MS IGLOO (0079)

MS IGLOO is probably one of the best One Year War Side Stories that I have seen so far. Some people are hesitant to like stories that paint the bad guys in a softer light, but we all know those people are shallow. Not to mention this show is more of an anthology with stories from both sides of the One Year War. These are scrappy stories about adversity, failure, and small moments of triumph for those rank & file soldiers. Since this is a 3 part series in installments of 3 Episodes each I will have to break this up into sections.

The Hidden One Year War

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The officers of the Jotunheim

This first installation follows the actions of the repurposed civilian freighter Jotunheim and its crew, the members of the Zeon 603rd Technical Evaluation Unit. A mix of soldiers and engineers, they are tasked with testing Zeon’s Experimental Weapons. They are first tasked with testing the long range Particle Cannon Jormungand which is immediately rendered obsolete by the Zaku Mobile suits at the Battle of Loum, however, it still proves useful in the end. Then as the Earth Drop Operations begin the 603rd is tasked with testing the YMT-05 Hildolfr transformable Mobile Tank, however when their team drops into their testing point in Arizona things do not go as planned. Finally, after Zeon hears word of the Federation’s powerful new Mobile Suit, The 603rd is tasked with testing the EMS-10 Zudah, an ill-fated Mobile Suit that can never live up to the propaganda promoting it.

The Gravity Front

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The soul of Lt. Arleen Nazon staring in disbelief at the wreckage of a Zeon Dabude Landship

Gravity front follows the tragic stories of Earth Federation Soldiers during the Zeon Drop Operation and leading up to the pivotal Battle of Odessa. A Goddess of death descends to the Earth and stalks these hero’s whose souls are trapped in the well of Gravity. In a ruined mining town, Lt. Ben Barberry and the Anti-Mobile Suit Tactical Squad fight against the onslaught of the incoming Zaku suits as Lt. Barberry becomes aware that death follows him everywhere. Sgt. Rayban Surat is transferred into the 301st tank regiment and meets Lt. Harmon Yandell, a man who is obsessively seeking revenge against a Zeon Mobile Mobile Suit Pilot known as “White Ogre”. Finally, in the background of the crucial Operation Odessa Lt. Arleen Nazon leads 2 other convicts in their RTX-440 Guntanks on a tragically misguided mission of revenge

Apocalypse 0079

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The experimental Big Rang Mobile Armor

Apocolypse 0079 returns us to the crew of the Jotunheim in the final days of the One Year War. Zeon is now losing the fight after their massive defeat on the Earth, and the job of the 603rd has become more crucial. A drop mission over Jaburo using the experimental Ze’Gok is not achieving desired results, until one fateful final mission. After the Zeon’s crushing defeat at Space Fortress Solomon, the 603rd is ordered to test the new Oggo Mobile Pods in lunar airspace, unaware that one of the officers will lose a dear family member. Finally, at the fateful battle of A Baoa Qu, the 603rd is given the experimental Mobile Armor Big Rang and ordered into the fray of the final climactic battle.

 

As you can see by the screenshots, this is the only Gundam Series ever done fully in 3D CG Rendering. That is not what makes it remarkable though, it is the tragic and humanizing stories which show the grit, brutality, and nobility of war that make this installation into the Universal Century shine so bright. Never have I felt such deep emotional connections to the plight of characters good or bad. You can get a copy of this tour de force here on Amazon, and I highly suggest you do because it is something remarkable. Now I better stop writing before I start to cry and shout “Seig Zeon!!”

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Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: December Sky (0079)

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In Fleming (bottom) and Daryl Lorenz (top) become determined to take one another’s lives.

In December of the year 0079, the one-year war has entered its final stages as the Federation wins key victories in North America, Africa, and Tibet. With the Federation planning a massive offensive on Space Fortress Solomon and A Baoa Qu, the war seems to be all but over. In a Shoal Zone that was formerly the Side 4 Colony Moore, the sky is alight not only with bolts of lightning from the electrically charged wreckage of the colonies but with weapons fire. A heated battle rages between the Zeon’s Experimental “Living Dead” Unit, and a Federation Unit composed of former citizens of the Side 4 Colony known as the Moore Brotherhood. In the midst of this conflict, a bitter rivalry forms between the Zeon Pilot Daryl Lorenz and the Moore Brotherhood’s Io Fleming.

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FA-78 Full Armor Gundam

Fueled by his hatred of the Zeon who destroyed the Side 4 Colony, Io Fleming is assigned to pilot the prototype Full Armor Gundam. Armed with this new Unit, he begins to eliminate the Dead Fish Units mobile suits which have been customized for use by the amputee pilots. Little does he know the Zeon have their own secret weapon, the experimental High Mobility Zaku Type II outfitted with a Psycommu Unit. To Pilot this suit and avenge his friends, Daryl Lorenz must sacrifice his very humanity along with the last of his healthy limbs. Who will win, the man fueled by pure anger or the man who sacrificed everything?

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A Dead Fish Unit Sniper

So right off the bat, I have to warn you this is literally the darkest and most depraved entry into the UC timeline but it is so worth it. First off, the Dead Fish Unit of the Zeon is an experimental unit tasked with testing new mobile suits built specifically for amputees so they could still fight. That’s pretty dark but it gets darker when Daryl Lorenz decides to sacrifice his last hand and become a paraplegic in order to use the experimental Mobile Suit. The Federation side gets just as dark, like how the Female Captain of the “Beehive” is a drug addicted mess who is fucking with Io. And later on, when the Federation finally sends them reinforcements to wipe up the Dead Fish Unit, they are all teenagers who are barely trained to pilot and get picked off pretty quick. So yeah, Drug Addiction, Amputees, Child Soldiers, and Sexual Depravity make it all seem like a stomach-churning mess. That is why it is so good though, it is the most realistic depiction of war in any Gundam Series.

This is apparently a compilation of the first season of the OVA it is named after, Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt. The Second Season is already airing so hopefully they will make a movie compilation of that too since it is the closest thing they have done to adding a totally original entry into the UC timeline. But in the meanwhile, you can buy Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: December Sky here on Amazon. If you have a weak stomach though, don’t forget to keep a bucket nearby when you watch it.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team (0079)

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Battle in the Jungles of Southeast Asia is brutal and unforgiving

October of UC0079, the tide of The One Year War between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon had heated up to a fever point after the defeat of Colonel M’Quve’s forces during the Battle of Odessa. The Federation has been making massive gains in reclaimed territory using their mass-produced Mobile Suit Models, and are pushing back the Zeon invasion forces. But now that the two forces are on even footing, the war has become more intense and more lives are lost and homes destroyed as Mobile Suits tear up the landscape. The battlefields of Southeast Asia are no exception as Federation Forces press forward, unaware of the Zeon’s secret machinations. Clashes between the Zeon and the Federation Forces, now armed with the RX-79 [G], have only increased the urgency of Ginias Sahalin’s secret project code-named “Apsalus”.

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Shiro Amada with his repaired RX-79 [G] EZ-8

Ensign Shiro Amada, the new commander of the 08th MS Team deployed to Southeast Asia, does not know much about any of these things. For this enthusiastic young soldier, his only goal is to defeat the Principality of Zeon after the horrifying event of the Colony Drop. Things seem black and white to this young recruit till he gets stranded with a Female Soldier during a rescue operation en route to his assignment. Now in charge of the 08th MS Team, Shiro has to battle the Zeon in the humid jungles while also battling the ambiguity of the war and his feelings for the female Zeon Pilot, Aina Sahalin. With the help of his partners in the 08th MS Team, as well as Local Gurellia fighters who fight both Zeon and the Federation, will Shiro and Aina be able to stop Aina’s brother from unleashing the devastation of Apsalus? Or will the Federation suffer a massive defeat in Asia at the hands of this madman? Watch Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team to find out.

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Unlike other Gundam Series, 08th MS focuses more on the battle happening on the ground than on space battles.

This is one of the best 0079 Side stories, in my opinion, the narrative is more relatable as it almost entirely takes place on the earth. It reminds you more of actual warfare with tanks and foot soldiers, albeit bi-pedal tanks that are like foot soldiers with lasers. Aside from that, the actual soldiers involved, rather than being cooped up inside a sealed vessel walk around breathing fresh air and interacting with locals. There is grit and grime and the characters have to struggle in a volatile environment, as opposed to the characters being in a clean sterile environment. Of course, the stakes aren’t as high since these soldiers in the jungle don’t have to worry about the vacuum of space.

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Shiro being held hostage by Guerrillas.

That being said, the stakes are still high in the jungle as in space. You can still die in the Jungle if a Mobile Suit blows up, and in Episode 2 Shiro makes it quite clear that the cockpit of a Mobile Suit in a humid jungle is an intolerable sauna. Not to mention capture by an enemy is more likely as well, in episode 3 Shiro is captured by Guerrillas. Now, in the end, these Guerrillas become allies, but capture by Zeon is also an imminent danger as they do not treat their prisoners very well despite the Antartic Treaty. The point I am making, however, is that there is just a different all around dynamic to The 08th MS Team.

This anime is one that really shows the style of the 90’s too. From the themes and the theme songs, it painted war in a realistic light but it also injected subtle elements of hope for the future of the characters. The ending was a bit disappointing to me, but I do not regret seeing it. You can buy your own copy here on Amazon, they have it in both Blue Ray and DVD. Buy it, enjoy it, share it with your friends. 🙂

Mobile Suit Gundam (0079)

Words are hard to come by when you are trying to introduce this show. The original Mobile Suit Gundam released in 1979 not only revolutionized the anime industry but set forth a franchise that has endured nearly 40 years. It started the Giant Robot Genre of the 80’s and has spawned 36 anime, 6 movies, along with numerous Manga, Video Games, and Models. It is truly legendary. So here we go, the first step of a journey 40 years in the making that started in the seemingly quiet Side 7 Colony.

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Amuro Ray, Pilot of the G.U.N.D.A.M.

The year is UC 0079. The Earth Federation and The Principality of Zeon are engaged in open conflict, a conflict which Zeon is winning using the new technology of Mobile Suits which the Federation has not yet developed. Young Amuro Ray leads a peaceful life in the seemingly quiet Neutral Colony at Side 7, living with his father who researches robotics. He spends his days lazily tinkering away with robotics, the horrendous conflict of the One Year War is literally worlds away from him. But that all changes abruptly when Zeon attacks the Side 7 Colony in order to destroy his father’s secret project, the Federations first Mobile Suit which is codenamed Gundam.

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Despite his young age, Amuro has to endure the tragedies and atrocities of war -image from blogspot.com

Forced to defend fleeing colonists as they flee to the experimental Federation Ship White Base, Amuro pilots his fathers new mobile suit to stop the Zeon. This catches the eye of Char Aznabel, an Ace Zeon Pilot known as The Red Comet. Being subjected to attack after attack as they flee to the earth, Amuro is forced to be enlisted as a Federation Pilot for Gundam in order to stop the enemy with his emerging abilities as a Newtype. He is joined by his friends as well as other colonists forced to flee to the white base as they form a ragtag civilian crew. Will they merely survive the attacks of Ace Zeon Pilots, or will they be the key to ending the One Year War? Will Gundam be able to stop the Zabi Family? All is revealed in Mobile Suit Gundam.

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The Crew of White Base -image from farm8.staticflickr.com

So as I said earlier, this is the original Gundam that started the franchise and revolutionized the industry. It was largely unpopular when it first aired though, an underdog story like most industry-changing legends. Apparently, things turned around for the series which almost saw itself canceled, when Bandai bought the rights to the show and began producing plastic models. The show’s popularity skyrocketed after this as hobbyists developed an enthusiasm for the mechs and the story behind them. It was a well-deserved turnaround for the series which only needed to be nudged towards a suitable target audience.

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Gundam engaged in Battle with Zeon Zaku Mobile Suits.

One thing that I have always liked about the Gundam Series was its realistic feel. The writers approached war in a very real sense, and instead of depicting the pilots as heroes or villains they chose to instead depict them as soldiers. They blurred the line between who was good or evil by having moments where the supposedly good Federation made some ethically questionable choices or with moments where some of the Zeon soldiers showed their true colors as relatively decent human beings. Their approach to science was pretty real too, by choosing the O’Neill Cylinders as the format for the Colony Side’s they established the series as something that is a possible future. These themes were a fresh and new break for the anime industry which had until this point not dealt with mature themes of war or solid themes of the future.

Even though it has been out so long, I am having a hard time finding a place to purchase this at as I did last week as well. I would suggest a streaming service or something else. Honestly, this show can be hard to get through since the animation is old and the show is 43 episodes long. But I find it to be worthwhile as there are some memorable moments. I hope if you decide to watch that you enjoy it as much as I do.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origins (0068 – 0079)

Well as promised, you guys will now be treated to 15 weeks of posts about Mobile Suit Gundam!! Now, of course, it will not be 15 weeks straight, there is the December 18th Final Fantasy Anniversary post, and if there is breaking political news then I plan to cover that which means I will have to jumble the schedule a bit. But anyway, let’s get down to business. We start this 15-week journey that covers 150 years of UC History with Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin. Are you excited yet?

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Char’s Signature Red Zaku at the Battle of Loum. -from http://www.gunjap.net

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origins is a prequel to the 1979 classic Mobile Suit Gundam which follows the origin story of the most well known Gundam antagonist, Char Aznabel. Before he was known as “The Red Comet”, he was just an innocent child. His name was Casval Deikun, son of the prominent philosopher and politician Zeon Zum Deikun. He leads a peaceful life in the Side 3 Colony Cluster (Autonomous Republic of Munzo) with his sister Artesia and their mother. But soon that all changes when their father is assassinated and the devious Zabi Family rises to power and declares Munzo “The Principality of Zeon”.

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Casval posing as Char at the Zeon Military Academy. -from http://www.daisuki.net

After escaping house arrest with the help of men loyal to Zeon Deikun, the siblings soon find themselves on the run from Zeon Assasins. Being forced to move again and again throughout the Earth Sphere, Young Casval’s anger and resentment towards the Zabi’s begin to fester. Upon hearing the news of the death of his mother, Casval’s resentment then turns into rage, and he begins to plot his revenge. After swapping places with a boy from Texas Colony (Side 5: Loum), he assumes the name Char Aznabel and joins the Zeon Armed forces, where he sets his plans for revenge in motion. Learn the story of the origins of a man who is destined to bring the world to its knees in Mobile Suit Gundam: Origins.

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“Operation British” as shown in Mobile Suit Gundam Origins -from blogs-images.forbes.com

As prequels go, this one isn’t all that bad. Actually, it really lives up to the Gundam Franchise and fills in a lot of unanswered questions about what led up to the events of pretty much all of the Gundam Series. It also depicts a lot of crucial events that set the stage for the One-Year-War and the development of Mobile Suits themselves. My favorite scene is the depiction of the Colony Drop Operation, Operation British. This is something they had never really depicted in detail in the original Mobile Suit Gundam or any of the other 0079 Side Stories.

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Young Casval and Artesia shown next to Char. -from i.ytimg.com

The character development was also really satisfying. Aside from seeing Casval and Artesia mature into Char and Sayala, there was a lot more fleshing out for characters that were barely expanded upon in the anime. I really came to identify a bit with Ramba Ral, so when I saw him die later on when I got around to watching Mobile Suit Gundam it was a bit emotional for me. They also expand on the Zabi Family, showing the cruelty of Kycilia, the scheming of Gihren, the oafishness of Dozle, the arrogance of Degwin, and the airheadedness of Garma. Again, watching this before Mobile Suit Gundam can really make that a more tolerable/fulfilling experience.

Usually, this is where I would tell you where to buy it, but sadly it is still an ongoing series. Some of it is available on Blue-Ray in the US, but your best bet to get it sooner is to watch it on a streaming service. But again, it is well worth the effort to watch it. It really makes a lot of sense out of the Universal Century and set the stage better, so when you finally see the original you will be able to see Zeon as more than just random aggressors. So hopefully you will get to watch and enjoy, and please come back next week as I review the original Mobile Suit Gundam.

Ghost in The Shell: Stand Alone Complex

I’m really inspired to write about this show because it is one of my all time favorites and this weekend I am going to share it with a friend. She said she would like to get into anime but she can’t find any she is into.  But she loves procedural crime dramas so that gave me a hint. Ghost in The Shell is perfect for her, it is one part Law & Order and one part West Wing that’s been doused in a shitload of cyber punk. It’s one wild ride and a look at the future which would give anybody mixed feelings and trepidation.

 It is a time when, even if nets were to guide all consciousness that had been converted to photons and electrons toward coalescing, standalone individuals have not yet been converted into data to the extent that they can form unique components of a larger complex. – Explination of the Stand Alone Complex from Ghost in The Shell SAC EP1

In the near future cyberization, the practice of replacing components of the human body with electronic components has changed the way society functions. Now with the ability to surf the web with one’s own brain, everything from business to shopping to paying bills is done differently, including crime. Cyber crimes such as body hacking and the influencing of cyber brains are on the rise, prompting the Japanese government to establish an armed anti-terror unit to combat these crimes. Enter Public Security Section 9, an elite commando team on record as an international rescue squad, in reality, they investigate and respond to incidents of cyber crime and cyber terrorism. Organized and commanded by Daisuke Aramaki, the team is lead into battle by Major Motoko Kusanagi as they quickly dispatch dangerous cyber criminals with their various sets of skills.

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Motoko Kusanagi in the middle of a Section 9 Operation

Their next case, however, isn’t going to be as simple as hacked robot geisha’s or out of control AI Tanks. When the case of the Laughing Man Terrorist incident comes across the desk of Cheif Aramaki everything changes for Section 9. What begins as a reopened investigation into the kidnapping of the CEO of a Micro machines company quickly turns into a tangled web of government conspiracy and corruption that goes all the way to the top and threatens to tear apart the squad. Will they solve the laughing man incident, or is someone trying to stop them from getting to the bottom of everything. And if they do get to the bottom of it all, will they themselves survive?

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Laughing Man’s Logo

One of the most appealing things about this anime phenomena according to fans is the astonishing quality of the animation and the amazing musical score. I can certainly agree with the latter statement, any score composed by Yoko Kanno is amazing. I, however, am the biggest fan of the writing which introduces smaller cases with no relation to the ongoing Laughing Man case to the main story line. This allows for the show to keep its integrity as a procedural crime drama while unraveling the components of a much larger mystery which the show is geared toward. And the levels of the writing go still deeper.

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The “Tachikoma” AI Mini Tanks

The show has a few references to J.D. Salinger‘s “The Catcher in The Rye” which should greatly entertain literary buffs, but the philosophy in the show goes deeper than just exploring some of the themes from that novel. While the main story line brings up themes about the malicious farcical nature of the political world and derides the phonies therein, I find more meaning in the development of things like the AI units. Indeed the best philosophical dive, in my opinion, is the exploration of what it means to be human in a world where the borderline between man and machine has been blurred so much. The development of the Tachikoma AI’s various individual personalities brings up excellent points on the ethics of AI’s and the episode about the Gerry Androids explored not only the idea of human sexuality when an android can fill our ideal expectations of a mate, but as to whether those lifeless automatons can possess a will or a soul of their own. Most important though is the idea of the Stand Alone Complex, the idea that even in a networked society where opinions easily become more uniform, that some individuals will cling to their individuality and in doing so become the most valuable component of a larger social machine.

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Major Kusanagi Equipped for an “Internet Dive”

Now I would be remiss if I did this piece without talking about the technology that exists in the world of Ghost in The Shell. 13 years ago many people commented that the time frame for this was not the best as many of the technologies showcased were not implausible but indeed highly improbable. With 13 more years to go until 2030 (the date the show takes place), we are seeing many of these technologies become a reality. While we are nowhere mind diving into the internet with cyber brains, VR Headsets are allowing gamers to experience their games in a more immersive environment. And although they are not quite as useful yet, cybernetic implants and prosthetics are now becoming a reality and are changing the way some people live.

So if you are a fan of police dramas or are looking forward to a future of cybernetic enhancement this is the show for you. It’s fast paced action and dives into the headiest philosophy make it a show any fan can enjoy. It’s an anime legend of the mid-2000’s that can hardly be topped by anything else in its genre. You can purchase it for yourself here. Enjoy!!

My Top 10 Favorite Vocaloid Songs

We needed a change of pace so I decided to expand the subject matter of my blog a little bit. This week I am going to list my top 10 favorite Vocaloid Songs. For those of you looking for a quick summary, Vocaloid is a singing voice synthesizer marketed by Yamaha. The most popular and well know Vocaloid are the Japanese released Vocaloid from the V1 and V2 software versions. It is a pretty neat software, though unless you are sound engineer odds are if you play with it the results will sound terrible at best

 

Anyhoo here we go starting from #10:

#10: Dead Line Circus – Len Kagamine, GUMI, Kamui Gakupo

Deadline CircusDead Line Circus is a dark little song with some darkly poetic lyrics written by Last Note, but a pretty nice bass line. It apparently tells the story of a circus of serial killers who kidnap members of the audience and kill them as part of the performance. I absolutely love the refrain to this one, “The pathetic scream of the bullet cries out as it flies free, and as it hits the clown it disappeared.” Honestly, this made the bottom of my top 10 though because of its use of Kamui Gakupo, honestly, it isn’t the best sounding Vocaloid, though I give last note credit because his use of Kamui is the best I have heard so far.

#9: Purple Butterfly on Your Right Shoulder – Len Kagamine

Purple Butterfly on My Left ShoulderAs far as Lyrics go, Purple Butterfly on Your Right Shoulder is a bit confusing. It seems to be a song about a guy who has gone mad with love, and possibly alcoholism after kissing a girl (or maybe guy?) at a party. Don’t get me wrong, the lyrics are poetic and I dig that. However, they are still very confusing sometimes, one line seems to imply cross dressing (which I have no personal problem with for the record), so it is more of an acquired taste. It does have an awesome beat and makes a great dance song if you’re into that.

#8: Ten Thousand Stars – Hatsune Miku

Ten Thousand StarsI honestly like this song mostly for its spunky lyrics. Ten Thousand Stars is one of the few Vocaloid songs intentionally done all in English with the (then) new V3 English Voice Bank Release. This song by CircusP won the Hatsune Miku Expo 2016 Song Contest which was part of a marketing campaign to promote the V3 English software. Not only did the composer win 10,000 dollars, his song was performed live by Hatsune Miku during the touring Miku Expo. So I guess that’s kinda neat.

#7: Tsugai Kogarashi – Kaito, Meiko

Tsugai KogarashiTsugai Kogarashi (A Pair of Wintry Winds) is a really beautiful song done in the Traditional Japanese Style. It’s flowing poetry paints a story of two lovers split apart and reunited by fate. This song for me is very calming but only made #7 because the voice of Kaito and Meiko really were not utilized as well as they could have been. An example of a good Meiko song though is…………

#6: Samurai Soul – Meiko

Samurai SoulThis one is one of my favorites and is composed by Team Kamiuta (Gods Song). It is an excellent use of the Meiko voice as much of the singing emulates real emotion almost. This song seems to be about a young student who is depressed and considering suicide over the world’s hypocrisy. While considering suicide she uncovers the gift of her ancestors, the spirit of the Samurai which gives her the strength and courage to keep on living each day to correct those wrongs. It is poetic, the lyrics are powerful, and the use of imagery of famous Samurai stirs my heart every time I hear this song and watch this video.

#5: Heaven & Hell – Len Kagamine, Rin Kagamine

Heaven & Hell“This is the Story of a world after death.” And I gotta tell you, this song makes me wanna go to (Buddist) Hell. Heaven and Hell tells the story of a man who has died, and now Yama and an Angel are fighting over whether or not he will spend eternity playing the game of Heaven or Hell. The protagonist is dragged through Hell where he is forced to take part in crimes, fight, and even bungee jump with a rope around his neck for some pretty pervy reasons. He thinks he is saved when he goes to Heaven, but there he is repeatedly tormented and tortured for not being perfect enough. Now he is being made to choose again but….. Oh wait, they had the wrong person. Sayonara, see you soon though mortal!!

#4: Worlds End Dancehall – Hatsune Miku, Megurine Luka

Worlds End Dance HallThis song and its video are a real trip, a real hop, a real step. Apparently, it’s a dance battle at the very end of this world (and maybe the beginning of the new one?). As I am sure you guessed based on my other picks, I love this for its poetic lyrics. It also had a really danceable tune which I enjoy compared to a lot of similar Vocaloid Songs. And the Video, I mean that is possibly one of the best. Who doesn’t enjoy a dance battle between 2 (Triad Crimelord?) girls and their posse in casual dresses.

#3: Hachi-Hachi: Flowery Battle of Kagamine’s – Len Kagamine, Rin Kagamine

Hachi HachiSo this is basically a song about Hanafuda cards, more specifically the game of Hachi-Hachi (which is 8 8, or 88. the proper word for 88 though is Hachi-Jun Hachi). It tells the story of a gambler courting an Oiran at a gambling house. Pretty simple. The song is laced with many references to Hanafuda. For example, Five Brights (Gokou) and Boar, Deer, Butterfly (Ino, Shika, Chou) are both high point hands you can assemble in Hanafuda games like Hachi-Hachi or Koi Koi. I love this song because of the mix of traditional and modern sounds, and also the references to Hanafuda which is one of the few card games I am really enthusiastic about.

#2: Senbonzakura – Hatsune Miku

SenbonzakuraI enjoy this song a lot, Senbonzakura touches on a lot of themes from the time span between the Meiji Era and WW2 (Basically 1868 – 1945). That time was comprised of the Meiji Period, the Taisho Period, and the early parts of the Showa Period. It is almost like hearing the voices of the souls in the Yasakuni Shrine. For example, “After a bold and audacious Westernization Revolution, this is now an open and upright anti-war nation” is a mixed reference to the westernization began under the Meiji Restoration and was accelerated after WW2 accompanied by Article 9 of the post war constitution that forbade Japan to develop a functional military or engage in hostilities. And “This is a Banquet inside a steel jail cell, look down on us from your guillotine” is a reference to the post war execution of men accused of being war criminals. And “Hundreds of fights will give you the appearance of an officer” placed next to the lyric “The Courtesans are going here and there on a parade for their regular guests” refers collectively to military expansion/victories of the Meiji and Taisho Periods as well as a period of political and social degradation starting in the late Meiji Period and extending into the early Taisho Period before the implementation of the Taisho Democracy. While it explores the darkness of Japan it also reminds us of the greatness and resilience of its Empire and expresses hope and the final result of a happy enough ending.

#1: As The Gods Say – Hatsune Miku, Rin Kagamine, GUMI

Ame-no-UzumeI am not in the least bit ashamed to say this song brings tears of joy to my eyes. It tells a very important story from the Kojiki about how Amaterasu-Omikami hid herself and her light in a cave (Amano-Iwato) after being tormented by her brother Susanoo-no-Mikoto. The Kami (Gods/Goddesses) grew worried and held council near the cave. They finally came up with a plan to coax Amaterasu-Omikami out of the cave. Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto performed a wild dance and began to bare her skin, and the Kami laughed with joy. When Amaterasu-Omikami peeked out to see why the other Kami were celebrating, Ame-no-Tajikarawo-no-Mikoto pulled her out of the cave while the other Kami sealed it up behind her.

Amaterasu-OmikamiThis is a really important story in Shinto. It establishes the basis for the ritual of Kagura. It also teaches many other things such as the burden the Kami bear, the importance of the Sun as a bringer of life and hope, the love our entire solar system feels for the sun, and the value of loving oneself and recognizing how important you may be to others. The video for this is done in the style of a scroll unfurling from right to left which is beautiful, and the imagery is based on traditional art patterns as well as the manga style. The music itself is mostly pop but it has a traditional flavor to it. This is really my absolute favorite song, it always brings me tears of joy near the end, and I usually listen to it when I am feeling bad. It was not hard to decide on this as #1 in my list, the happiness it brought me is priceless.

 

So hopefully this article was not too bad. Please, especially for this piece, leave feedback in the comments. I am always hesitant to add new content since I don’t want to risk diluting the subject matter of the website too much. Luckily with this, I was also able to tie it into subjects I already established. Anyway, good or bad feel free to drop that feedback. I value it greatly from my friends, and I need it from my readers. Oh, and if you are interested in purchasing Vocaloid software you can buy it here at Crypton Future Media’s online store, or if you are more comfortable buying domestically (within the US) you can purchase them through Big Fish Audio.

Oh, and before I forget, here is an honorable mention because the composer is deserving of recognition.

Honorable Mention: Luka Luka Night Fever

Luka Luka Night FeverThe composer of this song Sano Takayuki, or as some called him, Samfree, passed away September 24th, 2015. He was only 31 years old. His family did not release the cause of death but it was assumed that it was an internal disease as Takayuki was not suicidal. It is hard to see someone who had a promising career die so young, the only thing we can do though is to continue celebrating their work. This is still in my top 15 by the way.