Mononoke Original Soundtrack – Review

Album Title: Mononoke Original Soundtrack
Anime Title: Mononoke
Artist: Yasuharu Takanashi
Catalog Number: AICL-1855
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: September 19, 2007
Purchase at: CDJapan, Play-Asia


Tracklist

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Track Title Artist Time
01. Oboroge Yasuharu Takanashi 2:10
02. Mononoke Yasuharu Takanashi 3:19
03. Ononoki Yasuharu Takanashi 3:20
04. Fukashigi Yasuharu Takanashi 2:26
05. Samishige Yasuharu Takanashi 2:49
06. Isamashige Yasuharu Takanashi 2:48
07. Ayashige Yasuharu Takanashi 4:36
08. Kurushige Yasuharu Takanashi 5:02
09. Munashige Yasuharu Takanashi 2:16
10. Osoroshige Yasuharu Takanashi 1:59
11. Hakanage Yasuharu Takanashi 2:22
12. Kanashige Yasuharu Takanashi 2:37
13. Abunage Yasuharu Takanashi 2:20
14. Utsurigi Yasuharu Takanashi 2:35

Review: To get into the ‘spirit’ of things for Halloween, Anime Instrumentality proudly presents yet another holiday special. In a season iconically represented by ghosts and other supernatural beings delivering a frightful experience, there is nothing like a healthy dose of Mononoke to raise hairs and send chills down the spine. Best of all, you won’t need to feel silly about it afterwards.

Instead of going with the standard convention of listening to tales of witches and goblins, we shall listen to the tales of Mononoke, all weaved together beautifully through what is easily Yasuharu Takanashi’s greatest work thus far. This story begins not with Bulwer-Lytton’s ‘dark and stormy night’, but the taiko and koto situated amidst an uneasy serenity, which are later joined by the harpsichord and the haunting vocals to set up Mononoke’s premise. Although the entry of the shakuhachi brings in the feeling of loss, the track stays true to the anime’s placid approach and avoids dramatic or extensive displays of emotions.

Oboroge

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After the short prelude, we are immediately drawn into the heart of the action, with a fast-paced track which combines Japanese flutes, vocals, violins and low brass, all of which is set to a strong and relentless drumbeat. The ponderous sound that results ratchets the tension by quite a bit as it highlights the dangerous and unforgiving task of exorcisms.

Mononoke

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While the first two tracks perfectly represent Mononoke as a whole, the later tracks delve deeper into the show’s subtleties. “Ononoki” tells of the formation of an ayakashi, starting with a loneliness which transforms into a heart-wrenching sense of anguish once the vocals come in, before the desire for vengeance takes over. The way the track builds up to incorporate the shakuhachi, voice and percussions one by one draws out those many different sentiments, making it the most evocative track on the album. “Samishige”, on the other hand, moves towards more peaceful, if melancholic waters, as this requiem leads a spirit to its salvation. “Isamashige” is a return to action as it embodies the battle against the spirits. Its rapid progression and frenetic melody played by the nohkan masterfully depicts the warped realm of the supernatural.

Isamashige

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Takanashi also brings his musically evocative powers to the fore through “Ayashige”, which conjures an image of spirits frolicking at a festival, showcasing Takanashi’s dexterity with Japanese instruments as he composes a piece consisting solely of taikos and kagura suzu. Also of note is “Abunage”, which illustrates the thick fog of deception the Medicine Seller has to pass through in order to arrive at the truth. The light tapping of the shime-daiko amidst the heavy, punctuated beats symbolises him connecting the dots while still being thwarted by the many obstacles in his way.

Abunage

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Ending off the album, “Utsurigi” closely mirrors the melody and instrumentation of the first track, “Oboroge”, but the note of finality presented through the violin segment marks an end to the tales of Mononoke.

Utsurigi

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The traditional Japanese instruments and composition effectively bring out the unique flavour in these tales, but unlike other soundtracks which serve to accompany the anime, Mononoke’s OST tells its own stories in parallel with those in the anime. The more you listen, the more you unravel them, and despite the air of dignified impassivity it maintains, the emotional weight of these tales will hit you. All these truly puts Mononoke in a class of its own, and a masterpiece in every right.

Rating: Masterpiece

About the author

Jen A loyal follower of Japanese music and soundtrack, I have been a contributor to Anime Instrumentality since late 2009. Being a crappy musician trained in cello, keyboard and voice, I feel obliged to censure the other amateurs who have the cheek to release their rubbish to the world, and to affirm those who actually deserve their salary. Nothing gives me more joy than listening to good music, though I admit that writing scathing reviews on bad ones comes close.

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10 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. signorRossi says:

    Ha, interesting to see this soundtrack reviewed. :) I have listened to this one quite often, the ‘Umi Bozou’ arc of Mononoke is simply the best of Usururi stories’. Interestingly they have packed most the other tunes used in Mononoke on the ‘Ayakashi – Japanese Classic Horror Tales’ OST, Koigokoro and Tsunegihoro are two really good ones.

  2. random says:

    Horror anime really is Yasuharu Takanashi’s forte.

    • I’ll have to agree with random: Yasuharu really does a good job with horror. I’ve been going through the OST after I read the draft and I found his use of dissonance to be really good in bringing in the frightening moments, especially when they’re paired with the haunting vocals and miscellaneous sound effects like they are in “Osoroshige.” It’s tough for me to decide whether I like this or Shiki’s OST more, especially since I have watched Shiki and could probably use the context in Mononoke to really grasp the full extent of the melancholy emotions or atmosphere that’s on display.

  3. signorRossi says:

    ^ If you watch the finale of the second arc of Mononoke you will probably find this OST superior to Shiki’s. The use of dialogue and music in that scenes together with the visuals had the biggest impact on me of all anime I have watched up to this date.
    Regarding Takanashi’s music in general, I wished they would give him the possibility to make extended or better fledged out versions of his other OST’s too, since I have seen only strict OST albums of him so far (excluding this one).
    BTW, I didn’t like the anime Shiki at all. :)

  4. Jen says:

    @signorRossi
    Actually, Ayakashi came before Mononoke I think. I personally feel that Ayakashi was concentrated on more of the atmospheric tracks, while Mononoke solidified those and gave them a much clearer form, which really made all the difference. While I won’t call Ayakashi a shoddy piece of work, it was rather dull, and I’m really glad that Mononoke addressed that problem.

    @random
    That, and traditional music, and fusion. This guy’s just fantastic at merging those that he’s good at. While Mononoke was strictly in the traditional side, he mixed traditional Japanese styles with Rock for Naruto Shippuden, and man, it worked so well. Then for Fairy Tail, he tried his luck with Celtic Rock. He’s really the composer I have my eyes on now, though with Naruto Shippuden and Fairy Tail looking like never-ending projects, I don’t know if he’ll have the time to compose for other shows.

    @zzeroparticle
    Personally, I’d give Mononoke the edge because of its storytelling, which is just amazing because you can really see these tales taking shape. I actually felt that the anime Mononoke did no justice to the soundtrack. I watched the anime after I heard the soundtrack, and they did not give the soundtrack a chance to shine at all. Such a waste…

  5. dawntodusk says:

    Wished that it could be longer, both the review and soundtrack. I seem to go to Yasuharu when I need a soundtrack to listen to while I do homework. One plus is that his stuff is pleasant to listen to even though most of his appeal for me lies in how easy it is to get into the feel of the music.

  6. sheratan says:

    Just for your information, the track “Hakanage” is an arrangement of the track “Aisyo” from the Ayakashi Japanese Classic Horror OST.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Fo6Og9xmTmM

    It makes sense since the Mononoke anime is a derivative work of the Ayakashi one and both share the same composer.

  7. Jen says:

    @dawntodusk
    They’re a bit noisy for me for homework. I use them for that adrenalin rush when I need it. (Fairy Tail and Naruto Shippuden are particularly good for that XD) For homework, let me introduce you to Haketa Takefumi! Thinking of Aoi Hana’s soundtrack almost makes me want to do homework.

    @sheratan
    Yea, isn’t it interesting how much Takanashi borrowed from his works for Ayakashi? When I first listened to Ayakashi after I’ve already gone through Mononoke, I was struck by the similarity of a lot of their tracks too.

  8. macattack says:

    Yasuharu Takanashi is certainly become busy. He not only is Naruto Shippuden’s composer and Fairy Tail’s composer but he is currently the composer of choice for the Pretty Cure series as well, he’s composed for the last three (Fresh, Heartcatch, and Suite). So he’s basically doing three long-running anime right now. It’s a miracle he has time to compose for anything else with all of that on his plate.

    I think he is fantastic with horror anime though. I think Shiki has a slight advantage over Mononoke IMO . . . Shiki just has a more striking sound to me, it’s more haunting and emotional while Mononoke tries to be more shocking and dramatic. And I’ve always been a sucker for subtle sentimentality.

  9. Jen says:

    @macattack
    Yea, I only recently found out there the Pretty Cure series is still going on. I personally hope they will let him off some of these never-ending projects so he can explore other genres though. His works do become bland when released over 3 or more soundtracks.

    In that case, let me recommend Jigoku Shojo’s soundtrack too. =) I’m personally all for action and drama, and this one presented them in a very different way. So Mononoke is basically like a compilation of all my favorite things.

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