I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the Winter season was disappointing, both in the quality of the shows as well as the music end of things. We got maybe one good soundtrack out of it and the OP/ED themes are mostly a bunch of misses save for a few decent ones (and Sorrow-kun practically got the OP/ED bases mostly covered save for the omission of Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou’s ED “Aishiteru”, my opinion though, not his).
But now that Spring 2009’s season is well under way, this one has definitely been filled with a lot of interesting titles and, as depthcharge101 noted in his comment in an earlier post, it’s packed with some pretty promising soundtracks as well. Anyhow, here’s a list of the shows I’m following and what I think of their soundtracks based on the few episodes I’ve seen so far. These commentaries are not meant to be very in-depth in their analysis and my opinion could easily change as the series progresses, so please keep that in the back of your mind. Without further ado, let’s begin.
Eden of the East
No, this blog isn’t really supposed to deal with plot or anything important like that, but I’d just like to comment that this series has given us the best two episodes from any anime series shown so far this spring season. The soundtrack has also been enjoyable since we have Kenji Kawai behind the reins and he’s done an excellent job mixing some of the more calming, heartfelt themes, like when Saki and Akira are together just interacting (great on-screen chemistry by the way) and divulging backstories, along with some of the pieces that are heavy on the tension. Kawai doesn’t restrict himself to a single medium either and I was able to catch some solo piano, some synth here and there, and of course, some orchestral which means that we can expect an excellent, varied soundtrack to come out of this one.
Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Yes, I do realize that writing a piece of music that’s as heartfelt and sentimental as Michiru Ooshima’s “Brothers / Brajita” is nigh impossible and for that matter, trying to write a soundtrack on par with Ooshima’s efforts on FMA’s first season is one hell of a tall order. But in spite of these high expectations, I’ve been enjoying what Akira Senju has delivered. If you’ve heard any of his stuff from Red Garden and Princess Arete, you will be able to pick up on a few themes that he reuses for FMA2. By and large, this soundtrack has been able to excel in terms of conveying a sense of the melancholy which is fitting given what’s transpired so far in the series. I do have faith in the fact that he’ll be able to pull off another memorable soundtrack and will definitely be getting this one once it comes out.
I’ve only been through one episode of this series so far, but already, the plot’s looking pretty good with a Berserk-ish atmosphere that pervades the overall series. The music has also been really enjoyable, but curiously enough, I haven’t been able to identify any Uematsu-isms in the soundtrack so far. Uematsu seems to be focused on providing an epic orchestral experience and so far, has delivered upon that. What we haven’t gotten a lot of are his signature synth melodies that are readily identifiable (give Blue Dragon’s Soundtrack a listen sometime to understand what I’m getting at since I admit it’s hard to explain) and it’s too early to tell whether that’s a good or bad thing. For what it’s worth, I’ve enjoyed the pieces I’ve heard from Guin Saga’s first episode than I did with Blue Dragon, so that’s got to count for something.
Hayate the Combat Butler!!
With Kotaro Nakagawa at the helm, one might expect great things given his previous works on PlanetES and Code Geass, but like his earlier soundtrack for Hayate the Combat Butler, it doesn’t really stand out all too much. Indeed, the anime series will shamelessly peddle character CDs (of which there are too many to keep track of), but the BGM seems to be more of an afterthought. At least the music still fits the series and doesn’t stand out as being conspicuous in a negative way even if it’s just a bit on the forgettable end.
Surprisingly enough, K-ON! has one of the weaker soundtracks this season since the show doesn’t seem to be prioritizing the musical aspects as much as the comedic character interactions. The times when I did pay attention to the background music resulted in a rather lukewarm impression. While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with the music per se, its lackluster melodies aren’t anything to write home about and don’t impact the series much, if at all. In a way, this isn’t too different from Kyoto Animation’s other shows that don’t rely on Key visual novels (e.g. Clannad, Kanon) or a sequel to a franchise whose first season was done by another animation studio (Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid). Not that it matters much since everyone will be too distracted by the characters’ antics to really care about the soundtrack (myself included).
I really like this show’s atmosphere. It’s seeped with class and when you put the music on top of it, you can effectively label it as a show with an environment similar to Bartender’s but with a soundtrack that’s almost ARIA-esque. Appropriate too because according to TheBigN, some of the musicians working on Ristorante Paradiso also plied their trade as members of the Choro Club. Obviously, that revelation ranks high up there on things that are very much relevant to my interests and needless to say, I’m highly highly anticipating this soundtrack’s release.
Gonzo certainly has a knack for producing anime series with above average soundtracks. Give the soundtrack to the oft-maligned Strike Witches a listen and you can see how Seikou Nagaoka manages to interweave militaristic and slice of life themes in one decent soundtrack. Mind you, it’s nothing great, but nothing bad either.
So with Saki, we get a mix of pleasant pieces that flow really well with what’s taking place on screen and if you’ve followed lelangir’s music blog in the least, you will note that he’s already got one piece from Saki transcribed for your enjoyment. It’s a nice, dainty piece that fits in with the tone of the series so far, but there will undoubtedly be some serious pieces once the series begins to focus on the intense mahjong matches to come. How memorable the soundtrack will be at that point is anyone’s guess, so it’s a matter of waiting and seeing at this stage.
If you’ve played the Dynasty Warriors series of games, you’ve pretty much got an idea as to how this series sounds. There are points where you hear some epic orchestral music and once the action heats up, there will be plenty of rhythm-heavy music (read: techno) to flow with the intensity of the action on screen. Because of the heavy influx of of techno and electronica as well as the show’s tone which reeks of silliness, I don’t expect anything great to come out of this and unless I hear more promising tracks down the line, this will be another soundtrack to forget.
There’s not really much to say about this particular title since everything is going about as well as I’ve expected from the soundtrack front (though apparently people are annoyed that Alicia is coming off as a tsundere). As for the music, Sakimoto hasn’t deviated at all from the game soundtrack yet and I’ve been recognizing the tracks left and right, which means that my expectations have been met. It should be noted that according to an interview with Sakimoto over at Original Sound Version, we have this little gem:
Sakimoto: Also at the beginning of April, I can’t remember the exact date, but the animation series for Valkyria will start as well.
OSV: And you’re scoring the entire thing?
Sakimoto: Yes. But the atmosphere of the music in the animation is very different from the game. The director loved comical style music, so I guess you’ll just have to hear it.
OSV: Were these team-based or by yourself?
Sakimoto: Valkyria is being done by myself, but Muramasa is by Basiscape.
This might not bode well for fans of the game if there will be more emphasis on the more comical moments rather than a drama-heavy war-themed series. Either way, I’ll be interested in seeing how this plays out should the Valkyria Chronicles anime get a soundtrack of its own.
The Final Word
The lineup has been pretty solid through and through and though there are a few notable shows that are not listed here but show promise in the realm of soundtracks (Pandora Hearts, scored by Yuki Kajiura, being the main one), I’m definitely looking forwards giving most of the ones on this list a listen. Given my current status, I’ll only be able to review a small fraction of them (quite possibly just one), so stay tuned for those. And of course, as of this posting, K-ON!’s OP and ED singles have both been released, so you pretty much know what I’ll be working on for the next couple of days.
And of course, feel free to share any series not on this list which might have some decent BGM that’s worthy of a listen. Stuff does fly under my radar, so any recommendations on the music front are always welcome.