The Rose Seal

Generally speaking, the Adolescence of Utena film is not the ideal way to be introduced to Utena. It throws you right into the deep end with no explanations of plot or characters, so knowledge of the series is almost a must. (Though the film does shuffle a few things around when compared to the series.) Plus, the film is highly abstract so there is little to grab on to to get your bearings.

Adolescence of Utena opening titles
Music: “Rose Is Rain – Rose Egg Rebirth Record” by J.A. Seazer

And yet, about twenty years ago, this was how I found my way into the world of Utena. I had no idea who these characters were or what was going on, but I was completely drawn in to the visuals, the music, the symbolism and metaphors. Everything changed for me after watching Adolescence of Utena, at least as far as what I came to expect from anime.

I was still a relatively new anime fan at the time, and I had never seen anything like this, which was pretty much an art film based on the primary themes of the Revolutionary Girl Utena series, which I had not seen yet. The whole series wasn’t even licensed in North America at the time! After being completely captivated by the film, I soon got the first arc on DVD, which was all that was available at the time. At last I knew who these characters were and had a more concrete idea of what was going on. A few years later, the remaining arcs were finally licensed for release in North America, and I could finally learn the whole story of Utena. Like the film, it sunk its claws into me and never let go, and once I watched the film again after seeing the whole series, everything fell into place.

In broadest terms, Revolutionary Girl Utena is about challenging the conventions of, well… everything, in order to discover yourself. There is actually quite a lot more to it, and the series goes into much more depth with many more characters to explore these themes, but the film distills it all into nearly an hour and a half of pure, concentrated symbolism. In the end, changing my perceptions of anime was not the most profound effect that Adolescence of Utena, and in turn Revolutionary Girl Utena, had on me. More importantly, I learned more about myself as well.

Utena is a series and film that I carry with myself to this day, and has become a part of me. For that, I am ever grateful to Adolescence of Utena for bringing revolution to my world.

Light and Fluffy

As you may know, many of my favorite anime series are multilayered stories with lots of depth, but I don’t limit myself to watching only titles which are often worthy of being called works of art on some level. Sometimes, I just want to watch something fun. Not to be confused with slice-of-life or ‘cute girls doing cute things’ shows (whole genres unto themselves which often cross over), shows I consider “fluff” may not have the most well-written story, or the character development may be lacking. In spite of the flaws, I still enjoy them and they are fun to watch. Entertainment is supposed to be fun, after all, and a show can be light and fun without being stupid or insulting to my intelligence.

In no particular order, here are a few examples of anime fluff which I enjoy, even if they aren’t necessarily the “best” at what they are trying to do:

The World of Narue

From the very first time I watched The World of Narue, it came across to me as Ah! My Goddess “lite” with a younger cast and a slightly different premise. Narue is an alien who comes to Earth and ends up living with a boy named Kazuto. Soon, more members of Narue’s family show up, and comedic hijinks ensue. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, but it’s done with such an honest effort, and the characters are so likeable, that I can’t help but enjoy The World of Narue. To this day, I think it’s still my favorite “fluff” series.

Leviathan -the last defense-

Leviathan is a perfect example of what I mean by “fluff”. What we have here is a fairly generic fantasy story with stock character types who are just cute enough to make it fun to watch. If the idea of dragon girls who run around doing things you’ve already seen a hundred times in other fantasy shows sounds interesting, give Leviathan a try. It won’t challenge your expectations of anime, but it will be a fun diversion. And hey… they’re dragon girls!

Engaged to the Unidentified

Engaged to the Unidentified is similar to The World of Narue in some ways, but in a role reversal, this time the girl meets an alien boy. What follows is a sci-fi twist on your typical high school series. What really elevates the show for me though is Mashiro, the little sister of Hakuya (the “unidentified” from the show’s title). She’s an absolute riot and steals the show. Again, no heavy plot or complex characters here; just something fun to watch.

Mikagura School Suite

Eruna, an otaku girl obsessed with visual novels, enrolls at Mikagura, a magical high school, with the primary intention of flirting with as many cute girls as she can… to live out her VN fantasies of course. Also, the clubs at Mikagura have a compulsory magic battle tournament where victories mean prestige and privilege on campus and in the dorms. Not knowing this, Eruna has to start at the bottom of the ladder, literally living in the hallway until she joins a club. What’s a girl to do? That ridiculous plot sold me on Mikagura School Suite, and it was worth every episode.

Brynhildr in the Darkness

This is an odd one, as it’s really hard to categorize, and it barely qualifies for this list, but in the end, it does make it on technicalities. Brynhildr in the Darkness definitely isn’t a “light” series in the traditional sense. It starts and ends as a dark science fiction story not for the faint of heart. But outside of that general premise of the story, the middle of the series is mostly harmless (if ecchi) harem comedy. It’s a strange combination, yet I still enjoyed it. What qualifies Brynhildr for my list here are its shortcomings. The story and character development are both lacking, and I wish the series were twice as long to expand on them and fill out the series. As it is, Brynhildr in the Darkness is a series which doesn’t live up to its full potential, but I still liked it.

Kantai Collection

When I decided to give Kantai Collection a try, I was hoping for a nautical version of Strike Witches. Sadly, that was not what I got. Based on a video game with about four thousand characters (not literally, mind you), the girls of Kantai Collection are anthropomorphisms of various historical battleships. But in the series, there is very little in the way of battles at sea. It’s a group of (mostly) high-school aged girls and their daily shenanigans. And that’s about it. A few sea battles are thrown in, but they aren’t the focus of the story. Kantai Collection is fun enough, but when I wanted something with a little more to it than just schoolgirl silliness, it does fall short.

And there you have a brief tour of some of the anime series I enjoy, even if they aren’t the best in their genre. I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch more, but these are some of the standouts. (A bit of an irony, for shows that are otherwise “average”.) Some shows give it an honest effort but only do what’s necessary, others try but fall short, and others miss the mark, but what they all have in common is that I do actually enjoy them, and will surely watch them again at some point. (I’ve watched The World of Narue several times in fact, and always look forward to bringing it back for another rewatch!)

Sometimes you just have to enjoy something for what it is.

Music to my Ears

When I look at what kinds of music I like, it runs a pretty wide spectrum. If you asked me what my favorite genres are, I’d probably say progressive rock, new wave, and electronic, but that barely scratches the surface of the kinds of music I enjoy. When you break it all down, genre is irrelevant to me; if I like what I hear, it doesn’t matter what kind of music it is.

This post will not be about the biggest players in my music library. I won’t be going on about progressive rock, synthpop, J-Pop, or anime and Japanese RPG soundtracks. Those are my mainstays which I already cover from time to time on this blog. This will be an overview of some of the more hidden corners of my music interests.

So in no particular order, here are some of the kinds of music you may not have guessed I was into. I have provided links to hear each style as well, since music is meant to be listened to, after all.

Shoegaze and Dream Pop
These closely related styles are actually a type of music I can listen to without paying particular attention to who the artist is. That’s because these styles are more about mood and atmosphere, so it can be “samey” from song to song at times, but that’s not an insult here. Shoegaze is typically walls of distorted guitars with lots of reverb and effects, while dream pop is its less distorted cousin, with a brighter sound and airy vocals. Both styles of music are good for spacing out or relaxing.

Shoegaze on Pandora
Dream Pop on Pandora

Future Bass and Kawaii Bass
This one is kind of hard to explain without actually hearing it. I got into kawaii bass first, which is a Japanese spinoff of future bass, featuring a “cuter” sound. Since I am having a difficult time trying to describe future bass, just have a listen at the link instead! (And for a taste of kawaii bass, check out Snail’s House on Bandcamp.)

Future Bass on Pandora

Take hip-hop beats, slow them down, drench them in electronic sounds, and you get trip-hop. Generally speaking, of course. As with any kind of music there is variety within each genre. Trip-hop is another kind of music good for relaxing and just spacing out to. It is a bit “trippy” after all, giving the genre its name.

Trip-Hop on Pandora

Folk Metal
What do the Scandinavian gods listen to? Folk metal of course! A blend of metal music with traditional folk instruments, most often from Scandinavian countries, but found elsewhere in Europe as well. Songs about mythology, legends, and Viking battles (and in the case of Korpiklaani, drinking) are often the subjects of folk metal songs. Turn down the temperature to well below freezing, imagine yourself in a snowy forest, and get in touch with your inner Scandinavian.

Folk Metal on Pandora

Smooth Jazz
You heard me. There’s actually a very good reason for it, and it goes way back to my school days (way too many years ago now) as I was deciding what I wanted to go to college for. I was – and still am – fascinated by the weather, so when we got cable and I discovered The Weather Channel, I was watching it nearly every waking hour. Of course, they had the local forecast every ten minutes, and the style of music they used was usually smooth jazz. I took a liking to the local forecast music, and began attaching a microphone to the TV speaker and recording it to tape. I still have those cassette tapes. Early to mid 1990s smooth jazz especially gives me great nostalgia for those days when I was growing up and decided I wanted to be a meteorologist. Sadly, that dream didn’t pan out, but that’s a story for another time and place.

Smooth Jazz on Pandora

I have a complicated relationship with vaporwave. Apparently there’s a whole philosophy behind it dealing with anti-capitalism and irony, and it’s all meant to be a false nostalgia of the 1980s and 1990s, even though vaporwave itself didn’t exist until very recently. Whatever its origin, the resulting sound is something I actually took a liking to, even with the false nostalgia. Vaporwave is meant to be the lo-fi “soundtrack” to 1980s and 1990s commercialism, manipulating pre-existing music and electronic sounds into something that could be muzak in an abandoned mall somewhere. Oddly enough, one of the kinds of pre-existing music vaporwave often draws from is smooth jazz. Maybe that’s why I like it? Like shoegaze and dream pop, this is a style of music I can listen to without particular regard for who the artist is. It’s mood music, and actually I find it good to fall asleep to.

Vaporwave on Pandora

Blade Runner.

(Okay, I’ll expand on that a bit. Music made in homage of the iconic analogue synthesizers of the 1980s, often bringing futuristic soundscapes to mind. It is also excellent driving music.)

Synthwave on Pandora

Space Ambient
This is a style of ambient electronic music with an astronomical influence. Cold sounding synthesizers meant to evoke images of stars, galaxies, and nebulae while floating about in the vacuum of space. Ideal music for relaxing or falling asleep to.

Space Ambient on

Psychedelic Trance
Heading back to the mid to late 1990s for this one, though it still exists today in an evolved form. Trance was a popular form of EDM in the 90s, and this was its trippier variant, with a distinct sound influenced by everything from hallucinogenics to science fiction to aliens. Fast-paced and with a throwback sound, psy or Goa trance is still one of my favorite kinds of electronic music.

Psychedelic Trance on Pandora

Going way back in time for this one, all the way back to when I first started paying attention to music on the radio as a child in the late 1980s. Pop music was often on our family and car radio at that time, and Latin freestyle was having big crossover success at the time. Even listening to this kind of music now, I have so much nostalgia for the time. And thinking about it in retrospect, it actually makes a lot of sense why I like freestyle, as drum machines and synthesizers – two instruments I still like to this day – feature heavily in the songs.

Freestyle on Pandora

New Jack Swing
Like freestyle, new jack swing is also a reach back into my youth. It was a form of R&B which featured heavy use of synthesizers and drum machines (I’m noticing a pattern), and was also all over the radio in the late ’80s and early ’90s. New jack swing and freestyle were the music of my childhood, along with the mainstream pop at the time.

New Jack Swing on Pandora

And there you have it. A brief tour of some of the other music I listen to, which helped to form the wide variety of music that has captured my interest. Surely I’ve overlooked a few genres, but for me all that categorization is just an afterthought. I just know what I like.

Anime Backlog – February 2022

I did this more than a year ago, but in the time since then I’ve watched a lot of anime and also added a lot more to my collection. So why not take stock and see what I’ve managed to take off this list by watching it, what I’ve added, and what I somehow still haven’t managed to watch yet! Of course anything I managed to get and then watch in between my last list and this one won’t be mentioned here. I do occasionally watch something soon after I get it without months or years passing by first.

This list only covers anime I have on disc, and does not include streaming watchlists. It also does not include unwatched blu-ray upgrades of titles I have already watched on DVD. New entries since my last list are in italics. Let’s jump right in:

  • Beyond the Boundary
  • Beyond the Boundary -I’LL BE HERE- Past
  • Beyond the Boundary -I’LL BE HERE- Future
  • Brave Witches
  • Captain Earth
  • A Certain Magical Index
  • A Certain Magical Index II
  • Eureka Seven: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers
  • Evangelion 1.11: you are (not) alone.
  • Evangelion 2.22: you can (not) advance.
  • Evangelion 3.33: you can (not) redo.
  • The Familiar of Zero (Seasons 1-4 & OVA)
  • Ga-Rei-Zero
  • The Garden of Words
  • Giant Gorg
  • Girls und Panzer das Finale Part 2
  • Gundam Build Fighters: Battlogue
  • Gundam Build Fighters: GM’s Counterattack
  • Gundam Build Fighters Try: Island Wars
  • Hidamari Sketch x Special
  • Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb
  • Hidamari Sketch x Sae & Hiro Graduation
  • In This Corner of the World
  • InuYasha The Movie 4: Fire on the Mystic Island
  • Kase-san and Morning Glories
  • Kodomo no Omocha
  • Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn
  • Made in Abyss: Wandering Twilight
  • Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul
  • Metropolis
  • Nana: Seven of Seven
  • Nobunaga The Fool
  • Paprika
  • Project A-ko 2, 3, and 4
  • Project A-ko The Vs.
  • Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight
  • Rental Magica
  • A Silent Voice
  • The Squid Girl
  • Steamboy
  • Tokyo Godfathers

Looks like I’ve still got plenty to keep me busy for a long time to come! There’s actually fewer titles added to this list than I was expecting, and I did cross off several as well. Some of these titles have been in my backlog for years. I have plenty to look forward to watching from my own anime library, at least.

Year of the Tiger

Kisa Sohma (Fruits Basket)

In the Chinese zodiac, the year of the Tiger has just begun, so it’s time to acknowledge its cutest representative. It has been many years since the last time I watched Fruits Basket, and I still haven’t seen the new version (which the above image is from), but I do remember Kisa Sohma being absolutely adorable.

2021 Playlist Year in Review

It’s time once again to check out my yearly totals from A large part of my listening is shuffle play as I sit at my computer, but starting in 2016, offline albums are included. About the only things not included in these tallies are streaming internet radio and whatever I listen to in the car. Enough explanation; on to the numbers!

Top 20 played artists, based on individual song play counts

  1. Genesis (366)
  2. Pet Shop Boys (270)
  3. Steven Wilson (239)
  4. Porcupine Tree (236)
  5. Anthony Phillips (209)
  6. Steve Hackett (179)
  7. Dream Theater (176)
  8. Joe Hisaishi (175)
  9. Peter Gabriel (155)
  10. Pink Floyd (136)
  11. Tony Banks (102)
  12. Satoru Kousaki (95)
  13. Yes (91)
  14. J.A. Seazer (90)
  15. Thy Catafalque (87)
  16. BABYMETAL (81)
  17. Yasunori Mitsuda (79)
  18. Nobuo Uematsu (75)
  19. Shinkichi Mitsumune (73)
  20. Michiru Oshima (73)

Top 20 played-from albums*, based on individual song play counts

*this is not the same as most-played albums! For this list, every time a song plays is a “vote” for the album it is from, whether in shuffle mode of my entire library or listening to the album all the way through, with each play of a song counting once. Or to put it another way, the more songs an album has on it, the easier it is to climb this list.

  1. Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase. (57)
  2. Hydelic – Tetris Effect Soundtrack (50)
  3. Michiru Oshima – Little Witch Academia Original Sound Track Archive (45)
  4. Kou Otani – Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Operation 1 Soundtrack (38)
  5. Kensuke Ushio – Boogiepop and Others Soundtrack (35)
  6. Tony Banks – A Curious Feeling (32)
  7. Hiromi Mizutani – Non Non Biyori Soundtrack (31)
  8. Kenichiro Suehiro – SPACE PATROL LULUCO Appended Disc: Original Soundtracks & Audio Dramas (30)
  9. Genesis – We Can’t Dance (28)
  10. Peter Gabriel – Flotsam and Jetsam (27)
  11. Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (25)
  12. George Michael – Faith (25)
  13. Mabanua – BNA Complete album Soundtrack (25)
  14. Hiromi Mizutani – Non Non Biyori Vacation Soundtrack (24)
  15. Hiroyuki Sawano – KILL la KILL COMPLETE SOUNDTRACK (24)
  16. Joe Hisaishi – Children of the Sea Soundtrack (24)
  17. Yasunori Mitsuda – Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack (24)
  18. DJ Shadow – Endtroducing….. (23)
  19. Hideakira Kimura – Gundam Build Divers Series Original Soundtrack (23)
  20. Kevin Penkin – Made in Abyss Soundtrack (23)
  21. Porcupine Tree – In Absentia (23)
  22. Takahiro Obata – The Promised Neverland Soundtrack (23)

There is no top songs list because there is too large of a sample size of individual songs for such a list to have any real meaning. My shuffle playlist is designed to avoid overplaying any particular song, so I have many songs with the same number of play counts over any particular time span. If you’re really interested in these numbers though, see my library.

Also, you can compare this list to 2018, 2019, or 2020. Summaries for years prior to that are on my now-closed tumblr, though I have them archived locally for posterity.