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!
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
Main Theme B
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
Mongaul Suite – 2nd Movement (Sortie)
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
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).
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.
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.
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
“Teidanuhikyari” (Shima Uta) – Aragaenu mono
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
So many minds
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
Overture to the Summer Wars
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
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!