Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Screening Room: Lensman - Secret of the Lens (1984)

In the second installment of The Screening Room, we’ll travel a bit further back in time and look at an anime movie from 1984, SF Shinseiki Lensman, also known in other parts of the world as Lensman: Secret of the Lens.  The film was directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri & Kazuyuki Hirokawa, animated by Madhouse Inc., produced by MK Productions, Ltd., and distributed by Toei Co., Ltd. in Japan.  Both the movie and an anime television series, Galactic Patrol Lensman, were based on the Lensman novels written by E. E. Smith.  Four original Lensman novels were written between 1937 and 1948, and then in 1948 an earlier novel from 1934, Triplanetary, was re-worked to fit with the Lensman series.  In 1950, a sixth novel, First Lensman, was written to bridge the gap between Triplanetary and the four original novels.  Finally, in 1954, the original novels were re-written to remove remaining inconsistencies, and the full Lensman canon was established. 

SF Shinseiki Lensman (1984)

The plot of the movie differs greatly from that of the original novels, although the TV series was closer to the original source material.  In the film, a young human named Kimball Kinnison is living on an agricultural world with his father.  He is preparing to leave the planet to apply to the Galactic Patrol when he encounters a dying Lensman, and the Lensman’s Lens is transferred to Kimball.  This Lens holds special powers, and it contains information that is vital to the Galactic Patrol in its struggles against the Boskone Empire.  Kimball’s father, Ken Kinnison, who had helped form the Galactic Patrol and had himself aspired to becoming a Lensman before losing his arm in an accident during his younger years, understands the importance of the situation and sacrifices himself so that Kimball can bring the Lens to the Galactic Patrol.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Listening Chamber: The NESkimos - Battle: Perfect Selection (2002)

Nerd Up returns from a Holiday break with another installation of The Listening Chamber.  Not every VGM cover band is successful, and not all successful VGM cover bands play what would be called “good” covers.  Determining what constitutes “successful” or “good” is rather subjective, and opinions on styles vary from person to person.  This can lead to a polarizing situation where different people might love or hate the music, and that is the case with the topic of today’s discussion. 

The band in question is The NESkimos, and the album is Battle: Perfect Selection, self-released in 2002.  The NESkimos are based out of St. Augustine, Florida, and although they had hung up their instruments in 2008, they started making some appearances at conventions and other events again in 2012.  In general, The NESkimos play rock covers of music from video games from the NES and SNES, but the group does perform some songs in different styles such as surf rock and bossa nova.  The group currently consists of two guitar players who also provide vocals on some tracks, a bass player, and a drummer.  Between the period of their last album release and their reformation, they had no drummer and used sequenced drum tracks instead.

Most of the differences in opinion on the band’s quality arise from the fact that they do not always attempt to recreate the songs they are covering note-for-note, and they will often create additional parts to songs, change the way the song is played, or add lyrics to the arrangement.  While none of these things is unheard of in cover bands, The NESkimos were the first widely known VGM cover band to do this.  Some people had issues with the improvisation.  Others thought that the songs were simply being played poorly or incorrectly since the notes were not the same as the original music from the games.  I’ll leave it to each individual to decide for themselves if they like the style or not.

The NESkimos - Battle: Perfect Selection (2002)

Battle: Perfect Selection contains 23 tracks – 22 covers and 1 original skit – and runs for roughly 1:12:08, making it longer than most other VGM cover albums.