Previewing the Music for Spring 2011′s Anime Season

Well, that was quick.

This winter, for better or for worse seemed to just fly by. It feels like yesterday that many of us dipped our toes into Madoka, Hourou Musuko, and Yumekui Merry, but many of those shows are coming to an end and many new ones take their place. Like before, we’ll be doing a preview with more of a focus on the musical side of things; people looking for plot summaries can look elsewhere since we choose our shows based on the composers than things like plot and seiyuu (OK, not really). So check out the composer rolls after the jump!

A Channel
Composer: Satoru Kousaki
Synopsis: Focuses on the lives of some high school girls, specifically, Tooru, her childhood friend Run, Yuuko, and Nagi. The anime is adapted from a 4-koma and will most likely fall into the four girls, one school mold.
Zzero’s Thoughts: It’s hard to shake the generic tag from this series and the only saving grace is whether the comedy works or not. Everything seems so predictable, right down to their choice of Satoru Kousaki as this show’s music composer. What that means is that A Channel’s soundtrack may try some interesting musical things, be it a novel adaptation of an old theme or fusing genres where one might not have thought it to be possible, or it’ll just be his usual brand of minimalistic fare. Whatever he puts forward, it’ll somehow only work within the context of the anime and so, will not be a great standalone listen. That’s been Kousaki’s track record since time immemorial, from Haruhi to the more recent Ore no Imouto’s soundtrack. Star Driver might bucked this trend, but the jury’s still out.

Ano Hana
Composer: REMEDIOS
Synopsis: Six childhood friends, one of whom is a hikkikomori, will reunite to grant one of their friends one last wish.
Yu’s Thoughts: REMEDIOS seems to be best known for composing the soundtracks for several films and j-dramas. Given the nature of Ano Hana and REMEDIOS’s background, we may actually end up with a good score that supports the guaranteed emotional angst which will surface in this show.

C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control
Composer: Taku Iwasaki
Synopsis: Things weren’t looking good for the Japanese government, until it was saved from the edge of financial meltdown by a mysterious group called the Sovereign Wealth Fund. The Japanese people weren’t as fortunate, and still have to cope with rampant unemployment and crime. The story centers on a boy named Kimimaro, whose no-nonsense life is interrupted when he’s offered a large sum of money, one that must be paid back.
Aftershok’s Thoughts: Given Taku Iwasaki’s track record and the show’s intriguing premise, this has potential to be very interesting. His work on shows like Gurren Lagann and Black Butler’s soundtrack was impressive and effective, even if it was not what stood out the most about the shows. His score on Persona has received praise even when the show hasn’t. This, combined with the show’s schedule set to be on the Noitamina timeslot, sets the expectations high. If all goes according to Iwasaki’s modus operandi, expect a mix of rock and orchestral with some soft ballads for the more sensitive bits.

Blue Exorcist
Composer: Hiroyuki Sawano
Synopsis: Though the two dimensions are meant to remain separate, there are demons that leave Gehenna, the world of demons, and enter the human realm Assiah to cause trouble. There exist humans known as exorcists who battle the demons and restore order to Assiah. The protagonist, Rin Okumura, who bears the burden of being the illegitimate son of Satan, decides to become an exorcist to avenge of the death of his foster father, who gave his life to protect Rin from demons.
Zzero’s Thoughts: Hell YES! I don’t know how well this series is going to do, but Hiroyuki Sawano’s position as soundtrack composer brings with it a lot of high hopes. We all know how much I loved his music ever since the first notes from Gigantic Formula reached my ears. He’s gone on to do highly acclaimed work for Sengoku Basara as well as the awe-inspiring Gundam Unicorn soundtrack. If nothing else, I’ll be checking this show just to listen to his music since I love the dazzling epic orchestrals he seems to conjure up (overwrought though it may be at times).

Deadman Wonderland
Composer: NARASAKI
Synopsis: A lone survivor of a massacre is falsely accused of the crime and gets thrown into prison where he must entertain audiences.
Zzero’s Thoughts: Usually a composer with all caps suggests that he’s a rock musician. And surprise surprise, he did do some theme songs for the likes of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, but not a complete score though. Still, I wanna rocks mune ni rocks.
Yu’s Thoughts: The manga centered around a combination of action and dark/twisted atmosphere. If the anime stays true to the manga, the music will probably be some kind of heavy rock mixed with a good deal of uninteresting atmospheric suspense. Hopefully the show will prove my pessimistic predictions wrong.

Dog Days
Composer: The crew at I’ve Sound
Synopsis: A boy is transported to Biscotti, a kingdom in a fantasy world, in order to help the princess save the country from invasion.
Zzero’s Thoughts: To be frank, I am not a heavy fan of I’ve Sound. In fact, aside from a few of their singers, their work is usually far from where my tastes usually land since I’m not too fond of heavy synth and electronica. The first time I’ve heard a soundtrack composed by one of their members (Malko Iuchi) for To Aru Majutsu no Index, I wasn’t really too enthralled by what I heard. One can make a safe assumption that Dog Days’ music will offer more of the same, so I’ll avoid this altogether. Oh well, at least the OP is done by Nana Mizuki, so maybe I’ll just watch the OP sequence just for that.
Yu’s Thoughts: I’ve only ever enjoyed the vocal trance stuff from I’ve Sound (more specifically Kotoko). It goes without saying then that asking a primarily electronica group to score a shounen show with a likely harem thrown in isn’t going to turn out well. The most memorable part of this show will probably be how the kingdom is named after twice-baked cake.

Nichijou
Composer: Yuuji Nomi
Synopsis: More high school life anime, except the things that go on feel a wee bit more surreal, ranging from a principal who wrestles deer, a character with a windup device on her back, and a loli who’s addressed as “Professor.”
Zzero’s Thoughts: Assuming that the OVA/Episode 0/whatever that was released earlier is representative of the series, I might actually be looking forward to this one. Though the music so far doesn’t feel cohesive since they’re little more than a collection of musical cues, I do hope to see something come out of this, especially when the composer has worked on Ghibli fare like Whisper of the Heart.
Yu Thoughts: I was especially impressed with Nomi’s work with The Cat Returns – and it seems he might deliver something similar again if the first episode is anything to go by. The music I heard was definitely not what I expected from a KyoAni slice of life show, but that’s a good thing.

Hanasaku Iroha
Composer: Shiro Hamaguchi
Synopsis: A hot spring inn and the lives of the people working in it.
Thoughts: Whoaaaaa, Shiro Hamaguchi is back to do a soundtrack for an anime? Talk about good tidings! VGM enthusiasts will know him as a master arranger for such fine works as the orchestrated album for Final Fantasy VIII (titled Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec). His arranger profile doesn’t stop there either as he has gone on to do the Haruhi orchestral arrangements that we’ve come to know and love. Anime fans who might not have ever touched a game soundtrack may be familiar with his work on notable anime titles such as Kiddy Grade, the baseball classic Oofuri, and of course, the almighty One Piece. In short, he knows his orchestral stuff and even though the show’s premise sounds pedestrian, the music alone might propel me to give the anime a three-episode test.

Hen Zemi
Composer: Kei Haneoka
Synopsis: Nanako Matsutaka somehow finds herself roped into a study group that focuses on strange sexual perversions and tries her best to retain some semblance of sanity.
Zzero’s Thoughts: Kei Haneoka’s strength in the past has always been in composing music for comedy anime. The first time I’ve been exposed to this composer’s works was through the slapstick near-insane Pani Poni Dash. He’s also shown his strength composing for shows such as Negima!? and Today in Class 5-2, all of which are comedies. Given that Hen Zemi’s bent is along the same lines, Haneoka’s compositions should mesh fairly well with whatever’s going on onscreen.

Pretty Rhythm Aurora Dream
Composer: Seikou Nagaoka
Synopsis: Rizumu Amamiya competes in a sport that blends skating and dancing, aiming for the top of what must be a dangerously sparkly event.
Thoughts: At first, I wasn’t planning to check this show out, but when I noticed Nagaoka’s name gracing the composer credits, I almost had a change of heart. Almost. The synopsis looks just a wee bit cheesy for my tastes, but the only Nagaoka work I’ve ever heard, Strike Witches, was actually really good and impressed me enough to heap praise upon it. While I’m not sold on Pretty Rhythm’s premise, I will keep an eye out for the soundtrack since I expect that to be one of the show’s few bright spots.

Tea for Universe, Tea for Life
Composer: Kou Otani
Synopsis: Sasuke Furuta is obsessed with the intricacies of the tea ceremony, having learned it from his lord, Oda Nobunaga and the tea master Sen no Soeki and has resolved to walk this tea path to ultimate fulfillment.
Zzero’s Thoughts: Bee Train is one of those studios that I’ve given up on since nothing they’ve produced has really interested me very much. However, if there’s one point of consistency that they bring to their anime (beyond plots that ooze along like molasses), it’s awesome music. Now, they weren’t fortunate enough to get Yuki Kajiura, but they were able to secure Kou Otani’s services. You guys should like his stuff since he’s done excellent work on the Haibane Renmei soundtrack and the music he did for Shakugan no Shana was good. Video gamers might know him for the immersiveness that the music to Shadows of the Colossus had upon gamers (an atmosphere that one can find in his score for Shana as well). So high hopes are on a good soundtrack. Just don’t expect the anime to follow suit.

Tiger & Bunny
Composer: Yoshihiro Ike
Synopsis: People known as “Next” act as superheroes. Veteran hero Wild Tiger is forced together with rookie Barnaby Brooks. Conflicts in their views about the role of a hero ensue.
Zzero’s Thoughts: Yoshihiro Ike’s got that interesting history. And by interesting, I mean that I’ve watched a few of the shows he’s composed for (Kamichu, Mokke, Ergo Proxy) but came out of all of those shows without a lasting impression of the BGM. Now, maybe it’s my fault for missing something really special, but that’s just how it is. Though I probably won’t be watching Tiger & Bunny, it’ll be good to hear from those who are watching this anime and are well-versed with Ike’s work so they can let me know how this one will fare.
Yu’s Thoughts: Yoshihiro is a bit of a wildcard. After hearing the dark but not very memorable music for Ergo Proxy, Kamichu was the last thing I ever expected him to score. Nevertheless, he did and did it well. Anyway, Tiger & Bunny’s premises isn’t very similar to Ergo Proxy’s or Kamichu’s, so how this soundtrack will turn out is very up in the air.

Final thoughts:
We’ve always been wary about putting up profiles for shows whose composers we know next to nothing about. Such is the case with Jun Sato, the composer for the MBA-tastic Moshidora (with a baseball bent), Shuhei Naruse’s music for Sket Dance (for crying out loud, the only work this guy’s done has been for various incarnations of Rockman), the duo that’s doing the work for Steins;Gate, et al. Also, we’ve had a longstanding policy of not covering anime second seasons unless their composers have changed at some point. So that means Kaiji 2, The World God Only Knows 2, and Maria+Holic 2 (among others) aren’t mentioned here (but a few of us are looking forwards to them regardless. Do feel free to comment about those that we’ve skipped over or anything else we’ve happened to miss.

Anime Instrumentality Staff

A collaboration between the staff members at Anime Instrumentality to bring you the best of all the anime music out there! Or silliness, whichever it is that happens to come first.

8 thoughts on “Previewing the Music for Spring 2011′s Anime Season

  • March 27, 2011 at 11:58 am
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    Seems that Kousaki is doing less these days with regards to actually writing tunes. Even some of the BGM of Star Driver was delegated to Hoashi Keigo & Takada Ryuuichi(fellow MONACA staffers) when we thought it would be him doing everything. Probably something to do with his current burnout phase going on. =/

    [C] is gonna be so awesome. I definitely have the highest hopes for it score-wise, and it other aspects as well. I mean, look at how cinematic it’s first trailer was! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98BzgNeg3MM

    Seems that Sawano is going to ease up a little on the synth this time, going by Ao no Exorcist’s trailers. I’m certainly hopeful for a different sound from him since he seems to be repeating his devices lately (eg. in Unicorn’s new BGM) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBJLxcvumIc

    On Hen Zemi, I believe that the composer for the TV series score is actually Yokoyama Masaru this time. Haneoka did the music for the OAD that was released previously. http://kc.kodansha.co.jp/hensemi/staffcast/

    I’ve only heard Yoshihiro’s work in FLAG, and I thought his work was decent, and probably trying not to stand out. But at the climactic scenes where he was required to pump up the mood I thought he was still able to keep up with his own brand of fanfare instead of being strung along, if just barely. So I’ll definitely keep an ear out for his work here as well.

    & yes, there are definitely quite a few composers whose names I have not even heard of prior to this season. Hoping for some surprises among them as well!

    Reply
  • March 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm
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    Ack, messed up there on referring to Ike Yoshihiro by his given name.

    Reply
  • March 28, 2011 at 10:58 am
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    Yea it really does feel like only yesterday, we were getting excited about Kajiura’s Madoka. Anyway, I’ll be watching Exorcist most likely, and it’s good to hear that its composer has an accomplished name. Tea for Universe/ Life isn’t on my radar at all, but Kou Otani is. I might check that series out then as well.

    Reply
  • March 28, 2011 at 2:03 pm
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    Looking forward to Deadman Wonderland; I like my a*s-whoopin’ complemented with hardcore-rock.

    Reply
  • March 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm
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    @ottocycle
    As someone who is especially interested in financial engineering, I’m really curious as to how C will pan out since it has a lot of potential to be a great anime if they play their cards right. Also, it seems like Iwasaki is going for heavy atmosphere, so let’s see how that’ll fly.

    And thanks for the correction to Hen Zemi. That’ll be an interesting combo for sure since I did like his whimsical score for Arakawa.

    Finally, Sawano sounds better without the synth, so I’ll definitely look forward to what he can deliver with Ao no Exorcist. Hopefully he won’t be overly bombastic and can put a smidge of subtlety that he’s capable of doing.

    @Yi
    I wouldn’t check out Tea anime’s since I’m really allergic to anything that Bee Train has had to offer. I do hope one of my other writers, who really likes Otani’s music will take care of that for me *cough*

    @mrwan
    That’s the best way to go! Don’t conceptually-similar movies like Con-Air use a ROCKIN’ theme?

    Reply
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  • May 7, 2011 at 10:55 pm
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    I checked out Sengoku Basara’s OST recently and it’s got to be one of the best I’ve heard in a long time. Amazingly wild mix of rock, orchestra and the traditional elements, which never fails to capture me. Looks like he has progressed far since his works for Zombie Loan, which left me so disappointed I almost gave up on his works completely.

    Don’t know if its just me, but it really makes me very happy when I can hear distinct improvements in a composer’s work as time goes by. Sawano is definitely the best example. =)

    Reply
    • May 9, 2011 at 1:11 am
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      @Jen
      My only semi-worry from your comment is your take on Sawano’s Gundam Unicorn OST which definitely came after Zombie Loan. I can see why people might not like that work of his though since it can be overly bombastic and so, drains your energy.

      I really should listen to Sawano’s eclectic work for Sengoku Basara though. Looks like I could use a bit of that diversity!

      Reply

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