Reminiscing over the Decade’s Anime Music – 2009

The last.

It took me the better part of the year to get all the way to 2009, but getting that chance to revisit all the music from shows that I’ve watched and those that I only know of through the music feels like a long, but rewarding journey. I’ll express more of that joy and nostalgia in an afterthoughts post consisting of what I’ve learned, new stuff to check out, etc; this one is reserved solely for 2009’s shows, the year that brought us the divisive, but popular K-ON!, an end to the enthralling Kara no Kyoukai movies, and, of course, the excitement and mystery embodied in Eden of the East. Musically, this year saw names like Masaru Yokoyama and Akihiko Matsumoto put their stamp down while video game composers I’ve enjoyed have made ventures into the realm of anime music. There’s a lot to talk about, that’s for sure.

So as usual, full clips are delivered here, Youtube ones are spoilered. I’ll be cheating a bit and linking to reviews when warranted to save time else I’ll be repeating myself a bit too much. Beyond that, just sit back, and enjoy the bevy of tunes from the recent past!

Queen’s Blade
Let’s start with a surprise. Yes, Queen’s Blade’s reputation has preceded it because of the multitude of T&A on display in every episode. It’s understandable why that might make Queen’s Blade so off-putting for many, but there’s a not insignificant number of writers who can vouch that underneath the fanservice is a solid story. And though I can’t personally vouch for the show’s content, I can vouch for its music. Masaru Yokoyama’s contributions to the soundtrack have been solid, and I’d definitely put his name on my radar since he looks like to be a very strong up-and-coming anime composer. I especially like the way the main theme for the series turned out. The first does have a strong, adventurous spirit behind it in the vein of the type of music you’d expect out of medieval fantasy epics while the second conveys the end of a long, victorious, heroic journey.

Main Theme A

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Main Theme B

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Guin Saga
And while we’re dwelling on fantasy epics, Guin Saga certainly fits the bill given its roots as a series of fantasy novels penned by Kaoru Kurimoto that served as a major influence in Kentaro Miura’s work on the popular Berserk manga. From all the reports I got, the Guin Saga anime is found wanting, and that’s not too much of a surprise since adapting a 100+ volume novel series into 26 episodes and expect some sort of finality is sheer folly even in the best circumstances. I did catch bits of it early on and that was mostly because of Nobuo Uematsu’s involvement with the score. If you’ve listened through the Final Fantasy series where Uematsu serves as the composer, Guin Saga’s music should sound familiar since his style from the FF games does carry over to the anime. “Grand Opening – The Thread of Fate” draws forth the anime’s epic scope and makes for an appropriate opener for the soundtrack. The entire “Mongaul Suite” is also worth giving a listen, but of the four tracks that comprise the suite, it’s the “2nd Movement (Sortie)” that reminds me the most of Uematsu’s FF scores somehow.

Grand Opening – The Thread of Fate

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Mongaul Suite – 2nd Movement (Sortie)

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Kemono no Souja Erin
Here, we have another fantasy anime. This one isn’t as action-oriented, but from all the screenshots and summaries that I’ve seen and read, the story looks to be compelling, filled with plenty of drama brought about by solid writing. The setting is also one of its other strengths. If you’ll recall the review I wrote of Kemono no Souja Erin’s soundtrack, one of the points I made was that composer Masayuki Sakamoto brings out the “long time ago in a fantasy world different from our own” tones through good use of traditional instruments, evidenced in tracks like “Kodai no Kamigami” and “Ashita,” with its upbeat flute melody.

Kodai no Kamigami

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Ashita

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Bounen no Xam’d
You really can’t go wrong with Michiru Ooshima since the orchestral delights that she’s been serving up continue to persist along with the addition of a vocal work from the chorus that sounds suspiciously like the one used to sing FMA’s “Brothers.” It’s a series packed with action, making it a good match with Ooshima’s musical tendencies and I really hope that I can find the time to actually watch the whole thing since I’ve heard nothing but good reports flying in (well, except for the ending).

堕夢人のテーマ~現に一添えの想い~

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Kara no Kyoukai
Kara no Kyoukai’s atmosphere is downright heavy. There’s just so much darkness enshrouding the characters and setting that it’s a big part of why the movies are so immersive. And when it comes to sculpting that dark atmosphere, I can think of very few composers who can match the outstanding work that Yuki Kajiura has done. The tracks in the first movie are the most memorable ones and I wish I could give them names other than the generic tags like “M01″ which draws forth the mystical, haunting aura of the setup through Kalafina (who perform some excellent theme songs which I’ll cover later) or “M12+13’s” discordant opening that takes us into a heavy rhythmic section before dispensing with an utterly glorious section that combines grace and power in one awesome package.

M01

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M12+M13

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Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra
While I did not watch this show, the reports from people who have been watching suggest that it gets better and it all ties together rather well, which means patience is the key to enjoying this one. And while you’re trying to make out all of the religious/mythological elements or whatever it is this show throws at you, hopefully you do pay attention to Yoshihisa Hirano’s score. Of all the anime composers that come to mind, Hirano is probably one of the few who works the most in the classical style with his channeling of Mozart in Ouran High School Host Club and Orff in Death Note. I’m not quite able to identify the composer whose influence Hirano works off of in Bantorra (though Orff might not be a bad bet), but the work he does is compelling if you enjoy the heavy dose of ominous choral pieces that he scatters in this score.

Magic

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Antagonism

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Umi Monogatari
What is a Ken Muramatsu soundtrack that doesn’t carry the relaxing tones that he’s used from his previous works? If you’re going into Umi Monogatari expecting anything new from him, there really isn’t much to speak of. His music is still soothing as he, once again, employs that combination of traditional Japanese music with the light jazz that dominates his earlier works. It’s still a good listen, though the same can’t be said for the anime series, which didn’t really have that solid of an execution because one character in particular wasn’t too sympathetic. Good for doing homework since it blends right in without being distracting, yet still holds up even if you do focus on the music.

Eikyuu no Nagisa ~a dream in beach~ (Umi Monogatari Theme) – Shinrabanshou

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“Teidanuhikyari” (Shima Uta) – Aragaenu mono

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GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class
I’ve always been partial to slice of life music with an upbeat tone to it, and I suppose that’s a major reason why GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class’s soundtrack jibes with me so well. Its music stirs you with its energy that pushes you to expand your horizons by consuming a broad swath of enriching experiences and accumulate a storehouse’s worth of insights to help you think outside the boundaries of what you thought was possible. The characters’ approach to art lessons has an irresistible amount of gusto, captured in tracks like “GA ~ art design class.” Yes, I’m aware that this soundtrack isn’t for everyone, but it meshes well with my outlook, and so, it’s one that I’ll put on whenever I need that extra bit of energy to see me through whatever it is I’m doing.

GA ~ art design class

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So many minds

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Summer Wars
The fantastic adventure that Summer Wars brings to light is captured through Akihiko Matsumoto’s score, which combines glorious orchestral pieces along with heavier synth tracks in its depiction of the virtual world. As I commented in my review of the Summer Wars soundtrack, it does tend towards experimental music in the middle, making it less appealing to me since the tracks that I enjoyed the most were the orchestral tracks. That said, “Kasou Toshi Oz” certainly has its place since it unveils the bustling virtual world bit by bit, and the alarm-y nature of the track feels like a wonder revelation. Still, nothing beats the excitement that the “Overture” summons. Listening to that, you feel like you’re about to embark upon a grand adventure of a lifetime!

Kasou Toshi Oz

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Overture to the Summer Wars

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Aoi Hana
This yuri anime offers up Takefumi Haketa and with that, a clear sign of what to expect: good melodies that have this tendency to reuse 2-3 thematic components. In Aoi Hana’s soundtrack, he doesn’t abuse this to the extent that he does with Someday’s Dreamer’s soundtrack, but it’s worth mentioning for people who are looking for greater melodic differentiation within a disc. For the rest of us who enjoy sweet orchestral and/or piano airs, this is a wonderful soundtrack to relax to.

Komorebi wo Kakeorite

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Date

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That was more than what I meant to cover and is indicative of how much my anime viewing habits along with my penchant for musical delving has come. But it’s not quite over yet! So take up that last remaining storehouse of energy and let’s rip through the OP/ED/Insert songs on page 2!

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.

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13 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Yi says:

    I liked Aoi Hana’s music, including OP/ ED a lot. It’s like a perfect fit for the light melodrama. Kara no Kyoukai’s soundtrack is just awesome. One of those I went to get right away after watching. Nice include on M12+M13, which is probably my favorite track there. ^ ^
    Kalafina’s amazing too. Sprinter’s another ED I really love from Kalafina.

    Not a bad year.

  2. Yu says:

    Canaan? Well let’s see, the soundtrack is mostly ambience (of the battle and foreboding atmosphere variety), I’ll say that now. It’s a mix of synth and … well, not synth. However, there are a good number of tracks which impressed me. In my opinion, “Alphard” represents the best of the OST. It captures the atmosphere of the series perfectly (here’s a link): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=al03hq0nF1Y

    Hirano Yoshihisa is half classical half I don’t know what. I would put him in the modernistic classical music category as his music is filled with all sorts of chaos typical of modern-age classical composers. I swear he gets more unconventional with every series he composes for. His flaw is a lack of character between his scores. They might sound good, but nothing really distinguishes them from the others to me. This could simply be because he’s sought out exactly for this style he’s so good at.

    Muramatsu might not give us much apart from his usual, but I like the usual, so his consistency can be forgiven on my part.

    And who would’ve expected Queen’s Blade to have a good soundtrack? I didn’t.

    Too many good scores! I can’t say that often. I could comment on more of what I see here, but it’s just be a long litany of praise. :P

  3. mrwan says:

    Not a bad year at all. Bounen no Xam’d and Kara no Kyoukai’s ethereal soundtrack stood out for me, sent shivers down the spine in a good way.

    Pleasantly surprised at Aya Hirano’s ‘Koiiro Sora’, she needs to do more of these ballads. To bad it seems she won’t be contributing much more to the anime industry. Kanon’s ‘This is My Road’ is surreal and just beautiful. Supercell’s ‘Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari’ is also amazing, though it seems to be, in my opinion their only hit since their later works hasn’t particularly impressed me. K-On’s insert songs are also surprisingly listenable despite their power pop leanings which I can’t seem to really appreciate when done by western artists.

  4. Baka-Raptor says:

    I was looking for those Queen’s Blade tracks. To think they were called Main Theme.

    Yuki is still the best.

  5. zzeroparticle says:

    @Yi
    I’m not the first person to say this, but as near as I can tell, there hasn’t been a bad soundtrack to a yuri show yet and Aoi Hana is a good demonstration of pulling out a soft, melodramatic score that’s light yet powerful in drawing forth the emotions when needed.

    With Kajiura at the helm, it’s not a surprise that KnK sounds good, especially when her compositions with Kalafina help to create a homogeneous aura with the score she wrote. I did find it odd that Sprinter is better than Aria though when I first got that single.

    @Yu
    Holy crap, an 8-minute track on an OST? Well, I’m listening to it right now and its tiny steps in the beginning do have that sneaky suspicious sound to it. The level of ominousness that it channels along with the heavier phrases matches up with typical Type-Moon settings all right.

    As for Hirano, yeah, that’s a pretty good characterization though I will say that Ouran sounds a lot different from Death Note (one would hope so :p) so there’s certainly a divide between his lighter fare (I guess Strawberry Panic is close to Ouran’s style?) and the intense stuff you find in Death Note and Bantorra.

    Muramatsu – you know what you’re gonna get, but the heart loves what it loves, right?

    With Queen’s Blade, I actually found out about him from really liking the music to Arakawa and being curious as to whether the composer’s done any other work. When I saw Queen’s Blade on his resume, I decided to listen to the soundtrack on a whim and enjoyed that quite a bit.

    Nothing wrong with litanies of praise (or criticism either)!

    @mrwan
    Xam’d is one of those series that I really need to get to. When I was working and my sister was watching the series, the music grabbed at my attention because it sounded like Ooshima and lo and behold, it was! KnK’s music does conjure up the movie really well and the scene where Shiki cuts through those phantoms comes alive with M13 thrown in.

    Agreed with Aya Hirano and I think a large part of it comes down to finding the composer who can mesh well with her vocals. It doesn’t hurt that “Koiiro Sora’s” piano intro is entrancing either. Agreed with Kanon’s work on Guin Saga as well as supercell’s tendency to repeat their style of music though I thought the Naruto song they did was decent-ish. It’s never gotten to the point of being quite on par with “Kimi wo Shiranai Monogatari” though. And how could anyone hate the whimsical high school girly songs from K-ON!? :p

    @Baka-Raptor
    The only time that a song titled “Main Theme” isn’t the best song from an anime series is when that song is titled “Aerobatic Funk.”

    And I do like how Kajiura’s style continues to evolve. I could start with Noir, transition to Tsubasa, then Mai-HiME, and on to later stuff like KnK and Pandora Hearts and be quite pleased with what she offers up. Moreso when you add Kalafina and Fiction Junction into the picture.

  6. chikorita157 says:

    I haven’t heard of Kalafina until Sora no Woto in early 2010… I have taken a listen of their recent album “Red Moon,” and I liked what I have heard…

    Also, enjoyed the K-ON! music from the first season…

    Compared to this year, Fall 2009 was bleh compared to the 2010 Fall Season selection… and also the treaded Super Driver song… GAHHHHHH! There were a few good ones… but yeah…

    • zzeroparticle says:

      @chikorita157
      Also check out their Seventh Heaven album if you haven’t already since that’s the one that contains the entirety of their Kara no Kyoukai offerings. I’d say that about all but maybe 3 tracks are top notch.

      Yeah, I somehow don’t recall 2009 on the whole being that stellar of a year in terms of the quality of the anime that got released, but I think the two years have been comparable if you’re talking about just the music.

      @Jo
      That’s something that’s always annoying: a piece that really grabs your attention during the course of the anime but somehow, they don’t include it on the actual soundtrack. I know that this happened with Sousei no Aquarion so it’s good to know that Canaan and Phantom includes everything. I’ve been through the sheer volume problem for soundtracks like the first Hidamari Sketch album, so I know what you mean when you note good soundtracks that just contain far too much stuff to consume all at once.

  7. Jo says:

    Thanks for the review.
    For me, I found that both the Canaan and Phantom OST were enjoyable, but because of the sheer volume, made it difficult for repeated listening. But then, on the other hand, I’m glad they included everything. I hate it when you get a CD only to find they don’t have your favourite track on it.

    =)

  8. Sirusjr says:

    Great list! I have a few that I didn’t see mentioned that are worth checking out :)

    First there is the music from Tytania. It was released in a short symphony form and also in a longer traditional anime soundtrack form. The anime itself was not for me. I tried watching it but couldnt get past the first few episodes. The OP is nice as well with an operatic piece that fits with the show’s scope.

    Second there is Sasameki Koto – another yuri anime soundtrack that I enjoy as much or more than Aoi Hana. The music is composed by Hasumi Shigeomi. The opening and ending tracks for the show are great as well in a relaxing yuri sort of way. The show itself is wonderful and one of my favorite yuri shows that dabbles in romance but never shows anything.

    Third, there are a couple of Kotaro Nakagawa scores from 2009 but primarily 07 Ghost is one of my favorites. it makes nice use of choir and splits the music across 3 discs (even if each one doesn’t have a full 75 minutes of music). The anime itself is quite strange and I couldn’t really get into it. The ED by Noria is quite nice relaxing female vocals.

    Fourth, Hitoshi Sakimoto’s two soundtracks for the Tower of Druaga animes were great stuff. They were pack-ins with the dvds initially although recently they were released together in a 2 disc soundtrack form.

    Fifth, Tamiya Terashima’s work for Sacred Blacksmith was well done and enjoyable. I tried to get into the show but it had a bit too much humor in what should have been a more serious series.

  9. zzeroparticle says:

    @Sirusjr
    Oh yes! You’re right, Tytania did have an awesome opener seeing that I really enjoy the epic, operatic flavor that it served up. I haven’t given the soundtrack a listen though I should since I did like what I heard when I watched the series. Also, you made a good choice to drop it since one of the main heroes kept fucking around throughout it all and it got boring fast.

    Also heard good things about Sasameki Koto and the description that you gave matches with what others have told me.

    Someone told me that 07 Ghost isn’t that great of a show but Kotaro Nakagawa is pretty solid, even in some of his works that don’t have quite the profile of Code Geass or Planetes. I was listening to a bit from his work on Hayate no Gotoku and liked it a lot!

    I did try to give Sakimoto’s Druaga score a try, and the snippets that I got (I didn’t sample many) had the feel of his work from Vagrant Story, except not quite as epic. Maybe it’s just the luck of the draw there and my hopes of getting another score on the scale of Romeo x Juliet is just unreasonable.

    I take it you didn’t like the Agrias/Saber clone in Blacksmith :3

  10. Reltair says:

    So many good songs for this year. The Bakemonogatari OP/EDs accounted for countless hours of my music listening. I loved how well “Falling Down” worked with Eden of the East’s OP too.

  11. So many good songs for this year. The Bakemonogatari OP/EDs accounted for countless hours of my music listening. I loved how well “Falling Down” worked with Eden of the East’s OP too.

    • zzeroparticle says:

      @Sharron
      If there’s anything that Satoru Kousaki shows through his compositions for those OP/EDs is that he’s perfectly capable of making serviceable pop music. Now only if he can apply that to some of his BGM and that would be perfect! Maybe that’ll come through with Star Driver’s OST?

      And yeah, I know very few who weren’t riveted by that delicious combo of Oasis and IG’s animation for Eden.

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