Thursday, June 21, 2012

Piano Cover: Karandorie (Dusk Maiden of Amnesia)

In another short week or two, yet another season of anime will come to a close. It's always a bittersweet feeling; I'm excited to see what the next set of shows will bring, but it's a bit sad to see these shows finish up one by one. Ah, change.

My newest piano cover is from one such show on its final stretch: Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (黄昏乙女×アムネジア), which centers upon ghost girl Yuuko and her associated friends and mysteries. The show's a little hard to sum up. I'd probably describe it as a "supernatural slice of life" show; it's definitely more about Yuuko's day-to-day activities than about horror or mystery. I wasn't particularly attached to the show at first, and while I still can't say it's my favorite of the season, it's definitely grown on me. The recent episodes were actually quite heart-wrenching.

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia's opening theme, "Choir Jail," has been remarkably popular among YouTube cover artists this season, so as always, I decided to tackle something different. And honestly, I'm a bigger fan of the ending theme to begin with -- "Karandorie" by artist Aki Ouki. The little instrumental interludes really struck the right chords with me, and the harmony in the song has been some of the most interesting I've heard in anime themes. It didn't take me long to settle on covering this piece. Here it is!

Karandorie (Dusk Maiden of Amnesia): Piano Cover

Artist: Aki Okui
Date Completed: 2012-06-16
Software: Audacity, Movie Maker
Number of Takes: V____V
Instrumentation: Piano

I admit that I really struggled with this arrangement. I know I say something to that extent every time, but Karandorie was especially challenging for me. I had a lot of trouble adjusting to the key of this piece (gah, it would have been so much easier to take it down a half-step), so it took me a long time just to get the notes under my fingertips. Even after I did, the harmonic instability of the piece -- while one of my favorite things about the song -- made things even more difficult. And as far as making mistakes goes...yeah, there was a lot of that. Maybe I was being a bit of a perfectionist, but it took so many takes to get something I was satisfied with. >_< I finally obtained a presentable result after three days of playing and recording. Hopefully all of that work resulted in something enjoyable to listen to, at least. :)

See ya!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cosplay Interlude: Animazement 2012

May 25-27 marked Animazement 2012 at the Raleigh Convention Center, and I was fortunate enough to find some time off from research to attend. Although this marked the third time that I've attended Animazement, it's actually the first time that I had any knowledge of anime (apart from, say, Pokémon). As a consequence of me-knowing-what-the-hell-things-were, I enjoyed myself immeasurably more this year than at past Animazements. Who knew?

Like last year, I attended Animazement 2012 with a group of great friends, and we decided to put together some group cosplays. Friday was our Mirai Nikki day. Not being a big fan of most of the main male leads in the show, I opted instead to cosplay Takao "Third" Hiyama, the lovable serial killer whose life is tragically cut short in Episode 1. With the rest of my friends cosplaying a number of other characters (Fourth, Ninth, Twelfth, Deus, and Murumuru), we had a fun little Mirai Nikki group for the day.

(1) Takao Hiyama concept art from the Mirai Nikki anime

Given that Mirai Nikki had just finished airing, we weren't particularly inundated with photo requests, so the random convention wanderings were pretty low-stress. To make the most of our Mirai Nikki experience, however, we ended the day with a photoshoot led by our awesome, talented photographer Katsuya Weller. I'd never been in a photoshoot before this, but I had lots of fun working with Kat and my fellow cosplayers. The full collection of photos (so far) is here, but I've added a couple of Kat's photos below.

(2) Takao Hiyama glamour shot O_o

(3) Our full Mirai Nikki group.

For Saturday, a number of my friends from our Friday group decided to cosplay Black Rock Shooter, and I wasn't quite ready to handle the big guns (both literally and figuratively). Instead, a friend and I chose to cosplay All of the Goats, a character from the visual novel Umineko no Naku Koro ni. The goat costumes weren't terribly complicated, but I thought their outfits looked pretty snazzy. There were three other Umineko cosplayers at the convention, all of whom we were fortunate enough to bump into. Finding other cosplayers in our own fandom, particularly a slightly-obscure one like Umineko, is gratifying in a way that's difficult to describe.

(4) Our Umineko goat costumes (photo courtesy of Adam Howell).

Like at past Animazements, we spent most of our convention time walking around, exploring the dealers' room, and food-hunting rather than attending specific events. That said, however, we did catch a few specific events. On Friday night, we stopped by "Name That Anime Tune," a competition where participants tried to identify as many anime theme songs as they could. We didn't get there early enough to participate, but it was fun to spectate; plus, it showed that I really need to touch up my knowledge of anime music. The big event on Saturday was of course the KOTOKO concert; see my last post for details. Finally, we caught the later half of the Masquerade on Saturday night, but we only got there in time to catch the awards. From what I hear, we missed a better-than-average Masquerade year.

Not much more to say here, so I'll just close out with some photos I took at the con. These are just my favorites; the full album is here.

(5) So much Valve in one place. O_o

(6) Magical girls Madoka and Homura (and Kyubey?).

(7) A gang of Twelfths from Mirai Nikki! For reference: this.

(8) Katamari. So cuuuuteeee V_V

(9) I'm no costume expert, but these Alice cosplayers were awesome.

(10) Mawaru Penguindrum group. I WANT THOSE PENGUINS.

(11) My friends Mako and Korra, with fellow Fire Ferret Bolin :P

(12) My friends' badass Black Rock Shooter costumes.

(13) Not only is this guy's spoon too big, but he's also a banana.

(14) One of our fellow Umineko cosplayers. Represent.

(15) My friends' Sunday cosplay: Soul Eater.

(16) .......

That's all for now! Feel free to drop a comment, especially if you're a fellow Animazement 2012 attendee; it's always nice to meet fellow anime fans. :)

'Til next time,


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Concert Review: KOTOKO @ Animazement 2012

After another busy semester, I was finally able to take some time off to attend Animazement 2012 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The weekend was tons of fun and a post about AZ 2012 (and cosplay!) is in the works, but I wanted to take some time to review my highlight Animazement event of the weekend: the performance by KOTOKO.

I won't pretend to know much about KOTOKO beyond the bit of pre-con research I conducted to familiarize myself with her work, but I was certainly impressed by the few songs of hers I did listen to. Even more impressive to me, though, is the fact that KOTOKO writes much of the music and lyrics for her own work (and for other artists!). In a world where so many artists can take the spotlight from performance talents alone (or, as the case may be with some U.S. pop artists, not even that), it's really refreshing to see one who can not only sing well, but can also write great music.

Not counting the last-day-of-classes concerts that I attended during undergrad, this show marks my first live concert starring any vaguely famous artist. The show was hosted in one of the Raleigh Convention Center's ballrooms, outfitted with a stage, lights, and all the appropriate concert gear. The room was pretty small, but it fit the crowd just fine; felt kind of cozy, actually. My friends and I got in line pretty late, so we ended up close to the back; luckily, the room was small enough that we still had a pretty nice view of the stage.

The best thing about KOTOKO's performance, in my opinion, was her energy. She didn't just sing; she truly performed. She danced and moved around on stage almost as much as she sang (I can't imagine having to do both at once); at one point, she brought out a sword and began to swing it around. She took time between songs to engage with the crowd, despite her non-fluent (but very cute!) English. She changed into three separate outfits over the course of the concert. The crowd loved her, of course, clapping and fist-pumping with the music and even demanding an encore with chants of "KO-TO-KO!" Her energy was infectious. Maybe all Japanese artists are like this and I'm just naive, but seeing that much dedication to performance was something new and exciting for me.

Despite the very electronic nature of her music, KOTOKO came equipped with a trio of live performers: a guitarist, bassist, and drummer. For me, the live musicians added a lot to her performance. They played very well, of course, and also had a great deal of energy -- almost as much energy as KOTOKO herself, which is saying something. Plus, they were all dressed up as characters from Lupin, which was a fun touch. And maybe it's just my inner percussionist speaking, but I really enjoyed watching the drummer. Man, that guy can play.

As I alluded to earlier, I didn't know much of KOTOKO's work going into the concert, so I don't have many remarks on the repertoire. I certainly enjoyed the music a lot, though, with some personal standouts being Suppuration -core-, Shooting Star, Unite+reactioN, and unfinished (the ending to Accel World, incidentally the only song I knew well before the concert). I felt like I really got a taste of KOTOKO's musical style through her selection of pieces: for instance, her use of heavy electronic synths and characteristic vocal harmonies. Having a distinctive style is important for any artist, and KOTOKO really shines here.

Below is a setlist that I found somewhere online, arranged alphabetically because I couldn't remember the true order. Click on the little "X" marks before each song for a YouTube link; they're all great pieces.

[X] Ao-iconoclast
[X] being
[X] Chi ni Kaeru
[X] Face of Fact
[X] Hayate no Gotoku
[X] Hirake! Sora no Oto
[X] Light My Fire
[X] Oboetete ii yo
[X] Re-sublimity
[X] Sakura no Ame Moegi no Yo
[X] Shooting Star
[X] Special Life
[X] Suppuration -core-
[X] unfinished
[X] Unite+reactioN
[X] Wing my Way

Photos weren't allowed in the venue, so unfortunately I have no photo evidence from the event. To make my post prettier, though, I did steal a concert picture from KOTOKO's blog, so photo credits are all to her photographer. I'm in that crowd somewhere!

For more photos from the Animazement performance (and, if I'm not mistaken, KOTOKO touring various U.S. cities), check out her blog here. (Note that the blog's in Japanese.)

In the end, I had a great experience at KOTOKO's performance. Was it perfect? Of course not. But was it a lot of fun? Hell yes. I may not have been a KOTOKO fan going into concert, but I think I've been officially converted. :)

See you next time!