Gundam Unicorn Original Sound Track – Review

Album Title: Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn Original Soundtrack
Anime Title: Gundam Unicorn
Artist: Hiroyuki Sawano; Cyua; Yumiko Inoue; Yuko Kawai
Catalog Number: SMCL-20004
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: March 10, 2010
Purchase at: CDJapan, Play-Asia


Tracklist:

Show »

Track Title Artist Time
1. U C 0096 Hiroyuki Sawano 2:52
2. UNICORN Hiroyuki Sawano 4:47
3. THE UNIVERS Hiroyuki Sawano 4:55
4. MINEVA Hiroyuki Sawano 2:07
5. MOBILE SUIT Hiroyuki Sawano 2:44
6. LAPLACE Hiroyuki Sawano 2:41
7. MARIDA Hiroyuki Sawano 3:37
8. A LETTER Hiroyuki Sawano 4:06
9. INFERNAL AFFAIRS Hiroyuki Sawano 2:00
10. E F S F Hiroyuki Sawano 2:23
11. PIANO TO ANNA Hiroyuki Sawano 2:43
12. ON YOUR MARK Hiroyuki Sawano 4:12
13. FULL-FRONTAL Hiroyuki Sawano 3:09
14. BRING ON A WAR Hiroyuki Sawano 2:24
15. INEQUALITY-A CLOUD OF WAR Hiroyuki Sawano 4:16
16. OTTO~FOR A CHANGE Hiroyuki Sawano 5:37
17. LIFE & DEATH Hiroyuki Sawano 2:26
18. THE DISTANT PAST Hiroyuki Sawano 2:54
19. GO ON A FORAY Hiroyuki Sawano 2:50
20. FEAR → SORROW Hiroyuki Sawano 2:24
21. H@R0 Hiroyuki Sawano 2:16
22. RX-0 Hiroyuki Sawano 2:54
23. LICHT MEER Hiroyuki Sawano 3:31
24. ZERO GRAVITY Hiroyuki Sawano 3:35

Review: It starts softly and calmly. All of the tracks do. But once the main theme hits, its impact cannot be denied. The crescendo into that brilliant, shining moment draws your breath away as the music conjures up images of the Gundam franchise’s illustrious history from its epic battles to its memorable cast of heroes and villains. And through Gundam Unicorn, this chapter unfolds beautifully, complete with a stirring soundtrack that touches not only upon the victories and the heroism, but also the tragedies. The magnitude of the conflict can certainly be felt through tracks such as “UNICORN,” that can only be described as glorious, but its magnificence is evenly matched by sorrowful fare like “PIANO TO ANNA” which illuminates the ultimate sacrifices that must be made during wartime.

UNICORN

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Gundam Unicorn represents a big step for Hiroyuki Sawano. Before he had been commissioned to work on this soundtrack, his works have not received much notice. The stirring Gigantic Formula soundtrack is woefully underrated and Sengoku Basara, while dazzling viewers with its anachronisms and displays of machismo, did not bring him much recognition either. But here, he makes a huge stamp by working on a well-known franchise and delivering a soundtrack that is marvelous. The extent to which his music depicts the war demonstrates Sawano’s ability to ply his trade competently alongside Gundam composers of years past such as Yoko Kanno, Akira Senju, Toshihiko Sahashi, and Kouhei Tanaka.

It goes without saying that much of this soundtrack’s highlights will be focused on the intense battles which are majestic in a way so as to leave the audience in awe. “UNICORN” is, of course, going to be on that list with the way it crescendos into the chorus part to reflect Banagher’s moment of awesomeness, but one shouldn’t forget other tracks like “MOBILE SUIT” which takes us from the call for a sortie all the way into the battle. The way it moves back and forth between the bombastic sections while employing the electronica melody on top of that immerses the listener into the rhythm and flow of combat.

MOBILE SUIT

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But war isn’t all fun and games and in the face of such momentous conflicts, the tragedies, depicted through tracks like “PIANO TO ANNA,” are handled exquisitely. The somber mood of the piece brings Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” to mind through the repetitive piano melody which paints a grim picture of the pain the characters feel upon seeing the death of a loved one before their very eyes. This heavy mood is also felt keenly in the second half of “FEAR → SORROW.” Though the piece initially starts out with a large amount of tension crafted through the dissonant string section, it gives way to a very moving violin section that captures the depths of the tragedies suffered by combatants and civilians. In listening to it, the sense of desolation lies all about, as the conflict inflicts both physical and emotional scars upon all those within its grasp.

PIANO TO ANNA

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FEAR → SORROW

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The two songs on the soundtrack, “A LETTER” and “LICHT MEER,” are both beautifully executed, with the former starting off with a hefty dose of melancholy as the singer recollects upon days long past. But as the song moves on, the hope grows, and you can feel Cyua looking forward and discarding the vestiges of the past so that she can move on with life. The way the piece adds on more instruments towards the end gives us the feeling that her will has triumphed. As for “LICHT MEER,” the chorus comes across as a giving a benediction to those who gave their lives in defense of their country. The mournful atmosphere is really apparent around 1:09 when the lyrics emphatically carry with it the sense of grief and loss for the fallen. It’s expressed really well, and Sawano conveys the sense of suffering well.

A LETTER

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LICHT MEER

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Given the praise I’ve heaped upon Sawano’s compositions for Gundam Unicorn’s soundtrack, it’s fairly evident that this is one phenomenal album, especially if you’re looking for epic orchestral music. The only issue that I can complain mildly about is that some of the pieces don’t strike the emotional chords hard enough, which is why Kanno’s score for Turn A Gundam will remain my favorite. And if the only composer Sawano really loses out to is Yoko Kanno and maybe Akira Senju, then what Sawano’s managed to deliver can only be labeled a smashing success.

Rating: Excellent

About the author

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.

28 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. mei says:

    truth be told, i was a little disappointed, i thought i was listening to Gigantic Formula half the time

  2. Yi says:

    PIANO TO ANNA is my favorite from this selection. I really enjoy piano music, and the slow moody track is lovely.

  3. @Mei
    I remember hearing those crescendos and thinking, “wow, there’s sure a lot of Gigantic Formula in here.” In this instance, this lack of variety from one soundtrack to the next doesn’t bother me as much, but I do agree that if you’re looking for something different from Sawano, this album isn’t the place to find it.

    @Yi
    That’ll probably be the top track on this album for you then unless you also like grandiosity (which, if you can’t tell, is what I was looking for from this OST). I’m guessing your preference for moody piano stuff means you enjoy your share of Rachmaninoff and/or Chopin?

  4. Reltair says:

    It helps to have worked on a Gundam project because Sawano’s past projects definitely don’t seem as well-known. I watch tons of anime, but skipped picking up Gigantic Formula.

    UNICORN and MOBILE SUIT are my favorites since I love epic battle music, although LICHT MEER with its mystic chorus is a close second.

  5. @Reltair
    Sengoku Basara was pretty well-known, at least, amongst the anime bloggosphere. It’s got to be the motorcycle handlebars on one of the horses that does the trick :p But yeah, do check this one out if you haven’t already.

  6. Yi says:

    I do like Chopin quite a bit. As for Rachmainoff, I’m going to be honest… I have no idea who he is. After a few youtube clips though, he’s pretty good too.

  7. Yu says:

    Rachmaninoff is like a less-prolific Chopin, but he still maintains his own style.

    Listening to “A Letter”…Oh the Engrish. People should be more satisfied with their own languages instead of thinking that trying to sing in English added anything more to the piece. I compare Engrish with the incapability of most Americans to speak Mandarin (and every other Asian language besides..) with a tolerable accent.

    I don’t particularly like Sawano’s use of the trumpet. I can’t exactly pinpoint why. Perhaps it’s just my general dislike of brass that sounds too brassy. Does that make sense?

  8. @Yi
    The acid test that I use to see whether people like Rach is to tell them to listen to his 2nd Piano Concerto. If that doesn’t hook people in, he’s probably not your kind of thing. Glad to see that you like what you’ve heard though =D

    @Yu
    Guess you’d be raging then if you had to listen to the Mandarin in Senko no Night Raid, assuming that you’re even picking that series up. But yeah, this tendency to try and express sentiments in a language outside one’s native tongue can be annoying. Wonder how German speakers feel about LICHT MEER.

    As for the brass thingy, I can see that. Overly bombastic brass sections can be just a bit grating at times.

    Also, when I notice something off during an orchestral performance, it’s usually the brass section that’s at fault. Wonder if there’s anything significant or if I just have an odd set of data points.

    Anyways, Sawano’s brass doesn’t bother me too much here, so I guess this is more reflective of how I like my brass to sound :P

  9. Jen says:

    My opinion of Sawano Hiroyuki isn’t actually very high, cause well, even the single track I heard from Gigantic Formula has a theme which is very similar to Zombie Loan. I could pick out bars where he just re-used notes and tempo wholesale, which I feel, reflects very badly on the composer.

    I did try to listen to Gundam UC, but got bored after the first 2 tracks. Though I kinda admit, I didn’t give it a fair chance to shine since I had the mentality I won’t like it. I’ll probably give this soundtrack another go when I’m free =)

  10. @Jen
    Haha, well, I’m not about to say that Sawano’s the most diverse composer out there because clearly, he loves certain themes quite a bit and reuses them over and over. I do like the effort he’s put here though.

    And yeah, one caveat is that it’s a lot better when you’ve seen the anime. I think having the context helps a lot in this instance.

  11. Char Aznable says:

    @Jen: I don’t know about you but I listened to this OST for about a month straight.

  12. jukebone says:

    @zzeroparticle:
    I’m German – and if I didn’t know LICHT MEER was sung in German, I wouldn’t have noticed while casually listening. It’s practically impossible to understand any of the lyrics (which are gramatically quite ok compared to the usual Japanese German and do make sense). It’s probably more because of the way its sung than because of it being German, though. I went to a performance of Brahm’s “Ein deutsches Requiem” once and also wasn’t able to understand what was sung without glancing at the text despite it having been written by a German and it being sung by a German choir – it’s like that for most corale pieces. So at least for me, the passable German in LICHT MEER is way easier to digest than recognizably bad Engrish.

  13. @jukebone
    Heh, is German that hard to understand when it’s sung or does that depend entirely on the style?

    But yes, as long as the singers don’t butcher the non-Japanese lyrics when they sing, that’s good enough for me. English is about all I understand, so when I hear grammatically incorrect construction or pronunciation that’s just outright bad, that’s when serious songs start deteriorating since that sort of thing gets on my nerves.

  14. jukebone says:

    @zzeroparticle:
    No, not at all – for a native speaker, at least (that’s the only POV I can offer). It is, as possibly with most languages, completely dependant upon how you sing and how complex the singing (e.g. in a choir) is. Take some random German singing like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyqzJTNcygE for example and compare it to LICHT MEER. Or take a listen to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSEqQsAXbJw at 15:10 and 25:39… it’s the same text, but too multi-layered to be completely understandable. Another example would be http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LE6SbJotU9Q which I already mentioned.

  15. @jukebone
    That makes more sense now. Yeah, when you have that sort of layering, it’s going to be hard to pick out the words.

  16. Sirusjr says:

    I have to chime in to completely disagree with this review. When I listened to this soundtrack the major thing that stood out to me was that this composer is wasting his chance to record with an orchestra by using synthesizers and percussion that overpower the orchestra. Even then, I didn’t find anything particularly remarkable about the orchestral work behind it all. All you need to do is compare this album to earlier gundam work by more prominent composers and you will see just how sad this soundtrack is for anyone who likes epic orchestral.

    P.S. electronica and drum beats do not an epic soundtrack make.

  17. @Sirusjr
    Are there any pieces in particular where this is flagrant? I do know that while Sawano uses the electronica/drum beats to establish that layer to use as a backdrop for the orchestrals, they don’t sound messy or eclipse the orchestral parts. That is, it’s there, but I disagree that it’s overused since it meshes well with the orchestra.

    As for it not being remarkable, well, chalk it up to my preferences for the sweeping feel that it delivers. I’m a sucker for that kind of sound.

    Nevertheless, thanks for bringing this to my attention. It’s something he’s done in the past (and I’ve never thought it to be too bothersome) and that pretty much means Sawano won’t be your thing.

  18. Sirusjr says:

    Track 1 to me uses far too much percussion and synthesizer. I didn’t mean to suggest that you can’t hear the orchestra at all, only that the I think the beats should have been mixed lower in the mix to properly let the orchestra shine. Now that I listened to it again, I realized that there is significant clipping in the way the album was mixed and confirmed this in Adobe Audition. Part of it just comes down to my difficulty with enjoying gain applied for the purpose of gain.

    Track 2, when it reaches the louder parts (again clipped), sounds like the composer mixed far too many things at once. You hear orchestra, choir, and loud percussion all at once and no one thing is really given the chance to shine. The clipping is most noticeable because there are sections in track 2 where the music gets quieter and the peaks are not cut off.

    Contrast the above two tracks with the peaceful, quieter music of track 3 and it is clear that the composer could have taken a much different approach. As far as my other major criticism, it comes down to much of the music not really touching me. I won’t bother to go through the rest of the album because I’ll just do more complaining about clipping and overly crowded music. I think if Sawano had great melodies for the epic parts, he could have let them shine more by leaving the orchestra alone and could have had just as epic an effect if not more so.

  19. @Sirusjr
    Well, if nothing else, this’ll get me to look at the notes I wrote up in the process of writing the review. Italicized are what I had originally wrote/annotated while listening to the music and I’ll add some commentary after that.

    Track 1: Starts soft and channels itself to a slow crescendo into a burst of light at 0:44 and then goes into an intense strings segment that then sidles off as though to create a bit of a lull in the ensuing conflict. The fanfare around 1:20 has an air of excitement and the feeling of intensity still shines through. Piece crescendos up and down quite a bit as the buildup continues until it fires forth in a blaze of glory at the end.

    Yeah, there are parts that are unnecessarily loud which could be argued as him trying too hard to bring out the epicness which might not be needed. That is, less is more sometimes.

    Track 2: The piece starts off with the lower brass section with a percussion accompaniment and the strings enter to create that layer of intensity in anticipation of the glorious choral part. The music futzes around many avenues before really delivering that awesome crescendo that ushers in that moment of awesome. The feeling of epicness percolates throughout the entire track and the energy and awesomeness that it brings to bear makes this an exciting listen.

    Certainly a different take to it versus your impressions. I like the whole of what is offered here but also agree that the individual parts don’t really get to shine since the loudness of it all eclipses the individual sections and if you’re looking for the latter, you won’t get that here.

    Track 3. This one starts a bit more softly as though to convey a sense of solitude out in the vast reaches of space. The piano makes it poignantly allowing you to be able to reflect on the situations that are to come. Once the violins come down, it’s a very smooth melody that makes you want to feel calm and relaxed. Not as bombastic as some of the other pieces and there’s a sense of quietude that might even be a bit of unnerving. The violin swing at 1:45 feels like you’re looking upon a majestic sight. Once the piece comes to life around 2:50, it’s really beautiful as you’re gazing on a magnificent spectacle and this piece curries the energy really well through an engaging motive.

    Less is more and there’s a lot of poignancy to this track that I really like. Guess it hits on your point that Sawano tries too hard to be bombastic and that tracks like “The Univers” demonstrate that he can convey whatever aura he’s trying to achieve (sadness, epicness, what have you) and deliver if he doesn’t become too zealous with making things loud.

    Good stuff, thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  20. Kaioshin Sama says:

    Unsurprisingly this has been getting a LOT of play from me. Lately it’s been either Led Zeppelin or the Gundam Unicorn OST…..

  21. @Kaioshin Sama
    Ever planning to give any of his other stuff a whirl assuming you haven’t done so already? :p

  22. Jerry K says:

    This has been one of my fav soundtracks. It’s my fav Gundam OST, that’s for sure (right above Char’s Counterattack).

    I thought the mixture of electronica (new) and orchestra (old) was great, and really fit perfectly with the Gundam universe (samurai + WW2 history + future technology).

  23. lelangir says:

    I really digged this. I have to get into more Gundam OSTs. I wasn’t that big into those from 00, the G Gundam is of course a classic, but the Kanno ones I’m not savvy with.

  24. @Jerry K
    Glad you loved it! The music does blend in rather nicely with the anime and though I didn’t think of the parallel you mentioned, it certainly fits Gundam’s idiom rather nicely.

    @lelangir
    Kenji Kawai is overrated in my opinion and he’s prone to repeating himself and writing melodies that aren’t really all too attention-grabbing when you view it without the context. At least, his score for Eden of the East and Fate/Stay Night didn’t work for me when I listened to it outside the anime.

    Maybe scrounge around for Kouhei Tanaka or Akira Senju’s V Gundam score? Those have been recommended to me at some point even if I haven’t listened to them.

  25. Sera says:

    Does anyone know where you can find a piano score for “Piano to Anna”???
    Many Thanks

  26. Sera says:

    oh and i think that Track 17 “Life and Death” is one of the best tracks..

    starting suspensefully.. then changing to a strong and heroic feel with the staccatos and then when you think its going to be a strong war song at the climax, it changes into a sad, crying emotional song with the choir singing high notes.. makes you feel the sadness and hopelessness in a victim of war position. absolutely love it. especially when they used this track when the war broke into the colony and people dying…

  27. @Sera
    It sure does have that cinematic feeling, doesn’t it? I really do like how the piece just continues to build up until it reaches that sad part you mention but there’s a bit of majesty to be had as well. And the way it goes out with a whisper does bring with it a sense of loss that’s conveyed through the anime.

    As for the piano score, you might want to try asking Lelangir (who has a link to his site in his comment). He might be able to transcribe it to sheet music. Hope that helps!

  28. Ryusuke says:

    Wow i Like Track 2 Unicorn
    This is nice sound Track.

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