Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan ~Tsuiokuhen~ Original Soundtrack – Review

Album Title: Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan ~Tsuiokuhen~
Original Soundtrack
Anime Title: Rurouni Kenshin: ~Tsuiokuhen~
Artist: Taku Iwasaki
Catalog Number: SVWC-1006
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: March 20, 1999
Purchase at: CDJapan


Tracklist

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Track Title Artist Time
1. In Memories “A Boy Meets a Man” Taku Iwasaki 6:18
2. One of These Nights Taku Iwasaki 2:16
3. Alone Again Taku Iwasaki 3:14
4. Blood Taku Iwasaki 1:18
5. Day After Day Taku Iwasaki 1:17
6. In the Rain Taku Iwasaki 2:31
7. Quiet Life -pf solo version- Taku Iwasaki 2:47
8. The Will -pf solo version- Taku Iwasaki 2:13
9. The Wars of the Last Wolves Taku Iwasaki 6:10
10. The Will Taku Iwasaki 2:11
11. Testament Taku Iwasaki 1:20
12. Talk to the Moon Taku Iwasaki 2:48
13. Sound of Snow Falling Taku Iwasaki 5:10
14. Shades of Revolution Taku Iwasaki 7:04
15. In Memories “KO-TO-WA-RI” Taku Iwasaki 5:58
16. Quiet Life Taku Iwasaki 2:49

Review: The first few scenes from Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen are unforgettable; barely two minutes have transpired and already, the audience has witnessed a horrific massacre that is as senseless as it is brutal. As this carnage unfolds, the music conveys the totality of the sadness and despair that runs through this scene. I’m especially overcome by the lonely-sounding flute solo that amplifies the suffering and anguish the protagonist feels as he sees loved ones cut down before him. The vividness of this scene is impactful, partly because of the strength of its visuals, but also because of Taku Iwasaki’s music which succeeds beautifully at depicting the scope of the eponymous protagonist’s storied past.

In Memories “A Boy Meets the Man”

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An experience of this magnitude is life-changing and the protagonist’s chance encounter with the swordsman Hiko Seijiro propels him towards his destiny as the chaos of the Bakumatsu period begins to churn violently. The music keeps our mind within this era of disorder, as “In Memories ‘A Boy Meets the Man'” paints an image of the long, lonely road our determined hero, travels down, dogged by the specters of death and suffering. These last two elements surface in “One of These Nights” which shows Iwasaki’s masterful management of the atmosphere through the buildup. The mournful sound heard in “In Memories” transitions into a discordant air that allows tension to accumulate as it waits for the action to hit its stride. Once there, the full tilt of the attack is on display and the music flows with the intensity of a crashing wave. The rhythms bring out the urgency and the chords have the sharp cut of a sword blow. It ends quickly, brutally. In the aftermath, the mournful theme returns, emphasizing the tragedy and destruction left in his wake.

One of These Nights

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The thrill of the action and the emotional pain and anguish dominate this album; “Quiet Life” offers a much-needed breather. The melody in both the piano and the orchestral version is relaxed as it cordons us from the discord that has gripped the rest of the world. Its calming aura, more subdued when played by the solo piano, carries contentment, even happiness and the lulling melody lowered my guard for a brief moment. It’s provides a welcome respite, for we know that the story is not yet over; there’s still conflict afoot as the ominous storm continues to brew, one that will reach in and call upon Kenshin to kill once more.

Quiet Life -pf solo version-

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So it begins in “The Wars of the Last Wolves” with its grim introduction marked by a string melody dripping with dread and purpose. The percussion section’s militaristic rhythm works in tandem with the orchestra to heighten the anticipation through a buildup that leads one to expect the action to manifest with full fury. Its intensity does not disappoint. The string section’s steady repetition carries a great sense of urgency and the rhythm conjures images of troop assemblage, mobilization, and action which springs forth effortlessly to match the conflict’s escalation. The brass part adds a pinch of glory, but the victory it connotes is short-lived as the realities of war set in. At this point, a soft trumpet takes over, bearing a forlorn, mournful melody that illustrates war’s aftermath as many of the bold and brave lie fallen. The music is sobering and poignant, and the way it depicts the conflict from start to finish yields a thrilling, pathos-filled track that makes it the best track on this album.

The Wars of the Last Wolves

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As the “Last Wolves” sounds its last note, a feeling of unease sets in. The next few tracks are a varied bunch. Some wander around restlessly while others are softer and more introspective. Of those, I’m fond of “Sound of Snow Falling,” which carries a quiet, still vibe that meshes well with the pizzicato, bringing to mind the dripping sound of the snow melting partway, refreezing, and forming glistening icicles. When the mournful flute theme plays, its solemness foreshadows one last tragedy before the journey’s end. And yet, its shift towards a more optimistic tone suggests that there’s some redemption to be had and Kenshin’s sins may yet be expunged, leaving him pure once more.

Sound of Snow Falling

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But the calls of battle sound and “Shades of Revolution” carries us through the final leg of this long, perilous journey hinted through the synth’s ominous sounds and discordance that grows uneasier by the second. The howls and screeches scattered throughout amplify this further until finally, the action theme materializes. It retains its intensity, though the chords strike harder than before, emphasizing the final strikes that bring an end to the conflict. But the best part comes after the solitary trumpet air makes clear the approaching rendezvous with destiny. An intense, rhythmic section quickly takes over, rushing in with bombast and flair that possesses an unstoppable sense of urgency. The glorious fanfares bring a sweet rush of victory, ending it on an affirmative note that signifies an end to this warring era.

Shades of Revolution

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If albums could have bookends, “In Memories ‘KO-TO-WA-RI'” would function as exactly that. It reprises the solitary, mournful theme from the first track, but subtly shifts the tone so it’s more optimistic. The track is a perfect reflection of Kenshin’s tortured past that, hopefully, will turn out for the better in a new era of peace. Though the tragedies weigh heavily upon his soul, he endures past the pains and forges a new destiny. Iwasaki’s music has carried us through some of the most heartwrenching moments of Kenshin’s odyssey and conveyed unto us the pain and sorrow he’s experienced along the way through this evocative soundtrack that ranks among his best.

Rating: Excellent

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.

13 thoughts on “Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan ~Tsuiokuhen~ Original Soundtrack – Review

  • December 3, 2010 at 3:27 am
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    This is close to the best anime I’ve ever seen, and its soundtrack is just astonishing, utterly moving, and as visceral as the mournful series. Iwasaki is just astonishing, and this, along with his Now and Then, Here and There soundtrack, are his masterpieces.

    Reply
  • December 3, 2010 at 8:59 pm
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    Very awesome soundtrack. It really does justice for this section of story, which happens to be the most dramatic imo. I actually never realized how powerful some of these tracks are… Sound of Snow Falling especially.

    Reply
  • December 5, 2010 at 4:24 am
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    Tsuiokuhen is in many ways much superior to the series. The soundtrack is a big part of that. It complemented the intensity and the dramatic moments extremely well. Some scenes are simply unforgettable.

    Anyways, A Boy Meets the Man and Sound of Snow Falling are so beautiful.

    Reply
  • December 5, 2010 at 8:47 am
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    I think Iwasaki’s most memorable musical score is this. I particularly love Sound of Snow Falling: the BGM practically and intangibly describes Tomoe’s torrid emotions.

    I’m just a little surprised that ~KOTOWARI~ (if I’m not mistaken, is the climatic musical piece of the OVA) wasn’t honorably mentioned. I think that was the icing on the cake.

    Reply
  • December 5, 2010 at 8:59 am
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    Oh god, my bad. Didn’t see the last passage right there.

    Just to add on my previous post, the way I see Sound of Snow Falling, it’s more Tomoe-centric to me. I’m reminded that Tomoe’s farewell bid “This man took away happiness, and then he gave me a new one” really sums up and complement the song. Hence, there’s the optimistic tune right at the end. Although it had a bitter start, Tomoe nevertheless received something good at the end before she left the home.

    Reply
  • December 6, 2010 at 1:52 am
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    @Sorrow-kun
    Yeah, the show was probably the first violent one I’ve watched (when I was around 15ish no less) and it made a pretty huge impact. Even though I didn’t know much about the Kenshin franchise, the OVA managed to stand well on its own even if the significance of the cross-shaped scar was lost on me. But the parts that enthralled me had solid music, especially that animated sequence towards the end that was visually compelling.

    As for this being Iwasaki’s best work? That’s a tough call. It’s either this or Seisouhen for me since the intensity of the action and the torrid emotions flowing through were channeled really well.

    @RyanA
    Yeah, I really loved the tranquility the track offers while playing that oh-so gorgeous mourning theme. It does create a sense of emotional turmoil (that AC mentions later) that works well in bringing out the extent of the drama that the OVA did to damn near perfection!

    @ottocycle
    This one will certainly be fun to tackle as part of the article series that’ll be in the works shortly! So many Iwasaki soundtracks to listen to and compare. Hoo boy…

    @Yi
    Yes! The way the OVA is so grim (compared to the TV series) is exactly how I like it. I’ve always had a love for grimmer shows that really bring the human drama to the fore, especially when it’s a Romeo and Juliet story done right! With good music that leaves that indelible mark when combined with the scene where Kenshin kills Tomoe’s loved one.

    @AC
    Yeah, there was no way I was going to forget KO-TO-WA-RI since it made for a really determined end, what with the animated sequence at the end that delivers with the sheer intensity. :p

    I was glad to see Tomoe at peace and the optimism that the music puts out does suggest her forgiving Kenshin for his violent misdeeds. Of course, he hasn’t put that behind him completely, but those sins that I’ve mentioned are somewhat expunged.

    Reply
  • December 13, 2010 at 9:40 pm
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    I think this was the second anime series I watched when I first got into anime. This music is excellent, especially since I don’t remember any of it (must have been too long ago) so it all sounds very new to me. When I think of Kenshin, I just remember “Heart of Sword”. >_>

    Reply
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