Opinion Prone

My opinions, let me tell them to you.

Archive for the ‘ Recommendations ’ Category

I love Engrish. I really do. As uptight as I can get about the rampant misuse of English by native or theoretically fluent speakers, I find it ridiculously endearing when obviously non-fluent foreigners try, even when they get things wrong. Or maybe especially when they get things wrong. So it always pleases me to hear musicians stumble along with their broken pronunciation and broken grammar in anime theme songs or just in general; it’s courageous of them to even attempt singing in a language they’re not all that familiar with. I mean, Tomoko Kawase supposedly has a friend write her English lyrics for her, but she still ends up with stuff like “don’t scary.” There are a lot of great songs out there with awkward grammar and “alternative” pronounced like “alter” and “native” spliced together. Maybe they’re supposing that their primarily Japanese audience won’t notice or care, but with the significant overseas popularity of anime and related media, you have to wonder if they think about how silly they might sound to native and fluent speakers of English.

This post isn’t actually about Engrish songs though. With Engrish as such a common element in so many anime themes and inserts (and indeed, Japanese music on the whole), it’s always a real surprise when you hear a song that’s in English. English! No mispronunciations. No sketchy grammar. Minimal or no accent. They’re a rare breed, but not all that difficult to find considering a number of very popular series include them. Sometimes they’re sung by native speakers and sometimes they’re still Japanese artists, but they’re always a real treat when you come across them:

8. “living inside the shell” – Steve Conte, Shanti Snyder, and Yoko Kanno (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG ED)

It’s a huge given that there’s going to be Yoko Kanno somewhere on this list. In fact, exactly half of the songs on this list are composed by Yoko Kanno, two of which are performed by Steve Conte. Few people would argue against Kanno’s astounding skills across all styles and genres of music. Blues, jazz, hip-hop, classical, orchestral, pop, folk, rock, electronic, whatever, you name it, she’s done it. Language? Japanese, Latin, Italian, French, Russian, some made up gibberish that sounds Latin-based, and of course, English. It’s hard narrowing down her extensive portfolio of works to a handful of songs, but “living inside the shell” is surely one of my favorites. SAC’s first season ending, “Lithium Flower” was also a contender, but I prefer Conte’s vocals to Scott Matthew’s and the lyrics I find better suited to the thoughtfulness of SAC’s themes. The spoken portion by Shanti Snyder also adds an eerie dimension to the mood of the piece.

[View the rest of this entry…]

There are a ton of webcomics on the Internet. Most of them suck. Most of them never update when they’re supposed to. Most of them get dropped whether officially or unofficially because their creators either decide that they don’t have time anymore or life decides that they don’t have time anymore for them. The latter bugs me the most, as I seem to have a knack for finding great webcomics that go on mysterious hiatuses as soon as I pick them up, but really, all three of those ailments are very annoying.

So here are five webcomics that 1) don’t suck, 2) almost always update when they’re supposed to, and 3) are currently running. There are also four runner-ups that occasionally fail to meet one of those requirements, usually the updating thing, but they’re far from being dead.

5. Anime News Nina by Robin Sevakis

This is the Anime News Network’s official webcomic and ventures to mock and satirize various aspects of otaku culture, usually in a good-natured way; after all, otaku are undoubtedly its intended audience. Occasionally, I do see things that some people might get upset over, but I doubt Sevakis ever intends the comic to be insulting towards the reasonable members of society. Each strip is can be standalone, but many strips also tie together in short story arcs.

The art is in full color and pretty simple, but Sevakis doesn’t shy away from grand exaggerations of expression and action, which always results in chaos and hilarity. She also mimics styles from specific series to emphasize punch lines involving art. Good times. ANN updates every Wednesday with few exceptions.

Content: 4/5
Artwork: 4/5
Updates: 4/5

[View the rest of this entry…]

Japanese Music You Aren’t Listening to but Should

December 1, 2008 Recommendations Comments Off on Japanese Music You Aren’t Listening to but Should

A majority of the music I listen to these days happen to be Japanese. Back in the day, my selection was limited to what I heard in anime opening and ending themes, as well as insert songs and the occasional character image song. These days, though a fair selection of my library have performed an anime song or two, there are quite a bit that haven’t. And I’ve been fortunate enough to have gotten my hands on new, fresh-off-the-press artists too. So I like sharing, ’cause sharing is caring, and because it really surprises me that some of these artists aren’t better known because they certainly deserve the attention! Three artists in particular I’ve been a fan of for a while, and it continues to puzzle me that not many people I know listen to them regularly.

First up is ONE OK ROCK, a rock band formed in 2006 with a pretty modern and Western-influenced style. They usually sing in Japanese but are partial to incorporating a fair bit of English into their lyrics. The English is heavily accented, but once you figure out what they’re saying, it usually makes sense, so in that regard, it isn’t exactly Engrish. Their general style and some of their subject matter reminds me a bit of ELLEGARDEN also, but they’re hardly a clone; in particular, their vocalists’ voices have very different edges to them. Taka’s vocal range is also a bit more varied, I think; he tackles a good range of notes and has some pretty nice falsettos (I’m a sucker for falsettos, yes?). They’re a really energetic bunch all around and have a lot of energy. They’re something good to listen to when you’re working or in a good mood.

[View the rest of this entry…]

Oh, man. So being the super nostalgic loser that I am, I totally spazzed when my brother shared this amazing find with me. I love oldschool Sonic like whoa. All those hours I put on the Sega Genesis? Probably 75% of it was for Sonic. I’ve never really known about this apparently awesome music arrangement community, but it really makes me feel good to know that there are people out there that still remember these old tunes and are actively remixing them and re-arranging them for the times.

The site, Overclocked Remixes, among other video game titles like Super Metroid and Chrono Trigger, features three Sonic-centric remix albums. They are albums for music from Sonic 3 & Knuckles (best game ever), Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and… an entire 18-track project album dedicated to the music from the Ice Cap Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, lol. All the tracks also stream for free on last.fm. It’s all very awesome.

[View the rest of this entry…]

(aka, “Yes, I Watched It 26 Times”)

I was bumming around some forums recently and found a topic about opening themes that people actually watched through every single time (or something close). I thought it was a darn good question and consequently sat down to think about which applied to me. I’m usually pretty impatient to get to the content of each episode; after all, I really only watch series one of two ways: either I binge it and swallow the whole thing in the span of two or three days, or I follow it as it releases, which means agonizing over each episode for a week and then downloading it the second it surfaces on its release day. Both situations call for the skipping of opening themes because I’m so damn eager to get to the content.

Still, for one reason or another, there are indeed a handful of opening sequences that I was just so fond of that I watched every single time. And here they are for your viewing pleasure! (They are also, of course, accompanied by my usual verboseness if you want to read. ;3)

(5) “Super Drive” – Gravitation (OP, Yousuke Sakanoue)

To start off with, I know this isn’t the greatest opening in the world, and a lot of my attachment lingers from when I was obsessed with the series. Still, looking back, there are a lot of things about it that are unique and rather endearing. The very beginning of the theme, with its sunlight and leaves, remains one of the most memorable aspects of any opening I’ve ever seen — why exactly, I’m not sure, but to this day, every time I find myself looking upward at sunlight filtered through leaves, I’m reminded of this opening and this series. Maybe it’s just the fangirl in me. The animation snaps back and forth from rather simple/generic character pans to strange, semi-realistic environment and background shots. That aspect of the animation is one of the quirkiest things about Gravitation, and I really think it helped to add to the reality of the musical environment, even when other elements remained farfetched and ridiculous.

[View the rest of this entry…]