2009 in anime: The lost chapters

Hum. So I told you my last post was long overdue ? What about this one then ! But still, I feel the urge to express at least something for the remaining two moments of the 2009 in anime project, so I'm gonna write this post anyway, even if 2009 has now come to pass, and we are already well into 2010.

So let's get down to it.

At spot number 2, there's a rewatch. I know, that's cheating, but in all honesty the hour I spent watching Byousoku 5 Centimeters for the 6th or 7th time at the beginning of winter was just so perfect that I couldn't pass it up.

First, you have to know that 5 centimeters per second is still my favorite anime of all time. Makoto Shinkai's movie hit home the first time, and I don't think any number of rewatches could ever take away its magic. But this winter's watching session was second only to the first time I saw it.

The conditions were absolutely perfect : no one around, heavy snowfalls outside as the sun was slowly setting, and this warm fuzzy feeling you get at the end of a lazy winter sunday. I was recovering from a cold, and on I just felt like watching "the" masterpiece again.

And once again, it was perfect. Once again, that ending hit me like a punch in the stomach, and left me empty yet happy. I don't know if I really can explain that special feeling correctly... If you loved the movie, you probably understand, and if you haven't... What are you still doing here ?

Oh, right, you're waiting for the big winner ! Well, here it comes...

2009's #1 moment is one that probably stayed in the mind of many viewers long after the end of a seemingly generic harem/"slice-of-life" anime that aired in the winter of 2008. This was a series based on a visual novel, like many others. But strangely nothing in it beside the title followed the original work. It had a totally different universe, cast, and plot.

This was for the best.

This allowed for some true tears to wet the eyes of many.

The thing that drew me to True Tears was an AMV (Anime Music Video) titled "in watercolours" (found by Pascale, did I mention how awesome she is?). The character designs looked good, the animation too, it seemed sad and tragic, and the AMV was so expertly made that I felt the show would be good.

Then I read a review on Anime Diet titled "The Sum of All Tears" which pretty much sealed the deal.

And boy was I not disappointed.

The whole show was great, and felt quite "emotionnaly authentic", if that makes any sense. The drama didn't feel too contrived for the most part, and the characters behaved mostly normally. The show refrain from overusing misunderstandings - well, there are some, but it's not as over-the-top as it could easily have been - and concludes the love triangle in the most heart-rending way possible.

And if True Tears characters do cry throughout the series, it's at the end that the anime earns its title. In the end, our main protagonist has to make a choice, and, well, forgive me for quoting the review I was referring to earlier :

What impressed me even more than the choice Shinichiro made–it was the emotionally honest and clear thing to do–was how he expressed it. In a triumph of believability and emotional nuance, especially for romance anime, Shinichiro managed to demonstrate to Noe how his mind can be made up and can still be in such pain at their parting, to the point where he speaks what is perhaps the best line in the whole show: “But when I look at you, my heart wavers.” [...] That he is still able to move forward with his choice is a mark of his new maturity. It was beautiful to see how he realized that she can both be an inspiration and important part of his life and still not be his lover. He perfectly expressed this by singing Noe’s song, between sobs, as an ode to his true love Hiromi. If anything, it reminds me of the recent film Once, which also showed how the product of deep love need not be hugs, kisses, and dates; it can also be a song, which lasts even after the man and woman leave each other. Or it can be a picture book about a chicken who wants to fly.

Those words aptly relfect my feelings about the show's ending. Sure, it was painful, maybe more painful than ef - which is arguably more emotionnally taxing on the whole -, but it felt so right. I really can't say enough good about True Tears. It's a shame that such a wonderful show will probably stay obscure, because romances that ring so true are way too hard to come by...


Dreaming through the noise : StartOfTheDay - Melody Runner

It's long overdue, but here it is, my first "Dreaming through the noise" post. As I said earlier, I wanted to post some kinds of short reviews, and so here we are, you're about to read the first of those.

And the first album I want to share with you is Melody Runner, by StartOfTheDay.

StartOfTheDay is a Japanese band that does a strange kind of rock... I think that the best description of their music I have ever read of them was on the late unchained blog (which is now 23ji no ongaku, in case you still didn't know [also, go read it :) ] ), where StartOfTheDay was described as "Airplane Music". And honestly, it's exactly that.

Melody Runner is the most recent album put out by the band, if you exclude their best of. The disc features a collection of that, well, are perfectly suited to that time when you look through the plane's window to see the sun rising above the clouds in the distance, shedding golden rays of lights on the Earth. Sounds a bit grandiloquent ? Well, maybe it is, but that's really the best way I can describe how StartOfTheDay's music makes me feel. And before you ask, no, it doesn't get stale. The songs do sound different from each other, it's just that the uplifting factor is strong in almost all of them. But I guess I should let the band speak for themselves, don't you think ?

The song I chose to pick from the album is called "Whisper", and is a prime example of what StartOfTheDay does so well. It's uplifting, epic, yet delicate. For sure, the high-pitched vocals may take some time to get used to, but even if you don't like them, please take some minutes off what you're doing, lay back and close your eyes. Then tell me if the music doesn't prompt you to think of flying or at least something equally stirring.

The first time I heard this song, I thought at first that the intro was okay, very post-rockish in both mood and composition, and seeing how long it is I was prepared for a slow-paced song. But then, those marching drums kicks in, quickly followed by an awesome piano melody. By the time the first words were sung, I was sold, and Whisper has been my top StartOfTheDay track since.

It is really a shame that for now the future of the band is uncertain. They lost two members, and have been silent for months now, which is kinda worrying. I hope that, sometime in the future, we'll hear again from them and that they'll continue to bring us their special brand of "Airplane Rock", because bands that can match the uplifting power of StartOfTheDay's music are few and far between.

Links : Official Website - MySpace


Digital Rooftop: At the start of the dream

These past few months have been FULL of good games coming out : I still have to play Star Ocean (the PS3 version), I had a blast with Heavy Rain, I dived into Final Fantasy XIII as soon as it was available, I recently got Sands of Destruction on the DS, I've yet to complete Silent Hill Shattered Memories...

That's a lot to do.

Yet all those are going to sit on their shelf as I'm indulging in a game I've been waiting for since I first heard of it, more than a year ago. It's release date is this friday, but I managed to find a copy in a store where it had been delivered already.

So I put the disc in my console as soon as I could, but unfortunately only had half an hour to try it out. But even in such a short time, the game delighted me more than FFXIII's awesome graphics or Heavy Rain's realism could.

But which game is it, I hear you ask ? It's "Fragile Dream ~ Farewell ruins of the moon" on the Wii.

That game has it all : As Seto, you're bound to explore a derelict post-apocalyptic world from which humankind seems to have vanished entirely. Except for a silver-haired girl you meet at the start of the game, and who runs off just as quickly. And you guessed it, our brave young man will try to find her again, all the while traveling through an eerie abandoned Tokyo in the direction of the only place that shines in the cityscape : Tokyo Tower.

This plot looks almost like someone tried to make my perfect game! And seeing the beginning of the adventure only confirmed what listening to the soundtrack and watching the trailers indicated : the dreamy quest will be enchanting every step of the way. The setting oozes a strange kind of magic, the kind of which you can find in ICO or Shadow of the Colossus.

Fragile Dreams is at heart a "survival-horror" game, but from which you would replace the "horror" part with something far more dreamy and eerie (I'm gonna wear those two words out if I'm to write more than one post about this game...). And the "survival" part ? Well, looks like Seto's adventure will be more about exploring than surviving... So I guess the game is an "Exploration-Dream" after all ? Sounds about right...