I realised I never said anything on here about Kalafina’s 2011 LP After Eden, despite going into the official shop in Shibuya and picking up a copy on release day. It’s a really nice record with some standout tracks, but looking back it sounds like it was trying too hard. It came out only a year after their previous full-length effort, so with that in mind I suspect that they were over-reaching themselves a bit and were suffering from the notorious ‘third album syndrome’.
Two years later, with their first European appearances under their belts, where do they stand with their fourth record? While AE took a few listens to get into, Consolation endeared it to me from the get-go. Quite honestly I don’t think they’ve sounded better – the songs on offer here are easily of the standard they set right back in ’09 with their debut Seventh Heaven.
It’s pretty bleeding obvious that my writing schedule has repeatedly derailed (my music and creative writing projects are at least progressing though). I don’t have one particular reason why it’s happened; everything feels like I’m driving with the handbrake on, and I feel like I have nothing new to say.
The past couple of weeks have changed that though. It would seem that at least part of the problem was that there wasn’t much around that was worth writing about. After months of new DVD releases and simulcasts that didn’t make me want to sit down and pay attention, Spring 2012 has given me that old nudge of “oh yeah…this is why I’m a fan…”
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.
Relevant to the interests of sixty-something motorbike-riding UK rock fans, apparently
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.
After my review of Fate/Zero‘s opening episodes over at UK-A I was a bit shocked at how opinion on Google+ was so critical of the storytelling approach, to the point where I felt I was in the minority who didn’t mind it. I know it doesn’t appeal to everyone: squinting at reams of subtitled dialogue in an infodump opener and wading through thick waves of exposition from that point on isn’t everyone’s grail of mead, but still.
It’s just that this is closer to how I’d imagine a Nasu adaptation to be (yes, I know Urobuchi did the legwork) so quite frankly the idiosyncracies go with the territory. Introducing a cast of this size, especially considering the relationships and connections involved, was never going to be a painless exercise for the viewer, in any case.
I didn’t find enough time to reply to the comments in my first Madoka Magica post and there’ve been so many plot twists and food for thought since then I feel I need to say more about it. The fan reaction to this show is staggering: it makes Twitter a very dangerous place at certain times of the week but I honestly can’t recall a new anime series that had everyone fired up like this.
Back when I started blogging it was all about Haruhi Suzumiya…and that was the first season before everyone got upset about Endless Eight. For Madoka though the opinions I’ve seen so far have been overwhelmingly positive; while in the NoitaminA slot Fractale has met a lukewarm reception and Hourou Musuko has been excellent in a more understated way, Shinbo’s latest offering has set the fandom on fire…consistently and repeatedly.
An issue I see quite often in anime fandom is the cry of “it’s not a cartoon! It’s animation!” I’m as guilty of that as anyone, and even set out my own thoughts on the topic a while ago but quite frankly it’s a whole can of worms I can’t be bothered to deal with again. I will say though that Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica IS a cartoon. But what a cartoon it is.
“I am the bone of my sword…” and so on. Make of that parallel what you will
I have it on good authority that the magical girl genre isn’t always aimed solely at a young female audience and, if you look at how long ago the Cutie Honey franchise ran before Hideaki Anno did his live-action remake, it never was. In terms of premise and outward appearances Madoka is the sort of thing you’d expect to see kids tuning into on Saturday mornings but what makes it one of the first big pleasant surprises of 2011 is how much else is hidden up its frilly sleeve.
Looks like I made it to the second round of the tourney thing, but I’m sadly short on topics for writing thanks to the fact that my laptop is the only working PC I have right now. It’s able to cope with DVD playback though so I can at least rewatch old favourites; I’ve had Le Portrait de Petite Cossette for instance on my shelf for a while but only came back to it last week…and I’m glad I did.
The first time I watched this I felt a bit overwhelmed by the visuals so didn’t really grasp what it was trying to say. I guess it was slightly wasted on me at the time but watching the three episodes again, across as many days, worked better for me so now I really feel I appreciate it more than I did then.
I first heard the songwriting of Yuki Kajiura through the soundtrack to Koichi Mashimo’s Noir but for me her style became intrinsically linked to a certain visual aesthetic after the haunting Portrait de Petit Cossette. Kalafina, her current project, is best known as the vocal group behind the soundtrack to the Kara no Kyoukai films; my love for that series aside, the ‘Kalafina sound’ is instantly recognisable yet hard to categorise.
The fact that so many of their tracks are tie-ins to films and TV shows does carry an associated burden if you want to appreciate them on their own: the first LP, Seventh Heaven, is and always will be the Kara no Kyoukai vocal album to me but Red Moon follows a mere year behind with more album-only numbers in comparison. While it doesn’t quite scale the heights of, say, Oblivious or Aria, it’s still Kalafina. And these three girls can still sure as hell sing.
I’ve had a .flac version of Seventh Heaven on my HD for a while now but when I was in Akihabara I was able to pick up the legal version (I decided against the limited edition since I was worried about spending too much…). It has the prettiest CD inlay booklet I’ve seen in a long time but above all else it’s the neatest way of getting Kalafina’s best material on one shiny disc. In fact the only disappointing omission here for me is the Lacrimosa single and its B-side Gloria but it does include all the major vocal numbers from the Kara no Kyoukai movie series, plus a track or two that you won’t find on any of the OSTs.
Interestingly the group members and Yuki Kajiura, the songwriter behind it all, are reluctant to categorise the material, instead describing it simply as ‘Kalafina sound’; given the range of influences in evidence I can understand their point. Choral-gothic-synth-folk is a bit of a mouthful yet still doesn’t go all the way to summing up how the musical approach of, say, Uninstall (or any of Kajiura’s similar work so far) has progressed. It’s pleasantly surprising how wonderfully this collection of songs works on its own merits outside the BGM/film theme context: you certainly shouldn’t be discouraged if you’re not familiar with the anime that inspired it.