12/28/2007

The 15th Day of Christmas - 10 Anisongs

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"Yes, I was really frustrated they took Nagato's SG out of Guitar Hero III. And Eddie Knox."

I like to rant a lot about music in anime, first because I've been a Dance Dance Revolution addict since the original PSX port, and second because I can't play it with any resemblance of much more than a cacophony that could have come from Kotomi Ichinose's violin itself.

And while I've said a few times in the 12 (and running) Days countdown that insert songs, or background music can really make a moment in an anime, equally important to a show is the opening and ending themes.

It may not be as important as the in-show music, but the fact is you're going to hear these themes at least twelve times over the course of a show's run, and so they better be good. Sometimes it's all right to get away with skipping a show's ending theme, but to jump over the opening seems almost heretical.

This is because the the OP / ED animations, and the songs themselves, do a lot for setting the mood of a show. A contemplative, deep-thinking show might have a slow, mood-filled theme, while a action-packed comedy might have a more hyperactive, high-energy song.

Thusly I've picked out ten of my favorite songs for bookending anime I've seen this year. They range from the fast-paced to the melancholy, from the lyrical to the instrumental, but they're all songs that I wouldn't sniff twice at putting on my MP3 player.

Y'know, because anime fans like me were born with no shame.

Most Inexplicably Catchy Song
Zetsubou ED - Zessei Bijin
Normally I go for either the slow-paced piano/violin songs with drawn-out vocals or the high-energy, typically rock songs, but the jazzy ending theme to Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is surprising finger-snapping fun. It has lyrics and an overall feel that captures perfectly the almost humorously sadistic feel of the show, and the rhythm of the vocals is enjoyable as well.

In the full version, the multiple singers are used to maximum effect, with each line of 'I got to hear their screaming voices again' (the penultimate line in each chorus) sung by a different singer. Incidentally, the way they sing that line every time is simply stunning. The instrumental solo in the full version is pleasant as well, and really captures that pseudo-horror feel of the song and the lyrics.

Best Song Pair
SHUFFLE! OP - YOU and SHUFFLE! ED - Innocence
Shuffle!, like most visual novel shows of the harem type, is a show that blends both light-hearted comedy and serious drama, and this is reflected great in the two contrasting themes in its opening and ending. Typically, most anime have a 'fast' and a 'slow' song split among the OP and ED, but Shuffle!'s are top-notch in both regards.

YOU is an example of the strong singing and guitar-work typical of the Shuffle! series; Mirage Lullaby and Remember Memories are equally rocking yet still emotional songs sung by YURIA for the Shuffle! eroges. The guitar work is catchy, and the vocals are sung with power.

Innocence is the flip side of the coin, an almost melancholy song with a lighter guitar note to it and some sweet-sounding vocals. It's good both as a song on its own and as a contrast to the upbeat YOU, and these two songs go together well to form the dual face of Shuffle!, a surprisingly serious (and seriously enjoyable) eroge conversion.

Most Incomprehensibly Meme-Worthy Song
Lucky Star OP - Motteke! Seerafuku!
It was a coin flip between this and Hare Hare Yukai, but I felt determined to acknowledge at least one song that has been mimicked (if not beaten into the ground) by the fan community innumerable times by either parodies or dance-offs. Motteke! Seerafuku! is kind of like Hare Hare Yukai on crack, in that it features more dancing, the lyrics make even less sense, and it's even faster-paced.

Actually, the lyrics make no sense at all, but there's a certain enjoyability to random English nonsense like "Let's get cherry pie!". As well, the incredibly quick speed of the lyrics makes me wonder why they don't have more rapping Japanese schoolgirls. The first lyric part (from the end of the instrumental intro to the saxophone segment) is far too catchy for something I can't comprehend at all, even with subtitles.

It's a pretty fitting random song for a pretty random anime; sometimes I don't get either of them, sometimes they both seem kind of overhyped, but they're both a lot of fun.

Most Rocking Song
Myself;Yourself OP - Tears Infection
I like songs with guitar. A lot of guitar. In that sense, I should probably be picking Shana II's JOINT for this then, but Tears Infection is an equally enjoyable song that really wants you to break out the air guitar.

Which is a bit of a lie, as Tears Infection actually doesn't have too many guitar pieces, much less complicated ones - there's the 8-note riff repeated throughout the intro and any instrumental space, and the slow notes played during the vocal parts. But what's fun about this song is that there's a lot of energetic fast parts (any time you can see the band playing in the OP) and a few moments that focus on intense vocals instead (the part with Sana / Nanaka visible). And, of course, there's the choruses, with a little bit of both. It's a pretty good mix overall that's great for four-minutes of head-bobbing.

Most Able to Be Actually Performed by a White Guy (but not really)
Kanon OP - Last Regrets
Last Regrets is a perfect example of the 'slow, moody songs' that I was mentioning earlier, featuring mostly piano backing, and deep, slow lyrics. So slow, actually, that I was able to memorize them. Not to mention the first thirty seconds of the piano piece as well.

In conclusion, fandom is scary and you should never ask me to sing Last Regrets, because I will. The song itself, male voices aside, is quite great, starting slowly and building to a sort of powerful crescendo. The Key songs have always been kind of like this, with songs clocking on the slower side, although Tori no Uta and Megumeru were both a bit faster-paced, they definitely enjoyed their slow instrumental and powerful lyric parts. Sad songs in slow like this are perfect for these largely own-pace, character-driven shows of discovery.

And one more bonus point: the Kanon OP on DVD on a high-definition TV is simply jaw-dropping.

Most Amusing Use of Side Vocals
Minami-ke OP - Keikenchi Joshouchuu
First off, I hate this song for being the only one on the list which wasn't easily transcribed Japanese or Engrish. But otherwise, this song is just brimming with the sort of energetic, peppy, carefree attitude that a slice-of-life show like Minami-ke has. It's fun, right down to the last touches.

These last touches, as the title may hint, are the heavy use of side vocals, or whatever I should be calling them; the little voices, personified by chibi characters in the OP, shouting 'Whoo!' and 'Hai hai hai hai!'. It's cute, and it really captures that kind of playful feel of the song. 'Kuru kuru!' is one of the catchiest for me. I suppose this sort of thing goes to show why Japan can spin an entire culture (or, at least, a few brands) based on random cute chibi things.

The rest of the song, for no other way to put it, is 'fun' as well, and really feels like the kind of song you'd bounce around, or at the least, clap energetically too. Amusing to me though, is the fact that even a song like this has a wicked guitar solo. They're everywhere in anisongs.

Most Mellow Melody
sola ED - mellow melody
Actually, there were other songs in contention for the second slow song slot (say that ten times fast, and whatnot), but having settled with sola's ending song, I had to name it this.

It's a great relaxing, yet emotional song (which I've said ten times, but it's still true) that works well to soothe after another dramatic, cliffhanging episode of sola. I can't count the amount of times that something exciting would happen, then it would cut to black and this song would start playing. The vocals are nicely done in this song, and the visuals in the animation are an alluring mix of real-life sky shots, in theme with the show, and conceptual art of the characters. It's worth watching for the stills alone, probably, and the song is pretty sweet too.

Most Ironic Song
School Days OP - Innocent Blue
I'd easily take many of School Days's various ending themes over the opening theme, but given that this song gets twelve times as much exposure, it deserves a bit of recgonition for being what it is - completely unrelated to the anime.

One has to imagine the composers had their tongues firmly in cheek when creating a peppy song like this, that wouldn't be out of place in any normal harem or romance show. It's a catchy song made all the more amusing by the knowledge that School Days isn't normal in the slightest, and the thematic and lyrical use of 'angels', not to mention all the happy, innocent characters in the opening, are a great joke played on non-suspecting viewers. Those of us who have endured this show can smirk at this song as others try to piece the upbeat music with the downbeat story.

Most Embarassingly Awesome Song
Shugo Chara! OP - Kokoro no Tamago
Magical girl songs - I don't know what it is about them. Cardcaptor Sakura had three great openings. Nanatsuiro Drops came along with Shining Stars Bless. And now Shugo Chara! pulls one of its own out of the hat.

It's exactly as you'd expect a song from a show like this, and somehow I don't find that to be a problem. It's smile-inducing to a fault, from the cheery lyrics to the sugary animation. It oozes pink and J-pop and just plain happiness from every pore, and for some reason the slightly techno-sounding voice is incredibly catchy. I don't even find a fault with the Englishy 'hop step jump' or 'drew draw drawn' (?), although my favorite part of this song would have to be the last few lines building up to the chorus, ending in 'my own heart, unlock!'. It's a strangely addictive song that I've rewatched probably more than the show itself so far.

Most Touching Song From a Show I've Never Watched
Bokurano OP - Uninstall
I have no idea what Bokurano is, but I have a strong desire to find out now. Uninstall very well might be the king of slow-paced, emotional songs. The lyrics are sung in a very melodic fashion, with a great range of pitch that produces a great sense of feeling in the song. It just flows good.

What I really like about this song are the lyrics. They support the song in terms of power and depth, and are very touching in their somewhat existential tone. I think I can really claim a song is good, like this one, when I can really enjoy it without having any sentimental memories of a show to back it up.

-CCY

8 comments:

Bokurano is something you have to watch, if only for you to have something to measure Clannad's "family" theme by; a yardstick, as it were. This one is "family", but told in a style more depressing than anything Key could ever muster since people actually die in this thing.

The song is fitting as an OP due to its rather morose reflection on life before the BIG INCIDENT that happens. It's highly recommended -- my #2 anime of this year, with many a tear-jerking moment. Think of Lucky Star's emotive moments, amplified somewhat to the strains of a mecha's battle groans and heartbreaking classical in the vein of School Days' OST.

sola's ED was great, as was the soundtrack. I'm wondering at this point if a rewatch with Lunar's subs would do me any good (I saw Doremi's), but eh.

Your observations about School Day's OP is spot on. I can't recall any other OP at the moment that digressed that much from the spirit of the anime, bar Lucky Star, like it did, but I guess we all forgot about that one in the midst of sex, sex, more sex, and the Nice Boat™.

Hmm, Bokurano's unlicensed, so I may be in luck; although, I was saving my maiden mecha-anime voyage for Gurren Lagann. Still a bit shy of the genre.

sola's soundtrack is pretty great all-around, I would agree. I watched using Lunar's subs myself, but I don't know how much of a difference that makes - I'm not aware of any big translation discrepancies, at least.

And are you saying the Lucky Star OP digressed if only because it was so ADHD it couldn't really be related to anything? XD

It depends which you prefer, really: TTGL is all about what mecha usually does; Bokurano is all about what mecha usually doesn't. Your pick.

Doremi was horribly literal, and by literal I mean to the extent of Ayako's Sky "Learn Japanese in 20 minute episodes" Girls. Lunar has a thing for subs that sound like English. But I could be wrong, and the subs not affect it at all.

Also, Lucky Star was all about random everyday talk and incidents in life that you could relate to. I don't recall randomly dancing in cheerleader uniforms with my friends like ever, but you get the idea. :P

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