Introduction: I wonder if there’s a single word that I can use to describe these posts. Calling them “previews” would be slightly inaccurate since I’m not pulling completely blind guesses out of a hat, but calling them “thoughts thus far” feels longer than they need to be. I ought to retitle them to “First Impressions.”
In the meantime, I might not be enthusiastic about many of the shows airing this fall, but there sure are a lot of good soundtracks to cheer for. Here, I do intend on covering a whopping 16 shows, but because of how time-consuming it is to get it out all at once and me not being sure whether people want to see huge walls of text anyway, I’ll just cover the first 8 shows I’ve seen. With that in mind, here’s what’s on offer based on everything I’ve listened to thus far.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
Composer: Hayato Matsuo
Synopsis: Dio Brando is a poor, misunderstood boy who has a distaste for dogs and likes to knee them in the face at every opportunity or burn them alive. His other hobbies include torturing the mild-mannered Jonathan Joestar, the son of his benefactor, at every opportunity or forcefully kissing girls who end up rejecting him for his brusque behavior. His search for love compels him to don a mask and become a vampire where he can attract the ilk who read and enjoy novels like Twilight.
Thoughts: Hayato Matsuo’s score for The World God Only Knows was decent and serviceable, filled with classically-inspired tracks that were too short to see much development. This resulted in an unmemorable score when you finally listened to the disc. That said, I hope Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure avoids that fate because what I’ve heard so far has been enjoyable. The strings that play in the scene that introduces the Joestar manor is bright, cheery, and engaging, contrasting nicely with the grimmer melody that comes in while Dio and his father share that one final moment in their life of squalor. Couple that in with a lively string piece during the boxing match and the despondent piano track as Jonathan broods over how Dio is ruining is life, and we’ve got a score that has the potential to deliver something as big as the anime itself.
Sukitte Ii Na Yo
Composer: Yuji Nomi
Synopsis: Mei Tachibana is a loner who shuns friendship because she keeps getting backstabbed. Yamato Kurosawa is her favorite stalker, mostly because he deters other stalkers from going after Mei by forcefully kissing her (is this becoming a thing now?), proving once and for all that you can get away with damn near anything so long as you’re pretty and/or hot.
Thoughts: I really like Yuji Nomi. His capacity to deliver memorable themes is the one consistent aspect of his career that keeps me hanging on as a loyal listener. His excellent score for Nichijou only cements his reputation all the more with its beautiful motifs. So while the first episode of Sukitte Ii Na Yo only gives us brief glimpses of thematic cohesiveness, I’m already won over by the track towards the end that starts off with a poignant piano melody, then adds strings to the mix to whisk us upon an emotional journey, one that suggests that Mei’s loneliness comes to an end and that a brighter future is in store for them all. Now if only I felt the same way about the anime delivering an engaging story…
Composer: Shiro Sagisu
Synopsis: Aladdin is a lad a-laden with a djinn stuck inside a flute. Ali Baba (no relation to the Ali Baba in “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”) is employed by a greedy merchant, but dreams of going into magical dungeons to find wealth and magical artifacts, which effectively means coming into someone else’s house, killing them, and taking their stuff. Together, the two of them free themselves of Ali Baba’s employer and head off in search of adventure and magical loot.
Thoughts: Even if you’re not familiar with Shiro Sagisu, you might be aware of some of the obscure anime titles he’s composed for like Evangelion and Bleach. The synopsis is suggestive of a Middle Eastern theme and Shiro Sagisu sort of delivers on that during the encounter with the reddish-haired slave. At other times though, he’s content to let the orchestra sound off with an un-Arabian delivery like in the first scene, where we’re treated to a foreboding, orchestral melody and the same mood, only with the addition of a chorus, during the early part of the battle with a creature called a desert hyacinth. That’s not a bad thing though since there is an air of epicness that takes hold as the scene plays it all out, bringing with it a spirit of adventure filled with moments of sheer glory.
Composers: Jun Maeda, Magome Togoshi, Manabu Miwa, Shinji Orito, PMMK
Synopsis: Riki Naoe is afflicted by narcolepsy which strikes at inconvenient moments. But that doesn’t stop him from enjoying the halcyon days of youth with his friends Rin, Kyousuke, Masato, and Kengo, who form a group called the Little Busters. Their first task: recruit members onto a makeshift baseball team, even if it means dipping into players like the oven-mitted Komari Kamikita.
Thoughts: I’d be surprised if there was anyone who didn’t expect J.C. Staff to reuse the Little Busters! game soundtrack because anime shows it off on all its full glory. With that glory dependent on how much you enjoyed the game soundtrack, of course. Aside from Jun Maeda’s heartfelt piano pieces, there’s really not a whole lot to ride on and cheer for unless you’re fond of synthy game music and are OK with them not standing out a whole lot. That’s just as well, since the fan-favorite piece of music is the opening theme anyway and it’s nice to hear Rita getting the chance to strut her stuff.
Tonari No Kaibutsu-kun
Composer: Masato Nakayama
Synopsis: Haru Yoshida is a weirdo creeper who, when he wants to get his way, threatens girls with rape. But oh! He’s just a socially awkward dude and we’re supposed to laugh at that awkwardness and brush it off since he’ll surely improve as the story goes on. Shizuku Mizutani is the girl who must endure his attentions, but despite being such a good student, she ain’t too bright when it comes to picking a soulmate.
Thoughts: Shoujo anime? Check. Tinkly piano opener with some shimmery-sounding strings? Check. I’m not sure if there’s much else that needs to be said. Masato Nakayama isn’t exactly the first name that comes to mind when one thinks of Elements Garden and the only other anime he’s scored has been Kimi to Boku 2. Furthermore, nothing really jumps out at me as being particularly memorable and I’m frankly just not interested in finding out whether anything of substance pops up later on since the two leads do a swell job of grating on my nerves.
Composer: Takayuki Hattori
Synopsis: Rei Ogami’s status as the mysterious transfer student piques Sakura Sakurakouji’s interest because he resembles someone Sakura saw immolate people in the park a few days ago. Turns out Rei is just another dude who euthanizes dogs as a side job while his primary job focuses on burninating gangsters with the power of his left hand.
Thoughts: While I can’t say I’m too hyped about the show itself, Takayuki Hattori’s efforts on the soundtrack show a great deal of promise as it features sweeping, ominous melodies that strike the right tone during the action sequences while the school life moments have quaint, pleasant music that emphasizes the seeming ordinariness of those moments. In fact, there’s hardly a moment in the first episode where the background music ever lets you down. That’s not to say that the final product will be good since I was so wrong with my prediction that the Taisho Baseball Girls soundtrack would be good and, instead, became a borefest. Here’s hoping Code:Breaker avoids that same fate.
Shin Sekai Yori
Composer: Shigeo Komori
Synopsis: In a world where kids are expected to pick up magic after a certain period of time, those who fail to pick up these magical arts are doomed to an unspeakable fate. It is in this world that Saki Watanabe and her friends must come together to unearth the chilling events that form the foundation for this dystopia.
Thoughts: I never watched Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi so I’ve got no idea what his music would be like. Also, given the title of the anime, hearing the second movement of Dvorak’s “From the New World” Symphony shouldn’t have been a surprise (though it does make me wonder whether the emphatic fourth movement will ever rear its head). Either way, the soloist in one of the early scenes does give off a lonely, despairing tone and the discordance during one of the lessons. Later on, as the kids relate a ghost story, the music reinforces the creep factor inherent in the setting all the more. I’m not sure we’ll get a stellar soundtrack out of this, but the premise is interesting enough to keep me around.
Composer: Yuugo Kanno
Synopsis: Gen Urobuchi shows us novel ways in which women can be physically, mentally, and emotionally tortured while using a setting that isn’t too far from Minority Report. In this case, Akane Tsunemori is the fresh-faced recruit who just graduated to become a full-fledged member of a special unit of a police force and is riding high on ideals on how things ought to be. Those lofty ideals, how hard they fall.
Thoughts: It’s rather unfortunate that this Kanno has the tendency of being eclipsed by that other Kanno, unfortunate because he can deliver memorable themes when called upon. The bad news (and reason why he’s not as memorable as the other Kanno)? The main theme is usually the only piece in any given score of his that I really enjoy. I’m not quite sure how Psycho-pass will turn out. The brassy air that sounded out as they zoomed out of the tower in the opening scene was promising and the bass melody that played as the Enforcers took their firearms fit the scene nicely. Everything else blended in though (that is the point after all), with synth and electronica being the primary genres I caught. Unfortunately, Kanno’s electronica isn’t exactly the most engaging stuff around and I just hope he doesn’t stuff too much of that in Psycho-pass.
Stay tuned for part 2 which will include the likes of KyoAni’s latest as well as some small-scale military action that’ll be written by… oh… sometime next week.