I should have reviewed After Eden by now since I bought the thing on release day but like many things, I never got around to it. Even after watching the live DVD that arrived last week I still don’t have a burning desire to write about it; I don’t think it’s the strongest offering from them so far but there are some great tracks on there so I like it and still recommend it. What was interesting though was the unexpected response I received from my “Kalafina live blu-ray arrived! Awesome night in!” Facebook status update I posted late last week.
I’m sure those of you who share my tastes in Japanese music, art, entertainment, culture and whatnot will have your own stories about what families and friends think…a lot of that depends on whether you make a public show of it, but some of us are surrounded by like-minded people while some of us…well, aren’t.
Some of us bob around on the surface of the Fandom, dropping a fishing line in; others use a trawling net. Some, like me, make occasional dives into the shallows while others plumb the depths, James Cameron-style, into a Marianas Trench of otaku-dom. My circles of friends and acquaintances can be placed on a pretty broad scale but my family are probably on jet plane that’s bound for somewhere far inland and won’t touch down until it gets there.
As I was growing up I began to share less and less common ground with my family; they certainly aren’t anime fans. One of my sisters loves Studio Ghibli though, and would probably dig Mamoru Hosoda or Makoto Shinkai if work commitments allowed her more free time. My mum borrowed my DVD of My Neighbour Totoro once and liked it (I promised her I’d lend her Arietty since the BBC adaptation of The Borrowers was a TV fave when we were kids).
Beyond that, there’s a big portion of my books, DVDs and music collections that they have zero interest in. There’s a diverse group of family, friends and acquaintances reading my Facebook profile so posting a message about the new Kalafina blu-ray for instance would have possibly half a dozen people wanting to borrow it and the other ninety or so having no idea what the hell I’m on about and ignoring it completely. At least, that’s what I thought.
Outside of anime soundtracks, lot of what I listen to was actually influenced by my parents: I atttribute my heavy rock background to my dad while my mum and her dad got me into classical. None of them have ever shown an interest in Japanese or anime music. At all. Ever. And we’re all okay with the fact that they probably never will.
Unbeknownst to me, my dad spent a while last weekend listening to Kalafina on Youtube and said he was impressed with what he heard. I can only assume that my recent FB status update of “suffice to say it’s three (very pretty-looking) singers who sound amazing live without all that autotuning studio nonsense.” was enough to pique his interest since he has an aversion to contemporary manufactured chart pop and knows that I feel the same way about it.
Beyond that one short paragraph I hadn’t mentioned anything about this to my family – they simply aren’t interested in anime, manga, or anything associated with it. By describing the music simply as a live performance from talented people and attaching nothing else to it, my old man went and looked it up for himself with no preconceptions or expectations whatsoever.
It was a pure accident on my part, but an interesting experiment. I got into Yuki Kajiura through the TV and films she wrote music for, and Kalafina will always be associated in my mind with the Kara no Kyoukai movie series; a story I have sentimental attachment to and have quite a large emotional investment in. To hear that a relative of mine – who has no idea of the context I hold that music in – give his own opinion was genuinely interesting.
It got me thinking about whether I enjoy it as an anime fan (“that Kajiura project who did some awesome OSTs”) or simply as music. Kajiura’s style is instantly recogisable, and quite a lot of the time it’s hard to dissociate it from the medium it’s bundled with. Last weekend really proved that although it has a strong niche fan following, there’s something in it for casual listeners too.
Knowing my parents’ general outlook, I think the act of convincing themselves they won’t like something before they’ve even watched/heard/read it is a contributing factor. We all have our own biases and tastes, and we’re all guilty of thinking “I’m not into that sort of thing. No reason. I’m just not into it.” so it would be unfair of me to call them closed-minded per se. There’s a lot said about how Japanese pop culture is seen by the general public abroad, related to things like DVD sales, newspaper headlines and Embarrassing Fans mostly, that I don’t really feel like going into right now. The debates about whether the fandom deserves it dubious reputation are too complex and contentious for me.
On a personal note, it was a really fun and genuinely insightful experience to give an impartial (a less than partial, even!) subject a blind test of what I appreciate in my spare time. It answered a question I often wondered about: what would a non-fan make of this if their first impressions weren’t influenced by the things that mine were?
I was brought up on a diverse mixture but this was a rare occasion when things worked in the opposite direction: my dad was taking a recommendation from me rather than the other way around…and to my delight it wasn’t met with the usual misunderstandings and misconceptions I expected.
The icing on the cake was when he quipped, “there were some other names people linked to in the comments underneath.” I braced myself for what I thought was coming.
“I’d take Youtube comments sections with a pinch of salt. You get some real idiots on there.” (I didn’t feel like explaining the concept of internet trolls to him)
“There’s the name Yuki someone.”
“She’s the songwriter. She’s really good.”
“Oh, okay. There was another video they linked to though…a girl with a cello. Kanon somethingorother. That was pretty impressive too.”
It took a few incredulous seconds for me to realise that, in a matter of a few minutes, he’d also discovered Kanon Wakeshima. It was a surreal sunday afternoon.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. There’s a strong rock element to Kalafina’s sound, and the live shows (which I’m assuming were what my dad had found) have a guitar/bass/drums backing band that would be familiar to a casual listener from a UK/USA guitar rock background, even if the non-English lyrical content isn’t. Even I have to admit that the choreography is a bit goofy and the three girls would be better off being themselves with a more informal vibe that I’ve seen in footage of the FictionJunction shows. But eh. That’s another day, another DVD release…which I may or may not give my dad a heads-up about.