Ninety seconds. Just under 2,200 frames. That’s how long the majority of anime openings have to stick in the mind, set the scene and contribute to the microcosm that history has created for them. Right back to what some would consider the dawn of modern anime with Astro Boy in the 1960’s, the prototype for modern anime openings was there, continuing through the seventies and eighties through to recent history of the nineties and 2000+.
setting the tone for bombastic score of the series itself
By now you’ve mostly likely seen the “Every Anime Opening Ever Made” video which cycles through a lot of the tropes and visual motifs that are (over)used, set to remixed trance music. Like a lot of pithy satire its humour and truth doesn’t hold up to scrutiny and even a limited exploration of openings from any time period would highlight how wrong it is. That wasn’t what got me thinking about anime openings though but an offshoot when musing on the slow burning RahXephon one. Originally this was going to be a dissection of the hidden meanings in the visuals and mentioning other similar openings. Then I got lost in a endless loop of watching an opening, then remembering just one more and before I knew it I was attempting to sort the openings I had seen into some kind of system.
A few years ago I almost lost the hearing in my left ear. The gory details are best omitted, but I was left with (what the doctors claimed) was 20-30% hearing and only two thirds of the bones I should. For all intents and purposes I was deaf in that ear, a lopsided and mono world where car alarms didn't exist (a boon at 3am) but wearing headphones was painful.
Two years and two operations on I have most of my hearing back. All of this is just context for me to say: my hearing is precious to me and I am precious about it. It is a cliché to say that you don't know what you've got until you've lost it, but when it's personal it really brings it home.
Rewatching Code Geass R2 set my mind working on something that has been gnawing at me for a while, and it's only recently that the semblance of an answer began to take form. The part in question takes place towards the end of the season and is when the Emperor's plan is revealed to Lelouch concerning the Mental Elevator, C's world and the Sword of Akasha: that of unifying the world into a single, super consciousness. Depending upon the anime one has watched this will likely be a familiar concept and one that has underpinned many influential and subversive series.
everybody ends up all warm and fuzzy and with a greater understanding of Mayan philosophy
The most obvious proponent of this concept is of course Evangelion which constructed elaborate systems based upon Jungian psychology, theology and science and implying that the next evolution of humanity isn't as discrete individuals but as an amalgam. Without delving too deeply into the labyrinthine plot of the series and movies, End of Evangelion demonstrates this with everyone melting into a fluid, whereas the final episodes of the series give a fractured glimpse at the emotional montage Shinji suffers during this. Released in 1995-96, this was mostly the result of Hideaki Anno who it is anecdotally said spiralled into neuroses around the half-way point of the series which is coincidentally when it shed all pretences of being a fluffy children's show and went full bore for dark and symbolic.
After breaking free from Yoko Kanno over three years ago, Everywhere is Maaya Sakamoto's new compilation album that brings together fifteen years of vocal work including some of the most iconic theme tunes to some of the most influential anime and a variety of TV and radio shows.
With only one new track on the two CD release, for some it may seem a hard sell for tracks that are available on all of her other albums; however with such a stunning track list, it reads more like a "best of" than simply an anniversary collection. There is a definite split with the tracks: many of them having been featured as anime, TV and radio themes whereas the others are simply memorable or notable works from her six full albums, two single collections and two "concept" albums. The media tie-ins intrinsically link the songs to an emotional theme that echoes the productions they were attached to; they also represent touchstones in the timeline from Maaya's entrance as Hitomi in the Vision of Escaflowne to both the musical and vocal powerhouse she is now. On the other hand, the original tracks anchor the collection to her previous releases and remain more personal to listeners, tied to whatever event or period within their life when they first experienced them.
In a decade rife with stellar release from Studio Bones, RahXephon stands out. An ambitious and sleek production which draws upon a diverse mix of sources from obscure Mayan lore to classical music to create a symphony of unparalleled beauty. Continuously stunning, it deftly handles a wide cast of characters as well as a plot laden with symbolism which bountifully rewards shrewd analysis and constant attention. At a time when the mecha genre was overburdened, RahXephon excelled by weaving a story unshackled by genre tropes and creating a genuine classic of immense longevity and awesome breadth.
rich in emotion and poignancy, the deaths cut deeper, the passion clings tighter
Ayato Kamina lives in the last bastion of humankind: Tokyo; a cataclysm having supposedly wiped out the rest of humanity. When an attack strikes the city he is aided by woman who claims to be able to explain the chaotic world he lives in. After awakening the humanoid machine RahXephon he and the woman, Haruka Shitow, are transported outside of Tokyo and he discovers the lies perpetrated by those in power: that Tokyo was forcibly cut off from the rest of the world and a race known as the Mu are responsible. Despite his reticence, he is the only one who can operate the RahXephon and with it the capability to defeat the Mu's warmachines, the Dolems. Throughout all of this is the mysterious Reika Mishima who appears seemingly without reason and the quiet but whimsical Quon who seems to have a connection to both Ayato and the RahXephon. Ayato's position as an Instrumentalist may have bigger consequences than simply the defeat of the Mu.