It’s that time of the month again where ARAMA! JAPAN contributors share their favorite songs, albums, and dramas released last month.
Check out the October 2016 staff selections below. On page one: Polaris, Indigo, and Ash. On page two: Ariane, Ronald, Ariane.
Yuri!!! on Ice
The anime everyone’s talking about, Yuri!!! on Ice is my pick for October. It’s a refreshing show with likable characters, relevant plot, and great music. Taku Matsushiba did a wonderful job with the music. Especially considering how young he is and that this is his first major work for an anime series. The animation is amazing. How tedious it must be to draw out all the skating routines and body anatomies. Oh man, those Onsen scenes! I could keep on talking about all the great things about this show: nice balance of humour and seriousness, not-so-subtle bl undertones, and engaging explanations about the world of figure skating. Will Yuri!!! on Ice make history? Only time will tell…
occultic;nine is mystery, sci-fi show brought to you by studio, A-1 Pictures. Despite the controversial pacing and storytelling, I’m quite enjoying putting all the pieces together: the perspectives of different characters, the connections between their story lines, and direct yet sometimes subtle foreshadowing. I have to re-watch the episodes just to catch some key details. One thing that sets this show apart is the colour design. Sometimes the colours are bright and contrasting, to highlight the shocking, bizarre mood of the scene. Other times, the colours are dark and ominous. The design is done so well, very deliberate in setting the tone and bringing focus to one particular aspect in a scene. This show, so far, has proven to be interesting and different. Hopefully it will continue for the rest of the 12 episode series.
3-gatsu no Lion
3-gatsu no Lion (March Comes in Like A Lion) is easily the title I anticipated the most going into this Fall anime season, if only because the people behind it: author Chica Umino (Honey and Clover), studio Shaft (Monogatari Series, Puella Magi Madoka Magica), and Bump of Chicken. When it finally aired, it met my expectation not with a loud bang but with a delicate nod. 3-gatsu no lion is a very picturesque, contemplative anime that looks into the life of Kiriyama Rei, a 17-year-old pro Shogi player that lives alone. It is a coming-of-age story that follows Kiriyama’s emotional growth through his relationships with his colleagues, high school friends, and most importantly, a family of three sisters. Umino Chica’s exploration of the human psyche remains careful and kind here, and is one of the best aspects of the show. Backed with a beautiful animation, pacing, and voice actings, 3-gatsu no Lion is shaping up to be my top pick of the season.
As for music, this month finally saw a new release from Sakanaction. Tabun, Kaze is admittedly nothing new from the band, as it still tinkers around with familiar ideas and structure: a dance-rock number that pays off in a high-pitched chorus courtesy of frontman Ichiro. The second track, moon, also borrows the live singalong from their lives as the highlight. Still, it works. This is the formula they have mastered to the degree that it’s almost impossible to produce a bad song with. After their long hiatus, it’s something I still gladly welcome.
On the other hand, Flip Flappers is a title that I overlooked until 2 weeks into the season. It’s by Studio3Hz, with Kiyotaka Oshiyama serving as the series director; two relatively low-key names that most probably won’t ring a bell with casual viewers (me included). The series, however, is far from being low key; Flip Flappers is a fun and experimental spectacle that doesn’t shy away from voicing its creative directions in each of its episodes. The series concerns itself less with the narrative and more with using the animation medium to convey its ideas and the emotions of the characters. The gist of the story is two girls, the loud Papika and the reserved Cocona, who search for a wish-granting item in the dreamlike dimension of Pure Illusion: an everchanging dreamscape that borrows visuals from Ghibli Movies, Alice in Wonderland, Mad Max: Fury Road. Now add magical girls and Dragonball-esque battle sequence to the equation and you get a very colorful and whimsical series that is very delightful to watch. There’s also a deeper, underlying theme about human emotions but it’s just basically a very refreshing series to watch.
VMO (or Violent Magic Orchestra)’s debut album hit in October, and it delivered on all fronts. The supergroup (consisting of Vampillia on instrumentals/vocals, Pete Swanson on electronics and Mondkopf on mix/synth) really manage to bring an electrifying experience, a fantastic meeting of black metal and EDM/IDM. Sometimes when artists try to verge two extremely different genres it comes off gimmicky or cheap- VMO manage to really avoid all this and pull it off amazingly naturally. There isn’t a dull moment to be found here- and the addition of guest vocals from both The Body and Attila Cshihar make it a must listen for fans of the genre. Check it out if you’re into the more extreme side of things.
Ichiko Aoba is back with her latest album- and once again its a frail, fragile, beautiful piece of work. It’s always fascinating how ‘big’ Aoba can make her music sound with the most minimal of instrumentation and production values. The amount of restraint she shows is impressive in itself- her voice always calm and controlled. For a lot of people- you would be forgiven for thinking this one is a little too slow- but for those with patience and the willingness to sit down and listen intently, a very rewarding and long lasting experience is to be had here. Highly recommended for anyone into folk music. A must have for fans.