bit frightening with the main singer’s ranting and yelping and more singers joining in, but the tone softens and gets more peaceful in the second half of the album. From the flow of it, I can believe there’s a story being told here, even if I don’t really get it.

In any case, Magma are some interesting guys, quite different from a lot of the British progressive bands I’ve covered. I like the fantasy language element of the music as well. Reminds me of the Hymmnos songs from Ar tonelico and the made-up futuristic English/French/Gaelic/Japanese lyrics in the NieR games’ tracks.

And now, the featured posts:

The Great JRPG Character Face-Off: The Results! (Shoot the Rookie) — pix1001 concludes the contest co-run with Winst0lf to determine the greatest JRPG character, and the result may surprise you! But I’ll say it’s a deserving win.

You are the main character of your own life. (Umai Yomu Anime Blog) — An introspective post from Yomu about how we think of our own places in our lives and how anime usually puts that in a different light. I can’t really do it justice here, so do yourself a favor and check it out.

The Last of Us Part II (Extra Life) — A massive and truly comprehensive review of the controversial The Last of Us Part II from Red Metal, digging into both the gameplay and the story. No matter how you feel about the game, this is very worth reading.

Introducing the Frosty Canucks Podcast (Frostilyte Writes) — Frostilyte is now co-hosting a game-related podcast! It’s good stuff, I’ll be following it from now on, and you should too.

Rozen Maiden (The View from the Junkyard) — From Roger Pocock, a review of the mid-2000s anime series Rozen Maiden, which is about a socially maladjusted kid who gets a harem of living dolls that fight each other. This is one that seems almost totally forgotten these days, but it was insanely popular back at the time it aired. Also not quite as weird as it might sound from how I described it, though it has been over a decade since I watched it so I might not be remembering something. I do remember Suigintou being a pretty good villain, though.

Divinity, demons, and decay (Kimimi the Game-Eating She-Monster) — Kimimi writes about her take on Shin Megami Tensei II, a game that until pretty recently was a pain in the ass to play here since it was never officially localized. Anytime anyone writes about SMT I’m interested, and especially about the older or lesser-known titles like this one.

Freaked Out Now and Dead on Arrival. The Persona 3 Retrospective, Part 6(a)- Characters (S.E.E.S. and Protag) (Lost to the Aether) — Speaking of Megami Tensei, Aether’s in-depth analysis series of Persona 3 continues with a look at the unusual school club SEES and the protagonist who joins it at the beginning of the game. Nothing is what it seems at first, and Aether has some great insights about the game once again in this post.

Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light – Review (Nepiki Gaming) — Check out Nepiki’s newly remodeled site for a great review of this Final Fantasy game. I’ve been off the FF train for a long time now, but it’s still a rich series and a good time to read about.

Why I Hate Fan Service in Anime (The Anime Basement) — Keni over at The Anime Basement puts forward some arguments about why fanservice can be a problem and how some anime series use it in a way that’s not very tasteful. I partly disagree with him, but he does bring up interesting points, and it’s always good to get a different perspective on these matters. (I do agree with him that Kill la Kill does fanservice really well and in a way that makes sense in the context of the show, but maybe that will be a subject for a separate post someday.)

Anime I like, but haven’t talked about yet: Maria the Virgin Witch (Mechanical Anime Reviews) — Scott writes about Maria the Virgin Witch, another anime series that doesn’t seem to get a lot of talk. It’s a pretty short series, so no reason not to take the time out to watch it — I’m halfway through it now and it’s very good so far.

Hololive English: Examining a Worldwide Phenomenon (MoeGamer) — I’ve admitted that I fell into that infamous Hololive/Vtuber rabbit hole recently, just before that English-language branch that started a few weeks ago (and you’ll know that for sure if you saw me talking up Gura’s great singing or Amelia’s interesting mix of chilled-out and weird on Twitter or in comments somewhere.) Pete here gives a history of the Vtuber phenomenon and a rundown of what makes the various personalities of Hololive special.

The Soul of an Online Community (ft. Vtubers) (Anicourses) — Sadly, though, the Vtuber thing is not all sunshine and roses, as we’ve seen recently with the suspension of popular streamers Kiryu Coco and Akai Haato over extremely sensitive international political matters (really, I’m not kidding.) Over at Anicourses, Le Fenette examines empathy and connections between fans and players in online communities, including the very active and sometimes volatile world of Vtuber fandom and how it may have contributed to cutting one Vtuber’s career short.

And finally, congrats to The Traditional Catholic Weeb and Dewbond on two years of blogging!

So let’s finally close the book on last month. These posts keep getting longer, just like my reviews. And I have plenty more coming up: I’m in the middle of a few visual novels that I may or may not finish soon, I’ve just started 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, and I’ve finished a few anime series I may write about soon (including even more Monogatari! So I hope you’re not tired of that.) Until next time.

Listening/reading log #11 (August 2020)

As America gets closer and closer to becoming a mainline Shin Megami Tensei game and I start to consider how to maintain a Neutral alignment (still the best alignment, no Law or Chaos for me) I’m finding comfort in music. Today I’ll be presenting two works: another old classic and one of my favorite albums ever, and something new I discovered recently. And as usual, I’ll also be featuring excellent articles from around the community in the past month.

Red (King Crimson, 1974)

Highlights: Red, Fallen Angel, One More Red Nightmare, Starless (basically the whole album except for one track that’s just okay)

I’ve written these short album reviews for nearly a year, yet until now I haven’t talked about one of my all-time favorites: Red. This album was put together by the second (or third, or fourth, depending on how you’re counting) iteration of the prog band King Crimson, which has changed lineups about twenty million times since it started in 1969. Through the years, the only constant in the band has been guitarist Robert Fripp. The other two guys on the cover are bassist/singer John Wetton (formerly of Family and later of Asia) and drummer Bill Bruford (formerly of Yes, and who’s been featured the most out of anyone in these reviews so far, also on The Yes Album, Close to the Edge, and Larks’ Tongues in Aspic.)

Red is extremely heavy, precise rock, full of memorable songs. The atmosphere this album creates is something to experience — it’s dark but not trying to be “evil” in the way some of the 70s heavy rock and metal was going for. This is one to play late at night during a coffee binge. I love every track except for the improv-sounding piece Providence, and even that’s not exactly bad, just kind of messy-sounding and out of place. But then I know people who love 70s Crimson improv works found on albums like Starless and Bible Black as well, so you might love this too if that’s your thing.

Somehow these guys just broke up right after recording Red and wouldn’t return for seven years, reforming into a totally different-sounding (but still good!) early-80s New Wave band sort of like Talking Heads. Weird stuff, but then Robert Fripp is a weird guy. He’s also responsible for the startup sound in Windows Vista if you remember that thing. Anyway, this is an amazing album that you should check out.

Bon Bon Appétit!! EP (Sugar & Co., 2020)

Highlights: it’s only three songs long and they’re all good, but I love SWEETSWEETSWEET

If Red is too dark and stormy to suit your mood, here’s something completely different in tone and style, and something so sweet that it might be dangerous to listen to. Bon Bon Appétit!! is a short EP that I might never have found if not for Muse Dash, the rhythm game I reviewed last month. Ever since learning about future funk a couple of years ago I’ve really liked what I’ve heard of it, and this is in that style, made by Shanghai-based composer ANK and a few other people operating under this Sugar & Co. name. And the name, album title, and pink as hell anime girl cover fit the contents exactly: Bon Bon Appétit!! is all cute vocals over electronic disco/funk tracks.

There was a time long ago I’d have never listened to this kind of stuff, but not anymore: it’s catchy and addictive like actual sugar is, and I like it about as much. Really nice, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else comes out from ANK and the rest of them. There are a few other tracks in Muse Dash by the same group that I also like, so it seems like they’ve got more material around. I’ll also probably be listening to more future funk in general because of how relaxing I find it — I’ve already gotten a few great recommendations that I’m looking into further.

And now for the featured articles (more than usual to make up for my being too lazy to review more than two albums again, one of which is less than ten minutes long. Sorry!)

Mega Man 6 (Extra Life) — Red Metal completes his analysis of the original NES Mega Man series with his review of Mega Man 6, a game that gets maligned a whole lot but that maybe doesn’t deserve all of that hate. See Red Metal’s in-depth review for more.

Visual Novel Theater – fault (Lost to the Aether) — Another VN review from Aether, this time of fault, an episodic kinetic novel that I haven’t played. Sounds like an interesting premise, though I don’t think I’d be able to deal with the lack of an ending (at least there isn’t one yet, and it sounds like there might never be one from what Aether says.)

Exploring Miyazaki & Aoshima Island at Sunset (Resurface to Reality) — One day I’d like to visit Japan, but for now all I can do is keep reading travel posts like this one, a look at the Kyushu coast from browsercrasher.

Happy Birthday GoldenEye 007! (Mid-Life Gamer Geek) — A birthday tribute to GoldenEye 007. I remember the movie being all right, but the game was legendary, and Mid-Life Gamer Geek does it justice in this post.

Appreciating My Manga Collections More in a COVID-19 World (Objection Network) — Michaela reflects on the dire state of the US and the world as a whole and how it’s made her appreciate manga as a hobby. I’m all about buying physical copies too.

Fate/Grand Order Tierlist: Ranking all Caster servants! (Nep’s Gaming Paradise) — I don’t play Fate/Grand Order, but I do like what I’ve played/watched in the Type-Moon universe, so reading Neppy’s character rankings for the game is still a good time. He’s got a whole series of posts on the subject going, so be sure to check it out.

The Top 5 Animes That Made Me Want to Order Take Out (I drink and watch anime) — Anime often features food that’s incredibly detailed-looking and makes you hungry just seeing it. Irina here recommends five anime series featuring great-looking food. None of these are series you should watch if you’re fasting (also don’t watch Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family, speaking of great-looking food and the Fate series.)

The Uzuki-Chan Drama – Twitter imposing their morals on a foreign culture (A Richard Wood Text Adventure) — Having just gotten current on the anime Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! I can say it’s fucking weird that this is the show of the season people decided to start fights about. Wooderon addresses the drama surrounding Uzaki-chan and the part moral and cultural superiority is playing in creating said drama, especially on Twitter.

Waifu Wednesday: Rorolina Frixell (MoeGamer) — Anyone with an interest in JRPGs that are a little out of the ordinary should be following Pete Davison’s massive series of Atelier posts covering what looks like the entire series. In this post, Pete highlights some of what’s great about Rorona, the protagonist of Atelier Rorona, one of the few in the series I’ve played so far. And I agree with his assessment — Rorona is easily one of my favorite game protagonists.

I Really Dig Disco Elysium’s Character Building (Frostilyte Writes) — Disco Elysium looks like it has a unique character creation system. I think I can easily get into the mindset of a sad drunken detective already, but Frostilyte’s post about the game got me even more interested in it.

The Plague of WordPress: AI Generated Posts (Umai Yomu Anime Blog) — Yomu delivers a warning about the rise of AI-generated nonsense posts on WordPress that are currently misusing the anime tag. We’ll have to stay one or more steps ahead of the jerks behind this garbage.

Surgeon General’s Warning: DO NOT WATCH ANIME (Mechanical Anime Reviews) — And finally, Scott delivers a warning about the effects of watching too much anime. Sadly, it came too late for me.

That’s all for this month. I have more anime reviews and a couple of game retrospectives coming up soon, but before that I’ll be taking on a couple of tag posts. Until then, stay safe as always.

Listening/reading log #10 (July 2020)

Last month was one of my most prolific ever. Between the Atelier and Monogatari stuff and my Sim series retrospective, I managed to say more than I thought I had to say, which might be a sign that I need to edit. But I’m too lazy to edit. I’m a bit tired now, but don’t worry: I still have several anime and game review drafts sitting around and even more to come after that, so there’s no end in sight.

For now, let’s do the usual end-of-month thing and check out some good music and writing from fellow bloggers. I didn’t get much of a chance to hear any new music in July that wasn’t part of a soundtrack, so this time I’m pulling two old classics out, both by groups that I covered a long while back:

Maggot Brain (Funkadelic, 1971)

Highlights: Maggot Brain, Hit It and Quit It, You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks

I guess I haven’t actually talked about Funkadelic before but rather Parliament, but they’re sort of the same thing. They were musical groups with a lot of overlap in membership, both led by musician/composer/producer George Clinton, and are often referred to together as P-Funk. There were differences, though: while Parliament’s releases tended towards dance-oriented stuff, Funkadelic was more of a psychedelic rock/funk group as their name suggests.

Maggot Brain is also one of their best albums. It has a lot of great energy and emotion, even in cases where it’s hard to tell if the music’s about anything — see the excellent title track for some of that, with guitarist Eddie Hazel playing his heart out. I really like some of the shorter songs as well. The only song I don’t like is the closer Wars of Armageddon, which I would describe charitably as “a fucking mess” but then it sounds like that was the intention anyway. The rest of Maggot Brain is good enough to still made it a personal favorite.

And no, I don’t know why that lady is buried up to her neck in dirt on the cover. She doesn’t look like she’s having a great time, though.

Emerson Lake & Palmer (Emerson Lake & Palmer, 1970)

Highlights: Take a Pebble, Knife-Edge, Lucky Man

At first glance, ELP and Funkadelic might not look like they have much to do with each other. But both of the albums I’m looking at today have a lot of energy and a nice degree of weirdness to them, even if stylistically they’re very different. This is the debut album of the prog group Emerson Lake & Palmer, three guys who were already well-established when they joined together in 1970. So despite being a debut album, it sounds very confident right out of the gate.

My favorite here is “Take a Pebble”, which doesn’t feel its length at all. It’s relaxing and mellow in parts but also builds a lot of tension near the end with Keith Emerson’s great piano-playing and Greg Lake’s dramatic vocals. ELP swiped the tune to the classical-rock piece “Knife-Edge” from Czech composer Leoš Janáček without crediting him until they were called out for it, but it’s still a great song. And “Lucky Man” was supposedly a song Lake wrote when he was a kid, a nice simple guitar ballad about a guy who isn’t really so lucky.

I don’t know if I prefer this over ELP’s followup Tarkus, so I’ll just say they’re both classics. Maybe I’ll also take on their later album Brain Salad Surgery one day, though my feelings about it are more complicated. I do love its insane-looking cover. If you’re a fan of H. R. Giger, look it up.

Now for some great posts from the past month:

The Persona 3 Retrospective Part 5 – Plot and Themes (Lost to the Aether) — I’m not putting the whole long title of this article here (those are “Mass Destruction” lyrics, right?) but you can and should check it out for yourself above, in which Aether continues his multipart analysis of the excellent JRPG Persona 3. There’s a lot here I never considered even after playing the game through a few times in different forms, with Aether going into depth about its connections to the Tarot and the Fool’s Journey.

The Great JRPG Character Face-Off! (Shoot the Rookie) — If you’re looking for a blogging community event that’s also an excuse to talk about your favorite JRPG characters, check out Pix1001’s post above detailing the rules. I’ll probably be taking part myself — it seems like a waste not to since I’ve been playing JRPGs for over 20 years now. Can’t waste all that valuable experience.

A perhaps biased opinion on Disgaea (Nep’s Gaming Paradise) — Neppy played through the first Disgaea game and gives his thoughts on it. He says his view is biased, but it’s not any more biased than mine — I love Disgaea 1, but this post brings up some weaknesses in the game that are worth talking about. We may not agree in our analyses of the game, but Neppy’s take on it is very interesting and worth reading.

Steam’s Inconsistency is Hurting Visual Novels – How We Can Help (MoeGamer) — Valve has been up to their old tricks with the visual novels on their game platform, removing an all-ages version of the VN Bokuten from Steam without warning. Pete Davison addresses the matter and raises the option of buying digital copies of VNs from alternative platforms and stores to try to break Valve’s virtual monopoly.

Anime Review #40: Little Witch Academia (The Traditional Catholic Weeb) — Here’s a Trigger series that passed me by completely. I was planning to watch their newest show BNA, but I’m now also interested in Little Witch Academia thanks to the Traditional Catholic Weeb’s very positive and thorough review of it.

Senko-san and Japan’s corporate culture (Reasons to anime) — From what I understand, some companies in Japan work their employees so hard, often without overtime compensation, that the Japanese language had to invent a new word. The word is 過労死karoushi, meaning death from overwork — not a figure of speech, but rather literal death caused by work-related stress. Casper examines the anime series The Helpful Fox Senko-san and how effectively it addresses corporate culture and workers’ quality of life.

The Toxic Side of Fanbases (Lex’s Blog) — Being part of both the Persona and SMT fanbases, I can say for sure that we have some crazy in there, with more than our share of infighting and weird feuds that probably look like total nonsense from the outsider’s perspective. Lexine raises some of the issues with fanbases, particularly with the minority of people in most every fanbase who are hostile to newcomers.

What I Learned from Watching the Ghost Stories Dub (I drink and watch anime) — The English-language release of the series Ghost Stories is legendary among a set of western anime fans because of its intentionally bizarre dub. The original work was pretty mediocre, but the dub turns it into an ultra-offensive comedy of the kind that probably wouldn’t fly today. Irina analyzes the ways in which this dub completely changed the feel of the series into something uniquely western.

I finally played “Da Capo” (Baud Attitude) — And from Baud Attitude, a look at the romance visual novel Da Capo and a comparison with its anime adaptation. Anime versions of VNs really do always go with the most boring, safest routes, don’t they? I bet if a Tsukihime anime were made, it would do exactly the same thing. Good thing that hasn’t happened.

And here’s to yet another month. Good luck and health to everyone, and please look forward to more of my nonsense posts to come. I might even review a banned-from-Steam VN or two if I can get them.

Listening/reading log #9 (June 2020)

If you feel like we’re living in a TV drama about an alternate history timeline, I do too. In which case I’d ask why I’m stuck playing the role I am, but that’s probably my fault for making poor life decisions. At least no matter what happens, short of the world actually ending in an apocalypse, we’ll be able to listen to music and read blogs, and that’s what I’ll be covering in this post as usual.

Ege Bamyasi (Can, 1972)

Highlights: Sing Swan Song, Vitamin C, Spoon

Maybe Can is a weird name for a band, and maybe a can of okra makes for a weird album cover, but this is absolutely one of my favorite albums ever. Can was a German band with an amazing rhythm section and a Japanese singer who sang bizarre nonsense lyrics. The effect is really striking on their best albums like Ege Bamyasi. I could have put most of the songs up in the highlights list really; they’re that good, though it’s a bit hard for me to explain why aside from saying… they’re good. I’m a pretty useless reviewer as it turns out.

This is another album that doesn’t feel like it means anything at all (though I could be wrong, maybe it’s really just about okra?) but that doesn’t matter when it’s so memorable and hypnotic. Very good music for studying because of those beats, though Damo Suzuki’s yelling can maybe be distracting sometimes. Tago Mago and Future Days are also great albums by Can to check out.

Touhou Explosive Jazz 7 (Tokyo Active NEETs, 2014)

Highlights: 六十年目の東方裁判, フラワリングナイト 〜紅霧夜華2014

I’ve already written about Tokyo Active NEETs once before, specifically a review of album #6 in this series, but they’re still one of my favorite doujin music groups out there. Active NEETs are a jazz ensemble that plays a lot of music derived from the Touhou Project series of shmups, already known for its excellent BGM.

And they totally do it justice. Just like 6, Touhou Explosive Jazz 7 is energetic, catchy, and full of great takes on songs this time from the game Touhou 9: Phantasmagoria of Flower View. Active NEETs also put up a lot of great videos on Youtube — be sure to check out the links above, the first of which is a live studio recording of one of the pieces from the album, and the second of which is an MMD animation of characters from the game in a band playing the various parts. Makes a little more sense if you’re familiar with the series (for example, the guy dancing around with a sack over his head, and two sort of friend/rival characters Reimu and Marisa cutting each other off during their performance in the animation) but they can still be enjoyed without knowing anything about Touhou, just like the music itself.

Close to the Edge (Yes, 1972)

Hightlights: Close to the Edge, And You And I

And finally, another repeat artist because I guess I’m getting lazy. Close to the Edge was one of those mind-blowing albums for me when I was young, though I discovered it thirty years after it came out, so I can only imagine the effect it had back then. Yes’ music sometimes gets accused of being weird and emotionally detached, and I think this album is part of why some people feel that way — some of it is very strange stuff, and the lyrics on it are seemingly 100% meaningless even though they do feel like they’re supposed to be about something. It also only features three songs, and the first one lasts 18 minutes.

But it’s also almost all just as catchy as good pop music, and with the added bonus of being played by astoundingly great musicians. If something is boring the shit out of me, I’ll stop trying to listen to it, but Close to the Edge holds a lot of energy and excitement. “Close to the Edge” is still one of my favorite songs ever, and the other two have some fine moments as well, though I do think the quality drops off in the closer. Even so, it’s still a great album. I also want to highlight this 8-bit version of the title track made by a guy on Youtube with the name EvangelionUnit06, because it’s also fantastic.

And now, the featured posts:

Let’s Get It On: Why Sex Scenes In Video Games Is One Experience I Can Live Without (simpleek) — Right out of the gate featuring a post about sex of course. Simpleek sets out an argument for why game developers might hold off on putting sex scenes into video games at least until the technology improves.

The Evolution of My Views on the CGDCT Genre & The Dangers of Positivism (I drink and watch anime) — Overly enthusiastic fans can sometimes raise expectations for their favorite works a whole lot, maybe too much. In this post, Irina explores how this has affected her experience with the “cute girls doing cute things” anime genre.

Visual Novel Theatre: Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan (Lost to the Aether) — Aether continues his look into visual novels with a review of a VN about a dopey weeb visiting Japan for the first time, where he’s unexpectedly hosted by two cute sisters, and it sounds like embarrassing situations also occur as a result. Who would have guessed such a thing would happen in a visual novel?

System Mastery is my Jam (Frostilyte Writes) — A game with mechanics that are harder to master can lead to a more fulfilling experience. Frostilyte explores this idea by contrasting indie games Dicey Dungeons and One Step from Eden.

12 Random Japan School Life Tidbits (Umai Yomu Anime Blog) — Yomu, who’s currently teaching at a school in Japan, gives some real examples of Japanese school life and how it’s both similar to and different from what we’ve seen in anime and games.

MOTHER Gallery at Shibuya PARCO (Resurface to Reality) — Those who are into the Mother series should read browsercrasher’s post about a Mother-related gallery exhibit in Japan. When things open up again, we should push for video game-related public exhibits here in the States.

Mega Man 5 (Extra Life) — I never got around to playing Mega Man 5, but Red Metal’s review of the game got me interested in it. It’s always amazed me how they were able to take the series all the way to six entries on the NES anyway.

The Vita’s Not Dead Yet! Three Reasons Why You Should Still Own A PS Vita In 2020! (Down the Otaku Rabbit Hole!) — From loplopbunny, a post about why the Vita is still a system worth owning even after the recent Persona 4 Golden release on Steam. I got a lot of use out of my Vita, so I don’t agree with the many people I’ve heard say it “didn’t have any games.” For a complete argument, check out loplopbunny’s post.

Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045 – Part 1: Welp…. (Mechanical Anime Reviews) — It was rough to see the SAC_2045 series on Netflix. I really like the character designer (I’ve even written about one of his artbooks here, really a great artist) and the original Stand Alone Complex was excellent. But read Scott’s review to find out where and how this new series went.

That’s it for June. I have a lot lined up this month, including more of those short “summer cleaning” reviews, an extra-long game review, and another massive commentary/analysis/series of complaints, so I hope you look forward to those. Until then.

Listening/reading log #3 (December 2019)

I know I said I’d be off for the rest of the year, but there’s still one piece of old business for 2019 left to address. So let’s get right to it:

Magic (T-Square, 1981)

Highlights: It’s Magic, Sunshine Sunshine

Quite an album cover, isn’t it?  Pretty magical in my opinion too, at least as far as the subject matter goes.  Magic is an album recorded by Japanese fusion band T-Square, which has existed in various forms from the late 70s up until today.  These guys along with Casiopea were apparently a big part of 80s fusion.

The problem is I don’t seem to like 80s fusion very much, not even the later Casiopea stuff I’ve listened to.  70s fusion, sure, I’m into it.  But 80s fusion might just use way too many cheesy, ridiculous synth tones for my taste.  Some of those are on Magic too, and that might also be part of why I’m not a fan of the instrumentals here.  Half the songs on this album are vocal pieces, however, and I like those.  These feature lyrics in English sung by famous Filipina vocalist Marlene (yeah, just the one name) who I only learned about last week.  Her singing is unbearably cute and uplifting and makes the album opener “It’s Magic” as well as “Sunshine Sunshine”, a song you may be shocked to hear that I really like.  I’m not crazy about the message (which is essentially “don’t mope around, just be happy” — yeah, if only it were that easy) but when I listen to the song, it’s impossible not to imagine Marlene bouncing around a stage while singing the lines “SUNSHINE SUNSHINE IT’S A SUNNY DAY SUNSHINE SUNSHINE LOVE IS HERE TO STAY!” and that does actually make me happy.  So maybe this stupid shit works.  Anyway, Magic is mostly pretty good, and maybe you’ll like it more than I do if you’re not allergic to cheesy 80s synths.

H to He, Who Am the Only One (Van der Graaf Generator, 1970)

Highlights: Killer, House With No Door, Lost

Hey, was I being positive there for a few minutes?  Fuck that!  I know just the cure: some Van der Graaf Generator.  This was an English prog rock band that started back before prog was even really a thing, fronted by excellent singer/crazy lyricist Peter Hammill.  VdGG was pretty uneven in my opinion, but when they were good they were great, and H to He (referring to the solar fusion process — no idea what the rest of the title means) is one of their best albums.  This is dark, bitter, sad artsy rock featuring Hammill singing what sound like a lot of very personal words over a saxophone/organ-dominated background.

Which you might not think you’d be especially into depending on your tastes, but the songs here are really good.  “Killer” is energetic and catchy and has a monster riff that I love, and “House With No Door” is a ballad sung by Hammill sounding like he just had his heart torn out.  My favorite is “Lost”, though.  It meanders like crazy through its 11 minute run time and bizarre time/key signature changes, all classic prog-style, but it works because the whole song is about a guy who’s lost his love and is wandering in the same fashion.  Nothing pretentious here, it’s really just a love song.  Check it out!

So it’s only two albums I’m putting up for your consideration this time, but I hope the contrast between them is enough to cover pretty much everyone’s tastes.  If it isn’t, try out some of the following excellent pieces by my fellow blog writers.

Shadows of Mass Destruction.  The Persona 3 Retrospective, Part 2-Gameplay — Aether dives deep into Persona 3 in his continuing retrospective series on the game.  If you like the Megami Tensei content I post here (what’s that, about two-thirds of my site?) you should follow Lost to the Aether as well for some great in-depth analysis.

Humanity Has Declined: Nameless Adventures With Incalculable Entities — Scott of Mechanical Anime Reviews writes about the uniquely weird anime series Humanity Has Declined and why it’s worth watching.  I liked the show a whole lot, and Scott captures the essence of it very well.

Editorial: Supporting the Little Guys — Professional and semi-pro game journalism sites are largely copy-and-paste clickbait outrage factories, and Pete Davison of MoeGamer takes on some of the problems this causes in this piece.

[GAME REVIEW] Mega Man 2 — Red Metal of Extra Life reviews one of the best NES games in such a thorough way that I don’t think there’s anything else to say about it.

Chapter 754: Hachinohe Station Giant Lanterns and History Museum — If you have any interest in traveling to Japan, or traveling anywhere for that matter, be sure to follow The Flying Tofu, now on part 754 of her travels through Japan and other lands.  I can’t go anywhere at the moment or anytime in the near future, so I like to read a few travel blogs instead, and this is one of them.

And that’s it once again.  A preemptive happy new year to everyone — doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a great year coming up in general, but we’ll see.  The last few years have turned me into a real fatalist, both as far as my personal life and public/world events have gone. But what the hell.  There’s not much ordinary people like us can do (assuming you’re ordinary too, dear reader — if you’re extraordinary, can you please do something about all this shit?)

Anyway, if all else fails, just remember this: no matter how much things might suck, nothing is forever.  That’s what I tell myself, anyway.  Until next time!

Three classic albums that should receive video game adaptations

Music has almost always been an integral part of video games.  Good music can make a good game great, and there are even some mediocre to bad games out there that are elevated by their excellent soundtracks (like, for example, Final Fantasy XIII – feel free to get your torches and pitchforks out now!)  I’ve even reviewed a few game soundtracks on this site, and I’ve still got some left to write about.

Since video games and music go so well together, why not make a video game about music?  And I don’t mean a rhythm game – those have already been done and done well. I mean a game centered around a particular musical artist or band.  You might think this would be a pretty dumb idea, but people have already thought of, created, and published a few such games.  These include Moonwalker, a Genesis game in which you play as Michael Jackson and rescue kidnapped children (quite the subject matter considering what he’d be accused of a few years after the game’s release) and Revolution X, an SNES game in which you play as some guy with a CD-shooting gun and rescue kidnapped members of Aerosmith (not sure the 90s-revival version of Aerosmith was really worth saving after hearing that horrible Armageddon song one million times, but sure, why not.)

As ridiculous as those games were, I think we can go further still.  Instead of making a game based on an artist or band, wouldn’t it be even better to make games based on one of their works?  It just so happens that I’ve got three classic 70s albums that I think would translate beautifully into video games.  Any game designer out there is free to use these ideas, though you’ll need to work out the licensing issues with the bands and/or the estates of their deceased members on your own.

Album: Tarkus (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, 1971)

Suggested game genres: 3D tank combat or 2D Mega Man-style platformer

Tarkus was the second studio album put out by progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and it’s the first and perhaps the only album to feature an “armadillo tank” on its cover.  Artist William Neal painted this bizarre album cover at the request of keyboardist Keith Emerson, who wrote a bunch of keyboard-centered instrumental pieces to insert into the title track to Tarkus, a twenty-minute suite about… it’s hard to say what it’s about, exactly.  Supposedly it’s about the armadillo tank on the album cover going on a rampage and battling several other beasts as if it were starring in a kaiju movie (the liner notes contain a whole series of comics in which it does just that.)  But the lyrics to the three songs written by singer/bassist Greg Lake that link together Emerson’s organ and synth freakouts don’t seem to have anything to do with that subject.  Battlefield sounds more suited to the end of Henry V than to a monster movie. And God knows what the hell Stones of Years and Mass are about, but they’re definitely not about an armadillo tank battle.  Oh well, “Tarkus” is an excellent piece of music, even if it is weird and self-indulgent, but “weird and self-indulgent” were the hallmarks of ELP.  They were great musicians and apparently kicked a lot of ass on stage, so who cares if their songs made any sense?

But what sort of game would suit “Tarkus”?  The obvious choice is a tank combat game in which you play as the Tarkus itself.  Then again, it seems like Tarkus would make for a good enemy too.  Since it looks like something Dr. Wily might have built, maybe a Mega Man-style game in which you fight the terrifying armadillo tank would be a better option. Maybe it’s chased Wily off and taken over his castle, and he comes to you and asks you to help recover it for him and promises to be good from now on if you do (and of course he breaks that promise in the next game, but that goes without saying.)  Did I just write the plot of Mega Man 12?  I hope so, because that would be amazing.

Album: Quadrophenia (The Who, 1973)

Suggested game genres: Indie 2D adventure game/brawler hybrid or Key-style depressing visual novel

The Who is one of the biggest, most influential rock bands ever, and Quadrophenia is one of their standout works, an ambitious double-album rock opera.  It’s not quite as well-known as Tommy, the band’s first rock opera (at the very least, it never had a hit as big as “Pinball Wizard”) but it’s arguably even better.  And it even has a way more depressing story, somehow.  Quadrophenia is about Jimmy, a young mod (sort of like a 60s British punk/beatnik hybrid from what I can tell) who uses drugs, gets into street fights with rivals, goes through a bad breakup, and finally questions his role in society and the point of life in general and contemplates suicide.  I can imagine that guitarist/libretto-writer Pete Townshend might have seen some of himself in the main character, since his work often comes off as both depressive and autobiographical.  The fact that the real-life mods were fans of The Who in their early days probably made a difference too.  Of course, all this concept would be worthless in this context if the music were bad, but the music is really damn good.  I could not write a song like 5:15 or Love Reign O’er Me anyway, you can be assured of that.

Quadrophenia was adapted into movie form in 1979, but why not make a game of it as well?  I can see it thriving in the indie game-developing community today, especially since a lot of the themes found on this album (lack of purpose, depression, existential angst) are also common themes in that sphere and among the younger generations today.  I’m imagining a 2D pixel-art game involving some brawling sections River City Ransom-style.  However, there is another option that you never would have guessed a weeb like me would have thought of – a visual novel.  Specifically the really depressing kind of VN, the kind that Japanese developer Key is famous for creating (see Clannad, Air, Kanon, and Planetarian for examples.) The VN format allows for a lot more narrative and dialogue and even for branching story paths based on the player’s decisions. Maybe one good ending can be included, but it should be really difficult to get or only unlock after one or more playthroughs. Or just leave the player with only bad or at best bittersweet endings, just like Key would do.

Album: Mothership Connection (Parliament, 1975)

Suggested game genre: Space-based shooter Surrealistic exploration game

Another bizarre cover to another great album.  Mothership Connection was released by Parliament, one half of a musical cooperative sort of thing with Funkadelic, both led by producer/composer/singer/insane dresser George Clinton.  Both Parliament and Funkadelic put out albums, the main distinction between them being Parliament tended to be more dance-oriented R&B stuff whereas Funkadelic involved a lot more druggy funk-rock experiments.  But the overlap between the two groups and their styles are so great that people usually lump them together as Parliament-Funkadelic, or just P-Funk.  Mothership Connection is probably one of the best albums these guys put out, full of catchy funk tunes with sci-fi themes and some very weird lyrics about… just as with Tarkus, the meaning of a lot of this stuff is unclear.  Flying a spaceship through a nebula made entirely of pot smoke – that’s what listening to this album is like.  I highly recommend checking it out (Side A and Side B are both posted on Youtube along with every other piece of licensed music ever made.)

At first, I thought Mothership Connection would make for a natural space shooter, something like Gradius. But then I realized that these aliens coming in on the mothership aren’t here to fight, they’re here to have a party and probably to spread some otherworldly consciousness-alteration to the people of Earth. At least that’s what I gather from listening to the album. So a more appropriate choice of genre here would be an exploration game with surreal elements, something like LSD: Dream Emulator. Maybe a surreal space sim set to 70s funk/R&B. I don’t think a game like that exists yet, but I would sure as hell play it.

I’m sure there are a lot of other songs and albums out there that would translate into amazing games.  Feel free to post your own ideas below.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this question: did I only write this piece as an excuse to review three albums I like, and also because I’m working all god damn weekend and didn’t have the chance to make progress in any of my games again?

My seven favorite anime opening themes

Everyone else has made one of these lists, so I thought I should as well.  Also, I’m working overtime this week and weekend, so I didn’t have time to play enough of a game to write about in a meaningful way.  However, I was stuck in my car for several hours this week cumulatively, during which I listened to a lot of old favorites and classics I hadn’t put on for a while.  If there’s one good thing about shitty traffic, it’s the excuse to just sit for a while and listen to music.

Note: I’m not talking about the anime OPs themselves, though I could certainly make a favorites list of those as well. I’m only talking about the songs featured in said OPs. They’re placed here in no particular order, as usual. I’m really not good at ranking stuff if you couldn’t tell already.  There are also quite a few great opening themes that I’m not even bringing up because if I did, this list would be too damn long.

7) Hito Toshite Jiku ga Bureteiru by Kenji Ohtsuki & Zetsubou Shoujotachi  – Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

People feel so strongly about which opening song of the neurotic comedy series Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is the best that they get into internet fights about it. I think they’re all good, but my vote goes to the first season opening song, also known simply as “bure bure” for that repetitive line in the song’s chorus. Singer Kenji Ohtsuki gives the song an especially sharp edge that makes sense, given that he seems to be representing the obsessive, depressive teacher protagonist Itoshiki complaining about how twisted of a man he is.

As if being a teacher weren’t bad enough, I’m also in despair

I also love the fact that the other characters from the show, all students in his homeroom class, are in-character background singers (they’re the ones credited as the “Zetsubou girls”.) This is simply a great song and an appropriate opening to a great show that I still find hard to watch because it reminds me too much of my own neurotic obsessions and fears. Same with Curb Your Enthusiasm. I know it’s good but I just can’t.

6) Katayoku no Tori by Akiko Shikata – Umineko no Naku Koro ni

Okay, just to be clear: the Umineko anime series absolutely sucks and you should not watch it. By all means play the visual novel series, but don’t watch the anime. Studio Deen just completely, utterly fucked the story in the transition to TV. However, one thing they did manage to get right was the music. Umineko has a fantastic soundtrack, and not only did Deen make good use of it in the adaptation, they even included a few songs unique to the show, including the opener “Katayoku no Tori” (“One-Winged Eagle”, a reference to the Ushiromiya family crest) written and sung by Akiko Shikata. I’ve mentioned Shikata already in my Ar tonelico II album review, and her work on the Umineko series is just as good. It’s bombastic and operatic, very fitting to open this supernatural murder mystery. Beatrice the Golden Witch would be proud. Too bad the show itself is crap.

5) Real World by Nano Ripe – Humanity Has Declined

Don’t be fooled by the happy pop sound of “Real World” or the pastel colors in the goofy-looking OP. Humanity Has Declined (Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita if you’re more familiar with that title) really is about the decline of humanity and the rise of the “new humanity”, the Keebler Elf-looking fairies who aren’t antagonists but just want to establish a good relationship with what’s left of our human race through a girl known only as “the mediator”. Unfortunately, this mediator ends up being put through a whole lot of shit thanks to her assignment that I can’t even really start to get into.

Mediator is done putting up with this shit

Humanity Has Declined is a dark comedy hidden in the shell of a light comedy, and “Real World” fits into that structure. It’s more the kind of song you’d expect from a “cute girls doing cute things” slice of life than a series about the fall of the human race. Very bright, energetic, and catchy, and weirdly enough it puts me in a better mood sometimes despite the theme of the show it’s attached to.

4) Tank! by Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts – Cowboy Bebop

I can’t very well make a best OP song list without including “Tank!”, the aggressive jazz punch that opens every episode of Cowboy Bebop. I don’t have a whole lot to say about “Tank!” except that it’s amazing. Cowboy Bebop was the second “serious” anime series I ever saw – I stayed up late nights to watch it on Adult Swim long before the days of streaming video services – and the opening sequence knocked me over the first time I saw it. Yoko Kanno and her band the Seatbelts are collectively one of the reasons Cowboy Bebop holds up so well to this day, and large parts of all four of its soundtracks have a permanent place in my playlist.

3) Roundabout by Yes – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Agh – fine, fine, you got me. I’m cheating on this one. It’s not an opening but rather an ending song, specifically to the first season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. But I couldn’t resist putting “Roundabout” on this list, it’s such a deserving classic, and I didn’t feel like writing a separate list for ending themes, so here it is. Prog-rock progenitors Yes wrote “Roundabout” as the opener to their excellent 1972 album Fragile, but most of the internet now knows it as “that song that plays in the JoJo’s memes just before the ‘To Be Continued’ arrow flies in” thanks to its part in the series.

Fragile also has a great cover.  Someone still has this painted on the side of his van, I guarantee it

Well, it’s no surprise that a classic like “Roundabout” is part of JoJo’s – many of its characters are named after old rock and pop bands and songs, and series creator Hirohiko Araki himself was reportedly a fan of the song. Yeah, the lyrics are insane (sample: in and around the lake / mountains come out of the sky and they stand there and no, these lines don’t make any more sense in the context of the song) but that’s just something you have to get used to when it comes to Yes. Anyway, “Roundabout” is great, though my favorite Yes song is still Starship Trooper, a song that seemingly has nothing to do with the Heinlein novel or anything else you could possibly imagine.

2) Nantoka Nare by Furuido – Mahjong Legend Akagi

There isn’t a song I’ve heard attached to an anime series that captures the idea of world-weariness better than “Nantoka Nare”. This is another early 70s classic, this time by Japanese folk-rockish band Furuido, who wrote and performed a whole lot of other songs that seem to say “sure, the world is fucked, but just keep on going anyway.” That’s more or less the message of this song, a truly powerful one with a lot of feeling behind it. The title character of Akagi is a gambler with a genius-level talent who is so self-assured, but also so willing to take risks that might end up getting him killed just for the sake of finding an even greater challenge, that other characters often think of him as more of a demon than a human. So maybe it’s weird to say that “Nantoka Nare”, which expresses such a human emotion, suits Akagi well as a theme, but somehow it just does.

I know it doesn’t makes a lot of sense without the context, but trust me, this play is all kinds of insane

1) Inner Universe by Yoko Kanno and Origa – Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

This is another obvious pick.  “Inner Universe” fits the feel of Ghost in the Shell incredibly well, and the song is excellent even when it’s removed from that context.  A lot of songwriters and performers trying to pull off a haunting, spine-chilling feel, but Yoko Kanno (again!) and Origa (a Russian-born singer who’s sadly no longer around) succeed at it, thanks largely to Origa’s vocals.  I also just like songs that manage to use more than one language without sounding disjointed, which “Inner Universe” does with alternating lines in Russian, English, and Latin.

Feel free to share your favorite anime opening themes, or ending themes, or just your favorite music in general below.  Or just share how your day was if you want.  Why not?  In the meantime, I hope to finish one of these games I’m working on soon, which is probably contingent on my getting any damn time off work in the near future.  I’m not even eligible for extra overtime wages thanks to the professional exemption.  Can you believe that shit?  If I were in charge… but that’s a subject for a different post, and probably not one I’d ever write here.  If you want to read my angry, bitter screeds, you’ll have to follow my other site.  It’s sort of like the creepy basement to the two-story colonial brick house that this site is.

Okay, when my metaphors start to get this stupid I know it’s time to stop writing.