Top Tracks from The Pillows That weren’t in FLCL that I’d love to hear in either FLCL Sequel

With the sneak premiere of FLCL: Alternative, and the more official premiere of FLCL: Progressive, it’s clear that Japanese band The Pillows will be dipping back into their extensive backlog of music to serve for both sequels’ background tracks. That said, here’s some of their jams I’d like to hear make an appearance in either show that didn’t make the cut in the original, either due to lack of appreciation, or because they weren’t made yet:

Climbing the Roof – 1995

Released in the album Living Field, Fool on the Planet came out six years after the band was formed, but five years before their international notoriety through the original FLCL—in interesting sweet spot in that now at their fourth album, the band has definitely experienced a fair amount of fame by this point, but nothing on the scale that they’re currently at. Fool on the Planet is an interesting track in that it starts off slowly—almost breezily—only to have that all tumbling into all-out rock by around the 2-minute mark. Something the band doesn’t shy away from in later tracks in their career, either.

Beautiful Picture – 2002

Beautiful Picture was released in the B-side collection Another Morning, Another Pillows, and exhudes a certain amount of confidence that you’d expect from something released shortly after the success of FLCL. Beginning with a quick-tempo tambourine and melodic guitar, Beautiful Picture maintains the vibe from something you’d expect from their FLCL-era tracks, while bringing something all its own. Its use of bass and occasional lulls are equal parts thoughtful and effective, creating a feeling of isolation without getting grimdark about it.

White Summer And Green Bicycle, Red Hair With Black Guitar – 2002

If you haven’t listened to any of The Pillows’ slower tracks, you absolutely need to do yourself a favor and correct that immediately. White Summer’s long title evokes a certain “take your time” vibe that appropriately oozes throughout the song itself. It’s melancholic without being overly depressing, rhythmic without being pop levels of bouncy, and creates this image of a time long past that while you can never recreate perfectly, is nice to remember every now and then.

Girlfriend (Love Letter version) – 1995
The Pillows’ original track Girlfriend was breezy enough and was definitely something you’d expect to play during a cute dating montage, perfectly balancing that knowing cheesiness factor that comes with infatuation. But for the version recorded for the romance movie Love Letter, The Pillows take things in a much more dramatic direction. Of course, the feelings of love remain throughout the track, but they’re met with hesitation—a more reluctant love that’s been hurt before and is simply trying to make a relationship worthwhile rather than simply in-the-moment.

Energiya – 2011

By this era in The Pillows history, I won’t shy away from saying the band’s gotten into something of a rut. More often than not, tracks are repetitive not only within a single song, but across an entire album. Even with those gripes in mind, though, Trial is one of my favorite recent tracks of theirs. With a generous guitar riff that’s repeated throughout the track, it also isn’t afraid to slow things down a bit. And while it sounds a bit uncomfortably interchangeable with Minority Whisper and Trial, which are tracks that appear on the same album, they’re all equally good tracks.

Sweet Baggy Days – 2007

It’s the end of the day, you’ve gotten a ton of stuff done for once, and you’re ready to head back home to chill the hell out. That’s the feel Sweet Baggy Days gives off, and while it falls into the same problems as other more modern The Pillows tracks in its redundancy, it does so in a manner that’s very satisfying to the ears. Even later into the track when it betrays its own vibe by upping its tempo, it’s still something I can listen to comfortably.

The Scar Whispers, Nobody Is In Paradise – 2003

Like White Summer And Green Bicycle, Red Hair With Black Guitar before it, The Scar Whispers is oddly thoughtful about just how chill it wants to be. With a guitar that’s almost lullaby-like in nature, the entire track is such a satisfying slow jam that just makes me wish The Pillows made more slow tracks like this over their more mainstream rock hits that have become more processed and soulless with each passing single and album.

Monochrome Lovers – 1994

Released back in The Pillows’ wannabe Beatles phase, Monochrome Lovers is still a notable track on its own. It’s incredibly quick-paced and breezy, with an almost samba-like break in-between that takes you off guard, but still maintains the track’s good vibes that you don’t care.

Honorable Mention: Thank You, My Twilight – 2002

Technically, this track has already been in the opening scene in FLCL: Progressive, but that doesn’t take away from how much this song kicks. Had I made this list just a day earlier, Thank You, My Twilight would be at the top of my list, no questions asked. It maintains the unique vibe from that era of The Pillows that’s equal parts stuck in FLCL nostalgia, but also its own thing entirely. It’s surprisingly slow tempo paired with its opening techno bleep-bloops that permeate throughout the track is just so iconic, especially when the music begins to swell into finale mode when you’re just so utterly engulfed by it and have no other choice but to bob your head in appreciation.

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Stranger Things 2 lacks that 80s drab, and this bothers me

It’s not exactly the hottest take to say that Stranger Things season 1 is a spectacular show. The season so perfectly emulates an ‘80s movie to the point that you could believe that it’s something actually made during the 1980s. From its mix of child-centric adventure and sci-fi, to its casting of perfectly misfitty characters, the first season of Stranger Things, while very story-centered, also took the time to nail every nook and cranny of minor details, helping boost its ‘80s aesthetic from a simple gimmick to a strong, functional facet of the show itself.

That’s not true for the second season.

Even ignoring the wholly disliked episode 7, Stranger Things 2 while likeable enough is a general mess. Its cast is too widely dispersed from each other to make any forward progress in its more immediate plot points, new characters are introduced to little effect, and most importantly of all: the ‘80s aesthetic that made  the first season so enjoyable has all but faded (er… “been polished severely”?).

Yes, all the likeable misfits are back, with their long-range walkie-talkies and lack of parental supervision among rooms with wood-paneled walls and cube TVs, but there still remains something a bit off: the lighting. A major factor that added to Stranger Things’ first season was how it treated lighting as a major tool to mold their perfectly dated world. Even on sunny days, scenes were washed over in this intentionally grimy manner that served as the series’ own world-building. Not only did lighting play a crucial role to better play up the series’ horror aspect, but it made the more tame dialogue-heavy scenes that much more convincing—your eye being slowly drawn towards the uncomfortable excess of drab-colored rugs among other dated room décor.

With Stranger Things 2, the cast and setting are still appropriately 80s, but the noticeably bright lighting is enough to take you out of scenes entirely. It’s the same kind of distracting that comes from having a particularly bad actor on scene, or a musical score that just doesn’t jive with the scene it’s in. You think it’s minor until you see just how much the work suffers when it’s poorly done. Stranger Things season 1 transcended ‘80s homage to actually feel like something made from that time. Meanwhile, Stranger Things 2 felt more like a modern-day movie playing dressup with outfits and sets from a time long past. It’s the Sandlot 2 of Netflix shows. And I don’t think anyone wants to be that.

I thought Spider-Man Homecoming wasn’t all that great, but at least hear me out on this

Even disregarding superhero burnout, and fanboy wanking, I just couldn’t enjoy Spider-Man: Homecoming.

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My Two Cents on the Iron Fist Debacle

Lemme first say I have no interest in watching Iron Fist. Being panned across the board aside, I just don’t have time to invest 13+ hours into a series that’s ultimately homework for whenever Netflix/Marvel releases The Defenders.

Rather, I’d like to bring up how Netflix’s previous Marvel series have proven that a socially conscious series can work and yet for some reason wasn’t the logical path to take come time to adapt Iron Fist for a modern audience.

Whether it be a black man, woman, or blind man, each previous Netflix series was able to take a marginalized group of people and empower them without coming off as too obnoxious about it. Each show made a point to treat their star as a person first and hero second (if that). It never bothered with spoon-feeding the audience the character’s “blackness” or “femininity” or “handi-capable-ness” because doing so would be a disservice to the character as well as the viewers. If the Saturday Morning Cartoons of yore were any indication, tokenization was a very obvious pitfall to avoid for the creative teams involved.

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So what makes Iron Fist such an exception? Besides the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” natural problem of having to adapt an outdated premise to appeal to mainstream and hardcore audiences, I personally believe going the route of recasting our titular character as an Asian-American is just too much for even today’s modern mindsets. While women, black people, and (to an admittedly lesser degree) the disabled have been successfully integrated into American society, the concept of an Asian main character, not to mention one that’s a superhero, is just too novel of a concept for American-made live-action dramas. And taking into account where Asians fall in modern America, it’s not too surprising. Rather than trying to integrate into societies, it’s become more commonplace for first-gen Asians in America to stick together as a community. Things like Chinatown, Japantown, and Koreatown where the common language spoken is anything but English serve as a safe haven to the according immigrants, but this strange, unapproachable-except-for-touristy-visits, foreign… thing for anyone else. To write a story trying to immerse the audience in that world when that world is so inherently unapproachable to any other American (read: white people) is apparently too big of a hurdle to even bother trying to jump over.

Sure, the counter-argument would be that you’re playing into stereotypes to have an Asian know martial arts, but if every prior Marvel Netflix series were able to successfully establish, break, and exceed stereotypes, I honestly don’t see why Iron Fist wouldn’t dare to follow suit.

But whatever, man, I’ve got plenty of other series to binge on already.

A Look at Fantôme and Utada Hikaru’s Musical Evolution

Utada Hikaru is probably best known among English-speaking fans for singing the iconic Simple and Clean theme from the Kingdom Hearts games, with her end theme song Beautiful World for the Evangelion Rebuild movies coming as a close second in terms of notoriety among nerds. And while she never truly reached mainstream media fame in the states, she’s made quite the reputation for herself in her native Japan, having started her musical career back in 1996, and her popularity only steadily increasing from there.

utada-hikaru-fantome
Now a full 20 years after her debut, Utada Hikaru’s Fantôme is the first album she released after her musical hiatus from 2011-2016. Of note, however, isn’t the quality of the tracks themselves, but where they stand when looking at Utada’s career as a whole.

Too often do musicians end up falling in a rut, creating music that ends up being derivative of their older work (or as I like to call it, the Avril Lavigne effect). And while this may not necessarily hurt their core fanbase who is eager to take on more of the same, it does take a clear hit to their notoriety in a “radio playing” sense. Why listen to a new thing when an old thing holds up just as well and sounds pretty much the same? Also taking into account music’s ever-changing landscape and how it evolves over time, it just feels less awkward to listen to a time-capsule sort of piece from ages past rather than a recent piece that insists on shoehorning a long-ended aesthetic into its style. Sure there are some exceptions, but more often than not, it’s less a case of the mainstream being unaccepting to an older “style” than it is the musician themselves being unwilling to adapt and evolve past their comfort zone. And you can’t exactly blame the musicians that insist on towing the line, since experimentation leads to so many more pitfalls.

In the case with Fantôme, though, the album as a whole just… is. There’s nothing too toe-tapping or ear-wormy in any of the tracks, but listening to it while keeping in mind Utada’s history does make for a more pleasant listen. Literally having gone through all her major hits from 1998’s Automatic and moving onwards from there, you can witness Utada’s musical growth and maturation, as she transitions from radio pop, to ballads. And it’s in witnessing this range and progress that I found true enjoyment from what should otherwise be a middleground album.

[Utada Hikaru’s Fantôme can be purchased on the US amazon site]

Legacy and the Aging Protagonist: In Defense of Dragon Ball Super

Dragon Ball Super is one of those series that’s incredibly easy to dismiss as an easy cash-in to a long-lived franchise (though honestly, that title belongs moreso to the Dragon Ball Heroes card game). New characters are introduced for the purpose of story-expansion, and new power-ups are invented almost to accompany every new addition to the cast. And yet a good 50+ episodes in, the series has been doing a surprisingly solid job of not only continuing the story from where it left off, but also progressing each character’s arcs, keeping in mind the series’ 30+ years of in-world history to pinpoint where characters currently are emotionally. Not bad for a show about dudes punching alien-dudes until they die or befriend each other.

DBSuper Vegeta v Freeza

r we besties yet? Y/N

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Correlation Between Modern Manga Writing and Short-Episode-Count Anime

Anime adaptations of manga are nothing new. Checking upcoming anime every season, there’s always an interest in discussing what manga is deserving of an adaptation. That said, while interests in different subgenres continue to crop up among modern anime, episode counts are continuing to drop. Long gone are the days when 50-100+ episode anime was the norm. Now more than ever, anime episode count is dwindling, and it’s been affecting manga-ka in an unexpected way, having them take different approaches when it comes to writing their stories in hopes of nabbing that sought-after anime adaptation.

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A Response to People that Don’t Like Cards Against Humanity

I woke up this morning surprised to find my twitter feed slowly but surely spreading this article speaking in-depth about how people actually go as far as despise the game of Cards Against Humanity.

To reply by simply saying “it’s just a game” would be irresponsible and avoiding the problems brought up by the people that well… have a problem with the game.

Cards Against Humanity isn’t an ice-breaker to play with people you don’t know. At least that’s not how I’ve ever played it. You play it amongst friends you know well and play your cards keeping in mind who the judge for the current round is. Yes, you are pandering to what that particular person finds funny (in an ironic way or not), but in that regard it’s more than a “shut your brain off and go” game. It does in fact require some sense of strategy by not just thinking “what’s the best LOL TEH RANDUMB” thing or most racially/sexually/tumblr-enraging thing. You play your cards based on the person currently judging.

And for people that have created their actual grown-up livelihood around comedy, I can see why that would upset them. The entire idea of pandering is never seen in a positive light. People love to hate shows like Big Bang Theory because it tries too hard to pander for an audience without the TLC required for said audience to actually *like* what’s being attempted to be shoved down their throats. But that’s pandering to a broad audience. Let me reiterate: Cards Against Humanity is something to be played amongst a small circle of friends that are fully aware of just how ridiculous the concept is. It’s the difference between telling a silly one-liner to a friend and taking that said one-liner and attempting to get a publishing deal based solely around it.

But wait, what about all the offensive choices you’re given and clearly encouraged to play? Choices mocking certain races or religions or sexual-orientations or disabilities, etc. etc.

Again, this has to do with the certain group of people you’re playing with. As a Filipino twenty-something, my small circle of friends are of similar backgrounds and during the handful of times we get together to play Cards Against Humanity, the inappropriateness of the game is all in good fun. None of us are actually involved in things like casual racism or the like–it’s simply the nature of the game. The “jokes” played during each round are laughed at not due to how genuine they are, but because of how downright ridiculous they’ve become within the small timespan of each round.

That is not to say that there doesn’t exist a breed of people that partake in said game, partake in a round and laugh at the cards played in a serious “I’m laughing at the subjects being mocked rather than the ludicrousness of the situation” manner. These people are idiots with too few brain cells to look past the face value of something and realize a different level of humor is at play. Said people will always exist regardless of whether or not Cards Against Humanity was ever made. The existence of Cards Against Humanity does not “breed” insufferable-ness. Rather, it better categorizes what kind of person you are based on just what exactly it is you’re laughing at.

So is Cards Against Humanity hurtful? It can be. So can kitchen knives. But for the most part, people just use those to cut fruit. Only the true whackadoos actually use it in an intentionally hurtful manner and yet for some reason those are the people that we like to focus on and create this entirely different image on the product at hand because of such.

“Pain is Power!” Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger Review

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was one of those shows that essentially shaped me into the manchild I admit to being today. It had the kind of gratuitous imitatable violence that made soccer moms everywhere help push for the current parental guidance ratings and in general was just something nice and campy you could watch with your brain turned off. But while the Power Rangers have gone strong through a current total of (checks Wikipedia) 18 different series, I think we can all say that it’s dwindled in popularity since the Mighty Morphin’ era. Thankfully the guys at Toei have found a way to bring in old fans of the show in the form of parody series Unofficial Sentai Akibaranger.

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Extended Tweets: Adventures in Making Informed Amazon Purchases Involving Old Nickelodeon Series

The Japanese version of this post would have been called “Crisis! The Missing 12 Episodes” which, oddly enough, is shorter than the actual title of this post.

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