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I Have Come To Know Him, And He Is Immortal

Okay, music lovers, it’s 2012, which means that by now we know a few things about this crazy ol’ world. It’s generally accepted that the Earth is round, and that the moon is not made of cheese. In the event of a nuclear apocalypse, cockroaches will inherit the earth. Sharks are terrifying unless it’s Shark Week, in which case they are terrifyingly awesome. We also know by now that vampires are really, really, really, ridiculously good-looking. Oh sure, horror movies dating back to 1922 will try to tell you otherwise. I mean, Max Schreck made a fantastic Nosferatu, but seduction was not widely considered to be his forte. However, literature has taught us over the course of centuries that real vampires are drop-dead sexy. Seduction is their thing; it’s the way they lure in their prey. Ugly vampires are great for scary stories, but they don’t really function well in the real world. To survive over the centuries, vampires would have to either start their undead lives as breathtakingly gorgeous or evolve to become so, because humans are shallow creatures and tend to not automatically kill pretty things. This fact alone first alerted me to today’s topic: Atsushi Sakurai, the lead singer of BUCK-TICK, is actually a real-life vampire.

It’s not my place to “out” anyone here, but surely I can’t be the only one who’s noticed it. I mean, just look at him. (Yes, that is a link to my personal Pintrest board dedicated to Atsushi. Someone had to do it, why not me?) He’s lovely when he’s younger, but what’s really interesting is that he actually seems to be getting better-looking with age. According to Wikipedia, he’s supposedly forty-six years old. No human looks that good at forty-six. No one. It’s almost as though Atsushi is ageless. What kind of humanoid creature is ageless? Well, that’s easy. Vampires are ageless.

“But wait,” I hear you cry, “literature is filled with all sorts of immortal humanoid creatures, from faeries to ghosts to gods to, well, immortals! How do you know Atsushi isn’t one of those?” Fair play, and I commend you for being so well-versed in otherworldly creatures. I have more facts that point specifically to vampirism, but for now I’ll share with you exactly what made me 100% certain that Atsushi is a vampire. That, friends, is the English translation of the lyrics to the stunning BUCK-TICK song “Kuchizuke:”

Will you say that we can love… love each other? I’ll cover your lips
Close your eyes and give me a sinful kiss

We can love… love each other surely, stabbing into the nape of your neck
Close your eyes and give me a sinful kiss

I can’t ever return again, but that’s okay
I stare into the middle of the night and drink my wine dry

We’ll love… love each other more, seeming to go mad in our intense thirst
Close your eyes and give me a sinful kiss

Your scent drives me mad
I wake up in the middle of the night and drink insanity and love dry

Come here into my arms, “The darkness over there is bitter”
You’ll get confused and waver
It’ll turn eternal before long, “The darkness over here is sweet”
I’ll pierce you deeply

Your scent drives me mad
I wake up in the middle of the night and drink insanity and love dry

Come here into my arms, “The darkness over there is bitter”
You’ll get confused and waver
It’ll turn eternal before long, “The darkness over here is sweet”
I’ll pierce you deeply

Come here into my arms, “The darkness over there is bitter”
You’ll smile a little
With this, it’ll turn eternal, “The darkness over here is sweet”
I’ll pierce you deeply

I started to highlight all of the lines that pointed to vampirism, but really, the entire song fits. A sinful kiss, like a vampire’s bite, stabbing into the nape of your neck. Seeming to go mad in our intense thirst…your scent drives me mad (vampires have a heightened sense of smell, as all vamp literature aficionados know)…the darkness over here is sweet (y’know, vampires and eternal night)…I’ll pierce you deeplywith this it’ll turn eternal…it really couldn’t be more clear. This song is Atsushi’s declaration to the world that he is what we’ve suspected: a vampire. He’s the real life embodiment of Anne Rice’s Lestat, a vampire rock star who’s pretending to be a human who is pretending to be a vampire. It’s the oldest trick in the book, and a very good one at that. If you watch any video of a BUCK-TICK performance, you can see Atsushi clearly feeding off of the energy of the crowd. He feigns indifference, but that just makes the audience crave him even more, building up to a frenzy.

BUCK-TICK very rarely play outside of Japan, and I have discovered the reason for this. One time, during a photo shoot in Nepal, Atsushi became deathly ill. He proclaimed that if he was going to die, he wanted to die in Japan, and so he was rushed back to his homeland. Once there, he miraculously recovered. Atsushi was ill, but he recovered once he was on his home soil. Hmm, who does that sound like? Oh yes, Dracula, another fellow who always had to have some of his home soil near him. Dracula kept his home soil in his coffin when he traveled in order to retain his full power. Atsushi simply chooses never to step foot off of his. (For more about this actual event in BUCK-TICK history, please see this article.)

Atsushi enjoys dark music, movies, and styles, yet he’s also secretive and hard to know, according to bandmate Hisashi. He love cats and red wine, both of which are favored by Goths and vampires alike. He also loves Bauhaus and David Bowie. Come to think of it, Bauhaus first hit it big with their single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” which was used in the opening to the vampire movie The Hunger, starring David Bowie. Is it a coincidence that vampiric bits of pop culture seem to flock to Atsushi? BUCK-TICK provide the opening song for the anime Trinity Blood, which is about vampires. They also provided a song for Nightwalker, about a vampire private eye. More recently “Kuchizuke” was used as the opening song for Shiki, a horror anime that I have yet to see (but very much want to). Here’s the description for that series: “All hell breaks loose as the villagers discover their loved ones’ corpses are rising from the grave with an insatiable thirst for human blood.” What does that sound like? Yeah, thought so.

Obviously I’m not the only person who sees Atsushi’s paranormal side as plain as moonlight. A quick search for his name on YouTube and a great fan video pops up showing clips of Atsushi set to Lady Gaga’s “Monster.” Excellent song choice, fantastic Atsushi shots, and oddly telling, if you ask me. “He ate my heart,” indeed. Also, have you seen the video for BUCK-TICK’s “Romance?” (Hopefully you have if you’ve been reading this blog, as I’ve posted it before.) Unreal. The man is dark, the man is sensual, the man is, quite clearly, an immortal being obsessed with blood. And I, for one, am here to speak in his favor. If you’ve ever felt bad because you see someone who just seems to be way more awesome than everyone else, take heart. That person is probably not a “person” at all, but a vampire. And those immortal creatures (especially Atsushi himself) are more than welcome to come drink the red, red wine with me any day.

Here’s one more BUCK-TICK song to get you through the week ahead, little earbuds: their dark and delicious ditty, “Gessekai.” Enjoy, and don’t let the vampires bite. (Or do, if that’s your thing.)

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I Left My Childhood In The Garden Green

Yesterday I finally made it out to the cinema in order to watch The Secret World of Arrietty. It was really just…breathtaking. Something about that film completely captured my heart. I wrote about it in great detail over on Otaku Haiku, where I couldn’t stop myself from gushing about the beautiful soundtrack, which caught my attention as soon as the film opened. To quote myself:

…the music is stunning. The entire soundtrack is by Celtic musician Cecile Corbel, and while a Japanese film with a Celtic soundtrack doesn’t seem like it would necessarily be a good fit, it’s actually incredible. The vocals are lovely and lilting, and the harp makes the natural setting come alive, especially in the rain scenes where every pluck of the strings mimics a drop of water on the leaves. As a longtime lover of Celtic music, I know that the genre can get a little heavy at times, hearkening back to those 90s Pure Moods compilation CDs. However, the soundtrack to Arrietty is as far from the Celtic clichés as night and day. It would be a gorgeous album on its own, but paired with the film it perfectly enhances this Western tale in an Eastern setting.

I bought the album as soon as I left the cinema, and I’ve been listening to it non-stop ever since. The delicate harp and gentle vocals are the most prevalent, but the dancing flute that recalls wind and the soft beating of the bodhrán as footsteps all play a part in making the woodland setting of Arrietty come alive in a really astonishing way. I’m of the opinion that you don’t have to already be a lover of Celtic music to enjoy this album, but take a listen* to the opening song, “The Neglected Garden,” and decide what you think. Music this lovely that plucks at the heartstrings speaks for itself.

*SPOILER ALERT: This fan-made video, while excellent, shows many scenes from the film The Secret of Arrietty, including almost the entire end of the movie. Watch at your own risk.

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Music For Otakus, Part VII: The Complete Package

Finally we come to the end of my (much-loved? hopefully?) Music for Otakus series. I could keep this up for several more weeks, and possibly indefinitely, because I’m constantly watching new anime and discovering new musical delights to tempt any audible palate. But there are other songs to sing, other notes to play, and other scores to settle. And so I can think of no better way to conclude this series than with my personal Top 3 anime soundtracks. Taking T.S. Eliot and turning his words on its ear, I strive to end not with a whimper but with an incredibly loud bang! Or at the very least a ren faire, a mystical forest, and a classical smorgasbord. Read on, little earbuds…

3.) Spice and Wolf (Season One)

Spice and Wolf is a rather odd duck in the world of anime. The story follows a merchant and a wolf goddess in an ambiguously medieval time and place, but with music this warm it’s easy to feel at home while riding on Lawrence’s cart or eating apples with Holo the Wise Wolf. I’ve already mentioned the absolute cuteness of the end credit song, “Ringo Biyori,” but the opening song, “Tabi no Tochuu,” is as lovely as the end song is precious. Yuji Yoshino’s instrumental music throughout the series is all in the realm of ren faire melodies, but there are some impressive differentiations to be found on such a genre-specific soundtrack.

Shounin to Ookami to, Tabi no Nibasha” is a cheerful, flute-heavy little tune, whereas “Kimi no Moto” is almost bawdy in its jangly peppiness. “Zawazawa Suru” is intense and serious, calling to mind James Newton Howard’s score to The Village with its heavy strings, and the slow and seductive “Ikoku no Shirabe” sounds like a forgotten dance from The Nutcracker with its Middle Eastern touches. Then there’s the upbeat “Shippo Dance,” which would work equally well as music in a chase scene or the background to a rambunctious festival dance. All of these tracks represent the multi-faceted sounds of an intriguing anime, but the song that I choose to best represent the soundtrack as a whole is “Mada Minu Machi he,” a pleasant tune that instantly gives the listener the perfect setting for the story of Holo and Lawrence, as well as fills ones with the urge to dance and drink (but not necessarily in that order). With such a menagerie of medieval sounds, I don’t see how anyone could listen to this score and not feel joyful.

2.) Mushi-Shi

Perhaps uniquely original anime series produce the best music. That would certainly seem to be the case, given the albums on this Top 3. Mushi-shi is yet another strange and unique anime. It centers around a traveling man named Ginko who helps people deal with Mushi problems. Mushi are magical, natural beings who can sometimes cause chaos for people, and Ginko is a Mushi Master, so he has the skills to help calm the chaos. While the opening theme “The Sore Feet Song” is mellow and soothing to the ear, the real gem is Masuda Toshio’s instrumental score. Each track flows with the next, but each is individual, like a variety of amazing trees all in the same forest. Speaking of forests, that’s kind of what listening to this soundtrack feels like: being in a mystical forest alone with only the sounds of nature for company.

Perhaps the track that best illustrates this is the eerie “Mushi.” It’s so simple in its use of instruments, but so completely rich in atmosphere. It’s easy to hear wind, rain, and something else hiding in the shadows in this music. Then there’s the somber “Ri (Kotowari),” which incorporates a familiar piano among the gentle sounds of nature, and “Shinen,” which begins menacingly but evolves into something less than scary but not quite welcoming; this track sounds as though it could easily be a Björk B-side. “Hikari Sake” is more forthcoming with its steady drums and reminds me of the fox wedding scene in Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams; meanwhile “Makura Kouji” sounds both retro-magical and nature-based, as though it were the score to a Japanese version of Labyrinth that’s set in the gardens of Kyoto.

The best all-encompassing number on this soundtrack might be “Mushishi no Theme,” which has all the delicate mystery of a journey into the mystical world of things unseen coming across in less than two minutes of sound. However, my overall pick is “Rinkou,” because it manages to be so many things at once: melancholy, mysterious, beautiful, organic, intriguing, and so much more. This track, as well as the rest, inspires me and calms me when things become too chaotic. Listening to this music is as good as having Ginko himself arrive at your door and offer his help. There is nothing better to listen to on a quiet rainy day than the Mushi-Shi soundtrack to wash away the mental cobwebs, or to transport you to that rainy forest of contemplation and discovery. (Editor’s note: since I first posted these tracks, the entire Mushi-Shi soundtrack has, sadly, been removed from YouTube. Instead I found this lovely video made by YouTube user extrasterk featuring photos of Japan and set to a handful of Mushi-Shi tracks, namely “Hikari Sake,” “Kehai,” “Midori no Za,” and my beloved “Rinkou.” While it’s not the same as having all of the above-mentioned tracks for your listening pleasure, this lovely video does provide an excellent taste of what the gorgeous Mushi-Shi soundtrack has to offer.)

1.) Black Butler (Season One)

Bet you never saw this one coming, right? It’s true, I’m a huge Black Butler fan, and I make no bones about it. I’ve posted songs from the Black Butler soundtrack several times now, but I feel that it’s never enough. This anime about a boy who has been wronged and calls on a demon to exact his vengeance is the complete package, and the soundtrack is equally awesome. While it’s true that so much of what makes Black Butler the cream of the anime crop is its varied and colourful characters, there’s a lot of atmosphere in both the artwork and the music. The theme song from the opening credits of season one, “Monochrome no Kiss,” grabs you immediately and lets you know that this is going to be an adventure, and the closing song, “Lacrimosa,” is truly gorgeous. From there we get quirky songs in German such as “Die Hansen!” (which sounds like it should be playing over a sepia-toned silent film involving a train) to tracks that speak to the majesty of high Victorian living such as “La Gardenia.” The many faces of Sebastian Michaelis are brought to light in the lively tune “The Way A Butler Should Be,” with its brisk horns and timely piano keeping you in step, as well as in the dark and mysterious “Coffin Man,” which clues you in that all is not as he seems.

However, Taku Iwasaki’s score isn’t all about the butler. “Di’a’vertiment,” with its crisp and heart-racing strings, brings you along with Ciel and Sebastian as they roam the streets of Victorian London, chasing the shadows that keep Ciel awake at night. You can bask in the easy elegance of “A Diabolic Waltz” with its breezy pace, but the drums boil up from below and keep you from feeling too secure in this dark landscape of nightmares and dreams. And I would be remiss not to mention the richly Indian-tinged music such as “The Stranger From India,” “As You Wish,” and “The Right Hand Of God,” all of which might seem out of place in this landscape until you realize that you must expect the unexpected here. Speaking of which, “Jazzin’” could be right at home in any twenties gangster flick, and “A Cup Of Tea And Scone For Master” actually sounds like you’re waking up in Phantomhive manor, preparing for the day ahead. But there is emotion amidst all of the atmospheric tunes, too. The gentle duet of “Memory For Madame Red One: Lady Red” and “Memory For Madame Red Two: The Color Of Licorice” are so tender and lovely that they bring a lump to my throat each time I hear them.

I could keep listing track after track, because this entire three-disc set is amazing and full of surprises. However, the sounds that best exemplify this incredible anime and always bring me directly into that dark realm are the chanting voices and exotic beats of “The Dark Crow Smiles.” This song is like being in the heart of this story: it’s dark, sexy, mysterious, and powerful. I’ve already posted the original version, so today I leave you with “The Dark Crow Smiles [Remix].” It takes everything from the original and focuses it, funneling all of the waves of black sound into one crushing blow. This album, and this story, are both amazing for their depth, sophistication, and surprisingly, soul. The Black Butler score is a musical journey that I can’t wait to take again and again and again, and that makes it my number one anime soundtrack.

And that’s it for Music for Otakus! I hope that you’ve enjoyed, little earbuds, and perhaps found a new song or two to whet your musical appetites. Though this series is over, fear not, because Miss Pink will continue to bring you scrumdiddlyumptious sound treats from both anime and beyond!

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Music For Otakus, Part VI: Voices Without Words

I hesitated this week, dear reader, because if I’m going full-throttle down the path of instrumental anime tracks, that could be a very long and winding road. It would be an enjoyable one to travel, to be sure, but where would it end, and how could it be divided? Choosing the best instrumental anime songs would be similar to choosing the prettiest fish in the sea, or the brightest firefly on a summer night. The task is near impossible. However, I can bring you this small list of crossover songs: mostly instrumental tracks that still utilize vocals, but not in any traditional way. In many instances I find these more powerful than songs with definitive lyrics, and certainly more conducive to the imagination as well as setting a mood. The ones on today’s Top 3 are especially dark and seductive, because that happens to be my favourite mode of musical transportation. Enjoy!

3.) Takefumi Haketa – Mystical Night Class (Vampire Knight)

For some reason I tend to forget just how awesome Vampire Knight is. The anime is excellent, the manga is beyond fantastic, and even the music is engaging as well as quite fitting. This track will always take me back to last December when I was just beginning to watch anime and I was utterly entranced by Kaname Kuran and all of the night class at Cross Academy. This is the scene in which the viewer first learns that all of the students in the night class are actually vampires, and it sets the scene so perfectly that I could describe it intimately despite the fact that I haven’t had a chance to rewatch this series in several months. I’ll spare the details, but just know that it’s a quiet, somber night, and suddenly an entire room of beautiful faces is lit up by the gleam of red eyes. It’s gothic and romantic and scary all at once, and I almost shudder whenever I hear this track. In fact, listening to it now as I write, it’s all I can do to finish this entry instead of running to the next room and popping in my DVD to experience it all over again. Twilight, schmilight. This is how vampire love stories should be told, and this is the music to those tales.

2.) Takanashi Yasuharu – Jigoku Nagashi (Hell Girl)

Another week, another list with a Hell Girl track. But this anime is worth its weight in all aspects: art, story, and the incredible music. I’ll never forget watching it and knowing that I had to find this song and add it to my collection. It’s one of the most powerful tracks that I’ve ever heard, anime or no, and it conveys intensity, foreboding, and darkness in a way that’s almost indescribable. It made my heart pound in my chest the first time I ever heard it as I watched Ai Enma prepare to drag someone to hell, and it has the same effect every other time I listen to it. You’d never guess from the quiet and eerie vocals at the opening of this song how loud and awe-inspiring it becomes by the end. If you listen closely you can even hear Hell Girl laughing softly as the drums rise and fall in your ears like crashing waves, giving you a taste of the cold fury that comes when one is being ferried to hell.

1.) Taku Iwasaki – The Dark Crow Smiles (Black Butler)

I can’t say enough about how intensely good everything about Black Butler is. I would love this anime even if the music were subpar, but luckily for me, it happens to be the best anime soundtrack I’ve ever heard. There are tracks for any mood and any occasion, but this one, this one is the root of why it’s so stupendously excellent. This is the music that plays whenever Sebastian Michaelis unleashes the scope of his demonic powers or shows his horrifying true form. It’s somber and elegant and unassuming at first, but then it expands and unfurls into mystery and power and all-encompassing darkness, just like Sebastian himself. It would be easy to assume that I’m being biased since Black Butler is my number one anime and Sebastian is my number one anime crush, but I would love this music no matter what venue introduced it to me. This song is intoxicating to the degree that I feel more powerful just by listening to it, and that is the mark of a great track, in my opinion. From the ominous monk-like chanting at the opening to the cool and creeping bass notes, then the muttered phrases, and finally the impatiently building strings dotted with slashes of horn, I can’t imagine a better way to audibly introduce an audience to the majestic figure that is true demon Sebastian Michaelis.

My “Music For Otakus” series is slowly drawing to a close, so don’t miss the exciting conclusion next week! (Or is it..?)

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Music For Otakus, Part V: Utterly Cool

In America we tend to use the word “cool” in place of “awesome” or “great” or even “fine.” The term “cool” can be bandied about more than the birdie in a game of badminton. However, in the world of anime, cool refers to a very specific type of character: aloof, admirable, and quiet but not shy. The cool person always keeps their, well, cool, no matter what the situation at hand may be. Things may be going to hell in a hand basket, but nothing will break the icy facade of someone truly cool. When I think of anime “cool,” one character springs immediately to mind: Kyoya Ootari from Ouran High School Host Club. And when I think of “cool” anime songs, that is to say, songs that fly below the radar of “badass” but pack more punch than the usual anime fare, the following are my Top Three.

3.) Lia – My Soul, Your Beats! (Angel Beats!)

I actually just began this odd and interesting anime series yesterday. Time will tell if the rest of the show lives up to its cool opening theme song. The piano draws you in with its aloof classical opening, then the backbeat slowly builds until everything is blending into one. However, it never becomes the pop explosion that you think it will. Instead it holds back, keeping an even keel and retaining its power. Not a bad start for any anime.

2.) Noto Mamiko – Ichinuke (Jigoku Shoujo Mitsuganae)

As soon as these sweeping opening notes start playing (which always bring to my mind any number of James Bond film themes) I feel that nothing more needs to be explained as to why this song is on this list. Noto Mamiko has a gorgeously soft and chilling voice as Hell Girl, but it especially shines when she sings. Unlike “Karinui,” the ending song for Hell Girl season one, “Ichinuke” lets go of some of the sadness and ups the cool quotient. There’s still a hint of melancholy, but that’s to be expected given that this is the closing to Hell Girl season three (otherwise known as Hell Girl: Three Vessels or Jigoku Shoujo Mitsuganae). If there is any kind of cold comfort to be found in this tale of psychological horror, it lies in this song.

1.) Kiuji Saori – Hitorikiri no Sora (Kaze no Stigma)

I was thoroughly drawn in to Kaze no Stigma from episode one, but when I heard this closing theme, that sealed the deal. I love the throwback to 80s electronica mixed in with current beats that could be found on any dance floor today. And yet, this song never becomes a sweaty rave or a cheesy ode to a bygone decade. It stays firmly within the world of sound that it created, though it keeps perpetuating a feeling of movement (which is excellent, considering that the anime series that spawned it is all about wind magic). I knew without a doubt that I had to have this song in my music library or else I would wear out my DVD by replaying the closing credits over and over and over again. This song has a curious effect on me in that I’m never sure if I want to dance or sit down and quietly contemplate my circumstances, but one thing is clear: it is the very essence of musical cool.

That’s it for this week’s chilly installment (and none too soon, considering how hot it’s been lately in my neck of the woods!). Tune in next time for more breaths of fresh audible anime air!

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Music For Otakus, Part IV: Totally Badass

This week’s selection of anime tunes is one that I think we all need to hear now and then: badass songs. Who doesn’t love the heart-pounding energy of a truly badass tune pumping you up for whatever may come your way? I know that I love them, particularly when I’m driving with the windows down on an empty highway. The only drawback is that I almost always end up speeding, but there’s something about blasting an amazing song that just propels me forward, ready to take on the world. The following songs are not only pure badass all unto themselves, but they also come from some pretty badass anime series, too.

3.) Jean-Jacques Burnel – You Won’t See Me Coming (Gankutsuou)

Jean-Jacques Burnel is best known as the bassist for The Stranglers, which is probably why his voice isn’t particularly potent (and it’s nearly god-awful on the opening song “We Were Lovers.”) However, when it comes to the closing theme to Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, somehow it works. The jangly guitars and space-age synths combined with the angry-sounding strings all work together to create a pop number with real punch. The lyrics are especially effective in the context of a story of vengeance as powerful as The Count of Monte Cristo. Bonus: the closing credits give you a taste of some of the amazing artwork to be found in this anime.

2.) Kishida Kyōdan & The Akeboshi Rockets – Highschool of the Dead (H.O.T.D.)

I just finished Highschool Of The Dead yesterday, but listening to this makes me want to watch the whole series again. The theme song is pretty much perfect for a horror series about zombies taking over: it starts off with emphatic drums and frantic guitars and never lets up from there. You’re just bombarded with sound from the start, and it’s nearly impossible to keep from headbanging in time to the beat. Like the series itself, I wasn’t too sure about this tune at first, but now I can’t get it out of my head. It’s become one of my favourite power songs in the past couple of months, and I can’t imagine not playing it when I need an instant dose of badass. A word of caution: there’s loads of fan service in this opening, so it’s probably NSFW. Depending upon where you work, of course.

1.) Abingdon Boys School – Howling  (Darker Than Black)

From the opening line, “Now I’ve lost it, I know I can kill,” I was immediately drawn into Darker Than Black as well as this song. It sets the tone for this intriguingly dark fantasy, and whenever I listen to it I’m there in that world. It makes me want to walk in slow motion while wearing a cool Matrix-style coat and looking grimly at the world around me. Unlike the other two songs on this list, “Howling” had me from the very first time I heard it, from the very first drumbeat. Something about the mixed Japanese/English lyrics (please ignore the poor translations in the video) and grinding guitars totally works and gives me exactly what I look for in a powerfully badass number. In my opinion, this completely awesome song speaks for itself. Listen and find your own inner badass.

Join me next week for even more aurally awesome anime adventures! (Say that five times fast!)

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Music For Otakus, Part III: Aurally Addictive Cuteness

Yes, I began this series of anime music posts with totally cute songs. And I realized almost as soon as I had posted that I’d made a critical error in leaving out today’s number one song. But then I thought about it more, and realized that my mistake was actually a fortunate one, because the songs that I bring to your attention in this post are in an entirely other realm of cuteness. Part I of Music For Otakus was filled with adorable toe-tapping numbers cute enough to make even the most sullen of people yell, “Kawaii!!!” and prance about merrily. However, the songs that I present to you now, dear reader, are so ear-bleedingly cute that they verge into annoying territory. The first time that you listen you might just dismiss them as obnoxious and not give it a further thought. But later on, be it in ten minutes or two days, you’ll find yourself subconsciously humming or stirring your coffee in time to a strangely peppy little ditty that you just can’t quite place. These songs, little earbuds, are those infectiously precious anime gems. And just like in the Japanese horror film Ringu, the only way to exorcise them from your brain is to make someone else listen and share in the horror, the marvelously darling horror of it all.

3.) Gotou Mai & Kurokawa Nami & Nishizawa Hiroka – Otome Ryouran Battle PARTY (Shin Koihime Musou)

After just three short episodes I was done with Shin Koihime Musou. The comedy was too base and vulgar, the story was too slow and lackluster, and the characters all washed together in an unidentifiable and unimaginative tangled mess. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wondered why, since it wasn’t a good anime (in my humble opinion) but it certainly wasn’t bad enough to warrant a second glance. Then I realized that my thoughts were instinctively drawn to the cotton candy sweetness of this ending theme song. It was the lantern in the darkened landscape of mediocre crass fan service, and my ears were the months, flitting in energetic circles around this tune. My older sister says that it sounds like a dance-off in a video game, and I couldn’t agree more. This song makes me want to move my feet in a frantic hopscotch of a dance. It also kind of makes me want to punch someone in the face.

2.) Namikawa Daisuke – Marukaite Chikyuu (Hetalia: Axis Powers)

This totally tiny song perfectly encapsulates all the silliness and fun of Hetalia: Axis Powers. The fact that it’s sung by the actor who is the actual voice of Italy in the anime is even better. Throughout the series the song changes lyrics and singers to create a dozen different variants. There’s a gruff version sung by Germany, a classical music-inspired interpretation by Austria, and a dreamy childlike rendition by Chibitalia. But the original remains my favourite, as none other is so ridiculously patriotic or joyfully indulgent. And none other took hold of my brain to the point that I was making up nonsensical words to fill in the blanks so that I could sing along every time that I watched the closing credits. And I watched the closing credits in full for every episode in season one. All twenty-six times. If that’s not infectious song crafting, I don’t know what is.

1.) Rocky Chack – Ringo Biyori ~ The Wolf Whistling Song           (Spice and Wolf)

Finally we come to the mother of all musical anime addictions. As soon as I heard this song for the first time at the close of Spice and Wolf season one, I instantly thought that it was childish and simple and sing-songy. And I freakin’ loved it. I listened and watched it over and over again to make certain that I got the words down, and in time I not only sung along with Rocky Chack as the fairy tale-esque closing artwork flashed by on the screen, but I would also burst into song for no reason at all when I wasn’t watching. In the car, at the supermarket, doing the laundry, whenever: if I saw a butterfly or ate an apple or someone asked me to pass the sugar (listen to the lyrics, all are mentioned there) I was off and running. I sang almost without the ability to control myself. It became a reflex, like scratching my elbow. I managed to dial it down in time, but just writing this entry has brought back the intense desire to bounce around and karaoke the hell out of this number. It’s cute, certainly, but almost scarily cute in how it weeds its way into your brain and won’t let go until you have performed your own recital several times over as though attempting to please Holo the Wise Wolf herself.

And those are my picks for the most frightfully darling anime songs in existence. Listen at your own peril, and be sure to come back next week to cleanse your palate with a whole new stew of anime music mayhem!

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Music For Otakus, Part II: Beautiful Feeling

Continuing last week’s anime music fest, today, because I’m feeling thoughtful, I give you my top three most beautiful songs from anime. This one was tougher to put together than you might think, because there really are some exceptionally gorgeous songs accompanying some exceptionally gorgeous anime shows out there. However, these three not only had an immediately arresting effect upon me at first contact, but they continue to aurally astound me with each further listen.

3.) Kanon – Saga~This is My Road (Guin Saga)

Yes, I mocked Guin Saga profusely in my initial review. But then I went back and gave it another chance, and this lovely song was part of the reason. It begins very Enya-esque, which I enjoy because I loved the hell out of Enya back in the day (still do, when I happen to catch one of her songs on shuffle). However, after the opening it becomes a creature of its own making, thanks in no small part to Kanon’s amazing vocals. I couldn’t find a video of Guin Saga’s closing animation to show you, but this concert video is just as good (if not better) because Kanon sounds almost exactly the same here, live, as she does on the official recording. As a singer myself, I can tell you that is impressive.

2.) Kuricorder Quartet & Yukawa Shione – Tameiki no Hashi (Allison & Lillia)

As soon as I watched Allison & Lillia for the first time, my breath literally caught in my throat during the opening credits. I usually have no idea what to expect with a new anime series, and I certainly wasn’t expecting such a gorgeous song right off the bat. I kept thinking over and over, “This is beautiful. This is just beautiful.” The vocals and instrumentation are so clear and simple, but they meld together in a way that elevates my senses. I can honestly say that I was moved when I heard this song, and I continue to be each time I listen to it. The fact that the anime is exceptional is icing on the cake (look for my review in the coming weeks on Otaku Haiku!).

1.) Kalafina – Lacrimosa (Black Butler)

As I’ve mentioned numerous times over on Otaku Haiku, Black Butler is the origin of my intense love for anime. This song, from the closing credits of season two part one, is also the origin of my obsession with anime music. (The closing animation for Black Butler is lovely, of course, but I adore this masquerade-themed video so much that I had to post it instead.) It gives me chills every time I hear it. It’s passionate and gothic and beautiful, which is an unbeatable combination in my book. The violins soar, the operatic chanting is solemn yet full of emotion, and the drums carry it further and further toward the brink. Of what, you may ask? Of wherever your mind may wander during this amazing four minutes and fourteen seconds.

I’ll never forget my joy at finding this song, and how I listened to it again and again and again during the month that I waited for Black Butler season one part one to be released on DVD. I took it with me on a trip to NYC and listened to it on the plane there, in the taxi to the hotel, late at night when everyone else was asleep and I kept my iPod pressed to my belly so as to hide the screen’s light, in the taxi on the way to the airport, and on the plane ride home again. And despite the hundreds of times that I’ve listened to “Lacrimosa,” I never fail to get that same feeling of excitement and swept-away loveliness that I heard the first time. The fact that I also see Sebastian Michaelis in my head whenever I hear it is just another bonus. This song is the reward in and of itself.

Tune in next week, same bat time, same bat channel, to hear more musical stylings from the world of anime!

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Music For Otakus, Part I: Totally Cute

As anyone who knows me will corroborate, I’m pretty obsessive about music. I’m also fairly obsessive about whatever flight of fancy has taken hold of me in the moment. At present that would be anime, which I’m loving (almost) every minute of (you’ll note that on Otaku Haiku the positive reviews far outweigh the negative). One thing that can take an average anime and push it over the top for me is great music. When two obsessions combine, watch out!

It’s been a while since I updated with a Top Three, and when I looked back over my previous entries I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t posted any anime music lists. All that is about to change. However, since there is so much great anime music, I’m splitting my favourites up into three (maybe more) separate lists. Today, because it’s grey and dreary, I give you my version of stereo sunshine: my top three cutest anime songs.

3.) Ogura Yuko – Onna no Ko Otoko no Ko (School Rumble)

The ending theme song from School Rumble Season One is all about how stupid boys are. But it’s not as sexist as that statement sounds. Instead it’s just mod-sounding cutie-patootie fun all over. The B-side of this single, “Koi no Jumon wa Papa-PiPu-Pa” is even cuter, if you can believe it, but it’s ineligible because it’s not actually used in the anime. Not to fear, this one will have you bouncing out of your chair and go-go dancing after the first verse.

2.) Chatmonchy – Koko Dake no Hanashi (Princess Jellyfish)

Princess Jellyfish! There is nothing un-cute about this anime, and its opening theme song is no exception. (Can you name all the pop culture references? I couldn’t before I looked it up!) I can’t wait to share this anime with my siblings once it finally sees the light of DVD in 2012. Wonderfulness of the actual anime aside, I was hooked from episode one as soon as I heard this song. It sounds the way that the anime as a whole comes across: realistic, sincere, hopeful. And of course, completely cute.

1.) Dimitri from Paris – Neko Mimi Mode (Tsukuyomi: Moon Phase)

This was one of the first anime series that I ever purchased, sight unseen, just because the cover art and story description were right up my alley. When I watched the show, I became instantly obsessed with this song. It’s peppy and electronic and just makes me want to dance. I do dance, actually. I have a “Neko Mimi Mode” dance that I do specifically for this song that makes my sisters laugh every time. My older sister even made this song into a ringtone that plays whenever I call her. The lyrical translation roughly amounts to, “Kitty ear mode” repeated over and over and over, but somehow it works. As for the animation itself, I don’t know why she’s pooping turtle eggs, or hiding in a bear suit, or naked in a bowl of noodles. All I do know is that this is the cutest damn song ever.

And that, my friends, is my list of super cute (but not too cute [Daria reference? Anyone?]) anime songs. Tune in next week to hear more musical stylings from the world of anime!

Editor’s Note: Wow, I completely forgot one of the absolute cutest anime songs of all time (as cute as “Neko Mimi Mode” even!). But have no fear, little earbuds: you can expect a second installment of totally super cute anime songs, coming soon!

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Gather The Stars And Build A Castle Of Sand

Another day, another late night (or at the very least late evening) post. I have been so caught up in visits with family and watching anime that I had all but forgotten about today’s update. Of course, the fact that today felt like a Saturday didn’t help. I just finished watching Ouran High School Host Club with my sisters (second viewing for my younger sister and myself, first viewing for the elder sister). We all loved it, of course. And now we’re getting ready to catch older sister up on Vampire Knight.

In discussing things with the siblings, I’m thinking that I’ll change the schedule for this blog and only update it once a week while keeping Otaku Haiku updates at twice a week. I just get more and more obsessed with anime and manga, which in turn means that I look forward to updating Otaku Haiku more than Hot Pink Headphones. Plus part of this whole blogging experiment is supposed to be about inspiring me to write more of my novel by forcing me to write five days out of a week. But what actually happens is that I spend all my time blogging and not working on the book. And that’s just no good. So fear not, little earbuds! I’ll still be tromping about the interwebz, finding new bands or classic video nuggets to share. And hopefully I’ll spend the rest of my time on that delightful book. Seriously, you should hang onto your seats, it’s gonna be a doozy.

With that I give you some Friday night neoclassical J-rock. I fell in love with Kanon Wakeshima before I found Vampire Knight, but the fact that this amazing song, “Suna No Oshiro,” is used in the credits to Vampire Knight Guilty just makes it that much more delicious. Enjoy this delightful Gothic Lolita treat!

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