Monday, October 29, 2018

Babymetal - Legends I, D, and Z

So I'm a new fan of Babymetal. Just discovered them last month, and I've been pretty obsessed with them since. I've bought both of their albums, and I've watched tons and tons of their live performances. Heck, I've already fallen so far down the rabbit hole, I've even ventured quite a bit into a lot of their Sakura Gakuin stuff, too. I just love how positive and innocent their music is, and the sheer number of genres they blend together in some of their songs, all the while maintaining both a clear metal inspiration, as well as a very anime-inspired vibe to their music, which carries over into their performances.

There's just something infectious about this band, something really refreshing about them. Watching their live performances is just mesmerizing, how they're able to consistently move around at the pace that they do and maintain that level of energy and sing at that level of quality night in and night out without missing a beat. I can't say I've ever been into a band quite in this manner, where I've gone out of my way to watch so many different live performances and behind the scenes interviews and footage and such. Their shows are almost like watching theater, they're just as much visual as they are musical, and the way they tell a story and change things up from show to show is just really compelling to keep up with.

The amount of energy and positivity surrounding this band is almost overwhelming, and has made me more emotional on more occasions than any other band I've ever followed. There's just this irresistible connection that they have, both with one another on stage, as well as with their audience, that really just blows me away. And I don't think I could've caught the Babymetal fever at a more appropriate time, when I was feeling particularly depressed, and finding my passion waning in a number of my personal interests and questioning some of my aspirations.

In particular, in the world of film, I know it's been almost an entire year since I've seen a single movie that has elicited enough of an excited reaction out of me to where I felt the need to write about it and discuss it on here. I attribute that partially due to the fact that this past year has honestly been an unimaginably weak year for film, but also because the way Hollywood is using the media to obsessively discuss politics is becoming more and more of a soul crushing drain. Hell, that was one of the big reasons I actually quit social media recently outside of strictly for promotional uses, was because it had become a complete and total toxic wasteland with the non-stop hatred and politics becoming so inescapable, and we're reaching the point where the only way to enjoy any new media anymore is to just grin and bear it and try to ignore the obnoxious political agendas that are being constantly shoved down our throats.

But this band is like a breath of fresh air, a complete and total escapist bliss from all of that nonsense. It's a reminder to me that there does still exist a world out there that hasn't become completely entrenched by modern day Western politics. And it's also served as a reminder to me of just why I fell in love with anime and other Eastern style media so much, which I've largely fallen out of in more recent years. There's just such a fun innocence and so much focus on genuinely positive affirmation in their music and their dance routines that I just find it all to be really inspiring. So much that it's even left me reconsidering my own approach on a number of upcoming projects. And also so much that I actually even feel inspired to write again.

After writing a full review for their Budokan show on some of the forums I visit (which I'll likely tweak a little and post here at some point as well), I felt something click in me that I hadn't felt in a long long time. Something satisfying about really digging deep and discussing a topic of passion a little more in-depth, a satisfaction I used to feel while reviewing movies, or even further back while reviewing wrestling shows, but which I honestly hadn't felt in what seems like years at this point. I mean, you can see for yourself by how infrequently I've blogged this year alone. But after reviewing Budokan, I felt compelled to go back to the beginning and take a look at some of the band's other bigger shows, and just share my thoughts on them, which may relate back in some ways to what's happening with the band today as well. So to start off, let's take a look at their original trilogy of big shows, Legends I, D, and Z.

First thing to note about these shows is that there wasn't as much actual moshing in the crowds back then, though that's not to say that it wasn't a raucous bunch. They were packed to the brim and practically crawling on top of one another reaching out to the stage all throughout, and the smaller venues made the audience's shouts back to the band sound especially awesome, particularly during the songs Doki Doki Morning and Uki Uki Midnight. It's just amazing to see just how into this band people were, even that early on, well before they really broke out and made it big. But then again, I can totally understand it. After all, it didn't take long for me to become as huge a fan of theirs as I already am.

I also loved seeing their set list gradually expanding over the course of these shows, as it was apparent they were still coming up with new songs and accompanying dance routines during this period of time. It was pretty neat to see that Kimi to Anime Ga Mitai was a regular for them during this period, and I liked how they also incorporated a number of cover songs and remixes here too, particularly on Legend D (which is probably my favorite of the trilogy).

What's most likely my favorite song of the whole lot came from their rendition of Over the Future on Legend D, and it honestly might be my favorite individual live performance from the band that I've seen yet at that. I first discovered this song when watching a compilation video of the band's covers that they've done over the years, and this one in particular happened to stand out to me at the time. But then, upon digging deeper and learning just how much history there is behind this song as well, and how much this song really means to the band, it just made it stand out as all the more powerful, and left me moved in a way that no other piece of music had managed to do before.

Add to that, a really unique choreography arrangement for this song as compared to most of their others, with the song starting off with just Yuimetal and Moametal alone, only for Su-metal to make her grand appearance partway through like a friggin boss, and yeah, everything just comes together to make for one hell of an epic and emotional performance.

Legend D also features a neat dance remix of the song Headbanger, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This particular song is completely lip-synced, and they make no real efforts to hide that, as it exists here really as an excuse to just let Su join in with Yui and Moa and really just jump around and punch in the air and spaz-dance her ass off on stage. I also noticed this on the footage for the shows where both Yui and Moa got to trade off with Su on lead vocals for this song, how Su just looked like she was having the time of her life really being able to finally let loose as a dancer and go all out, and that was certainly the case for this song, too.

In addition to that though, I have to bring up the band's use of backup dancers for this number. There's something of a controversy happening now where some people are getting up in arms over the band introducing a number of backup dancers in their current shows. But really, they've been incorporating this element from the very beginning, with the Babybones and the Ladybones acting as living set decoration in these early shows, much like the current dancers on tour with them now. Granted, the dancers here were used perhaps more sparingly, but I felt their inclusion in this rendition of Headbanger definitely worked, and added to the all out dance-fest vibe of the song.

Speaking on the Babybones for a moment now, I will say that while I definitely appreciate Babymetal going with a live band nowadays, I did get a kick out of some of their fake band's antics on these early shows. It was rather silly on Legend I for instance when, during the dueling guitar solos for Akatsuki, two of the Bones took the spotlight and proceeded to pretend to play the guitar. (Thankfully, they went with something different and far cooler during this song on Legend Z, when Su engages in a fight dance against, you guessed it, another backup dancer!) And during the more traditional rendition of Headbanger on Legend D, I loved how the Babybones completely stopped pretending to play instruments altogether to join Yui and Moa in bowing down to Su-metal. Stuff like that really cracked me up.

But going back to Legend D again, the show closes with another one of their covers, which was a simply beautiful rendition of Tsubasa wo Kudasai. The girls' singing in this song is so touching, it's bound to drive damn near anyone to tears, as the show then ends with the first of many times to come where we close out on some sort of Su-metal crucifixion imagery.

And then, picking up right where Legend D left off, Legend Z opens with Su-metal still in her crucifixion pose against the cross, only to come back to life and start things hot with the first of two different performances of Ijime, Dame, Zettai (and unlike Headbanger on Legend D, it's the same version of the song both times at that). Interesting decision to both open and close a show with the exact same song, but I guess this just goes to show how limited their song list was at the time, as now they definitely have a lot more options available to them for really strong openers and closers.

I mentioned before how interesting it was to see their set list gradually expanding, and that was never more the case than on Legend Z when they got to performing Catch Me If You Can. I was seriously giddy during this performance, you don't even know! I already love this song, and the dance choreography might be my favorite out of the whole band, so to reach the point where presumably the song was making its first major on stage appearance was an absolute delight, and I was left grinning from ear to ear throughout.

Another thing I noticed about these shows that I don't see them doing so often these days was that the band liked to tease the crowd quite a bit by seeing them off early, only to wait a few minutes and leave the crowd chanting for more, until they would finally come back out and crank up the awesome to end things on a high note with a couple of encore performances. On Legend D there wasn't any live band, but Legend I actually saw the debut of the Kami Band for the encore (who mostly stayed hidden in the background back then), and the Kamis made their return during the encore of Legend Z as well.

And for the Legend Z encore, the girls actually changed over into white dresses, as opposed to their usual black and red, which appeared to symbolize a sort of rebirth of sorts. It certainly made for a cool and unique look for them in any event. And I also found it neat how, in addition to their performing Over the Future, this was another wish of Yui's come to life, who expressed on a radio interview I had stumbled upon that she would love for the band to at some point be able to perform while wearing white. She also expressed in another interview her desire for the band to perform wearing their casual day to day attire, but sadly, that particular wish doesn't look likely to happen at any time in the foreseeable future.

So yeah, I think that about wraps up most of my main thoughts on this trilogy. These shows were a ton of fun, and it was really neat seeing them perform at this stage, in these smaller, more intimate venues, and seeing how they gradually evolved from show to show, be it in their set, in their attire, and even in their dance routines. For instance, in the early days, I didn't realize that Yui and Moa were straight up falling onto their backs during the fight dance sequence of Ijime, Dame, Zettai. Considering Yui had to recently drop out of the band partially due to health issues which may or may not have been due to the physical strain of their act, I'm glad they stopped doing that in later shows. They do more than enough up there without taking damn wrestling bumps on top of everything else!

But yeah, I enjoyed taking the time out to write about these shows, and now I look forward to catching up even more and further sharing my thoughts and feelings as I dive deeper and deeper into the lore of this wonderful band known as Babymetal. See you!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Kip - The First Ninja Kat Movie

Here it is, my latest short film, and the very first movie to come out of the Ninja Kat series, Kip, based on elements from the title character's story arc in the Velcro the Ninja Kat novels. I'm really pleased with how this one turned out, and I hope you all enjoy this first cinematic take to come out of the world of the Ninja Kat!