Monday, April 04, 2011

From NYC to Distant Worlds

I have partaken in some extraordinary nerd-ish behaviour in my time.

Of these...uh, exploits...there are three major ones that I can readily think of.

1.  2001 - I went to Otakon.  It was there I stood in line at a signing to meet Kawamoto Toshihiro. He signed my Cowboy Bebop wall scroll, scrawling his name all over Jet's hand (because no one respects Jet! except me?); and I made Kawamoto-san's hand smell bad for having to touch and pin down my unruly wall scroll as it threatened to make a mess of the table.

It was not my fault the wall scroll smelt of ass.  I bought it in Baltimore and who knows what was going on that weekend but the entire downtown area surrounding the convention center smelt terrible.

I always "jest" that I probably made the poor man ill because he had cookies on the table.  I'm sure he ate the cookies with his bad-smelling hand.


2.  2005 - Beetchie and I snagged spots 36 and 37 in line, respectively, to meet Shigeru Miyamoto.  He signed my Wind Waker Link (angry eyes edition!) action figure, laughed at me when I pulled little Link out of my pocket, and held Link still when he toppled over on to his face after I presented him for signature.  A trend with tiny mishaps on my part, I see...but at least I did not make Miyamoto's hand smell of ass! Well, I must have smelt having had to sleep on the streets of Midtown over night but...yeah.  Let's not talk about that or the fact that I got insanely ill a few days later.  Whatever man, it was worth it.

3.  2009 - I had a statue of Zarnyx made.  The opportunity was presented to me to have my Rock Band character made, and I jumped at that chance.  Zarnyx has been one of my character designs for a fauxanga (fake manga) I have been simmering in my head since the 1990s.  The completion of those ideas will probably never surface but Zarnyx, of all my characters, is my favourite.  He's got white/silver hair, black frames like a total rocker, and is evil.  Kind of.  Well, he certainly is a jerk.  Since then, I have used the name (and the likeness, when I can) to give names to all my various identities in video games and other such stuff.

I designed Zarnyx, with inspiration, from every frickin' Anime character with silver hair! Hahaha, no.  Actually, his influence was off one particular Video Game character I hold near and dear to my black, nerd heart - Final Fantasy VII's Sephiroth.

And with that Sephy connection, here's a very special fourth major nerd exploit I can add to my list of nerdy things I have done.

4.  2011 - With a kicking and screaming H1, I dragged her with me and we attended Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds.


I have already spoken before about why Final Fantasy VII is one of my favourite games of all time (and in case you forgot or care to read once more, click here and you may see the whole list of favourites pre-2006).

And while FFVII started it all for me, I have grown to love many of the games from the overall Final Fantasy series.

Love them or hate them, there was one constant in all of those games for me to admire and that was the music.

Artfully composed by the wonderful Nobuo Uematsu, the music of Final Fantasy has defined many of my early memories.

My music library is chock full of his compositions - reminding me of happy times exploring dank caves (but never dungeons, H1), the frustrating times of trekking across wintry landscapes as I slipped on ice, riding chocobos across grassy plains, battling green foul-mouthed Malboros as I quaked in my (winged?) boots upon their sight, stumbling upon great cities that stood high in the clouds or those that glistened below the ocean, or the shocking delight I felt as the sword was plunged into the little flower girl as she prayed peacefully in the underground city of shimmering water (and my real life maniacal laughter that followed).

When I found out that the fully orchestrated concert for the music of Final Fantasy was coming to NYC, there was no choice for me but to attend (and I thank you, H1.  And apologize for you know who, soon to be discussed).

Although I would have liked to attend both nights, I could only choose one and I went with Friday night's performance.

It was easier to get to than Saturday's, and the price range was not cheap either.  Having the performance schedule was also helpful in making that decision.  More songs from Final Fantasy VII and VIII would be played on Friday night while Saturday night's performance had more Final Fantasy VI and IX.

Look, I may hate Final Fantasy VIII a lot but the soundtrack is pretty great and "Liberi Fatali" was being performed, so I had to make the hard decision to go with that instead... It still hurts I could not attend both nights.  ::sniff::

The man, Nobuo-san was in attendance, hopping on to the stage with a giant wave to the whistles and applause from his fans.  He quickly made his way into the audience to his seat which was just a few rows behind mine.

The show began and immediately there were many "aww" moments for me and everyone else there.  What other way to start a Final Fantasy concert than with none other than The Prelude.  The harp was calming, the Orchestra came in beautifully and most everyone in the room sat pondering quietly - no doubt remembering their own personal experiences and fond memories of their favourite moments from the Final Fantasy series.

The screen displayed cut scenes from the respective games and there was some humour there.  Zell was arguing seemingly to a dog, the FFVIII crew with their stilted movements ran into the city and into the track "Don't Be Afraid".

'Nostalgia' was the word of the night, as familiar sprites and favourite characters ran around on the screen and the Orchestra fitted the scenes perfectly.  In two hours, a small fraction of gorgeous, memorable, fun, quirky and heart-tugging emotional music was brought to life by a very capable orchestra.


The Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds @ the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Howard Gilman Opera House on 04/01/2011 set list:

Prelude (Final Fantasy series)
Victory Fanfare (Final Fantasy series)
Liberi Fatali (Final Fantasy VIII)
Don't Be Afraid (Final Fantasy VIII)
Memoro de la Stono - Distant Worlds w/ Susan Calloway (Final Fantasy XI)
Ronfaure (Final Fantasy XI)
Man with the Machine Gun (Final Fantasy VIII)
Suteki Da Ne w/ Susan Calloway (Final Fantasy X)
Chocobo Theme/Swing de Chocobo (Final Fantasy series)
Clash on the Big Bridge (Final Fantasy V)

INTERMISSION

Opening ~ Bombing Mission (Final Fantasy VII)
Fisherman's Horizon (Final Fantasy VIII)
Kiss me Goodbye w/ Susan Calloway (Final Fantasy XII)
To Zanarkand (Final Fantasy X)
J-E-N-O-V-A (Final Fantasy VII)
Fabula Nova Chrystallis (Final Fantasy XIII)
Blinded by Light (Final Fantasy XIII)
Navigator's Glory (Final Fantasy XIV)
Answers w/ Susan Calloway (Final Fantasy XIV)
Terra's Theme (Final Fantasy VI)

ENCORE:

One-Winged Angel (Final Fantasy VII)

The evening, as any concert we have attended, was not without some sort of complaint as no performance can be absolutely perfect.

The Low-Lamps

1.  Susan Calloway.  I'm usually one to prefer the Japanese language track for both anime and music.  Cheesey as songs may be, if I do not understand a song and play ignorant for the first few listens before finding a translation, I tend to like the song better.  It's almost more acceptable that way.

However, the complaint here is not just the translation into English for some of the songs Susan sang.  The complaint is that she was awful.  Her vocals were weak, and did not do a good job of holding notes.  As I said to H1 after the show, it was as though any otaku who fancies herself an elf maiden, or likes to dabble in unholy and unnecessary fanfic pairings could go up there and sing the part poorly and I would have had the same damned experience.

Yep, it was that terrible and I must apologize to H1 for that.  She may sound somewhat decent on record but live? It felt a disaster to me especially the 'talking' vocal work on the Final Fantasy XIV piece.  ::shudder::

2.  The animation cut scenes.  Not every scene was bad and as I said, some were rather funny and some were cheer worthy but the recycling of certain scenes just felt lazy.  Who knows? Maybe Square Enix did not give them the rights? I don't know what legalities were involved if any but I think a better job probably could have been done in those instances.

3.  "Fisherman's Horizon".  While I do think that Final Fantasy VIII is probably one of the best soundtracks (and as much as I hate the actual game), there are a few tracks on there that I absolutely just don't like.  This was one of them.  It was not performed poorly, but it was rather dull.  That's a personal preference, I'm sure but of all the songs to play...ugh.  Come now.  This could easily be replaced.  By say..."Dancing Mad".  The evening was severely lacking "Dancing Mad".

4.  The lack of Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy VI.  Only a few pieces were played from VII, nothing from IX and just one from VI.  Sure, I knew what I was getting into when I chose to go on Friday night but one piece from FFIX? Please?   That Final Fantasy screams "theatrical".  I hate you people who got to go on Saturday night.

5.  The acoustics.  The Howard Gilman Opera House was small and beautiful but the Orchestra did not sound as full as I thought they would.  It was kind of sad, really.

The highlights?

The Highlights

1.  That one guy in the Orchestra - No. 3.  H1 and I loved No. 3.  He was always smiling, loving what he does and enjoying the crowd reaction.  He almost seemed as though he was the bad kid in class too.  He was funny and often times, H1 and I had a laugh at his antics.  I don't think he realised we were on to him but we thank him for keeping us entertained, especially during those moments when Susan Calloway was on stage.

No. 3.  He's on the right.
2.  The Orchestra and choir.  At first, the choir did not start strong but as the evening progressed, they were a welcome addition.  They sort of botched "Liberi Fatali" a bit and for that I am a tad disappointed but they really pulled through later on.  The Orchestra was good.  They kept up and played wonderfully.  It is always wowing to see such a group of talented people - doing what they do best, and amazing at reading a whole other language that is sheet music.

3.  Conductor Arnie Roth.  Now, I'm not quite sure what the point of a conductor is.  In theory, I understand but whatever the case may be, the man had personality.  He clearly loves these pieces of music and pours his heart into them when he's leading the band.  His banter with the crowd was welcome too and made the evening classy but playful and relaxed.

4.  "Man with the Machine Gun".  I really dislike this song.  I never understood the fascination that fans have with it.  Okay, so Laguna's cool and as his theme music, I guess I'm supposed to like it? But, I don't.  At all.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by the Orchestra's version of it.  It was quite good, actually.  Really good.  And that pains me to say it because I never thought I would.

5.  Victory Fanfare.  A winner is me.

6.  "Ronfaure" from Final Fantasy XI.  I never played FFXI and probably never will but the animation was beautiful, and the piece was full of emotion when played live.  It was probably the second best performance of the evening.

7.  Final Fantasy XIII may have killed my PS3, may not have had an absolute favourite soundtrack of mine, nor was composer Masashi Hamauzu in attendance for his scores to be played but played them they did.  Two pieces from FFXIII were performed and they were refreshing to hear having distanced myself from that game after the death of my PS3, and my lukewarm feelings towards that particular installment.

8.  The happy memories from Final Fantasy V and the tragic, teary-eyed memories from Final Fantasy X.  Yep, I laughed when they played "Battle on the Big Bridge".  Gilgamesh remains hilarious to this day and the great scenes from the game were equally fantastic.  I remember you Gilgamesh and your penchant for fleeing.  And from FFX, I cried a little inside.  It was sad when Tidus vanished but I couldn't bare to look at Auron! ::sniff::  The two FFX pieces played always make me sad.  I'm a wuss.  Now shut up.

9.  Nobuo Uematsu.  As I said before, the man is brilliant.  His music introduced and encouraged me to play a lot of video games and to appreciate the scores behind each.  He set the standards very high, but through his work I've come to enjoy many other great video game composers.  As he stood on stage, this humble Japanese man with long greying hair tied up in a bandanna, it was not hard to feel a sense of gratitude and adoration.

Nobuo Uematsu - so cute, and amazing.  It was an honour.
Of course, the biggest highlight for me was everything played from Final Fantasy VII but best of all, the encore performance was with a full choir with Nobuo-san weaving and ducking into the mix to join in singing the lines of "One-Winged Angel".  It was the best performance of the evening of my most treasured piece of music from the Final Fantasy series.  The first time I played Final Fantasy VII, I dawdled as long as I could during the final battle with Sephiroth - in part because I just did not want to kill him, and in part because I was in awe of the amazing piece of music I was presented with.  I just wanted to hear it and let Sephy sling shots at me until I snapped out of it and frantically spammed Knights of the Round at him in an attempt to stay alive.

I would have been disappointed if it was not played.  When it was started, the audience was thunderous in its applause and I right there with them.  We all took a second to breathe after the screaming to just listen to one of the greatest pieces of music of all time complete with the surreal feelings of the man who created it right there in front of us.

Truly, it was all for that moment.

And earlier as the credits rolled on the big screen as "Terra's Theme" was dutifully and beautifully played by the Orchestra, I felt a bit of sadness.  Memories of my 14 years of gaming and 14 years with Final Fantasy felt strangely complete as familiar names of my heroes filtered on the screen.  I clapped, I sighed and I cursed that I could not afford $175 tickets to meet Nobuo, but I feel incredibly fortunate enough just to have been there.

Nerd Moment of the Evening:

For 5 days of walking the streets of Midtown (and passing by every day by Nintendo World, mind you), I never made any friends via Streetpass.  Naturally it would take one evening at a Final Fantasy concert to fill my plaza with fellow nerds.  I managed to get 29 people! It was awesome.

4 comments:

  1. I am sadden by the fact that the streak I have had with my apparent partnership in your "most nerdy/geeky moments" was broken...I shoulda been there too!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am sadden by the fact that the streak I have had with my apparent partnership in your "most nerdy/geeky moments" was broken...I shoulda been there too!

    ReplyDelete
  3. =( I know, it saddened me too. As I'm sure it saddened H1.

    See how I threw in that bit about Aerith? Huh? Huh? I do things just for you, B. JUST FOR YOU.

    Well, I hope if this tour comes around again that you and I can go together.

    And yes, we can go on the FFVI night.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's true - we went to Otakon together, the Miyamoto signing together...and have The Oxtails together! Even down to the figures. ::sniff:;

    ReplyDelete

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