Seeker's Most Bittersweet Day? (feat. comments on my favourite FE music)

Hello to everyone, mainly those who knew me, but to all other readers, thanks for tuning in. I’ll try to write such that you will learn enough to make it worth your reading even if you don’t know me one bit.

I have barely booted up my app for almost a week due to getting really involved with other projects. I’ve been losing interest in the game gradually because the only mode that was more than slightly interesting to me was PoL, and even that was only 3 or 3.5/5. I felt some sense of accomplishment in collecting resources, but the deepening sense that I had nothing to use them on that felt worth it to me was a real motivation killer, especially in competition with other parts of my life I wanted to improve. One major problem with FEH is that if you don’t even log in for a few months, it’ll take quite some time to catch up. I dealt with that once when I joined the game (about 7-8 chapters into Book II) and again when I rejoined about 9 months ago having gone on hiatus since before Book IV (Sept 2019 to be specific). Ironically, the speed of powercreep is what makes the game playable for new players - otherwise you join in Book VI and even my account which was 100% f2p joining late in Book II could have collected about 7500 more orbs than you (this is with a theoretical 0% powercreep). If Book II units were as powerful as Book VI units new players would be fighting max-invested +10s without even being able to use proper seals. Anyways.

It’s not at all the case that the game has nothing more to offer me. That would be an easy decision. The new PvP mode looks like actual fun. AR hasn’t felt properly balanced to me…even before I went on hiatus, but it got especially demotivating in the last 2-3 months. When even @Maskilraid says defense is mathematically losing by a wide enough margin that your practical chances are bad (i.e. you’re not just theoretically losing; offense has so much room that defense has a hard time winning even against messy play), the mode is pretty broken. Live PvP I feel like is a mode they must get right at all costs because person-to-person interaction outweighs everything else by enough of a margin for big enough of a majority that the only way they can replace this mode is to make another live PvP mode. But the immediate problem for me is that it looks like actual fun.

Mind you, I do have a very strong intuition that I’m eventually going to feel about it like I do about AR now. It’s that I’ve changed as a person, and maybe this change was predictable. I’m in my late 20s. Psychology has learned that aggression peaks in men between about 16 and 25 (which is why men in this age range are so overrepresented in prisons). I was in that age range when I picked up FEH; that’s an important piece of why I was so dead set on galeforcing my way through almost everything that wasn’t a cavline - especially if it was an aggressive defense (especially in the “oh no it’s Ophelia” era). After about 25, the data says that aggression drops, and I do feel that in myself. I no longer feel the same desire to demolish people’s intimidating AR setups. In chess similarly I’m a lot less excited about playing like a lunatic. That reflected somewhat who I was a few years ago but a lot less who I am today. (I still play like a lunatic, but mainly because I haven’t learned a calmer and more principled approach like I should because that suits me better.) Even my interest in chess has declined a bit, but at least I sense a coherence and meaning to chess that I really don’t in FEH. I do think FEH has a logic and some coherence to it, but I don’t think it goes as deep as chess does and even if it does, we lack the ability to explore to that depth because the powercreep is too fast. The game has its ways of making up for that lack of depth via things like music and visual art, but I guess I’ve finally known myself well enough and matured enough to accept that I can’t do without a certain degree of depth. It won’t be rewarding enough for me. That’s probably why I sense that in the long run even the new PvP mode won’t clinch it for me.

On that note, I did watch the Book VI intro in Feh Channel, and I was sad about that too. Not that I probably won’t get to play it, but that they make this great cinematic with good music and we all know exactly what’s going to happen - they’re not going to be able to develop the characters or the plot enough because 13 chapters simply isn’t enough room, not with the amount of writing they pack into one chapter. It’s such a pity.

But to return to the original train of thought, my grief is that they didn’t figure this out sooner. What a difference it would have made if they got this right while I was still at a stage in my life when it was worth my time and energy. I spent a good number of hours in the discussions here over about two years - how much better it would have been if this mode had been around back then. Feathers maxed multiple times, 6000 grails, probably over 10k codes if I collect the promised incoming 3k, fodder collected for 6 months, list goes on. It’s unclear what I got for all the hours I spent collecting those. “I could be lazy and just play the modes I wanted for a little while,” some are thinking. I don’t think so, for one because I don’t believe in the depth of the PvP mode, then because if I’m going to do something I want to do it well but I can’t take most of the modes seriously enough to enjoy them, and if somehow those two aren’t enough (newsflash: they are) there’s are these next 2-3 problems.

Simple one first: life is too short for me to spend time on modes I don’t really care about. 15 seconds to play FB once a day for 2 orbs seven times? Life is too short and energy too scarce. If I’m not willing to literally lift a finger for 2 orbs I really should quit. Even from a purely pragmatic standpoint, the game is unplayable without orbs. And what do I mean by “life is too short?” It’s the degree of understanding I want to achieve of human psychology and how we exist in community (how, for example, we are able to organize into nations tens or hundreds of millions large and why we don’t just rip and tear each other apart every instant like certain groups did in the US last summer) and big questions of life like right and wrong or what truth or meaning are. Also the degree of skill I want to develop with music and probably with words, to be able to show people what I have learned in a way they can understand, especially if they genuinely want to understand, but preferably even when they want to delude themselves, to make the truth so real to them that their preference for easy ad convenient will not be enough to convince them to ignore reality. That can be done with music too, but the role I see for music is more often going to be touching people in such a way as to breathe life into them. And failing all of that, to understand truth and meaning for myself, that I may live as a human being even after the start I had to my life. That’s why I don’t have 15 seconds to spare for 2 orbs. It’s not that I don’t need play or an interruption to the serious - quite the opposite, in fact. But I feel only more moment by moment that FEH doesn’t provide what I need.

I don’t want to leave. FEH introduced me to voice acting, which is how I got into anime “for real,” not the superficial brush-ups I had with it as a child and a teenager, and some of what I learned from anime - some of it trashy anime - is downright baffling. Anime got me into Japanese language, which enabled me to understand and express myself like never before. Then I came back and some of the things I read in FB and some of the things I heard from voice actors via the character screens might proerply be called life-changing, no exaggeration. Maybe that’s a matter of how broken some of my past and my present are, but none of that changes what artists of Japanese language did for me. On top of all that, Fire Emblem has provided me music that sticks with me and which I will take with me. One of my goals as a musician (for those who don’t know, I’m literally a professional) is to take the aspects ofJapanese music which have given a voice to the part of me that Western music doesn’t understand and unite them with the grounding in profound breath and sense of logical argument that I draw from Western music, so as to produce works which speak about the deepest part of my experience - experience which I suspect a lot of people share - with the compositional mastery that gives Western classical music much of its greatness and power.

Maybe here is the best place for me to share some of the tracks which I will remember the most. Not all of them are / will ever be in FEH. And I’ll start with FEH-specific music.

Book II Map

I appreciate very much what this music says about having a showdown with death, especially with a relatively traditional melody and the sense of determination in the section before the transition back to the beginning of the track. Something about the haronies, the distorted bass guitar, and the beat in the second statement of the opening material reminds me of the final battle theme from Megaman Zero 4 Mega Man Zero Collection OST - T4-31: Falling Down (Vs. Dr. Weil - Final Battle, Phase 2) - YouTube

Next let’s go to Awakening. There are two tracts I want to highlight: Duty (Ablaze) and Destiny (Ablaze)

I have no conceptual understanding of why Duty (Ablaze) speaks so strongly to me. Just something about recognizing that in all our hardships and trials in life, we are still human; that is what we are at the heart, and there’s something soft there.

Not actually one of my all-time favourites, but I find extremely noteworthy (relative to my own experience) the sense of resolution in the first half of the track and then the added combination of sorrow, knowledge of imminent suffering, desperation in the section featuring the violins in octaves starting at 1:43.

Next let’s do Three Houses. In general I like the battle tracks, the short version of Edge of Dawn, certain of the dialogue BGM tracks, and not very much the rest. There are a few tracks I would like to highlight.

Edge of Dawn short version (this video is on the singer’s own channel)

So, I don’t like the long version. I find the accompaniment bland;; I think it says very little. The singer is good, naturally, in either version, but the accompaniment of the short version I actually like a lot. It opens with a very short bit that doesn’t follow any conventional formula; if I’m not mistaken it’s a viola (insert viola joke) with an uncommon harmonization underneath it and a hint of the beat so as to introduce that layer. The viola plays here with a distinct timbre that is actually kind of weak, and in relation to the accompaniment it is quite exposed and alone. The melody ascends in contrary motion to the bass (melody goes up, bass goes down) and the harmony goes from a simple triad to a more complex 9th chord as well as from minor to major, producing a blooming effect. The melodic ascent also expresses yearning, but this ascent is followed by a downward sigh before the singer enters. In five notes of melody with harmonic and beat support, we get the first taste of everything the song will communicate - the blooming of a flower, symbolic of Edelgard’s attempt at fullness of life, her aloneness and the vulnerability of her mortal humanness, the melancholy and even defeat in the sigh, the initiative and resolve of the beat.
Now we have the singing. If you compare the Japanese and the English vocals, I think you will find easily that the Caro expresses a lot more yearning and vulnerability. Her tone of voice is softer in all parts; her high notes sound painful in the heart, and the reason is evident from the text. I’ll point out a few major differences with the English text:

English: “Here in cherished halls / in peaceful days / I fear the edge of dawn / knowing time betrays”
Japanese: To (my) yosuga of peace I entrust (my) body, trembling [OR] I’m trembling and entrust (my) body to (my) yosuga of peace
Yosuga refers to a person or object of trust. yosuga - Jisho.org I admit, I’m not familiar with this word; I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered it in anime or seiyuu radio or any other Japanese text.
The Japanese text expresses a far greater degree of trust than the English unless I misunderstood it.

English: “Yet still I hide / behind this mask that I have become”
Japanese: “even though I hide my true face with a mask” [emphasis mine]
This is relevant because the Japanese puts this part of the stanza at the end so that it connects directly into the reprise of the chorus (music)

English: " I look to you / Like a red rose / Seeking the sun / No matter where it goes // I long to stay, / Where the light dwells / To guard against the cold / That I know so well"
Japanese: “Like a little flower that blooms even without a name, I wanted to look at the side of your face forever”
First of all, the English lyrics are prosaic, which is maybe somewhat forgiveable for being a translation. They should probably have ditched the rhyme scheme. But the Japanese is fully crushing if you understand what the Japanese can imply with past tense desire. In this case the end of the story makes it painfully explicit. Edelgard’s last words are “I wanted to walk with you” (except in the Japanese right before she finishes the last word Byleth cuts her off…literally). It is a lament for a wish she probably thought unlikely from the time she learned her teacher could wield the Sword of the Creator and finally realizes is beyond hopeless.

So out of the introduction and the singing, we get a character that really invites pity, empathy, and consolation. As for the accompaniment in the rest of the song, I found its rhythms on the original side - definitely not the predictable 3+3+2s that are all over anime music. I also found the bell-like use of the piano and the sharply rhythmic treatment of the strings with jazzy harmonies very engaging.

Fodlan Winds (both versions, but especially Rain)

No, this isn’t going to be a rehashing of the whole OST. I really think IS/Nintendo chose well the two tracks that they would reveal in advance to advertise. Like the introduction to Edge of Dawn, this track contains the seeds to everything in the story: a three-note figure that drives forward, a trumpet fanfare foreshadowing the coming war, a woodwind section without the three-note figure that reminds us of the evaporating veneer of peace and happy relations in monastery life, an almost siilent section lamenting the suffering and deaths that will soon engulf the continent, and a transition back to the beginning of the track that is not only way more musically meaningful than most of such transitions in looping tracks but captures the sense of having to choose this path for lack of knowing about a better one, regretting and accepting all the pain that lies ahead. Maybe this track really is half or even mainly from Edelgard’s perspective. In all cases, I like the entire track but especially the tutti (full ensemble plays) starting with the four-note string motive in the violins (starts 0:46). It is mighty. And I like the original metre; a few added pulses take the flatness out of the whole thing even though it’s mostly steady 3-pulse groups.

The Shackled Wolves (Rain)

“We are the rejected. Society has forgotten us; we are for ourselves, and we are here.” How many of us do not relate to such a statement at least a little? For there are aspects of all of us, different depending on the individual, that society rejects.
The track begins with, again, rhythmically vigorous violins, bottom of their range, medium loud. That’s already a lot of energy, but it builds up anyways. A trumpet theme bursts forth against the tempest beneath it and soars, undaunted, to high heights. Then more pounding strings. The piano enters, much less forcefully than the trumpet. (The composer has to pull the strings out of the way so as not to outcompete it.) It brings some poingancy and shows softness and vulnerability contrasting with the forward-charging trumpet. Now the ensemble pliinks some chords with a sparser texture. The music is more playful, a contrast to both the conquest of the trumpet and the softness of the piano melody. The trumpet returns with a direct message about its perspective on confronting the tempest that life is; he is full of initiative and ready to engage. The strings take over with an unexpected key change, suddenly raising the energy level. They sing a surging melody that seems not to end as it resonates off, “onwards!” Music for motivation to live against the pressures and storms of a tumultuous life.

Woven by Fate

Not too much to say about this one. I like that it’s slower than a lot of the tracks on this highlight reel; there’s also something about it which is highly reminiscent of the songs I hear from Hayami Saori (might be my favourite Japanese singer, voices Caeda). I like how melodic the rhythmic violin parts are; I like the unpredictability in the timing of the accompanying chords; I like the trumpet melody a lot.

Echoes OST: I like a lot of it, so a few general comments first. I found its use of orchestration to be extremely effective and also that the composer(s) sometimes pace the music extremely well so that it hits over the course of several minutes in a ccontinuous and sustained manner rather than having noticeable moments of lowered engagement. Other composers make it work even with those moments, but I like that this composer / these composers makes the music just press uninterruptedly. I also liked very much the way the composer(s) used vocals to create a front-and-conscious sense of fatefulness, a sense that the clashing of steel and magic is not merely a raging between two tribes but a struggle between cosmic forces that transcend human existence.

If I had to pick a favourite…maybe the title music, minus the music box intro? The thing is that I have medium-small complaints about probably the best tracks and I don’t want to finish with a complaint.

And I think that will do for this revisit of FE music. There’s other stuff, but the point was just to celebrate what FE has given me in the way of music with some examples.

The other part of “I don’t want to leave” is I don’t want to leave GamePress. Those who know me know it’s true. I grew quite a bit from discussing the game with you guys; I enjoyed answering questions back when I did it more; I learned quite a bit about joking around from typical GamePress shenanigans once this forum was launched; I had some pretty deep personal exchanges with some of you in private messages. I don’t know that I’ll ever find another forum where we can be as off topic as often as we do and not only does it not get in anyone’s way but everybody treats it as normal and we all move along. The sheer amount of freedom and chill that creates, man. Plus I have this feeling, a few of you I’ve gotten to know enough to feel strange about closing never having seen a face or heard a voice or exchanged typed messages. Maybe this is just the way it is and 'm just going to have to accept that it will feel weird.

I haven’t yet decided exactly what I’ll do. Anyone who wants to keep contact with me, let’s discuss.

Sad as I am to leave FEH and largely GP, when I think about what I will do with the time instead, I do get excited. Just before closing, I’d like to share an item or two from my list of anime to watch.

  • Picked up Re:Zero because it’s so popular and I want to have context for “door” the character song. Can’t say I especially like this show; I find it weird and just a little infuriating but Petelguese is sheer genius (mainly from Matsuoka but also from the artist) and it’s actually quite interesting to try to understand what the story is saying at an archetypical level.
  • Kimi no na wa (“Your Name” I believe is the English title)
  • SAO Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night mainly because Minase Inori (who just turned 26,I just found out). Also because the movie’s theme song really draws me in. We’re back in Aincrad and I thought the ending of this part was stupi and artistically wrong so I’m not expecting to like the backbone of this movie. I do expect to like less-deep levels though.

Thank you if you have read this far. I am now like a guest with his coat on in the doorway, putting on his boots. Ask what you wish of me, because soon I will be scarce if not entirely absent. No goodbyes quite yet, but soon.

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