Denny Sinnoh's "Akihabara Starlight"

Archive for May, 2014

Favorite Anime Songs Part I: Openings and Endings

Favorite Anime Songs Part I: Openings and Endings

A great anime has a great opening and ending theme! The opening song fires you up about watching the episode, and a good end-theme makes you want to watch more. (Just one more episode tonight … please!!!) I am going to present a list of SOME of my favorite anime series opening themes and ending theses. This is not a list of my favorite all-time, and they are not ranked in order.  Some are the entire song.  They make great MP3s!  Also, for some of these I have included only the anime openings/endings as they are seen in the anime (some with credits, some without). I have also included “full versions” of some songs, especially when they are worthwhile. Thanks go to the original YouTubers for posting. Also, thanks to all their lawyers, the lawyers of the original artists, the YouTube lawyers, and any other lawyers who may become involved.

KINOS JOURNEY:  One of my all-time favorites. I never wanted it to end. The continuing story of a girl, her talking motorcycle, and not making any judgments. The opening is “All The Way” by Mikuni Shimokawa. The ending is “The Beautiful World” by Ai Maeda. I’ve included the full songs; both are hauntingly beautiful, just like the series.

CHOBITS: One of my favorite all-time series! “Let Me Be With You” was a great opening theme, and is on the great album “In April” by Round Table featuring Nino. There are actually two end themes. The first is the “Reason For Being”. What the hey, I am also including the Rie Tanaka music video “Ningyo Hime” for the second ending. Both end songs are great.

RUROUNI KENSHIN: Really takes me back. Is this the best anime series ever? The opening theme “Freckles” always fires me up. You can also find the English version on the YouTube links. The later seasons also had different openings and endings. The second ending was always my favorite. Enjoy the full song “Namida wa Shiite Iru” by Mayo Suzukaze.

STRAWBERRY PANIC: What can one say about this landmark series? Here is the full opening song “Shoujo Meiro De Tsukamaete” by Aki Misato. There were different end themes. It was a tough decision , so I went with the more colorful one. “Ichigo Tsumi Monogatan” by actresses Mai Nakahara and Ai Shimizu.

BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL: I’ve included this one for variety.  The anime was a great idea, but not fully pulled off.  It is very interesting to see that they were not afraid to use that ancient Buddhist symbol for this anime series. … and what was that cat drinking? I like the opening much better than the ending, but it is here for completeness sake.

BAMBOO BLADE: A very cute anime about a girl’s high school Kendo team. Often overlooked, it had great Jpop/disco opening and ending themes. (And I HATED disco!). I have included the “full versions” of “Bamboo Beat” and “Star Rise” here.

SAMURAI 7: I’ve saved the best for last. This is my answer when I am asked “What was your favorite anime?”. The opening and ending are both great. The opening is “Unlimited” by Aikawa Nanese. WOW! WOW!! WOW!!! It always energies me. The haunting end theme “Fuhen” is by Rin. So sad, but so beautiful.

NOW I WANT TO SEE IT AGAIN!

It took varying lengths of time (four to sixteen years) for the starlight from this star cluster to reach my world.

A Dark and Nihilistic Moment Ruined by Poor Grammar

A Dark and Nihilistic Moment Ruined by Poor Grammar

death bed

I found this item while making a playlist of some of my favorite songs.  A Death Cab for Cutie fan posted the song and lyrics for Ben Gibbard’s song “I Will Follow You Into The Dark”.

It is a dark, troubling song:  A man’s lover is going to die.  He loves her so much that he cannot bear to face meaningless life without her, and vows that they will face death together.  His rejection of traditional religion may be seen as delusional, or as existential acceptance of the inevitable. Listening to the song, we are drawn into his dark, nihilistic view — and at some point we find the idea of his meaningless death to be reasonable – perhaps even romantic.

Unfortunately, at time 1:05 a lyric is incorrectly posted.  The word “you’re” is incorrectly used for the word “your”.

     “If there’s no one beside you, when you’re soul embarks …”   

is used, instead of the correct:

     “If there’s no one beside you, when your soul embarks …”

It is a common mistake.  Most people however, make the opposite mistake.  The use of “your” for “you are” is very common.  Thus, at an important existential moment in the song, we are taken into the deathly grasp of the bad grammatical choice – thus breaking our musical illusion.  The YouTube user does make the correction, and shows the correct lyric at time 1:55 and again at 2:50 —  but the damage has been done.  We must now look away.

“I Will Follow You Into The Dark” is one of DCFC’s older songs, but it is also one of their greatest songs.  The official Death Cab for Cutie video for this song, starring Mr. Gibbard himself  is also available here from YouTube.  It is a little creepy, but it is also very interesting.  I might go as far to say this is ART!

youre your card

Now don’t even get me started with punctuation …

 

KIMONOS ON MONDAY (Week #2)

Kimono or Yukata? 

A yukata is a “summer kimono”.  These are lighter, more casual garments than full kimonos.  The word Yukata comes from the Japanese word for “bathing clothes”.  In fact, many yukata look like fancy bathrobes!  Yukata are more common in the hot summer months, or for summer events such as outdoor hanabi (fireworks) displays or outdoor fstivals.  Yukata ensembles may be less ornate, and less complicated than full kimono dress.   Typically, younger women wear lighter or brighter colors than older women.

LOVE THE YUKATA!    (click to view larger )

LOVE THE YUKATA!
(click to view larger )

A complete yukata outfit might consist of a cotton undergarment (the “juban”), the yukata itself, an obi sash, and perhaps a hand fan, and/or a carry bag.  Footwear may be sandals, or if indoors, bare feet.  A typical man’s reaction: GRRROWWL…

Japanese actress/model Minami Akina wearing summer yukata.

Japanese actress/model  Minami Akina wearing summer Yukata

Oh, those little piggies !

atsuko akb48 yukata

Is that a bath robe Acchan?

Above: AKB48 graduate Atsuko Maeda in yukata.

Below: Poster for “How to wear a Yukata” (click image for full size)

how to wear yukata

1428 x 1600 in full size.

From Wikipedia: “The left side of the yukata is wrapped over the right side (commonly reversed with right over left when dressing a body for a funeral) and secured with an obi sash tied in a bow with the excess or with the koshi-himo and traditionally the bow is placed in the back. Traditionally bows in the front represented a prostitute. In private, such as after a bath, the yukata may be simply belted. Yukata are often worn with wooden sandals called geta, buttabi are not usually worn.”

AKB48 Members Attacked at Handshake Event

Denny is not joking here: I was very sorry to hear about what happened at a recent “Handshake Event”. My best wishes go out to all that were injured.

Pigeons of Osaka

I’ve been really busy this week, but I’ve been preparing posts on the AKB48 general election early report (総選挙速報発表) and their official rhythm game app. But those will have to wait, because today, there was a terrible incident.

At an AKB48 handshake event in Iwate Prefecture, a man suddenly pulled a 50 cm. (~20 in.) saw out of his bag, and attacked some members in the handshake lane he was in. One male staff member was injured, as were AKB48 members Rina Kawaei (川栄李奈), 19 years old, and Anna Iriyama (入山杏奈), 18 years old. The severity of their injuries has not yet been announced, but responding police and fire officers said that all three victims were conscious. The 24-year-old assailant was promptly detained by the people around him, and was arrested on the charge of attempted murder.

According to NHK, staff were checking that the handshake event attendees did not have…

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Nothing Fishy Going On Here

“Nothing Fishy Going On Here” 

Well, maybe a little fishy.  Here is AKB48’s music video for their 31st single “Sayonara Crawl” released in May 2013.   It is notable that this was the last music video filmed with both  Tomomi Itano and Mariko Shinoda before they graduated.  You can watch it on YouTube in 720 HD.

Here, the AKB48 girls are on a tour of Okinawa.  In this first part, the girls are visiting the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.  It is a pretty cool place!   It is the world’s second largest aquarium.

Side Note:  Here is another YouTube video about the Okinawa aquarium.  This looks very cool in the available HD.  Don’t worry, this is not a Jpop music video, it is more of an information video for tourists.   You may like this even better than the AKB48 music video.

… but I digress …

The AKB video starts out  with the girls touring the “underwater” walk-through portion of the aquarium.  The girls are all “ooh-ing” and “aww-ing” at the great underwater view.  Some of the members are embracing, and holding hands with each other as they gaze upon the fishy wonders.  There is nothing fishy about the young women holding hands with each other however.

Please understand that this is not an expression of, nor an endorsement of “homosexuality” by the group.  Americans/Westerners traveling overseas are sometimes surprised to see that people of the same sex may hold hands in public.  There is nothing “gay” about it.  (Americans, sad to say, can be a very homophobic people.)   Men holding hands is very common throughout the traditional areas of Asia and Africa.  It is most often merely an expression of friendship and loyalty.

A Ghanese-African graduate student I knew told me an interesting story.  He went home to Ghana after living for many years in the US – he was standing in an outdoor village market when his brother took him by the hand and held it.  Of course my Ghanese friend leaped out of his shoes – WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!??!!!  he exclaimed. There is ten years of western conditioning for you!  In America, men — even close family members — simply do not hold hands in public.

So, do not be taken aback with the AKB girls and all their hand holding, giggling and cooing.  They are not trying to be titillating, they are expressing friendship.

The video?  Most of the music video is just of the girls posing and cutting up on the beach or in the swimming pool.  They are wearing these flower bikinis and floating around in inner tubes.  Mostly just a lot of “mugging” for the camera; there really is no “story” in this one.  Maybe it answers the question: “Does Jurina look good in a bikini …even with strategically-placed flowers?”.   The ladies are floating on inner tubes, diving, wrestling each other on couches and hammocks, stealing cotton candy out of each other’s mouths with their teeth, feeding each other dango sticks, etc.  There is this great shot of Taka-Mina and Sayaka Yamamoto reading the “Betty Crocker Cookbook”.   Just the girls being their wonderful selves. The dancing on the beach is very entertaining I will admit.  Nothing out-of-line.  No, no, no.

A lot of fans said that they did not care for this single when it came out, but that it grew on them.  I will admit that it took me a couple of listens before I could appreciate the song, but now I LOVE it.   It is a great driving song. I wait for those “WHOA!” parts on my commute.

My favorite part of the video is toward the middle, at night, where the girls are dressed in “summer kimonos” aka “yukata” kimonos, carrying those “Geisha” type umbrellas, and eating the local food at the festival in Okinawa.  Nothing like dango-on-a-stick! 

Also, and I say this in all seriousness, there is nothing more beautiful than the AKB48 girls in kimono.  Lovely – but then again I subscribe to kimono-design pages.   Hard to believe: I actually prefer the AKB48 girls in their “kimono photos” as opposed to the “bikini photos”.  The kimono shots are more expressive of Japanese art and culture.  Plus, kimono shots are a lot safer than the bikinis.

Of even less interesting note, I actually BOUGHT a CD-single for “Sayonara Crawl” on Amazon , used, for only 99 cents.  Incredible. It came with a six-song CD, including the karaoke version of the title track.  It also came with a DVD  with the music video, a few other AKB48 music videos and a “The Making Of” documentary.  Actually the “making of” might be more informative than the actual music video.  It also came with a lyric book, and a photo book of the girls in the Sayonora Crawl bikinis (strategically-placed  flowers again.)  All for 99 cents, which included SHIPPING FROM JAPAN!   Usually the AKB stuff on Amazon is prohibitively expensive.  I wonder if the seller made a mistake — maybe it was supposed to be 99 dollars, not 99 cents.  (99 yen is about 99 cents).  Maybe this  CD-single was part of  a package that included a “Handshake ticket”, “Theater photos” and/or other items, like an “election card.”  Some fans probably bought several copies, just to get the Election Ticket, handshake tickets or theater photos, …  Can’t say for sure, but it sure was the best 99 cents I ever spent!

Oh, What is a “Handshake Event”?  If you are an AKB48 fan you already know.  Sometimes the AKB company holds these events where fans will line up and wait hours on end to get to meet the girls.  Each girl has a tent, and with the handshake ticket you get 30 seconds to shake hands and say hello.  You go in the tent, Haruka-chan  shakes your hand and says something like: “Congratulations, how does it feel to be an All-American? …” To which Forest Gump replies “I gotta pee …”

tujo_omote_0417

This starlight took only two months to reach my world.

 

 

Hanako Oku and the Books Never Written

“Hanako Oku and the Books Never Written.”

hanako oku writing

My son once had a kid’s joke book that included a section called “Famous Books Never Written”.  The list included such gag titles as “Under The Grandstands” by Seymour Butz, “Rusty Bed Springs” by I.P. Nightly, and “The Joys of  Drinking” by Al Coholic, etc.  Of course these are all joke titles.  There are probably some books that should never be written.  However, there are some that NEED to be written …

Sometimes when I am listening to Hanako Oku albums, and she has sent me into another delightful reverie, I sometimes fantasize what it might be like to be Hanako Oku’s American Biographer.  Although Oku-san is well known in Japan, she is largely unheard of in the US (my sophisticated readers being an exception).  Although my Ph.D. is not in Music, or Japanese Studies, and I don’t play the piano, I started to think — could I write a book about Hanako Oku?  Why not?!?!?  Why CAN’T I research her life story, and publish it for an American audience?

ANOTHER MUSICAL REVERIE

ANOTHER MUSICAL REVERIE

The book could introduce her music to an American audience.  In my vision, I want to tell HER story. (This is a  fairly safe fantasy, as most daydreams go.)  Of course, the fact that that I am not fluent in Japanese is probably the greatest barrier to such a manuscript.  I once contacted some Japanese language teachers at a university, and they were a little surprised that I would be so interested. One said, you mean “that diva for heart breakers?” (direct quote).

At first I thought that I would be able to compile material from the Internet, find translations of lyrics, and otherwise meaningfully transcribe the songs.  Perhaps the record company could be of some help.  What a challenge … a new academic world to explore … and so much Japanese culture to be learned along the way!  Also, I could relate stories of Oku-san’s youth to her development as an artist … growing up … through the indie years … the subways, the …

“WHOA, WATCH WHERE YOU’RE DRIVING YOU A@@%$&#! “

Oh, … sorry.  Back to reality.  Need to pay attention while driving.  If only I could write as well as Seymour Butz  : (

I even had a title for the book picked out: “The Little Great One”.

Why this title?  It could not be “The Great One” of course, because that name was previously affixed to the late Jackie Gleason, famous comedian and American television pioneer.  Mr Gleason would have outweighed Oku-san by at least 200 pounds.

greatonelittlegreatone

Click to view full size.

Hanako Oku would be titled the “Little Great One” because:

1). Although she may be small in stature, she looms very large as a singer-songwriter-performer!  She communicates big, intense emotions, in an effective way, and this makes her great!   All that sound, all those emotions emanating of this little lady with just a portable piano.  “When I listen to a Hanako Oku ballad, it feels like my heart is breaking, but also filled with joy — at the same time!” (he says — quoting himself) . 

2). Oku-san may also be considered “little” in that she may not be as popular, or as big a record seller as some others.  She may not have as many hits as certain trendy mega-hit pop groups (you can fill in the-name-of-whoever-the-Japanese-Justin-Bieber-is-here), but her music is BETTER, and will stand the test of time.  She is superior to most of the pop music “product” out there.  I think that her songs are more meaningful than most, even if I do not always have an English translation.  She is a GIANT among lesser songwriter performers.

Those, and for other reasons Mr. Butz may think of later, are my reasons why Hanako Oku is “The Little Great One”. I’m sure Jackie Gleason would agree.

Gotta drive …

zoom to the moon

Starlight: It took five years for Hanko Oku’s song “Garnet” to reach my world.

My Grandfatherly Advice for the Young Miss Mako Kojima

My Grandfatherly Advice for the Young Miss Mako Kojima.

Look up "enthusiasm" -- see this photo of Mako Kojima.

Look up “EXUBERANCE” — see this photo of Mako Kojima.

This week’s AKB48 performance video features rising AKB star Mako Kojima.   This Youtube video is available in 1080 HD

The song is “Tenshi no Shippo” or translated as “Angel Tail”.

As always, you can find, or sing along with Mr. Akimoto’s lyrics at:

http://stage48.net/studio48/tenshinoshippo.html

Kojima-san (wearing the little hat) is in the center, between Saho Iwatate and Mitsuki Maeda.

This is a very good song-and-dance performance!  The video was made in AKB48’s Akihabara Theater, Tokyo.  One can see how close the audience is to the stage.   You can really hear the crowd’s excitement!

The video must have been filmed by one of Mako-chan’s older male relatives, as the camera seems to stay on Mako, even when the other girls are singing their parts.  I’m guesing that all of those older men you can see in the front rows calling out Mako’s name — are her family.  It is good that she has protective, older male relatives to keep her out of trouble and away from bad influences.  From what I can see of the audience, she has both of her grandfathers there, plus some old uncles and older cousins.  They cheer her on.

She does give a wonderful performance here.  Mako-san is a rising star in AKB.  She did a very good job in AKB Team 4 (an AKB “training squad”), and I am glad that she is now given more performance time with the main group.  She brings a lot of sweetness, excitement, and grace to the group.  Mako reminds me of a young Yuko Oshima. They both convey both innocence and exuberance.  As Yuko is now graduating AKB, I predict that Mako will fill some of the void left by Oshima-san.  I will even go out on a limb here:  I predict that within five years Mako Kojima will be elected #1 in the group, or at least in the top three.  You will see Mako’s pretty face on a lot of magazine covers over the next five years.

The “Angel Tail” song is pretty cute, and I love that little dance that they made for it.  The white idol costumes are perfect.  This dance reminds me of the J-Pop group “CHAM” immortalized in the late Satoshi Kon’s landmark anime “Perfect Blue”.  They step and maneuver their arms in a way very much reminiscent of classic CHAM.  (The situation here is not as dark as “Perfect Blue” however.)  This trio is also pretty good at  maneuvering the “tails” of their angel-idol outfits.

The dancing is a lot of fun to watch, especially that cheerful little Mako-chan.  One of the great things about the talented Mako Kojima is that she is always looks so happy when she sings and dances.  She clearly loves her role, and it shows with that great smile of hers.  She is always so enthusiastic and positive!  I guess with the support of her older male relatives in the audience, she is especially motivated to give a top performance.  AKB audiences are guaranteed to see a lot more of this spirited performer in the coming years.

You may also enjoy this dance video “Seijun Philosophy”  by AKB48 Team 4, which features Mako, and Mimami Minegishi.  Watch on this link to Jpopsuki.tv.  Mako-chan is so happy during the story portion of this video that she SQUEAKS!  (In fact, “seijin” refers to “innocent”, correlating with the enthusiastic young Kojima-san.)

http://www.jpopsuki.tv/video/AKB48-Team-4—Seijun-Philosophy/2c31557c16b19c331f80c46c749cb0af

Keep smiling, Miss Kojima!  You are a positive force, and a good role-model for young women.  Your liveliness  always puts us in high spirits!

I like Mako.   I’m cheering for her.

———————————————-

This starlight took almost six months to reach my world.

 

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