Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015!!!

Touya, Yue, Sakura and Kero-chan at Christmastime by wishluv on DeviantArt

Can you believe another year as passed? Quoting John Donne's "Song," I'd like to ask, "Tell me where all past years are?" I'm currently on holiday, so I had to prepare the fanart of Yue, Touya and Sakura last week, before I took off. I thought it was funny because I was working six day weeks and didn't have time to pack or really prepare for a trip beforehand, but I was determined to finish that fanart. I never drew a fanart of Yue before. I always wondered why Yukito's fake birthday was Christmas Day--it's an idea for a side story someday.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays 2015!!!

Thank you for supporting New Trials for another year and hope you all great tidings, joy and laughter during the holiday season! 

Pentatonix is so talented and I love their new version of "First Noel" which used to be one of my favorite Christmas carols, especially the Pachelbel's Canon First Noel version.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Happy Halloween 2015!!!

Kaitou Magician's Flower by wishluv on DeviantArt

For some odd reason, I thought I would be able to finish Chapter 72 in time for Halloween. That was way ambitious, considering I'm probably only 50% finished with the new chapter. Though I did mention I had been writing ahead again. I love how people on Facebook or the Yahoo Group very shrewdly pointed out they do not expect an update till December. You guys know me too well. It's a very self-indulgent chapter, so I've been having fun with it, when I do get a chance to write.

I haven't posted a Meilin and Kai fanart for the longest time, I realized. They are one of the most popular pairings, and I love seeing other people's fanart of them. I'm not sure why it took so long for me to post a new fanart of the pair--I think the first of the Mei+Kai pairing that I posted on DeviantArt. Shocking, since we have Kara Reed and Mikai one up already. I grew sick of finishing my main Halloween fanart (of Sakura and Syaoran) and started finishing up an old doodle, which is how "The Magician's Flower" piece came around. In my original sketch, Kai was a vampire though. I like the idea that Kai wears more accessories than Meilin does--because she does martial arts, I get the feeling she wouldn't want to bother with accessories, besides the on Kai forces on her. 

Kai is a funny character. I never really planned for him to get together with Meilin or for him to become a part of the main cast. And I used to hate Meilin when she was first introduced in the Card Captor Sakura anime. It's such an embarrassing thought, since I adore her so much now, and I have felt obligated to love her ever since. 

Thank you so much for all the birthday wish over on Facebook. Totally made my weekend! Do check out the awesome fanart and other fun posts over there! How cute are chibi Sakura and Syaoran by the oh-so-talented Joyce Pantaleon?

Happy Halloween 2015!!!

Music Spotlight:

When I first heard Magic's "Don't Kill the Magic" I immediately thought of Kaitou Magician. I decided it would be a good choice for his "character song."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Happy International New Trials Day!

Deja vu: The Transfer Student from Hong Kong by wishluv on DeviantArt

Has it been 16 years already? How surreal. All I remember is how I had an itch to write about Sakura's continued journey as a teenager, even before the Card Captor Sakura and manga and anime had ended. It was during the summer of 1999, the year I had fallen about as hard as I could fall for an anime. And I published the Prologue and first couple chapters that fall in CCS fanfiction sites that have long since closed down. For me, it was clear in my mind that Li Syaoran was going to have to return to Hong Kong at the end of the anime, but there was so many ideas flashing in my mind on how that story would continue on, how to bring back Syaoran to fight by Sakura's side once more. I did not know it would take 16 years to tell it, however. I've matured since the teenage girl I was then, but I hope that someday when I look back at this fanfiction, it can capture a moment in time for me. And I hope that is the case for the readers too.

It wouldn't have been possible without all of you, my readers, and the great support all of you have given me. I think I was lucky in choosing CCS because it a series that has retained popularity nearly two decades since it was first published. I've been excited to see CLAMP's new CCS artwork with the new Nakayoshi 60th anniversary special edition manga volumes, and I am happy to see how CCS may be gaining new fans and bringing back old fans. 

Two weeks ago--I'm writing down the date because I might want to recall it some time in the future--but it was Friday turning into Saturday, August 22. I remember it vividly because I finished the last leg of planning New Trials will end. I mentioned before that since Arc 4 I have been keeping an outline for each chapter. I didn't all through Arc 1-3. Scary, isn't it? But during that period, I trusted keeping everything in my head. Unfortunately, my memory's not what it used to me anymore. I've already planned out the general framework and epilogue some years ago. But I guess there was some last details I had to configure, and I stayed up all night, unable to fall asleep, lying in my bed, plotting and plotting. It was really one of the most emotionally exhausting nights I've ever had. I hoped I could remember all the details enough to jot it down the next day. Now, a smart person would jot down notes while they are being formulated. But I find that sometimes writing disrupts thinking, if that makes any sense. Anyhow, I had to go out that night but I remember sitting on my bed that afternoon typing away notes like crazily before I had to leave. I'm kind of scared to look back to see if I wrote cohesive notes though.

The next chapter will be a fluffy one compared to recent ones, and I haven't had much time to write it until recent weeks, but I look forward to finishing it up. This fanart is from Chapter 72, actually. 

Happy International New Trials Day 2015!

Music Spotlight: Mandy Moore - "It's Gonna Be Love" 

I just had this song stuck in my head for some reason while drawing this fanart. I love good old sugary pop circa 2001, the time when CCS was also at its zenith.  


Monday, July 13, 2015

Happy Birthday Syaoran 2015!

Syaoran's Birthday Omake #4 by wishluv on DeviantArt

Happy Birthday Li Syaoran 2015!

 Today's Music Spotlight is BON'z - "Arigatou," second ending theme to the anime Kyou Kara Maoh. I feel like this song should have been included in my favorite anime ending themes list.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Best Anime Openings Part 2: Top 10 Favorites from 2000~2009 (21st Century Edition)

The 2000s, namely 2000-2010, saw a dearth of amazing anime OST as anime became more mainstream and globalized. The decade especially saw some great soundtracks by notable composers like Kaoru Wada (Inuyasha), Yuki Kajiura (Tsubasa Chronicle), Michiru Oshima (FMA) and of course Yoko Kanno (Macross Frontier). In terms of anime openings, you saw flashier animation sequences with the help of digital technology, sometimes sloppier animation sequences because of said digital technology, awesome song selections and variety, more experimentation, and towards the end of the decade, there were more formulaic, cookie-cutter openings as anime studios stamped out similar shows season after season based on what worked. 

My 1990s list was skewed because of personal sentiments to my favorite childhood anime and a sense of nostalgia. Unlike the 1990s anime list, the list below is slightly less biased because I included songs that I found to be good regardless of what I thought of the show. In the 1990s, I saw whatever anime was available on TV, but in the 21st century, I had more liberty to choose what I watch, hence pickier, and Japan produced more titles with the digitization of animation, so there were too many shows to choose from. A few of the shows below I haven't watched but simply enjoyed their OSTs, and there are definitely more shounen titles here than my 1990s list, partly because I think the last great mahou shoujo series was Card Captor Sakura, partly because I feel like less production budget is put into shoujo anime in general. There were some solid shoujo series in the past decade and a half--I included a bunch of songs from Full Moon wo Sagashite in my favorite endings list, where animation sequence is less valued, but larger-budget shounen anime really trumped its competition for OP sequences. 

What I have done with this list is also choose the best song from each franchise, should they have many openings, and also choose only one song from an artist. I mentioned that for me, a good anime opening theme 1) tries to tell some sort of message or story through the animation sequence 2) include foreshadowing of plotlines to come, employ symbolism or imagery, especially if the show is based on a manga (aka pander to the manga crowd) and vamp up expectations for the key characters 3) have a catchy chorus/ riff that makes you anticipate the show 4) can be rewatched again after the show ends and remind you off the exhilaration you initially felt when watching the show. Also 5) I would be able to listen to the OP themes on my music playlist and enjoy them as songs. 

As we have switched over to watching anime on computers, it became much easier to simply skip over the anime OP theme. Good themes make you want to watch through the entire 1:30 minutes. Sometimes, unfortunately, good 1:30 opening themes are better than the entire show. This list was a lot harder to come up with because of the sheer variety, and it was hard eliminating some songs to choose my top 10. Again, they are in chronological order because it's fun to compare the changes across the decade. 

1. Inuyasha OP1 - V6 - "Change the World" (2000)
Inuyasha is one of the first anime I began watching online in Japanese with subs. Before, I used to watch Korean dubs. I think this opening IS the official "Inuyasha" song. The opening sequence is poignant, capturing feudal Japan, the spirit of adventure, Inuyasha's loneliness. Kagome is also one of the rare shounen manga heroines that I really like. Actually, Inuyasha has very likable characters. I even liked Naruku and think he's an epic villain (plus he's voiced by one of my favorite seiyuus). Too bad the story sort of dragged on and fell apart towards the middle, because this anime will always hold a special place in my heart. I always get surprised by all the sound effects in the OP--it was very 90s to include sound effects with the action sequences in the OP. Because Inuyasha itself has a 1990s feel to it, I would almost prefer to group this with the1990s list, but the anime ran from 2000-2004.  

2. Witch Hunter Robin OP - Bana - "Shell" (2002)
I used to listen to this song frequently in the early 2000s and rediscovered it in more recent years with new found appreciation for the song. I never watched the anime, but it's one of those songs that put you in a queer mood. Composer Taku Iwasaki did a great job with the OST for this anime, and I enjoy the guitar version of Shell especially. I like how the the OP connects with the ED theme "Half Pain", also by Bana. 

3. D.N.Angel OP - Shunichi Miyamoto - "Byakuya" (True Light)  (2003)
Shunichi Miyamoto is a very talented singer-songwriter pianist with an angelic voice. This beautiful opening I think outshines the anime itself, which stars Irino Miyu, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle Syaoran's voice, TV anime seiyuu debut as the hero Niwa Daisuke. By the way the anime originally cast Sakura Tange, CCS Sakura's seiyuu, which was why I was originally interested in it, but I think she got recast. That would have been interesting. Old Syaoran with young Sakura. This song may not have made the list if I had not caught an acoustic performance of the song by the artist and realized over again how good it was. Irino Miyu sings the song as well. 

4. Scrapped Princess OP - Jam Project - "Little Wing" (2003)
I especially love the Celtic-sounding opening chords of the song; Studio Bones never disappoints with animation, which is always clean and crisp. This is where I first learned about Jam Project, and an anime OP list would not be complete without at least one Jam Project song. I remembering liking this anime--I didn't particularly sympathize with any of the characters and the story sort of fell apart towards the end, but it was overall a very good animation with good production, music and overall premise. Plus, the characters resembled CLAMP's Angelic Layer anime designs. Actually it's one of the animations which I really loved in the beginning, but depending on the ending, it could have become really great or not. Episode 17 still remains, I believe, one of the most memorable and heart-wrenching episodes in anime, considering it was focused on a minor character that only appeared for a couple of episodes, which was a pity because Fulle was probably the best character in the anime. I digress. I love anime openings that through the music and animation sequence herald the promise of a good adventure to come and sets the atmosphere for the series, and this opening does exactly that.

5. Full Metal Alchemist OP4 - Asian Kung-Fu Generation - "Rewrite" (2004)
As you already know, I love all of FMA songs, and I think FMA (the first series and reboot Brotherhood) might boast a repertoire of very solid anime openings and endings overall, atop an excellent OST. I really couldn't choose which OP I like the best. L'Arc~en~Ciel is probably the most popular, because it is Laruku and because Funimation used it instead of Melissa as the OP in North America. But Rewrite is such an exhilarating song, and the title and lyrics are perfect for the last quartile of this amazing series. The action sequences are superb, and this opening builds up to the whole climax of FMA. On a side note, I personally think Cool Joke's UNDO is a very underrated song and also had very cute sequences in the OP which makes you feel really nostalgic (which is befitting since this is the 3rd opening when you've fallen in love with the characters and grown with them, right before the impending climax and bloodbath awaiting.) And I love the recycled motive of the Ed and Al on the railway. It made me want to cry when FMA: Brotherhood OP 2: Hologram (which I love) used that imagery. I actually like the FMA ending songs even better though because I like to listen to more mellow songs when writing. 


6. Bleach OP2 - UVERworld - "D-tecnoLife" (2005)
I love the opening sequence, the catchy melody of the tune, the Hitsugaya-taicho pimping going on in this video. While this OP may not be exceptionally stellar, it's a shounen action anime intro done really well, at its very peak.
Most of Bleach openings are done very well--though I've long since stopped watching the series--I also really like Orange Range's Asterix, which grew on me over time, because it's unique, edgy and Orange Range is awesome. Check out the Card Captor Sakura rendition of Asterix--it's awesome. 


7. Sousei no Aquarion OP1 - Akino of Bless4 - "Genesis of Aquarion" (2005)
I haven't watched the anime, of the same director and composer pairing as Escaflowne, but fell in love with song the first time I heard it-- you know those songs that just sends a shiver down your spine? This is one. And I'm not the only one, because this song has become a meme in the Nico Nico Douga (Japanese equivalent of youtube) and its melody is used in part of the Nico Nico Douga anthem. The acapella version of this song with Bless4 is so haunting and beautiful, and I like it better than the original. Out of Yoko Kanno's OST openings, this song usually ranks the highest in Japanese fan polls out of best anime songs, usually in the top 10 or 20. 

8. Saiunkoku Monogatari - Ayaka Hirahara - "Hajimari No Kaze" (A Wind of Beginning) (2006)
This is one of my favorite anime openings of all times, not because of high budget or stellar animation quality, but the sheer beauty of a wonderful song paired with a well-planned animation sequence and powerful, soulful vocals by Ayaka Hirahara. I especially love the opening bars, "Hajimari no kaze yo... Todoke message..." That opening line just filled my heart with hope, anticipation, a sense that an epic story was about to unfold reflected perfectly by the silhouettes of Shurei and Ryuuki facing each other (which is why I like the Season 1 opening better than the new animation sequence from Season 2). This opening might have lasted the longest, spanning through Season 1 and Season 2 which ran until 2008, a total of 78 episodes. There are three versions of the opening. The second half of Season 1 played a modified sequence introducing new characters and that is my favorite version. I like it when openings change the sequence based on plotline, like how in CCS OP1, when Syaoran was introduced, his snapshot appeared in the OP, replacing Sakura's dad. Saiunkoku being based on a visual novel has an intelligent, unique and absorbing historical fantasy storyline, and Shurei is the rare heroine who is courageous, smart, independent and perhaps a role model for women. I felt bad because in the beginning, I thought this would be just another reverse harem anime. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find one of the best, if not best, historical fantasy anime out there in the past decade. I gave up on hoping for a Season 3 however. The anime is paired with an oriental-themed soundtrack, befitting since the heroine is a talented ehru player, and I love how you can hear an ehru playing in the background for the opening song. This song is composed by YANAGIMAN and like its title, conveys exactly it's lyrics, "A Wind of Beginning." 

Saiunkoku Monogatari, Opening 작성자 Maxi-kun

9. Seirei no Moribito OP -
L'Arc~en~Ciel - "Shine" (2007)
Like "Giri Giri Chop" from B'z from the 1990s list, this song was the one that almost didn't make it to the Top 10 list. Not because the song and the opening animation sequence is not wonderful, because it is, but because I haven't watched the anime. Also, I knew I wanted to include a Laruku song in one of the lists, and was debating between FMA's "Ready Steady Go" or Great Teacher Onizuka's "Driver's High" but decided to go with the one that gets little recognition though it is pretty amazing. So many anime use the pan-up to the sky motif as the closing image of an opening, but look how prettily it is done here.

10. EF - Tale of Melodies Opening -
Elyssa - "Euphoric Field" (2008)
This opening with its catchy song and the artistic symbolism is very addicting and visually stimulating in a non-typical way. Based off a visual novel "EF - A Fairytale of Two," the anime, while touching on mature subjects, is tastefully done and strikes a balance between artistic interpretation, stunning visualizations, psychological and emotional depth and awesome music, befitting as one of the characters is a violinist. And kudos to the director for having a different version of the opening each episode.
Each episode has a slightly different version, starting out in black and white with the English version of the song and gradually adding in different colors, inverting colors, until the final episode where the ending is in full color with the Japanese version of Euphoric Field (they did the same with the first season OP); it's fun watching all of them simultaneously. What got me interested is is Makoto Shinkai's involvement in the game, whose works are perhaps the most visually stunning pieces you will see in animation. Anyhow, a sign of a successful opening is when the opening alone gets you to watch an anime. I watched both EF - A Tale of Memories and EF - A Tale of Melodies one weekend, though its the sort of anime I wouldn't usually watch. I was blown away by the quality of the series. The music is by Tenmon, whose work I loved in "5cm no Byoushokou," directed by Makoto Shinkai. The two often work together. 

Honorable mentions (in order of how closely they missed the Top 10):

Detective Conan OP22 - Zard ft. Aya Kamiki - "Ai wa Kurayami no Naka de" (2008)
The ups of having an anime run for over a decade is that allows ample rule for experimentation and exploration into many different themes. I like how OP 22 focusing exclusively on the plotline of the Clash of the Red and Black, prominently featuring in the rather darker and angstier than usual opening sequence the characters of the Black Organization, the CIA and FBI rather than the usual mess and mesh of various characters present in Detective Conan. This opening theme sets the atmopshere for one of the most intense showdowns in Detective Conan and is Detective Conan at its best, justifying its 500+ episodes. While this may not be my favorite Detective Conan song, I thought it's a combination of a catchy song with a stylized animation sequence very relevant to the story arc at that time, and a prime example of what a long-running anime can do creatively with their openings. Truthfully, many of the OPs and EDs start blurring together in my mind after a while, but this one does not. And of course, it's a Zard song.

Clannad After Story - Lia - "Toki Wo Kizamu Uta" (2008)  
Kyoto Animation's productions always have stellar animation quality and sometimes, I watch because of that reason alone. I would say the studio is an example of what I call 21st century formulaic harem OP that is done super well and artistically. I didn't like Kanon or Air or any of those visual novel adaptations, but I enjoyed Clannad anime. Perhaps because it was really not a harem anime but focused on the relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa, and you get to see Tomoya's growth over the years. Perhaps I liked that Clannad's theme was "family." Clannad: After Story made me cry a bucket, and I didn't think it would. Anyhow, the opening sequence of both seasons bears rewatching after you finish the anime. If nothing else, it's shiny and beautiful. That silly Dango song is pretty addicting as well.

Tale of Abyss OP - Bump of Chicken - "Karma" (2008)
I absolutely love this song and the band Bump of Chicken, but it was originally used in the video game, so I didn't include it in the main list. Plus, I haven't watched the anime.

RahXephon - Maaya Sakamoto - "Hemisphere" (2002)
Another wonderful song composed by Yoko Kanno and sung by Maaya. But I already included a Yoko Kanno composition in the list above, and three Maaya songs in the 1990s list, which I like even better. I haven't watched this anime, either. 

Saint Seiya Hades: Chapter Sanctuary -Yumi Matsuzawa - "Chikyuugi" (The Earth) (2002)
I actually heard this opening in more recent years and have not watched any of the Saint Seiya franchise. Because the franchise dates back to the late 1980s, the opening had an oldies feel that I liked, and was surprised this song wasn't from the 1990s.The song is so melancholy, the opening so angsty, I love it.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood OP2 - NICO Touches the Walls - "Hologram" (2009)
I can make a whole list of just FMA songs. I chose one from Brotherhood as well. This one was a close call with OP1 Yui's "Again" but I opted for "Hologram" because of the catchy tune reminiscent of the first series and all the imagery and fast action sequences animated that will make manga fans squeal, for that's what Brotherhood is; a tribute to the manga.   

If I think harder, there will be a whole bunch of songs that I probably missed. There are many shoujo anime themes that didn't make it to this list such as the opening to Ultra Maniac, Gals!, Pretear, Fruits Basket, Princess Tutu and so-on, but I don't consider them to surpass the themes listed above. If I had to choose my top favorite songs on the list, it would be "Genesis of Aquarion" and "Hajimari no Kaze." The best opening theme for a series, based on song, animation sequence and my 5 criteria mentioned in the beginning would be Inuyasha's "Change the World." It's classic J-Pop, the flawlessly segued animation sequence doesn't leave you bored for a second and successfully tells a story, a condense version of the series, and leaves you feeling hopeful and excited about the show. I remember one of the later episodes reused "Change the World" and it hit that right note of nostalgia. I'm not sure if Youtube did an anime purge recently but it was hard to find good quality videos for some of the anime listed above. Let me know which opening theme of the 21st century is your favorite. Did I miss any themes?  

Check out my list of:
Top 10 Anime Opening Themes Part 1: The 1990s
Top 10 Anime Ending Themes

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Best Anime Openings Part I: Top 10 Favorites of the 1990s (20th Century Edition)

I was absolutely sure I did a post long ago on my top favorite anime openings, since i did one on the Top 10 Best Ending list some years ago. And I realized, being silly me, I had written the draft post at the same time as the Best Ending and never published it. Luckily, I have  not watched a lot of anime over the past several years, hence I don't think my opinion has changed much since I wrote this post. I think the anime you watch when you're younger just resonate with you longer. I still love watching anime, but I just haven't found many shows that hit the right chords with me these days.

For me, good openings 1) seem to tell a story through the animation sequence 2) do some clever (or blatant) foreshadowing of plotlines to come, employ symbolism or imagery, or reveal something about the anime that is not delved into as much in the series and/or make you feel excited about characters shown 3) have a catchy chorus/ riff that makes you anticipate the show 4) can be rewatched again after the show ends, and you still can discover details in retrospective or makes you want to go back to the series again.

I finished writing up this list, the longest time it has ever taken to write a post, and stupid Blogspot deleted the draft, so this is my second time writing it. It's not going to be as thorough as my first post, and I think I am about to hate Blogspot, but here is shot deux. Heck, I've rewritten significant portions of New Trials chapters before and redrawn artwork deleted before, something like this won't daunt me. Actually, it is still annoying finding each song and checking each title and artist all over again. I don't trust this site anymore.

But, luckily, I still did have a draft from my 2009 entry, which I could use as reference. I think things you see/watch/hear/taste when you're younger definitely have a much more impact and a lasting impression. So I was slightly biased when choosing my favorite anime openings for those anime I watched pre-2000, in my childhood years. Thus, I'm going to separate the list into 20th century and post-2000.

In the ye olden days, anime openings were pretty much the anthems of anime; the opening personified the anime. There was less of the generic harem intro pop and more artistic openings in general, in my opinion. For me, the songs below also hold sentimental value and bring about nostalgia for the golden era of anime. Because I could not particularly rank the songs, I decided to go by chronological order.

1. Future GPX Cyber Formula OP -
G-Grip - "I'll Come" (1991)
Cyber Forumla was one of my earliest anime loves. I know. How did I end up liking a shounen anime about Formula-1 driving (from the masterminds behind the Gundam franchise and Sunrise). I have no interest in cars or racing. But for me, it's really not so much what the context is, but the characters, and this anime (and all subsequent OVAs) remain one of my favorite anime till this day. I heard the Korean version of this song first, which was a dub of the Japanese version. It's an uplifting, inspirational song and still makes me smile nostalgically. I might like the Korean version more because the lyrics always resonate with me, especially the opening lines, "Like a waterfall, like a typhoon, race, Cyber Formula. Now you will able to accomplish it, yours and my miracle." Trust me, it sounds a lot better in Korean and makes more sense in its original form. The Japanese lyrics are more love-inspirational.

2. Slam Dunk OP1 - Baad - "Kimi ga suki dago sakebitai" (I want to shout that I love you) (1993)

I think Slam Dunk is the most epic sports manga/anime ever, and Japan probably would agree since Inoue is held in high esteem and Slam Dunk has remained the most popular manga in Japan for many years. Surprisingly enough, the Korean translation of the song pretty much was completely accurate with the same lyrics of "I want to shout that I love you." The lyrics resonate with Sakuragi Hanamichi perfectly, and the video is stunning and brilliant and makes you want to run out and play basketball. This song has a refreshing feel of adolescence, seishun, youth, passion. Take note of the basketball sound effects in the beginning. I never got into another sports anime like I was into Slam Dunk, which was all the rage in Korea. During gym class back when I was in junior high, the girls would sit on the bleachers and we would assign the boys in our class to various Slam Dunk characters. Good old days.   Random trivia: Akagi Arima from my fanfiction New Trials is partially named after Sakuragi's love interest, Akagi Haruno.

3. Magic Knight Rayearth OP1 - Naomi Tamura - "Yuzurenai Negai" (Unyielding Wish) (1994)
I love everything about this opening, the song, the video, that exhilarating electric guitar riff in the beginning draws your right into the world of Cephiros. Magic Knight Rayearth was my introduction to CLAMP anime back in 1996, and the first time I saw the preview for it, I knew I was going to love it just by the 30-second commercial. A key characteristic of 1990s openings is the sound effects that sort of went out of style post-2000. The orchestra version of this song is one of the most beautiful instrumental renditions of an opening song in any anime.

4. Fushigi Yuugi OP - Akemi Satoh - "Itoshii Hito no Tame ni" (For My Darling) (1995)
This is one of the rarer instances where I prefer the Korean opening song over the Japanese song. This opening sequence I would rank as in my top 5 favorite animation sequences as it hows the promise of fantasy and adventure. Everyone looks beautiful, all the action is put to the music on cue, the characters unfold like a story, the romance, the fiery tension, the mythical elements, everything is packaged so well into 1 minute 30 seconds. 

5. The Vision of Escaflowne OP - Maaya Sakamoto - "Yakusoku wa Irenai" (I Don't Need Promises) (1995)
I consider this opening one of the most poignant anime openings of all times because from the urgent chords of the piano opening the song, you are already transported into a mystical world promising adventure, fantasy and high romance. The role of Hitomi and this song catapulted young Maaya Sakamoto to fame in 1996. "Yakusoku" remains very popular to this day and is played in a lot of Yoko Kanno and Maaya Sakamoto concerts. Though it may not be my favorite Yoko+Maaya combo, this song I think marks the beginning of it all. Besides, I think the op sequence animation is stunning, surreal and just epic. While the Escaflowne character-designs might take some getting used to, the animation is stellar, surpassing any CG mecha anime made post 2000. Now that I think about it, I was first exposed to Yoko Kanno's music when I was a preteen (not that I cared about composers or seiyuu or directors or anything of that sort at that age.) But no wonder I've been hooked ever since.

6. Slayers Next OP - Megumi Hayashibara - "Give a Reason" (1996)
Not usually my type of song, but it's the best Slayers opening and a very upbeat, catchy 90s J-Pop representation. My best friend who introduced me to J-Pop in the first place sang it for me back in middle school, and the song always randomly finds its way back onto my playlist every so often. I also recommend Slayers Try opening them song
"Breeze" also by Hayashibara.


7. Record of Loddoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight OP -
Maaya Sakamoto - "Kiseki no Umi" (Sea of  Miracles) (1998)
A hauntingly beautiful song and OP for the only show on this list I have never watched. I didn't know it was sung by Maaya because she sounds more mature here. If I have to be really honest, objectively speaking, in terms of portraying the ambiance of a fantasy adventure, this song is probably one of the best anime opening songs out there (though I have other personal favorites from the Yoko Kanno and Maaya Sakamoto duo). 

8. Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne OP2 - Lastier - "Dive into Shine" (1999)
I like the first opening anime sequence better and the second opening song better. In Korea, they used the second song with the first anime sequence, so it worked out well for me. I especially love the shot where Jeanne is staring at Chiaki on the balcony lit by the moonlight in the first opening sequence. But the second song is a win!

9. Detective Conan OP6 - B'z - "Giri Giri Chop" (1999)
This was the one opening that almost didn't make it to the list. Don't get me wrong, I love B'z--they're my No. 1 favorite Japanese band, and I am thankful to have been introduced to B'z through Detective Conan. The reason I wasn't going to use this OP is because I don't consider it the strongest out of Detective Conan's gazillion openings and endings, and they used recycled animation from previous seasons. My theory is that rights to B'z song must cost more than other artists, hence they have to save budget via cutting down on new animation. Who knows. With the exhilarating pace of the song, the opening is a big of a mess but gets your adrenaline pumping. And this opening does something unique, which is integrating live video clips of the artists, guitarist Tak Matsumoto and vocalist Koshi Inaba, into the animation. It works because of their legendary status. This song marked the start of the B'z and Detective Conan partnership over the next decade and a half, still going strong, and was the first Detective Conan song to reach No. 1 on Oricon (like all other B'z songs, but an impressive feat for an anime single). I chose this song because of what it symbolizes for the ongoing Detective Conan franchise. Plus, I used to listen to this song quite frequently because it was on my workout playlist. This opening was used in episodes 143-167.

10. Card Captor Sakura OP3 - Maaya Sakamoto - "Purachina" (Platinum) (1999-2000)
This song remains high on the Japanese polls' list of most popular anime themes, and rightfully so. Season 3 of mahou shoujo anime Card Captor Sakura transcended the typical magical girl genre anime and became a classic on its own right--and I'm not exaggerating if I say this opening is a testament of the sheer genius and lasting-power of this CLAMP anime. The opening sequence is one of the most beautiful and well-planned sequences in all shoujo anime-dom with its simple yet sophisticated scenario. Sakura's white dress with pink trimmings remains an iconic outfit (kudos to Tomoyo), and I love the way all the characters flit through. I always held my breath to catch a 1-second glimpse of glaring Syaoran in the OP when CCS was broadcasted on NHK-2. CCS Season 3 is the first anime I caught live broadcast on NHK-2 because I was lucky enough to get transmission on satellite TV in Korea. I didn't even know it was a Maaya Sakamoto and Yoko Kanno collaboration until several years later, which is funny because back then, I was pleasantly surprised because OP3 was the only CCS theme song I actually really LOVED.This opening is a stellar because more than a decade later, it still remains classy, well-animated and does not seem dated at all. Plus the lyrics are meaningful as well, written by the third-leg of the Yoko-Maaya combo, Yuho Iwasato. I included this song in the 1990s list because Season 3 began airing in September 1999, in fact, just when I started to write New Trials. 

If I had to pick my top three favorite songs in this list, it would be from Cyber Formula, Magic Knight Rayearth and CCS, partially because of how much I loved each anime but also because I loved the individual melodies. If I had to pick the best opening in terms of song and opening sequence match-up, I would say it's Escaflowne's opening because of the fluid animation and strong, rich images that resonate with the song. Secret confession, I didn't even particularly like any of the characters or understand the plotline completely when I first watched the anime. I grew to appreciate Escaflowne more in later years. Another secret confession: I don't really care for mecha, but would tolerate it for good characters, strong plotlines or good music, such as Code Geass (for CLAMP character designs) or Macross Frontier (for Yoko Kanno music). But I could never tackle the Gundam franchise, though ironically, while I have no interest in car racing, one of my favorite shounen anime remains the Cyber Formula series, from the same creators behind Gundam and the same studio, Sunrise. 

Likewise, I debated including in this list some popular songs such as Evangelion or Cowboy Bebop, but at the end of the day, I decided to stick to my favorites, songs that I would still listen to nowadays. One thing in common with the songs below are that I have listened to them on my playlist at some point in time, so I believe them to be good songs with lasting power. Next, on to the 21st century which will be a lot of fun because of how dynamic the choices are. 

What are your favorite anime openings of the 1990s? Of all-time? Comment below!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

New domain name:

 So, the big news is that I have now a new domain name the day has finally come after over a dozen years or so at Much thanks to Robert Arrowsmith of for the very smooth transition. Please remember to update your bookmarks! You will be directed to from my old address for the time being, I believe, but I'm not sure for how long.

I have been putting off a move for as long as possible, but it has become inevitable, especially because Robert is considering selling the domain name. And I asked over at Yahoo Group and on this blog, and you guys agreed to stick with "wishluv" as the domain name, and I did. It's easier to type than "newtrialsofccs," for example. I know there must be some broken or outdated links here and there, so please do feel free to point them out to me, and I will eventually get around to fixing them. As you know, my main priority is New Trials and making sure all the chapter links are working.

And Chapter 70 and 71 have been updated on my website for the past couple days, as well, for those who prefer to read it on my website without the funky styling. Finally, I feel like I have completed Chapter 71. I've been happily writing Chapter 72.5 over the weekend, after finding closure to Chapter 71. Yes, why am I writing 72.5 before writing 72, I wonder. Are there any other writers who write backwards? I've been doing that over the past several chapters.

For a brief history of my website, or of the fanfiction New Trials of Card Captor Sakura, for some newer readers, I completed the first chapter in the fall of 1999, and over the next couple months submitted the first four chapters plus prelude up to some popular Card Captor Sakura fanfic websites of the day. Truthfully, I'm not sure what they were anymore, and doubt they are still online. In 2000, I grew impatient with simply submitting my chapters to fanfiction websites and wanted to have control over when and how I got to publish my chapters online. Back then, a website host called Geocities existed, and I made my first website ever at If you ever want to know the origin story of how the username "wishluv" came about, it's because I tried a bunch of normal names at Geocities, and they were all taken up, and I finally stumbled on one that wasn't taken. And I was 13; I didn't know any better. I didn't think I would still be using it a decade and a half later. I got my website listed on, the anime and manga catalog website of the day, and from there, New Trials grew.

Geocities, as you recall, was a pain, with limited bandwidth and ads. In 2003, Bilal from offered me free hosting, and thus, was born. Till this day, I sort of wonder who Bilal is, if he ever read New Trials, how he found me in the first place. Yes, that is the sort of professional relationship we had. I made the transition from Geocities in August 2003, and it was a wise move because Geocities shut down completely in 2009; till then, I had been keeping my old address as a backup.

In 2010, to my dismay, suddenly shut down, and I lost contact with Bilal. Till this day, he remains a mystery person to me, but I am always grateful to him for finding me and giving New Trials a home. And luckily, I was able to get in touch with Robert Arrowsmith who was originally a part of the team, so he then continued to provide me free hosting and been very helpful in transferring all my files over to, now with minimum hassle. And I've bugged him with a lot of emails over the past couple years, so I am very grateful.

And to keep amused till Chapter 72, go ahead and read a snippet of Amethyst Beloved's "The Forbidden Trials of Small Wolf & the Nefarious Thief of the Night up at

P.S. I've FINALLY caught up with correspondence. I didn't realize how much I follow routine, but I really couldn't feel like I finished Chapter 71 until I had posted it up properly on my website. If you have emailed me in the past several months and have not received a response yet, please do shoot me another one at Sometimes Hotmail filters mail into the junk mail box. Emails always are the most personable, though SNS is more convenient. I love the feeling of being caught up. Before I rear off course again as I get lost into Chapter 72.

Music Spotlight:

Ikimono-Gakari's "Sakura"

An anthem to spring. I've been enjoying cherry blossom season, and also listened to the song quite frequently when writing Chapter 71: The Alliance of the Stars. Go check out the chapter on mywebsite if you haven't already!