Ten years ago today saw the English launch of a quirky Japanese puzzler, a sleeper hit that would go down as one of the most endearing, original, and gleefully weird gaming stories of the 2000s: Katamari Damacy. Its fever-dream plot has the record-scratching, Freddie Mercury-esque King of All Cosmos destroy the stars in a drunken fugue, and you, the diminutive Prince, must restore them with the Katamari -- a magical sticky ball that snowballs through cluttered environments, rolling up paperclips, flowerpots, cows, buses, houses, skyscrapers, and continents into new constellations. It also boasts one of the most infectiously joyous soundtracks of all time -- an eccentric, richly produced, and incredibly catchy blend of funk, salsa, bossa nova, experimental electronica, J-Pop, swing, lounge, bamboo flute, hair metal, buoyant parade music, soaring children's choirs, Macintalk fanfares, and the finest theme song this side of Super Mario Bros. Called a consumerist critique by sculptor-turned-developer Keita Takahashi (who after one sequel moved on to Glitch, the supremely odd Noby Noby Boy, and playground design), the series has inspired much celebration and thought [2, 3] on its way from budget bin to MoMA exhibit. Look inside for essays, artwork, comics, lyrics, more music, hopes, dreams... my, the internet really is full of things. [more inside]
"THIS is my favorite video on the internet. I insist that you watch it!!!! ... Generally what the vid is about is training girls to be an Amazoness. GOD IT’S SO GOOD." Mildly NWS. From the same animation studio who brought you Gal-O.
Did you watch Pon Pon Pon and find it a little too drab for your liking? Pon de Floor just not colorful enough for you? Well, you'll be happy to know they've been combined together. Warning: it's catchy, and slightly NSFW. [more inside]
Japanese pop star Hatsune Miku is the voice behind the globally famous Nyan Cat. Miku's first breakout hit was a cover of Ievan Polkka, aka the Leekspin song. Nowadays Miku is playing to sold-out arenas. But Miku isn't real. She's just a computer animation with a voice synthesized through Yamaha's Vocaloid software. But the audiences at her live performances are real. Here's a video of several hundred humans with glowsticks cheering the appearance of her holographic image on stage. [more inside]
In this corner, Norazo from Korea, singing about Superman, risking one's life, and that wonderful fish the mackerel (sung in an actual fish market). And in the other, DJ Ozma from Japan, singing about Spiderman, drinking, and Age Age Every Night (videos may be NSFW). [more inside]
Three Japanese Techno-Pop Bands rock it back-to-back-to-back on a kid's show. [SLYT]. The bands, in order, are P-Model, Hikashu, and Plastics. You're welcome.
Singing, dancing, rapping, looking hot - boy bands from Korea and Japan. From Korea: DBSK (or TVXQ outside of Korea), SS501, Big Bang. From Japan: KAT-TUN, Arashi, NEWS. But wait - Tohoshinki (as TVXQ is known in Japan) singing in Japanese, as do SS501. [more inside]
Perfume, a three-girl Japanese technopop sensation formed in 2001 now consisting of Nocchi, Kashikuya and A~chan, is about to release their ninth single, "Dream Fighter". Perfume's July 2008 single "Love the World" was the first technopop song ever to debut at #1 on the Oricon sales chart. The previous highest debut for techno was Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Kimi ni, Munekyun" 25 years ago in 1983. (original article citing #1 record translated via Google translator) [more inside]
Puzzled by sugary J-Pop bands and their eccentric (and failed) TV shows? Frustrated and confused by the complexity of Japanese and want to see what your inchoate blustering looks like from the other side? Then join "perennially unpopular" gaijin celebrity Thane Camus (grand-nephew of Albert Camus), as he walks a class of fellow pop star clichés through an endearingly awkward English conversation class.
(Yayoi) Tsushima, a bassist; Ma(ri), a guitarist; Mi(zue), a drummer. Mix 'em up (mamire) and you get Tshusimamire or Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re or TSMMR or つしまみれ, infamous and rocking female Japanese combo. The real deal -- good singing and playing in tight arrangements that turn on a dime, mixing surf, psychobilly, funk, grunge, traditional Japanese melodies, and more. [more inside]
Fantastic Plastic Machine wants to take you to the disco, shop at Louis Vuitton and tell you the time. Don't forget the toy trains. [more inside]
In 1995 a Japanese pop punk band called The Blue Hearts wrote a song called "Linda, Linda". In 2005 came the film Linda, Linda, Linda, about a group of Japanese schoolgirls (plus one Korean) who have to master the song in time for their school's rock festival. Do they perform it triumphantly in an awesome final scene? Not telling. [more inside]
Awesome J-Pop Videos. For a genre few in the U.S. are familiar with, it certainly garners some very heated opinions (likely because of Morning Musume and the like.) Still, there are some who go above and beyond the fold. (largely youtube filter.)
The Sukiyaki Song [mp3] Depending on your age, you may have heard your parents humming this, or even hummed it yourself. Sung by Kyu Sakamoto, the Sukiyaki Song was the only number 1 hit by a Japanese artist in the US, in 1963. It remains the biggest international hit by a Japanese popular singer. The song has nothing to do with the popular Japanese beef dish; the Japanese title was "Ue o Muite Aruko" (I Look Up When I Walk), but was changed because it was thought that western DJs would be unable to pronounce it. The song spawned many covers, and Maddmansrealm has collected over 60 of these, including French and German versions, bossa nova versions, a short accordion version by Styx, and a live instrumental version by Bob Dylan and Tom Petty [mp3s]. Kyu Sakamoto died in 1985 in the crash of JAL 123.