Artist: Shachi Kamaboko
2002 brings in more shows that I’m now more familiar with, though the one thing to keep in mind is that I didn’t watch these shows in 2002. It was a time where I was transitioning into a new environment and all of the excitement and anxieties that come with doing such a thing. So I ended up putting off anime for a whole year until 2003 rekindled my interest in the medium once more with a spate of shows that proved to be pretty damn awesome. Well, you weren’t really here to read my life story, so I’ll spare you the details for another day when it might actually be relevant.
Note: Youtube videos are spoilered, clips contain the entire track, and with that, let’s go! God help us all if your connection can’t get these clips fast enough or this site experiences slowdowns. Be patient!
You could probably guess that my fanaticism for Taku Iwasaki was fervently in full swing as it carried over from 2002 and even further back since he has not yet disappointed in the slightest. After all, we’re still three years away from the atrocity that was Black Cat. So needless to say, his work on Getbackers and Witch Hunter Robin, was a continuation of his great run in form.
Of the two albums, Witch Hunter Robin is by far the more consistent as it juggles between the soft, mysterious-sounding stuff and action-y tracks. The main draw of WHR was, as you might expect the action when you have Robin, Amon and the rest of the crew at STN-J rushing in and engaging in combat. Of those, “Flame” gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it as I anticipate the battle that is to come. Though there’s not whole lot in the way of development, I’m willing to give it a pass because of how much I’ve come to associate it with the fight scenes in this series. I suspect that for me, part of the attraction is the way in which each stage of the fight feels deliberate as the melody and rhythm shifts around a bit at certain points.
Of course, the other part of what made the soundtrack enjoyable is the theme of the eponymous character, “Robin.” In listening to it, you get a taste for both her earnest and gentle nature. There is a hint of mystery surrounding her, which I think this track captures well and it does make for one of the better character themes out there. Maybe it’s because of the nostalgia factor.
The OP and ED also deserve mention because “Half Pain” and “Shell” are pretty damn awesome, and though I don’t listen to rock all that much, these two tracks see quite a bit of playtime still even after all these years. OK, well, only one is actually rock. The ED is more piano plus an aura of loneliness or something with a bit of longing thrown in for good measure. I like it.
Getbackers is not as good as Witch Hunter Robin because it’s not as consistent, but it’s pretty hard not to like the damn thing. Here, Iwasaki employs a healthy dose of jazz to mix things up a bit, and the result is a soundtrack that’s really fun to listen to. The sheer amount of style it oozes out of every pore cannot be praised enough, especially in the main theme, which demands your attention right off the bat with its badass action that is all too fitting with the pulpiness that this series is just filled with. The show itself is decent up to a certain point since the writing quality does drop quite a bit, but the soundtrack, especially the first disc, is one that I’d highly recommend giving a shot.
Full Metal Panic offers a different sort of action from what Getbackers provides, and its serious tones are fitting with Toshihiko Sahashi’s compositions. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Sahashi compose a bad soundtrack, and maybe that’s because I haven’t been looking hard enough. Either way what’s always impressed me is how well he handles the orchestra bits, and his work on FMP is certainly no exception to that. His militaristic themes are always consistent; they won’t necessarily wow you per se, but they are a notch above some of the action tracks that I’ve heard. “Plan 1056” shines particularly brightly because of the urgency that you get through the drum section.
The slice of life moments are also enjoyable with its mix of easy listening tracks, which goes to show how versatile of a composer Sahashi is (and it’ll be something that’s in full display in 2003, mark my words). And if you want an awesome homage, look no further. The infectious A-Team Theme can be found here, and its inclusion earns my unconditional praise.
Ootani Kou’s name should be familiar to many a VGM fan since he was responsible for the epic tracks in Shadows of the Colossus, but the intensity of the giant battles are almost nowhere to be found on his score for Haibane Renmei. Haibane’s peaceful, soothing score delivers upon so well is the way it conveys the feeling of rusticana through tracks like “A New Plate’s Rondo” and the upbeat “Starting of the World.” The former’s harpsichord and flute work together really well to immerse you into the setting as you alight upon a world that is far simpler and more relaxed, though I imagine people looking for an energetic start to the day will strongly favor the latter since it has the rhythm and tempo to create a hustle-bustle atmosphere. If that was all there is to it, this album wouldn’t be so highly regarded. The emotional piano tracks that pop up on occasion draw out the feelings of pain and regret, delivering it poignantly so that you, too, empathize with the characters’ struggles.
A New Plate’s Rondo
Starting of the World
So yes, Haibane might not be a show that I can say anything intelligible about, but thankfully, I can describe my feelings about the soundtrack. Its blend of calm, serene fare and the sadness that it imbues is really wonderful. And lest I forget, the OP, “Free Bird,” deserves a mention for its ability to distill the setting in a nutshell.
Finally, we come to Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. Back when I watched the original OVA, I wasn’t quite able to come to grips with it, but in Quiet Country Cafe, I was slowly drawn into its fading world. The soundtrack, played by the Choro Club (and Taku Iwasaki might have a composer’s role here, I’m not sure), is beautifully serene. Yes, I’m quite the sucker for soft, pretty music like this and Choro Club has never failed to impress. As good as their work is here, I really like their work on a certain franchise a whole lot more. Look forward to it!
Cafe Alpha – Main Theme Orchestration
Yuunagi no Jidai
Hall of (My) Shame:
There’s a lot of patching up that needs to be done here, unfortunately, and I guess if there’s a year that can be called the “Lost Year” in the realm of anime music for me, it’d have to be 2002 since I’m missing quite a few gems (that people should comment about if they like this stuff!). Twelve Kingdoms is bound to get a listen one of these days once I find the time to actually watch the series. Ryo Kunihiko’s work on this anime, of the little I’ve heard, is positively epic. In listening to the opening sequence, it’s easy to get one’s breath taken away by the scope of what the series seemingly offers. And seeing how much praise it gets from people’s Decades lists, this show is a matter of “when I’ll get to it” rather than “if I’ll get to it.”
Twelve Kingdoms – Junigenmukyou (full version)
.hack//SIGN also came out that year, and its snail-like pacing undermined its interesting premise. Through this show, I was convinced that Yuki Kajiura would only stick to mediocre anime (this prediction would be proven resoundingly wrong, by the way) but the little music that I’ve heard from this series does garner a favorable impression. Rahxephon’s absence is another headscratcher since its OP, “Hemisphere,” has been so widely praised. I hear the score is pretty good too.
2002 also saw the release of Chobits, and aside from a very catchy OP, in “Let Me Be With You,” I haven’t watched it and cannot comment further beyond “what’s with Clamp adaptations and their catchy openings?”. Even more damning is the lack of Yoko Kanno’s soundtrack for Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex. This was the series that brought Origa to my attention through her excellent performance of “Inner Universe” that leaves me feeling floaty because of her ethereal voice. Given Kanno’s stellar reputation, this soundtrack definitely demands a listen, but like all that’s been afflicting me as of late, the lack of time means that it’s sitting on the backburner. Along with about 3 dozen other things vying for my attention simultaneously.
Let Me Be With You
Hmm… now that I look back upon this lengthy entry, 2002 was an impressive year music-wise, wasn’t it?