Once upon a time, when I was a wee child, I didn’t listen to music. At all. In fact, this continued until I was about twelve years old, which struck my classmates as extremely odd at the time. The reason for this lay primarily, though, in the fact of what the radio was tuned to in my household – while most kids were used to the radio being set on the local top-40 type stations, my parents had the dial set constantly to sports’ talk radio, with an occasional foray into the world of news radio. To this day, the only thing my radio is preset to is a public radio station dealing exclusively in news and talk shows about the news.
But, despite that, I do listen to music now, and I have anime to thank for that.
Although my first experiences with anime occurred when I was a few years younger, my true genesis as a fan didn’t happen until I was eleven years old. This was when I also truly realized for the first time that things such as Sailor Moon came from Japan (ZOMG!!!), and also discovered that these mysterious things from Japan were often severely edited when they finally came across my screen… and so I turned to subs. And fell truly, madly, deeply in love.
But not only did turning to subs really turn me on to anime (although I can’t entirely discount dubs since they brought me to the medium in the first place, and the fact that the CardCaptor Sakura dub was SO BAD is why I started watching subs at all), they also awakened me to the possibilities of music.
Let’s be honest – much of anime music is bad. Its just the nature of the beast; much of anime itself is bad. But the quality mattered not, for my little eleven year old ears started perking up at the soundtracks and my brain started to go, “Hmm…” About a year later, in the halcyon days before I realized the difference between bootlegged CD’s versus official ones, I picked up my first music album. I don’t remember now what it was exactly, but I think it was probably one of the Best Partners’ Digimon CD’s or the Nightwalker soundtrack.
From my initial interest in anime-related albums, I started delving into J-pop and J-rock a bit, and I, to the mild horror of my father, merrily waved a Kinki Kids CD around the house when it finally arrived in the mail. I was a big Ayumi Hamasaki fan back in the day… but I also listened to Mr. Children and Dragon Ash quite a bit, in addition to the aforementioned Kinki Kids.
Somewhere along the way, I started checking out English language music as well. I don’t remember how or why, but the exact details aren’t really terribly important – the fact is that anime made me interested in music in the first place, which enabled me to eventually start looking seriously at English language (and mainly American) music. This, further, is why I enjoy music so much these days, since it allowed me to significantly expand my scope and not merely get trapped in weeaboo land insofar as music is concerned.
The ratio of Japanese music to non that I listen to has dropped precipitously in the time since my first interest in music, and the amount of BGM that I listen to frequently has jumped versus the vocal tracks I adore. The Japanese music I listen to has also expanded slightly beyond the realms of the J-poppy, as J.A. Seazer’s work on Revolutionary Girl Utena provided a jumping-off point into the esoteric sounds of Experimental Laboratory of Theatre ◎ Universal Gravitation (which is itself a theater company, actually).
One thing I don’t understand the popularity of, though, are all those Vocaloid things. They’re very creepy, and the voices are just so sterile, and not in a way which has any stylistic meaning (I’m thinking of the overly done autotune of Kanye West on 808s & Heartbreak). I’d avoided them for ages and decided on a whim just to check out one of their music videos the other day and was totally creeped out.
Anyway. I love music. I love discovering new music. And I either wouldn’t’ve realized that at all or taken several more years to work that out if I hadn’t been watching all those hours of anime back when I was in middle school.