As a part of my continued foray into the various aspects of popular Asian music scenes I have decided to turn my attention this week to anime soundtracks. If you’re anything at all like me, then a big source of excitement when experiencing a new anime series for the very first time can be found in the opening sequence. This is particularly true of the opening theme song. To me, and this is an assumption I have made based on my enthusiastic pursuit of anime music in the past; anime soundtracks are often as experimental and artistically expressive as the anime series itself. By self-reflexively looking back home to the television I have experienced in Australia, I can see a level of artistic expression and audience engagement with anime music in Japan that appears to me to be absent in Australian broadcast television (Alsop 2002). These assumptions are based on an upbringing of watching Australian, American and UK produced television programs (Sheridan). My first experiences with anime music were when I watched the iconic Ghost in the Shell (warning: the video below depicts some animated nudity).
When I first watched this introduction sequence many years ago I remember distinctly disliking the song. It felt very “Eastern” and unfamiliar to me as a 15 year old Caucasian Australian. It used instruments and a style of vocal chanting that felt completely removed from the grunge and hip-hop I was listening to at the time. I chalk this initial discomfort up to several things, including my culturally-insecure adolescent state of mind, my complete inexperience with anime and the more mature depictions of both violence and nudity that I had never before encountered in an animated format (Sheridan). After all the music in anime comes as a part of a package in a way that a typical single or album release tends not to. What’s interesting to me is how quickly I found myself enjoying this song after moving past the initial stages of culture shock.
What I find fascinating is how in Japan the divide between anime soundtrack and popular music seems much blurrier than anything I’ve noticed in my own culture. The above video is the opening title sequence for an anime called Corpse Princess: Shikabane Hime, which as a series was quite enjoyable aside from the fact that it didn’t end properly. But the most important thing for me is that I fell in love with the theme song and, consequently, the band that performs it. The band is known as “angela” and have released several studio albums and have had around 13 of their songs appear on different anime soundtracks (TV Tropes 2013). The video below is footage of them performing the same theme song above at a large, live concert. I can’t think of a single example in an American or Australian television context where something like this has happened, where a band has gained significant fame and success through music that has featured on television soundtracks. But this observation is resting on the assumption that this isn’t also rare in Japan and that something about the relationship between anime culture and the music industry is nurturing these musical artists (Sheridan).
Alsop, C. K. 2002, ‘Home and Away: Self Reflexive Auto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research, vol 3, no 3, http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~kmacd/IDSC10/Readings/Positionality/auto-eth.pdf
Sheridan, R (n.d.), ‘Autoethnography: Researcher as Participant’, An Introduction to Autoethnography, viewed 15 September 2014 http://ricksheridan.netmar.com/auto/
TV Tropes 2013, ‘Music: angela’, TV Tropes, viewed 15 September 2014 http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Music/Angela?from=Main.Angela