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Kory
01-12-2001, 00:35:16
So, I've been noticing this trend in my music collection lately: the few anime series (not movies) I really like also happen to have music I really like. This is notable because a great deal of anime music is really insipid J-Pop featuring high-pitched low-talent female singers, and until I saw these series, I firmly avoided anime-related music like the plague. (Note: that only applies to anime series, not movies; Akira, for instance, has some of the best music I have ever heard.)

Now when I say "few", I mean there are precisely 3 series that I really like: Revolutionary Girl Utena, Cowboy BeBop, and Lain. And all three have spawned at least some music I would recommend to the casual listener.

Obviously, as with any soundtrack music, some enjoyment of the music is related to being able to place it in context of the scenes the music backs, but some of the music is quite good in its own right.

For instance, there's Lain -- the theme song is a nice number done by a British band, Boa, who subsequently released an equally excellent CD that I now own. People who like singers like Tori Amos or Sarah MacLachlan would probably appreciate the theme; the rest of the songs on the album range from that style to an almost 70s style rock. The incidental music is also good, although much of it runs to 10-30 second spots that out of context is not quite so interesting. But in addition to the theme song, I also can recommend the "Cyberia" club music -- techno that isn't brilliant but is enjoyable. Boa's album was definitely released in both the US and the UK; the Cyberia album may only be an import from Japan.

Cowboy BeBop -- fittingly, with a name like that, the series heavily features well-crafted music throughout. I don't yet have the CDs available for this series, because they're mostly imports, but everything heard during the series is excellent, and the ending theme song features one of the few female Japanese singers I've heard who has a rich, non-soprano voice. (It also has good lyrics, even once translated to English.) The music in the series tends towards jazz and variants; the opening theme is very much in this style.

And lastly, Utena. The music falls into two basic categories. First, there are songs with lyrics which highlight a certain type of scene (the lyrics are related to the scene, but unless you know Japanese, this won't matter much), which are pop/rock shorts ranging from about 2 minutes up to 4 minutes (only in songs occuring late in the series). Many of these would fare fairly well on the radio, I think, and are enjoyable even out of context, though naturally context adds to them. The rest of the series' songs are incidental music of various styles, mostly what I'd generically call 'classical' of some sort with a bit of jazz and pop thrown in. Some are upbeat, some are haunting and eerie, some quiet and lovely. They're pretty much all good, and make very pleasant background music to work by, as I'm doing Right Now. Alas, like the others, these are also imports, although with a new release of the movie version (the music for which follows the same pattern) possibly at least the US and UK will see some domestic releases of the series music. Oddly, the opening theme is one of my least favorites, being the most J-Poppy, and the original closing them I outright dislike, although the song they replaced it with earlier is much better.

Still, if you get a chance to hear some of this, I do recommend it. (I also tend to recommend the series themselves, although be warned that Utena is only available through episode #13 on commercial release as of yet.) I particularly can recommend both the Boa CD and the Cowboy BeBop music; Utena may be a little more context-sensitive and less widely appealing. Like I said, most of this is import from Japan, so for some folks it'll be tough to find and on the pricy side, but if you've got a local anime shop you can probably find them there; all three series are popular.

Kory (This is not a review. This is a potted plant.)

Funkodrom
03-12-2001, 12:35:25
This is quite interesting I think I actually have some Anime series to watch now on different channels on Cable, I haven't really discovered which ones yet...

Kory
04-12-2001, 10:59:28
Well, I know Cowboy BeBop is in syndication in the US, so it's possible it's available on cable elsewhere too. If so, I do highly recommend it both for the music and the show. I know the US version is being cut/re-edited at least mildly, so if you like it you'll probably want to pick up the DVDs (all out in the US so likely all out in the UK, too; I know at least the first four of six are if for no other reason than I know someone in the UK with them). If it's not on your local cable, it's probably worth renting the first DVD; if you like that, you'll like the rest.

The show is... basically sci-fi. Multicultural/multiplanet space setting, focussing mostly on the hijinks and exploits of the crew of the starship BeBop, who are bounty hunters. One series-spanning arc, the rest of the shows are mostly stand-alone, barring new character introductions and a set of two episodes that would be confusing seen out of order. Very funny (well, there's some pretty serious episodes, but even those have funny bits), and the only anime series where I can recommend the dub as highly as the subtitled version; there are actually voice actors I like better in the dub. Also my by-far favorite anime character ever is in the middle part of the series.

I don't think Utena is in syndication anywhere right now (for the same reason that only a third of the episodes are available on DVD), but I do know that the movie is out. The problem is, the movie is basically the same story as the show, although highly compressed and with some character and flow alterations; I tend to only recommend the movie to those who have at least seen some of the show. Rental might be an option here. The movie doesn't really ruin the show, per se -- there's enough difference -- but it does kinda give big hints about what's going to happen in the show that otherwise develops as a complete surprise. It's a tough decision. I did see the movie before I saw the whole show, and was still surprised by some of the series events. Oh, and I don't recommend the dub at all for this; it, er, sucks. This is "girl's anime" -- but don't let that put you off, I know guys who like it -- and has a fairly typical high school setting with, er, a fantasy element. Yeah, that's a good wayto put it. The movie version is a little on the surreal side in parts.

Lain is probably best classified as 'non-dystopic cyberpunk'. The story revolves around a much-advanced version of the 'net. It's a little surreal, too; I've watched the whole thing (available on DVD) twice through and I'm still a little confused by parts of it. Four DVDs total. No idea if anyone's got it in syndication. The subtitle is better than the dub, but I've heard worse dubs.

I think one reason I like these is because they're neither cutesy (like, say, Sailor Moon or Pokemon) nor mecha (which I'm not big on, barring possibly Evangelion, which I'm still deciding if I like or not). So much anime is made in those categories that both subgenres are full of lots of crap, particularly once remade into US versions. Utena is actually a really deep story, as is Lain; there's subtext there that I know isn't just my imagination since other people see it too. BeBop isn't as deep but it has realistic people with quirks and problems that are comprehensible.

As an addendum to my original note, the various import CDs are available, slightly on the pricy side, from www.animenation.com -- I picked up the Utena soundtracks (the first three, at least) from eBay for much cheaper, however. A local anime shop is still probably your best bet (or possibly comic shops).

Oh, and also more on-topically, did I mention the Akira music is awesome? There's more than one soundtrack; I have the one without the accompanying dialogue and like it better; that would be the "symphonic suite" rather than the "soundtrack". It's, hmm. Style. Classical meets technopop. Of course, I also recommend the movie, but this is the music forum. :)

Funkodrom
04-12-2001, 11:34:03
Akira is an awesome film all round.

Just checked, Cowboy BeBop CDs available on import here but the DVDs aren't, probably because they are the wrong encoding region. :(

FunkyFingers
04-12-2001, 14:05:56
I recently got the Akira 2 disc DVD from the states, it really is fantastic and I agree, the music is superb.

I think it's DaftPunk that recently has been doing an animated series to each of it's successive single releases?

Guy
04-12-2001, 15:00:46
Akira is very good, especially the music, though having read the manga it's based on first kind of spoiled the movie version for me.

It's tough to wade through all the crap in anime, but the good stuff is well worth it. BubbleGum Crisis (though solidly in the "mecha" genre, and so not likely to interest Kory) has always been touted for it's music. The original series was all 80's style pop, but the updated series (BGC 2040, I think) has some interesting grunge/punk stuff. Cowboy BeBop is one of the best things I've seen in quite awhile. Outlaw Star is another good one, though it gets a little full of itself towards the end of the series. Music is mostly techno/orchestral, but then I've always liked that in that it fits most anime.

Another reasonbly priced anime outlet is here:

http://www.animeigo.com/home.t

Kory
04-12-2001, 20:25:57
Originally posted by MikeH
Just checked, Cowboy BeBop CDs available on import here but the DVDs aren't, probably because they are the wrong encoding region. :(

Huh. I'm going to have to ask the folks in the UK with it if they just got it wrong-region (they do have a regionless player and an NTSC->PAL converter, so possible) or what. I really thought it was out legitimately there. :confused:

Kory
04-12-2001, 20:31:19
Bubblegum Crisis is not to my liking but I know other folks who like it quite a bit. I should check out the music separately, though.

I have the same sort of problem with mecha series as I do with fighting games, which is to say basically I find them kinda boring and repetitive but every once in a while one shows up that I actually like. So I do try to watch the highly-recommended ones.

I can also give a second-hand recommendation for "The Big O". I haven't yet seen it but it got recommended by the same two people who got me hooked on BeBop. :)

Funkodrom
05-12-2001, 08:52:18
Originally posted by Kory


Huh. I'm going to have to ask the folks in the UK with it if they just got it wrong-region (they do have a regionless player and an NTSC->PAL converter, so possible) or what. I really thought it was out legitimately there. :confused:

OK cool. Thanks. It might have been released here and not now be available...

FunkyFingers
05-12-2001, 14:22:04
I got my Akira region 1 from the US. Happily I have a multi-region DVD player and I have a multi-standard tv.
We're so forward looking in Europe :lol: