Now and Then, Here and There Original Soundtrack – Review

Album Title: Now and Then, Here and There Original Soundtrack
Anime Title: Now and Then, Here and There
Artist: Taku Iwasaki
Catalog Number: VICL-60492
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: Nov 20, 1999
Purchase at: CDJapan

Tracklist:

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Track Title Artist Time
01. Standing in the Sunset Glow Taku Iwasaki 20:09
02. Decadence Taku Iwasaki 2:34
03. Run Taku Iwasaki 2:46
04. Rescuer Taku Iwasaki 2:46
05. The Bottom Taku Iwasaki 2:28
06. Tears Taku Iwasaki 3:05
07. Tumbling Taku Iwasaki 3:05
08. Calmative Taku Iwasaki 4:22
09. Deadlock Taku Iwasaki 2:18
10. A Law Deal Taku Iwasaki 2:21
11. Pazzia Taku Iwasaki 2:31
12. Miss… Taku Iwasaki 2.44
13. One Calm Taku Iwasaki 2.41
14. Fearful Dream Taku Iwasaki 3:27
15. Here and There Taku Iwasaki 2.30
16. Ima, Sokoni Iru Boku Toshio Masuda 3:18
17. Komoruita Taku Iwasaki 2:15


Review: Back in 2003, during my hazy university days, I watched Now and Then, Here and There for the first time. With little idea of what it was about, I finished the first episode unimpressed with its simplistic art style and clichéd storyline. Then I started episode two, became transfixed, and found myself embarking upon a thirteen-episode marathon, lost in the brutality and beauty of the series. I am not ashamed to say I got pretty darn emotional at the end of it. To me, this was what anime as a storytelling form was all about: a wonderful union of a magnificent plot, sympathetic characters, and of course, a brilliant soundtrack.

I’ll start with the opening theme first, as it’s an interesting one. Composed by Toshio Masuda, Ima, Sokoni Iru Boku opens up every episode. What’s interesting is that nobody sings it. While that’s not too unusual, it’s not exactly fast and catchy as most series openers are. What we have is something resembling a folk tune with an Ecuadorian feel to it. I half expected a man with pan-pipes to show up.  Though not finger-snappishly good, as the series goes on, the song kind of grows on you. It’s happy, compared to the series’s subject matter, and I think that’s important.

Ima, Sokoni Iru Boku

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Maestro Taku Iwasaki is at the helm for the rest, and is the perfect man for the job. This is the late 1990s Iwasaki, who composed the sublime Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen soundtrack around the same time. He would then write the much-lauded soundtracks to Read or Die and Witch Hunter Robin in a couple of years. And he is in full flight in Now and Then, Here and There, creating something close to a masterpiece.

This soundtrack is packed with classic Iwasaki and he brings his trademark style, especially in his faster tunes. Rescuer and Decadence features his signature electronic bass sounds, machine-gun snares and sudden heavy drums. The strings then come in with the melody and pull the tension as long as they can before the piece all crashes down in a rapid drum and bass climax, which does well to drive the excitement of the scene.

And while I mentioned that he creates similar songs, he still manages to keep them varied. In Run, the strings play across the beats to create something surprisingly fun in an otherwise darker theme. Tumbling is also a favourite of mine, with a great guitar section that once again, does very well with the beats. Matched with the strings, the piece becomes an impassioned tune that races at breakneck speed.

Tumbling

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That’s not to say the whole album is composed of break-beats and electronica.  Iwasaki does throw in some introspective gems not just to slow the pace down, but to also involve the listener more emotionally. Tears starts with a tender, yet mournful flute melody before the strings take over, all the time supported by a quiet piano. Calmative uses its strings to evoke a suspenseful, ominous tone. Scattered about it are ringing bells and other oddities. Miss aims to bring the drama, with a duet between the slow and loud strings and the very sad, lone flute.

One Calm evokes the image of a happier piece through a piano and flute duet that comes on in the village part of the series. And just as the village was a refuge for the protaganists, this composition gives the listener time to breathe before the next tense piece. I also particularly like the ending song, Komoriuta. This one’s a lullaby, with very simplistic structure to it. Reiko Yasuhara, who voices Abelia in the series, sings here and makes this song more vulnerable. Its simplicity works because it’s such a contrast to the conflict that permeates the entire series. It’s a break of sorts, before the next dose of confrontation.

Komoriuta

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There are parts I find that, while having Iwasaki’s trademark style, doesn’t really engage me as much. The Bottom is too atmospheric for my tastes, and A Law Deal just sounds very much like a filler song. Deadlock has an interesting beginning with its quiet pulsating bass, but the synth bit at the end feels rather flat and useless. Of course this could be due to the song matching the scene in the series, but it really doesn’t work on its own. So there are some dud songs in the soundtrack, but you know, that’s all quite easily forgiven. Not because of the quality of the other songs. And certainly not because of Iwasaki’s pedigree.

No, he is forgiven because of the soundtrack’s very first track, Standing in the Sunset Glow. This, to me, is Iwasaki’s magnum opus. An absolute masterpiece. The epitome of the Iwasaki sound that becomes prevalent in his future works. Running at twenty minutes in length, this is his longest piece and certainly one of his most emotionally charged ones. It comes in three parts; the first (my favourite) leads in with a flowing line of violins that play a slow, sweeping melody. The melody repeats, with more harmony added in by additional strings and a piano. This builds until about the four minute mark, where it reaches a climax of strings, before ending on a very bittersweet note.

Standing in the Sunset Glow

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Straight away, the second act begins with a cello ushering in tension and conflict. It is dark and tumultuous, and leads into an even more ominous version of Calmative, before the strings come in again for another dose of drama. It’s a dark seven minutes yes, but there’s a stark beauty about it and does its job to herald in the next part.

Standing in the Sunset Glow

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As if the first rays of sunlight after the storm, a piano begins to play, soft and calm. The lush strings come in to support, before taking over amidst heavy drumbeats. They play the melody of the first act once more, but this one is infused with more hope and wonder. At the seventeenth minute, there is a pause for the lyrical flute to take the melody, which now begins to build and build and build. And finally, at the last minute of the piece, it all ends triumphant, beautiful and ultimately, inspiring.

Standing in the Sunset Glow

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I apologize if I sound like I’m gushing. This is really one of my favourite instrumental pieces around, because of its technical virtuosity and emotional impact. This soundtrack is well-worth the listen, if only to hear the beginning of Iwasaki’s brilliance before his subsequent compositions, and hopefully, you’ll fall in love with his music all over again.

Rating: Excellent

maskerade

I'm an avid listener of Anime Music, with Yoko Kanno my Goddess. I'm also a huge fan of jazz and have enjoyed the currents of the indie Jrock scene these past years. I'm also an unfortunate rambler and starving writer, all of which leads me to write reviews for this fair blog. I tend to stare a lot.

4 thoughts on “Now and Then, Here and There Original Soundtrack – Review

  • September 3, 2011 at 7:54 pm
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    Nice review! I really like this soundtrack as well. It fit the tone of the show perfectly. Whenever I listen to Standing in the Sunset Glow I get so caught up in it I can’t believe 20 minutes just passed! I absolutely adore the ending song though. It makes me want to cry every time. I don’t speak Japanese but I have all the lyrics memorized. Also, it may not be one of your favourites, but I really like the opening theme as well. It’s on of the few anime openings I could never bring myself to skip, despite its simplicity. The music combined with the images of the main characters was a great opportunity to reflect on each of them before diving into the action.

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  • September 3, 2011 at 10:23 pm
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    i loved that anime, watched it real long ago, probably around when i started watching anime all together. Hearing this brings back tragic yet beautiful feelings. what a memory, thanks for bringing this up!

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  • September 5, 2011 at 3:58 pm
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    Kaikyaku: Thanks a lot! Adore Standing in the Sunset Glow! Just the way it plays with emotion in the first and second acts makes it one of my all-time fav instrumentals! Agree with your thoughts on the ending theme. It’s so quiet, so peaceful, a lullaby in times of strife. It’s needed in the show methinks. And I do like the opening theme, not at first, but it grew on me as the series progressed. Thanks again!

    Some Loser: Definitely not a loser if you listen to this :) It’s too good a show. I did a full marathon of it before… was really depressed at the end of it lol.

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  • September 8, 2011 at 11:30 pm
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    Enjoyed the review, though I don’t know if the soundtrack itself is for me. Never seen the show, but Iwasaki is always a plus (unless it’s Kamisama no Memo-chou, then nothing is redeemable).

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