Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months, you probably know that I have a big heart for music. Music is versatile and timeless. It is something so universal and inherently human that it sometimes becomes easier to say what you think or how you feel with a song, rather than with words. Music can serve as consolation, absolution or condolence, especially when you immediately connect with it on a profound level. Now, unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, however, you probably also know that in early 2011, the Tohoku region in the north of Japan was hit by a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Because this disaster caused pretty much every anime airing at the moment — most noticeably and infamously Puella Magi Madoka Magica — to go on hiatus, it marked the first time many otaku actually started caring about the country for reasons beyond its distinct popular culture. What does this have to do with that love for music I just love stuffing down people’s throats? Well, this.
In the following weeks, several charity initiatives started popping up to help rebuild the lives of those affected by the earthquake and the nuclear fallout directly caused by it. And as is often the case with such initiatives, many of them were centered around music. It is obvious to see where they were coming from. Not only makes a song or an album for a great product to be offered in exchange for a donation, it also caters to the ancient (and true) belief that music can heal. Money was spent, songs were made and after a few months, pretty much everyone forgot the quake ever happened. Around a week ago, however, the Tohoku earthquake “celebrated” its second anniversary. While the area is still suffering heavily from the consequences, the problematic situation has flewn off the radar of pretty much everyone who is not Japanese. Even I thought the submerged villages and destroyed homes were a thing of the past by now. That is, until I saw this video.
If there is anything I love more than anything else, it is wacky, far-fetched collaborations. Heck, one of my favourite game franchises of all time, Kingdom Hearts, was born from the completely preposterous idea of merging Final Fantasy and Disney into the same universe. In the early days of the Glorio group, there was nothing we liked more than laughing our butts off with ridiculous fan fiction about Goku and Anne Frank teaming up, or Jesus and Adolf Hitler falling in love. No matter how crazy it might sound, if you can imagine it, it almost certainly exists. Nevertheless, not even I could have seen a crossover happening between Yutaka Yamamoto and… Sigur Rós?!
In case you, once again, have a particular fondness for living under giant boulders, the former is an anime director best known for ripping off the first anime he directed (but actually did not) time after time, having a strange obsession with silly dance routines, thinking people find girls with big eyes talking about food to be interesting and babbling about the moe trend killing the anime industry, only to be the absolute worst offender of it himself. The latter is a band from the distant and mysterious planet of Iceland, best known for confusing guitars with violins, being responsible for the soundtrack of every nature documentary ever and producing the most poignant and emotionally gripping anything this side of the death of Bambi’s mum. What exactly drove these two into each others’ arms is a complete mystery to me, but I am going to guess that it has something to do with Sigur Rós having a 37-year old dude who sounds like an 11-year-old girl behind the mic.
The important part is not how it happened, however, but why. The above video, named “blossom” is arguably the best thing Yamamoto has done since… uhm… err… Anyways, it is a part of Zapuni, a project that seeks to unite world-renowned musicians with Japanese artists in order to raise money for the Tohoku fund. In the wake of the now two-year-old disaster, Zapuni seeks to use art and music to return smiles to the faces of the many children affected by the earthquake. By prompting people to share the music videos created by their collaborators, donate or buy the original artwork and music created for the project, Zapuni hopes to raise money for a charity program named “School Music Revival”.
School Music Revival is a project set up by Ryuichi Sakamoto, of Yellow Magic Orchestra fame. The charity fund hopes to “restore hope in the hearts of the children” affected by the disaster by means of teaching them how to express their feelings through music. The money will be used to support school projects that have something to do with music, and repair instruments that got lost or damaged when schools in the region were destroyed. Sakamoto also collaborated with David Byrne, former head honcho of Talking Heads (If you have never heard of them, ask your parents) on the second Zapuni video being released. The wacky, catchy and cancerously seventies “Psychedelic Afternoon” can be watched above and features animation by UrumaDelvi, the creators of kids’ anime Bed-Biting Bug, best known for being watched by absolutely no one ever on fellow Zaputi sponsor Crunchyroll.
It’s always great to see creative forces collaborating on something for the greater good, especially when they hail from art forms that are particularly close to your heart. With more videos to be released in the near future, the Zapuni project looks like an interesting initiative, bringing animation closer to what is up and running in the actual Japan. It also helps that the Zapuni shorts are by far the most creative anime I have seen this year so far. Then again, that might say more about the current state of the anime industry than about how imaginative these shorts really are. Anyways, you can find more information on the Zapuni project here.