French and Japanese
I'm not one of these people who posts reviews often. Mostly I've come to keep my opinions about consumable media quiet. I think part of this is that I had very few allies who liked the same things that I did. Everyone else seemed quick to make fun of me for this reason. When I first got into anime, I always had to explain it to people that "Yes, it is animated, but it's not a cartoon. It's not something for kids just because it's drawn rather than acted." Roughly the same time I was big into electronica, and was mocked for my "videogame music". After a while, I just stopped trying. Why invite mockery?
Today I'm still into anime, but my music tastes have shifted toward heavy metal. Over the last month I've come to enjoy two particular creations in each genre. Curiously, both involve the French, and both involve the Japanese. Weird, huh?
Le Chevalier d'Eon
The first is an anime series that's currently running through the fansubbing network. Le Chevalier d'Eon is a 24 episode series produced by Production I.G. The story centers around d'Eon de Beaumont, a knight of King Louis XV. It's pre-revolutionary France, and d'Eon's sister Lia is found floating down the Seine river in Paris. Her corpse bizarrely incorruptible, the church denies her a Christian burial. d'Eon dedicates himself to finding the killer.
d'Eon, however, soon finds himself plunged into a world of alchemy, Western magic, and royal intrigue. Thankfully, he's not alone -- ever.
Unable to go to Heaven, the spirit of Lia takes up residence in the body of her bother. At first, d'Eon did not notice this. When enraged or threatened, Lia takes control and completes the battle at hand. Spiritual possession is not a new subject in anime. Hana-Kimi -- one of my favorite manga -- also features a possession subplot. Other examples exist. What particularly drew me to this series, is what happens to d'Eon when Lia takes control.
Throughout the series, it's noted how similar d'Eon and Lia look. Indeed, a properly attired d'Eon would (and does) appear to be a splitting image of his sister. During battle d'Eon isn't simply possessed by her sister, but becomes her. Subtle details betray the transformation: Posture, lip coloration, eye design, and most obvious, a change in voice. This isn't a Ranma 1/2 style transformation with it verging on fantastical. You can see an example at wikipedia. The effect is so subtle that the characters even use this to their advantage at key moments. How far the transformation extends -- are there actual physical changes or not? -- has yet to be answered at the episode I'm currently at.
This isn't the only thing fascinating about the series. The story is deliciously laden with conspiracies, secret societies, and plots against royalty from several countries. A type of Alchemy and Western magic based on the Book of Psalms predominates the series. Even without all the gender changing, this is a wonderful series.
I was only incidentally attracted to this series due to the title. Another series I have yet to complete, Blood+, also makes copious use of the word Chevalier. Upon researching the series and it's titular transformation sequence, I had to see it myself. It sometimes can be curious watching a series set in France, with French characters, where everyone speaks Japanese. This can be a bit confusing for a native English speaker. Despite other "high-priority" series on my anime queue, such as Ergo Proxy and Nana, Le Chevalier d'Eon has moved to the top of my list.
Gojira - From Mars to Sirius
For the last year, I've developed in interest in Heavy Metal. I've been introduced to several fascinating bands in that time through my Sirius Satellite Radio subscription. While "anything heavy" sounded appealing at first, I've come to adore bands that edge more toward Progressive Metal, Post-Rock, and Sludge Metal. Many of these bands are (reportedly) drug influenced.
A few months ago a new song appeared on my receiver, "To Sirius" by Gojira. The DJs would always crack at the incidental relationship between the song title and the corporation name. Despite that, it was a spectacular song. When I finally remembered to look up the lyrics, I was even more impressed. "To Sirius" told the story of a group of beings that left a dying world to seek beings on a planet orbiting Sirius C. I hit record on my Stiletto 100 and repeated the song often.
One afternoon I decided to seek out the entire CD. It had been years since I liked a CD. A few songs, sure, but the entire CD had always been a miss. Lacuna Coil's Karmacode was an exception to that trend last year. I was also happy to find out that Gojira's latest, From Mars to Sirius was also an exception.
Much like "To Sirius" (the second to last track), the entire CD revolves vaguely around the same subject. While some tracks are brutal examples of metal with curiously spiritual lyrics, others are more wistful. I've found myself listening to the CD again and again. Even more strange, I listened to the tracks in the order in which they're given. From Mars to Sirius tells a story best read (or listened to) in order.
The band was originally named "Godzilla", after the famous Kaiju. Due to licensing problems, the band decided to adopt the original Japanese name "Gojira". The band, however, isn't Japanese. From their songs you can tell they are singing in English, and despite the death metal grunting, no accent. To my surprise, the band members are French. Given the pride in which native French speakers have in their language, this seems surprising to me. A French band with a Japanese name that sings in English; if that doesn't suggest it belongs in my menagery of tunes, go listen to it yourself.