Notes, mostly off-key

The first round of the Anime Music Tournament is underway. The organizers have made all 256 nominated tunes available in a convenient two-gigabyte download. I’ve been working my way through it. Since they usually picked the full-length version of each song, there’s just a bit less that twenty hours of music. It’s going to take me a while to listen it all.

A few comments on what I’ve heard so far:

1. Is this the best anime has to offer? There are some good tunes, but the majority are forgettable.

2. About half the songs sound alike. You can tell them apart if you listen carefully: song A has a disco-ish rhythm section, song B has a particularly breathy singer; song C has piano and strings; song D has distorted guitar and strings; etc. But the similarities are greater than the differences. They’re all based on the same template, all feature nasal girl singers at the upper end of their ranges, all are overarranged and overproduced, and they all blur together in my mind.

3. Masumi Itou, by virtue of her superior songwriting skills, has earned the right to sing in a little-girl voice if she wants to. All other female vocalists need to learn to use their full vocal ranges and sing full-out.

4. Japan needs altos, baritones and basses.

5. I forbid all use of string sections, real or sampled, in popular music. Synth pads, too. After listening to hours of gooey music, it takes something like The Rodeo Carburettor to blast the slime out of my ears.

6. What the hell is Yes doing here? “Roundabout” is an old favorite, and I prefer it to the vast majority of the other nominees, but it’s an “anime” song only by the loosest possible definition. (Beware: the track included in the big download skips once near the end. If you have another recording — and you should — listen to that instead.) ((I have no problem with including such numbers as “Duvet” or “The Sore Feet Song,” since they are generally unknown outside of anime, but Yes has an enormous world-wide audience.)) ((Let me offer a deal to the tournament organizers: “Roundabout” can remain in the running if they can explicate the lyrics.))

7. Those who only know “The Sore Feet Song” from watching Mushishi are in for a surprise.

5 thoughts on “Notes, mostly off-key”

  1. Well, that’s certainly… a collection of music.

    I’m snagging it because, duh. But I’m not sure I have the stamina to cast dozens of votes.

    Besides, they included the wrong song from Mouretsu Pirates. The ED is pretty much my favorite song to come out of the anime world in the last three years.

  2. I seem to remember somebody mentioning that the JoJo’s Bizarre whatsis show used so much Yes that it made it basically unlicensable in North America. Maybe that’s where the Roundabout is coming from? I dunno, no amount of Seventies prog rock can get me to watch a show full of weird-looking shounen-jive fighting cocks with twelve-pack abs. So very much not my sort of thing.

  3. “Is this the best anime has to offer?”

    Well, I didn’t offer any nominations for the tournament, but it looks like most of my favorites got in. So, I think “yup, that’s all we got.”

    On the other hand, though…

    We’re talking about music composed for (or used as) theme songs. In western media, how much real quality music comes out of theme-song-land? Orchestral works for the silver screen, yes. Pop songs for TV? Not really. We’ve already got a pretty dismal marsh to wade around in, here.

    The ANN list has 5679 anime in the “top 10000 most-seen” list, so I assume that’s all they’ve got (movies, individual seasons, OVAs, hentai, all of it.)

    The ones “seen by 1 person” aren’t going to make this list. “Seen by 100+ people” cuts it to 3215. (Of the nine shows “seen by 99 people”, four are hentai, so we’re still waaaay down the list, quality-wise.)

    If we’re generous and say every show seen by 100+ ANN’ers was considered by someone for inclusion in the tourney, and a show averages 4 songs (there’s a lot more OVAs and single-cours than multi-cours on the list, so even that’s generous), we’re still picking 256 songs out of about 12860.

    Apply Sturgeon’s Law, and we’re picking 256 of the remaining 1286, so even this highly-pruned-down list is the top 20% of EVERYTHING that isn’t outright crud.

    And that list is as proposed by a small group of blog-reading english-speaking anime fans. Many of whom seem to have surprisingly similar tastes (256 songs, and “My Soul, Your Beats” makes the list twice? And five songs from two anime in the mumble-monogatari series got in?)

    And if you kill off “real or sampled string sections”, you’ve killed off a lot of what I consider the best of anime music (that is, a lot of Yuki Kajiura’s stuff).

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