Tori no Uta (Song of the Bird/The Bird’s Song) is a 30-minute OVA that I imagine is not very well known. However, it is well known enough that it has been subbed, so that’s pretty fabulous. This is not “animated” as most things called “anime” are. Visually, this is a series of still pieces of artwork. Beautiful artwork, I might add. That is half of what makes this OVA beautiful. The other half is the music.
Before I go into any depth, I just want to note here that despite having watched this OVA three times in one day, I do not fully understand the story. However, there is nothing within it that strikes me as random, so I’m sure it does make sense. My mind is simply incapable of synthesizing all the ideas into something meaningful after a certain point. Yet somehow, I was able to enjoy this enough to, well, sit through it three times in one day.
Tori no Uta excels in artwork (by, it seems, Yoshitaka Amano). It’s a beautiful style and since I was nice enough to include a picture you can see it for yourself. I’m no good at describing art anyway. Tori no Uta also excels in music, which was done by Yasuharu Takanashi. The music is mostly subdued, calmer pieces which fit the generally subdued mood of Tori no Uta. It’s also beautiful fyi, but that is something I am beginning to expect from any music composed by Yasuharu Takanashi.
To me, atmosphere and music (not to be confused with atmospheric music, which I actually tend to find quite boring on its own) speak louder than anything else visual media can offer me. The only other thing that really comes close is animation and how dynamic the angles and framing are (yes this is why I’m in love with the few Shaft shows that I actually managed to watch for more than ten minutes). Tori no Uta is overflowing with atmosphere, which is only heightened by the beautiful yet somehow desolate and depressing artwork and the always-fitting music. This didn’t really need to have any dialogue at all, and the majority of the emotions it presents would still be felt just as strongly. However, the dialogue and the subdued voice acting do add a lot.
I guess that’s all I really wanted to say about Tori no Uta itself, but this post is not over. I always hear people complain about how things have no story. I hear them complain about episodic anime. I hear them complain about already knowing the story (either through getting spoiled or for having read whatever it was adapted from, if anything). I do not understand this viewpoint. Presentation can change everything. Knowing how the story is going to turn out is different from experiencing it yourself, and the absence of a story (not that there ever actually is such an absence in the episodic anime people tend to complain about) doesn’t prevent you from enjoying every other aspect. Anime is called a storytelling medium, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing it should be/is used for. People call video games the same thing, and with how endless the story vs. gameplay debates have been with that it’s pretty obvious that storytelling isn’t set in stone as its primary function.
Just as there is more to video games than story, there’s more to any other storytelling medium than story. Books, for example, have beauty in the prose itself, or even character depth and interaction (or sometimes in formatting shenanigans like Mark Z. Danielewski often toys with). There’s also atmosphere and emotion. These two aspects are aided by absolutely every aspect of every storytelling medium. Yes, story as well… although sometimes I feel that the story becomes a distraction to enjoyment. That is essentially what happened to me with Madoka Magica.
Anyway, the point I’m supposed to be making is that the end result of something emotional, regardless of the depth at which I understood it and if there was any depth at all, is essentially the same. It’s because this is art, and art is pure expression. What type of human being can’t enjoy that? I want to know. If any of my imaginary readers require a story for enjoyment, please comment and let me know why it’s such an important aspect to you. I genuinely want to understand and if I sounded like a jerk at any time during this (except the bit about people complaining about episodic anime I mean why would you even do that) then I apologize. I’m looking forward to receiving responses about this, even if it ends up being in a few years or something. I will probably still want to know!