Put a Tune to It: Western Songs for Anime

I got nominated for a tag by tcrow over at Crow’s World of Anime! I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve done any tags and this was an incredibly fun one to dig into. At first I thought I was going to have a hard time with this, depending on my mood my musical tastes can get very eclectic and there’s normally a lot of musicals involved, which won’t fit a lot of anime. Then I started actually thinking about it and my selections came to me within about an hour, but before we get to them, let’s do the housekeeping.

First this tag was originally set in motion by Dewbond over at Shallow Dives in Anime and here’s the rules!

  • Choose any number of western songs (any genre) that you think best sums up an anime or manga of any type or genre.
    • If you want to pick more than 1 from each section that’s fine. Or if you can’t think of one for a specific category that’s fine also.
  • Explain why you think your choices could work. Is it the lyrics? The tune and the beat? Or just the music video?
  • Link back to the original post so I can read people’s suggestions, I’d love to read everyone’s ideas.
  • Include Put a Tune to It in your tags so everyone including myself can find them all easily.
  • Nominate around 1-5 bloggers. My nominations will be at the bottom.

And so, without any further delay, let’s get this show on the road!

Halloween-Themed (Soul Eater)

Okay, we’ll start off with a pretty obvious one and the first thing that came into my head. This is Halloween by Marilyn Manson. Does this really need any explanation? I must have seen a dozen amvs with this set to snippets of Soul Eater or any anime with a halloween episode over the years. It just fits so well. Every time I hear this version of the song I automatically see Maka and Soul standing under that grinning crescent moon, Blair riding a pumpkin somewhere in the background.

Mecha (Gundam)

And we’ll follow that up with another song that I automatically associate with anime, Mr. Roboto by Styx. This one I can blame on the review site SF Debris, because his reviews of Gundam 0080 had this song set over the credits and its been fixed in my brain ever since. I love that beat as they sing the ‘domo arigato’ part, it works so well as a marching beat as a gundam or some other mecha is deployed for action. Plus the song is unmistakably 80s and I always think of the 80s when I think of mecha, that’s another common association in my brain.

Drama (Sound Euphonium)

Right, taking a step away from long-held associations, let’s pick something a bit more current (at least in the fact that I’ve only recently discovered this band), Brighter by Against The Current. This song is really for any series that has either a main character or a large portion of the cast who are a little unsure of themselves. They’re lacking in confidence, but as the series progresses as they begin to discover themselves bit by bit and let their passions ignite. For me this song really suits Kumiko from Sound Euphonium, specifically towards the end of the series when she’s decided that she wants to be truly special along with Reina and is ready to throw her all into the band’s performance.

Gangster (91 Days)

And now, something a little more offbeat (I knew I’d get one in here somewhere). Gangsta’s Paradise by Postmodern Jukebox ft. Robyn Adele Anderson. I love the Postmodern Jukebox, they often take more current songs and perform them in a more retro style and this happens to be one of my favourite covers they’ve done. Can’t you just smell the smokey atmosphere in some rundown speakeasy as you listen to this? It fits so well with 91 Days as well, considering that anime is set during prohibition, I can just see Angelo and Nero sitting and sharing a drink while this plays, all the while Angelo is slowly reaching for his gun.

Shonen (One Piece)

Okay, maybe the last two choices have been me trying to get songs I really like on to this list and, well, here’s another one (though in my defence I think this one really fits). Friendship Song by Brennley Brown (featured in Tangled the Series). Considering how many shonen series are all about the power of friendship and unbreakable bonds, this song is really just perfect. It’s intended to be about two friends, but I think it works just as well for a group, like say the Strawhat pirates. They can always rely on one another, they’ll always have one another’s backs and be there through the laughs and the tears, as the song says, ‘we fit together perfectly’.

Shonen (My Hero Academia)

Another common trend in shonen anime is that their main protagonists are often optimistic dreamers. They’ve got these big, impossible dreams and there’s no shortage of people ready to tell them how unattainable their goal is. Yet that won’t deter them, they have….High Hopes by Panic! At The Disco (did you see what I did there? Of course you did and I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist that one.) I can just see Midoriya charging forward as this plays, All for One or some other villain cackling away until Midoriya comes out of nowhere and smashes them out of the way and ready to declare ‘I am here!’

Epic Fantasy (Fate series)

Last one! Actually this one may be cheating a little bit because I first discovered this song in an amv using clips from Fate/Zero and Garden of Sinners fused together into the best amv I have ever seen (look for Steel Fenders amv on Youtube, I hope it’s still there). Ever since Iron by Woodkid has been linked to the fate series in my brain. From the first blast of those trumpets to that rising beat, this song is the very definition of epic to me. It fills my head with images of climatic battles, legends brought to life and just a sense of majesty that makes me want to grovel in my unworthiness (which is often how I feel about the fate series when it’s at its best). If you haven’t heard this song, then listen and thank me later.

Hmm….there’s not as much rock on this list as I thought there was going to be, or electro swing for that matter. Ah well, we’ll leave it here for now. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my choices, I certainly had a lot of fun putting this together and thanks Crow for nominating me!

As for who I’ll nominate, apologises if you’ve already been selected, but I’ll go with:

Scott

Ospreyshire

Jon Spencer

Irina

Karandi

Of course anyone else who is interested please join in.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Anime Corner: Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans Season 2 Review

Blog Gundam Iron 2 Review Title

The iron flower that shall never wilt

What’s the Story?

The former child soldiers of Tekkadan have finally carved out a life for themselves. Now a legitimate organisation with wages and everything, they’ve finally built the home they never had, but is that enough? There are still those who look down on them, who see them as nothing more than human debris or pawns in other people’s schemes. Unfortunately they only know one way to get what they want and that is to fight, charging from one battlefield to the next in the hopes that this will be the last one. As a civil war erupts in Gjallarhorn, Earth’s peacekeeping force, Tekkadan is drawn into the conflict, though they may have picked the wrong side. Can the kids find a way to live in this world, or will the iron flower finally wilt?

The Review

The first season of Iron Blooded Orphans is not only one of favourite seasons of the franchise, but just anime in general (check out my review here), this second season though, I don’t know. There are parts that are fantastic, so many moments that are thought provoking and heart wrenching, the same great characters that we fell in love with before as well as a couple of interesting new characters. The series is just as dark and brutal as before, more so in some instances. But then there are other parts that are meandering or pointless and in some cases just downright wrong. Honestly it feels like two different writing teams wrote this series, with the good team having to deal with the utter junk the other team was forcing on them.

Now there will be plenty of spoilers ahead as I’m going to need to drag up some examples to sort out my feelings about this series, so if you want to go in blind, skip to the Verdict at the end.

We’ll start in the good camp with Mcgillis Fareed. Now it’s hard to classify Mcgillis because he’s kind of both a protagonist and antagonist at the same time. It goes with this whole series’ outlook that there are no villains, just people with different goals. I mean from certain viewpoints Tekkadan themselves can appear to be the villains, mercenaries with ties to organised crime, ruthless in battle and with a higher body count than most mortuaries. It’s a message I appreciate, but it does hurt the series. Because there’s no grand villain or major goal, the plot just kind of meanders around the place, with Tekkadan lurching from one random battle to the next. Which I guess is the point. These are child soldiers, fighting and violence is all they know, they don’t know another way to get what they want. (Spoiler!) It takes the utter destruction of Tekkadan for them to begin to move past their upbringing and become a part of a better world, though not all of them can escape the life of violence. Still would have been nice for the plot to feel a bit more cohesive during the beginning and middle sections.

Anyway, I was talking about Mcgillis. This season does a great job of letting us inside his head more. I mean season 1 kind of left his motivations a bit vague, other than Gjallarhorn’s corrupt as anything and he wants to remake it. In season 2 we get to learn how messed up a person Mcgillis is, he’s a child who was mentally, physically and sexually abused (I mentioned this season got darker in places right?) as such he believes that power alone is the only thing that will change the world. He’s also a master manipulator, using everyone around him until he can rise to the top. Honestly most of the time I don’t know whether to root for him or punch him. I kept expecting him to turn into the series’ villain, he certainly did some bad things, but he did it for a good cause, to reform Gjallarhorn. It’s just that his way wasn’t the right way, like Tekkadan he was trapped in the thinking that violence and brutality were the only answers to the world’s problems.

Okay, bad thing now. This show and women. It’s weird, sometimes it gets it right, sometimes not, but then I guess Iron Blooded Orphans has always has a weird view on women. I mean the child bride and the criminal with a harem of women, all of which are his “wives”, was iffy for me in the first season, but it managed to just edge the line, I mean there were some good female characters in there. Season 2 takes it across the line though. I’m assuming the term “women in refrigerators” is used frequent enough on the internet that it doesn’t need an in depth explanation, in short, it’s when a woman is killed off purely to effect the story of the male characters. Season 2 has one of those moments, the villains behind it even openly admit that’s why they’re doing it. I was so angry I nearly stopped watching at that point, it’s pointless, I take that back, it does have a point and that point is manipulative and a waste of a good character (doesn’t help that it happen to someone who I’d really grown to care for across the two seasons).

Good stuff. Think of good stuff. Yes, new characters, haven’t talked about them yet. While there are a bunch of new faces, a lot of them get the short end of the stick, with very little development or time to shine. There is one that I think is a brilliant addition to the cast, and that is Julieta. At first she wasn’t all that great, she was standoffish and cold, a pale imitation of Mika for the Gjallarhorn side, but she grew on me. Unlike Mika she wasn’t a born badass and had to work hard to gain strength, though I think the moment I really started to like her was when she was fighting Mika and came to realise that she wants power, but not at the expense of her humanity. She matured and by the end had a grudging respect for the kids of Tekkadan, but she was able to leave the violence behind and remain human.

The Verdict

The second season of Iron Blooded Orphans isn’t as good as the first. It has some great elements, the characters are just as engaging as ever and the animation is gorgeous and action-packed (the battle between Mika and the Mobile Armour stands out as a highlight just for how jaw-dropping and brutal it is). The story is thought provoking and has a real heart to it, though it will smash your heart to pieces by the end. This is a bittersweet story, with these characters and this world it couldn’t really be anything else, but the plot has a tendency to meander too much and several of the new characters never get a chance to shine. There are also several questionable elements that stop me from liking this series as much as I want to. I’m half-tempted to say to skip this, but if you can put up with the questionable stuff, the moments when this series is on point are really worth the slog to get to them. Just remember to pack the tissues.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday. 

Anime Corner: Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans Review

Blog Iron Orphans Review Title

The iron flower that will never wilt.

What’s the Story?

Mikazuki and his friends live on a poverty stricken Mars, thought of as little more than ‘human debris’ they are expendable labour that their bosses use to do all the dangerous jobs, oh I should probably mention that they’re all kids as well. Things start to change though when the security company they work for agrees to take the head of a movement for Martian independence, Kudelia Aina Bernstein, to Earth. The corrupt Earth security forces, Gjallarhorn, soon attack to get at Kudelia. As Mika pilots a Gundam to save his friends, a journey begins. The kids will leave behind their old world in search of a place where they won’t die in vain. A revolution is beginning, but to reach their destination they must cross a blood-soaked battlefield.

The Review

Intense is one word to describe this anime, brutal would be another, so don’t say you weren’t warned before going in. It can be slightly deceptive at first, the anime starts out not exactly happy, but kind of hopeful. Here’s all these kids that are oppressed and abused and now they’re taking their stand. Now they’re in charge and are off on an adventure to find a place where they can belong and live a life full of meaning. Then people start dying, it never gets gory, but there’s blood in an overabundance and a darkness to this series, especially when people start shouting about revenge. Now Gundam doesn’t exactly shy away from dark subject matter, they are happy to look at the dark side of war, but never quite this, well like I said at the beginning, brutally. It is warranted though when you stop to think about the subject matter, our main characters are child soldiers, our villains are a corrupt military force and we hit themes of slavery, war and revolution. This won’t end well is all I’m saying, or if it does it will be a bleedin’ miracle (emphasise on the bleedin’).

All that being said I won’t hesitate to recommend this series. It’s not perfect I do have to admit that, but it comes damned close. The story runs the gambit between heart-wrenchingly sad to air-punchingly awesome. I have cheered and cried so much at this anime, there have been entire episodes were I’ve been locked in a permanent state of exhilaration. This anime is full of interesting and likeable characters, most of whom are stuck in a grey area where you don’t whether they’re good or bad (this especially applies to our lead character of Mikazuki). You root for all of them, even when they’re verging towards the dark side.

The animation is top notch. The multitude of settings are gorgeous to look at, from the dilapidation of Mars, to the cold expanses of space and finally to the beauty of Earth. You really believe that these are living and breathing worlds. Throw on top of that some mind-blowing action and you have an anime that is a joy to watch. Then you have the music. I wish I had a degree in music or something so I could properly describe the soundtrack to this series, all I can really say is its fantastic and I could listen to it all day. It’s not the music you expect from a Gundam anime, a lot of it has a Spanish vibe to it, but it fits the series so well.

I did mention that this series wasn’t perfect and there are a couple of issue, nothing that derails the anime, but its stuff that could be improved (hopefully in the upcoming second season). My main reservation is with the villain of the piece. Now every Gundam series needs its masked antagonist, and while I appreciate that he technically doesn’t appear until the halfway point he does come right the hell out of nowhere. I get his back story and what the anime was trying to do with him, but doesn’t get enough of the spotlight for me to be properly invested. There’s so much left to be explored with him and I think he could be a great villain if we get that, the ending certainly sets him as a detestable enough character. I really wish Mikazuki got the chance to punch his lights out, but I guess that’s what season 2 is going to be for.

The main cause of this spotlight issue is due to just the sheer amount of characters involved in the story. We’ve got the kids who make up the bulk of the main cast, the various factions of Gjallarhorn, the gangsters that the kids partner up with, politicians of Earth and many more inbetween, and none of these groups are small. It’s a sizeable company this anime keeps and for the most part it does manage to balance everyone. Of course some characters get more spotlight than others, but no one feels like fodder simply there to die at a dramatic point and the anime does a wonderful job of giving everyone a fleshed out personality.

Speaking of the characters, special mention has to go to probably one of the most interesting and possibly unique bromances I’ve seen in anime, Mikazuki and Orga. Individually these are two really interesting characters. Mikazuki is actually quite the little psychopath. He has an air of detachment about himself; he’s never overly emotional and sees the world in very straightforward way. You get the sense that his attention is focussed on a single point off in the distance all of the time, yet when his friends are in danger all that attention focusses in the person trying to hurt them and let’s just say you don’t want to be that guy. Also his budding relationship with Kudelia is a joy to watch.

Then there’s Orga. He’s the boss and sometimes you forget just how young he is as he struggles to carry the burden of leadership. You root for him all the way as he struggles to turn this group of ‘human debris’ into a family and find them a place where they won’t have to live with such inequality and die so meaninglessly. His relationship with Mikazuki is probably the most interesting part of his character though. At first it just appears like Mikazuki is a good soldier, following around Orga because he’s a good general, but as the anime progresses we start to see that these two need one another. Yes Mikazuki needs Orga to lead him, because otherwise he has no idea where he’s going, but Orga also needs Mikazuki. Mikazuki drives Orga to do more, to be better, to fulfil his promise and lead them all to a better place.

The Verdict

In the end Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans is probably one of the darker and brutal additions to the Gundam franchise, but it’s filled with great characters a rich setting and some fantastic action sequences. You get giant robots beating one another up and a great story, what more could you ask for? I can’t wait for the second season.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday. 

Anime Corner: Gundam Seed Review

Blog Gundam Seed Review Title

Can’t we all just get along?

What’s the Story?

Two friends find themselves on opposite sides of an escalating conflict. It’s the Naturals vs. the Co-ordinates (humans that underwent genetic modification before they were born). Kira Yamato is a Co-ordinator, but when other Co-ordinators invade a space colony to get their hands on experimental mobile suits, Kira finds himself fighting alongside the Earth Forces and piloting one of the new ‘Gundams’. Kira fights to protect his friends, but this puts him at odds with his childhood friend, Athrun. As Kira sinks deeper and deeper into the conflict, can he work out exactly what he’s fighting for?

The Review

Now with this review I’m judging Seed purely on its own merits. Mostly because I think that’s fair and partially because I haven’t seen that many Gundam series so I can’t really speak as to Seed’s place in the great tapestry of things. I do love the Gundam franchise, ever since I saw Gundam Wing as a kid (it was giant robots blowing stuff up, how could I not love it?), and I’ve always meant to check out the other series it’s just that one thing or another has always got in the way. So, enough preamble, what’s the series like?

We’ll start with probably my favourite part of the series, the characters. There’s oh so many of them, and I like them all. The main cast are engaging and intriguing, it’s a joy to watch them as they each progress through their own arcs, dealing with the consequences of war, even if not everyone makes it to the finish line. The supporting characters, while without as much depth as our numerous central characters, are all enjoyable even if just in how crazy some of them are. There isn’t enough space on the internet for me to go through all of them and why I like them, so let’s stick to the best of the best.

Kira is at the centre of this anime. We follow him as he struggles to come to terms with the reality of war. He wants to protect his friends and fights to save them, but that means killings other people, something that doesn’t agree with him. Yet the haunting memories of all those he couldn’t save (and a certain crazy red head) push him to continue fighting and killing. You can sympathise with Kira, he’s just a nice kid forced into an extreme situation by circumstances. There is a sense of joy when Kira finally comes to terms with himself, finally working out what he has to protect and what he has to fight against.

Kira doesn’t take up all of the spotlight by himself though. There’s his best pal Athrun. He’s intelligent, level-headed and always the good soldier. He’s a good guy. He’s just fighting for the wrong side. Then again this anime clearly shows that there are no right sides. Both the Earth Forces and ZAFT have some pretty detestable people in the upper tiers. There’s an old quote about lions being led by sheep, this is more a case of being led by cockroaches (though that analogy is probably being unfair to cockroaches). Athrun’s journey is to come to terms with the idea that the higher ups don’t always have the answer and to find his own way to live and fight.

As for the ladies we have Lacus and Cagalli. Lacus is probably one of the most surprising characters in Seed. She starts off as the airy pop singer, there to be the Mary Sue love interest who can do no wrong and allow the anime to stick a couple of songs in. But then Lacus actually develops. She shows a shocking amount of determination and guts. She changes from the angel maiden princess type into the fierce leader of a revolution. My favourite scene has to be when she gives Athrun a verbal smack down as he struggles to reconcile his sense of right with his father’s orders.

Cagalli is the tomboy of the group. She’s hot-headed and has a tendency to act with her heart rather than her head. She was a little annoying at first, but as the series progresses she calms down. It’s clear that she cares a lot and is a capable pilot. I know she only has a small role in the final battle, but I still have to give props for having a main female character getting to pilot a Gundam in the final battle (its better than we normally get).

One last note on the character front (considering I’ve already taken up most of this review talking about them, told you I could go on forever), but that brings me to an interesting character, Flay. To sum up, she is seriously messed up. I mean the damsel in distress is an unfortunately common trope, but making yourself into a damsel to make the hero go out and kill people. Using and manipulating someone like that….that’s just….that’s messed up. I can’t say I like her as a character that much, but it’s fascinating to watch her transform from girl next door into devious she-witch and back into a semblance of normal again.

On the story front Seed always performs pretty well. The entire series is basically the crew of the Archangel stumbling from one disaster to the next, fighting to survive. Yet this never really gets boring. The fights are tense and exciting and there are plenty of different locations and enemies to add new flavours to the conflicts. It handles its themes of war and racism pretty well. Neither side of this conflict is painted as wholly good or wholly bad. It’s all just people struggling to survive or avenge their fallen and when you look at it that way, there really isn’t that much difference between the Naturals and the Co-ordinators.

The only real dent in the story I feel is the reveal that this war is the result of the manipulations of a madman. It doesn’t excuse the higher ups that continued to escalate this conflict and kept going on about wiping out the enemy and protecting their pure world (never trust anyone who goes on about something being ‘pure’ kids), but it kind of just feels like they did it to give the series a big bad that Kira can take on in the final episode. Also there’s that whole Seed thing. It’s in the title of the series yet it hardly ever gets brought up. Oh sure Kira and Athrun use its power all the time, but as far as I recall we only get one or two instances of being told what it actually is. It never feels all that important and I can’t remember a reason as to why only Kira and Athrun have this power, outside of the fact that they’re the main characters.

On the animation front, the battles and everything else are very good when it counts. This is a 50 episode series so of course there are multiple occasions of reused frames and flashbacks to make that budget stretch. That’s understandable and in all honestly I kind of expected it. The animation is starting to show its age a bit nowadays, but it holds up just fine.

The Verdict

Gundam Seed is a great series that manages to marry tremendous action with through provoking ideas and great characters, which is what the Gundam franchise has always been good at. You’ll come for the giant robots, but you’ll stay for the characters.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.