Spring 2009 – Valkyria Chronicles and Guin Saga – A look at the composers within

Just about everyone out there is gearing up for the Spring 2009 season with their previews and I figure that I should also hop on board the bandwagon but take a look at things from the musical side of the equation. While this post is only going to cover the two shows mentioned in the title, both Valkyria Chronicles’ and Guin Saga’s soundtracks are being scored by composers better-known for their video game soundtracks with Hitoshi Sakimoto composing the former and Nobuo Uematsu scoring the latter. For those who aren’t aware, Uematsu is well-known for writing the music to the Final Fantasy game franchise while Sakimoto has had some anime soundtracks under his belt in Romeo x Juliet and the Tower of Druaga though he is better known for his work on Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and Odin Sphere. That Sakimoto is credited with the soundtrack to Valkyria Chronicles is no surprise since he scored the game itself and because of this, I am definitely going to pay a bit more attention to what Uematsu will bring to the table with his compositions in Guin Saga.

Guin Saga and Uematsu

There are two main reasons I wanted to focus on Uematsu’s efforts on Guin Saga. The first should be fairly obvious because Guin Saga is Uematsu’s anime soundtrack debut (if you don’t count Blue Dragon’s music). The second reason is that I haven’t been impressed with any of his game compositions as of late. Sure, Blue Dragon contained a lot of Uematsu’s signature styles and was a decent soundtrack overall and Anata o Yurusanai had a few good jazz pieces worth exploring, but again, it wasn’t a huge standout either.

My main concern here is his ability to impress me with epic-sounding fanfares, subtle melodies that work to soothe the listener, or poignant pieces that convey the feelings of love between two characters on screen. Uematsu has demonstrated his ability to write such works, which is why the lack of masterful pieces has made this VGM fan a bit eager to see him return to form. The last piece of his in which I was truly awed by was the opening piece to Final Fantasy XI which combined the ever ominous “Memoro de la Ŝtono” together with other melodies like the “Prelude” from past Final Fantasy games. Before that, it was his works on Final Fantasy VIII like “Liberi Fatali,” “One Winged Angel” from Final Fantasy VII, and the famous “Aria de Mezzo Carattere” from Final Fantasy VI that thrilled me and demonstrated the full spectrum of his composing skills.

Final Fantasy VIII – Liberi Fatali:

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Final Fantasy VI – Aria de Mezzo Carattere:

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Needless to say, I’m hoping that Uematsu can work his magic in Guin Saga and it’ll be interesting since I think this kind of story can fit in with Uematsu’s musical style. For those who can’t be bothered to look it up, Guin Saga is a fantasy series that focuses on an amnesiac warrior whose face is concealed by a leopard’s mask. The overall tone of the series seems pretty grim based off of the artwork and I predict the series will be gritty, brutal, and violent (it’d almost have to if Kentaro Miura of Berserk fame has drawn inspiration from it). Because of this, we’ll be seeing tracks that are more in line with “Memoro de la Ŝtono” and possibly some harsh-sounding rock tracks (look up his Black Mages albums as a reference) during the combat scenes.

The Black Mages – Those Who Fight Further:

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Uematsu has shown his brilliance back in the NES (Famicom) era all the way to the mid-PSX era, but since then, he hasn’t been quite as impressive. As such, Guin Saga will be a test of sorts to determine how well he can transition over to anime music and whether he still has enough creative juices left to impress his longtime fans. Somehow, I think that even if he does fall short of expectations, the soundtrack will at least be competently written.

Valkyria Chronicles: Sakimoto’s Pretty Much Set

Hitoshi Sakimoto doesn’t have quite the same problem since he’s written the music for the Sega game of the same name and the soundtrack has been released for quite some time now. Jayson Napolitano over at Original Sound Version has already written an excellent review of Valkyria Chronicles’s OST complete with Sakimoto’s commentaries on some of the tracks themselves, so there’s really little need for me to add in my own comments regarding the game soundtrack itself beyond suggesting the people give it a whirl.

If there’s one thing that becomes apparent after listening to Sakimoto, it’s his ability to bring tracks that make an excellent backdrop for a war setting, thereby rendering it an excellent fit with Valkyria Chronicles. The whole story does focus on a resistance movement that tries to fight against an invading empire and I’m interested in seeing how good the storytelling will be. Yes, I realize anime adaptations of video games have had a terrible track record and that wishing for this series to buck that trend seems unlikely. Nevertheless, I do hold out the hope that they can pull it off since it’d be nice to have a war story that doesn’t involve mecha for once.

As for Sakimoto, I’ve been a longtime fan of his music ever since I first listened to Final Fantasy Tactics’ soundtrack because the sheer intensity and emotion present in tracks like “Apoplexy” and “Antipyretic” are just so beautiful in conveying the rhythm and pace of battle. His works have continued to impress and I’ve yet to be disappointed by any of his output because he can seamlessly transition from writing music for serious RPGs, move to space shooters (Gradius V), and even shift over to a more whimsical, lighthearted RPGs (Opoona). So by extension, Valkyria Chronicles’ soundtrack is a solid effort and I do hope that non-VGM fans use this opportunity to listen to his pieces and hopefully enjoy it enough as to use it as a springboard to explore some of his other works.

Provided that the anime series doesn’t annoy me by making me angry enough to drop the series, I’ll be following Valkyria Chronicles for the music. Probably not the best decision ever, but since I haven’t played the game, I hope that the series can act as a substitute and won’t turn out too shabby. If nothing else, I can at least use this opportunity to comment about the music whenever it turns up. In the meantime, enjoy these 5 excerpts from the video game soundtrack. Yes, I am a fanboy when it comes to epic themes such as these:

Main Theme:

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Daily Life of the 7th Platoon:

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Valkyria’s Awakening:

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Fierce Combat:

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Quiet Chat:

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Anyhow, I’m interested to know what people are expecting soundtrack-wise out of the Spring 2009 anime season. FMA is all but confirmed to have an excellent soundtrack, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on this matter, on other shows, and the concept of having video game composers writing music for anime and vice versa.

zzeroparticle

Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

0 thoughts on “Spring 2009 – Valkyria Chronicles and Guin Saga – A look at the composers within

  • March 27, 2009 at 1:34 am
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    Thanks for the nod. Excellent soundtrack from an excellent guy. Looking forward to GUIN SAGA… soundtrack was just announced for June!

    Reply
  • March 27, 2009 at 2:39 am
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    @Jayson
    Holy crap! Didn’t think I’d see you around here. This is a pleasant surprise indeed. Credit does go out to you guys at OSV for getting Sakimoto to throw in his notes which made for great reading by enhancing the review. Not often that you get a composer’s perspective on things.

    If Patrick Gann starts poking around here, my day will have been made :3

    Thanks for the heads up regarding the release date for Guin Saga’s OST. Will keep that in mind to preorder if I’m happy with what the anime delivers.

    Reply
  • March 27, 2009 at 3:08 pm
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    Oh wow, Uematsu is doing the music to Guin Saga? I might actually have to check that out then. I listen to “The Decisive Battle” on his Black Mages album all the time, it’s really enjoyable. I’ve been a big fan in general of most of the FF music, so I look forward to what he’ll come up with.

    Honestly, I haven’t seen all that many preview videos for upcoming anime, and I don’t really follow composers that closely, so I’m in the dark as for what to expect from the music in anime. I’m just hoping for some stellar OP/EDs from the shows I’m watching. Likely out of boredom I’ll throw together some post on what OP/EDs I like out of the shows I’ve watched from Spring, at some point near the beginning of the season.

    Reply
  • March 27, 2009 at 5:40 pm
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    I am not so sure about FMA, Ooshima isn’t doing the soundtrack for the new season…

    Very interesting to see Uematsu doing anime soundtrack. Even though I am never a big fan of him, his fame is so big that I can’t help but look forward to his music in Guin Saga.

    Reply
  • March 27, 2009 at 10:34 pm
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    @Nazarielle
    The Black Mages is a pretty kickass album, no doubt about that though I enjoyed the first one the most out of the three that have been released.

    But yeah, I’m not exactly one to follow the previews for new releases either and it was through a random perusal on ANN that I came across the tidbit on Uematsu. Here’s hoping for an awesome soundtrack though!

    @depthcharge101
    Ooshima might not be the composer, but Akira Senju is, and after listening to his works (Red Garden and Arete Hime, to name a few), let’s just say that I have the utmost confidence in his ability to pull of a gorgeous soundtrack. If you want a taste of his music, definitely give Red Garden a listen. I might even review the soundtrack myself once my CDs get here.

    Reply
  • March 28, 2009 at 7:05 pm
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    Giant Uematsu fan, just a pity I think the anime he’s working on looks terrible. If I check it out it will purely be because of him.

    Valkyria Chronicles was tied for my favorite game of last year (along with Persona 4), so I’m very much looking forward to the anime. I already have the game OST and love it immensely.

    As far as the anime adaption goes, I have my concerns. Some of the character model changes have me a bit upset, and from what I’ve seen of the previews, there are certainly some story deviations. Hope the main plot stays in tact though. And as far as the anime music goes, there’s really no reason they shouldn’t just use the game OST with some mild changes to match scenes (this may be what they’re doing, but I have no idea at this point.

    Oh, and one last note, the Red Garden OST is indeed great!

    Reply
  • March 29, 2009 at 1:29 am
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    @Karisu
    Well, it’s a matter of seeing what Satelite can pull off. I was pretty happy with their work on Macross Frontier and hopefully we’ll have some good animation even if the art doesn’t look quite as compelling.

    As far as Valkyria Chronicles goes, I think we’ll be hearing the game soundtrack for that since like you said, there’s little reason for them to deviate from what Sakimoto already has in place (a lot of the music from the game can be heard on the trailer). If I recall correctly, most game adaptations tend to stick closely to the game soundtrack anyways. As for the art, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much, but that’s because I haven’t played the game myself and don’t have anything to compare the anime to.

    And yes! Another person who really likes Red Garden’s OST. Probably one of the most underrated soundtracks ever!

    Reply
  • April 16, 2009 at 8:12 pm
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    I just want to say… Red Garden is amazing :)

    I am very looking forward to his work in the new FMA now.

    But this season does feel like a music season or something:
    -Kawai Kenji doing Eden of the East
    -Kuroishi Hitomi doing Shangri-la (anyone who hasn’t listened to her Last Exile ost needs to do it now :p)
    -Nanase Hikaru doing polyphonica and phantom

    And also Kajiura doing something I can’t remember. And of course Nobuo and Sakimoto in this topic ^^

    Reply

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