sugar sweet nightmare & Bakemonogatari Original Soundtrack – Review

Album Title: sugar sweet nightmare & Bakemonogatari Original Soundtrack
Anime Title: Bakemonogatari
Artist: Satoru Kousaki; Horie Yui; meg rock
Catalog Number: ANZB-9459 (packaged with DVD)
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: February 24, 2010
Purchase at: CDJapan, Play-Asia


Tracklist:

Show »

Track Title Artist Time
1. sugar sweet nightmare Yui Horie; meg rock 4:29
2. sugar sweet nightmare -Instrumental- meg rock 4:29
3. Joshou Satoru Kousaki 1:16
4. Machi Dan Chimata Setsu Satoru Kousaki 2:47
5. Kannen Satoru Kousaki 1:44
6. Sensou Satoru Kousaki 1:42
7. Jinchiku Satoru Kousaki 2:28
8. Tawagoto Satoru Kousaki 2:36
9. Haikyo Satoru Kousaki 2:16
10. Shugendou Satoru Kousaki 1:52
11. Kami Iki Satoru Kousaki 1:57
12. Ika Kaisou Satoru Kousaki 1:49

Review: After listening through Satoru Kousaki’s compositions for Bakemonogatari, I came out of the experience ambivalent. There are some noticeable tracks, but the vast majority did not have as strong an impact unless you’ve seen the anime. That doesn’t mean it’s bad music, especially for fans of minimalist music (Eric Satie’s compositions for example). The problem is that absent context, it comes down to whether one likes this kind of music and after listening to Bakemonogatari’s score, I conclude that I do not.

Before we dive into the details of the BGM, there is Yui Horie’s OP song for the Tsubasa Cat arc to mull over. Of Bakemonogatari’s OPs, this one would have been the least memorable if they had anyone else singing it, but with Horie at the helm, it’ll get some notice. To her credit, she delivers a passable performance. Like most of Bakemonogatari’s OP themes, “Sugar Sweet Nightmare” is a love song, but one that differs because of the slight edge that suggests she’s trapped in a situation that will ultimately result in the destruction of her loved one if she is forced to reach out to him to seek his aid. For those who have watched the anime, you’ll find that this song mirrors Hanekawa’s (voiced by Horie) situation perfectly. To that end, Horie does a good job of intoning her anxiety-filled feelings to the audience, sharing her innermost thoughts. While unmemorable, in light of her other recent works, “Sugar Sweet Nightmare” deserves a pass.

Sugar Sweet Nightmare »

It’s harder to decide whether Kousaki’s compositions meet that standard. Granted, a soundtrack composer’s role is to write music that fits in with the anime’s mood, and if I were to judge solely on that criterion, Kousaki would pass with flying colors. In “Machi Dan Chimata Setsu,” the piece plods along with its purposeful rhythm and you can hear Meme Oshino’s mind moving methodically through the melody, making sure not to leave any stone unturned until he nails down the cause of the supernatural problem. The contextual enjoyment can also be had in “Shugendou,” which gives off the atmosphere of a Shinto ritual through the measured drumbeats, and works to draw you in with its mystical tones.

Machi Dan Chimata Setsu

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Shugendou

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Where they don’t work too well is when you listen to it on a standalone basis. Both tracks employ a repetitive melody and because none of these pieces deviate from the pattern that they set early on, both turn bland quickly. Kousaki does work in some variety through the really repetitive tracks like “Jinchiku” and “Tawagoto” by adding instruments to the main piano or xylophone part. It packs the pieces with more substance and if I knew more about music theory, I could spend time figuring out how the instruments work well to complement the main melody. Unfortunately, my preferences are much more basic than that, and though I recognize both pieces’ musical complexity, as a more casual listener, the repetitiveness is irksome and I oftentimes find my attention wandering elsewhere when listening to it.

Jinchiku

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But my attention is brought right back through tracks like “Haikyo” and “Kami Iki,” both of which exhibit a country blues melody through the harmonica. Aside from Cowboy Bebop I’d be pretty hard-pressed to come up with other anime series that uses this type of sound, and so, its novel use is very enjoyable. I particularly like the mini-cadenza at the end of “Haikyo” which allows for the performer to show off just a bit with his harmonica skill to engage the listener further. “Kami Iki” is the more mournful of the two and it works along with the bells to intertwine a sense of mystery and tragedy into the piece. What these two tracks demonstrate is Kousaki’s ability to go off in different genres and execute them well and had this soundtrack contained more of these tracks, I would have enjoyed it much more.

Haikyo

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Kami Iki

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In the end, it all boils down to an issue of taste and how much you like listening to repetitive, minimalist tracks. It doesn’t change the fact that Kousaki is a competent composer. It’s just that in Bakemonogatari, his focus on working the music within the scenes doesn’t make the score a memorable one unless you’re using it as a means to remember the show’s wonderful moments. If that’s precisely what you’re looking for from your soundtracks, you may enjoy it. It might not glue you to your seat, but at least it won’t staple you there either.

Rating: Decent

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.

21 thoughts on “sugar sweet nightmare & Bakemonogatari Original Soundtrack – Review

  • April 16, 2010 at 8:59 pm
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    I wasn’t enthused by this OST either. Pretty bland by itself, but it was pretty good accompaniment music. Given the tone of these minimalist pieces, it’s nice to see Kousaki-sensei is a diverse composer. He still keeps to his small ensemble arrangements, and this one’s very unique vis-a-vis Kannagi and Lucky Star, though neither were much to brag about when you take into consideration OST from other s’life, e.g., Hidasketch. I think he’s also doing Working this season?

    Reply
  • April 16, 2010 at 9:01 pm
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    Oh and, where is the piece that’s played during ep. 11, around 1:30? I really like that song, but (1) I don’t even know if Kousaki composed it and (2) it’s clearly not on this OST cd. Maybe the OST is a 2 disc’er?

    Reply
  • April 16, 2010 at 9:39 pm
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    I’ve only heard a little bit of Kousaki’s work in Kannagi, SnH, and Bakemonogatari. When I compare the 3 OSTs I see that while the various style and genres are quite different from each other, they all contain largely minimalist works that start with a loop and build on it as the clip goes on; little vignettes of themes. It makes his music fairly distinctive.

    Man everyone has been talkin bout Hidasketch lately I’m beginning to feel left out.

    It will probably be a 2 disc’er with the 2nd coming with the release of the final DVD. Hell Kannagi was a 2 disc’er. 58 freaking songs in a 12 ep anime. I don’t remember nearly that much music.

    Reply
  • April 16, 2010 at 10:16 pm
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    I have often thought of anime OSTs as coming in those two different flavours: those that sound best on their own, and those that sound better in the context of the show. It’s actually pretty rare to find a show that balances the two perfectly; quite often, a show with music that’s too extravagant will almost distract me from the show’s content because I’ll get so wrapped up in the music. But I would tend to agree that Bakemonogatari is more of an example of the opposite: the music fit the anime rather perfectly, but it just sounds sort of empty on its own. And actually, with a few exceptions (like the Disappearance movie — having a big budget helps!), I found that this is pretty common for this composer, and that’s probably why almost all of his compositions are released as bonus disc content rather than standalone CD releases. They were never necessarily designed to stand alone, but that isn’t necessarily a flaw either.

    And by the way, yes, the solicitation for last LE BD/DVD coming in June confirms that it’ll include the second half of the OST.

    Reply
  • April 17, 2010 at 4:46 am
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    All I can say is that I’ve been listening to these pieces of the score repeatedly. I’m constantly drawn to the music while I’m working or just need something to fill as background.

    I love these tracks. I also love Bakemonogatari. I can’t tell you if those two are perfectly intertwined or if I’d enjoy the music without having seen the show. Probably not as much, certainly, but still, I find it difficult to form a separate opinion of the music and anime at this point.

    The atmosphere of these tracks, whether it be purely from their composition or from my mind tying them together to the scenes they can be attributed to, still do something profound to me.

    I’m not normally a giant Satoru Kousaki fan, but this is without a doubt my favorite work of his.

    I look forward to (hopefully) seeing the rest of the soundtrack released when the final episode comes out.

    Reply
  • April 17, 2010 at 9:39 am
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    @lelangir
    Yup, this is pretty much my love/not-quite-hate relationship with Kousaki. I do hope that once I watch the Haruhi movie and listen to its soundtrack, we can see a different side to his music since he has more at his disposal. Until then, it’s the “good at accompaniment but not standalone” stance for me regarding Kousaki.

    @Taka
    Didn’t he also include a few CM tracks in Kannagi? I do have to give that soundtrack a listen though. Still, yeah, it’s got an interesting style… if you like it, but since Satie’s work is a bit out there for me, I’m not surprised that Kousaki doesn’t jibe with me too well either.

    @relentlessflame
    This isn’t the first time that the tendency for Kousaki’s works to be released as bonus-disc soundtracks though I do hope that with Eminence Symphony at the helm for Disappearance, that we’ll get something awesome. Your comments do give me hope for that one.

    Oddly enough, I can’t think of a soundtrack that’s too extravagant and distracts from the show itself. Maybe this is just me that I can maintain a sort of separation, but I would like to know what soundtracks are an example of the kind to overwhelm the show in your case.

    @Karisu
    It does work for background/working (but not Working!! heh) music though since I don’t have to think about it all too hard. It does become interesting when you listen to soundtracks for shows that you’ve never seen though….

    And yeah, I think we’re all looking for the final episode. Maybe for different reasons perhaps, but looking forward to it nonetheless. :3

    Reply
  • April 17, 2010 at 9:14 pm
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    Wasnt expecting this kind of music for this one,
    Its alright, but not as powerful as Renai Circulation or Sapple.
    I would place this 3 behind them. well Ambeviant world or however you spell is also quite weak compared to them.

    Anyway Still good nevertheless.

    Reply
  • April 18, 2010 at 8:38 am
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    Wasn’t Bakemonogatari lauded for its dialogue? Here, I feel like the soundtrack with all of its simple repeating tunes is just a nice complement to the main focus.

    Being distracted by the music isn’t always the fault of the music itself. It also depends on how and where the music is used.

    I usually listen to an anime’s soundtrack before watching it. Music is a very accurate gauge on what the show will be about.

    Reply
  • April 19, 2010 at 9:07 pm
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    @Fabrice
    I’m not exactly too fond of this either (as you can probably tell) so it goes into the space where “Ambivalent World” would be at. “Renai Circulation” and “Staple Stable” are definitely above it and it’s probably close to Mayoi Snail’s song in terms of quality.

    @Yu
    Correct. Most people really love the witty exchanges that goes on between its characters and the music definitely works well with what’s going on and probably should not be part of the focus at all. Still, it’d have been nice to be a good standalone listen.

    Also, the last point is surprisingly true. I can think of quite a few soundtracks that gave a good indicator of a show’s atmosphere.

    Reply
  • April 20, 2010 at 1:09 am
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    Agreed that it’s repetitive. To me, it seems that the soundtrack wants to be heard only with the series. The repetitiveness and subtlety perhaps suggests that the tracks pay careful attention not to overpower what’s going on in the anime, while at the same time set the mood.

    I thought the first three were decent. Of course, I haven’t listened to the full three minutes (or whatever length they are). I’m sure it could get much blander later though. The last two were really just not my thing at all.

    Reply
  • April 20, 2010 at 4:36 pm
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    Actually this OP song bit boring.

    I’m still waiting bgm Staple Stable piano version that played at episode 12. Any information about this?

    Reply
  • April 20, 2010 at 9:16 pm
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    I’ll be honest, I felt that this soundtrack wasn’t that good. Honestly, it kind of made the whole series boring for me. As you said, they were very minimalistic. I like a lot of the sounds that were used in the songs, but overall, they were all missing something.

    Reply
  • April 21, 2010 at 11:18 pm
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    This soundtrack is definitely for people that have seen the series before. If I didn’t have a mental image of a corresponding scene for one of these songs, it would be pretty bland.

    Reply
  • April 22, 2010 at 10:21 pm
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    @Yi
    Aww, guess you’re not the kind to go for that combination of bluegrass/jazz? At least, that’s the best way I can describe that kind of music anyhow. The reason it manages to resonate with me is because it’s a fairly unique sound, one you don’t really hear a lot of in the realm of anime music. Plus, I do have that soft spot for folk music :p

    @Psycho
    No clue about the piano version of staple stable. If I had to venture a guess, it might show up in OST 2. Let’s hope that last DVD surfaces soon!

    @Glo
    Agreed. The oomph just isn’t there and you can pretty much tell his goal was to use the music as a complement rather than have it stand on its own. Strangely enough, some directors really like this approach to music, and if I had to guess, it would be because of it not clashing with their works.

    @Reltair
    Yup, this one would be a strong case of context bias.

    Reply
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  • November 24, 2010 at 7:32 am
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    My take on this soundtrack is also kind of conflicting. On one hand, it stands out form other soundtracks by being unconventional. Haikyo is doubtlessly among the most memorable (and amusing) tracks I’ve ever heard on any soundtrack for that matter. But the repetition almost killed me when I was listening.

    I guess for listening just once through, this soundtrack is fine. But it’ll be impossible for me to sit through the whole thing again.

    Reply
  • November 25, 2010 at 1:35 am
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    @Jen
    Yes! That’s one area in which Satoru Kousaki really shines. I think I’d really like him a lot more as a composer if he did less experimentally/minimalist works because the talent is definitely there and I think he’s capable of really blowing me away with his music. He hasn’t done that yet though, so I’m going to be patient… if only he did more stuff like “Haikyo,” which is something you don’t hear too often in anime music…

    And yeah, I haven’t touched this soundtrack since I reviewed it. Guess it reveals how interested I am… namely, not very.

    Reply
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