Jazz and Mechs: Why Music is Important

Four days ago, I finished up Code Geass: Akito the Exiled. What a nostalgic feeling of an anime anime with a new and interesting angle. For one thing, I have to say that Code Geass is still Code Geass, no matter where it takes place or what characters are involved, some tropes stay the same. I also think that this OVA series influenced a lot of Sunrise’s recent projects in some ways. More on that in my next post. On a very related note, I have also finished the second season of Gundam Thunderbolt two days ago, which is also an extremely relevant thing for this post. What inspired this post was the interesting music, otherwise known as jazz, that played during both of these OVA’s mech fights. I wouldn’t call this ground breaking in any sort of way, because different kinds of music besides orchestrations have been used before in anime. For example, Samurai Champloo used a lot of rap or FLCL used a band called The Pillows for their soundtracks. Still, talking about jazz and soundtracks allows me to flex my music muscles that I don’t used very often on this blog. This should be fun.

Let’s start off with the basics first. What is the importance of music? Well, can you imagine living life without music anywhere? Go to a sports game without a pep band or recorded music used over the stadium’s speakers. Wouldn’t that feel wrong to you? An empty experience that is missing something that makes it special. What about a charity or any kind of event without music? How wrong would that feel? Even if music is played off to the side for a background, nothing is ever an event unless music is playing somewhere in the general area. Musicians work hard and sometimes get paid very little just to add background noises and colors to our lives and they are barely noticed. It doesn’t matter what kind of music it is from a personal perspective, it just needs to be there.

Moving on from that, let’s move over to soundtracks. Can you imagine a movie without them? Imagine the opening scene of Star Wars: A New Hope without music? It would just be two ships flying by the camera in complete silence. Completely awkward. The music is what makes that scene. There is also the Lelouch taking over the world scene in Code Geass R2 that wouldn’t feel the same if bombastic music wasn’t being played during his speech. It just makes scenes in general alright, but that’s not what it only does. It makes media so much more memorable through different themes. The Star Wars Main Theme, The Harry Potter Main theme, Cowboy Bebop Opening theme, the Halo theme, and so many others. All of these things are memorable because of the catchy themes that go along with these pieces of media. Music is important, don’t let anybody ever tell you otherwise.

Bringing it all together, Code Geass: Akito the Exiled and Gundam Thunderbolt use a large variety of jazz songs in their fight scenes. Like rock and roll or any other form of music out there, Jazz comes in many forms. There is the highly structured big band jazz, the moderately structured small group jazz that is held together by a well-defined chord structure that also come in their own subbed groups in which players stay within chords when soloing, and free jazz that has almost no structure at all. Akito the Exiled and Gundam Thunderbolt use a lot of jazz in their mech fight scenes. It’s mostly free jazz. Using the non-structured style of jazz adds to the frantic nature of those mech fights. It may not work for everyone, but the decision to do that makes sense to me. Like any other fight in history, a mech fight is never going to be a structured thing. There are too many things that can happen in a fight to make it feel uniform and well defined. Using free jazz emphasizes the messiness and franticness of them. This where the use of Jazz stops in Akito The Exiled while Gundam Thunderbolt uses it a little more.

Gundam Thunderbolt doesn’t just use jazz music for its fight scenes. It’s not even the only style of music that is used in the show. Jazz and J-pop music play a major role when it comes to character interactions. Especially the first season when the show focused on two characters from opposing sides, Daryl from Zeon listens to J-Pop with his unit and Io Flemming from the Earth Federation blasts jazz. So not only is it a battle of ideologies, it’s a clash of music styles as well which adds more to the conflict going on screen. It’s that little touch that I like so much. Music also takes up a lot of the characterization in the show, because Gundam Thunderbolt is a series of shorts that don’t have as much time as a normal series to explain who everybody is over time. It works for this series, but not for a normal tv series. Io and a new female pilot become friends through jazz because they play a lot of songs together. From this interaction, they also fight together and watch each other’s backs. It’s quite an interesting team up to be sure.

I was not expecting to write a rant about music on this blog, but sometimes I feel inspired. Code Geass: Akito the Exiled was that unexpected inspiration that made me want to share my opinions about music. By the title of my blog, you can tell that I have a love of giant robots. I also love jazz music too. Mostly big band with some cool jazz and traditional jazz thrown into the mix as well. As a musician, I used to listen to jazz a lot more than I do now to figure out what tone I want to make when playing my horn. Now days, it’s just for fun. Seeing mech fights with jazz music as a soundtrack is like heaven for me. Seeing this happen in both Gundam Thunderbolt and Code Geass: Akito the Exiled makes me feel excited and also the mixture of jazz and robots wasn’t an accident. I hope this continues more. I think it’s currently my favorite aesthetic in anime.

As always, thank you for reading. What soundtracks have in anime have affected you the most? Watch out for another Akito the Exiled inspired post to appear on this blog soon.


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