This post is a recommendation that you watch and consider Masaaki Yuasa's new anime series on Netflix, Japan Sinks: 2020. I also think you should become a fan of Yuasa, but I first have to get into a post that Charles recently wrote.
About a month ago, Stranger staff philosopher Charles Mudede wrote a blog post arguing that a Japanese musician in 1986 made the best pandemic-era album for 2020. It's a silly suggestion that I think I can agree with. Charles was talking about the Japanese ambient album Green by Hiroshi Yoshimura, an album he humorously and seriously suggested was "the nineteenth-greatest album of the 1980s." Seattle's Light In the Attic Records just reissued that 19th-best '80s album to glowing reviews. Pitchfork called it "lush and layered, with a sense of purpose."
You should read Mudede's post—it's quick—but here's a blurb from it about the difference between Western and Japanese ambient music:
Ambient music in the West is not the same as the Japanese approach to meditative minimalism. For the West, technology has always been a "bid for freedom" from nature. This is the essence of a spaceship. The rocket, the blasting fire, the rise, the velocity of escape, the exit from gravity, the freedom from the grounded heaviness and incessant liveliness of the biosphere.
This is not the way of “kankyō ongaku” [Japanese “environmental music”], and one of its defining works, Green. We do flee nature, but we do so by going deeper and deeper into it. What is not left behind is technology. It is both one with us and one with nature. The sound of green leaves capturing pulses of light and making them work in the production of bio-batteries is there with the electrically generated sonic effects of synthesizers. This is not a new age paradise. It's a place where a robot dreams like a human, and a human dreams like a robot. The organic and the digital, the birds and the frequency mixer, the babbling stream and the processed loop.
The post sent me down a month-long spiral of listening to the 34-year-old Green.
So I was surprised when, over the weekend, I noticed Green reappear in 2020 again, this time in Netflix's new disaster drama anime, Japan Sinks: 2020. Just like in Mudede's post, the show revisited the album in the context of a profound disaster.
The newly released 10-episode animated series (which is not a children's show) comes from celebrated anime director and illustrator Masaaki Yuasa. Often sentimental, it's a big departure from Yuasa's previous series for Netflix, Devilman Crybaby (2018), an ultraviolent, ultrahorny show about a devilman who is also a crybaby. Yuasa's Japan Sinks: 2020 is based on Sakyo Komatsu's bestselling novel, Japan Sinks (1973), about a cataclysmic megaquake that causes Japan to subside into the ocean. It's a bleak premise to drop in the middle of a pandemic, but it's buoyed by a surprisingly meditative soundtrack from composer Kensuke Ushio. Most surprising is Ushio's inclusion of a song inspired by Green's "CREEK."
Ushio's EDM reimagining of the track comes during a curious episode, "Illusion." At this point in the series, the cast of characters has only encountered growing disasters. Burning cities, crashing planes, and a smoldering Mt. Fuji have driven them deeper into Japan, eventually to a sanctuary operated by a good-natured cult. And on the night of this episode, the cult throws a rave.
In this rave tent, the cast experiences their first moment of real rest so far in the series. One of the characters, tired of the DJ, kicks him off and puts on this track:
I expected the track's bird chirps and environmental sounds to turn off the ravers. But the track's sounds begin to layer, the electronic melds with the natural, and the crowd goes ham. After days of fleeing nature, the characters escape it by listening to it, as Mudede wrote in a line on Japanese environmental music: We do flee nature, but we do so by going deeper and deeper into it.
Something in Earth's forces must be shifting back around to Green.