19 August 2011

Friday Double: (7) Kon'nichiwa (Part 1)

Fall, 1973:  My family had just moved 2000+ clicks north from Texas.  Since we were now in suburban Chicago, the TV now picked up eight -- count 'em, eight! -- channels, not just the three I got before.  Before the move, the nearest pro sports teams were Houston, three hours away by car, and Dallas (way too far!).  Now, there were five teams just an hour away.  The whole experience was a culture shock I was enjoying.  On top of all that, I had never seen anything like Speed Racer, something to which I became addicted.  Eventually, I outgrew that anime, but it's remained a keystone for me, a reminder of some very happy days.

Shouldn't that red car have about
400 endorsements plastered on its sides?
Yes, the storylines in Speed Racer suck, and so does the animation.  The animators, I suppose, can blame it on the 1960s, but it turned into a really bad movie just two years ago.  Nobuyoshi Koshibe's soundtrack music, happily, has held up much better over the decades.  It borrowed from the West Coast style of jazz that was popular then.  I'm still looking for one commonly used piece that would fit in beautifully in an NFL Films video, but my other favorite Koshibe track is the theme for "The Mammoth Car" (1967; still shown at right).  The episode is one of the most ridiculous of the entire series, and the Mammoth Car itself makes Aruba's World Cup dreams look downright credible.  Nevertheless, its theme carries a tone of menace worthy of a major villain from a series that's actually worthwhile.

Alas, I'm not allowed to embed this video, so you'll need to click on a link.   Go ahead; it's worth the effort.

These days, it's Yoko Kanno who's been scoring some of the better Japanese anime out there.  Her best known pieces Stateside come from Cowboy Bebop, a program that's decent, but not as enjoyable as another anime she's scored, Ghost in the Shell.  On the other hand, I do like the music on Bebop better; in particular, it has a really snazzy theme.  Enjoy.

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