The 'Shroom:Issue 142/Critic Corner
Rev up those resolutions because a new year is here! Hopes and dreams CLASH with the unyielding onslaught of linear time! With that brings us the final installments of Yoshi876 (talk)'s sections Movie Review and Character Review. Yoshi876 has been tirelessly chugging away at Movie Review since February 2016, and Character Review since September 2014, along with plentiful other sections in every other team here in The 'Shroom. This is not without good reason, as Yoshi876 has been quite busy outside of this community as a successful writer and interviewer for an LGBTQ magazine! We will certainly miss him around here, and wish him luck and fortune with his endeavors. Don't fret, though, we also have a couple new bi-monthly sections, with Rising Sun Reviews by Mariofan169 (talk) and Hot Pot Reviews by Chibiki Daisy (talk), which you can find at the bottom near our poll which you should vote in!
Speaking of that poll, thank you for your votes making Half-Baked Reviews December's Critic Corner Section of the Month! Be sure to keep voting each month (and every week!) as we appreciate the feedback.
And finally, please welcome Raregold (talk) and MsRetroGeek (talk) as our next Director and Sub-Director of The 'Shroom! I can't w8 to inundate them with Community Awards stuff in the coming months :) :) :)
If you would like to help Critic Corner, we always have openings for more writers! Character Review and Movie Review are now completely vacant, but there's no law that says there can't be multiple. There's no pressure to have a huge section; they can be shorter and concise! The application process is very simple, starting with reading the Sign Up page, and sending your application to LudwigVon, our Stats Manager on the forum. On the Sign Up page there are a list of "vacancies" that provide you with examples of the types of sections we're looking for that would fit into Critic Corner. Any idea you have is welcome!
Section of the Month
In the spirit of rebirth and renewal, I’m going to start the year by changing up this section slightly. My Chex Mix-based ratings were meant to be goofy and completely incomprehensible to basically everyone just as a moral refusal to use a cold number-based ranking system that is equally incomprehensible without the inclusion of a relative explanation linking to a comparable and mutually understandable vibe or feeling. Additionally, ‘Half-Baked’ was meant to be that I wouldn’t take this section as serious and instead just do quick and personal reviews of stuff that I have no background in with an effortless breath. Both of these have been kinda outgrown. My writing style will always remain as it is, a mix of polished prose with crass remarks, but it now undeniably requires considerable effort to stock, research, curate, and review all of the stuff I do, and, with all due respect to the ‘Shroom, this being the venue it is in I feel I should apply some moderation so I don’t burn myself out. My section has shifted from me doing a superficial first-time gut reaction, to trying out new stuff with as much exposure and depth as I can muster to come back and provide a review that can double as a reference to anyone reading who would like to venture outside of comfort zones. To rebalance this, I don’t intend on handicapping the quality I expect from myself, but will do away with the silly Chex Mix rating, and replace it with a final word of sorts to summarize my thoughts on whatever was reviewed, which may or may not include some kind of metaphor or analogy to contextualize my feeling of what I’ve reviewed in a format that may be better understood more abstractly and gutterally.
Also, if you didn't notice, new banner!!!!!!
In a complete betrayal to my declaration, I fully intend on still using the spectacular pain scale that tb drew for me for things I can’t be bothered with providing more than just a number. How could I deny this face?
Moving on, I have literally every month of 2019 already mostly planned out with their themes and what I’m going to review, with the only decisions left to make is if I should split them even further so there’s not as much reviewed in each month, and therefore draw these out well into 2021. It’s prudent to plan ahead, kids! To start, I’ve got a boatload of German things I tried that the coverage of will be split between this month and some other one.
I found this at a Vietnamese-owned Chinese grocery store that has a considerable amount of French and German products, as well as notably an entire section devoted to licorice from Holland. It’s not surprising that a food market ran by a Vietnamese family in the middle of a heavily Vietnamese part of the city would have a host of French products, given that Vietnam was a French colony for almost a century up until 1954, but I guess it would catch someone off guard if they weren’t aware of that, or, like me, completely and temporarily disregarded the existence of cultural influence and diffusion. Basically, I was just looking for some kind of sauce that wasn’t basic soy sauce that I could use with fried rice or whatever, and figured that this store would have the widest variety. Battling dust-encrusted bottles and out-of-date items, I eventually came across a bottle labeled Maggi Arome that didn’t look like it could’ve housed the specter of some primordial demon.
It’s basically Worcestershire sauce. The taste is a bit more fermented and concentrated, which I guess is why the bottle is designed to only spit out a single drop unless you start aggressively shaking it, but it’s effectively a similar enough product to be negligible to a more common, less-astute shopper. I really don’t know what else to say about the flavor of it. If you want to know what it tastes like just chug some Worcestershire sauce. As a result, I’ve used it accordingly. Gabumon (talk) said it’s used in soups and on boiled eggs, but I don’t really consume much soup, so eggs it is. It makes them taste like I did more to them when all I did was splash some suspicious brown juice in them, almost hamburger-y. I also dumped some in chicken fried rice, and really didn’t notice much of any difference as to using soy sauce. I guess if for some reason you can’t consume soy, Maggi seasoning sauce could be a good alternative assuming you go and do your own research on whether or not this is true because I’m not responsible of you get an allergic reaction or turn your frogs gay (spoiler alert: it doesn’t, a clarification I feel obligated to make because I can name several people within this community alone who would enter a panic state from this implication).
Like everything else, it now exists at Publix for a cheaper price after I’ve already purchased it from an import market. Maybe I just didn’t look hard enough, or maybe my experience allowed me to see it easier, or maybe the grocery retail gods are playing pranks on me.
Final Word: Maggi is just Worcestershire or soy sauce branded to people in Europe and their colonial diaspora. If you’re in The States, it’s more expensive, but also more concentrated so you don’t have to use as much. Impress your friends and family at dinner parties with your sophisticated taste.
Skipping straight to the review first because why waste your time on something that’s not highly remarkable? It tastes just like cola that someone held an orange near. If you like vaguely orange-flavored cola, then fantastic, and this is the product for you. I thought it was ok.
For a soupçon of background info, I did some detailed investigative work on Wikipedia and the first page of Google search results so you don’t have to. Mezzo Mix is a Coca-Cola Company product that’s been around in Germany since the 70’s and I guess is popular enough to have entered the American market as a token of German cuisine. I’m struggling to find anything else to say without just awkwardly and unnecessarily drawing this out, so I guess there you go. Mezzo Mix is orange cola.
Final Word: It’s orange cola.
Roast Bratwurst in a pretzel roll (plus a bonus strudel!)
As promised, here is another item from Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival wherein I blew a bunch of money on really lackluster samples with poor service and presentation for a questionable value of experience. The Bratwurst w/ pretzel roll is likely the item with the least experience value to me, personally, as I’ve had bratwurst before, and had pretzel rolls, and have had sausage sandwiches, and finally also have the human ability to synthesize ideas from merging separate circumstances. What I will be reviewing today, though, is specifically this bratwurst w/ pretzel roll and its position within the context of German cuisine.
That being said, the bratwurst looked just as welcoming as the checkout girls. Thin flimsy wiener in a tiny bun with a lazy gob of mustard in the corner of a sad-looking paper dish. Not too thrilled I paid $5.50 for something I could easily make myself, I chugged along nevertheless knowing that it is these experiences that guides me through life and future decisions, hoping I can be a chaperone to the inquisitive and curious. As a pretzel roll aficionado, I was left unimpressed and bored by the bun that was provided. It was laughably small and rather bland, only really resembling a pretzel in its outward appearance. The actual bratwurst was ok enough, it was just kind of an unremarkable log of meat that couldn’t be picked out of a sausage lineup. The spicy mustard was good enough to slap up all of it with stray hunks of bread or meat.
I’ll also mention that I got the apple strudel with vanilla sauce, another option in the Germany cart for a competitive $4, was basically the same experience but with a sweet taste instead of meaty, and thus was deemed unworthy of making a whole separate review subsection for it. Like the bratwurst, it was actually pretty edible. The flaky dough was less elastic than what the feeble fork I was provided with could muster to defeat, likely from it sitting under a heating lamp for an indeterminate amount of time and letting it just become soaked in the juice and sauce, but the apples inside were tasty enough with a respectable amount of cinnamon flavoring, and the vanilla sure was vanilla. I’d eat it again if it was half the price and if I also had better service and didn’t have to sit next to some crotchety old dude on a bench who feigns too much testosterone to ever even consider walking into the store with his wife to do such feminine things as “shopping” and “showing compassion” and “experiencing a one-of-a-kind event with loved ones” lest they be transformed into homosexuals by HAARP mind control laser beams.
Final Word: Tasted alright, but cost too much, and the experience was lacking in any service or authenticity that would round out the escapade and perhaps provide a product that exceeded that of boxed microwaveable frozen goods on sale at Walmart. It’s a safe pick for people stuck with a more daring group egging them on to order at least one thing. Would love to try the real thing at a reputable German bakery/deli, or even just make it myself.
Being on a sudden kick for mustard thanks to discovering that I make REALLY good pretzel melts with toasted pretzel rolls, roasted turkey, genoa salami, whatever garbage pepperoni I can scrape up, crunchy and nutritionally empty iceberg lettuce, sweet onions, muenster, provolone, and mozzarella, I sought out some higher quality stuff. Not wanting to settle for French’s or Heinz or even Grey Poupon, I went over to my second home, the Publix international food aisle. It had like two small shelves of German stuff that was tucked within the “British Isles” section. As it turns out, there’s a lot more brands of mustard and condiments than the world really needs, but one with a big red label on it and a price tag that didn’t necessitate proof of royal blood stood out to me--Löwensenf.List of mustard brands Wikipedia page, or even the dropdown category. I did ask Gabumon (talk), a real life German, if Löwensenf is the best known mustard brand in Germany and he pronounced with stunning clarity and conviction, a resounding “probably?” Their website, where you can go to find more information about their mustard if this topic excites you as much as it does me, indicates that this company cares deeply about the quality of their product and process, making sure to state that their mustard consists only of “freshly ground brown mustard seeds, brandy vinegar, drinking water and some salt, no more and no less.” The barrel shape of the jar is even meant to help perfectly seal in the mustard, as detailed in one of their several process description pages. A lot of companies go out of their way to make their product seem remarkably pure and artistically cultured and crafted when they’re really just some lab-generated food ‘product’, but I’m not getting that sleazy vibe from Löwensenf. If you’re a quality snob like me, this grants significant bonus points in the way of determining if the 75 cent higher price is worth it.
Without further ado, onto how it tasted. The initial one I bought ended up being their classic original flavor, Extra, labeled specifically “Extra Hot” likely to clue a foreign audience in on what it even is. Knowing that spicy mustards exist I was fully expecting a mouth-searing experience, but Extra Hot just tastes like vinegar with a bit of a tang. That’s absolutely not a complaint as I really like the flavor of vinegar and this is a feature that won it for me, but it’s not what comes to mind when seeing “Extra Hot” on the jar. As boasted by their website, the ingredients are literally just: Mustard Seed, Spirit Vinegar, Water, Salt. Sure explains the vinegar flavor. It definitely has a potent enough flavor to not go unnoticed on the sandwiches I made, so if you ever plan on using it, go into it wanting to taste this mustard over much of everything else you’ve got on it. The appearance and texture is similar to standard mustard brands, if just a bit less like a squeeze bottle of melted yellow crayons like you’d expect from French’s. It has a bit of grit and grain to it, but it’s nowhere close to eating sand.
Later on, after I’ve already been convinced that Löwensenf is a brand I can trust to produce at least one food item I like, I saw in a German bakery that they have a little shelf where they sell some German goods like Haribo and suspicious packets of like meat broth flavoring and whatever. Upon that shelf was a recognizable jar of mustard with a red label, with some of its buddies: Medium and Bavarian. Seeing that they were a hyperinflated $7 a jar likely because of the small family-owned size of this bakery, I only managed to convince myself to splurge on one, the Bavarian flavor, as it seemed like the deepest side of the mustard pool to dive into. The ingredients listed in the Bavarian are more expanded, as one would expect: Sugar, Spirit Vinegar, Mustard Seed, Water, Apple Juice From Concentrate, Caramel Sugar Syrup, Spices, Chili Extract. Each ingredient is pretty noticeable, as it is markedly sweet and fruity, with a bit of a kick to it; not much of one but you can tell it’s there and it’s hotter than the Extra Hot. I enjoyed this one a lot; it was a nice blend of sour, sweet, spicy, I guess toss savory in there as well because why not, just not salty, which I satisfied by having half a bag of sea salt and vinegar chips on the side. The texture was tactilely and visibly chunkier, but not enough to be a bother.
Final Word: Löwensenf mustards achieve their claim of high quality. Strong flavors, but not obtrusively so. Each worked well for sandwiches, and their website has recipes for using it as a glaze and whatever else, and I have no reason beyond having to go out and spend money on another jar stopping me from doing it. Absolutely worth the price.
Milka Oreo Big Crunch Bar
The first thing I noticed when trying it is that it doesn’t break easily along the standard demarcation lines because inside appears to be one continuous sheet of Oreo cookie. This was pretty jarring as that’s the most involuntary action taken when consuming breakable bars of chocolate and candy, especially ones as large as this. This same sheet also is the only thing that gives this bar any substance, as the milk chocolate layer is incredibly thin with some kinda milk cream thing immediately beneath. For a full picture, the bar is Oreo, sandwiched between some milk cream gunk, with that entire sandwich coated in chocolate. It’s very awkward to bite into because your teeth just glide right through the chocolate and cream layer like warm butter, and then suddenly smack against an Oreo sheet that’s not supported by anything other than some more cream beneath it, so it makes it so that all of the force you’re applying in each bite goes straight to the Oreo, but there’s still like a quarter of an inch of other stuff physically there. This would be much more successful if the Oreo was instead just a bunch of crumbled bits dispersed throughout the cream layer, or if it was two thin Oreo layers sandwiching one single cream layer. Perhaps even a trellis structure, or corrugated Oreo. The technology just isn’t there, yet, but I claim copyright on it for when it does.
Final Word: The taste isn’t really that bad if you don’t mind the vaguely white chocolate taste of the cream when you’re expecting it to be more milk chocolate; the issue is mostly in the texture and structural integrity.
I was going to review a Haribo thing but I opted to not do it because I don’t want to cram these sections to the brim with stuff just because I can and instead want to space things out, and also because Haribo is a large enough company with enough products that I realistically could do an entire month (or two) on just their products, so, look forward to that uhhhhhh eventually!
Tune in next month for a lovely review! Also, tell me what to review next! You can tell me to do can also be movies, shows, physical actions, trying new foods, music, literally anything and I’ll cover it eventually if it’s not too ridiculous. Just send me a message here on my talk page or PM it to me on the forum. Don't like what I have to say? That's fine, and probably bound to happen because I've been told about how much people like Super Mario 64 and how they feel about any criticism of it! We at Critic Corner will welcome your alternate review of it as a new section for the next issue!
Hello, readers and foodies, and welcome back to Book Reviews! This month, I'll be continuing my cookbook reviews with a look at one of the more interesting books in my collection, The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook.
I'm a person who loves me some food cozies. If you don't know what a cozy mystery is, it's basically a mystery book that has a focus on a specific hobby, like cooking, quilting, or cats, and the main character solves the murder mystery and dabbles in their hobbies along the way. It's less gory than a thriller mystery, and food cozies usually include recipes for food featured in the book.
This, however, is not about cozies. No, this is a collection of recipes from thriller authors like Lee Child, James Patterson, and Gillian Flynn, and it is quite wild. This is a huge collection of recipes of all sorts- breakfasts, dinners, drinks, you name it. You'll find peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, one-pot coffee, fried squash, you name it. Easy recipes, medium recipes, difficult recipes, they're all here. Each recipe has a blurb with the author, talking about their characters, sometimes talking about their real life, or maybe they're just talking about the food. You'll have to read it to find out. Additionally, you'll also have short passages discussing various tropes and real-life techniques employed in mystery novels. There are some really neat tidbits here to learn, so if you're a mystery fan, I'd check this one out, definitely.
The book itself is a lovely hardcover in black, and I mean a nice, sharp hardcover. No jacket. The pages are thick, and while each recipe doesn't have a picture, the recipes that do have pictures are in full color. You get a nice gold ribbon bookmark, too! I think it's the only book in my collection that has a ribbon bookmark.
If you're a thriller fan, and you want to get to know more about your favorite author, give this book a look- you might find their recipe in it! All in all, this is a good coffee table book, but it's not exactly practical for everyday use. If you hold dinner parties a lot, you might get some more use out of the out-of-the-ordinary recipes inside. Except for the peanut butter and pickle sandwich, that might not fly at your next dinner party.
That's all for this month, readers! Tune in next time for a fresh Graphic Novel Review!
Hey guys, I'm actually here this month for a Movie Review. I am so profusely sorry that I have been absent from this corner for a couple of months, but sadly I have been unable to watch any films because I have been busy with real-life stuff. But, seeing as the Christmas period is the best time to change that and I was able to watch a film.
As much as I love the original Pixar movies, Wall-E still stands as one of my favourite films of all time, but the sequels are leaving a lot to be desired. I don't think I need to explain Cars 2, and Finding Dory was disappointingly average. The Toy Stories are still good, although I worry about the fourth one, and Monsters University was enjoyable enough. So, with this backdrop, I was a little hesitant about Incredibles 2, especially since for some reason it got rid of the 'the' from the first name.
The film kicks off immediately following the end of the first film, so even though we had to wait 14 years for this film, it certainly didn't feel like we had to wait that long. However, despite kicking off right where it left off, the film does quickly change direction and the Underminer doesn't get as much attention as you may have initially thought he would. And even though the main plot held me, I would've appreciated a bit more time with the man we thought would be the main villain when the first film ended.
That's not to take away from the main plot, which as I said held me, and I was genuinely shocked to see that the film was nearly two hours when I was looking up the run time for this review. The only issue is, that it's obvious who the villain would be within about five minutes of meeting their character, and so the big reveal really doesn't pay off. However, despite the big reveal not paying off, the film was an absolutely incredible saving grace – and that is any scene involving Jack Jack. Edna Mode stole the first film, and in this sequel, Jack Jack is the one who steals the show, any scene involving him is pure cinema magic, with the particular highlight being his fight against the racoon. If the Oscars did a standout scene of the year, this would have to be in consideration.
Another notable character is Voyd, and she is one secondary character who I wouldn't mind seeing in a standalone movie. Her goofy personality and quite interesting superpower, think the Portal games, would make for an interesting movie, the other superheroes not so much. There's one with electrical powers, an old man who can spit lava, a gargoyle like man etc., but none of them have any standout quality.
But none of this is to say that the rest of the Parrs don't shine. Elastigirl is another standout character of the film, and Mr. Incredible provides plenty of comic relief in his role of the babysitter, and it's great to see him progress from hapless dad to super parent as the film evolves. That said, Frozone does feel a bit left in the dust, he may not be a central character, but Samuel L. Jackson's talents do almost feel wasted here.
I loved this movie, and, although I'm not calling for an Incredibles 3, if Pixar makes it like they made this one, then it wouldn't be a horrible idea. I just wish there was some payoff to the Underminer, because after 14 years of waiting, the character didn't even get 14 minutes of screentime.
One game in the Mario series that I've always been interested in was Luigi's Mansion, mainly because I love spooky ghosts. Now I know that Halloween is months off, but because of the game's 3DS re-release, I am now able to play it, and I figured that I should share my thoughts on the ghosts, and as we've already covered Neville, Lydia was the next obvious choice.
And boy, am I underwhelmed. There is nothing interesting to write about Lydia, at all. She sits in front of a mirror, and then if you pull a curtain, she moves to close it, and you can subsequently defeat her. And that is literally it. Now granted, there's not a real lot that the Portrait Ghosts do, but I feel like effort could at least have been made into them.
Portrait Ghosts are amazing, but such little effort was put into all of them. And although the original Luigi's Mansion doesn't give further hints to what Lydia could do, the 3DS version does. She is surrounded by wind in her platinum portrait, and yes this is because of her weakness to it. But wouldn't it be so much better if instead she could control the wind like she was the last airbender? I'll admit her scooting around on an air ball would be bizarre, but maybe she could try and push the curtain back while Luigi opens it, or try and push him away from the curtain instead of just staring aimlessly at the same strand of hair.
Like all Portrait Ghosts, Lydia doesn't have a lot going for her. I think it would have been better if they all had their own individual boss fights, rather than a dull puzzle, but alas a ghost staring at hair is all we got.
Rising Sun Reviews
Hello, dear Shroom readers, and welcome to my very first section of Rising Sun Reviews! For the past three years or so, anime has been one of my biggest, if not the biggest hobby so far, and I wish I could say I could ever escape. Whether it’s comedy, action, mecha,
You know, something odd is that in the three years since I decided to make anime one of my main hobbies, I haven’t dabbled that much in any shows before the 21st century. Sure, I dipped my toes in Dragon Ball Z and Cowboy Bebop when I was just getting into the medium, but since then the only series from the 90s or earlier I’ve watched is Evangelion (and boy did I make a mistake making that one of my first series, but that’s a tale for another time). I figured that if I really wanted to sound like I actually knew a thing or two about the medium, I would have to have to clear the dust away from the old history textbooks and do some research, and what would be a better start for this than Cowboy Bebop’s distant cousin, Trigun? Adapted from Yasuhiro Nightow’s manga, this space western is often cited as one of the forefathers of Western interest in the anime industry, thanks to its placement as one of the first programs to be shown as part of the Toonami block. But now that it’s been almost exactly twelve years since the end of its run, would it still hold up today?
On the vaguely Mad Max-esque desert planet of Gunsmoke, two insurance agents, the determined Meryl Stryfe and the taller but dimmer Milly Thompson, are on the hunt for a man feared by everyone: Vash the Stampede, the Humanoid Typhoon. This legendary outlaw has gone from rundown town to rundown town, leaving nothing but destruction in his wake, and due to this he has a massive bounty of $$60,000,000,000 (yes, that’s pronounced as “double dollars”) on his head. The two take a considerable amount of time to realize it’s Vash when they meet him, as the legends couldn’t be farther from the truth: it turns out the gunslinger is actually a diehard pacifist, who wouldn’t hurt a fly even if it was about to shoot him point-blank. The agents have no choice but to buddy up with Vash as half of the bandits on the planet rush to get a share of the bounty. To make matters worse, Vash knows little about the group of infamous assassins, hired by a mysterious client, sent after him to make his life a living hell. As Vash the Stampede is hit with challenge after challenge, eventually he would have to decide what takes priority: his pact of non-violence, or the scales of justice.
Now, let me ask you a question: how many shows have you seen where the main protagonist is so hellbent on not fighting? Sure, you may have seen heroes with a more optimistic outlook, but little to none where they swear on not shooting a single bullet or throwing a single punch. That’s why Vash is so unique of a character, or at least to a relative anime newbie like me: he goes out of his way to win every fight without fighting. It’s almost invigorating to see how this carefree, almost stupid “Humanoid Typhoon” solve every problem he faces in the most peaceful way possible. It also makes the moments where his morality is more troubled that much more compelling.
But what about our supporting cast? The aforementioned Meryl and Milly are…well, just adequate. They have their share of badass moments here and there (did I mention that Milly sports a giant minigun/trap gun combo?) but for the majority of the show, they’re mostly comic relief, with pinches of emotional support in the later half of the series, more on that in a bit. No, they’re not even the peak of it; it takes a while for him to come into the scene, but when he does, Nicholas D. Wolfwood comes damn close to overtaking Vash for the main spotlight. He might as well be an polar opposite to the Stampede in that even though he identifies as a priest, one look at him wouldn’t convince you so. He’s the full “the power of Christ compels you” package: he smokes, curses, and, God forbid we overlook, boasts the Punisher, a heaping metal crucifix that hides a machine gun, rocket launcher, and pistol rack, and may very well be one of the most awe-inspiring anime weapons I’ve ever seen. Like Vash, he has his own vast wealth of moral complexities to deal with, and a major draw of watching Trigun is seeing Vash and Wolfwood’s ideals clash, while at the same time being a strong definitely-platonic friendship that’s hard to put down once it starts.
At the end of it all, if something like Cowboy Bebop left you craving for more, or if you’re a sci fi/western fanatic in general, then it certainly wouldn’t hurt to give Trigun a shot. But first a warning: do not assume the first few episodes are what the entire series is about. Don’t get me wrong, they’re certainly worth enjoying, but they’re mostly comedic and episodic, focused on introducing the cast of characters even if it drags out its welcome. Once Wolfwood comes into the picture, it definitely shows signs of picking up, but it’s not until episode twelve where it really goes full throttle. The segue from a comedic tone to a serious, almost dark mood is quite something to behold, and if anything, it’s reason enough to hang on to Trigun, even if the slow pace in the beginning might deter you. As of this review, the entirety of the dub is conveniently available on Youtube, though the DVD boxset isn’t too expensive either.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this section’s maiden voyage! I’ll be back in March, where I review a personal favorite of mine!
Hot Pot Reviews
Hello everyone, and welcome to a new section from yours truly! My name’s Chibiki, and this is Hot Pot Reviews, the section where I review things that pique my interest across all media types, much like how hot pot can have all kinds of ingredients. Today, we’re kicking things off by reviewing something that’s near and dear to my heart: Kalafina. Specifically, their second album, Red Moon.
For those that don’t know, Kalafina is - or, rather, was - a girl group formed by composer Yuki Kajiura around late 2007 for the purpose of singing songs for the Kara no Kyoukai movies, but expanded since to do songs for a number of other anime, such as Madoka Magica and Black Butler. Their activities came to an end in 2018 (through circumstances that I’d rather not take the time to explain here), and they released a total of five studio albums during their time as a group. You may ask why I’m reviewing their second album when I could easily just do their first, and the answer is… I don’t really know. Probably because this album has some really good songs. Regardless, if you want a brief overview of the songs on this album before continuing, I recommend this video. It plays snippets of each song so you can get a taste of them. But with that out of the way, let’s get started!
First on the album, we have the titular track, red moon. This song is hailed by many as one of Kalafina’s greatest songs, and for good reason: this song is so beautifully dark, that no other song in their entire discography can quite compare (except maybe Magia but even then that’s a stretch). Everything about this song, from the lyrics to the instrumentation, is dark. With powerful vocals all around, lyrics like ‘By falling in love and learning pain / we become human’, and copious amounts of string instruments orchestrating a dark fantasy, I’ll go as far as to say that this song is the extreme of Kalafina’s usual sound. Let’s say that to the beginning, a song off their fourth album, is the standard Kalafina sound. Typical baroque pop. It doesn’t even come halfway to the sound that red moon has. It’s very grandiose in a sense, but it’s also very church-like… if church took place at midnight on Friday the 13th. Overall, a great start to the album.
Thankfully (or not, depending on your mood), the next song, Hikari no Senritsu, gives us a nice break from that dark sound with its cheerful instrumentation and uplifting lyrics. This song was used as the opening for So Ra No Wo To (Sound of the Sky), which I have not watched but I’ve heard it’s vastly different in mood from it’s opening... Take that as you will. Anyway, this song is very flute and acoustic guitar-heavy. It’s quite the drastic 180 from red moon, and if you listened to these two songs on completely different occasions, you probably wouldn’t even realize they were both by the same group. However, as cheerful as this song sounds, it also sounds a bit melancholic. Despite that bit of melancholic feeling you pick up as you listen to this song, it also gives you hope. Maybe if you’re feeling down and you listen to this song, you might feel a bit hopeful for what the future has to bring.
I don’t believe I’ve mentioned it already, but this album contains musical influences from all over the world - something that is certainly evident in Te to Te to Me to Me. Soundwise, this is definitely one of the weirder Kalafina songs, just because of its uniqueness. Every album, there’s always a song or two that are way out of left field for Kalafina, and I think it’s safe to say that this song is Red Moon’s left field song. I’m definitely not certain on this, but is that a sitar I hear in this song? Either that or a stringed instrument that I do not know the name of. Mysterious stringed instrument aside, the left field songs are always a nice treat due to their nature. Since the sound they have is usually only found in that song, it’s always a nice surprise listening to them for the first time and getting something completely different than what you’re used to.
The next track, fantasia, is a personal favorite of mine. And slight disclaimer, this is no Disney movie. This track is nice because all three girls get a chance to showcase their voices, which doesn’t happen too much in their songs due to all the harmonies that take place. (Case in point: ring your bell from their fifth album) And while the harmonies are part of what make Kalafina unique, it’s nice to be able to hear each girl individually. Especially Keiko and her low alto voice, which is found in harmonies most of the time. The guitar and… whatever that is I hear at the very start of the song (synth? I don’t know, I’m trying here) along with the lyrics really complete the vibe this song gives off: a twisted fantasy brought on by love. Though maybe it’s not so much twisted as it is longing. Either way, the instrumentation in this song just screams fantasy, and I think that’s rather fitting.
The other half to Kalafina’s baroque pop songs are their ballads, and that’s exactly what Haru wa Kogane no Yume no Naka is. Looking at how short the lyrics are, you’d think this song would only be around two minutes, but the slower tempo and beautifully lilting piano manages to stretch this song out to almost four minutes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This song’s title translates to ‘Spring Lies Within a Golden Dream’, and I definitely think this song is oddly fitting for spring. Despite its melancholic feeling, you can imagine flower petals slowly floating to the ground, and it’s fitting. Considering the next slower tempo track isn’t until track 10, it’s a nice break in all the fast paced or upbeat songs on this album.
If fantasia is the best song for showing individual voices in this album, then Kyrie is the best demonstration of how intricate the harmonies in Kalafina’s songs can be. They may be rather quiet at times, but you can definitely tell that they’re there, and they add so much more depth to this song. Harmonies in this song are frequent, and all three girls are present and heard during them, unlike some of their songs. (like Lacrimosa! Which we’ll get to later.) I think this is one of the few songs in Kalafina’s discography where the harmonies work like this, so it’s a great song to introduce someone to the group with. On a side note, Kyrie is the Greek word for Lord, and yet this song doesn’t even feel remotely religious, so that’s interesting to think about.
Out of all the songs on this album, Yami no Uta lives up the most to its title. In English, the title translates to Song of Darkness, and they’re not kidding when they say that. There’s parts of the song that make you feel like you’re falling down a bottomless pit, and I love that feeling so much with this song. Definitely deserving of mention here is Keiko, with her voice absolutely dominating the song (which is quite a rare treat). The other two girls aren’t just wasting away in the back, however. They both add something to this song, be it Hikaru and her powerful voice in the chorus or Wakana and her high voice singing the bridge. Even if this song suits Keiko’s voice the most, everyone still adds something in their own way.
I like to think of Hoshi no Utai as the mystic sounding cousin of Yami no Uta. It’s definitely a lot more flute and percussion-heavy, but the strings and guitar are still there reminding me of parts in Yami no Uta. Despite each song reminding me of the other at points, these two songs give off completely different feelings. Yami no Uta felt dark and evil, whereas Hoshi no Utai feels like an adventure. Although, this song was used as the theme for Nobunaga no Yabou Online ～Shinsen no Shou～, so that may be part of it. I remember after listening to this song for the first time, the word that came to my mind concerning how I felt about this song was “empowered”. I suppose something that sounds adventurous as this will do that to a person.
storia is probably the most interesting song on here, sound-wise. It brings the international musical influences heavily back into play, and combined with the Kajiurago sprinkled in the song, it does an excellent job of making this sound like a theme for a cultural event. Which is fitting, considering this is the opening theme for Rekishi Hiwa Historia, a Japanese history show. I think the only negative thing I have to say about this song is that it feels far too short, and more could have been done with it. At only 3:38 in length, this is the second shortest song on this album, beaten only by intermezzo. There’s a lot that happens in this song that could have been expanded upon, but I certainly can’t complain about what we’re given.
There’s always one super short song on every Kalafina album, and for Red Moon, that song is intermezzo. At only two minutes in length, this song may be short, but it sure does pack a punch. I wouldn’t exactly call it a ballad, but it is slower in tempo. Combine that with vocal filters, the lyrics, and a somewhat haunting instrumentation, and you have a rather mysterious and bittersweet song of love. I always say a lot of things can happen in a small amount of time, and intermezzo proves that beyond a doubt. There’s not much else I can say about a song as short as this, but the saying ‘small but mighty’ is certainly true for this song.
Taking all other Kalafina songs into consideration, progressive sounds the closest to a typical J-pop song. However, the strings in the song prove that the group hasn’t strayed at all from their roots. I think the reason this is may be because this is Kalafina’s only song released as a single that has no tie-in to any other property. The arranger was probably able to experiment with different instruments without having to fit into a specific sound for this song, something that you only really hear in the album-exclusive songs for this group. Strings aside, the instrumentation sounds very futuristic, which I suppose is what they were going for, considering the song title. Very funny, Yuki Kajiura, very funny… Anyways, if you watch the music video for this song, you’ll see the director definitely took some inspiration from the futuristic sound of this song. Things like the flashing lights and their outfits help enhance the song, but it’s also an amazing song on it’s own.
This may be painfully obvious since they’re both different songs, but Kalafina’s Lacrimosa is very different than Mozart’s Lacrimosa. However, the former does hold some similarities to the latter. Both songs sound extremely melancholic, and the lyric of ‘Lacrimosa dies illa’ in Kalafina’s Lacrimosa is a nice, subtle reference to Mozart’s Lacrimosa. This song was used as the second ending theme for Black Butler, and it definitely does fit the tone of the show. The Kajiurago especially helps create this melancholic mood. However, there is one thing about this song I can’t help but point out: Hikaru is almost nowhere to be found. She sings in the bridge and the Kajiurago between verses, but that’s it. The other two girls, especially Wakana, can be heard all over this song. I guess it’s because their voices are more suited to songs like this, as something like this also happened in a similar sounding song from their first album, fairytale. Despite this, Lacrimosa is a beautifully tragic song that lives up to its name.
Closing out the album is I have a dream, another ballad. This song is a bit more upbeat than Haru wa Kogane no Yume no Naka, which makes it sound a bit more hopeful. A lot of the lyrics revolve around reminiscing about memories. Part of why that is may be because this song was the ending to the movie version of Eve no Jikan. This may just be due to the lyrics, but this song reminds me a lot of looking back at one’s own past, something that my parents and I have been doing with my past as I’ve been writing this. Seeing memories made years ago that you don’t even remember anymore unfold right in front of you really makes you think. This song reminded me of that. All in all, it’s a beautiful way to end the album.
Red Moon has an excellent mix of sound with its songs, from slow ballads, to dark, to mysterious. I think the best songs off this album would have to be fantasia, Yami no Uta, and red moon. The best songs for first time listeners to listen to would have to be Kyrie, Hikari no Senritsu, and storia. While I personally would not recommend someone who’s new to the works of Kalafina to listen to this album first, it’s a really good start for anyone who does. It brings a little bit of everything to the table. An excellent album from beginning to end, overall.