Many of you may already know this (I've known it for a week or two, but have been procrastinating on blogging it) but Aya Hirano, voice actress of Haruhi Suzumiya, will be one of the guests at Anime Expo 2007, along with Minori Chihara (Yuki Nagato) and Yuko Goto (Mikuru Asahina) and a number of others. They will be performing a concert, too, which probably means Bouken Desho Desho and God Knows, live, at the very least. I can't speak for everyone, but I am so jealous of AX attendees that I wish a lifetime of eternal suffering upon them. I would love to go, but Fanime Con has left my wallet so drained that there really is no way. Oh yeah, Gackt will be there too.
Extraneous information for those who aren't convinced: they also have the character designer and the director of the Death Note anime there. Combined with the fact that Aya Hirano is also Amane Misa's seiyuu in Death Note, that's a sizable chunk of Death Note's staff, too. And being as Death Note and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya are basically the hottest two shows of 2006, it's safe to say that the guest list is pretty crazy. *shakes fist in despair* Curse you, Anime Expo, for taking all the best guests! (Though, now that I think about it, Inui-san and Takamura-san were pretty awesome guests, too.)
Anyway, consider this a belated heads-up for the uninformed. With any luck, I can get something of a con report from people who can afford to attend.
Now that Fanime Con 2007 has finally ended, and I've gotten a good fifteen hours of sleep, I can give a good report on just WHAT happened at the convention with regard to anime music. And boy, was there a lot.
The con unofficially started on Thursday, with a free (with pre-reg) concert at 8pm by Japanese rap-rock band ZZ, the group responsible for One Piece ending theme #11, "A to Z". If that's not enough, they're also featured on Ouendan 2 with one of the bonus songs, "Samurai Blue". Anyway, ZZ is great. They were a really fun band to watch and their music is very cool, even if they used a recording of the rhythm guitar during the concert, since they've only got one guitarist. But they rocked the crowd, played some great music, and I got their "ZZ Best" CD with all their signatures. Nevermind that I paid an import $28 price for it (and therefore 28% of my con budget). "ZZ Best" doesn't have Samurai Blue on it, but it has the similar song "Samurai Crew" on it. (Samurai Blue has similar lyrics, but it's a very different song that was created to promote Japan's World Cup 2006 team. Perfect for a song about a cheer squad.) Good times overall, though. Among other events of Thursday night, the swap meet was bargain central. I also scored an unopened $10 copy of the first volume of Erementar Gerad Elemental Gelade, an anime with an outstanding soundtrack, complete with bonus materials; a $1 Nadesico pencilboard, and a $5 copy of Polarium for the DS.
Friday night had the Fanime rave/dance, among other things, and while I was unable to attend, I've heard great things about it. Someone posted a video on the Fanime forums, which I'll repost here. It includes some pretty neat remixes of recognizable anime themes. I'm hoping I can convince the DJs to submit their mixes to Anime Remix.
Saturday I was looking forward to with a passion, since that was the night that the PLAY! Video Game Symphony came to the Center for Performing Arts diagonally across the street from the convention center. It was seriously amazing. Starting with Super Mario Bros, continuing through many other arrangements, recognizable and not (Sonic, Metal Gear Solid, Halo, Zelda), it was just over two hours of pure aural bliss. The San Jose event featured the premiere of Play!'s renditions of Oblivion and Blue Dragon music, as well as the as-of-yet-unreleased Lair for PS3. I can confidently say that all three of these were quite good. The Lair arrangement for play was conducted by special guest Kevin Kaska, who was one of the two composers for the game; it was an intense piece of music but it went on almost too long, thanks to anticipation for other big hitters like the Zelda medley, which hadn't yet been played. The one that brought tears to my eyes, though, was the Chrono Trigger / Chrono Cross medley, in spite of the flute coming in half a beat late. It was just too amazing to hear Frog's Theme and all the rest played in a full, live orchestra right in front of me. Now, I didn't get the $100 seats, but I was still in row 11, and I still got a fair number of freebies, including posters for Dear Friends, Lair, and Play!, the program for Dear Friends, and a 14-day sample of World of Warcraft (ugh - gave that away, to someone I didn't know). I had to buy the T-shirt, though, for $15. A couple of composers, including Jeremy Soule of Morrowind and Oblivion, were there but I didn't get their signatures. I think OC ReMixer Hemophiliac, whom I met at the con, might have managed to get them. He told me he chatted with Jason M. Paul, the producer of Play!, before the show, and - get this - Jason said that he checks what's going on with OC ReMix once in a while because it's his job. Man, I wish it was my job to check OCR. Anyway, Jason was also pretty enthusiastic about a big-band arrangement Hemo did of Castlevania, but I don't know all the details so I'll let you know what happens later. After the show, I chilled with a friend who was actually in the choir, and he let me in on some juicy (and frustrating) gossip - six pieces were dropped from the show, including Dancing Mad, Aeris' Theme, and Liberi Fatali, because the orchestra's union won't allow them to play for more than two hours. Boo to that, eh? Regardless, it was an awesome concert, and those of you in Sydney and Stockholm have even more goodies to look forward to.
So that about covers it for Fanime 2007, as far as anime (and game) music goes. There were some other bands I didn't end up seeing, and a box set of .hack soundtracks I couldn't quite afford, but that's life. Now I just have to live with post-con depression syndrome.
P.S. Out of at least 3 Haruhi cosplayers, I was deeply disappointed that none of them wore a ponytail.
I really should have mentioned this earlier, too, but one of the series that's ongoing this season in Japan is "DARKER THAN BLACK", with animation by BONES. In the warped future city where it takes place, there's a huge wall that separates the city from a land that humans dare not enter. Ever since it appeared, the night sky has been replaced by an imitation, whose stars represent various people with special powers. There are Dolls, soulless bodies that follow others' orders; and Contractors, who gain supernatural abilities but have to perform a certain remuneration (such as aligning stones in a grid or cracking one's finger bones) every time they use their powers. Li Shengshun (or alternate spellings, depending on how you like to write your Chinese in English) is one such person performing certain tasks for his boss. The show is slowly developing its plot through a series of episodes focused on individual characters Li meets, so it's kind of similar to Cowboy Bebop in that regard, though the content of the plot (and the animation style) makes it feel a little closer to Witch Hunter Robin. The animation is pretty dynamic and smooth, plus it's in gorgeous 720p, like many of the shows this season, too.
Of course, the reason I'm writing about this show is not for the plot (interesting as it may be) but rather because of the music. The soundtrack is by the incredibly professional Yoko Kanno, the brilliant composeress behind both Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex soundtracks and many, many other famous works. Her work on this series so far is pretty muted by comparison: there are some mysterious string melodies and bell-synth stuff, maybe one or two instrumental rock tracks as background, and nothing that stands out particularly as of yet. It's still pretty decent music, though, and I expect that as the plot picks up pace, so will the quality of the music.
As for opening and ending themes, the opening is a pretty cool, if generic, rock track by up-and-coming band "abingdon boys school", whose only other credit on AnimeNewsNetwork just yet is for the opening to last season's (and continuing) Shounen Jump series D.Gray Man. The ending is sung by Rie fu, who's probably most recognizable from Bleach's first ending theme (the one that starts, "Nobody knows who I really am") though this time she's singing in Japanese, so it sounds a little better, though very much in the same vein.
In any case, this is another show this season that looks pretty solid, so go ahead and check it out. This, Hayate, and El Cazador are definitely much farther up on my list than some of the other things I've started watching this season, including Gigantic Formula (the character designs are fugly), Idolm@ster Xenoglossia (just... weird), and Shining Tears x Wind (it's based on a bad SEGA RPG, and it shows so much that it's unintentionally hilarious). I'll post an update if/when I hear anything about the OST for Darker Than Black coming out.