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m-flo Reunion Interview: Tripod Is Back

December 16, 2017 3:50am
by Lachlan Johnston

It was only yesterday that m-flo surprised fans all over the world with the announcement that original member LISA would be returning to the group to create new music in time for their 20th anniversary. For those of you who are unfamiliar with why this is such a big deal, LISA’s contributions to the group’s first 2 albums (Planet Shining & Expo Expo) were a significant part of their appeal abroad, and some of those original tracks remain fan favorites even to this day. Her departure from the group to pursue a solo career led to Verbal & Taku Takahashi to press forward and create the massively successful ‘m-flo loves’ series, which brought a whole new level of international notoriety with it.

While LISA did contribute to a few tracks during this era in the group’s history, fans have never stopped hoping for the trio to get back together and usher in yet another chapter era in m-flo’s story. Thanks to our friends at block.fm, we have been given the opportunity to share the first interview with the newly re-formed m-flo with you, along with some additional comments specifically for their international fans. Both longtime fans and newcomers just joining the ride, we hope you enjoy this deep dive into what is already one of our most anticipated reunions for 2018:

Interview with Taku Takahashi:

Q: Almost 20 years after the debut of m-flo, why was it that the three of you have now decided to reunite?

It definitely wasn’t something that just happened suddenly — it’s actually been in the talks for quite a while now. It was a little bit ago now, but I was offered a gig to DJ for LISA at a Christmas event last year for J-Wave, a radio station in Tokyo. This would actually be the first time you and I met properly, if I remember correctly. We performed a few m-flo tracks, and couldn’t be more happy with how emotionally the crowd responded. They welcomed us very warmly, both myself and LISA were truly touched. That night both LISA and I agreed that we’d work towards doing something like this again, given the chance. This was the moment the idea of LISA returning to m-flo really started to spark; though, to be honest, VERBAL and I had already discussed it many times. It was after this performance, however, that I knew it had to happen. It was when I went to talk to VERBAL about this that something terrible happened, following a large-scale car accident on Christmas Eve. 

It took some time, but I was beyond relieved when I heard he was going to be okay. We actually had a booking for Universal Studio Japan’s Countdown Party, which was something we had to decide if VERBAL could make it or not for. Unfortunately he couldn’t make it, but I thought it was clear that the show should still go on, and decided it would be the perfect time to propose bringing LISA in for support. It was awesome to hear them say yes right away, and the Countdown Party event ended up going incredibly too. I want to give a shout out to the USJ staff for supporting us too. We had a really good talk when I went to see VERBAL in hospital about LISA returning for more than just that show, and he was totally down for it. So that’s how we got to where we are now.

Q: What was it like having the three of you back in the studio after all this time? Was there any difference now compared to the earlier days?

Back then, VERBAL would write all his lyrics back at home, but these days he likes to vibe out with us all at the studio while writing. I was also surprised how much faster LISA was when it came to recording now too. All that said, however, I don’t think much has changed amongst us fundamentally. The most important thing to all of us is how we express our emotions, and how we make them sound interesting. That’s what our journey is all about. It’s also super easy given how well we all know each other, we can sit down and just vibe without needing to explain ourselves.

Q: What about yourself? What’s been giving you inspiration to create as of late? 

I’ve got a weekly radio show on block.fm which acts as a catalyst for listening to new and emerging electronic music from all around the world. It’s a great experience to be able to do such, but I feel as though it stagnated my ability to clearly view what I want should be making. My idea of m-flo has always been a platform to introduce something different, create a new trend in the world of J-pop. Since EDM-style is starting to become more mainstream in Japan, I’ve had to ponder what the next big thing I want to introduce should be.

Listening to new tracks from around the world is definitely stimulating, but that’s not enough — there needs to be research and studying involved too, something I got tired of very quickly. I remembered a quote from from Osamu Tezuka around this point, “If you want to become a great comic writer, you need to consume great music and movies. Try to get inspiration from a medium outside of what you usually work with.” I took that to heart, and dwelled deep into US dramas and cartoons such as “Game of Thrones” and “Rick and Morty,” just to name a few. They helped me become more so aware of the global scene, and inspired me to stimulate myself with more content from outside of Japan. 

I’m somewhat defiant towards listening to old m-flo work. I always manage to find some small mistake that I wish I could fix, and it’s the inability to do so that makes me regretful. Maybe I’m just a perfectionist in that regard. It was because of this I avoided listening to our older works; I didn’t even have any of it in my playlists, except for some I would use in DJ sets. Recently I actually had the chance to listen to some of our older works, however, after a friend of mine forcibly played it in front of me. I started to realize that it wasn’t as bad as I imagined, and even began to ponder how I pulled off some of my old sound tricks. It made me look back and realize something simple — although my old works weren’t perfect, it was all different and unique in a way that was good for both Japan and the international music scene. It was honestly quite stimulating. I couldn’t believe I had been so inspired by work from 20 years ago, let alone something by myself. This was something I’d never expected, a breakthrough in where I pulled inspiration from. Funny how that works. 

Q: You’ve been playing a lot of DJ gigs outside of Japan this year, with a particular increase in shows in the United States. Did you manage to pull any inspiration from those trips?

I had the unique opportunity to perform at nine different conventions this year, and it was totally awesome. The best part about convention raves is that I can just be myself; I can play all the underground music, while also spinning in a little m-flo at the same time. The audiences are so energetic, it’s always exciting to witness. In a way, I’d even suggest they’re a little more open to a wider variety of styles than even the Japanese underground scene.

Q: There are a number of m-flo fans in the United States that are looking forward to the upcoming production. Did you ever get to interact with any of them, and would you say you learned anything if you did?

Whenever I attend a convention, I try my hardest to avoid just being the DJ for the night. I want to interact personally with as many people as possible, whenever I get the chance. People will tell me all about how they feel in regards to what I’m doing, as well as to m-flo and I always walk away with new inspiration. One of the more interesting comments I received at one point was a question regarding why we chose to start making EDM-style music, and why we would simply adopt what was already big in the US. They finished that up with a message that they appreciated what we did before, though. It was pretty harsh, but also very interesting (laughs). As for my perspective on the comment, it’s just as I mentioned above — m-flo is all about introducing something different to the J-pop music scene. What was big in the West was not big in Japan, so it fit the motif at the time. That being said, it did make me realize the tremendous difference between the ‘classic m-flo’ and m-flo post the “Loves” series. 

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two time periods, however, is that I’ve gotten technically more advanced in music production. I also now have access to a better music creation team. The technology in the field has also leaped forward, meaning it’s much easier to create much higher quality electronic music than ever before. Since I first started making music, it’s always been a matter of me finding something I like, trying to put my own spin on that style, then implementing it into m-flo. That’s the very same mindset I’ve had from the beginning.

The thing was back then, we all had different synthesizers. Let’s say I liked the bass line utilized by Daft Punk, and let’s say they were using a Roland synthesizer. If I own a Moog synthesizer, no matter how hard I try to recreate the Daft Punk bass line sound, I simply wouldn’t be able to. But that was the beauty of it, in trying to replicate that sound using something different, you’d in turn create something different that might sound great. That made each sound unique, and that was also what made the old m-flo sound so unique. In other words, my flawed desire to create something perfect is what gave m-flo it’s unique edge.

Since there’s been so many advancements in the field of computer-based production as of late, it’s very easy to make some really great things which I think is cool. Everyone has access to the same software synthesizers and that’s combined with all the great sounding presets. I can’t control that urge to create something inspired by other artists, but that’s a bit of a problem given everyone is using the same tools these days. I figured at this point I should give some of my old production techniques a shot. That was part of the reason I started breaking some of my vintage synthesizers out of the attic — using them in pair with my old style has always proven to create some pretty good accidents different from others.

Q: Is there anything you’re excited to try with the new m-flo?

I really want to focus on creating great music with m-flo. We’re having to be aware at the same time of how we release our music in this age of the internet. We’ll of course be releasing on both CD and digital services, but VERBAL and I are trying to come up with something different that’s not been done before.

I kept on mentioning the importance of introducing something different in the J-Pop scene, but I also am heavily invested in introducing the up-and-coming artists of Japan’s underground scene also. These days it’s uncommon for a lot of Japanese artists to do remixes, but we’d like to try and get some really great remixes done. I’d actually love to have a bunch of bootleg remixes done and sent through to me. Maybe we could even work on making it an official remix if it’s something great. I want the J-pop scene to be more creative, rather than just focusing on commercialism. We might be able to start releasing new remixes in the near future.

Q: Finally, can you tell us three of the things you like about m-flo?

The cool thing about m-flo is that, firstly, we all have different areas of expertise which helps make something completely unique and different from anything else. Secondly, we can be experimental while still releasing in the major market, there’s not many artists that can do that. Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, we have fans that are there for us because our music is different. I sincerely appreciate that. I would like us to create something genuinely unique for thing J-pop and Western culture. 

Interview with VERBAL:

Q: To get the ball rolling, let’s talk about when was the decision to re-form m-flo as a trio made. What was the catalyst for all of that?

At the end of last year, during the annual “Universal Countdown Party” held at Universal Studios Japan, I was set to be performing alongside Taku as m-flo, but right before that could happen, I was hospitalized after a car accident in Hokkaido. That was when LISA swooped in and saved the day by filling my spot. Her performance was wild, and it became a pretty trending topic with everyone requesting we start performing as a trio again.

Q: So in 2017, that idea became more solidified amongst you all?

During 2016 we played around with the idea quite a bit, but nothing was ever really set in stone. After the Universal Studios Japan show, however, we really began to think that the time was right to reunite as a trio.

Q: Did it feel like there had been a drastically long period since you last worked with LISA?

Between both myself and Taku, the topic of creating music together with LISA was almost a part of daily conversation. We were actually thrilled that she made an appearance as a guest singer in “BEAT SPACE NINE.” As time flowed on though, we all became involved even further with our respective solo careers, and it was only now that the timing became ideal -- but really, I was always enamored by the idea. As I suspected, when LISA entered the studio with us once again, she brought that special something that only she possesses, and it felt right at home for m-flo.

Q: Compared to m-flo’s first recording, was the approach for this latest one any different?

Yeah, it’s changed pretty clearly in many ways. When we debuted in 1998, none of us were all too familiar with how to conduct ourselves as musicians. There was this strong feeling of recklessness in wanting to create songs that sounded cool to us over all else. We didn’t understand the formula for creating something great, and we didn’t pay attention to things like being ahead or behind on trends. We simply went along with how we felt about music. 

Looking back on it know, working with all the artists we did during our “m-flo Loves” series definitely helped us experience a whole world of things outside of the realm of simply making music. But when I entered the studio with LISA and Taku recently, I again was hit with that feeling of ease I could find only with them. It wasn’t even just because it was easier, but more so because it felt all the more right. Being in an environment where I don’t have to hide my passion, that’s definitely the best thing. When describing LISA, the term bandmate definitely comes to mind. Of course, I have enormous respect for her, but when we’re working together as a trio, it’s so much easier to just speak my mind (Laughs).

Something that I’ve gotten used to recently is thinking of lyrics after I’ve arrived at the studio. In all my previous works, it was always a matter of coming up with them before hitting the recording studio. I think it’s easier to create lyrics while in the studio now, especially coupled with the sound of the music through the speakers available in there. I’m also able to speak with those involved while I’m there too, that’s something that helps a lot.

The major difference between the m-flo of the past and the m-flo of now is how we’ve all essentially matured into adults. In the past there was a pretty big desire to represent myself first and foremost (laughs). I just wasn’t capable of seeing the whole picture back then. Even now, Taku’s been producing soundtracks for movies and TV shows, all while building up block.fm at the same time -- we’ve all piled on these unique experiences. Now, I feel like we can analyze a situation properly to figure out which route will work the best. When I first started, there was also a massive desire to cram everything I wanted to do into just one song. These days, however, I’ve got more of a bird’s-eye view on what I want to accomplish, allowing me to spread all of that out over multiple songs.

Q: Was that feeling of things feeling “right” when the three of you are in the studio together reflected in your songs?

LISA once said to me “Haven’t your raps been kind of same-same lately? It was way better when you used to say a number of crazy, out of this world stuff in the past.” I spent a bit of time trying to figure out what she meant by that, and actually began looking at some of my old lyrical notes. I realized the me of back then was kind of weird, but in a good way. I started to agree with what she was telling me, and began going back to my previous style of writing lines.

LISA’s melodies tend to boil and pop at the surface like hot water. The songs she’s sung for us recently all have that kind of feeling. One thing that hasn’t changed in regards to the way Taku does things though is that all his demos tend to be pretty rough. When we made “come again,” he actually gave me a drum-only track. Without even knowing any sort of theme, I was tasked with writing the lyrics and LISA would write the melody. Following that, Taku would wrap up the arrangement, that’s our process. Now it’s not quite as bad as before, but we still record on a rough track. Taku will then start adding the strings and so on. LISA would always mention that she would rather sing on a more complete version of the song (Laughs). Taku’s always fast with his production though, and he has a lot of ideas. He’s really leveled-up his skills, the both of them have.

Q: Do you all get hyped-up when talking about music?

LISA is always saying that listening to Western music while she’s outside of Japan allows her to vibe more than when she’s listening to it in Japan. When it comes to Taku and I, however, we tend to throw a bunch of YouTube videos between each other and discuss technology that we think is cool.

Q: What kind of direction are you looking to head in your newest work? For example, are you shooting for a more worldwide direction?

Rather than aiming to be worldwide, we really just want to create music that will really stick with the people.

Q: How do you feel being a member of m-flo today?

For us, being part of m-flo is like being at home. It’s not a job, really. It’s not about making a lot of money or becoming really famous either. It’s something we do for all of those that enjoy it. In saying that, I’m not saying that my other projects are purely for the money (laughs). The fans are always at the top of our minds. At events, they’re always asking us when the latest releases will be coming; we are always conscious of their expectations.

Q: 2018 will mark the 20th anniversary since m-flo’s debut, and you’ve also done so many other things during this time. Did you ever imagine you’d still be rapping after 20 years?

I never could have imagined it. Ever since the 90s, there was this very apparent difference between rappers and rock artists. Many prominent rappers seemed to have a deal of success with side businesses, and it became quite cool to do so. For example, Puff Daddy started both fashion and alcohol businesses, Rick Ross started selling champagne and Slim Thug even got into real estate. 

I always imagined myself following a similar path. When I did get around to trying it out, the attitude towards such a thing in Japan was quite cold. I was a bit lucky, though, since I was able to do it in conjunction with the office I used to work for. One person asked me “Can’t you just support your family through just rap, rather than with some other jobs?” I responded with a firm “No.” (laughs) 

I didn’t think it would be so realistic to be able to survive on rapping alone, so until my second album I was going to university in America, and would often go back and forth between America and Japan. I am constantly engaged in creative businesses, a recent example being the brand "AMBUSH®" I launched with my wife YOON. We opened a shop in Shibuya and it has been a great success. In the past, I would have thought I’d be done rapping when I hit age 30, but here I am beyond 40, standing on stage.

Q: So not only has your musical world expanded, but so too your creative ventures.

All of my experiences have been quite useful in everything I do. I can confront all of my ideas not only with the mind of an artist, but also with a realistic business sense. It’s been a blessing. I’ve been involved recently with the talent agency LDH to develop their international division. And just a little while ago, I met NAKED’s president Ryotaro Muramatsu together with Taku, and we talked excitedly about art and technology. I’ve been involved in so many ventures both within Japan and abroad, collaborated and networked with many artists and business partners, and I feel like I’ve achieved a real state of usefulness in the broader business world. Now, I want to take all of my own networking experience and spread it around for others to take advantage of.

Q: What kind of creators are you inspired by?

People with whom I get along well are those who look worldwide. It’s been like that since the very beginning. Those who are globally-conscious with unique ideas. They could be either a rapper or a business person, any profession is fine. It’s always fun to be around people like that, and it’s also extremely inspiring. It’s important to have strong synergy between myself and whoever I’m collaborating with, and I also want them to profit as well. If the other party wouldn’t gain anything, then I wouldn’t want to collaborate with them. If the collaborator doesn’t “feel it,” then it doesn’t really work out. I’ve seen a lot of those kinds of collaborations that didn’t work that well. For example, people with similar goals tend to bond quickly, for instance, myself and LDH’s EXILE HIRO. He has a strong philosophy in believing that the world can be happy through entertainment, and I completely agree with, and work with him. There are many people who really dig this idea for international collaboration, but at the same time those who do not. I’ve become better at sensing this, and I tend to be quite aware of other people’s motivations. 

Q: When you deliver collaborations and works to end users, are you conscious of the various generations and targets that are strived for?

If I’m working with a brand or marketing, I think that it is possible to utilize information like ages, demographics and targets with data, but when making music, since I emphasize my own sense of being, I am not particularly conscious of any sort of data.

Q: Recently in the music world, the ideas of "young people" and the "younger generation" are often emphasized -- what do you think about that?

I think it should be “people with a young mind,” rather than “young people.” Regardless of age, no matter what you say to a person who is stuck in their ways, nothing other than a fixed concept sticks. Young, open-minded people were m-flo listeners, and I think that our music has stuck with them. It is with those people in mind that we continue to create. So I would like to continue to support such “young-minded” individuals. Actually, I want to create a platform where young people who are creatively hungry can be active. I have various ideas floating around.

Q: Such a platform sounds pretty amazing.

The experience of being in your twenties now versus when I was in my twenties is completely different. Like, now you can immediately learn new information from a smartphone. Nothing like that existed during my time, and making contact with others was tougher.  I even remember Taku’s number from that time (laughs). The notion of having a dream is completely different now too. In the past, it was “Aim for million!” or “Perform at Kouhaku! (a popular end-of-year music show in Japan)” -- that was the romance of the music industry. Now, however, that same feeling is not there. I feel that there are many artists and creators who want to be more pure, flat and cool. If I had to guess as to why that’s the case, we now live in an age where it is not unimaginable that you could be booked at Coachella. Now, we are more free in our process, and that’s what is considered cool. Talking with the people who have been able to grow up and prosper in this environment is fun, and I want to support them.

Q: So you are looking to nurture the next generation of artists?

I am not good at any sort of “training,” especially when it comes to other people (laughs). I just want to make the platform. When I debuted, there were some cases where I thought “I want to collab with this overseas artist,” but I gave up because it was too difficult. I was told to go through some corporate representative, and it was kind of a pain. At least in my case, I just wanted to hurry through any barriers and get the work done. I’ve found other ways of doing it on my own now, and I feel the time is right to share my experience and know-how with others. I want to allow young Japanese artists who may say “I want to collab with that person” to easily turn that thought into a reality. If the possibility is there, the process will become smooth and fast. Creating a successful system to allow for this kind of experience is important. 

Q: Your work has been growing rapidly both in Japan and abroad, so what does your typical day look like?

How am I spending my days recently? From early in the morning, it’s just meetings, meetings, meetings (laughs). I’m a bit of a morning person, so I’m still able to check my emails before my meetings begin, and then I end up really looking forward to my recordings and more creative work (laughs). Also, I make a lot of business trips overseas -- places like Shanghai and Los Angeles. I still make time to go to the gym 2-3 times a week though. In my accident, I broke eight ribs and was in rehab for a long time, so not being able to do weight training and running on the treadmill has been a little depressing. 

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your future visions?

Of course, I will be continuing to make music, but I will also be working hard on that platform. I’m very motivated by the possibility of being able to connect people, content, and business together. 

Q: Finally, who do you hope hears the music from the new m-flo?

Firstly, I want to deliver this straight to the fans who have been waiting for so long. They’re like close friends, and people I could toast drinks with. It’s a “Thanks for waiting!” kind of feeling. Next, I feel like this release will be one that sticks to those open-minded people who are seeking new possibilities, so I hope that they listen too. I think they’ll be shouting “What?!” over the news of this 2018 m-flo resurrection, but in a good way. I really want to surprise them. I want to accomplish something new. 

Interview with LISA:

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about how the three of you come to work on the new release?

As in, how did I come to reunite with m-flo?

Q: Exactly!

Sure thing! It was around Christmas last year, Mercedes-Benz held a live show for a Tokyo-based radio station called J-WAVE. Up until then, I hadn’t really seen Taku for quite some time.

Q: So you’d call it a chance meeting at this Christmas event?

Up until that moment, we’d frequently call and talk on the phone, but this was our first time doing an event together in quite some time. It was an invite-only show hosted by J-WAVE, and I actually recognised a lot of people from the “Planet Shining” and “EXPO EXPO” days. They were kind of like my original fan club, so to speak. I was overwhelmed with joy to see them. It had been quite some time since I had last performed in Japan, so I thought most of my fans would have disappeared. While we were performing, I even saw people cry in joy -- even though so much time had passed, I wanted to live this moment again. I felt it was almost my mission to again bring m-flo together as a trio, rather than continue on solo.

Q: So about how many of those old fans were actually at the show?

It was closed event, and people were only able to get in via a lottery. So I’d guess around 150 or around there.

Q: Would you say it was a very intimate party because of that?

It was extremely special to me. I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic when seeing each person’s face. “Oh, I remember you. I remember you!” I saw the audience members crying, and I was close to tears even while singing some of my happier songs. 

Q: I’m sure those people would be happy to see this interview in that case.

If they saw it, I’d actually be quite happy myself. They’re the ones who touched my heart so much.

Q: It’s great to hear all about that event, thank you for sharing! More recently, would you say you’ve been making progress on an album?

We’re actually working on several different types of songs at the moment, and we just recently finished a ballad. It’s going to be the ending theme song from an upcoming film called “Kyonen no Fuyu Kimi to Wakare.” It’s jam-packed with m-flo sounds, even if it is a theme song. It’s genuinely impossible for us to create something together that isn’t loaded with our true feelings. We’ve finished another song too, and it’s definitely very “us.”

Q: What would you say the difference in being an m-flo member now is versus the time you were featured in the “Loves” series?

We always had a role within the original m-flo days -- we knew what we had to do, and it was very natural for us. There was a very similar feeling to that in the “Loves” series too. This time, though, that feeling is even stronger. We have a greater sense of teamwork now than ever before. 

Q: How’d it feel to get back in the studio after all these years?

We hadn’t been back in the studio together since the “Loves” series, and when we finally got back together, we realized so much time had passed, and we had all matured and become more experience with it. The messages in our lyrics got stronger, and what we would write felt more real than ever before. That’s something extremely important to me. As we’ve gotten older, our messages have too matured -- something I consider precious. I noticed even VERBAL was bringing in coffee for everyone, and being a total gentleman (laughs). I started to realize maybe it isn’t bad to get older, and I realized it’s always fun to be around Taku and VERBAL.

Q:  With all that said, what would you say m-flo is to you? 

We’ve all grown up, and we all have more mutual respect for each other. We know what buttons we shouldn’t push with each other now too. Both of them have jobs too -- Taku has his DJ’ing, and VERBAL has PKCZ®︎. For me, I only have m-flo, and sometimes I wish they’d focus more on the group. I feel that was especially because m-flo is essentially my home-ground. I’ve started to realize that more and more lately, and I’ve been on a mission to bring everyone back together. That used to be Taku’s thing, but now I feel like it’s my role to bring everyone together -- almost like a mother (laughs).

Q: So what have you been up to as a solo artist?

It’s been like 8 years, hasn’t it? I was honestly getting tired of repeating the same cycle over and over again -- I felt like I needed to stop. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing anything throughout those years though. I’ve gotten a number of offers from various labels, with the most recent actually being a collaboration with Taku for an English-language album called “KID’S SONGS.” Taku produced the tracks, and I provided the vocals. I have a pretty extensive library of music from the past 8 years, but listening to it now is heartbreaking.

Q: Is there any chance that one of those songs might find its way into the next m-flo release?

If it ends up fitting what we’re working with, then it’s a possibility.

Q: Has your creative flow with m-flo changed since back then?

It might not be the most polite way to say it, but I think that both Taku and VERBAL have really stepped-up recently. Taku’s tracks have become even more cool, and VERBAL’s raps have become even more melodic. His raps used to be a bit abstract, but now they have more of a West Side flavor. I frequently write my songs when I’m in Guam, I actually just flew ever there to listen to Taku’s second demo in a different environment; one that was fresh and full of sunshine. While I was there, the melodies and lyrics pretty much just fell from the sky, and I sent it all through to them. They absolutely loved it.

Since I originally left, the two of them had gotten a lot more into DJ’ing and collaborating, while I spent most of my time listening to a lot of top 40 pop. So I bring a lot of the pop essence to m-flo, while they bring in their own unique aspects. We complement each other, and they trust me with what I create.

Q: Would you say there any differences between your solo work and m-flo?

I’m 100% dedicated to m-flo now. I’ll probably get offers from elsewhere for solo performances and such, but I would like to devote myself to m-flo entirely. That’s where I’m at right now. 

Q: What are you especially excited about in creating together again? Is there anything you’re looking forward to leading up to the release?

I’ve been excited everyday as of late; there’s not a single day where I’m not listening to new music, and I can’t wait to sing in front of the fans. I feel like there’s astronomical possibilities with the three of us back together. I’m most excited to bring everything we’ve been working on to the fans and see how they all react. We’re all actually going on a kind of ‘songwriting camp’ abroad, which is something I came up with (laughs). I know the two of them are really busy, but I insisted we go anyway for just a week. I’m also really excited about that.

Q: You’re going to be standing in front of an entire audience soon. What type of emotions are you expecting to stir?

I wish I knew the answer to that, God only knows. I might even take a moment and cry if I’m honest.

Q: How do you typically interact with your fans? Is there any particular routine?

Let’s give an example, say I’m going to the concert hall by my house, there’s not some sort of ‘artist switch’ that I flick on and off. I just interact how I really am, I like to be as natural as possible. Being an artist is just part of my identity, so I don’t like to build walls between myself and m-flo fans. I try and be as honest as possible, and I hope others interact the same way. If I was to stop being real with myself and others, it’d break down everything we built. m-flo was never about putting up a front, it was just about showcasing who we are to the world. 

Q: There’s a whole lot of people all around the world who are ecstatic that the original m-flo trio are back together and are anticipating the album. How does it feel to know that?

I’m delighted to hear that, of course. As we all know, the group continued to work hard after I left, and I couldn’t be more thankful towards Taku and VERBAL. Back when I was in the group initially, I wasn’t conscious of our international audience at all. I couldn’t imagine people listening to our music. I’m thankful that we were able to connect with individuals all around the world. All three of us went to international schools, so it only makes sense that none of us should limit ourselves to only Japan. 

If there’s anyone with interest in our works, I can only ask that you’re patient, and when the opportunity arises, you make it out to one of our live shows. I’d love to have you be there. m-flo was one of the pioneers in the bilingual English and Japanese music breakthrough in J-pop. However, I can also speak Spanish due to my Colombian origins, so I’d love to try creating something in Spanish and connect with our Latino audience too. 

Q: Can you tell us three things you like about m-flo?

The first thing would have to be the mutual respect the three of us share for each other. We all understand our individual strengths as musicians, and that allows our real feelings to flow without compromise. 

The second thing would have to be the history we share. We’ve known each other since junior high, but even still after all these years, we can still get together and watch as our light glows strong. 

The third thing would have to be how much we’ve matured and flourished. It’s clear to all of us how in our new music our message is all the more powerful. Our music isn’t only for adults, but it ranges from youth all the way to the elderly — that’s just the flexibility of our style. That’s something special to me for sure. I feel like when I’m working with m-flo, we can truly do anything and go anywhere. 

Q: Finally, have you got anything special you want to say for your fans internationally?

I’m overwhelmed with joy to be back involved with m-flo! It’s been so many years, but not once did I stop thinking about what we did. I just hope we have the chance to get back over to the United States, the Philippines, Korea, Taiwan, and everywhere else! I hope everyone has a chance to come see us, because our new music is seriously wow. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it. 

Thank you for always supporting us, I have so much love for you all. I’m back, and I hope you’re ready for what’s to come! I’ll see you guys all soon, and bless you all! Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for new music!

For those of you that may have missed the highly-teased announcement yesterday, the tripod are officially back together and here to stay. With a new song on its way in 2018, we couldn't possibly be any more excited. To check out more of our previous write-ups, including yesterday's announcement, you can check our full archives here.

Credits:

Interviewers: 
Jay Kogami // VERBAL
Takeru John Otoguro // LISA
Lachlan Johnston & Takeru John Otoguro // Taku Takahashi

Editors:
Lachlan Johnston
Mike Tamburelli

Translation:
Mike Tamburelli

Visual Support:
MAKI

Editor in Chief:
Eddie Lehecka

SPECIAL THANKS to block.fm

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Today's Nintendo Direct Mini News was Anything But Small

January 12, 2018 12:00am
by Mike Tamburelli

After dropping a few subtle hints via their social media feeds these past few days, Nintendo has dropped a short, approximately 15 minute-long version of one of their fan-favorite 'Nintendo Directs,' which they have dubbed a "Mini" entry. The news contained within was anything but minuscule, however, so let's jump right into the juicy announcements!

  • Cult favorite Nintendo DS RPG The World Ends with You is getting a Switch port, dubbed The World Ends with You: Final Remix. It will feature enhanced graphics for the HD era, updated touch and Joycon control schemes, as well as an extra ending scenario. We're not getting a full-blown sequel anytime soon it seems -- but finally, some closure!


  • New Pokemon fighters are coming to Pokken Tournament DX for Switch. Aegislash and Blastoise are debuting as playable fighters, while Rayquaza, Mimikyu, Mew, and Celebi will take the stage as support characters. The content is releasing in two waves, with Wave 1 coming January 31, and Wave 2 on March 23.
  • More copy abilities have been revealed for Kirby Star Allies, like Spider and Artist. In multiplayer co-op mode, you can share abilities with friends.
  • Wii U fan-favorite Hyrule Warriors is coming to the Switch with all of that system's DLC. The game will also feature new outfits for Link and Zelda modeled after their Breath of the Wild appearances. It will launch this Spring.

  • Mario Tennis Aces is a brand-new Mario sports experience coming to the Switch, and is the first Mario Tennis title to feature a story mode since the days of the Game Boy Advance. It will be available this Spring.
  • NIS is publishing Falcom's YS VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA on the Switch. Let's just hope that it comes with that updated translation patch pre-installed! It will be out this Summer.
  • A free update is coming to Super Mario Odyssey, primarily featuring a new minigame known as "Luigi's Balloon World." It takes advantage of the game's online capabilities to allow you to perform a kind of hide-and-seek minigame with other players. You can hide balloons around the game's various stages, and compete with your friend's times to find their own hidden balloons. Also included in the update will be new outfits for Mario and photo mode filters. It will be hitting the airwaves in February.
  • In what could very well be the most outta-left-field announcement of the whole lot, a new fighter from SNK known as SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy will be busting onto the Switch. It features popular SNK heroines from accross their various games, and is presented in the popular tag-team format, allowing you two switch between characters on the fly. Incredibly, you are able to fully-customize your character models with accessories, ala Tekken 7. This is something that has to be seen to be believed.

  • Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is adding Donkey Kong as a new playable character via DLC this Spring.
  • When multiplayer co-op shooter Payday 2 comes to the Switch on February 27, it will come with a timed exclusive character, Japanese "computer whiz" Joy.
  • Two positively beautiful indie platformers are coming to the Switch. Moody 3D platformer Fe by Zoink! will debut on the Switch on February 16. 2D sprite action platformer Celeste by Matt Makes Games will launch on January 25.
  • One of the Wii U's best platforming adventures will come to the Switch with a new character in tow. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will release with Funky Kong, a character who makes the game a bit easier, on May 4.
  • Finally, revealed after Nintendo teased it in the absolute cutest of ways, Dark Souls Remastered will hit the Switch. The punishingly-difficult game will feature 1080p resolution for the first time, and most excitingly, allows for the first time a game in the series can be played in a truly portable way. It will release on May 25. Nintendo tweeted out the below image of adorably petite Chibi Robo yesterday, and some astute fans have quickly pieced together what it all meant.

If you are interested in all of the juicy details, and especially if you want to see footage for every single one of the above games in action, I highly recommend giving the most excellent Nintendo Direct Mini a watch below! What is your favorite announcement? Which games will you be picking up? Let us know in the know in the comments section!
 

Images: Square Enix, Nintendo, SNK

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The Osomatsu-san Spinoff That You'll Likely Never Sheeeeeeh!

January 10, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

With the development of anime streaming platforms such as Crunchyroll and Netflix, we’re seeing more Japanese content in the West than ever before. Mere minutes after original airings in Japan, eager fans across the globe can log-in to their service of choice and endulge in their favorites of the season. That being said, not everything is able to make it international — something that we could only hope to be fixed over time. Perhaps the gravest example of this as of late would have to be the currently-airing “DMatsu-san,” a collaborative 12-episode short series made exclusively for NTT Docomo’s dTV service in Japan. 

“DMatsu-san” is slated to be a 12-episode venture split up into six episode cours and released exclusively on dTV, beginning earlier this week on January 9. The first six episodes will revolve around the sextuplets interactions with Totoko, with each sextuplet receiving their own episode. The second half will revolve around each sextuplets interactions with Iyami, again with each sextuplet receiving their own episode.

It’s not much of a secret that a majority of our staff are major fans of the “Osomatsu-san” animated series, with some of our staff even referring to the show’s second season as the best thing to happen in 2017. With the second cour of the second season just around the corner, we’re excited for a fresh wave of content in the series’ incredible catalogue. That being said, the knowledge that there’s even more content out there to sink our teeth into is exciting, though for our friends outside of Japan it’s a little different.

While there is currently no word of the spinoff being released internationally, we can only hope for fans of the series around the globe that some good news does come their way. For now though, those in Japan with access to dTV can start watching the mishaps of our favorite sextuplets.

Images: Docomo

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Anime Studio Polygon Pictures Teams with Game Dev Historia

January 10, 2018 12:00pm
by Mike Tamburelli

If the excitement and love of Studio Orange's 3DCG adaptation of Land of the Lustrous is anything to go by, then anime fans have seemingly warmed-up even more to the idea of entirely 3DCG anime productions. In the world of such media, Polygon Pictures is another studio that has been in the 3DCG game for a while, proudly bolstering projects under their belts including the Netflix exclusive Knights of Sidonia, and even GODZILLA: Planet of the Monsters.

When game creators approach 3D game development, a number of pre-built engines are available, allowing them ease of creation and implementation of 3D models and backgrounds. One of the most popular engines out there today is Epic Game's 'Unreal Engine 4,' which is popular with game studios across Japan and the rest of the world. Surely, there must be some room for sharing these assets across a large body of works, right? Both Polygon Pictures and Historia Inc., an Unreal Engine game development specialist, both seem to think so.

Citing the fact that 3D computer graphics are used in many different forms of media, including both anime and games, the two companies have revealed that they will form a joint venture company dubbed Elementfactory Inc.

It is now common practice for the same content to be rolled out collectively across disparate genres ranging from film and television to games, VR, and events. Additionally, game and video production technologies are being used in fields beyond the entertainment industry, such as education and architecture. Drawing on the game and CG anime production know-how cultivated by its two investing companies, Elementfactory, Inc. will take on the role of producing and developing 3D CG models which allow for efficient reuse across multiple media. In particular, the company will be developing next generation 3D CG models which utilize the globally used game development engine Unreal Engine in various forms.

It surely is an interesting idea. Take Polygon Picture's latest, Fist of the Blue Sky REGENESIS, as an example.
In addition to the anime, what if accompanying games and even VR experiences could be produced simultaneously at the snap of a finger? Would all of the projects contain the same specifications, making it difficult to tell them apart? Are character models simply going to be exported for use in gaming, so that the developers don't have to painstakingly rebuild their own models? I think that the possibilities are quite endless with collaboration taking place at this level, and if anyone possesses the expertise and is poised to make it work, both Polygon Pictures and Historia seem to be safe bets.

Best of luck then to Elementfactory -- we can't wait to see what you bring to the table!

Images: Polygon Pictures

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Gkids To Bring Three Masaaki Yuasa Films to North America

January 9, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

North America-based animation distributor Gkids have recently announced the acquisition of three films directed by Japanese heavyweight Masaaki Yuasa. The films, which include Lu Over the Wall,” “Night Is Short, Walk on Girl,” and “Mind Game,” come at a crucial point in the directors global appeal, with the acquisition offering fans even deeper insight into the mind of the great. 

With the release of animated-spectacular DEVILMAN crybaby” on Netflix earlier this month, it feels like now more that ever before Masaaki Yuasa is at the forefront of attention in the international anime community. The director has been the genius behind bringing anime such as Ping Pong” and Tatami Galaxy” to life, as well as the aforementioned DEVILMAN crybaby” adaptation. In 2017 alone he witnessed the release of two feature-length films under his name, both of which are featured in the acquisition. 

While all three animated films will be distributed in Japanese language with English subtitles, “Lu Over the Wall” is slated to receive an English dub of which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. With Masaaki Yuasa being a long time favorite director of mine, it’s exciting to see the undeniable recognition he has been receiving as of late. With a directorial style unafraid of stepping away from the norm, it seems everything he touches shines brightly amongst all else.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated as further information is revealed.

Images: Gkids

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Netflix Offers New Age of Expression in Anime

January 8, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

On January 5, 2018, DEVILMAN crybaby was released onto Netflix’s streaming platform around the globe with an R+ rating. The modern adaptation of the 1972 manga series by Go Nagai, a hyper-stylised Masaaki Yuasa directed ONA series produced by Netflix, not only introduced a new wave of anime fans to the story of Akira and his new-found powers, but also to that of the series’ adult themes and violence. For some, it was off-putting — for others, it was ushering in the return of expression through animation.

Nothing about DEVILMAN crybaby can be viewed as ordinary, though that can generally be expected from anything Masaaki Yuasa touches. When Yuasa sets his eyes on an adaptation project, you can rest assured that it’ll be as accurate as possible, while polishing a few of the finer details. That’s why when it was announced that he would be directing the modern adaptation of the early 70s manga series, there was understandable levels of excitement — and that’s why when it was announced to be produced and released by Netflix, that excitement only rose among fans.

When the original Devilman TV anime series aired in the 70s, it was difficult for it to capture the true reality presented by the manga series. Due to various restrictions on what could be shown on air, it hindered the overwhelming harshness of the source material. In the late 80s, we saw Devilman: The Birth, an OVA which ran for 50 minutes in length, finally capture the intent of the source material. The world of devils and humans isn’t a pretty one, and through its over-the-top violence it truly felt like that was accurately represented. 

It’s in similar sense that, because of the nature of Netflix not needing to abide by the rules of television thus allowing full creative control by the creators, DEVILMAN crybaby was able to accurately depict the horrors of a world filled with both devils and humans. Making the most of this new age of digital media, we’re offered a glimpse into depictions of adult content previously only available in OVA form. The unhinged nature of DEVILMAN crybaby depicted in scenes like those at SABBATH make for some of the series’ most enticing points, and simply couldn’t exist in the television anime format. 

Let’s take a look at anime series such as Terra Formars or Tokyo Ghoul, both of which suffered greatly at the hand of censorship, even while violence existed at the core of each story. Between shadows being abused to cover blood, and the tendency to exclude anything of sexual nature, it’s difficult to grasp the true horror of any given scenario in most television anime. This wasn’t a creative decision to implement such censorship, either — rather, it’s the result of a system that forbids truly mature content from airing. Had either anime been released in a modern setting, on a platform like Netflix, I’m certain the content could have thrived and expressed itself without restriction. 

With roughly 30 original anime series to be produced by the team at Netflix this year alone, it’ll be interesting to see how adventurous creators get with the relaxed restrictions on their content. If DEVILMAN crybaby is the spearhead of a new age of mature creations, then 2018 will definitely be the year that content thrives. Now it’s just up to the experimentation of the creators.

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Amazon Kills its 'Anime Strike' Service to Fans' Benefit

January 5, 2018 11:00pm
by Mike Tamburelli

I would be hard-pressed to think of any more-disliked entity in the North American anime industry in recent days than Amazon's 'Anime Strike' channel. The retail giant's foray into simulcasting anime content probably wouldn't have been met with such a level of disdain if it hadn't essentially sealed everything behind a second $5 paywall -- one that was in addition to the normal cost of an Amazon Prime subscription.

Why couldn't the content be treated the same as every other movie or TV show that the service hosted? Was it to supplement licensing costs? Was it some wild assumption that anime fans were willing to shell out a premium for content that, to many, still hasn't quite reached a sort of mainstream appeal? We may never know the answer to that question, but can instead rejoice in the fact that Amazon has decided to do away with the channel altogether. Better still, all that content is still present on the site, and available to watch with a regular Prime membership.

A spokesperson provided a comment to Forbes:

"We have decided to move the curated catalogs of Anime Strike and Heera into Prime Video so that more customers can enjoy this content as part of their Prime membership."

Anime Strike had not been announcing any new licensing acquisitions for the Winter 2018 season, so many suspected that something was amiss behind the scenes.

Throughout the past year, I had experienced a small level of dread in knowing that potential anime gems would go widely unseen by people who were unable to pay for an additional streaming source for our favorite hobby. I'm a bit relieved that shows, like Made in Abyss and Anonymous Noise, can now be experienced by a wider array of fans, just like they had deserved to be from the get-go. 

Will Amazon ever acquire an exclusive anime license again? With other big players like Crunchyroll, Netflix and now HIDIVE all in the game and going strong, it's hard to say.

Images: Amazon Inc.

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OTAQUEST Japanese Pop Culture Staff Picks of 2017

January 5, 2018 8:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston


With 2017 finally at its end, and the year 2018 launching off in all sorts of weird and wonderful directions, we here at OTAQUEST have been reflecting on the year that was, analyzing the trends and happenings in the world of Japanese pop culture that made it so special. There was a whole lot of great that happened in 2017, even if it's sometimes shrouded by everything else going on in the world.

When we first put pen to paper with the idea of a year in review piece, we sketched out the idea of each staff writer covering the topics of 'Anime, 'Games,' and 'Music,' but it didn't take too long to realize how secular that would be -- after all, the world of Japanese pop culture doesn't simply revolve around those aforementioned topics. Our end result came out a little less uniform, but all the more accurate, especially given there's not too much 'uniformity' about the world of pop culture.

Divided into the answers of each individual writer, we're going to be sharing three things in particular that stood out to us in 2017, that we maybe feel deserve to be known. You can find all of our answers below:


Lachlan Johnston (@xrenazuka)

1. Within the world of fashion, 2017 has been a seriously wild ride over here in Japan. It doesn't feel like all that long ago that I first caught wind of a first collaborative fashion line between both my personal favorite graphic designer, GraphersRock, and the long-established branding of PUMA. It again surfaced in the past month that the designer would be collaborating once more, and what a collection it served to be. Combining internet-age design with flashy colors and solid sneakers, GraphersRock blew me away with what he achieved in just 12 short months.


2. It'd be impossible for me to write anything about 2017 without mentioning the Nintendo Switch. Having absolutely struck all the right chords with me, it's easily been one of my year-long favorites. I wrote earlier that it had just become the fastest selling console of all time in North America, and that's with good reason. Between the stellar library of games, the ease of use while out and about or at home -- it truly feels like a console made for my lifestyle. Nintendo hit it out of the ballpark with this one, and I can't wait to see what 2018 brings.


3. For the staff over at humble lil' PARK Harajuku, the year 2017 couldn't have been any bigger. Between the release of their first anime series, URAHARA, and the announcement of their second, CO;RYU, the tucked away melting pot of cultural relevance has been going nowhere but up as of late. Even with all that took place in 2017, the staff has all just been going about their everyday lives, working harder than ever before to continue introducing the streets of Harajuku to new and exciting creators. I've got nothing but respect for PARK, and can't wait to see what comes next.


Mike Tamburelli (@Janny_Nash)

1.  2017 was the year that the mainstream gaming public finally started to hold Japanese games on a level of esteem not seen since the decade pre-2010. It was refreshing to see The Game Awards ‘Game of the Year’ category awash with nominees developed by a studio other than Nintendo. I’m not sure what it was specifically about Persona 5 that finally convinced people that JRPGs aren’t bad simply for employing JRPG mechanics, but I’m happy anyway. I’m stoked that a hack‘n slash action RPG featuring an android female-male duo delving into robotic philosophy was able to stand out in an industry full of gun-toting bearded dudes with wise-cracking sidekicks.

Some may argue that Japanese game development has finally “caught-up” with techniques in the west, but I remain ever-skeptical of that thought. The industry seems like it’s finally moving on from the rough and gruff FPS phase it’s been in, and realizing once more that some of the strongest bastions of game development creativity have been flourishing in Japan.


2.  Chunithm is a Japanese rhythm-arcade game that, while not technically being a product of the year 2017, was certainly enough of a reason to keep me coming back to arcades weekend after weekend this year to spend my hard-earned 100 yen coins. When one thinks of rhythm games, the mind tends to drift towards Konami’s Bemani titles, like Beatmania IIDX, Dance Dance Revolution, and Sound Voltex. Chunithm, on the other hand, was not developed by Konami, but is instead a product of the minds over at SEGA. It seems like game centers never have enough Chunithm machines, as they are always packed and it is not uncommon to have to wait in a line. Other games, however, are usually quite available.

The game has kept up some insane momentum by constantly collaborating with popular anime, so you’ll always be able to trace your fingers and wave your hands to some of your favorite tunes. Dare I say that this game has been enough to encourage a huge wave of players to visit their arcades week after week like I have? Is it any coincidence that operators like Round 1 and Taito are seeing improved returns? I think not -- keep your eye on some crazy arcade gaming innovations coming from Japan in the near future. I hear that VR is especially popular recently.


3.  In recent times, it has become ever more apparent that animators in Japan’s anime industry have it rough. Standards for animator pay in Japan are quite low, which is a problem when the need to pay the always costly Tokyo rent looms. There are now a few options available to industry outsiders in helping, and even changing the lives of the next generation of creatives --  the least of which is the Non-Profit Organization known as Animator Supporters. Their yearly "Animator Dormitory Projects" aim to raise money for affordable dorm-style housing for animators. Paying no more than 30,000 yen a month including utility costs, animators can skirt Tokyo's rent prices and live in an environment where they can not only survive, but thrive.

An additional goal with the dormitory project is to allow an environment where new animators can learn from the more experienced hands as they come to visit. Jun Sugawara has made a splash with his campaign this year, and Animator Supporters raised more money than ever before this year at $25,428 USD -- 170% of the original $10,000 goal. Generous souls have taken notice, and I only hope that this leads to even more meaningful change within the industry we love.


Isaac Wong (@lil_yusha)

1.  Pokémon illustrator and overall prolific artist Tokiya’s new project has been one of the most exciting things I’ve had the privilege of seeing the beginnings of. Around the middle of 2017, Tokiya reached out to me to do some cursory translations for a new clothing brand he was starting up called None Faith. This collaboration between him and Chloma owner/designer Suzuki Junya is producing some of the coolest illustrations and concepts he has ever created. I can tell you guys without revealing anything that there are more amazing collaborations to come, so keep an eye out!
2. To Your Eternity is Ōima Yoshitoki’s new manga coming off of her 2013 hit A Silent Voice, and this comic bangs like no other. It’s an adventure/road trip comic about a deathless being who slowly finds their humanity over the course of meeting and parting with the people and animals he encounters along the way. Its imaginative fantasy setting is naturalistic and believable while still being fresh, and it has a slight SF tinge to it which makes the coming issues unpredictable and exciting.


3.  Lastly, the back half of 2017 has been a JP youtube renaissance. Virtual YouTubers such as Kizuna Ai has made such an impression that imitators have been popping up nonstop for the last six months. One of which is Kaguya Luna, a noisy, boisterous virtual YouTuber whose character is a mix of Crayon Shin-chan and Annoying Orange. I love her.


Eddie Lehecka (@collectiphile)

1. Those who know me will tell you that I’m a sucker for old anime, and I also love off the wall/slapstick humor. That being the case, it would go without saying that the announcement of Season 2 of Osomatsu-san was one of the biggest moments for me this year. The new season hasn’t let me down at all either, with my personal favorite Matsuno brother, Jyushimatsu, seeing plenty of screen time and a few episodes dedicated to his wacky nature. It’s also been great to see all of the additional love the supporting characters have gotten this season so far. I can’t wait to see where they go with the 2nd half of the season in 2018!


2.  For someone who doesn’t have a lot of time to sit down and play console games, having a full-fledged console Mario game at my fingertips was easily one of the pure joys of my 2017 travel experience. Not only is Super Mario Odyssey an incredibly well designed game, but the amount of crazy stuff you can do thanks to the new movement options & physics paired with what can only be described as a love letter to Mario’s history make this very close to the top of my personal ranking for every game in the franchise. The soundtrack for the game is one of my favorites for the year as well, with "Jump Up! Super Star" still frequently stuck in my head leaving my toe tapping. It might still be a while before I hit 100% in the game due to my schedule, but the game is so fun to play that I’m going to savor every minute of the journey.


3.  There have been a lot of really great anime fashion collaborations to come out this year, but New York-based Supreme knocked it out of the park with this line. While the brand has a tendency to be pretty hard to access, I made sure to pick up several pieces from this collection for myself as a massive fan of both Akira and Supreme. Aside from Akira's notoriety worldwide being a huge selling point, what really got me on this was the use of original art from the manga rather than the anime for these pieces. The striking image of the explosion in Neo Tokyo used on several of the pieces has to be my favorite of the scenes they chose, and the subtle Supreme branding on the other shirts is a perfect way to make sure the collaboration doesn’t come off as too heavy-handed or detract from Otomo’s original art. My only complaint is that I wasn’t able to buy everything in this collection.


What do you think, was there anything in particular that you fell in love with throughout 2017? Looking back on it all, while the year was filled with high-points and very much stands on its own merit, I can't help but feel that the year was simply laying down the foundations for what's to come. If that does happen to be true, of course, then we'll only be going up from here.

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