Archive for June, 2011
I am surprised that I accepted all the stuff that was going on in the Super Mario Brothers games so willingly when I was a child. Think about it for a minute, the games chronicle the adventures of a man who runs about jumping on mushrooms with faces, attacking tortoises, constantly head butting magic floating blocks and when he touches a leaf it makes him grow raccoon ears and a tail. Oh, and he can use this tail to fly.
It really is total madness.
Looking back, I regarded all that as normal, those are the rules of his world and that is just the way it is. Until, that is, I came across the tanuki suit. The tanuki suit is a power up that you find at very rare points in the third Mario Brothers game. At first it seems to have the same purpose as the raccoon tail but eventually you work out that it can do one more thing. You can use it to turn into a statue too, in this state you can’t move but also can’t be hurt by enemies.
It upon discovering this ability, I vividly remember turning round to my friend and asking, “Why… Why does this happen?”. He couldn’t answer me, being 8 year old English boys we had no idea what a tanuki even was. We could relate to the other things Mario could turn into (frogs, raccoons, hammer throwers and the like) but what ever this tanuki thing was, we had no idea.
It turns out that the tanuki is a Japanese animal that is very heavily linked to Japanese folklore and the abilities that Japanese people believe it has are far stranger than anything Mario could do while dressed as one.
As I said earlier a tanuki is a Japanese animal that is often translated into English as raccoon dog. I never really liked this translation as although it looks similar to a raccoon, the two are in completely different families of animal. Tanuki look a bit like a fat red panda (minus the fuffy tail) and they can eat just about anything including the likes of rodents, lizards, frogs, fruit, berries, insects and snails. In real life they do all the things that you’d expect small woodland creatures to do but in Japanese fairy stories and legends they leave quite the impression.
In folklore, tanuki and foxes both have the ability to change shape into almost anything and enjoy to trick gullible humans. Often the foxes are thought to be more sinister in their actions, while tanuki are usually more innocently mischievous. They do things such as crashing wedding parties, drinking all the alcohol and then, when it is time to pay, disguising useless leaves as money. They also have the reputation for being womanisers.
One of the tanuki’s defining characteristics is that they have rather large testicles. Thus in fairy stories they have often developed many interesting uses for them. These include using them as fishing nets, umbrellas, suitcases, tents, shop signs, for weightlifting and even to scare hapless humans. Many of these useful functions can be seen being performed by tanuki in Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s woodblock prints from the 1840s.
The tanuki’s massive balls are also the subject of a wonderful children’s song that goes a bit like this:
tan tan tanuki no kintama wa
Tan Tan Tanuki’s balls…
kaze mo nai no ni buura bura
Even with no wind they go swing, swing, swing.
Tanuki statues are often found outside traditional Japanese restaurants holding a bottle of sake in one hand and patting their fat little belly with the other. Perhaps it was this that Mario was turning into all those years ago.
These statue’s jolly faces beckon us to come into the resturant. People who have round jolly faces and big eyes in Japan are said to have a tanuki-gao (tanuki face) while people with slender tapering faces and thin eyes have a kitsune-gao (fox face). Apparently you should be careful around someone with such a face, foxes are not to be trusted.
At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in 2011 Nintendo announced that after a break of 23 years the Tanuki suit will return in Super Mario Bros 3D. They also said that Mario will no longer be able to fly with it.
What legendary tanuki ability will they replace it with? Will we finally see Super Mario’s balls having a big effect on the gameplay?
Recently I have found myself watching the very first TV series of Lupin the 3rd in Japanese without subtitles. This makes it rather hard to follow but I am enjoying it.
The main thing that surprises me is how different in tone this series is compared to later Lupin outings. Lupin is less of a heroic sympathetic character and more like someone who could actually is an international criminal. Episode nine of this series (Killer Sings the Blues) is more suspenseful than any half hour episode of Lupin has any right to be and I look forward to tracking down an English language version of it.
Towards the end of the series he did start to become more like the Lupin we know today. Often giving up the jewels in order to save the damsel in distress. It came as no surprise to discover that the later episodes were directed by the great Hayao Miyazaki. His influence was so great his version of the character has kind of stuck ever since.
Masaki Osumi, the first director, had an interpretation of the character that definitely wasn’t a nice man.
But is not what the song Nice Guy Lupin wants you to think…..
Perhaps written by the man who sits at the back of a Mediterranean bar all day with a guitar, enveloped in the smoke from his ‘funky’ cigarettes, this song is perhaps the most out of place thing I have ever heard.
I seem to remember I first heard it after Lupin had gunned down some goons I was so shocked that I nearly fell off my chair and had to rewind it a listen a few times.
Just look at the lyrics:
Lupin, he’s a nice man.
But he’s cool, you know, he uses his Walther.
Yeah, the machine cries, bang bang.
Yeah, he’s Lupin the third.
Yeah, he smiles, and he gets angry,
But he’s a groovy guy.
Yeah, Lupin the third.
Go. Go, man.
You’ve got to.
Now have a listen. The music just completes it. This kind of thing could only have been made in the 70s.
In Christian countries God and miracles are closely linked.
If you pray to God then maybe a miracle will happen.
A long time ago the likes of Jesus, Mary and God would often appear.
Lourdes is a famous place in France.
After Mary appeared in a spring there, every year millions of people go and believe that if they drink the water, their illnesses will be healed.
Also, in Turin Christ’s face appeared in a shroud.
Recent miracles are a little different.
Recently it’s Wayne Rooney who appears everywhere.
I have read many newspaper articles and Wayne Rooney appears in stuff like potatoes, skirting boards and crisps.
However these stories only turn up around World Cup time.
There was a time, a long while ago, that I was only just discovering Shiina Ringo. I had downloaded her entire discography and was loving almost every minute of it. I eventually came across an odd song by the name of Ringo Catalogue ~Kuroko Jidai Saihensan~ (~a compilation of the age of the mole~). I didn’t quite know what to make of it, it just seemed otherworldly and strange.
As a result I just ignored it and moved on to the next few songs.
After a year or so I came back to Ringo Catalogue and finally realised what was going on. It is a collection of many of her songs from the her first three albums all stitched together. To the untrained ear it is a chaos but to a seasoned listener it suddenly becomes a rich tapestry of familiar music cues which all come together into something glorious.
However is very hard to work out quite what song is used and when. So I did a bit of digging and found the answer in Japanese. Being a proactive bunny I decided to put it all in English for all to see here.
0:00～0:30 Drums (正しい街, Tadashi Machi)
0:04～0:30 Base (ここでキスして, Koko de Kiss Shite)
0:05～0:29 Rhythm (丸の内サディスティック, Marunouchi Sadistic)
0:10～0:13 Guitar (正しい街, Tadashi Machi)
0:12～0:12 Breathing (歌舞伎町の女王, Kabukicho no Jou)
0:13～0:30 Guitar (ここでキスして, Koko de Kiss Shite)
0:30～0:38 Clapping (シドと白昼夢, Shido to Hakuchumu)
0:30～0:38 Bass (積木遊び?, Tsumiki Asobi?)
0:34～0:38 Guitar (歌舞伎町の女王, Kabukicho no Jou)
0:37～ Violin (同じ夜?, Onaji Yoru?)
0:52～1:09 Guitar (警告, Keikoku)
1:09～1:23 Bass (積木遊び, Tsumiki Asobi)
1:09～1:36 Piano (茜さす 帰路照らされど, Akanesasu Kiro Terasaredo)
1:10～1:20 Guitar (茜さす 帰路照らされど, Akanesasu Kiro Terasaredo)
1:10～1:43 Glass Sounds (シドと白昼夢, Shido to Hakuchumu)
1:10～1:43 Bass (シドと白昼夢, Shido to Hakuchumu)
1:11～1:20 Guitar (正しい街, Tadashi Machi)
1:13～1:41 Synth (シドと白昼夢, Shido to Hakuchumu)
1:19～1:20 Guitar (モルヒネ, Morphine)
1:24～1:29 Guitar (幸福論-悦楽編, Kofukuron -Etsurakuhen)
1:29～1:43 Trumpet (サカナ, Sakana)
1:33～1:35 Guitar (依存症, Izonshou)
1:34～1:43 Synth (罪と罰, Tsumi To Batsu)
1:38～1:38 Whistle (罪と罰, Tsumi To Batsu)
1:43～2:05 Piano (本能, Honnou)
1:44～2:00 Voice Rhythm (ストイシズム, Stoicism)
1:47～1:56 Woman’s Voice (サカナ, Sakana)
1:50～2:02 Guitar (ギブス, Gibs)
2:05～2:35 Synth (虚言症, Kyogenshou)
2:05～2:35 Bass (弁解ドビュッシー, Benkai Debussy)
2:05～ Right Channel Guitar (虚言症, Kyogenshou)
2:06～2:22 Left Channel Guitar (闇に降る雨, Yami Ni Furu Ame)
2:10～2:14 Radio (おこのみで～意識, Okonomi de ~ Ishiki)
2:23～2:35 Guitar (闇に降る雨, Yami Ni Furu Ame)
2:28～2:31 Radio (おこのみで～意識, Okonomi de ~ Ishiki)
2:35～2:42 Noise (浴室, Yokoshitu)
2:36～2:42 Synth (本能, Honnou)
2:42～2:54 Guitar (月に負け犬, Tsuki Ni Make Inu)
2:47～2:58 Clangy Banging (意識, Ishiki)
2:55～3:00 Synth (闇に降る雨, Yami Ni Furu Ame)
2:55～2:58 “uh”×2 (ストイシズム, Stoicism)
2:59～3:07 Electric Piano (依存症, Izonshou)
3:01～3:19 Glockenspiel (ドッペルゲンガー, Doppelganger)
3:02～3:05 Piano (茎, Stem)
3:05～3:10 Siren (おこのみで, Okonomi de)
3:07～3:08 Piano Glissando (浴室, Yokoshitsu)
3:09～3:24 Metronome (ポルターガイスト, Poltergeist)
3:13～3:16 Car (ドッペルゲンガー, Doppelganger)
3:16～3:25 Synth (葬列, Souretsu)
3:16～3:25 Drum (迷彩, Meisai)
3:25～3:27 Bell Cricket (おこのみで, Okonomi de)
3:26～3:26 Sitar (宗教, Shuukyou)
3:27～3:27 Sitar (葬列, Souretsu)
3:31～3:40 Xylophone (やっつけ仕事, Yattsuke Shigoto)
3:45～3:53 Bell Cricket (おこのみで, Okonomi de)
3:45～4:10 Drum (ドッペルゲンガー, Doppelganger)
3:53～4:05 Chime (宗教, Shuukyou)
4:28～4:40 Shamisen (とりこし苦労, Torikoshi Kurou)
4:30～ Drum (葬列, Souretsu)
4:41～4:44 Guitar (The opening of Ichijiku no Hana played in reverse)
Not only that but the lyrics were taken from other songs too. Curiously, all the songs the lyrics were sampled from did not appear on any of her albums. This is not the case with all the music samples.
ねえ 見ている ほら（あおぞら, Aozora）
八度七分の （すべりだい, Suberidai）
空耳のベル （時が暴走する, Toki ga Bousou Suru）
騒さいな （リモートコントローラー, Remote Controller）
bon appetit （la salle de bain）
真摯なのだ 至って普通 （メロウ, mellow）
十八、九の女子は （はいはい, HaiHai）
そりゃ ちかっぱ端麗 （膨らんできちゃった, Fukurande Kichatta）
既成の概念（不幸自慢, Fukou Jiman）
受難バッハどう？タイプ？（輪廻ハイライト, Rinne Highlight）
should it grow and open full （STEM）
i am not your position （Σ）
just want to be here wiθ you （SO COLD）
i go home alone （17）
もう何も要りません。 （愛妻家の朝食, Aisaika no Choushoku）
鮮やかな実 嗚呼（映日紅の花, Ichijiku no Hana）
猫の眼で （ギャンブル, Gamble）
青梅を疾走 （光合成, Kougousei）
The only question remaining is whether it is a masterpiece or a mess. I guess that it can’t be considered an amazing song in it’s own right because you really need to be familiar with Ringo’s other work to really get anything out of it. As a piece of art though, it really is stupendous.
Judge for yourself: