My love of Epic Music

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I will be the first to admit that I am a nerd for epic things. I love an over-the-top bit of action. Bombastic music. Heavy Metal.

Metal filled this need in me. Dragons, demons, warriors, and wizards all could be found there. Cheesy, epic goodness. Metal acts from Europe have been great in filling that need for epic music.

Within Temptation has some great music. Check out this song featuring guest vocalist, Xzibit.

Nightwish from Finland has been perfecting their big sound over the years. Ghost Love Score is a perfect example.

But this is an anime blog, no?

Ok. So what are the OPs and EDs that are most epic?

I would be remiss if I did not include the Attack on Titan OP first.

Only My Railgun by Fripside is pretty a pretty big sounding bit of electronica.

But for me lately it is the Guilty Crown OP by Supercell. I can’t get enough of this song.

Do yourself a favor and listen to the full version. Turn it up. Bask in the awesome!

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Dad’s Bias Against Lesbian Bears

As a parent and a viewer of anime I will occasionally run into something that challenges my perception of myself and comfort level. This season’s Yuri Kuma Arashi did this for me.

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The story is: A planet exploded long ago resulting in a meteor shower that hit the earth. This meteor shower caused the bears of earth to rise up and start eating humans. To protect itself humanity erects a giant wall named “The Wall of Severance” to keep bears and humans separate.

The opening follows two classmates who are lovers tending to their garden on school grounds and professing their love for each other. I watched this. I thought: “Fine. They’re a couple of girls in love. So what?”

And then I watched the OP.

“That’s it! I’m done. I am not going to be the dirty old man watching this!”

Or so I thought. That is the value of connecting oneself to a larger community of viewers: perhaps your bias may be exposed to yourself. A few days after I dismissed Yuri Kuma Arashi I happened across a review of episode 3 on “RABUJOI – An Anime Blog” by Oigakkosan. It made me think that perhaps I dismissed it too soon.

I commented:

“Hmmm. The opening made pause and wonder if the show was just exploiting Yuri themes for the sake of it. I’ll have to give it a fair look based off of your review.”

Oigakkosan gave a thoughtful reply:

“no no it is, to a degree. In the same way Kill La Kill exploited flesh and violence to make it’s over the top revenge story grab our attention. Yurikuma really nails it (this week) with the visuals: Pattern making, repetition of patterns, and the use of physical objects that could actually be symbols or hold symbolism for more things. It’s visually quite stunning, bizarre, and even has an element of retroness that is envogue these days. I’m not sure the series is for everyone, but you owe it to yourself to watch up to this one and see if it fit as perfectly together as it did for me.”

So I did. I was pleasantly surprised.  The symbolism and basic off beat of the nature of the show reminded me of one of my favorites Mawaru Penguindrum and there was a reason for this, the same director Kunihiko Ikuhara.

Now the show is off beat and I would not let my 11 year old watch it due to the sexual content and adult symbolism going on.

download (6) You see? Yes? If I let my son watch this, my wife would ban anime in hour house forever.

My bias come is not being offended by lesbian content. I don’t really care about that. My son is gay, so there is no moral objection. It came in the notion of perception of oneself. I am a 44 year old dad watching sexually suggestive yuri. I dismissed a show because I was censoring myself and I thought this is how “man of my age” should behave. That is where my bias lay: in my own ego.

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I am glad I read the review and got the feedback. It challenged my original perception and I am now enjoying a new show.
Attention Parents: Nudity, adult themes, and sexual content. You have been warned.

and that is the sexy way. Shaba-da-doo

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Banishment….This Post!!!

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Chuunibyou (中二病) is a derrogative colloquial term in the Japanese language used to describe a person which manifests delusional behavior, particularly thinking that one has special powers that no other person has. Originally a term used to pertain to children in the second year of middle school who act like adults, the term eventually evolved into a term generally used to describe delusional behavior in general. (From Animanga.wiki.com)

Ahhh..To be young and delusional. The story begins with Yuuta Togashi who is starting his first year of high school trying to distance himself from his embarrassing past. Yuuta was a chuunibyou in middle school. He called himself “The Dark Flame Master” believed himself to have supernatural powers. He wants no part of this past anymore, but  this proves difficult when he meets Rikka Takanashi.

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Rikka is a girl in his class that has not let go of her delusions and is still in the throes of being chuunibyou. Yuuta, despite finding Rikka’s behavior an embarrassing reminder of his past, befriends Rikka and helps her with various things. As the story progresses you learn more about Rikka and her past.

This is just a brief introduction to the plot. What I found appealing about this show beyond this was the idea of fantasy and imagination as both a tool for escape and self preservation.

As I think on my own life (and of people I have known) I think of how one uses fantasy to escape the daily stresses and troubling parts of life. I have used art, music, or literature as a place to find refuge. Music will allow me to feel and live in an emotional place like no other. Books have let me experience new w orlds and leave behind this one for a while. Anime also allows me to retreat into a story with the added dimension of the art of animation.

Is a fantasy world a better place to be than in misery when faced with uncomfortable truths that you are not ready to face? I guess that is a question that this show asks and answers quite gracefully.

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Overall this is a very cute, well written show. The animation is good and the characters are enjoyable.

Attention Parents: There is very little that is objectionable in this show. Some mild sexual suggestiveness, but barely worth mentioning.

This is largely a review of the first season. The second season wasn’t didn’t do it for me as much, but it is definitely watchable.

The first season also ended beautifully (Warning: Spoilers):

My Inner Nerd Celebrates

The other day I posted my love for Steam Powered Giraffe and lo and behold I get an email from Anime Midwest that they will be returning again this year. I love this!

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Also in attendance:

Greg Ayres: Son Goku in Saiyuki, Chrono in Chrono Crusade, Kaoru Hitachiin in Ouran High School Host Club, Yuki in The Wallflower, Leo in Ghost Stories , Satoshi Hiwatari in DNAngel, Kaworu Nagisa in the Director’s Cut of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Sonny Strait: Maes Hughes in Fullmetal Alchemist

John Swasey: Lord Death in Soul Eater, Kogoro in Sgt. Frog, Huang in Darker than Black

Chuck Huber:  Stein in Soul Eater, Kululu in Sgt. Frog, Mohji in One Piece, Shou Tucker in Full Metal Alchemist, Han in Blue Gender, Hiro in Shin Chan, Ashe in Black Butler.

Maxey Whitehead: Dende in “Dragonball Z Kai”, Crona in “Soul Eater”, King Kazuma in “Summer Wars” and Alphonse Elric in “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”.

David Matranga: Tomoya Okazaki in Clannad or Briareos in Appleseed or Bertholdt in Attack on Titan.

All this info is directly from the Anime Midwest website. There are many more guests. It is looking to be a great time!

Excuse my nerdy celebration….

http://www.animemidwest.com/

 

Shine Bright Like a….. Steam Powered Giraffe!

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Steam Powered Giraffe…not anime I know, but related for me.

I first encountered this Steam Punk musical group last summer at Anime Midwest. They were one of the musical guests performing last year. I figured that would be something to check out, my boys and I watched a few videos before we went so we’d be a little familiar if we got to one the shows.

Honeybee is probably one of their more popular songs.

Younger son and I hit the first show Friday evening and loved it. They put on an excellent show. Part musical performance, part pantomime, part comedy act: a really fun experience. The opening before they take the stage the audience was met with one of their videos. The cover of Rihanna’s “Diamonds”

The next night we dragged the older son/ brother to their Saturday night show. That night they opened with Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” instead.

Another great night. It is funny how Anime, or really any past time, can lead you to new interests or expose you to something you’d never seen before. I found that that the conventions are great opportunities for just this sort of thing.

Steam Powered Giraffe are a Steam Punk musical group hailing from San Diego. They are a three piece at this point comprised of Hatchworth, Bunny (formerly Rabbit), and The Spine.

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The most poignant moment of the Saturday night show was during their song: “Wired Wrong”. The audience sang along with the band: “We are wired wrong”. For a moment it seemed that the audience was connected by that thread of feeling weird and out of place in the world, but here…they were all together…The same.

One other little fun bit: They filmed a video when we were there!

Go and love some Steam Powered Giraffe. Let your passions lead you to new and interesting places.

“Find light in the beautiful sea
I choose to be happy
You and I, you and I
We’re like diamonds in the sky”

Winter 2015 Season: What I’m Watching

A new season of shows have started and a new bunch for me to check out as a fan and as a dad to see whether I’ll let my 11 year old watch any of them.

assassinationanime1Assassination Classroom

A bunch of students have been charged with killing their teacher (who is this tentacled balloon looking guy) in order to keep him from destroying earth. Is it bad for younger kids? Too early to tell. There is violence (shooting guns), but it is not graphic violence yet. Looks like it could be a fun show.

download (2)Death Parade

People have to play various sadistic games of chance in order to determine their fates. After episode 1….Yeaaahhh….I’m not going to let my 11 year old watch that one. Adult themes, some graphic images, probably will get worse from here. I am going to continue watching, one of the darker shows for me this season.

Kantai-Collection-Akagi-atago-kaga-866516Kancolle

Based off of an online browser game, Kancolle is a bunch of girls who possess the spirits of Japanese warships and they fight the threat of the deep sea fleet. It is a little goofy in concept, but mindless fun. So far it seems largely harmless for younger viewers.

download (1)Rolling Girls

Ten year after “The Great Tokyo War” and prefectures in Japan have split off into independent nations. Four girls travel between nations on motorcycles to mediate and settle disputes between clans and nations. So far, nothing to offensive. time will tell. Seems to be an interesting premise.

3aaa3baddc080fe539a25b577a7fca651420758243_fullGourmet Girl Graffiti

A middle school girl who has a knack for cooking making friends through her love of food. There is a slight eroticism when the girl eats. Is this enough to make it inaccessible for younger viewers? Maybe, maybe not… I will watch it, I love to cook!

downloadCute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!

My (and my 15 year olds) most anticipated show of the season. Magical bishounen boys and a talking pink wombat-like creature. A definite send up of the magical girl genre with some nods to Sailor Moon. So far nothing has been to objectionable. A really funny show! Give it a try.

What are you watching?

Attempts at Cosplay: Kululu and Kensei Ma

With Anime Milwaukee fast approaching I am closing in on getting my son’s (age 11) first cosplay ready.

I first started attending conventions a few years ago. Each year I come away a little wiser and a little clearer on how best to enjoy the convention going experience.

The first convention made me realize: you need to pre-register and go for longer than an afternoon to really get time to enjoy the experience.

The second convention made me realize: Staying overnight is good, but going for all three days would be better.

The Third convention made me realize: I got to be careful on how I control my money and cosplay might be fun.

acb (You can spend a lot if you’re not careful)

So with that in mind I have been slowly working on costumes for my boys and myself.

I am in over my head.

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My older son (age 15) got his costume online mostly. He is going as Ken Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul.
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This was mostly the mask, and a hoodie. pretty straight forward.

I have decided to go as Kensei Ma from Keinchi The Mightiest Disciple.

kensei(I, in part, chose him to embarass my children by cosplaying as the pervert character…I am such a good dad 😀 )

I have someone I know making me the green outfit and I already own the kung fu pants and shoes (from years of practicing Wing Chun Kung Fu). The hair, mustache, and eyebrows will be the challenging part, I haven’t figured these out yet. I do have the hat as well.

My younger son (age 11) loves Sgt. Frog, so he is going as Kululu.

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I have been sooo out of my depth here. But after about a year of trial and error I have finally got the head almost finished.

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I have no crafting or art skills really, so with luck, and some good advice from various people (I have a co-worker who is a Star Wars coplayer) I have something that turned out okay.

I really wanted this to work for him. When we’ve gone to conventions and he is wearing his Sgt. Frog shirts people stop him and tell him they love his shirt, but I have never seen Sgt. Frog cosplay, so he should get some attention.

But why cosplay? I know my wife, co-workers, and other adults who know I am planning on joining in the cosplay fun are shaking their heads and asking why I’d join the freaks.

I figure that being part of the show, immersing yourself in the experience just adds another layer to your potential enjoyment of the convention. And…Why not? Life is too short to take yourself too seriously. Might as well enjoy yourself and be one of the freaks, because the freaks always are having the most fun.

So IMAGINE!

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Because imagination is fun.

Cute Girls Doing Cute Things: AKA Seinen anime

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From Wikipedia: Seinen manga (青年漫画?) is manga marketed to a male audience aged roughly 17 on into their 40s. In Japanese, the word seinen means “young man” or “young men.”

Hanayamata and Girls und Panzer are both of the seinien genre. They are both, as the title of the post implies, shows about cute girls doing cute things.

Hanayamata follows Naru Sekiya who feels average and doesn’t feel like she has much going for her until she meets a new transfer student from America (Hana N. Fountainstand) and they start a Yosakoi dance club at school. The show then follows them as they, practice, recruit members, and get ready for the big Yosakoi competition.

There is nothing inherently bad about the show. It’s cute. The story is what you’d expect and the characters are fairly standard, but not bad. Despite it not being all that remarkable I enjoyed the show.

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Attention Parents: There is nothing objectionable in this show.

I like the OP:

Girls und Panzer is a show that depicts tank warfare as a sport for high school girls. Referred to as “sensha-dō” aka “the way of the tank” is a popular martial art where teams of high school girls operate and fight with WWII era tanks. They live and go to school on Academy Ships which are large carriers that support an entire community.

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The story follows  Miho Nishizumi. A girl from a prominent “tankery”

family who has just transferred to a new school that doesn’t have a “tankery” program any longer. Tankery, needless to say, is revived and Miho is roped into taking tankery as an elective course. They then do the predictable things: get tanks, get members, train, and compete until the final big event.

It is a fun show. It is tanks fights with cute girls. The supporting teams are what made the show fun for me.
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The volleyball team

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The history club team

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The video gamers team

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The Student council team

The supporting team are a laugh and give the show some extra character. Is the show innovative or outstanding? No, it’s fun. Just mindless fun.

Attention Parents: There is nothing objectionable.

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And there is dancing…

So what makes this Seinen? I guess it is the market it appeals to: young men. Both of these shows follow teen girls which I guess is what the appeal is. The shows themselves are not overtly sexual, but the art that fans make after the fact are more so:

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It may not be the show that one finds objectionable, but the fan’s reaction to the show. Then again, this is the internet. If someone can think it they will. This applies to these shows as well.

Watch the shows. They’re cute and fun. Just don’t search Google images about the shows you enjoy.

Bondage and My Favorite Drunk Woman

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The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior was definitely one of my favorite shows of the last year. A low brow, slice of life comedy with heart is my best way of describing this gem.

The show follows  Kazunari Usa, a freshman starting high school. He is happy to be getting the chance to live on his own in a boarding house away from his family. He soon finds out that the place where he will be living in populated by strange characters much to his dismay. The only thing keeping him there (aside from his parents being unwilling to pay more money) is his discovery that his senpai (Ritsu Kawai), who he has a crush on, also lives there.

The Characters make the show. While not particularly deep, they are thoroughly enjoyable.

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Ritsu is mostly off inn her own world reading a book.

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There is Shirosaki, Usa’s mildly perverted masochist roommate.

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Sayaka. A manipulative college student who likes to sexually harass another of the residents.

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Mayumi Nishikino. A foul mouthed, sometimes drunk, working woman who has bad luck with men (also my favorite).

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And Sumiko. The manager of The Kawai Complex. A sweet woman with a bit of a devious side. She is also Ritsu’s great Aunt.

All these characters make for good comedy. That alone didn’t sell it for me. They gave the comedy and the characters depth and a heart. While Shirosaki is a pervert, he has standards (which seems funny to write, but true). He also has a big heart. There is an episode where he sends his days building a Pythagoras with an elementary school girl who seemed to not be getting along with her friends and he (along with other residents) helps her repair her friendships. So while there is silly comedy there is a heart as well.

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The art is also well done.

Attention Parents:

The show has Drunkenness, Jokes about bondage, and adult humor. You have been informed, what you do with this is now up to you.

Please watch this show. You won’t regret it. It is fun and that is what entertainment should be.

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J-Pop. Sure I like it…

I love music. Always have. I grew up in the 1970’s listening to my dad’s old Beatles records or music that my older sister turned me on to like Queen and Styx. My parents indoctrinated me with ethnic folk music (mostly Latin American). When I hit middle school it was the early 1980s. New wave and Brit pop were in. I listened to Devo, Howard Jones, Heaven 17, Nik Kershaw, The Fixx, Adam Ant, and Billy Idol (his new album has some great songs BTW).

But high school was the game changer. I got into hard rock and heavy metal. I loved it. I grew my hair out, donned black t-shirts, and wore leather. From Kiss to Def Leppard, Dokken to Dio, Megadeth  to Slayer. I couldn’t get enough.

And then there was Iron Maiden.

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Forget about it. They were (and still are) my favorite. Soaring vocals, long songs, intricate guitar work, lyrics with depth (often based off of literature or historical events), all on top of the theatrics of a huge stage show. What is not to love.

As the 80’s progressed there came heavier stuff: Megadeth, Slayer, Metallica. I consumed them all. But one of the big 4 appealed to me most of all.

Anthrax.
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Why Anthrax. They had all the appeal of heavy guitars and crashing drums that any adolescent boy would love, but they had something else as well. They were positive and they were fun. These guys read comic books, wore Bermuda shorts, wrote songs about Stephan King books, collaborated with Public Enemy, and acted goofy. In all the doom, gloom and seriousness of metal, Anthrax were fun and often gave positive messages.

So jump to 25 years later: how did I get from this:

TO THIS??!!

(Sorry the video won’t embed)
http://www.jpopsuki.tv/video/ClariS—CLICK/5d55374770cb9f97825c115c656a127d

That is ClariS. The song “Click” is the Opening theme (OP) to the anime Nisekoi. ClariS is a very talented duo girls from Hokkaido, Japan. They got together in 2009 when they were in junior high, doing cover songs and submitting them to a video sharing site. They were signed to a label and by the next year released their first single “Irony” which was used for the Oreimo OP. They have since released 3 albums and numerous singles, many of which are associated with popular anime.

I love ClariS’s little bubble gum pop songs. They are addictive. They are happy sounding. They are fun. And I think that is what it comes down to for me: Fun.

I also come to enjoy a song through the visual and emotional connection that one has with a show that I’ve enjoyed. I hear the song every show. I enjoy the show. I come to enjoy the song. Now not all OP songs are created equal in my experience, but that is true with all music.

“Irony” used in Oreimo.

http://www.jpopsuki.tv/video/ClariS—irony/85c01e5084c0ed8de4ec6d661c9ff02b

“Connect” used in Puella Magi Madoka Magica

That’s enough for now. But listen to new things, love new things, see what the world has to offer. If I didn’t I would still only listen to heavy metal…and that is just one small part of what life can give you.