The Los Angeles artist uses anime to describe the setbacks he’s faced
Anime gives people the opportunity to escape and indulge themselves into stories of characters with immense power. Over a couple different shows, people find the wanting to have power and control as a theme and point of focus. For artist and comedian Michael W. Eagle II, that theme resonated with him and was an escape for him. He released his debut solo album, Unapologetic Art Rap in 2010. Afterwards, he released five other albums, including the 2017 project, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream which made it onto Rolling Stone and Pitchfork’s “50 Best Albums of 2017.” In 2019, his show, Comedy Central stand-up and musical series, The New Negroes was released. Unfortunately, following that success brought the show not being renewed and the divorce from his wife and mother of his son. Considering this time as, “the worst year of his life,” Eagle takes the time allow himself to finally be vulnerable and finding strength in his setbacks.
Anime, Trauma and Divorce opens up with “Death Parade” named after the 2015 anime. The trapsoul-esque track describes the cycle of trauma according to Eagle. In the anime itself, the souls who participate in the Death Games have a chance at reincarnation. Eagle combines the two to describe how trauma reincarnates and is carried from one life into the next. “Sweatpants Spiderman” is inspired by Peter B. Parker who is introduced in the 2018 film, Into the Spiderverse. This version of Peter Parker has recently been separated from his wife, middle-aged and depressed. Dealing with similar issues, Eagle uses that character to relate to his own life. In this track, he tackles the concept of trying to move forward with his look, his new home and emotions about his divorce.
“Bucciarati” gives an electro-pop meets soul vibe with vocals and a verse from Kari Faux. The title references the character from Part 5: Golden Wind from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure who could place zippers on any object. The lyrics here reference trying to hold together Eagle’s life. Meanwhile, “Asa’s Bop” focuses on Eagle’s struggle with sadness and self-loathing while immersing himself in anime. The only thing that brings some sense of normalcy, is the sound of his son singing which people can hear in the chorus against a synth heavy beat.
“The Black Mirror Episode” puts the blame on the Netflix show that explores how technology and innovation can ruin lives. Several episodes are centered on relationships. One being the reason Eagle and his wife, rapping, “Had a good home and we had good trust/ Saw a Black Mirror and it looked like us.” While everyone may be curious as to which episode it could be, Eagle tweeted that he is never going to tell.
Despite this being a more personal and serious album, there will always be comedy within Eagle’s music. “Wtf is Self Care” is a great example of this. It has a very simple production and a flow that feels like he’s just speaking rather than trying to rap. Here he presses the question of what self-care is by giving different examples people or even himself have tried. “I’m a Joestar (Black Power Fantasy)” is the single off of the album. Another alternative-rap production allows Eagle to rap in the verses and smoothly transition to singing in the choruses. This track again references JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. In each part of the anime, the protagonist is a descendant of the Joestar family. Despite having English roots and being a Japanese anime, Eagle believes he is one and his story can be told within the same realm as the Joestar family’s.
The album of hardship and new emotions ends with Eagle’s son, Asa (Lil A$e) on the track, “Fifteen Twenty feet Ocean Nah (Live from the Joco Cruise).” As a performer on the event created by Johnathan Coulton, him and his son create a song describing their unsuccessful attempt at snorkeling. It’s a heartfelt ending to a heavy project. Looking back at the other track with his son, he seems to become happier when he hears his son’s voice. That same emotion is brought back in the last song. Almost as if everything else doesn’t really matter as long as he can enjoy moments like this with his son.
Open Mike Eagle said, “…things in my personal life went sideways and things changed. Part of my escapism was trying to be inspired by the strength in these fictional shows and wishing I had access to the sort of powers they have, so I could feel powerful in a situation where I didn’t feel that way.” In anime, characters really are able to get out of difficult situations because they have the power to. They have the ability to control and change their fate with their power. When a lot of important things in a person’s life comes to an end at the same time, it is difficult to navigate and cope. Eagle demonstrates that in Anime, Trauma and Divorce. As someone who was once very closed off and still isn’t sure about it, he really does open up and allow listeners to hear and feel the same emotions he has felt. Almost as if creating Anime, Trauma and Divorce has become his own form of self-care.