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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Twelve Mecha Songs That Deserve More Love Part 2

Part 1 of this list of underappreciated songs from mech anime was pretty strong, but I think Part 2 can match up to it pretty well. I even found a trio of choices that weren't OPs, just to be fair to the other sides of the equation. So let's not dilly-dally... Here we go!

"DIVER #2100" by R.A.M. (Dennou Boukenki Webdiver OP1)
Boy, I am starting this half with an obscure-as-hell song from an even more obscure mech anime, aren't I? From what I can find out, Dennou Boukenki/Electric Brain Adventure Record Webdiver was a 2001-2002 series produced by Takara with animation by Radix & Nippon Animation. Supposedly it was created in a similar fashion to that of the Brave Series, i.e. it had a toy line to go with it, and just by looking at the OP you do get a slightly similar feel. Oddly enough, even though the show seems to have a water theme to it, it's actually about entering a futuristic computer network to battle a dangerous computer virus that has infected all of the "Web Knights" that protect the network; the water theme just seems to be how the robots are cockpit-ed. The only one to escape infection is Gladion, who teams with fourth grader "Web Diver" Kento Yuuki. So why do I include this song in the list?

That's easy enough to answer: Because it's just a really cool song. It's almost hard to fully explain, but there's just a really strong likability to it. R.A.M.'s lead singer's voice fits the always moving beat & it's simply a very strong OP. The verse has cool sense of mystery to it, the lead into the chorus sound very ephemeral, & the chorus is pretty exciting. The animation itself also looks great, so much so that even though it was blatantly made for children, even more so than most Brave Series entries seemingly, I wouldn't mind checking out an episode or two if I ever come across the chance to do so. What assured "DIVER #2100" a spot on this list, though, was the fact that I wasn't the only one who seemed to feel this way. This past June DDNavi asked anime fans what the "coolest anime songs" were in history, and the results not only had some awesome choices (like "Makka na Chikai" tying for #1!), but this very song tied for #10 alongside "this game" from No Game, No Life, "Rinbu - Revolution" from Revolutionary Girl Utena, & "Get Wild" from City Hunter (and those last two are considered iconic classics)! Hey, if Japanese anime fans think this song is one of the "coolest", then I certainly won't argue, especially if they're right.

"Chin~requiem~" by ※-mai- (Betterman ED)
Here's yet another show that has some relation to the Brave Series, but in the case of 1999's Betterman it's much more solid & concrete than Webdiver's similar-in-concept (& producer) relation. This sci-fi mech anime actually takes place in the same universe as King of Braves GaoGaiGar, introducing some elements that would be referenced in the later GaoGaiGar FINAL OVA, and made even more direct in the 2005 expanded TV airing Grand Glorious Gathering. The crazy thing is that Betterman actually got aired on American television during the boom era of the early-to-mid 00s, being shown on Tech TV's Anime Unleashed block. I've only seen the first 5 episodes of the show, but it's probably one of the oddest & most bizarre mech anime I've ever seen, but I think that gives the show an intriguing charm to it. One day I'll give it a full go, and with Sentai Filmworks giving it a re-release sooner or later (it was included in their batch of Sunrise license rescues) maybe others might do the same.

Anyway, I'm focusing on the ED here simply because the OP, while not terrible, is simply out there (fitting for the show, though, I guess). Also, the ED is one of the most entrancingly freaky songs I've ever heard from anime. The entire song sounds both scary & soothing, there's no doubting that. The craziest part is easily the lead into the chorus, though, with its harsh delivery coming off almost like chanting to summon a beast of destruction, fitting for a show which has a mystery man who can transform into a multitude of giant monsters. Also, if you listen to the lyrics during this part, about half of them are actually the titles of episodes for the show. On the one hand, it's almost terrible in its delivery, but that's mainly because ※-mai- isn't a singer by trade, but rather director Yoshitomo Yonetani himself; still, it's much better than the time he sang "Yuusha-Oh Tanjou!". On the other hand, though, that's a major part of the appeal to this song. Yonetani isn't exactly a great singer, but he obviously put his all into singing "Chin~requiem", and "Yuusha-Oh Tanjou!" for that matter, that you can't help but enjoy it; this is a man putting his all into his work, even singing if necessary. You just have to admire that kind of devotion.

"Tamashii no Wing" by Mami Ishizuka (Cybuster OVA [a.k.a. Ep 26] ED)
In the original series of lists celebrating songs that deserve more love from last year, I had the ED to the Cybuster anime as one of the entries for the EDs, so let's cover the other ED that appeared for only one episode. This wasn't part of the original TV airing in Japan, but rather was an extra episode for the DVD release that acted as a prologue to the entire series, showcasing how Masaki got Cybuster & why he went to Earth in the first place; the ED footage spoils nothing for newcomers, hence why I'm showing it. I did end up reviewing the show for Mecha Month last year, and while it isn't a stellar or exceptionally noteworthy title, it definitely wasn't worth the sheer hatred it gets from hardcore Masou Kishin fans. The music was generally very good, & it had a great OP & ED, but it really felt like they wanted to end the production strong for the OVA, so they chose this very awesome song. It wouldn't see an actual release until the Earth Ark CD, which contained other Masou Kishin-inspired vocal songs.

Whereas "Nothing", the TV series ED, was a very self-reflective song that fit the slower & more character-focused story, "Tamashii no Wing" comes off much more like an anthem for the godlike Cybuster itself; it could easily work as a sister song to official anthem "Neppu! Shippu! Cybuster". It also fits the footage that's shown as the final footage of the Cybuster anime, showcasing the devastation of the Micro Black Holes that are tearing up a post-devastated Tokyo. The entire OVA itself does come off as Ashi Pro wanting to maintain some sense of the original Masou Kishin mythos, as the TV series is a very different take on what had previously existed. As for the song itself, it's excellent & immediately became my favorite song from the series; very much a case of "saving the best for last" at its most extreme. Considering that it was essentially the "last episode" of the series, it's on Geneon's last DVD for the show, most people have likely never heard this song, so once again I wanted to share this amazing song with you all. I hope you liked it.

"Tori no Uta" by Senri Manaka (Dancougar Nova OP)
We go from one Ashi Pro production to another for the next entry. In fact, this is the last anime Ashi ever produced; they renamed to Production REED not long afterwards & haven't produced another anime since (though they still do assistance work). Ashi Pro has had a long history of mecha, including Baldios, GoShogun, Machine Robo, & the Knight Lamune Series, but probably their most iconic is 1985's Dancougar. Even though the original TV series technically got canceled, it was popular enough to see an OVA production that finished the story, a feature-length sequel OVA, & a four-part finale that most haven't seen; those who have tend to downplay it, though. It also had a compilation of official AMVs as well as a spin-off/alternate universe(?) manga in the 90s called Dancougar Burn (that almost no one knows of), but in 2007 Ashi teamed with original mech designer Masami Obari to create one last series, this time called Dancougar Nova.

Now, from what I've heard, it's relation to Dancougar is mostly in robot concept only, and is often nicknamed "Gravion Season 3" because it's more similar to that show. One thing it got right in comparing to the original series, though, was by having a really cool OP. Now, in the original music lists I chose to use a piece of BGM from the original series, but that's mainly because it was the most iconic bit of the original show; the OPs were also good on their own. "Tori no Uta" works so well almost solely on how stylish it sounds. The superb guitar work, Senri Manaka's entrancing voice, and the overall beat of the song is amazing; it actually outdoes any of the original series' OPs by a country mile. The footage, though, is pretty much standard fare by doing nothing more than showing off the characters & the titular robot; it's not bad OP footage, but simply kind of underwhelming compared to how good the song is. While it may mostly be Dancougar in name only, Nova still is able to keep up with the original in terms of great theme music, and is actually better to some extent.

"Kakusei, Zeorymer" by Eiji Kawamura (Hades Project Zeorymer BGM)
Here is the sole BGM rep for the list, but it more than deserves a spot here. Say what you will about the Hades Project Zeorymer OVA series, and one or two have most definitely said their peace lately, but if there's one thing that I have to adamantly defend about this anime, it would be this song. This is similar to Dancougar in that the series is best represented by a piece of BGM instead of an OP or ED, and I feel that "Kakusei, Zeorymer" is one of the absolute best out there. Created originally as a manga by Yoshiki Takaya under his pen-name Morio Chimi, which he used when he did hentai manga, Zeorymer of the Heavens is a robot of nigh-godlike power, utilizing a supreme force called "Meiou" that can devastate its foes like they were made of paper. Fittingly, composer Eiji Kawamura, best known for his work for Kamen Rider BLACK, BLACK RX, ZO, J, & World, made this mech's anthem sound as majestic & glorious as it sounded in concept.

Unlike Dancougar's "Shakunetsu no Ikari", which worked off of a single but addictive beat, "Kakusei, Zeorymer" is a full package, complete with a full orchestral composition, building intensity, and sheer awe in its sound. The moment you hear this theme you understand full well that something big is going to happen & someone is going to be felled in one epic swoop. To bring up Zeorymer's apparent godlike power, it has only been seen in two entries in the Super Robot Wars franchise, MX on the PS2 (& PSP) and J/Judgement on the Game Boy Advance. For both games, this was the sole song to represent the OVA & the Zeorymer itself was (& still remains) one of the most absurdly overpowered robots to have ever graced a SRW title. Large HP counts, massive defense, exceptional shields, & insanely powerful strength all added up to a unit that not only had an amazing theme to come out to, but also completely matched the expectations such a song would give. Not just that, but J also upped the ante by allowing the player to unlock its upgraded form, Great Zeorymer... Yes, an already overpowered, godlike robot had an upgraded form! Like I said, say what you will about the OVA, but I can't see any argument to be made about this anthem being bad.

"Kodoku no Tabiji ~Lonely Journey~" by Neverland (Psycho Armor Govarian OP)
Knack, now known as ICHI Corporation, is probably going to down in history as one of the absolute worst anime studios of all time, and they have plenty of evidence that makes it hard to disprove. Just about all of their TV work was done very cheaply (it's what makes 1973's Chargeman Ken! an underground "classic") & a some of their most well known work was highly derivative. Astroganger was a Tetsujin 28 clone, Attacker You! (though based on a manga) was made because of Attack No. 1's success, & Groizer X was seemingly made from Go Nagai's leftovers of Mazinger & Grendizer. I would argue that they improved when they moved away from TV in the 90s, with both the Crows & Grappler Baki OVAs being worth watching, but they certainly won't negate literal decades of simply "being Knack". Still, if there is one product from Knack's TV catalog that might have some slight hope of being legitimately enjoyable to some extent, it might be Psycho Armor Govarian... If only because it has a completely rocking OP.

Govarian itself seems to be Go Nagai's attempt at doing a real robot anime in the vein of Gundam, detailing an Earth invasion by the Garadain Empire & the ESP-powered children who fight them that can summon giant robots by way of "psychogenesis", the forming of physical objects through psychic energy. Yeah, even when Nagai tries to be less fantastical it's still pretty wild; plus, the Govarian still looks a bit like Mazinger (though that was apparently ordered specifically by the network). Anyway, the OP is another of those songs that catches your interest & curiosity right from the initial riff; that synth keyboard beat & hard-hitting drums are just irresistible. The song itself actually seems to fit Govarian well conceptually, and the footage, while completely 80s in some ways, really just helps sell the show as being more than your usual Knack production. It also helps that the band behind the song, Neverland, was formed by the remains of LAZY after Hironobu Kageyama broke from it, so they've got plenty of rock cred behind them. As Neverland was formed by his friends, Kageyama himself would later do a cover of "Kodoku no Tabiji", and it sounded just as awesome. Sure, the show itself may end up being pretty lackluster, and it's been generally forgotten with the decades, but at least we should make sure that "Kodoku no Tabiji" won't get lost.
This marks the end of this list of mecha songs that definitely deserve more attention, appreciation, &, most importantly, love. Whether it's the lesser known works of Sunrise, the looked-over products of TMS, the forgotten pride of Kokusai Eigasha, the last of Ashi Pro, or even the mocked existence of Knack, don't forget that there's always something more to find out about; you can always find something new & exciting if you just look around. So let's finish off with the other bonus entry, which isn't an OP, ED, IN, or BGM, but is simply downright awesome. The video it was put to is also really cool, too.

"Love Phantom" by B'z (from Legend of Gundam)
I unfortunately cannot find the webpage I originally found info on this video from, but here's what I can remember. Back in around 2002/2003, there was a museum exhibit for the Gundam franchise, showcasing its history. To commemorate this occasion, Sunrise produced an AMV that would be shown alongside the exhibit, calling it Legend of Gundam. It was a giant compilation of scenes from essentially every entry in the franchise at that point (TV, movie, & OVA; even SEED & Evolve get short clips!) that acted as both one big advertisement for the franchise as well as giant bunch of nostalgia for those who saw these products previously. This isn't a simple AMV that you would see fans create & showcase at an anime con, however, but rather a truly glorious spectacle, utilizing all sorts of windowing effects &, coolest of all, including the voice work that went with many of these iconic moments. What sealed the deal, though, was the song of choice that would go with this video: "Love Phantom" by B'z, the biggest band in all of Japan.

Prior to this, the song was known in Japan as the ending to The X-Files when it was airing there, but here it just feels perfect. It's a staple of B'z, probably one of their finest works, & defies simple description. It's simply a piece of art that has to be listened to to understand how great it is. What makes it work perfectly in Legend of Gundam, though, is how Sunrise didn't compromise the song to fit in the voice clips from these scenes chosen. Sure, that part between verses where singer Koshi Inaba is speaking seemingly sweet nothings is mostly covered by voice clips, but the video wisely fills in the song's amazing solos by Tak Matsumoto with the voices & makes the song feel essential to the entire production; check out the 0083 clip at 2:30 & admire how they snuck Al's cry of "nani!/what!" between Inaba's singing. It's such a masterful mix that I have both the original version of "Love Phantom" as well as the audio of this "Gundam Edit", because both work so well. I just wish there was a clearer version of this video available now; I'm sure the museum exhibit is long gone & the video isn't available officially online anywhere.

Plus, you have to love the gumption of Sunrise to actually declare "NO END" at the end of the video... They have no shame in admitting that Gundam will never die.

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