Okay, I swear I'll have something more than youtube videos next time. SERIOUSLY. But these are all entertaining anyway :D Also, to download Delay Lama, get a VST host and go to http://www.audionerdz.com/. Free Tibet!
My El Cazador CD arrived via DHL today. Well, at this point, it might be more accurate to say yesterday. It came in just before noon while I was at work. "El Cazador Original Soundtrack 1", as it is labeled (not getting creative like they did with the Tsubasa Chronicle "Future Soundscape" OSTs here) contains 17 tracks for a total of 51 minutes, 1 second of bliss music. All keyboards and programming are by Yuki Kajiura, while various other musicians sit in for a few songs each, providing a variety of live instruments, from the ubiquitous string section to the swanky harmonica and the impossibly rocking accordion. Booklet and inner cover art consists of just various caps from the series; the front cover is a rather bland picture of Nadie and Ellis floating amidst rose petals. [I'll be able to provide some scans later, hopefully.]
Overall, this first El Cazador soundtrack is very solid quality, with Yuki Kajiura sounding a lot less restrained than in some of her other recent endeavors. The level of traditionalism and experimentation is about on par with her Madlax soundtracks, which is high praise. Many of the tracks, such as #1, "Maxwell's Witch", are sort of less interesting songs that get used often in the background of the anime; #14 ("hotel del sol") and #13 ("small fry") are all passable quality but not worth frothing over. There are a number of subtle but good tracks, such as the mood-setting acoustic guitar solo "ennui", the haunting pan-pipe piece "murderous intent", the rocking "hit it and run!", and the bluesy "ballad of a bounty hunter", each of which is definitely worthwhile in its own way - but it cost me $50 to import this thing (international shipping on CDs still feels like banditry to me). Thankfully, there are three songs of such incredible quality that I don't regret it at all:
Track #6, inca rose, is the main killer in the soundtrack, for me. It starts with an entrancing melody played on what sounds like an organ, supplemented by plucks from an acoustic guitar, some beautiful pads, and a nicely layered techno groove. But there's also room for a heavenly chorus and some heartful electronic guitar solos. But don't take my word for it: download a 30-second sample clip! El Cazador - 'inca rose' Sample [30 seconds; 780k mp3]
Track #12, el cazador, is the trademark action insert song. It starts out with a string progression and techno beat that sounds like it was plucked right off the Tsubasa soundtracks, which had practically dozens of this sort of thing, but within the first minute, that gives way to an acoustic guitar backing up Yuuka Nanri (the vocalist half of "FictionJunction YUUKA") in what appear to be Spanish lyrics. 1:31-1:56 also houses an accordion solo that puts "Romance" from the Noir soundtrack to shame. After a beautiful breakdown, it picks up where it left off and eventually finishes roughly where it started, which is not bad at all.
And finally we reach track #17, forest, the only song on the soundtrack whose vocalist (Emily Bindiger) is labeled on the back of the case next to the track name. And for good reason: this is the same vocalist who performed some of the most memorable English-language tracks from the .hack//SIGN soundtrack, and the resemblance is crystal-clear. This halfway-upbeat song was used as an insert song for a powerful scene of episode 14. Strings, bell synths, a wonderful flute solo, and all the usual suspects are present here. The lyrics, as included in the insert booklet, are [apparent typos and all]:
summer rain falls on the apple branches
lights from heaven dancing with the shadows
come take my hand
let me be in your forest
sometimes you think loneliness is better than pain
and you sink deeper in your valley
is this the place to be, in your memory?
no, I never wanna lose you in the forest of the night
in vanity's lair
yearning for the angel calling
hear the lonely prayer ringing through the land of rain
across the thin air
they sing voice to voice
the ancient melodies
autumn goes by
combing twilight into my hair
I look back on the passing tenderness
let me stay by your side
In your memory
no, you never gonna find me in the forest of the night
In vanity's lair
no more holly angel calling
hear my lonely prayer ringing through the land of rain
across the thin air
we sing voice to voice
the ancient melodies
I'm calling you
Anyway, the gist of this is that if you're familiar with Kajiura, you probably don't require this review to decide whether or not you want the soundtrack. However, it's up to you whether you're willing to import it at that price. Roughly $30 for the CD plus $20 in shipping adds up to highway robbery (heck, for that price you could get an entire season of Emma), but for a soundtrack like this, I'm willing to suffer the cost.
This song is, apparently, the character single for Keiichi and Detective Oishi in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. The images are just a MAD put together by a fan. I think they only complement the incredibly amazing song, though.
As an aside, I got an email from Amazon Japan this morning - I didn't get a chance to look at it closely, but I think it means my El Cazador OST shipped. I'll be sure to review it when it arrives!
For those of you who followed Higurashi no Naku Koro ni last summer, the ending was probably pretty disappointing, because it didn't wrap up the most important questions and issues that the series posed. However, luckily enough, we found out some time ago that a sequel would be animated, to finish out the story contained within the doujin games. Well, it has started, and it seems pretty good. The initial arc appears to be "Yakusamashi-hen" (Disaster Awakening Chapter), which is an anime-original story intended to clarify, refresh, and revisit last season before we get into the true answer arcs. It's 20 years after the main Higurashi arcs, featuring the detective Mamoru Akasaka from Himatsubushi-hen, as well as Detective Oishi, and a coworker of Mamoru's. They revisit the destroyed Hinamizawa and meet with a grown-up Rena (apparently the only survivor among the main characters, in this timeline). It's serious business and seems like it'll be good stuff. But furthermore, with a new series comes a new opening and a new ending - and Higurashi has some interesting stuff in that regard. Higurashi's original OP was quite good, mysterious electronic type of song. The new song is a bit of a more laid-back, sad song, but with a bit of a techno edge. (Gee, I'm not feeling particularly articulate today, if you can't tell.) It also contains an interesting feature: parts of the original Higurashi OP, played in reverse. Though, take note, that that link ends up going into the normal forward-version of the OP about halfway through. In the meantime, enjoy the forwards version embedded here.
There's a lot more coming out this summer season, though I'm not sure what to think of all of it. Some of the shows that seem worth investigating are Moetan (based on the otaku-targeted half-joking English teaching books - so they should be a hoot), Zombie Loan (all I know is it has neat art and it's about zombies), the last two episodes of Code Geass (airing together July 27th, I believe), a Zero no Tsukaima sequel (if you liked the first one, which was..., well, it was OK). Actually, to be honest, I know very little about the summer season. There's no new Kajiura or Kanno so far as I can tell, though both Darker Than BLACK and El Cazador de la Bruja are continuing so it's not like we'll be deprived. I can tell you this: initial word on Nanatsuiro★Drops is that it's an incredibly horrible eroge adaptation. I'll keep you posted as more comes up.
For those who haven't heard yet (all three of you) it turns out that with as many attendees as they had, and in the new location in Long Beach, the Anime Expo staff and the Long Beach Convention Center couldn't get it together, and the result was what people are calling the worst AX ever. Apparently they spent so much money on the silver bullets, they forgot to buy a gun. Guest Momoi Halko dissed the con on her blog and canceled everything except her main concert. The SKIN concert (with, I didn't even realize, Yoshiki on drums, wow!) started hours late, the SOS-dan event was (according to my friend ININ) "30 minutes of talking and 30 minutes of karaoke", and the signing session with the SOS-dan consisted of about 100 pre-signed posters being given out to the first few fans in a poorly-managed line while the seiyuu themselves weren't there. There are other negative reports floating around, including rumors that the American voice actors were rude to the Japanese seiyuu, though that's just the way it was scripted, according to Johnny Yong Bosch (American Itsuki). But I'd really rather not go on in detail about old, depressing news, so if you really care to know, you can read the AX thread.
More importantly, El Cazador's soundtrack has a release date and a tracklist! Since the music in this show has been top-notch (as expected), I'm just dying for it to come out. Oh yeah, and as another anime blogger mentioned, the last track on the CD is an insert song from episode 14 sung by Emily Bindiger, who has performed English-language vocals for both Yoko Kanno and Yuki Kajiura before. It definitely resembles some songs like "To Nowhere" from .hack//SIGN, though, a little happier, I suppose. Flutes, chimes, strings, great solos, and Kajiura's distinctive touch. Fans like me will be dying to pick it up come July 25th.
So that's about it for now, but tomorrow, I'll be back with word on the summer anime season, which is just now starting. Ja, ne!