Seirei No Moribito Ongakuhen 1 – Review

Soundtrack Cover

Album Title: Seirei No Moribito Ongakuhen 1
Anime Title: Seirei no Moribito
Artist: Kenji Kawai
Catalog Number: GNCA-1126
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: Jun 22, 2007
Purchase at: CDJapan, Play-Asia


Tracklist

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Track Title Artist Time
01. Omoi Haruka Kawai Kenji 3:01
02. Tamikusa no Sasoi Kawai Kenji 2:21
03. Shoka ni Tobu Kawai Kenji 1:36
04. Hoshi Yomi no Tou Kawai Kenji 2:51
05. Hizou Kawai Kenji 1:32
06. Miezaru Kyoui Kawai Kenji 1:55
07. Karu! Kawai Kenji 1:51
08. Daichiyo Kawai Kenji 2:46
09. Bon Kawai Kenji 2:17
10. Aiirenuri Kawai Kenji 1:51
11. Tanomareya Kawai Kenji 1:43
12. Saya ki Kokoro no Mono Kawai Kenji 1:45
13. Yakusou Shi ga Iku Kawai Kenji 1:52
14. Ichi Hishigi Kawai Kenji 2:33
15. Anryuu Kawai Kenji 3:30
16. Ikai Kawai Kenji 1:42
17. Nigero! Kawai Kenji 1:40
18. Kizuna Kawai Kenji 1:48
19. Inori Kawai Kenji 2:11
20. Jujutsu Shi no Haikai Kawai Kenji 2:08
21. Sougon Naru Nayugu Kawai Kenji 1:56
22. Mizu no Tami Kawai Kenji 2:19
23. Wakare no Toki Kawai Kenji 2:17
24. Balsa Hashiru Kawai Kenji 2:28
25. Sekihi wa Kataru Kawai Kenji 1:56
26. Eiyuu, Tatsu Kawai Kenji 1:56
27. Michishirube Kawai Kenji 1:48
28. Nahji no Uta Kawai Kenji 4:27

Review: Seirei no Moribito, which came out in 2007, has always struck me as an under-appreciated series. It’s got beautiful art, an engaging story, interesting characters and, of course, a gorgeous soundtrack. Composer Kenji Kawai’s resume is long and varied and he brings his A game to this series. It stands out as one of my favourite soundtracks and fits the series extremely well.

The plot of the series centres around Balsa, the spear-wielder, who is tasked with protecting the young Prince Chagum from his own father’s assassins. The emperor fears that Chagum is somehow connected to a spirit that will bring a great drought upon the land and must be killed. Balsa promises to protect him as she seeks to understand what the spirit within Chagum really is using ancient knowledge and folklore.

The folk aspect is a key element in the series, with conflict arising through the different approaches of the traditional, indigenous peoples and the empire guided by the star diviners. As Balsa wanders into this part of the world, Kawai immediately establishes the folk style of the soundtrack by introducing the series’ main theme in “Omoi Haruka”. It’s a soft flowing melody led by the strings and flute with subtle percussion in the background that brings out a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.

Omoi Haruka

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Several other tracks on the soundtrack echo this style, but each is unique and adds an element of hope or uncertainty to the melodies to allow them to fit extremely well with the cultural landscape of the Seirei no Moribito world. In fact, at least a dozen of the 28 tracks are in this general style. Another great example is the relaxing “Kizuna” which allows the melody to be carried upon a soft flute’s lines, conjuring up images of a calm summer afternoon.

Kizuna

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As the characters get closer to their grim, mystical fate, the music follows suit, descending into a foreboding, eerie atmosphere, peppered with quick, repeating patterns of 16th notes in the violin and anchored by an almost wailing soprano like the one featured in “Miezaru Kyoui”. There, Kawai opts for a three beat rhythm to add intensity and make the piece feel unnatural, reflecting the story’s supernatural elements. This contrasts with “Jujutsu Shi no Kaikai”, the music of the shamans, which mirrors the almost wailing vocals, but this time the vocals center on a deep baritone voice which moves at a much slower pace. Only the heavy, steady drum beats provide accompaniment, creating a sense of deep thought or meditation.

Miezaru Kyoui

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Jujutsu Shi no Haikai

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And if Balsa’s struggle to find the answers to her many questions about the mysterious spirit isn’t enough, she and Chagum must contend with the Emperor’s assassins. For these sequences, Kawai provides us with a selection of more intense pieces to reflect the rising tension. These tracks convey the urgency of the situation and instil a sense of the importance of the battle being fought. A strong drum beat leads the way in “Eiyuu, Tatsu”, with a quick-paced violin building the main melody. The choral backing makes it all feel more epic, but it never steals the spotlight of the piece from the melody. Although, this particular track unfortunately didn’t see much use in the actual series, it is still a good listen.

Eiyuu, Tatsu

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When the threat is imminent, the music kicks it up another notch, yielding “Balsa Hashiru”. This theme builds on the intense drum-beat and urgent violins from the other tracks and combines them into a piece that doesn’t mess around. There’s no choral backing here; it’s just a powerful theme that reflects Balsa herself – strong yet graceful.

Balsa Hashiru

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The soundtrack caps off with a vocal version of the series’ main theme, which carries with it a sense of hope and continuance, led once again by the violin and flute combination of the leading track. The chorus also works it’s magic here, with a delivery strong enough to carry the melody without sounding too artificial. I could have easily been fooled into thinking this was a traditional Japanese folk song, which illustrates the excellence of Kawai’s work.

Overall the soundtrack for Seirei no Moribito provides exactly the right atmosphere to reflect the mystical and cultural elements in the story. Most of the tracks, even the battle music, remain very melodic, though there are a few tracks that simply serve to create an atmosphere and are not as interesting to listen to on their own. The “wailing” songs can also be a bit jarring when not heard in the right context. Nevertheless, this is a solid soundtrack that I will often put on as background music. The folk style themes are a pleasure to listen to and stand well on their own. The fact that they remind me of an awesome anime series is just a bonus.

Rating: Very Good

About the author

Kaikyaku

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5 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. After all this time, I don’t think there’s been a Kawai soundtrack that quite surpasses this one. My favorite track is still “Nahji no Uta” which really brings out the folk-y nature quite nicely and helps you get immersed in the anime. Also, there’s “Karu!” which I’m just biased towards because of the nostalgia that it brings, what with that smooth, crisp animation that goes down early in the anime as Balsa is trying to evade the Emperor’s minions.

    The atmospheric tracks do bring this album down a few notches, but when you compare it to the rest of Kawai’s discography, this one is pretty unparalleled in its quality.

    • Teri Seika says:

      agree 100%. It’s been almost 3/4 years I’ve seen Seirei, and this story (with soundtrack and art) is probably my favorite one with Mushishi. I’ve got the soundtrack in the car and at work and there is not a month I dream with this music enjoying the simple country/city life presented in Seirei. For me this is the best success of Kawai Kenji in term of matching the plot and art. I even think it surpasses Ghost in shell, which is already a summum.

      • @Teri Seika
        It’s a high bar for sure, but I’d say Seirei no Moribito is his strongest work to date, especially with the way he brings out the setting as you stated so well. It’s one that definitely gets its turn on my playlist as the music brings out not only the action sequences, but also the setting and some of the more poignant moments that Kawai has ever composed to date.

  2. Sorrow-kun says:

    Kawai’s work is typically exceptional (the Higurashi soundtrack aside) and the Seirei no Moribito OST is no different. This was an interesting review. I definitely agree that the style of Kawai’s music complements the mood of the anime. Looking forward to reading more from you. :)

  3. Yu says:

    I have to agree that this is a better soundtrack than anything else Kawai has written, but at the same time, it’s not anything I’d call amazing.

    One of the major sticking points this soundtrack (and many other soundtracks of his) has with me is how everything has such a strong echo effect layered over it. I understand that he probably does this to contribute to the distant, folksy feel, but to me it sounds like someone blurred the whole thing so that there’s always a background buzz. Even the things in the forefront have no contrast because of the sound mixing. With no contrast, things get kind of boring. Luckily for the flute in “Kizuna” it’s not overpowered by the echo and so sounds pretty good.

    He’s also completely incompetent at orchestrating (notice how all of the strings are always playing the same note at the same time). This point is just me picking on Kawai because I have a grudge against him.

    This soundtrack has some genuinely beautiful themes, I just wish Kawai had the skill to present them at their full potential.

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