The “Predicament”

Late in August 2012, I happened to stumble upon the anime movie The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (時をかける少女 Toki o Kakeru Shōjo) (Edit: Official site [in Japanese]). Now, I’m not normally one for anime (Miyazaki Hayao is bearable, but then, he doesn’t really count), but I had nothing else to do, so I watched it. Hey, the story wasn’t bad: long story short, a girl falls in love with a guy from the future, but he has to go back. It was only somewhat annoying in the way that they executed it (leaping through time does get a little repetitive). Overall, it wasn’t bad, and I’d recommend watching it at least once.

Theatrical posterThe Girl Who Leapt Through Time / 時をかける少女 / Toki o Kakeru Shōjo (2006) theatrical poster

But the point of this isn’t the movie; I’m getting at the music. I’m not much for Japanese music, but the songs piqued my interest. There were two: the theme song is called Garnet (ガーネット) and the insert song is Kawaranai Mono (変わらないもの), both by OKU Hanako (奥 華子). Upon hearing even just the beginning of the two songs put me in awe!

Being Japanese songs, I wasn’t planning on doing anything about it until my sister asked me to get Garnet for her. Seeing this as an opportunity to listen to her other songs, I did so.

WOW! They were good! Really good! It was like the time I got more Peter Cetera songs or discovered Crystal Bernard and Les Horribles Cernettes.
But then it struck me: I was listening to J-pop. I don’t like J-pop, I don’t listen to J-pop, and I’m not sure I want to start. I got that disturbing “What’s happening to me?” feeling, and the inner conflict began.

To further complicate things, I wouldn’t call her songs typical J-pop. They’re mostly piano ballads, so perhaps J-ballad, though I’m not familiar enough with the genre to say so. Oku Hanako is to J-pop as Miyazaki Hayao is to anime. While their works are all, strictly speaking, classified in their respective genres, they really don’t seem to belong there; at the very least, they’re not your typical representatives of the genres. This is why I prefer to stay away from genre headings.

This is what I call The Predicament: “It’s good… but it’s J-pop”. (I know, you can hardly call it a predicament, let alone capitalize it). For about two or three weeks, I kept asking my friends what I should do. All of them said something along the lines of “If you like it, go ahead. Why should you care if it’s J-pop?” Only one of my friends really understood my predicament, and that was because she went through something similar.

I woke up with a solution one night: for every Oku Hanako song I get, I get one of Peter Cetera’s, and vice versa. It was perfect! I had been meaning to get more Peter Cetera songs, and this would give me an excuse to get both.

Front coverGarnet / ガーネット (2006) single cover

I ended up getting 13×2 songs out of that, plus Garnet.

After that, the hype never really died down. Whenever I listen to my MP3 player, I go from shuffled songs to just Cetera/Oku, or sometimes a single Peter Cetera or Oku Hanako song on repeat. It didn’t help that my player wasn’t shuffling properly when I was in Oku Hanako or Peter Cetera (that is, until I found a workaround).
Also, my songs have the general filename scheme artist - title.mp3, and my MP3 player orders its songs alphabetically (mostly). I originally had her songs prefixed as Hanako Oku (the way that most Westerners would), but then I discovered that if I put her name in Japanese order (Oku Hanako), I could go from the start of Oku Hanako’s songs to the end of Peter Cetera’s songs without doing anything. Previously, since my player doesn’t have a song menu or any playlist functions, I’d have to navigate my way from H to P. Now, I just go from O straight to P!

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’m an overseas fan. It worries me a little, but I can’t say I’ve regretted my decision. I get to listen to lots of great songs, and I learn a little Japanese along the way!

Notice that I purposely didn’t add any links to the songs. I’ll be posting a playlist very soon!
In the meantime, feel free to leave some comments. To get you started, what advice would you have given me, and have you had a similar experience?

Update: Listen to the playlist!
Update: Check out Thoughts on Oku Hanako, my blog dedicated to her. (Yes, it seems The Predicament has gone that far.)


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