Although I’ve been writing this anime blog for a long time now, over 6 years, in fact, I’m still not sure of the kind of blogger I am. I’m not disciplined enough to write every few days, nor do I enjoy deep analysis of anime. I don’t even really enjoy discussing it to any great lengths. But even still, here I am. This has become my home, and I don’t know why. An anime blog.
I have many a faint and fond memory of Eureka Seven, but wasn’t sure how to feel about news of its sequel. It ended with a quite profound sense of finality, after all. Everything that needed to be said, was, and underscored with probably the finest insert song ever used in anime, too. I’m using a lot of absolutes in this post because that’s just how I feel about Eureka Seven. Holland, Talho, Dai Sato, Supercar and Denki Groove. It was a great series.
This whole Hatsune Miku thing fascinates me.
Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad. Talk about a mouthful. The name may be a tribute to the author’s favorite band, Red Hot Chili Peppers, which also has four words in its name. In any case don’t be scared away by the name, this series about a rising rock band is a treat even for non-music fans.
Something has always bothered me about the ending of Samurai Champloo. It was an ending that haunted me for nearly a year after finishing the series, its memory resurfacing every time I thought about it. Midicronica’s “San Francisco” was in many ways a fitting ending for an anime which drew so heavily from hip-hop and reggae culture, but there was somehow a disconnect. Samurai Champloo’s ending always struck me as unbearably happy, like the colors on the screen and the chords of the song were attempting to sweep something under the rug. As the anime ends, the journey is over, and its end is just like its beginning: three people, alone.
If I had to condense my love for anime into one single moment, I’d choose the scene when `Space Lion` begins playing in the 13th episode of Cowboy Bebop (Jupiter Jazz.) It is one of the first times I can remember feeling a pang of bitter-sweetness whilst watching anime: the sadness of Gren’s passing tempered by Spike’s and Faye’s return to the Bebop; that Jet can’t really hide the fact that he truly gives a shit about them but, like a grumpy Dad, is too up-tight to admit it, and Gren’s death-wish to be cut adrift amongst the stars and sent drifting towards Titan. Alone.
“I see. You are Spike. Julia was always talking about you… That your two eyes were of different colours… That’s what she said… That you get a strange feeling when you look into his eyes.” — Gren
A strange romance springs forth from the snow-capped streets and cold, gray clouds, and from the elegant, softly-voiced Gren himself, an angelic hermaphrodite in love with Vicious, yet broken by the betrayal of their friendship. His sad, tired eyes and knowing smile are captured and carried beautifully by `Space Lion`’s warm tone of resignation. It’s a spine-tingling moment.
Not sure how I missed this, but the full soundtrack for Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann was released recently; that’s 51 tracks of epic, exciting, heavenly music, and even better, it contains the one song I’ve be longing to hear since late-July. I’m talking about track 13 on Disc no.2; the translated title is “The Days Become a Traveller of a Hundred Generations”. For such a haunting, ethereal tone, it’s heard only once in the anime itself, during the first half of episode 18, but this single sequence, just a mere few minutes in length (may as well be an eternity), and the awe-struck feelings it conjured inside me, have long since remained close to my heart.
We begin around the 5:40 mark. Simon’s in the Gurren-Lagann, frantically searching for Nia. Before he can launch into the neon-lit sky-line of Kamina City, he’s curtailed by (the now-teenaged) Darry and Gimmy in their colourful Gulaparl mecha. They try to persuade Simon from needlessly worrying the citizens by flying around in the iconic Gurren-Lagann, its heroic image having come to represent the desperation of humanity’s recent past. In response, he just separates from the larger Gurren and brashly explodes into the clouds above, continuing his search for Nia regardless of their complaints.
The atmospheric music really kicks in as Simon tours the sprawling Kamina City, its concrete streets and sky-scraping buildings bathed in the warm, comforting glow of electricity. The architecture is strange and fascinating, having been influenced by the Gunmen style of design, strange faces; giant and carved from stone, protrude from the buildings, expressions half concealed by shadow. The Spiral King’s huge fortress, the smiling Dekabutsu, overlooks the rapidly developing city below, as worried search-lights scythe through the starry night sky.
The thing about this sequence and why it sticks in my memory isn’t anything to do with the characters or drama. It’s the clash of TTGL’s surreal reality with our conflicted, modern world. The way everything looks so familiar and yet, it’s dream-like too. The oppressive stature of the city, the huge stoney faces passing judgement on and manipulating the residents below. We immediately sense dystopia; a city that’s grown cold, twisted and without feeling. Suddenly, this is a world that’s alive with texture and detail. The song speaks of those feelings, a kind of knowing, regretful, beautiful sadness.
A Gabriela Robin Site have posted an awesome acoustic live set by regular Yoko Kanno vocalist/collaborator Steve Conte. Performed songs include “Heaven’s Not Enough” (my favorite), “Living Inside the Shell”, “Words We Couldn’t Say”, “Rain” and “Call Me Call Me” – so that’s some of the best music from Wolf’s Rain, Stand Alone Complex and Cowboy Bebop. Light those lighters and head on over there right now.
I’m a big fan of Yoko Kanno’s music; be it the atmospheric electronica of Macross Plus (1994) or the acoustic style contributed to Wolf’s Rain (2003), it’s hard to ignore the core emotional beauty of her work; a quality that, not matter which musical style she borrows, ensures that she captures our attention (and often, hearts too!). For the means of this poll, I picked out three series which distinctly represent Kanno’s diverse talent.
For example, lets consider her soundtrack for Vision of Escaflowne (1996), an epic and exciting orchestral set (“Dance of Curse”) that emphasizes fantastical themes of life-changing conflict. Then we have Cowboy Bebop (1998), arguably a career defining fusion of American jazz and blues; cinematic, moody and bitter-sweet (“Adieu”, “Space Lion”, “Rain”, “Blue”), it’s a superlative collection of songs that undoubtedly have their own story to tell and stand alone as great music, regardless of Cowboy Bebop itself. Finally, we have Stand Alone Complex (2002); this time it’s an interesting mash-up of her previous work. Being scored for science fiction anime, there is an overriding use of up-tempo and rousing electronica (“Cybermind”, “Rise”) as well as dreamy vocal tracks (“Christmas in the Silent Forest”, “Psychodelic Soul”, “Mikansei Love Story”) that echo an ethereal trip into a starry-eyed unknown. For the means of this vote, I ended up plumping for “Cowboy Bebop”, but I particularly love a lot of her work for “Stand Alone Complex” and if just for beautiful “Voices”, I was tempted to include Macross Plus too.
At the time of writing, Kanno’s most recent effort is Darker than Black (2007); being another attempt to capture an American rock feel, it’s doomed to living the shadow of Cowboy Bebop and rarely reaches the emotional heights we expect of her craft, only “ScatCat”, “Kuro”, “Deadly Work” and “In no Piano” hinting at the beating heart hiding beneath the superficial front of up-tempo, slick rock and muzak.
It’s also interesting to note that whether coincidence or not, a high number of Kanno’s soundtracks have contributed to landmark anime productions; I need not extol the virtues of the likes of Cowboy Bebop or Escaflowne, but I do wonder if her presence elevates and influences those around her to create the kind of anime that will be remembered for years to come.
It’s taken me two or three months, but today I finally finished watching Eureka Seven. Like whenever I finish reading a book or watching a long TV series, I feel like I’ve accomplished something big, but at the same time, I’ve grown attached to the Gekko-go and I’m not ready to wave good-bye. I adore Eureka Seven, but alas, I must accept this psalm of planets has come to an end — and by the way, consider that an advanced spoiler warning.
Dewey and Holland
One of the more interesting villains, Dewey was not as much driven by his often stated ambition to "take back" the Earth as he was simply unhinged and jealous of his younger brother. Dewey wanted to take back his father’s affection from the favoured brother Holland and when that became impossible, he lost meaning in his life, forever consigned to being a reject. It’s interesting that the he chose the target of his hatred to be the apparently "vicious" coralians; the “invaders” of Earth — after all, baby Holland "invaded" Dewey’s childhood. Even as he put that gun to his head, he was fighting the demons from his past.
Holland’s reaction to Dewey’s suicide revealed that no doubt, despite everything that happened, they still thought of each other as brothers. The look on Holland’s face and his subsequent mutterings suggested that he felt Dewey was not yet beyond salvation; his death was that of a lonely and deluded child, stabbing at the heart of a world that rejected him.
Eureka and Renton
The close bond shared by Eureka and Renton is carried through from the first episode to the fiftieth. It never felt forced or artificial; there was a real sense that they loved each other. By the end, their relationship had transcended physical attraction — after all, Eureka wasn’t even human. Through-out the series, she was battered, bruised, scarred and burnt — she wasn’t stunning to look at, but Renton still loved her just as much. They struggle through insecurity, embarrassment and unknown territory, yet still emerged from the series as utterly likable and heroic characters. It’s impossible not to root for them; they are the glue that holds it all together.
In a few of my previous posts, I’ve passed comment on the allegorical content of Eureka Seven. Indeed, it’s simply a story that, while based in pure fantasy, echoes the past and present follies of mankind. For a moment, let’s look at the conflict between the humans and the coralians — this could be taken as a parallel of the Japanese struggling to accept the increasing foreign population in their country. So basically, Eureka Seven could be seen as an allegorical tale of xenophobia; about how you should try to talk with, rather than attack, the "aliens". Someone like Dewey will manipulate the media, stir up fear and incite violence, but the "enemies" are invariably the same as us; afraid to live and afraid to die.
By the end of the series, it’s implied that Renton and Eureka are to unite, to blaze a trail forwards for the future of mankind and all life in the known universe. I wonder if this was an intentionally vague way of ending the series — when they talk of becoming one, are they literally talking about physically combining as one being? Or rather, is it hint that they are to start a new family — after all, Eureka and Renton conceiving a child will lead to a true combination of both beings.
Favourite opening theme
I adored all four opening themes enough to rock out to them in my car, however, if pushed; I have to say that the punky third opening wins out for combining some wonderfully fluid and atmospheric animation with a straight forward, balls to the wall j-rock anthem. It’s just the iconic image of Renton and Eureka falling through the sky, hand in hand, dodging falling scrap metal and breaking Anemone’s lonely heart.
I’ve talked about how great some of these characters are, and how interesting the story is, but ultimately Eureka Seven will stand the test of time because of its superlative combination of bright, colourful animation with a varied and outstanding soundtrack; it’s like the series was born as an idea when listening to particularly good song, such is the deep intermingling of musical influence with the narrative. Bands like Joy Division are regularly referenced, but, fittingly for a series that contains an impromptu rave scene, the one major point of influence is the varied genres of dance music. Two tracks in particular stand out, "Rainbow" and "GET IT BY YOUR HANDS" — both are energy generating, heart beating tunes which lace together the viewer and the burning emotion at the core of Eureka Seven’s world-effecting journey.
theEND, or bateszi=out
These are my last few sentences on Eureka Seven; I’ve had a lot of fun writing about it, but most of all, I want to recommend it. It’s not a formulaic mecha series, it’s not about battles-of-the-week; it values life, has a positive message and blossoms into a particularly gut-wrenching and epic tribute to love; not love on a superficial level, it’s hardly a "physical" series at all, rather it’s just brimming with feeling, the idea that peace is possible and that enlightenment is attainable. It borders on trippy and loses much sense of comprehensible realism, but this is pure animation, the boundless freedom and the feelings of artists conveyed through the power of a blank page and colour. I love that Renton can dive from an air-ship and surf through the clouds, just as I love that Eureka gradually sprouts wings and can fly like a butterfly.