Saturday, February 28, 2009

Yoko Kanno is a goddess...

And that is quoting someone else. Yoko Kanno is a composer with great diversity--she's done anime, movies, pop albums, CMs... you name it. Her compositions have "soul" to them. I mentioned in my" Favorite Anime OST" post that she does anything from jazz to pop to orchestra and Gregorian chants. I'm more of a fan of her orchestral works and "pretty" songs. I don't know how else to put it. Lol... I like her Vision of Escaflowne, Wolf's Rain, Macross and Sousei no Aquarion stuff more than her Ghost in a Shell and Cowboy Bepop stuff (though many people differ). She got her start in anime with "Please Save My Earth" which is an awesome anime but I think she was catapulted to fame with "Escaflowne," where young Maaya Sakamoto debuted in her first seiyuu role as heroine "Hitomi," also singing the opening and insert songs. I love Yoko Kanno's collaberations with Maaya Sakamoto. The Record of Lodoss Wars opening is classic--of course, I didn't even know it was a Maaya song until way later. Same with Purachina. Of the collaberations, Lucy probably is my favorite album, though all the anime related stuff are higher up on my list of favorites. "Garden of Everything" with Steve Conte feat Maaya Sakamoto is a hauntingly beautiful song that stands out. Their most recent collab is for Macross Frontier, "Trianger" and even more recently "Ao no Ether." When I first heard Ranka's (Nakajima Megumi) version, I thought, wow, that's such a Maaya song. And surprise, it came out in her new album, Kazeyomi. I wish we had a better version of Maaya singing "Aimo" in the Macross F OST.

Yoko Kanno is one of those composers where every time I hear her songs, they some how captivate me and I go "ah, whose song is this? I must look it up." It happened over and over again, it's sort of funny. One time was when I first heard "Gravity," the ending to Wolf's Rain. I heard a clip of it in an AMV credits section, the "am I going home" part. I didn't even know it was a Japanese song. Surprise surprise, I looked it up and it was Maaya + Yoko Kanno. One time, I was watching the movie Kamikaze Girls (great movie with Fukada Kyoko and Tsuchiya Anne), which has a lightly, poppy, feel-good sort of soundtrack. I liked it so I looked it up--Yoko Kanno. Honey and Clover movie-- I think I knew the composer was Yoko Kanno. But I heard the song "Scooters" and "So Much More to Say"- James Wendt and I thought it was a Western pop insert, something I feel like should have been around forever, and I looked it up and it was all Yoko Kanno's creation.

I began watching Macross Frontier solely because if featured Yoko Kanno's music. I did love the songs, and the standout bgm is definitely Prologue F. Anyhow, songstresses Ranka Lee (Nakajima Megumi) and Sheryl Nome (May'n) gained much popularity from this anime. "Diamond Crevasse," the first ending is a beautiful song, along with "Aimo." I actually liked "Triangler" but it was songs like "Neko Nikki" and "Ao no Ether" that really made me nostalgic for the old Maaya and Yoko collaberations and was glad to hear Maaya's cameo as Ranka's mother. : ) I decided to check out older Macross stuff because I got curious about who the heck Lin Minmei and the Fire Bombers were. So, I was randomly skimming through Macross 7 stuff, and was impressed with Nekki Basara's voice (I love Jam Project stuff). And then I got to the Macross 7 OVA and heard "Angel Voice"-- that song literally sent shivers down my spine, especially the part where he goes "whoa whoa whoa" and the whales join in. Fukuyama Yoshiki composed most of the songs in the Macross 7 but coincidentally, this one song was a Yoko Kanno composition, which surprised me because its so different from her other stuff. Recently, I got hooked to the Sousei no Aquarion opening because I heard a clip in the Nico Nico Douga Medley. (Nico Nico is the Japanese version of Youtube, and this is a conglomeration of songs in Japanese fandom). Anyhow, Sousei no Aquarion was played, and I was trying so hard to find out what song it was, and the version I was listening to was not labeled. Anyhow, it was a grueling processs, and when I found out it was a Yoko Kanno song, I had to let out a laugh. There's no escaping, nee? Anyhow, the acapella version of "Genesis of Aquarion" by AKINO and Bless4 is one of the most beautiful thing I've heard in recent times. At the time the song was made, AKINO was only 17 and part of an acapella group of her siblings (think sound of music) called Bless4. They did the English lyrics to this song since they're originally from America. Yoko Kanno seems to have a knack for discovering young, raw talent. I can't believe it took me so long to discover this song though! Lol... And no, I haven't watched the anime.

I hope Yoko Kanno has many more beautiful songs to produce because every time I'm sick of all the songs I have and a new song captures my attention (there's a difference between thinking a song is pleasant to listen to and then feeling shivery and moved from a song) its seems to be a Yoko Kanno song... And I'm sort of running out now. I would love to see Yoko Kanno in concert someday (and some say she is actually the mysterious singer song-writer Gabriela Robin); she came to Korean last year and was met with great reception, and of course I was not in the country.

Favorite Yoko Kanno songs (vocal):

1. Yubiwa - M.S.
2. Purachina - M.S.
3. Genesis of Aquarion - Akino
4. Gravity - M.S.
5. Garden of Everything - Steve Conte feat M.S.
6. Koucha - M.S.
7. Ao no Ether - Nakajima Megumi and M.S.
8. Kingfisher Girl - M.S.
9. Makiba Alice - M.S.
10. Record of Lodoss Wars OP - M.S.
11. Angel Voice - Fukuyama Yoshiki
12. Diamond Crevasse - May'n
13. Aimo - Nakajima Megumi
14. Strobe no Sora - M.S.
15. Yakusoku wa Irenai - M.S.

Wow... it's hard putting together this list... It's sort of Macross F biased right now because that's the most recent of her works. I think if I put together this list several years ago, it would have been very different. Unfortunately, I don't love all of Maaya and Yoko Kanno's work. I think if I have to pick, Escaflowne is Yoko Kanno's best work, though I think in the list of Japanese favorite anime OSTS, Purachina is ranked the highest, in the top ten I believe, and next high Kanno work was Sousei no Aquarion. Also, I have two types of songs I like--songs I love the melody to and songs that I can listen to over and over again without tiring. I think some of my favorite Yoko Kanno's works fall into the former category, so I have to "save" it while others I have constantly on my playlist.

Anyhow, hope Yoko Kanno has a long, illustrious career and I would some day want to meet her. ^_^

Friday, February 27, 2009

Best Anime OST

I thought I would start out with my favorite artists or songs, but I was inspired about anime OSTs today. I look at OSTs in two different ways. Firstly, do they serve their purpose, meaning, does the music do its job to convey the mood or emotion of the scene and also the anime. One of the reasons I may prefer watching anime to reading manga is because of sound because music can move me to tears, make me feel happy or give me fear and anticipation. Secondly, in an OST, I look at the individual pieces--are their themes or distinct songs that you can listen to alone and find beauty in it as music, separate from its original context.

My favorite Japanese composers are Joe Hisaishi, most famous for all his Studio Ghibli compositions. I call him the John Williams of Japan (Hisaishi and Miyazaki Hayao are like John William and Steven Spielberg lol...), and of course Yoko Kanno. Yoko Kanno is most famous for her compositions in Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in a Shell, Escaflowne, Sousei no Aquarion and Wolf Rain. She can do anything from orchestration, like in Escaflowne to more jazzy sounds in Cowboy Bebop or light pop like in her works for Maaya Sakamoto. I am actually more of a fan of her orchestration and choral works but that's just my taste.

I write about OSTs today because lately when I watch TV, especially Korean TV, I often here snippets of anime OSTs and they always make me smile. There was a Korean commercial and a bgm from Card Captor Sakura came on. CCS OST (I to IV plus movies and character singles) is a good example of an OST that everything is done right. The bgm conveys the giddy, feel good moments like with Sawayakana Asa(A Fresh Morning), the grandeous magical feeling when Sakura seals a card in Sakura's Theme, the suspicious mysterious feeling when there is a Clow Card lurking with Card no Keihai or the lonely feeling of the triangle when Sakura is heartbroken in "Heartbreak." Even Sakura's "Hoe" song is classic. Even the brief eyecatch and subtitle when the episode title shows up and during halftime captures the mood of the show so well. Because everything is done so well, the CCS soundtrack is something I feel like I underappreciate; but I also can't listen to it because it brings back every moment of the anime so vividly. Of the bunch, OST IV (Season Three) is my favorite, mostly because it contains the orchestration version and piano version of my favorite CCS song, Purachina, a Yoko Kanno composition. So, my favorite bgm piece may be Hontou no Ichiban (Purachina orchestration) and Hoshi no Michi no Kokuhaku (piano version.) But the fact is, you can see the progression of Sakura's growth simply by listening to the four original soundtracks for the CCS anime. Anyhow, kudos to Takayuki Negishi for creating a flawless OST!

So, on to my favorite OSTs in no particular order.

1. Joe Hisaishi - Honoo no Alpen Rose (Flaming Alpen Rose). There are two CDs, the anime OST and the Symphony Version, which is absolutely beautiful, especially since one of the main characters in the 1985 anime is an Austrian musical prodigy and composer. This is probably one of the animes that remains most in my mind that I watched when I was younger, and it was partially because of the music. The song to note is "Alpen Rose no Uta." I recently rewatched the anime in a French dub (the only version available) and realized how much I missed out on the story of the anime when I was little. In the brink of World War II, a young girl loses her parents and her memory. She is found by a boy called Lundi who names her Jeudi. This is the story of Jeudi and Lundi finding Jeudi's parents in the midst Nazi occupation and all the ostacles they face along the way. Jeudi has no memory except of a beautiful song, "Alpen Rose no Uta," a beautiful song that is actually the theme of French Resistance (had no idea about the Resistance when I first watched it when I was like 9... just thought it was a pretty song.) But the whole OST is perfection and is the first OST I bought (though I recommend the Symphony Version if you have to choose one.) The Jeudi and Lundi's theme piano version was played on the radio a lot when I was in Korea, and I remember first thinking, where have I heard this theme before? Lol...

2. Joe Hisaishi - Howl's Moving Castle. It's my favorite Studio Ghibli movie next to "Whisper of the Heart" which ironically isn't even a Hayao Miyazaki production. Anyhow, you really can't go wrong with a Joe Hisaishi + Ghibli creation.

3. Yoko Kanno - Escaflowne. The anime that introduced me to Yoko Kanno--the OST is sheer brilliance--the Gregorian chants, the orchestration. Wow... And even the opening song "Yakusoku wa Irenai." I was inspired to write this theme because I was watching cable TV and on the Korean channel, they're having a movie/drama award session and "Dance of the Curse" came on. Talk about exhilirating and astounding. I also love the violin in "Memory of Fanelia" and there's a Maaya Sakamoto vocal version "Aoi Hitomi" as well. Her voice still sounds so young and raw then! Everybody already knows I love "Yubiwa" from the movie OST.

4. Kaoru Wada - Inuyasha. Another example of an OST that everything is done so right that it's sort of underrated. I love Inuyasha's theme, I really love "Inuyasha to Kagome," all the different versions of it... It's a pity the anime went sort of nowhere. The first third was so promising. One of my favorite background OST while writing New Trials was Inuyasha Symphony Version. (Yes, do you see a pattern here? I like orchestration so much over synthetic sounds.) I looked at his credits and found out he composed the music for Kindaichi Shounen Jikenbo, where I also loved the bgm. Anyhow, I think he's underrated at times.

5. I like Yuki Kajiura a lot as well... I loved her from her Xenosaga stuff. I don't play games but I know the composer. Lol. Hence, I loved the Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles OST. Yoko Kanno + Yuki Kajiura would be my dream team.

6. Michiru Oshima - Full Metal Alchemist. I loved the anime so much--everything was executed with perfection. Animation, characterization, music, action, voice actors. I guess you can't go wrong with Studio Bones, nee? I am excited about the new remake for this awesome anime, especially since I didn't fancy the anime original ending and would like a manga faithful version. But the first half of the anime is so awesome, perhaps surpassing the manga and any other anime of its "generation." Puts all other shounen anime to shame. Either way, FMA had amazing opening and endings, all eight of them (you'll see them pop up when I make my favorite anime openings list.) I'm sort of skeptical that the magic and beauty of FMA can be conveyed with different music in the new version. Bratja is one of the most beautiful insert songs ever and probably the most memorable song from the OST. I believe it is sung in Russian, and it's usage in the anime can literally bring tears to my eyes. Anyhow, it's important to have a good OST and also have a good sound director who can insert the right music in the right places. FMA was sort of like that--the bgm had everything done "right."

Notable mention: I don't play Final Fantasy (though I had a friend obsessed with it) but I was quite obsessed with Eternity: Memory of Lightwaves for a while. My bravenet guestbook was kindly made by Cherry Star and has the midi for Final Fantasy X To Zankerland and for the longest time, I was like, oh it's pretty. Wonder what song it is. So, Final Fantasy Piano Collections was often on my playlist during my college era before my harddrive went bye-bye.

I also usually end up music-based anime, where music plays an integral part of the story (as if you can't tell in New Trials) such as Alpen Rose, Macross F and Full Moon wo Sagashite. I love that anime to pieces, but I didn't include it because I was striving more for a bgm theme more than vocals for this entry. Same with Macross Frontier, which did have fantastic bgm on top of good songs. The harmonica version of "Aimo" sticks in my mind. Another notable mention is the Saint Tail OST by Hayato Matsuo (which gives a similar vibe to CCS) who coincidentally did another favorite of mine, Magic Knight Rayearth. Yes, I'm the sort of geek who goes to and looks at who directed what, who did the music, who did the script. Lol...

Anyhow, the only thing to take out of here is Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno are gods. :P

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"First Love"

Today's theme is "first love" or hatsukoi, befitting for the day after Valentine's Day. Does everybody recall their first love? Or are you still waiting for it? What is first love? The first person you have a puppy crush on, or the first person that your heart really is moved by? For some reason, first love always has more of a bittersweet tinge to it though it may begin with that innocent, warm, giddy feeling. I ask because today, I met my first love for the first time in 5 1/2 years. The last time I saw him was high school graduation. For some reason, I knew back then I would not see him again until I graduated from college. The thing about "one-sided love" is that you can't find closure. If you date someone and break up, that's sort of a closure. But with unrequitted love, there is no way to end... It just lingers then only fades with time.

I guess the character "Li Meilin" of Card Captor Sakura grew to portray this unrequitted love in a moving manner quite uncommon in an elementary school student, and also makes the anime all the more profound. In a sense, Meilin's healing process in "New Trials" sort of conveys my own healing process as well. Meilin fell in love with young Syaoran at age 5 and dreamed to become his bride someday. Some may wonder what can someone so young know about love. But I feel like when you are young and naive, your love can be purest. In this society, most people grow more jaded with love the older you get. Love becomes less of its true essence and more of analyzing materialistic factors like wealth, looks, school and job. Syaoran's first and only love is Sakura (his crush for Yukito doesn't really count). In contrast, for someone like Touya, his first love was Kaho, but his "OTL," one true love, is Yukito. I guess with Sakura, I always debate how genuine her love for Yukito was. Though it's hard to compare, I always feel like Meilin giving up on Syaoran hurt more than Sakura giving up Yukito (though I may be biased because I was routing for Syaoran and Sakura in the first place.)

In real life, I know people who have dated someone for a couple years, but afterwards are unsure that they truly "loved" their partner. On the other hand, their are those whose love never were expressed, never acted upon--yet is that still love? I say yes. My best friend is 24 and she started dating an exchange student from Japan and is now doing long distance. I think she's had numerous crushes before, but I really believe this boy is her real first love. Well, I guess my conclusion is that "first love" can take many shapes and forms and can come to people at different periods in life. After all, everybody has their own pace.

Anyhow, my "first love" started when I was twelve and took almost ten years to completely fade. Of course, it's not like I only liked him, and there was other stuff in between. But today, after seeing him, I realized why my heart has been frozen in time. It seems like his presence overshadows every other guy's. Secondly, I have been over him for a long time, but it was good to finally see him and confirm this. In a sense, I have lost that innocence of a 12-year-old falling love for the first time, that doki doki feeling. Thirdly, I always thought that "this person has potential in him to be really great," and I am so glad that he lived up to my expectation.

Today's song is the quintissential J-pop song by Utada Hikaru, one of my favorite female artists. "First Love" is from her first album and perhaps one of the most popular J-pop songs out there.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Chapter 59.5: New Trials Halloween Special

Happy Valentine's Day!

I wrote a Halloween Special for Valentine's Day. Lol...

I only spent two days or so on it, so it's just a short fluff chapter. I'm working on Chapter 61 also.

This chapter was inspired from Maaya Sakamoto's song 24:

And one of my favorite male voices and love songs:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Tsubasa: Shuraiki Trailer

The trailer of the new Tsubasa: Shunraiki OAD coming out this march is out at the official website:

I never finished watching the Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle anime series, but I loved the seiyuu and music. Obviously Beetrain was much criticized over animation quality and the fillers. I'm not opposed to fillers, as in the case with Card Captor Sakura anime; some of my favorite CCS episodes were original episodes, such as the Move Card episode, the whole Meilin arc, the Dream Card episode and the elevator episode. Well, I think Ohkawa-sensei was involved in the script-writing process though, so it's still partially canon whereas some anime just do a horrible job with non-linear "fillers." Either way, I enjoyed the execution of the first set of Tsubasa: Tokyo Revelations OVAs/OADs... Especially CCS!Sakura-chan's cameo. I was underwhelmed by the trailer itself, but it was only a 45 second clip-- Tomoyo-hime looks beautiful. I liked Maaya Sakamoto's first ending better though. Saigo no Kajitsu has this wistful quality that Maaya is so good at singing, and the lyrics were pertinant too, but perhaps Sonic Boom would grow on me as well. Both are on her new album Kazeyomi.

The image of TRC!Syaoran + Clone!Syaoran from the cover of TRC 211 is so heartwarming and bittersweet. The manga is heading to its climax now, nee? It's CLAMP's 20th anniversary and they're doing a rerun of Card Captor Sakura in Japan in the spring. How nostalgic! And CCS in Blu-ray is being released as well. It's amazing how CCS still remains so popular, and can you question why--amazing art, story, characters and music. It has the whole package and as far as shoujo manga/anime goes, CCS is the cream of the crop and a trendsetter.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

New Trials Updates~

So I haven't updated my New Trials of Card Captor Sakura updates page at: since April 2008~

Since then, I have written:

Chapter 56: The Tea Party

Chapter 57: The Gathering

Chapter 58: Eternal Rivals

Chapter 59: Thundercloud

and the Kaitou Magician Origins

plus a bunch of fanart at

2008 has been a pretty good year for New Trials, nee?

The first chapter of 2009 is Chapter 60: Re-memory

Hopefully this will be a great year for New Trials as well!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


With a new year, I thought there must be a better way to post updates. So, let us see how blogging goes!