There’s been some heated discussion in fan circles just lately about the recent output and the future direction of composer/songwriter Yuki Kajiura’s Kalafina project. Since hearing them for the first time in early 2009, I’ve seen them grow from a movie theme tune side-project to being a chart-friendly act playing the prestigious Budokan, which I believe holds the same level of kudos as a UK act “playing Wembley”.
I started trawling the used market for some of the more obscure and hard-to-find items in their back catalogue, outside of the usual CD singles, live DVDs, T-shirts and squishy shark-shaped phone charms (don’t ask). Some of the releases are already out of print, but the b-sides and other rarities can be some of the most interesting. The one thing I’d been looking out for over the years was the little-known Re/Oblivious.
With the benefit of hindsight, the CD’s plastic inner sleeve is a weird little prediction of their most recent releases getting vinyl editions
While keeping up with currently airing/streaming TV, I recently watched Your Lie in April. Its premise of classical music performance reminded me of those times I’d been recommended Nodame Cantabile, in that weird way that often happens. It’s a barely-noticeable drip-feed of “this is cool. You might like it…” over many months or even years, finally reaching critical mass after being reminded through something else, and practically forcing me sit down to watch the thing then wondering where it had been all my life.
Source: Pixiv (click pic for original)
In a recent Twitter conversation I was asked the very good question, “which is better?” but sadly could only come up with a “that depends…” cop-out answer. For the record, I personally enjoyed Nodame… more, but I don’t know how helpful that would be to anyone else. Sorry. Here’s why.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: Netflix is pretty great. The convenience of having so much stuff available with just a few button presses of my remote can’t be overstated, especially when Real Life circumstances have left me with more free time than I know what to do with in the past few months. Their anime selection is pretty good too.
Take Psycho-Pass. Somehow it slipped under my radar, as things annoyingly all too often seem to do. With hindsight I can’t even explain why, because I soon discovered how it ticks so many boxes in terms of setting, writing and, well, pretty much everything.
It’s that time of year again…four weeks shut away indoors, tied to my keyboard and frantically trying to get ten songs or 35 minutes of sound down to (digital) tape. There are no prizes or awards for this – Record Production Month is open to anyone with the time and tenacity, whether they’re professional musicians/songwriters or enthusiastic amateurs.
I just like the motivation to *do something*, and for some reason find working under a constraint like this to be helpful as well as limiting. For we OCD and perfectionist types, it does mean we don’t really have the option of retakes, extensive planning or laborious ironing-out of bum notes. It’s a bit rough, chaotic and making-it-up-as-you-go-along.
Back when I saw Death Billiards for the first time, I thought it was a fantastic little oddity that had a lot of mileage in its premise and storytelling. Even so, the cynic in me was resigned to the fact that it didn’t have enough guns and tits to have broad popularity outside of the Anime Mirai project and be a serious contender for a full TV series; despite it ticking all the boxes for being one of those things that has me personally grinning like a loon for twenty-five minutes and wanting to write about it afterwards. I’ve come to realise my tastes are a little weird sometimes.
A wonderful place where you’ll never miss last orders
In this case however, the TV Gods were merciful and this quirky little thing was given a fighting chance and its role shifted to being that of a pilot for its TV incarnation, Death Parade. I never did get around to writing about Death Billiards, but after two episodes of its spin-off my opinion on it hasn’t changed: it’s bloody brilliant. I just hope that enough people share my admiration for it.
Comparisons between an adaptation of a written work and the original are always interesting, even if the piece of film or TV is inferior to the story that it’s based on. In rare instances the adaptation proves to be even more enjoyable than the book that inspired it (the only one that springs immediately to mind however is Satoshi Kon’s mind-bending animated film of Yasutaka Tsutsui’s novel Paprika) but it can still encourage you to view the source material in a slightly new light. It feels a bit awkward to me when I experience the adaptation first though, because there’s that nagging feeling that my appreciation of the original is being clouded somehow.
For instance: I picked up (and reviewed, if you’re interested) Tetsuya Nakashima’s schoolroom psycho-thriller Confessions long before the English translation of Kanae Minato’s novel. If you have seen the film and are familiar with the story right up to its shocking denouement, I still recommend the book: inevitably, there are certain plot points that were edited out to fit the flow of the movie, but the shift in emphasis means that the novel is still a refreshing and rewarding experience. You certainly won’t get *quite* the same feeling as you would from the film even if, say, you read it with a Boris album playing in the background or something.
Just when you start to wonder what one of your favourite bands is up to, their next offerings turn up like buses: long awaited, and arriving two at once.
It’s a real challenge for music artists who work the treadmill of recording and touring to keep their output fresh and varied, especially when their line-up remains unchanged throughout their career. MONO have apparently been grappling with that issue, and although they’ve broadened their horizons by contributing to a TV mini-series and collaborating with a couple of indie filmmakers since their last studio effort, the move to release not one but two albums at the same time is I think quite a turning-point.
If I were to write a ‘proper’ objective review of Murakami’s latest, it would probably begin and end with “this is just another Haruki Murakami novel.” Considering his strengths as a writer, this isn’t ‘just’ anything, but so many tropes and themes are being revisited here I don’t think it’s an unfair way of summing it up.
For your reference, this is the city of Nagoya, one of the settings of the story. Pretty, huh?
Murakami’s popularity isn’t wholly unjustified: although he has yet to win that Nobel Prize for literature, fans still queue outside bookshops as soon as each new work is published. Although I’d join them in saying I enjoyed Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage, it hasn’t changed my mind over my opinion that he’s a writer who’s talented without being Nobel Prize-worthy. What’s worrying is that I’m not enjoying it in the same way that I used to.