Shoegaze And A Hangover (12 Days of Anime 2016 Day 4)

So following up my post two days ago about the nadir of my life and my post yesterday about getting back into writing about anime and gaining a greater appreciation for anime analysis early in the year, I am now going to transition into a major part of my summer. Which was getting drunk alone after work on blisteringly difficult 70+ hour work weeks. The reason I was getting drunk was fairly simple. I hadn’t drank in over 9 months while getting back on my feet financially and getting in a good head space, as well as to maintain a heavy work schedule I wasn’t used to.

But I love to drink. I’m pretty sure I inherited my Mother’s and Grandfather’s propensity for overconsumption of alcohol and just like them it’s led me to trouble more then a few times. Luckily it hasn’t delivered me to the Grim Reaper like it did them. But morbid tales aside, when you’ve settled in to working 70+ hours a week and have unchecked insomnia, you might find you look to the sauce to pursue any scarce bit of shut-eye you can scavenge. Oh wait, that is kind of morbid…well whatever. And at almost exactly the same point in summer I found out about Demolition D’s [“Demo” henceforth] Ustream channel.

I was definitely a fan of anime analysis at this point, but I needed more of it in video\audio format so I could listen to it at work. But there are only so many times you can rewatch Digibro’s massive stock of analysis videos before you crave other analytical perspectives like a connoisseur craves fine wines. Demo does not not have a large amount of analysis in most of his videos, and they aren’t very long in total – I’d say 8 minutes on average at best. But I hadn’t yet explored much of the YouTube analytical sphere, so after I exhausted most of Digibro’s collection I turned to Demo. He hadn’t been making many videos so I checked his twitter and wound up following a link to his UStream. And after that, endless drunken nights of reverie ensued.

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A screencap of one of Demo’s streams on my phone.

It had turned out that instead of making more videos about anime, almost every night starting at between 12:45am and 1:30am, Demo would stream music, movies, anime, music videos, short films, and more on his Ustream and would be in the chat with a bunch of crazy drunk weebs just like me. Demo would often imply he was drinking, and others (like me) would mention we were drinking every night. So it was like we all got drunk in our respective places after work and told bad jokes in a chat client while we binge watched artsy shit. Oftentimes, streams would spiral out of control as the sun came up and devolve into droning music videos, minutes of looped anime gifs, long blank screens, and obscure anime shorts; like the much more emotional than it sounds Kanamewo, where a woman finds an alien frog girl, brings her home, and fucks her – all set to a heavily experimental post-rock/shoegaze song. Not that I had any idea what I was watching until much later, as Demo would usually no longer be attempting to communicate in chat at this point. Sometimes I didn’t make it through the whole streams, as I would successfully drink until passing out and manage to sleep for at least an hour or two before getting up to chug massive amounts of water, shower, and head to work barely sobered up.

So in a quest to be able to fill my time at work listening to the interesting music that Demo played on his streams, I found his SoundCloud and started with his “This Shit Right Here” playlist. I spent days at work listening to this playlist and related tracks continuously while I monotonously cleaned university carpets with boiling hot steam and a rotovac. And so I discovered Tokyo Shoegazer, through Demo’s repost of their song “Bright”.

What is Tokyo Shoegazer? Tokyo Shoegazer is a Japanese shoegaze band. What is shoegaze? Essentially it’s alternative rock with heavy distortion in the guitars, fuzzy singing, lots of feedback, and a blurred format overwhelmingly suitable for lengthy songs. the reason it’s called shoegaze originates from how the bands perform their songs. The genre involves a lot of on stage tweaking of the whammy bar and more notably playing with a large number of floor pedals to create layered tones and experimental sounds. Hence, looking at the ground – shoegazing.

Now that I’ve recently discovered what it is, I’ve realized I love shoegaze. It’s the perfect genre for me right now. The vocals are dream-like, the soundscapes epic and sweeping, and the format inspiring in it’s incredible artistry. It’s MY FAVORITE aesthetic. And I’ve only just scratched the surface. I could get into a lot more detail about this genre, but I’m running out of time to get this post up and I want to explore the genre more before I talk more about it again. I also don’t want to embarrass myself talking about music when I have such a narrow understanding of the medium. Here are a couple wide-appeal Japanese shoegaze albums for you to listen to if you are interested in the genre. The first one is more blurred and dreampop-esque and the second is more like post-rock.

 

 

If it was Digibro who got me in to anime analysis, then it was Demolition D who got me in to shoegaze. Now that I think of it, the summer I spent watching Demo’s streams and drinking my insomnia into submission was a lot like the winding narrative and blurred imagery of a shoegaze record. I hope you found some intrigue in this sprawling post about nothing in particular. Have a good one. until next time, VasA out.

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VasA’s Twelve Days of Anime, Day Four: I Like Beer… – And Shoegaze!

This post is part of the The Twelve Days Of Anime, which is an event where over the 12 days leading to Christmas (the 14th to 25th of December), Bloggers and YouTubers share 12 impactful moments they had relating to anime during the year.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time.

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The Anime Community Ignites My Soul (12 Days of Anime 2016 Day 3)

So on the third day of the 12 days of anime, I’m jumping back to the early 2016 with this quick post. Around the beginning and into the early part of 2016, I wanted some podcasts to listen to at my work. And since I love anime I defaulted to Podtaku, which I hadn’t listened to in some time. Podtaku, if you don’t know, is a podcast that was started by four YouTube anime critics (Holden [HoldenReviews], Jeanne [AnimeAppraisal], Gigguk [TheAnimeZone], and Arkada [GlassReflection]) to talk about anime in a more loose format. It was the first anime podcast to prove that people wanted an anime podcast on YouTube, as it got insanely higher view counts than any other anime podcast available at the time.

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As 2016 began there was a horrific crash and burn of the podcast, which had since evolved into a much larger group of anime YouTubers than it had been before, and become the standard that everyone wanted to copy the success of by having their own anime podcasts.

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At this time I was also getting back into anime in a big way. I passively lamented the passing of Podtaku. I was never really the biggest fan of the podcast, but I want some weebs talking about anime in my ears while I work, alright?

Then, Ninouh, one of my favorite members of the expanded Podtaku, started doing YouTube live streams, mainly on Friday nights and Saturday nights, where he would just call up friends and other anime YouTubers on skype (including the very popular: Gigguk, Demolition D+, and Digibro).

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Those live streams not only gave me something entertaining and sometimes educational to listen to at work, but also reignited my passion for writing about anime and introduced me to the world of detailed anime analysis, by the way of the guests on the live streams. Among the first of which were Digibro’s book-length video series on the Asterisk War and Demolition D’s three video, 45 minute in-total comparison of anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion and the Evangelion Rebuild films.
I loved learning about anime and people’s perspectives on the medium. It felt much more engaging than the typical review structure I was used to hearing\reading. And I wanted to write in that style. So I’ve been preparing to. I’ve since done much more reading of critical analysis, studying its structure and applying it to my own writing.

I now have a MASSIVE backlog of partially completed anime posts I’m working on and they are now starting to come out, that with my first 2 posts of the 12 days of anime out and my plans for posts next year. One of my future posts is actually now the longest thing I’ve written in my entire life. So what I’m really trying to say is that the anime community has set my soul on fire. Even though I still work 60+ hours a week at a soul-sucking job out of obligation, I now have something I truly want to work for on my own time.

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VasA’s Twelve Days of Anime, Day Three: I Like Anime Analysis

This post is part of the The Twelve Days Of Anime, which is an event where over the 12 days leading to Christmas (the 14th to 25th of December), Bloggers and YouTubers share 12 impactful moments they had relating to anime during the year.

By the way, if you don’t know me, then hey I’m VasA and thanks for stopping by! See you next time.

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How Your Lie In April Began To Change Everything (12 Days of Anime 2016 Day 2)

I remember watching quite a few first episodes of shows at the onset of the Fall 2014 anime season, as I wanted to do a first impressions post on my anime blog about them all. And I notably remember dropping Shirobako, feeling I couldn’t relate at all to its characters. Now I realize that was because of the pain I felt watching others struggle towards their goals as I spun my wheels in the mud, unwilling to get out and push. My life had spiraled out of control and I had reached the nadir of my depression. The lowest point of my entire life. I was afraid of change, afraid of the past, apprehensive over my future. I was unconsciously searching for something to add color to my bleak world. So when I watched the first episode of Your Lie in April, I was immediately entranced. The images and sounds were burned into my mind as my eyes glued themselves to the screen. It was one of the most impactful experiences I have ever had with a work of art. It brought out so many painful emotions and deep seated anxieties, yet I felt something reaffirming in the subtext of the narrative. And I clung to it for dear life.

 

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Life in monotone…

 

Before I knew it, against the gray fall skies, under the black curtain of my shut eyes, Your Lie In April’s narrative took root in me and bloomed anew. Over. And over. And over again. And every time my heart remembered it, it was like all the walls around me began to crumble to dust and scatter on the wind.

 

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…turns to color.

 

I could connect with the characters almost immediately. Their introductions said so much about them. Kaori was setup as an inquisitive and impulsive heroine, chasing a cat all over on an apparent whim. Kosei was reserved with no regard for himself, with some emotions clearly locked away tightly inside him. Tsubaki was overly energetic, caring, and somewhat pushy, clearly harboring feelings for Kosei. And Watari was, well he was mainly just a play-boy in episode 1.

 

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Don’t be afraid to take a step forward.

 

The way that Kosei shrank within himself and didn’t go out of his way to communicate with other people was just like me. The way he had an inner monologue, making observations, but not able to get at the heart of what he wanted to say was something I had also felt. The whole atmosphere of the show was perfect for me. It took the shape of a brightly colored fantasy that still existed within the real world. Just enough to escape on with just enough to connect to. And just as Kaori gripped Kosei’s hand and pulled him along on the epic journey of self-discovery and growing up that was about to begin, the symphony of color and sound that was Your Lie In April seized my very soul, and plucked me up in a flurry of feathers.

 

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And the HERO appears! [Ping Pong The Animation]

Well now that tears are threatening to fall into my coffee I think that is where I want to end this post. I know as part of the Twelve days of anime we are talking about impactful anime-related moments from this year and this seems more like a pure retrospective, but I decided to write it upon rewatching the first two episodes of Your Lie In April last week as I have been doing a lot of reflecting on what anime I love and why. I hope this post conveys least 1% of the emotion that the show left me with. If so then I’ve done what I set out to do. This post is almost entirely just my emotions, but I plan to do a long-form analysis of this series in the future (sometime in January if my plans work out) so stick around if you want to see that.

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VasA’s Twelve Days of Anime, Day Two: Remembering Your Lie In April

This post is part of the The Twelve Days Of Anime, which is an event where over the 12 days leading to Christmas (the 14th to 25th of December), Bloggers and YouTubers share 12 impactful moments they had relating to anime during the year.

By the way, if you don’t know me, then hey I’m VasA and thanks for stopping by! See you next time.

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This Art Club is Embarassing(ly) Bland (12 Days of Anime 2016 Day 1)

Any seasoned anime fan has watched their fair share of middle school and high school romcoms. It’s a staple of the medium to the point where it’s evolved into a lame joke among anime fans: “And OF COURSE they are in high school because ‘anime’…” is a tired phrase about a tired topic and maybe that’s why I found myself using “This Art Club Has A Problem” A.K.A. “Konobi” as my go-to fall-asleep show the past couple of weeks.
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But that’s unusual for me, as I typically find shows that revolve around a do-nothing school club to be somewhat irritating. The fact that they have a cast of standardized characters with an over-reliance on one-note personalities and ridiculous misunderstandings between those characters for comic fodder can be infuriating…and all of that is present here. So why didn’t I hate it? Why did I put on a perfectly predictable episode to fall asleep to?
Well, from the moment I started watching my expectations were tempered. The first episode is not narratively impressive. The episode’s introductory three minutes set the bar for the rest of the show.
Light piano music plays us in as slow panning shots establish the setting and time, a middle school art club room late in the afternoon. The flitting light beams of the sun and illuminated dust particles drifting in the hallways already set a calm, grounded tone. Then a young girl named Misaki begins a monologue describing herself and her friend Subaru. At 49 seconds in she trails off and the first comedic juxtaposition of the series occurs. We see that Subaru is drawing an anime girl which we can tell by her cat ears and huge moe-styled eyes, an art style in direct conflict with the more realistically rendered fruit drawing of our our straightforward female protagonist. It’s slightly unexpected and strange, which makes it mildly funny if you can buy into the idea that the show’s anime-styled characters and the in-universe artwork of Subaru are different, despite their obvious similarities. Then we transition to the opening, which shows off the main cast of characters with childlike imagery – twinkling stars and characters smiling as they running across the screen. There are also some otaku pandering shots thrown in, and it’s all backed by energetic poprock. If all this bare bones analysis feels patronizing then stay with me, I’m going somewhere with all this. At two minutes and 26 seconds we are back to the show, now with the most cut-and-paste  goofy flute and xylophone BGM to reinforce that this is a school life comedy. Subaru questions why Misaki is mad at him for drawing nothing but cute fantasy girls and she blushes. Ah yes, the first misunderstanding! Misaki thinks Subaru may be catching on to her romantic feelings for him. But that isn’t the case. It’s funny because she protests fervently and that’s cute and he’s clueless and that’s also cute! In addition she destroys his painting and that that adds lighthearted shock humor! Unless you’ve seen a hundred iterations of these jokes already. We are now just over three minutes into episode one, including the opening. And we can now move on with our lives and forget this show entirely, because nothing has been particularly special about these first few minutes, and nothing will be for the rest of this entire anime. The characters have been on model with a fairly generic anime aesthetic to them, the jokes have been boiled down to their most commonly practiced iterations, every facet from camera perspective to sound direction has has been perfectly middling.
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In the first episode, the main cast is established. The protagonist is an incredibly average middle school girl named Usami, who has very little interest in anything extra ordinary. There is an upperclassman who likes to sleep his days away on a couch in the Art Club room – nothing deep there, his name isn’t even important. And of course we have an otaku artist who is completely self-absorbed in drawing his fantasy waifus, and cares about nothing else. It’s all exceeding overused, yet somehow feels peaceful.
The main setting is also established: a Middle School Art Club room. Boring and peaceful.
And we already talked about how the main conflict is established: Usami is in love with her otaku friend Uchimaki, but he doesn’t realize this as he is absorbed in a single-minded quest to draw the perfect 2D waifu. I call this the main conflict and not the plot, because this is not a plot. This show doesn’t really have a concrete plot, I mean, each episode has it’s own episodic plot. But the whole story is just meandering through school life in a boring but peaceful manner as school and outside life events happen to the characters. And I think to some extent that is what life feels like when you are as young as these characters are – it’s as though things just happen to you instead of you making things happen.
Middle school is like autopilot compared to adult life. You just don’t have the same concerns. Impressing your crush and hanging out with your friends seem like the most important things in the world. You aren’t worried about how you are going to get a job, pay your rent, accomplish tangable life goals, or even shop for groceries. And I think this drives much of the slice-of-life school genre in anime. It’s about capturing the illusive feelings of youthful detachment from the constant worry that comes with adulthood. An ephemeral state of being that comes with having the set constants that living at home with your parents and attending school provide.
And to do a story about this stage of life in film, certain tropes and story beats are often utilized. Many of these typical slice-of-life school club genre trappings are present in Konobi: romantic misunderstandings, heavily quirk-reliant character writing, token senpais and kohais, an indulgence in blissful youth, occasional school events to create the illusion of forward momentum in the storyline – if you’ve seen more than 3 of this type of show then you get the idea.
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And if you can buy into a teenage mindset then you can enjoy these shows. When you are relaxing and winding down to sleep like I was when I watched Konobi, it’s easier to accept the childish worries of 13 year olds as endearing if not all that legitimate.
But none of that is interesting in the context of a story with no plot. What I’m getting down to is that there’s no real reason to watch Konobi. Art is all about communicating a message. Exploring ideas and feelings. The reason we enjoy art is because we can connect with it. The way this show dances around issues and avoids any big ideas by being vague and generic is only useful to let me wind down so I can sleep. So I can avoid mental stimulation and recharge my brain for more important cognitive functions tomorrow. This is “turn your brain off” material at its finest. And that’s not a compliment. A better title for Konobi would have been “This Adolescent Art Club Has An Insignificant Problem That Will Never Be Addressed In The Anime, All While Avoiding Anything Else Thought-Provoking In The Slightest. What could be more affirming as to why these characters and the way they are presented is embarrassingly tired and stale than me literally falling asleep while watching? If I want an interesting show set in school that simultaneously celebrates and lampoons its setting I can just watch Kill la Kill. If I want a show set in school with more believable romantic misunderstandings and better hyjinx comedy I could put on an episode of Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun. There are countless other examples as well. Konobi has no merits I can’t find done better elsewhere in anime. This art club is not interesting. It’s embarrassingly bland. And you don’t need watch it.

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VasA’s Twelve Days of Anime, Day One: I have a problem with This Art Club Has A Problem!

This post is part of the The Twelve Days Of Anime, which is an event where over the 12 days leading to Christmas (the 14th to 25th of December), Bloggers and YouTubers share 12 impactful moments they had relating to anime during the year.

By the way, if you don’t know me, then hey I’m VasA and thanks for stopping by! See you next time.

#12DaysAnime

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