Best of 2012 – Music

Compared to my past recaps, 2012 appeared to be a sleepy year in music. Very little caught my attention. Could it be the recession? The singles and videos that did make me look and listen more than once were strong contenders for the various categories, and I had the pleasure of reporting on three very different but equally exciting concerts for Purple SKY (I also got my first chance to do concert photography and boy was that an experience).

I would like to mention again that I am writing for JRock247 and NekoPOP. Most of my music-related articles will now be posted on those sites. Also, check out their best covers in J-rock and J-pop.

I wish I could be a part of this epic Halloween party. Hyde and company really went all out with their costumes, and it’s fun to discover who’s behind the make-up and masks. The video has a Tim Burton sort of dark whimsy that makes it really fun to watch.

Coolest outfits – “UZA” AKB48
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While I love their official “UZA” outfits (they do naughty gothic school girl well and I’m jealous), it’s their other outfits in the PV that are really awesome. You’ve got goth, Victorian, steampunk, Rococo, and even ballet. Of course my favorites are Jurina and Mayuyu’s dark pin-up steampunk ensembles. Top hats are always cool.

Most bizarre PV – “Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!” by BABYMETAL
A schoolgirl receives a neckbrace from the metal gods, and she suddenly move like she’s possessed. This PV captures the creepy cute weirdness of a heavy metal idol group, but hey, if it gets more people over on the “dark side”, who am I to complain?

Best album – She Loves You by various artists
YUI is awesome for producing this cover album. Not only does it get to feature the kickass talent of various female singers and bands, but it also provides a reinterpretation of her greatest hits. Why re-release your old music when you can help others explore their abilities and give fans a fresh perspective?

Biggest tearjerker – “Koishikute” by Koda Kumi
The title says it all: “I miss you”. Despite being a typical orchestra-backed ballad, Koda’s singing is so heartfelt and passionate that it’s hard to not feel her pain.

Catchiest song – “Ghost Train” by Shonen Knife

Leave it to Shonen Knife to create something that gets stuck in my head for days. The chorus simple (“Ghost Train, oh yeah”), and it chugs along to the next verse.

Best single – “Stigma” by -OZ-

-OZ- skillfully blends electronica and hard rock with screeching guitars and a combination of death and melodic vocals. If you want to headbang in your car or at your desk, this is the perfect song to do it to.

Outstanding live performance – Ayabie’s “Kakusei Sprechor” at A-kon 24
I used think “adorkable” was a ridiculous adjective, but it really suits Ayabie. They were silly and endearing, and the dance Yumehito had the audience do with him during “Kakusei Sprechor” embodied that. What really made them stand out though was their ability to engage the audience while technical difficulties were being resolved.

Most disappointing news – Versailles’ disbandment
Although this was not completely unexpected, the news was still disappointing. Some of my friends were introduced to visual kei through Versailles, and they had been hoping that they would play another U.S. show. Plus there just really isn’t a band as decadent as Versailles, but with the talent they have, we’ll be seeing more of each member.

Most noteworthy debut – DOLL$BOXX

I love female rockers and anybody who can play keyboards. DOLL$BOXX’s members are no stranger to the J-rock scene, and it shows through their polished sound. They bring a lighter (but still rockin’) look and sound, and their dual vocals add an extra punch to their powerful melodies. I’m excited to see more from them.

MVP – Hayato (DuelJewel)
Most of the time, the entire band would go on hiatus if the lead singer was facing health problems. Not DuelJewel. Korean rocker Kim Sehun has stepped in and recorded a full length album with the band. Hayato has praised him and even joked about new fans not knowing who he is when he returns. I don’t doubt that it must be hard for him to step back, but he’s being a great sport.

Artist of the year – FLOW
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FLOW has continued to work hard since their major debut in 2003. The past year saw them release two singles and their seventh album and playing shows in Texas, France, and Singapore. They also participated in the Act against AIDS event, held a New Year’s Eve concert, and began celebrating their 10th anniversary with a five-day festival. If that wasn’t enough, they worked on their anniversary album and planned to extensively tour Japan in 2013.

Musical artists who will be missed in 2013:
• Hikaru Hayashi – opera composer, pianist, and conductor
• Sadao Bekku – classical music composer
• Nejiko Suwa – violinist
• IKÜZÖNE – bassist of Dragon Ash
• Shiro Miya – enka singer


Best of 2012 – Anime

Is it me or is anime getting weirder?  This year we had magical drool, a polar bear-run cafe, fighting with a skateboard, and girls learning how to operate assault rifles and tanks in school.  Nevertheless, I came across a few enjoyable series, and picking my favorite turned out to be a big challenge.  Do I go with the unique idea (Thermae Romae), the technical masterpiece (Kids on the Slope), or the heartstring tugger (Say “I Love You”)?  Read on to find out.

NOTE: This recap may contain spoilers!

Best scene – Kaoru and Sentaro’s reunion jam (Kids on the Slope)
Whenever the two of them start playing jazz, it’s magic.  This scene definitely proved it while bringing everything full circle.  I won’t spoil the unique setting, but it was unexpected and made the scene more fun to watch.

Best theme – “En Otoko. -Adiós-” by ADAPTER (Brave 10)
I hate really obvious autotune and vocal distortions, but the shamisen in this song was awesome enough to make me overcome that bias.  The use of a traditional instrument in an electronic rock song is a perfect fit for the Sengoku Era fantasy.

Best voice acting – Takahiro Sakurai as Izumo Kusanagi (K)
I wish I was able to find the seiyuu for the American character in episode 1 that spoke the best English, but the second best would probably still be my top pick for how many character I recognized in Sakurai’s 2012 body of work.  Izumo Kusanagi just stood out for the range in pitch and emotions he covered. 

Cosplay this series if you want to be cool – Puella Magi Madoka Magica
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Sparkle Pipsi and Rynn (second and third from the left) as Madoka characters
Non-anime cosplays have been dominating the con scene so it was hard to pick an anime that stood out.  Madoka seemed to be a favorite among advanced cosplayers (notably the judges at the cons I attended).

Line we like to repeat – “I update my blog where I please!” (Fleur Blanc, Eureka Seven: AO)
This is something I’d say in real life if I had an iPad or a smart phone.  All of us bloggers should aspire to be like Fleur who finds time to update despite having to pilot and maintain an IFO.

Most egregious fanservice – Neko in K
If the impractically short skirts, butt shots, and homoeroticism wasn’t enough, K gave us Neko, a curvaceous catgirl who does not like to wear clothes and often gets in positions that the Hawkeye Initiative likes to mock.

Most overrated series – Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean
This sequel made me realize how much of my love for Eureka Seven lied in the sky-surfing mecha and the romance between various characters.  Without either, Eureka Seven: AO fell flat.  Plus the ending was more frustrating than a convoluted Steven Moffat plot.

Most ridiculous premise – Upotte!!
Girls learning how to shoot guns who are actually personifications of the guns themselves?  It’s best to not think too hard lest you start realizing what “pulling the trigger” means.  A part of me is convinced that the NRA is behind this series; I’ve learned more about assault rifles in one episode than I have my entire life.

Anime of the year – Thermae Romae
I decided to go with Thermae Romae because it connected two very different cultures (ancient Rome and Japan) with a simple pleasure: hot baths.  Although the animation seemed low budget, it was a clever breath of fresh air from the too pretty with little substance works.  It even had a couple of meta references!

Most anticipated series for 2013 – Sailor Moon
Sailor Moon was the first American dub I watched, and it’s both a classic and a very progressive series.  A remake is going to appeal to people like me who grew up wishing they were a Sailor Scout, as well as the current generation who will be reminded of one of the original magical girl series.  I’m interested in seeing how Sailor Moon will evolve.

Character Superlatives

  • Best Dressed – Bainas (Ozma)
  • Best Eyes – Maya (Ozma)
  • Best Hair – Megumi Kitagawa (Say “I Love You”)
  • Best Legs – Yamato Kurosawa (Say “I Love You”)
  • Best Smile – Tatara Totsuka (K)
  • Biggest Flirt – Yuri Kamanosuke (Brave 10)
  • Class Clown – Ichiyon (Upotte!!)
  • Cutest Couple – Mei Tachibana and Yamato Kurosawa (Say “I Love You”)
  • Friendliest – Ritsuko Mukae (Kids on the Slope)
  • Most Athletic – Misaki Yata (K)
  • Most Likely to Succeed… in Taking Over the World – Ao (Eureka Seven: AO)
  • Most Spirited – Gazelle (Eureka Seven: AO)
  • Most Talented… with a Weapon – Sig (Upotte!!)

Sukitte-Ii-Na-Yo_zpsfedac205, From
Our cutest couple winners have a relationship that really hits close to home for me.  Also, Yamato gets best legs for the sheer amount of running around town he did.

Members of the anime and manga industry who will be missed in 2013:

  • Sayuri Yamauchi – Lady Une (Gundam Wing), “Twilight” Suzuka (Outlaw Star)
  • Noboru Ishiguro – director of Legend of Galactic Heroes
  • Takeshi Aono – Shiro Sana (Space Battleship Yamato), Sugoroku Mutou (Yu-Gi-Oh!)
    Shuichi Higurashi – cover artist for Big Comic
  • Yugo Sako – director of Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama
  • Susumu Ishikawa – Puss ‘n Boots (Puss ‘n Boots)
  • Mitsunoko Mori – Hii-sama (Princess Mononoke)
  • Keiji Nakazawa – mangaka of Barefoot Gen
  • Takashi Taniguchi – Harry Anders (Hellsing), Montblanc Cricket (One Piece)

Listening to: “Furisodeshon” by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

Best of 2012 – Live-Action Film and TV

Akemashite omedetou!  Happy new year!  My recaps come a little late because I’ve doubled the amount of blogs I contribute to.  One of them is Drama-MAX.  It’s going to be the new home to my movie and drama reviews so please check it out.  Of course, I’ll post reminders, but there’s content from other writers that are worth reading.

2012 was a really hit-or-miss year.  On one hand, I came across some stellar adaptations of anime on both the silver and TV screens.  On the other, I had many moments when I struggled to find a good drama to watch.  It seemed like TV was saturated with mysteries and thrillers, which often had a supernatural or sci-fi twist.  The formula just didn’t work for most.  However, the really good stuff, like Ace Attorney and Ruroni Kenshin, are the ones you can watch over and over again.

NOTE: This recap may contain spoilers!

Best appearance in an overseas production – Mika Nakashima in Resident Evil: Retribution
Even though she only had a bit part as a zombie in Resident Evil: Afterlife, Mika Nakashima made a big impression on the director and Milla Jovovich that they brought her back.  I haven’t seen Retribution, but the clip of her fight with Alice is pretty wicked.

Best line – “Yes, I have no desire to give you such a gift. But… to protect Kaoru-dono, I will be the hitokiri once again!”

This line could make or break the live-action Ruroni Kenshin.  Kenshin isn’t Bruce Banner so this line has to be full of intention as much as rage, not to mention love. Takeru Sato’s delivery was spot-on.

Best pairing – Date Masamune and Sanada Yukimura (Sengoku BASARA: Moonlight Party)
Since I wasn’t impressed by the romantic pairings this year, my pick goes to the Date-Sanada bromance.  Normally I’d get tired of watching two character fight all the time, but the two of them have such explosive chemistry that I stuck by the series just to see them interact.

Best theme – “RUNAWAY” by CREAM (VISION Koroshi ga Mieru Onna)
The smooth R&B sound brings attention to the sexiness of VISION.  Minami’s voice is both sultry and vulnerable, which perfectly describes the main character Rena. 

Most memorable character – Yume Ouji (Akumu-chan)
Gackt is born to play one archetype, and that’s the prince.  His name literally translates as “Dream Prince” so everything about his character is over-the-top.  This role also evokes his Malice Mizer and “Mizerable” days.

Most memorable scene – Last scene of VISION
The ending was a mess, but the epilogue scene with Kazuma and Rena made up for it.  It starts off really sweet, and then at the very last frame, the tone does a complete 180, making you rethink your views of the characters and events.  Nobuaki Kaneko, who had been mostly okay, gave me chills with that final look.

Biggest disappointment – Saikou no Jinsei no Owarikata ~Ending Planner~
This wasn’t a bad drama per say; it just wasn’t anything special.  It had so many Asian drama clichés, and I found myself being more interested in the side characters.  Yamapi and Nana Eikura could do so much better.

Breakthrough role – AKIRA as Eikichi Onizuka (Great Teacher Onizuka)
I wasn’t sure if anybody could do Onizuka as well as Takeshi Sorimachi, but AKIRA was the anime character brought to life.  He embodied the immature yet loveable personality of the renegade teacher, and he also looked the part.

Actor of the year – Takeru Sato
Even though he only had one TV/film role this year, that was enough.  Takeru Sato nailed every aspect of Kenshin’s personality, and it’s not like he has been sitting around.  He made his stage debut in Romeo and Juliet and proved to be a stand-up guy by taking care of a drunk celebrity friend.  We might as well start calling him the Japanese Ryan Gosling.

Drama of the year – Great Teacher Onizuka
The original GTO drama was my first, and then I watched the anime so I had high expectations for the remake.  It delivered with a fantastic lead and a great supporting cast that actually included Urumi and Ryuji (my two favorites from the anime).

Movie of the year – Ace Attorney
I think the hardest I laughed in the past year was while watching Ace Attorney.  Although I’ve never played the games, I could still follow the movie and enjoy the little gags.  The casting was perfect, and there were some serious moments to balance out all the crazy humor.

Most anticipated show/film for 2013 – Kuroshitsuji
Hiro Mizushima is back, and he’s going to be one hell of a butler (hey, he’s been a kickas butler before so this should be good).  Kuroshitsuji is a stunning anime, and I can’t wait to see the fashion and the special effects.

Members of the film and TV industry who will be missed in 2013:

  • Hideaki Nitani – Kenji Aizawa (Tokyo Drifter)
  • Eiko Ishoka – costume designer for The Cell and Mirror, Mirror
  • Chikage Awashima – Masako Sugiyama (Early Spring)
  • Rikiya Yasuoka – Pisken (Tampopo)
  • Kaneto Shindo – director of Children of Hiroshima and Kuroneko
  • Takeo Chii – Tokiuchi Shokei (Lady Snowblood)
  • Isuzu Yamada – Asaji (Throne of Blood) , Orin (Yojimbo)
  • Yoichi Takabayashi – director of Death at an Old Mansion
  • Keiko Tsushima – Shino (Seven Samurai)
  • Taketoshi Naito – Private Kobayashi (The Burmese Harp), Kanzen Inukai (Samurai Fiction)
  • Hideji Otaki – Masakage Yamagata (Kagemusha), General Kamijo (Casshern)

Listening to: “By My Side” by Hemenway