Originally, this was going to be an intro to Japanese music by way of some of the more popular artists out there… but I don’t want to pretend to know more about a subject than I do, so I’m settling on an intro to my Work playlist. The set includes just about everything and there isn’t really a rhyme or reason to it.
Don’t mistake this as an attempt to critique any of the music included or to make statements about how good or not a song is… It’s a list. There isn’t even a proper order except the one implied by the order of the list itself.
As always, I go out of my way to make life easy. There’s a YouTube playlist all set up here, or if you want to read my comments, I also have the videos all lined up below.
Until next time,
Ride on Shooting Star
The Pillows’ Ride on Shooting Star is the only place I can really start. I’d be lying if I didn’t mention how it evokes in me memories of that oddest of shows, FLCL, but The Pillows hold their own without having to rely on another medium to support their music.
If The Pillows are your style, and you’re looking for more along Japanese rock and punk, check out their other music, Please, Mr. Lostman and Terminal Heaven’s Rock.
Tabi no Tochuu
Natsumi Kiyoura’s Tabi no Tochuu served as the opening track for the 2008-09 anime adaptation of the light novel series Spice and Wolf (and if you follow my earlier blog, you’ll remember me, quite rightfully, calling S&W “medieval economics: the anime”).
What this song does outside of reinforcing the themes of the story that made use of it, is to tell a story unto itself. And I don’t know about you, but I like my music to have a little prosic flair to it.
If English is more you’re style but you want the same song, Amanda Lee did a fantastic cover a few years back (long before she was cool and internet famous).
Utada Hikaru has been a favorite artist of mine for a number of years now, dating back to that first time I remember thinking to myself, “I want to hear that song from Kingdom Hearts again.” I don’t intend to downplay her beautiful music or talent, but neither music nor anime were at the forefront of my mind in 2004; in fact, neither were really even considerations outside the fact that music permeates life and anime was all Toonami showed (the best stuff on TV back then).
In addition to Beautiful World, I’d recommend this incredibly high-concept music video of her’s for Hikari, A much more recent single Sakura Nagashi, and, if you want more of a small taste of her equally prodigious English language catalog, her cover of Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams is worth a listen.
Ready Steady Go
I didn’t bother finding a version of Ready Steady Go that wasn’t one with the faces of Edward and Alphonse Elric plastered over it. There wasn’t any point. I found myself enthralled, perhaps for the first time, when I heard this high-energy, strangely foreign but still familiar, track by L’arc~en~Ciel.
For something in the same ballpark, listen to Afromania’s Let’s Go Together, ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION’s Yuugure no Aka, or TommyHeavenly6’s PAPERMOON.
For comparison, think R.E.M. or, if you want to stretch, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
Hayate no Gotoku
Maybe it’s because I really enjoyed the anime adaptation of Hayate no Gotoku; maybe it’s because the show is basically Japanese Seinfeld; maybe it’s because KOTOKO has some catchy sounds.
On the scale of “is this J-pop enough?” I’d say it outweighs the rest of this list by a bit. Other examples under a similar umbrella: KOTOKO’s Shichitenhakki Shijou Shugi, and Supercell’s Black Rock Shooter.
Only My Railgun
Higher energy, more like dance music than anything else. Often associated with the flashiest of videos, scenes and meant to hook the audience.
Differing from the above by only the closer ties to electronic music – and there’s nothing wrong with some fanciful electronic music. Other examples include Aya Hirano’s Super Driver, Mami Kawada’s PSI-Missing, Altima’s Burst the Gravity and T.M.Revolution and Nana Mizuki’s Preserved Roses.
I’ll be the first to admit, sometimes the music I listen to is, without question, gibberish. But nonsense can be an art form unto itself when applied properly. SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:mizuki’s &Z (and z) is part word salad, part story. I’ll leave it up to the listener to decide what she’s saying.
In this same vein: Hitomi’s Innocent Days (vocalization I’ve never been able to make sense of, let alone find lyrical content), Yuki Kajiura’s We Have To Defeat It (which has lyrics, but they’re vaguely Latin or Arabic gibberish), and Sawano’s aLIEz (a masterpiece of Japanese, Chinese, English and German gibberish and/or high-concept lyrical content that requires gumption and a Doctoral degree in a dozen Humanities-related fields to decipher).
Note: Amanda Lee and Molli at Radient Records have made a point to try and figure out this song. They’re moderately successful.
Origa’s Rise is something that found me when I started watching Ghost in the Shell (given the image of Motoko Kusanagi, I’d think it was obvious). But Origa’s other music kept me listening.
I don’t really know many similar western songs (or at least I can’t think of many off the top of my head).
During the rising action phase of violence in The End of Evangelion, Evangelion Unit Two suddenly, and without any reason that science could confirm, reactivated and went on a five minute rampage that resulted in hundreds of deaths.
And that’s not as bad as it gets.
Point is, there’s a great deal of fine orchestral music to be found in Japanese media. Yoko Shimomura’s Dearly Beloved, Ryuichi Takada and Satoru Kosaki’s Rekishi no Tenkanten (Converging Point of History), Hayato Matsuo’s Letzte Battalion, and Nakagawa Kotaro’s Black Knights.
This is just an extra. Because Excalibur. Fool.