A student with a passion for game development and all things Japan.
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I'll be honest right now: I've wanted to write about this subject for a long time, but I've also been scared to. While I'm very passionate about this subject, I don't think I'm as passionate as some others on the subject, and I'm not sure if I'll do it full justice, so you were expecting a full breakdown on why No Title is a great song, or the breakdown of one of Eve's music videos, then this is not article for you(though I could probably do that last one). This is just me talking about I a medium I love, as I mostly do on this blog.
Also, as a disclaimer, I am using Romaji English for titles that don't translate to English well, because my keyboard doesn't have a Japanese type setting(and even then, I don't know Japanese), and it will make things easier to understand for people who are not weeb as s**t like me.
So, what is J-Pop you are asking? Well, think of it like K-Pop, but in Japanese, however, J-Pop from what I know tends to encompass all Japanese music that isn't traditional here in the west. As such I wouldn't be surprised if people associate the term "J-pop" with Rock music, like how people pair African Music with distinctive styles of "Highlife", "Hiplife" and "Afrobeats".
So you probably wondering, how did I get into this kinda of music? A lot of people would say anime or maybe JRPG among other pop culture phenoms. Me? As with most things in my life it was Kamen Rider.
.I remember listening to Kamen Rider Gaim's theme, Just Live More by Gaim no Kaze. It's very energetic, giving the feeling of non-stop action through the song thanks to the guitars.
Kamen Rider also introduced me to insert songs. These are songs that usually play in the middle of battle, and these are usually made to fit certain characters or rider systems.
For example in Kamen Rider Kiva, Kamen Rider Ixa actually gets 4 songs. One of these is Fight for Justice, sung by the main user of the Ixa system, Nago Keisuke, talking about he wants to show he is the best user of the Ixa system. Also just to get this out of the way, in the Japan they usually credit the song in the name of the character, with the actor's name usually reversed for CV usage.
The second of these is called This Love Never Ends, sung by the main user in 1986, Kurenai Otoya, talking about how he will fight for his never-ending love. The 3rd is also sung by Nago Keisuke and is called Don't Lose Yourself, talking about the battle within himself when he uses Ixa's final form. called Ixa Rising. The last one is by the band TETRA-FANG, called Individual System, telling the story of Ixa, the white soldier that is waiting for fate.
Once I got into anime, my liking for J-Pop rose. One of my favorite ending themes in anime was Shiawase no Arika or Whereabouts of Happiness by Local Connect. The song just flows very nicely and the lyrics are very meaningful. An opening that I like is Melissa from Porno Graffiti. This is the intro to Full Metal Alchemist 2003, and it's a really nice song. Even with songs that are not considered J-Pop, I'm a sucker for things with acoustic guitars.
The moment I began getting more into mainstream J-Pop was when I listened to Kataomoi or One Sided Love by Aimer. I watched a Kingdom Hearts OC ending with a the song, looking for the anime it was from.
There was no anime. It was an original song. An amazing, unique, beautiful song. The flow of the music is so nice, it just carried me away with it's soothing instruments, and Aimer's beautiful voice.
Now I'm not to just talk about J-Pop and why it's a big thing to me, I also want to get people into the genre. But if you like anime or tokusatsu, I think it would help if you looked up some of your favorite opening songs, insert songs and ending songs to start off with. If you want me to individually recommend songs that are nice to listen to, I would say wait until the end, I'll put some down there. However, I think it's important that we get to know a few artists because they have distinctive styles for their music and music videos.
Just as a quick aside, while most of the link here go to YouTube, there are few Amazon links for the albums. Read more about those here.
Let's start off with everyone's favourite Kamen Rider Band.
Old men with a HELL of a lot of style, don't you think? These 4 have been the official band for the Kamen Rider Series since 2000. Originally consisting of Terasawa Koichī, Miyawaki "Joe" Satoshi, Nomura Yoshio and Watanabe Cher(Not pictured), the band was the official Kamen Rider band until 2007, with Ricky(the man with the sunglasses and pink streak in his hair) join the band in 2006 after Kamen Rider Blade. I can't really recommend an album, but I would recommend songs from them such as Elements and Next New World to really get a feel for the rock style they have, it's very dynamic and flowing, especially in the lead guitars.
I think that 2019 was a break-out year for Gen Hoshino. He started off by releasing Pop Virus in 2018, which lead into the song getting into Death Stranding! Awesome, even if I'm not really into Kojima's games. He released Same Thing in October of 2019, and I recommend that single on the sole reason that the title song for that album is in English, and was written by Gen Hoshino himself, and the song features the Australian band Superorganism. I would also recommend listening to Sarashi-mono, as that song is pretty relatable in my opinion, and Gen also mentioned that the songs in this single contain some thoughts about his career so far, and you can feel it in all of the songs in my opinion. For an Album recommendation, I would say Pop Virus, or Yellow Dancer, as these contain some of his best work, such as IDEA, an awesome song about loving life.
A lot of people may be familler with the Vocaloid Band REOL(and we will get to Vocaloid recommendations soon, trust me), but I'm more familler with her workings as a solo artist. For an album recommendation, I will plug her upcoming 2020 album, HYPE MODE. Reol's songs lately tend to be inspired off Buddhism, or Zen Buddhism, the version of Buddhism that Japan tends to pratrice, so if you like her songs, go and look for the lyrics online. I personally recommend Utena and Phanto(me), especially since Phanto(me) ties a lot into spirits.Also I recommend Saisaki, it's a fun song, and I made a scene based off it.
Eve is known as an Utaite, or as I like to say a indie artist who has worked with a lot good animation studios such as WIT STUDIO, the people behind attack on Titan. Eve's songs tend to be theory heavy, which is good for his fandom, as people can guess the feelings and emotions going into the song. I reccomend Outsider in order to get a feel for his style of music and for his music videos are animated by Mah, who's art style is very, very rough. For an album recommendation, I would say his latest album, Otogi, and his upcoming 2020 album, smile.
He is probably the one of biggest artist in Japan right now. Kenshi started out as a voclad producer under the name "Hachi". I'll be honest, I'm not super into Vocaloid music, because the synthetic voice is a bit ear grading to me, but I do like Donut Hole, as that song talks about a girl who has lost her memory, and can't remember her true name. I'll get into some more Vocaloid recommendations later on.
Kenshi is probably most known for doing the first opening to My Hero Academia. known as Peace Sign, but his music varies in styles. Even his older music has some synth in his voice, and backing track music is more focused on a flowing simple beat shown in songs as MAD HEAD LOVE and vivi. However as you get to soon as you get to Shunrai and Eine Kleine, the synth is gone, and there is a lot more complexity in the beat.
For an album recommendation, I would recommend Bremen or Bootleg, as both have some amazing songs on them, such as Flowerwall and Unbelievers for Bremen, and Hien and Nighthawks for Bootleg.
Probably the J-Pop artist I have known for the longest time thanks to Kingdom Hearts, the game that also put on the path that I am on now. Utada's music in the past was very western inspired I must I say, but it makes sense as she was brought up in New York, so the songs are catchy and flowing. However for Kingdom Hearts. Simple and Clean(Hikari) is more of a slow ballad than anything else, as it was Remixed by PlanitB and later, PUNPEE. Outside of Kingdom Hearts, she has released a Album called Hatsukoi. This is my Album recommendation, as all the songs there are pretty varied and it has Anata on it and that is one of my all time favorite songs. That is something you listen to with the one you love the most
Other Artists I recommend but don't listen to as much as the ones above
Vocaloid and Solo song Recommendations
My 2 top tips
That's all I have to say for this subject. I hope that this.. I'll be honest, over-extensive look into one of the mediums I love, and a piece of entertainment that inspires me, has inspired you to try something new.
All Images used(C) Their respective owners
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Hey all! It's time for another deep dive! Sorry it's been a while since the last one, but ideas for these were running low, and I wanted to commit to one properly. But this one should be interesting, as we look at the meaning of "creativity"! Well, at least in my eyes.
Unlike most of my deep dives, this was spurred by nothing in particular, just the fact that I really wanted to look at what I think this word means. First, I want to go into the official meaning of creativity:
Creativity: noun, The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.
I can mostly support this definition, as it is the basis for most pieces of art, games and music. But what about when something takes inspiration from something else? What about things like fan art and fan games?
I guess you could say that it does count for a few reasons; fan art bulids on ideas that are set within the universe the characters are in, and based upon that, they can be placed in different situations. It can also be used to tell the artists interpretation of that story. A good example of this is shipping. While ships are a very controversial thing, it really depends on the way a person views the story. For example, I personally ship Sora and Kairi from Kingdom Hearts. Some people will ship Sora and Riku, but I see Riku as a lone wolf who wants to be there for his friends.
Stories can have many different interpretations depending on what the player is feeling and experiencing at that time. One of my general RE teachers, who is very interested in the study of Philosophy(it comes under the same course at my school), told us about his life experiences, and always talks about how he relates his study of Philosophy to his life, which got me thinking: Don't we relate games and other creative mediums to our own lives? Can't we relate to certain characters experiences, even though the circumstances may be very different? We all want to fall in love, have close friends, go on adventures. I know I'm going off topic here, but think about it. We play games to experience these experiences.
And then some of us want to create these experiences for others. These can be experiences of our own lives, of a trama that we don't people to live through, or experiences of an entirely new world, where you fight a demon overlord in order to save the world. The problem for many creators of these experences comes in the word "Originality". What is the meaning of this word?
And that is where I believe every creator gets stuck. What I have learned is that no idea is completely original, there is always a basis for something that has been done before, and no idea is going to be more or less original that the other in my eyes. This is why I do not believe that creativity is the use of just original ideas and imaginations to create, but it can also be buliding upon what has already established, and putting your own personal spin on it. YOUR idea. YOUR viewpoint. How YOU see a certain world or character.
For people with OC, it becomes even greater. It's about how you can fit your chatrater in certain sitculations. Can your fight with your friend? Can you save everyone? How do you interact with others? It's about taking the rules that are given to you and breaking them, but still making it believable.
For example, look at the image above. This was texture mod of an already existing Kairi model, that I coloured the hair and eyes to fit more with my friend PrincessRose. I have a lot of ideas on how she would fit into the world of Kingdom Hearts.
Another example is this interaction between Lightning Farron and Sarah from Terra Wars, using the Final Fantasy XV model for Sarah. I thought about how the 2 would be like to each other if they interacted.
I don't think there should be any limits to creativity(besides obscene things such as chlid rape), because that lets ideas shine, and can give us some amazing stories to tell. One of the reasons that I love Japanese media so much is because they are able to take the stupidest ideas and make them into moving stories(such as Kamen Rider Gaim) or just make it funny and charming(such as Aho Girl). And I hope going into the next decade, Japanese creators and other creators do not lose sight of this limitless creativity.
Thanks to everyone that read this! On the week this goes up, I am going to do the last 5 hours of my 15 hour exam(it's graphics, don't worry, it's normal), so I don't think there will be a blog post next week.
But for now, thanks for reading, and I will catch you guys next time.
Written By Nana Marfo
All Images used are made by Nana Marfo, character models and certain environments were taken from DeviantArt
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WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT THE F-
Ok, I should calm down a bit.
On December 17th(the day Final Fantasy XIII first came out btw), we got the Final Battle trailer for the long awaited Kingdom Hearts III. AND AFTER WATCHING IT A LOT, MY HEART HURTS! A LOT!
I'm going to try and remain as professional as possible in this editorial, but the only thing I can complain about(and even then this is something I would have liked personally, because Don't Think Twice/Chiaki are amazing songs) was that they didn't use Fate of The Unknown for the second part.
Oh yea, and spoilers are abounding of course.
MiniGames a-plenty and a Playable Riku
Let's Start with the not heartbreaking stuff. Skipping the opening of the trailer, we then get a montage of all the worlds shown off so far, with gameplay we have seen before, alongside Sora with a Frying Pan Keyblade, and the battle of 1000...everything! However, in all of this, we see a Playable Riku, who seems to be Aqua from 0.2, only with Sora's gameplay Quirks. While Riku has been playable before, with his latest addition in 3D, his addition in a number Kingdom Hearts title is sure to shake things up. I would have preferred Kairi as the other playable character but this works as well.
The minigames seem really fun to play, alongside the already announced Classic Kingdom, it seems there will be plenty to pass the time in Kingdom Hearts 3.
MAJOR SPOILERS FOR 358/2 DAYS INCOMING
Axel: Flashbacks of a Darker Time
Xion is one of the most decisive characters in the Kingdom Hearts fandom. Either you love her, or you hate her. I personally just like her, but I know that for some people, some characters have a certain meaning. Axel has flashbacks to her when Kairi says this line:
Don't hold back Axel. Promise?
This scene in particular makes me think they intentionally didn't ask Hayden Panettiere to come back, because Alyson Stoner(who also voices Kairi in Re:Chain of Memories and 358/2 Days) is also the voice of Xion, and maybe this was done to immerse the player. Axel also has a scene with Saix where he says he "Awakened to a new purpose". Hmm. What has happened to you Saix?
There was some interesting stuff shown off with Ansem the Wise who said he has"Created enough victims", and an Organisation Member invited back into their ranks, who is trying to deliver the Final Vessel(who could that be?).
But...are you ready...for the end?
Who lives and Who dies?
The burning question on everyone's mind at the moment, because Axel get ass beat by either Xion or Roxas (mostly thing thinking Xion, but there is evidence to show it's Roxas), Saix and Xemnas. Donald dies, which to quote a rising KH YouTuber KZ: DID YOU KILL DONALD DUCK?!. Volume warning if you click the link, just in case.
But I'm changing it to DID YOU KILL EVERYONE? I can see this going three, maybe 4 ways:
1. Everyone lives, happy ending.
2.Everyone dies, leaving a legacy that a new protagonist will have to follow(KH4 will probably be stuff from Unchained X not expanded on in KH3)
3.Everyone except Sora dies, meaning that Sora has to start a new life, perhaps with the Twilight Town gang.
4.Everyone except Sora and Aqua die, Sora takes Aqua to Destiny Islands with him, and the 2 start new lives there. I say this one as a maybe because it depends on if Sora saves Aqua before or after he goes to Scala ad Caelum (or Stairway to Heaven in Latin(or Cable Town)), where Xehanort(now voiced possibly by Darin De Paul) and his other selves can be one.
But for me the scene that stood out me was this one(the first quote of this is taken from 30sec CM we got of December 16th):
I was able to fight because everyone was there with me! I can't do this alone... - Sora
Sora, you don't believe that. I know you don't. - Riku
Man... is Sora finally going to pushed to his limits? All I know is that Xehanort is going to have hell to pay on January 29th.
Of course, the Kingdom Hearts series is all about friends, and to not let Sora be sad, I asked my friends the StarSeekers, and one of my new friends, Songbird from Twitter to sum up this trailer in 3 words. Mine are PLEASE NOBODY DIE!
Unexpected, Hurtful, and Powerful. - Princess Rose
I'll do it in 1: Broken - OniMaku
Lea please No! - SyrienH
Epiphany of pain - SongBird
Emotional, Happy, Awesome - Sokka XI
What. Hust. Happened. - SydneySushiChef and Keyblade Brett
Yep that Happened - Emma Reheis
Stop hurting Sora - The Wayfinder(Joshua Howe)
And that's everything! I dropped everything I was doing to work on this for most of Tuesday the week this was posted, because hype and shock was running through my veins. Thanks to everyone that gave me quotes!
But, that's it for now! Thanks for Reading, have great day/night, share if you enjoyed it, and Sora, say the quote please:
They can take your world. They can take your heart. Cut you loose from all you know. But if it's your fate.. then every step forward will be always be a step close to home.
Merry Christmas and take care, guys.
Written by Nana Marfo
Special Thanks: StarSeekers and Songbird for the quotes.
For all the Kingdom Hearts fans that have passed in the lead up to this game.
Kingdom Hearts(C)Square Enix
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WOW is all have to say regarding last week. Also, I should apologise for not uploading a blog last week, I wanted to keep up with the KH news and lot of stuff happened at school. But I figured it was time for another editorial, since we got a LOT of KH News. And I have to say, all of it was amazing.
Also, there may be spoilers ahead for Re:Coded, Birth By Sleep and 0.2 IN ADDITION to some minor spoilers for the Kingdom Hearts Series overall.
Big Hero 6: The world to make Re:Coded relevant
Ok, I have not played Re:Coded and I am not going to.I know the story, and as far as I am aware, that game has not to do with anything...until KH3. I do expect the Big Hero 6 world to be the weakest(due to the fact it was a last second inculcation, so a rushed in world story not be surprising.),but despite that, it looks great! Though It's trying to bring in Re:Coded, a game I will not play because it has nothing to do with anything. However, we have Data Riku in this, so... maybe I will give the movie a watch?
Roxas: Friend or Foe?
The story of Roxas is one of the big drawing points of Kingdom Hearts fans. After losing Xion and Axel in 358/2 days, he ends up being toyed with in the first part of Kingdom Hearts 2, and now he is back in Kingdom Hearts 3, but it's unclear if he is helping Xehanort, or is just in his Organisation XIII gear. In the trailer, Ansem and Xigbar talk about the fact that if Sora diverts from the path they set for him, they will kill, but they would need another vessel. Are the Organisation trying to use Sora so they have Roxas as a vessel? Is Aqua the backup Vessel? Speaking of....MAJOR SPOILERS FOR BBS AND BBS 0.2 INCOMING.
Aqua and Ventus: Souls that need to be saved
Oh my good, Birth By Sleep is a gutpunch, and I mean a GUTPUNCH, and don't worry the review will be soon. But Vanitus appears with Ventus saying "What I am going to do with you, Brother?" OK, 1, that f**king creepy all things considered(even though it makes scene), and 2, is Ventus a backup plan in case Terra-Nort backfires? Is Aquanort a plan to bait Sora into do the organisation's dirty work, because the know that Aqua's heart is weak from 10 years in the darkness? Why do I have so many theories now? Anyway, here's something that I think will always hold true:
Sora must save everyone.
I think EVERYONE lost their minds when they saw this. Blank Points and 0.2 really hint towards Sora being a great warrior, and someone who has saved all the worlds, and he now faces his greatest challenge: Master Xehanort and the XIII Seekers of Darkness.
However, in the short trailer that was released a week earlier, Vanitus said that "Only when your hopes been broken by battle upon battle, that the key to Kingdom Hearts(The Moon, not the Door) can be claimed." Sora has fought and killed a lot, so this might be easier than I think, but we will see.
This is more a personal thing(being someone who wants to get into the game development industry), but the Animation levels in this game are amazing. I love how they make Vanitus seem crazed to Aqua's subtle yet scary movements to the F**KING DOLL.
I also wanted to know what other people thought, so here are quotes from my friends at the StarSeekers on what they thought of the KH News:
It was really amazing to see new gameplay and new cutscenes from the game! Totally every day they improve the game to much a better level!
Just the Big Hero 6 stuff and that’s it tbh.
My favorite thing from the TGS news was the scene with Kairi and Sora on the tree! I ship Sokai a lot, and seeing this makes me hopeful it happens in KH3!
Without a doubt the trailer, like seeing the other org members norted, big hero six, and most importantly seeing my boy Roxas again!!!
Seeing Roxas , I think.
Seeing my boi Demyx back, tho, still veeeeeery worried if he's norted or not!
Anyways, that's it for now! There's a lot more I could have talked about(the doll boss, the new theme song that features Skrillex) but I want to keep this relatively short, as we lead to the end of the Xehanort Saga of Kingdom Hearts games on January 25 in Japan and January 29 worldwide on PS4, and for the first time on Xbox One.
Thanks for reading, have a great day/night, share if you enjoyed and take care.
Written by NanaMarfo
Special Thanks to all the StarSeekers
For all the Kingdom Hearts fans
Kingdom Hearts(C)Square Enix