Anime OP-ED (July 2021)

Here’s the fifth in this set of themed posts – returning finally after missing the previous six months!

Today I’ve got two pieces from the same anime and also the same artist – multi-instrumentalist mabanua, and some of his work from Megalobox 2: Nomad (which is probably going to end up my fav series from this year).

The Theme of the Nomad” by mabanua (Nomad, 2021)

(I won’t say much this time around because I’m a bit under the weather, but I still wanted to get a post out today and thought a music one would be nice.)

Boy, does this opening work on so many levels for me!

Instantly evoking tone and setting while at the same time building anticipation with the rhythm section and eventually, when guitar picks up and then the vocals kick in, it all hits a crescendo and you’re ready for the episode!

“El Canto Del Colibri” by mabanua (Nomad, 2021)

To contrast with the opener, and to help ‘come down’ after each episode, the ending theme is just as great, I never skipped either.

Just voice and acoustic guitar, it’s a calming but still mournful theme – which again, suits the tone of Nomad so well, since the sequel is as much about redemption and reflection as being an ‘underdog hero story’ this time around.


Okay, there’s an OP and an ED – next time, perhaps, finally, the metal themed post 🙂

The Review Heap: 2021 Directions (Adjusting)

Another update/adjustment for the blog – though it’ll probably feel minor, I have added a couple of things to my plan. (And removed others for now).

A reminder of the goals I had in mind in the past:

  1. Keep reviewing at my own pace
  2. More Anime
  3. Review albums
  4. More discussion posts
  5. Review more games
  6. Do more collaborations
  7. Release a book

Has much changed? Yes and no, I guess. I’ll quickly address a few of them before I get to the additions:


  1. Review (nearly anything) at my own pace:

Basically this is still happening – although I haven’t done much stuff outside the form of animation.


3. Review Albums

Still haven’t tried this.

Not sure if I will go this way at this stage, we’ll see.


4. More Discussion Posts

Only managed one, from memory.

These might not end up being a goal, so much as just a super-occasional thing that I sometimes do.


5. Review More Games

I still want to keep this one.

Plenty of cross-over with audience-interest here, I guess, but I still haven’t done this yet. One day!


6. More Collaborations

Going well!

Have completed a few of these and doing more as we speak – though I’m holding things up a bit personally at the moment.

I love and recommend doing collaborations, so I’m very pleased that things are going well there.


7. Release a book

Nope 🙂

Still no progress. Again, it feels like 100% a vanity project so it’s not high on the list of priorities for now.


Additions


Cover Art Comparison

This is one started doing monthly a while back and while I forgot for a long while, I’d like to resurrect this type of post.

Just not monthly, more like ‘whenever I feel like it’ might be best 🙂

Anime-OP/ED

A bit like above, I was doing this on a monthly schedule at one point but it turns out that I dropped the ball again.

And so it too, while it’ll stick around, might be appearing only when I think to do so. (Next one should probably be Nomad since I’ve enjoyed both so much).

What Else Did They Write?

An extra new thing now.

What I’d like to do, is a post that highlights an anime writer and explores other things they’ve written. It might be several episodes or a whole show/film, but I’ll do some highlighting and maybe analysis.

As a very quick example, Sadayuki Murai adapted the Perfect Blue script and also worked on another Kon film, along with Steamboy. I was surprised to realise that I hadn’t noticed he also wrote one of the standout Cowboy Bebop episodes: ‘Pierrot le Fou’.


Okay, so that’s it – update/adjusted goals/reflection thingy post complete!

Ashley  

Anime OP-ED (December 2020)

Fourth in this series – I’m nearly running out of days in the month this time 😀

(Changed my mind re: metal and anime, but perhaps that style in Jan instead)

Kyoumen no Nami” by YURiKA (Land of the Lustrous, 2017)

Very quickly now – I really like the almost stop/start structure, which still builds quickly to a catchy song. The OP almost has a delicate sound too, and not just via the vocal, which feels pretty apt considering what the poor gems go through!

“Akaneiro ga Moeru Toki” by Scoobie Do (Gungrave, 2003)

Something upbeat for the end of the year 🙂

I like the high contrast between the tone of the show and this song – it can be nice to have that at the end of an episode. (This method doesn’t always work for me, I guess – but I like it here :D).

It also feels a little rarer to have violin in a rock/pop song, which gives things another dimension I reckon.


So, more music in Jan but for now, fingers crossed 2021 starts to turn the tide against the virus.

Anime OP-ED (November 2020)

Third in this little regular post – you can jump back to September where the first post can be found, but this time around it’s a couple of older songs that I’ll quickly share:

“Shell” by Bana (Witch Hunter Robin, 2002)

Suits the tone of the series really well – and it’s got an interesting mix of early 2000s hard rock and power-ballad going on too.

“See you Space Cowboy” by Yoko Kanno/Seatbelts feating Mai Yamane (Cwoboy Bebop, 1998)

This is a perhaps an even more sombre version of the regular ending theme, and maybe hits harder due to where it appears in the series.

But I love this alternate version from the tweak on mood to the vibraphone and the way it still packs a bit of a punch even as it’s more restrained. If you like city-pop you might also recognise Mai Yamane’s distinctive voice from her solo career too.

Okay, next time in December… going for metal perhaps, we’ll see what I can come up with!

Anime OP-ED (October 2020)

Number two! The first post for my OP-ED monthly thing can be found here, but I want to jump right into things tonight with these two, both a little newer than last time around:

‘Kaen’ by Queen Bee (Dororo, 2019)

I really enjoyed the range in Kaen. And the singer’s falsetto surprised me (in a good way), as I wasn’t expecting it at first. The pensive beginning has a great shift to an almost EDM feel, but almost before you know it but there’s another shift AND third one, as the song moves smoothly through the genres and moods.

“Fantasy” by LAMA (Un-Go, 2011)

This one struck me first because piano takes the lead, but the song isn’t a ballad nor a jazz piece. It’s also got an ethereal yet snappy feel at the same time. Finally, I really enjoyed the way the song built a little with the alternating vocals that eventually come together for the ending (fits the tone of the anime perfectly too).

Okay! The second Anime OP-ED post is complete – next time I want to go ‘back in time’ a little with the songs, but I’ll save that until November.

BECK (Mongolian Chop Squad) Bekku

Beck (Mongolian Chop Squad) 2004

For a while there I was on a real supernatural binge but I soon shifted to quite the nostalgia trip, hurling myself down memory lane.

So far, that has involved watching a lot of 80s and 90s anime but more specifically, a lot of coming of age things. Last month that included Kids on the Slope and Almost Famous and more recently, I’ve finished Beck (Mongolian Chop Squad).

Here’s the premise from wikipedia:

[Beck] tells the story of a group of teenagers who form a rock band and their struggle to fame, focusing on 14-year-old Yukio “Koyuki” Tanaka, who until meeting guitar prodigy Ryusuke Minami was an average teen with a boring life.

Poor Koyuki – that absolute joy, right before bitter misfortune.

And things for Koyuki definitely do get more interesting – he goes through all the classic coming-of-age storytelling markers; love, betrayal, doubt, loss, jobs and success. And because he’s a nice kid, the significant musical success he achieves doesn’t leave him with a monstrous ego. (There are also plenty of scenes showing Koyuki and the band putting the work in, which is great).

Beck uses a fair amount of serial storytelling, but it is all leading to something big – it’s more the sub-plots which have that feel. And there’s a good share of school drama on hand but the music and interpersonal relationships within the band take more of a front seat. Secondary, is probably the stop-start, romantic sub-plot, between Koyuki and Maho.

[Minor spoilers from here on in]: The episodes build really well to the big festival, where one of the more feel-good scenes happen, and it was interesting to see that uplifting conclusion undercut by the ‘break up’. Of course, there was time for another shift in the storyline but because I’d grown to care for the characters, I wished that the tour had been more ‘on screen’ rather than shown in montage, but I can see, since the anime only had one season, that the tour had to be compressed.

Time to switch to dot points:

  • I’ve seen a few complaints about the character design in my reading up on the series, but I think they’re distinctive, even if the animation doesn’t appear as seamless as in other shows.
  • Pretty much everything about the band feels spot on – players moving in and out of the group as ‘real life’ pressures kill dreams, the rivalry with other groups, the small steps with first gigs, the hard work that has to happen, it’s all there!
  • For those of you who dislike love triangles, Beck almost has one, but it’s more of a bittersweet realisation of change, and it gets ‘solved’ in a sensible way, which I liked.
  • Saitou provides most of the comedic moments – he’s hyperbolic, but has more than one dimension at least.
  • Since Sakuishi’s manga started in 1999 you’ll probably note a lot of references to 1990s rock and metal music throughout, and RATM fans will see more thanone clear homage too, all of which was fun to pick up on.
  • Koyuki might seem a little meek in some ways… and yet, he’s really not, especially if you consider the swimming pool and the Dying Breed gig for just two examples.
  • In terms of the sub vs dub, I think most folks will enjoy the songs more in the dub.
  • Related to this, I like the way that some of the English that Maho and her friends use (and her brother at times) isn’t always given subtitles in the sub. That way, if you don’t speak fluent English, just like Koyuki, then you’ll experience the same uncertainty he does, which is an important part of the romantic sub-plot.
  • While Leon is supposedly the film’s primary antagonist, I think the real villain just might be Ryusuke, whose secrets and tantrums often threaten band and even the lives of his friends. Seriously, he has redeeming qualities but oh boy.
  • And yeah, part of that last one is me wanting teens to act like well-adjusted adults, when it’s never that simple when you’re growing up; it’s hard work, and more, the mistakes the characters make fuel the story and the drama after all 🙂

Okay, I’ve likely missed some things I wanted to mention but I think that’s enough for now.

Ultimately, I doubt I can fully separate my memories and associated feelings around being young and playing in bands with the show itself – but even if you’ve never joined a rock band, Beck will probably still satisfy so long as you enjoy coming of age/teen dramas (and hard rock and certain metal sub-genres in general).

Thanks to Curtis for the reminder about this series too!

5 Stars

Review Count: 147 (I thought I might mark my 150th review, so I’m counting down at the moment).

Anime OP-ED (September 2020)

Trying to do a new ‘monthly’ thing here at the heap, but knowing me, it might not work out exactly that way based on my posting ‘schedule’ – and me using that word is quite optimistic 😀

Still, hopefully once a month I can share an opening theme song and also an ending one too.

Ideally, I’d include a little paragraph (or less) which each song. Maybe trivia, maybe what I liked, and incredibly rarely, perhaps a bit of analysis. And first up I’m going to kinda cheat – and use the same show for both songs, since I’ve been a little busy of late.

And yep, it will appear that today at least, this post is also a poorly veiled excuse for me to talk about Ergo Proxy.

‘Kiri’ by MONORAL (Ergo Proxy, 2006)

I do love the grunge-soaked opening to Egro Proxy but this is an ace song by itself, separate to the visuals. I like how it’s almost a power ballad too – but of course, the downbeat feel that suits the anime perfectly too.

‘Paranoid Andriod’ by Radiohead (Ergo Proxy, 2006)

I remember sitting up a little when I first heard this, it was a fun surprise.

Of course, it’s not the first time that a UK or US band has licensed a song to an anime but I didn’t think that Radiohead would bite when it came to any such offer – and at first, it seems they didn’t (but after being shown a preview they were on board.) I wish I could find a little more about their reaction, but so far I haven’t been able to find much. (Trivia note – My band in high school wanted us to cover this and I was the ‘singer’ at the time… and basically, well, let’s bring out the word optimistic again, in relation to the possibility of me even being able to come close to doing such a thing).

And there we go, the first Anime OP-ED post complete! Next time I’ll actually use different shows for a bit of extra variety though.

The Review Heap: 2020 Directions (Checking In)

I’d planned something to mark the 1st year of The Review Heap but June hasn’t felt like time for much in the way of a celebration, so I’ve deferred my original idea for now.

I still want to mark the moment, I guess, so I’ll do a bit of a ‘check-in’ perhaps, and update any progress on what I’d planned for 2020 in this post, so let’s see how many goals I maybe made progress on!

Here’s a summation of the goals I had in mind back in Jan:

  1. Keep reviewing at my own pace
  2. More Anime
  3. Review albums
  4. More discussion posts
  5. Review more games
  6. Do more collaborations
  7. Release a book

  1. The plan for The Review Heap was just to review (nearly anything) at my own pace.

This is still going as intended 😀


2. More Anime

Yes and no.

Below are some of the ones I’d planned to review, and while my reviewing pace has been fair, I didn’t get to many of these… yet!

  • Buccano!
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service
  • Black Lagoon
  • Samurai Flamenco
  • Count of Monte Cristo
  • Perfect Blue
  • Shigofumi
  • The Twelve Kingdoms
  • Gunbuster

Here’s a quote from below which is essentially still true, though I feel a little more relaxed about reviewing them in the future at least:

There are also more than a few big-impact anime that I just haven’t got around to reviewing yet, such as Astro Boy, Neon Genesis, Cowboy Bebop, FMA, GITS etc and I’m super-keen to write them but I’m mostly paralysed by the question what could I hope to add to the discourse? They’re so massive and so storied that it’s hard to bring much new to the conversation.


3. Review Albums

No and no.

I wanted to review a few albums (having the common theme of being albums that were released right after a band broke-up) but zero progress on that so far. Will try to do at least one or two in the next 6 months.


4. More Discussion Posts

No and no.

So, this didn’t happen either! I had no ideas for any such posts, and so I didn’t write any 😀

I might give it a shot… actually, I do have just one idea based around a quote from Mamoru Oshii (below), and maybe such a post around anime and age will eventually appear on the heap, I’m not sure.

“I’m not watching anything. There are zero titles I’m interested in. I mean, I’m over 65. Trying to get into anime aimed at young people is impossible. That’s true for Japanese films in general, not just anime. Everything is made for a young audience.”


5. Review More Games

None.

This one is indeed pending. I’ve played plenty, both since I was a kid and lately, but haven’t had the time or drive to write up any thoughts. I am playing the ‘new’ Xenoblade, which does of course appeal to anime fans.


6. More Collaborations

Yes!

Okay, so I have one new collaboration (see here) and another two in the works, so I’m happy to report that this goal for 2020 is on track 🙂

I love and recommend doing collaborations, so I’m very pleased that things are going well there.


7. Release a book

Nope 🙂

Here there has been a little progress I guess – I’m still writing reviews, after all, but I’m still not sure how to structure it. Nor am I sure it wouldn’t just be a project for me hahahaha


So, some progress, which I’m happy with, and some things I’ll try to put more focus into but for now that’s a wrap! One year on the Heap 🙂

Again, thanks for reading!

Ashley  

Astro Boy (1980) 40th Anniversary

It’s the 40th Anniversary of Astro’s colour version this year!

A fact which makes me realise that this particular show and I are getting on a bit (I’m pretty close to the same age now :D). Of course, we all know that Osamu Tezuka first had Mighty Atom debut back in the early 1950s, so the character is really getting on, but he’s also one that has remained beloved.

After the 1980s remake, there was the 2003 TV series and then a 2009 CGI feature film, and a few even more recent spin-off/versions of the hero. From memory, there’s also French production around 2019, but I can’t remember the details.

And related, there’s a still-forthcoming adaption of Pluto which I’m excited about – but basically, all this is me trying to say that I’m happy to see Astro is still someone folks want to see in action.

Astro Boy was the first anime I saw, but of course I didn’t know it was ‘anime’ then. I would have been watching re-runs in the late 1980s and I still remember that it seemed very different from other animated shows. It struck me as far ‘sadder’ actually – more willing to take the gloves off for difficult moments.

It also had everything I was looking for as a kid; a fantastically different future world, robots, battles, heaps of variety in character design, bold voice acting and even a bit of humour.

Perhaps more importantly, it had things I didn’t quite understand at the time – characters didn’t always act in ways that I grasped at first, but made me want to keep watching, to find out why they made the choices they did.

But it had something else too…

Atlas!

As much as I was definitely onboard with Astro saving the day, Atlas was compelling in a different way.

He had such a commanding voice to my young ears, he was powerful, and had a killer design and more, he was steeped in mystery. Atlas also stood out to me because he was connected to an ongoing narrative (to some extent), which immediately made him more memorable compared to other characters, since Astro is quite an episodic series.

But I think the most important thing about Atlas was that he was probably the first example I’d seen of a redemption arc – but I won’t spoil things here. Instead, I’ll just say that for one of the antagonists, he is portrayed sympathetically enough at times, so that as a kid (and probably when I re-watch the series) I felt for him.

Years later, I found out that Atlas had a fairly different role in the 1950s and 1960s and so that’s part of why I’ve only seen few of those episodes from the black and white series. I also discovered (when I received a very cool tin/boxed set for one birthday or another) that Australian broadcast had skipped over the true opening – and thus I was missing some key information about Atlas.

It’s been maybe ten years since I last watched all the 1980s Astro episodes but I did use the The Wreck Of The Titan in class one year, which is probably a fair example of what I think of when I consider Astro to be a kids show that doesn’t shy away from the sad moments.

So for the 40th anniversary of the colour series I think I might do a few more posts on Astro Boy over the next few months!

And as a final note (something I’ll probably come back to in another post) – the 1980s version has a great jazz fusion OST (well, not all tracks are such).

But during the ‘Astro vs Atlas’ battle theme, which I’ll try include below, I think it’s clear that the Seatbelts gave a nod to this piece in their Cowboy Bebop opener Tank!

The Review Heap: 2020 Direction(s)

Okay, roughly 8 months into the blog now and as I mentioned in my ‘About’ section, the new year is time for me to assess and look ahead a bit 🙂

The plan for The Review Heap was just to review (nearly anything) at my own pace.

So far so good on that front – I have no schedule and I post anywhere from 4 to 0 items a day. That’s something I think I’ll keep because I like to stay flexible where I can, and also be able to adjust post frequency based on how busy either of my jobs become at different parts of the year.

Of course, I could schedule posts for any ‘lean times’ but I’m not sure whether I’d be consistent enough even trying that. I think that instead, I should stick to posting at my own pace.

With that sorted, what will I change?

Maybe not a whole lot.

Basically, I’d like to review more of the mediums listed in the menu. So far, I only have 1 game review up, 1 music review and 3 books. Room to grow there, right?

So that’s going to be part of 2020’s focus for sure. Below I have a few more specifics but I’ll add that I know animation, especially anime, will be the core focus here. I do have a few US-productions reviewed at the Heap but I’d also like to learn more about the animation of other continents.

Specifically now:

  • 1. More Anime

Okay, but which ones you ask? Well, as you probably know I don’t have a theme here and I’m also not able to watch a lot of seasonal stuff while it’s live, so expect more from a range of eras and genres but only a few ‘current’ shows.

However, some of these titles are maybe due in the first few months:

  • Buccano!
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service
  • Black Lagoon
  • Samurai Flamenco
  • Count of Monte Cristo
  • Perfect Blue
  • Shigofumi
  • The Twelve Kingdoms
  • Gunbuster

Beyond those possibilities are works I’ve seen over the decades, some I’m only discovering now and a few I have to review from memory almost, while others might end up getting a heap of images + analysis, the way Ushio and Tora did. (I also have a tiny ‘what I’m watching now’ widget too but it’s buried at the bottom of the site while I’m using this particular theme.)

There are also more than a few big-impact anime that I just haven’t got around to reviewing yet, such as Astro Boy, Neon Genesis, Cowboy Bebop, FMA, GITS etc and I’m super-keen to write them but I’m mostly paralysed by the question what could I hope to add to the discourse? They’re so massive and so storied that it’s hard to bring much new to the conversation.

  • 2. Post Break-Up Albums

That heading is a little misleading, I realise.

What I mean is, as part of expanding my musical focus here, I was thinking of making a themed-post where I occasionally look at some albums that were released after the break-up of a big band/after an artist moves on or changes direction.

For instance, The Plastic Ono Band or Curtis for instance. Maybe even Pictures at Eleven, which was Robert Plant’s first solo album. But I don’t want it to be so narrow as when one person leaves a group, for instance there’s Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell, which is what the band did after their singer left, instead of the other way around.

Ideally, I’d have something a bit like this on anime or perhaps directors or studio shifts perhaps.

  • 3. Discussion Posts

I’ve only written one of these I think, and it was to explore the idea of what is a classic – and it was long and rambling post, even for me, but it was really helpful in letting me figure out what sort of metrics I should use to judge a text. So maybe if I try more discussion based things I could make them a little more topical, not sure.

  • 4. Collaboration Posts

This is something I’m super-excited about 🙂

Once the endless threat of bushfires in my area eases for a while, I’d like to announce my first collaboration at The Review Heap, focusing on the film Tokyo Godfathers. Collaboration is something I used to do a lot back in the poetry world, so I know I’ll enjoy the process here just as much. I’ve also been thinking about other ideas and hope to approach a few folks/am open to ideas from anyone during the year.

  • 5. Book Idea

This is very much in tadpole stage. (Yep, I skipped over ‘embryo’, because in a sense, I have already been building material for a possible book by accident – I’ve got nearly 100 reviews here so far it seems).

HOWEVER, of all the things I want for 2020 this one is by far the most up in the air.

Since my blog has no theme it’s hard to know where to focus any potential book. Sure, it could be a collection of reviews but I’m no ‘film cricket’ (to quote Homer Simpson) and so no-one in the reading public is going to seek out my thoughts, nor would it be that interesting perhaps to re-read these reviews in a compiled form.

And I certainly don’t have anywhere near the viewing experience to create anything close to an encyclopaedia-style collection either, even for a single decade or sub-genre.

Invariably, this project might end up being something fun, just for me. And knowing me, I’d end up going the whole hog a bit too, and commission cover art and editing too 😀

So, who knows about that one!


And thanks!

For the previous items on my list, that’s where I’ll start and we’ll see how it goes. I should also add that I’d like to keep up with what everyone else is up to around the community, as I’ve met great folks and found a whole heap of new titles that I should watch, so my list is growing at a kind of alarming rate 😀

And finally, a big thanks also to everyone who visits me here!

Ashley