Posts tagged 'Yoko Kanno'
Although I’ve been writing this anime blog for a long time now, over 6 years, in fact, I’m still not sure of the kind of blogger I am. I’m not disciplined enough to write every few days, nor do I enjoy deep analysis of anime. I don’t even really enjoy discussing it to any great lengths. But even still, here I am. This has become my home, and I don’t know why. An anime blog.
I first watched Wolf’s Rain in 2003, just as I was beginning to ramp up my interest in anime. I remember a few things about it: being absolutely traumatised by its ending and being spell-bound by Yoko Kanno’s music. Following on from the similarly fondly remembered RahXephon, it made a fan of Studio Bones out of me, too. Which is to say, Wolf’s Rain became one of my favourites and just last week, nearly 10 years on(!), I finally re-watched it.
If I had to condense my love for anime into one single moment, I’d choose the scene when `Space Lion` begins playing in the 13th episode of Cowboy Bebop (Jupiter Jazz.) It is one of the first times I can remember feeling a pang of bitter-sweetness whilst watching anime: the sadness of Gren’s passing tempered by Spike’s and Faye’s return to the Bebop; that Jet can’t really hide the fact that he truly gives a shit about them but, like a grumpy Dad, is too up-tight to admit it, and Gren’s death-wish to be cut adrift amongst the stars and sent drifting towards Titan. Alone.
“I see. You are Spike. Julia was always talking about you… That your two eyes were of different colours… That’s what she said… That you get a strange feeling when you look into his eyes.” — Gren
A strange romance springs forth from the snow-capped streets and cold, gray clouds, and from the elegant, softly-voiced Gren himself, an angelic hermaphrodite in love with Vicious, yet broken by the betrayal of their friendship. His sad, tired eyes and knowing smile are captured and carried beautifully by `Space Lion`’s warm tone of resignation. It’s a spine-tingling moment.
A Gabriela Robin Site have posted an awesome acoustic live set by regular Yoko Kanno vocalist/collaborator Steve Conte. Performed songs include “Heaven’s Not Enough” (my favorite), “Living Inside the Shell”, “Words We Couldn’t Say”, “Rain” and “Call Me Call Me” – so that’s some of the best music from Wolf’s Rain, Stand Alone Complex and Cowboy Bebop. Light those lighters and head on over there right now.
I’m a big fan of Yoko Kanno’s music; be it the atmospheric electronica of Macross Plus (1994) or the acoustic style contributed to Wolf’s Rain (2003), it’s hard to ignore the core emotional beauty of her work; a quality that, not matter which musical style she borrows, ensures that she captures our attention (and often, hearts too!). For the means of this poll, I picked out three series which distinctly represent Kanno’s diverse talent.
For example, lets consider her soundtrack for Vision of Escaflowne (1996), an epic and exciting orchestral set (“Dance of Curse”) that emphasizes fantastical themes of life-changing conflict. Then we have Cowboy Bebop (1998), arguably a career defining fusion of American jazz and blues; cinematic, moody and bitter-sweet (“Adieu”, “Space Lion”, “Rain”, “Blue”), it’s a superlative collection of songs that undoubtedly have their own story to tell and stand alone as great music, regardless of Cowboy Bebop itself. Finally, we have Stand Alone Complex (2002); this time it’s an interesting mash-up of her previous work. Being scored for science fiction anime, there is an overriding use of up-tempo and rousing electronica (“Cybermind”, “Rise”) as well as dreamy vocal tracks (“Christmas in the Silent Forest”, “Psychodelic Soul”, “Mikansei Love Story”) that echo an ethereal trip into a starry-eyed unknown. For the means of this vote, I ended up plumping for “Cowboy Bebop”, but I particularly love a lot of her work for “Stand Alone Complex” and if just for beautiful “Voices”, I was tempted to include Macross Plus too.
At the time of writing, Kanno’s most recent effort is Darker than Black (2007); being another attempt to capture an American rock feel, it’s doomed to living the shadow of Cowboy Bebop and rarely reaches the emotional heights we expect of her craft, only “ScatCat”, “Kuro”, “Deadly Work” and “In no Piano” hinting at the beating heart hiding beneath the superficial front of up-tempo, slick rock and muzak.
It’s also interesting to note that whether coincidence or not, a high number of Kanno’s soundtracks have contributed to landmark anime productions; I need not extol the virtues of the likes of Cowboy Bebop or Escaflowne, but I do wonder if her presence elevates and influences those around her to create the kind of anime that will be remembered for years to come.
Lately, I’ve been running a little low on inspiration. Blogging can be great fun, but it’s hard work when the ideas aren’t flowing as freely. In the last week alone, I’ve scrapped two half-written articles simply because they felt like a chore to write, and after all, dear reader, the last thing I want to do is infect you with is my apathy. I’m thoroughly enjoying the likes of Gurren Lagann, Seirei no Moribito and Toward the Terra, yet I’m finding it increasingly difficult to write about any "current" anime at all, if just because I feel like my voice is drowned out by the sea of fandom; you know, I want to say an episode is cool, but its kind of pointless when dozens of others have already said the same thing.
By way of those feelings, over the weekend I started watching Turn A Gundam. Despite its obscure reputation, respected opinions have assured me that Turn A is the best of the post-UC Gundam productions and to be completely honest, the fact Yoko Kanno composed the music is enough to merit a substantial leap of faith anyway.
As of writing, I’m four episodes into the series and so far, I’ve enjoyed it. For a Yoshiyuki Tomino anime, the lead character (effeminate, white-haired teen called Loran played the stellar Romi Paku) is remarkably pleasant, and that the story has so far unfolded on Earth lends a dash a colour and diversity to Tomino’s typically oppressive, space dwelling back-drop. His ideas continue to fascinate me, as does the depth of the universes he creates; personalities, technologies, cultures, rituals; its easy to lose yourself, to believe in the story — the little details are so important.
Turn A is clearly influenced by a Miyazaki style environmental paranoia. The story begins as three kids (from a splinter human settlement on the moon) land on Earth with a mission to investigate the lush green planet and its industrial society. Two years later the army, mobile suits in tow, invades. Based on these four episodes, there is an obvious lamentation of both advanced technology and its irresponsible use, ultimately leading to the pointless desecration of nature as a power struggle escalates into an all out yet completely pointless war. A number of subtexts can be read into the invasion and occupation of Earth by "foreigners", not least of all a post-WWII fear of Western culture and technology occupying traditional Japan.
Yoko Kanno’s soundtrack is another highlight, epic and sweeping as ever, I’m looking forward to further acquainting myself with the OST. High amounts of nudity not withstanding, the animation is fine, clearly hand-drawn and evoking the sense of depth and life that today’s CG dominated, artificial fare has somewhat misplaced.
To quote rubbish rockers Staind, it’s been a while. Of course I haven’t stopped watching anime, I just don’t have much to say. I could write boring episode reviews, but you know, that’s boring! More than anything I seem to rely on inspiration to write and the feeling now is that I’m either burnt out or just couldn’t care less.
Death Note was great, but it’s fast becoming a weak parody of itself; Light and L locked together – it’s like some stupid sitcom. Code Geass is superficially exciting and features some colourful animation, but it’s mostly just absurd, camp trash; a retooled Gundam for the motaku generation.
Red Garden is one of the few shining lights to emerge from the horrendous winter season. A novelty for TV anime these days; it has a story to tell, it has female characters with integrity and it doesn’t look like it was animated for pedophiles. Score!
Eyes then turn to the spring ’07 season and hope springs anew. I better not be the only one looking forward to Bokurano; imagine an alternate version of Evangelion where Shinji and his giant robot accidentally squish Father Ikari (and his car) underfoot, while Asuka’s a child prostitute and after every victorious mecha mash up, the pilot curls up and dies. As long as the production values are up to scratch (we’re depending on GONZO here, so it’s a flip of a coin really), Bokurano will stun, surprise and shock anime fans not prepared for such cold, hard brutality.
It’s nice to see a couple more TV shows from Studio BONES are gearing up for launch too. I do enjoy dark science fiction and as far as I can see, Studio BONES are up there with the best. “Darker than Black” (with a Yoko Kanno soundtrack!) and “The Skull Man” may sound corny, but coming from the brilliant animation house behind the likes of Wolf’s Rain and Kurau Phantom Memory, expectations are sky high.