Ikoku Meiro no Croisée: La croisée dans un labyrinthe étranger Original Soundtrack – Review

Album Title: La croisée dans un labyrinthe étranger Original Soundtrack
Anime Title: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée
Artist: ko-ko-ya, Youmou to Ohana, Megumi Nakajima, A.m.u.,
Nao Touyama, Mamiko Noto
Catalog Number: VTCL-60271
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: August 10, 2011
Purchase at: CDJapan, Play-Asia


Tracklist

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Track Title Artist Time
01. So Ra So Mi Ko-ko-ya 2:59
02. Sekai wa Odoru yo, Kimi to. (TV Size) Youmou to Ohana 1:29
03. Hanasaku Machi wo Waltz Ko-ko-ya 2:41
04. Hannari Ko-ko-ya 2:02
05. Soup Kakimazete Ko-ko-ya 3:20
06. Sore wa Yokatta ne Ko-ko-ya 1:17
07. chanson pour deux Ko-ko-ya 1:24
08. Hizuru Tokoro no Shoujo Ko-ko-ya 3:24
09. Egao ni Wink Ko-ko-ya 2:15
10. Tooki Hi no Omoide Ko-ko-ya 3:37
11. Ureshi, Tanoshi Ko-ko-ya 2:51
12. Lady no Otanoshimi Ko-ko-ya 1:44
13. Tsuukaeki Ko-ko-ya 3:15
14. Tooku Kimi he Megumi Nakajima 5:30
15. Tomorrow’s Smile A.m.u. 5:04
16. So Ra So Mi ~piano ver.~ Ko-ko-ya 2:42
17. Sekai wa Odoru yo, Kimi to. (Acoustic Version) Youmou to Ohana 1:32
18. Saita Sakura Touyama Nao 0:59
19. Miwataseba Touyama Nao 1:23
20. Denderaryuu Ko-ko-ya 0:41
21. Takaramono Mamiko Noto 1:14
22. Waltz Domino Ko-ko-ya 2:27
23. Ikoku no Choro Ko-ko-ya 3:13
24. Kazoku ni Naritai Ko-ko-ya 1:31
25. So Ra So Mi ~accorion ver.~ Ko-ko-ya 1:45
26. Koko Kara wa Hajimaru Monogatari (TV Size) Nao Touyama 1:39
27. Tooku Kimi he Nao Touyama 5:30

Review: The opening notes of “So Ra So Mi” ooze absolute contentment. Its tempo moves at a languid pace, wafting a pleasant, dreamy aura through a repetitive motif carried first by the clarinet, then the violin, to evoke an image of a more idyllic era. Never too fast nor too slow, it channels a mellow sound which works well to immerse us in a charming atmosphere as the piece fittingly depicts the relaxed pace of life on display in Ikoku Meiro no Croisee.

So Ra So Mi

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Ko-ko-ya, the group responsible for Ikoku Meiro no Croisee’s soundtrack is no stranger to the realm of anime soundtracks, especially in sculpting that image of an idealistic, romanticized Europe. Their members are talented, including the likes of violinist Yuki Etoh and clarinetist Saeko Kurokawa, but the biggest influence by far comes from the Choro Club’s Shigeharo Sasago. With Sasago’s involvement, the ARIA-esque sound makes a wonderful return as Croisee’s music ebbs, flows, and ripples forth serenely and wonderfully. Ko-ko-ya’s prior work on Ristorante Paradiso’s soundtrack captures this unhurried ARIA-esque atmosphere nicely but I daresay that Croisee’s OST takes that earlier effort and does it one better.

Croisee’s soundtrack beats Ristorante Paradiso’s largely through the slew of emotions on display, bringing with it a greater level of variety to keep the listening experience fresh. Its melodies follow the gamut of emotions Yune feels as she adjusts to her new life in Paris. The mood that follows from “So Ra So Mi” is one of excitement, brought about by “Hanasaku Machi wo Waltz” which exudes the joys and thrills to be had in discovery. Its spritely, animated melody imparts the sort of childish curiosity and delight, with a dab of pleasant whimsical excitement. Although other tracks like “Soup Kakimazete” also captures those moments of euphoria, nothing quite hits the excitement quota quite like “Lady no Otanoshimi,” with its lively violin and accordion melody that rains energy through its festiveness as it makes you want to get up and join in the celebration.

Hanasaku Machi wo Waltz

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Lady no Otanoshimi

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As the excitement dies down, the measured pace of life and routine settles in. In “Hannari,” the mood of the soundtrack moves towards the introspective, and with it, a daydreaming sound delivered by the clarinet and violin which floats on the piano and acoustic guitar’s harmonic layer to envelope the listener with contentment. The energy moves up a few notches in “Hizuru Tokoro no Shoujo” as the piece adopts a brisk, upbeat tempo while the violin and clarinet showers us with the warmth and joy to be had through the simple pleasures life offers up.

Hizuru Tokoro no Shoujo

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Starting with “Sore wa Yokatta ne,” the lonelier moments materialize, fitting in with Yune’s sense of isolation and initial homesickness as she adjusts to Paris. The piece, carried through the xylophones, is somber as it rides atop the acoustic guitar to draw out that desire to find a sense of belonging. “Tooki Hi no Omoide” is also poignant. Its clarinet introduction already feels spiritually burdensome, but once the violin enters with its wails of anguish, it’s enough to bringing the listener to the brink of despair as they empathize with the piece’s despondent sentiments. And yet, there is hope. “Kazoku ni Naritai,” coming in near the end of the soundtrack, soothes the soul with a contented piano melody, instilling a sense of optimism and belonging while easing the pain as the characters look forward with a sense of confidence.

Tooki Hi no Omoide

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Kazoku ni Naritai

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While the instrumental pieces shine most wonderfully, the vocal tracks are a mixed bag, but are, at worst, mediocre. Of the songs featured on this album, Megumi Nakajima unsurprisingly succeeds in winning listeners’ hearts with her excellent version of “Tooku Kimi he.” The way she delivers her vocals taps into the sense of longing not unlike the one brought forth in Macross Frontier’s “Aimo.” A.m.u., for her part, does well in exuding a positive feeling through “Tomorrow’s Smile,” as she captures the sense of quiet optimism through her soothing singing that sees a bit more energy in the chorus. Nao Touyama’s songs are appropriately sung in a child-like voice, fitting, given that she is Yune’s seiyuu. There are moments during which I found it charming, but Touyama’s singing never engages my emotions quite like the way Nakajima is capable of doing. As for Mamiko Noto… well her vocals aren’t much of a revelation. Noto has always been a two-bit singer at best despite her accomplishments as a seiyuu and her performance on “Takaramono” only confirms this. Here, her delivery is a bit too breathy for my tastes, making it just slightly distracting from what is an otherwise catchy melody.

Tooku Kimi he

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Still, the instrumentals eclipse the songs by a fair bit and yield a most enjoyable offering. The melodies contained within, especially “So Ra So Mi” and its various arrangements, go a long way towards making Ikoku Meiro no Croisee’s soundtrack a memorable experience. Between ARIA, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, and Ristorante Paradiso, it’s probably safe to say that any project Shigeharu Sasago touches can be counted upon to deliver with the relaxing vibe that makes for music that soothes the soul, allowing you to temporarily escape the stress and pressure of day to day life by relaxing and unwinding to such calming fare.

Rating: Very Good

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.

7 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Joojoobees says:

    This was obviously an album I was looking forward to from before the show aired. I really enjoying chamber music, and the relaxed, yet positive vibe that you get from previous works such as Aria. I’m very glad that the soundtrack delivered. In addition, having watched Ikoku Meiro no Croisée, these tracks resonate with memories from this charming series.

    The last track you highlight, Tooku Kimi he, in addition to being lovely on its own has some interesting overlays from the series, first the bitter-sweetness of love remembered, and second the presentation of a traveling musician.

    In addition to the tracks you featured with samples, I particularly enjoyed Hannari and Soup Kakimazete. The latter is a bit anachronistic, as it sounds like a Bossa Nova, but, hey, I like Bossa Nova. Hannari is, as you describe it, “introspective”; it is perhaps a touch too dark to be called “meditative”, but it isn’t so dark to be called “ponderous”.

    All in all a very entertaining collection.

  2. Seinime says:

    Yes! The album has been released as well as an awesome review. Nicely done. The samples sound pretty good, although I still need to listen to it to its entirety and match it to Aria, but quite daring indeed to match it or even place it above Aria. Time to check it out.

  3. I didn’t even sort of pay attention to the music in Ikoku while I was watching it, but after this review I’m kind of in love. The sample insist to me that I need to go out and listen to the entire thing. I will do so immediately.

    • @Joojoobees
      Now that you mention it, soundtracks that feature a small chamber group seem really sparse, and it’s a shame since that’s a setting where listeners will most be able to hear the individual instruments strut their stuff. And in Croisee, being able to hear the clarinet’s upbeat or somber moments, the violin wails, and the guitar’s sense of the mellow does make the listening experience enjoyable and charming.

      @Seinime
      Matching ARIA? Nah…. it’s certainly better than Ristorante Paradiso. ARIA’s still a masterpiece in my eyes and Croisee is definitely not quite there yet. But do check it out; it is pretty pleasant.

      @Arianna
      That’s the thing with anime soundtracks sometimes: they shine through the subtleties that they exhibit during the course of the anime. So sometimes, it can be a surprise to see just how good the pieces are without the context. In my case, I did take note of Croisee’s music (a habit from all this soundtrack fanaticism) and found it to be quite fitting and pleasant in evoking those positive emotions!

  4. Mushyrulez says:

    Perhaps a point to note is that the soothingness of Croisee’s OST makes it blend in with the story so that we don’t even notice it. Yet, the emotions in the soundtrack allow the story to be shifted in many emotional directions, given the variety of selections they have (of course, I don’t think there’s a HEAVY ROCK METAL RAP piece there, but if there is, I trust the production team will even be able to tastefully insert that into the anime).

    Compare this, to say, Nichijou – the music stands out easily and obviously there. Whether this is a good point or bad is… well, can’t it be neither?

    (An experiment I tried: listen to an episode of an anime without looking at it. Close your eyes. Focus on other tasks. Whatever. You’ll notice that (as long as you aren’t paying attention to the voices – not knowing Japanese helps here) different anime have vastly different ways to use sound. For example, the music in shows like Nichijou never stops, while there are frequent ‘silent’ periods in a show like Gosick. Unfortunately, I only tried this for one episode of Gosick, so I really can’t say much about anything else :x)

  5. Jadestern says:

    Great review, Although the Hannari from OST sound more diverse with the inclusion of Clarinet and violin. I feel the anime version bring out the best of this music.

    Hannari just feel more soothing and calming when being played by Piano only.

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