2003 brings back a lot of fond memories since that was the year that my interest in the medium was rekindled after going on a one-year hiatus. By that time, I had completely settled into my new environment, made quite a few friends, and more importantly, I had a sense of direction. That peace of mind helped free up more time and through a friend, I was compelled to give anime another shot since a lot of good shows were airing, some of which would end up on my all-time favorites list. It would be an overstatement to call this period an anime renaissance, but at the time, it sure felt that way to me.
Note: Youtube videos are spoilered, clips contain the entire track, and with that, let’s go!
Anyone who has known me for any significant length of time will know that if given the opportunity, I can babble on and on about how awesome Gunslinger Girl is. And how could I not? Everything about the show caught my attention straight away, from the crisp, detailed art and animation to the plot, and it effectively brought me back into the fold and held me there but good.
But the music… Gunslinger Girl’s soundtrack was an utterly beautiful piece of work that I would not hesitate in putting in a top 10 soundtracks list if I ever decided to sit down and take the time to cobble one together. Toshihiko Sahashi really outdid himself with the classical-style melodies that conveyed the action and the setting wonderfully. The “TEMA’s” are pretty much the foundation that the soundtrack is crafted behind, and I love “TEMA I’s” melancholy violin melody the best out of them all though “TEMA IV’s” intensity will always be a favorite too since it does a good job of bringing on the action. Concentrating on the themes alone would mean missing out on a lot of other excellent pieces such as “Bucolica” and “Ti Amo” which depict the characters’ day to day life in the European perfectly allowing you to immerse yourself in the setting.
[audio:Gunslinger Girl – TEMA I.mp3]
[audio:Gunslinger Girl – bucolica.mp3]
And lest I forget, the OP, “Light Before We Land,” also had the effect of tuning me into the Delgados, and I really like the music from their Hate album.
The only other show that could hold a candle to Gunslinger Girl was Full Metal Alchemist, which kept me in rapt attention with its ambitious plot and enjoyable cast of characters. It also served as my introduction to Michiru Ooshima’s works which, as I’ve commented before, tends to be fairly consistent from anime to anime. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad soundtrack from her ever. She just captures the drama and action so well.
Whether it’s the novelty factor of hearing Ooshima for the first time or the nostalgia factor surrounding FMA, I don’t know, but I’m still tempted to call this her best soundtrack to date. The action sounds have the required level of intensity so that you can feel the sense of urgency floating about, but the drama inherent in the tragedies that the brothers Elric are forced to endure is conveyed most poignantly through “Brothers.” “Kiro” is also memorable in the way in which the scope of the series is brought to light by giving the listener a taste of the show’s ambition through the militaristic beats and the grand, epic orchestral pieces. That people lament the lack of Ooshima in the latest rendition of the FMA saga just goes to show just how strongly people linked her music to the series. Akira Senju’s compositions are good enough, but without “Brothers,” something still feels missing.
[audio:Full Metal Alchemist – Kiro.mp3]
[audio:Full Metal Alchemist – Brothers.mp3]
Since we’re on the subject of grand adventures, how about some Last Exile? That show had quite a bit of that, didn’t it? But while the militaristic tracks like “Chivalry Spirits” are fine in my book, the compositions from the show that stand out the most are the ones that evoke the feeling you get as you look upon the the rustic, Irish countryside through the mixture of accordion, guitars, violins, and woodwinds that this soundtrack is filled with. For that matter, it’s the Irish inflections in the sound that helps differentiate this album beyond your typical adventuring anime soundtrack and so, I prefer tracks such as “Morning in Norkia” and “Workin’ on the Cloud.” Also, Hitomi Kuroishi’s singing isn’t my cup of tea, so I’ll give her vocal tracks a pass when I listen to the soundtrack.
Workin’ on the Cloud
[audio:Last Exile – Workin on the Cloud.mp3]
[audio:Last Exile – Chivalry Spirits.mp3]
That adventuresome theme also means we turn towards Wolf’s Rain, where Kanno’s eclectic mix of Latin rhythms and orchestral works make for an enjoyable listen overall. As you can probably guess, I have a stronger bias in favor of her orchestral compositions, and so, “Shiro Long Tails” will always earn a firm nod for its memorable, melancholy melody. But also, let us not forget Maaya Sakamoto’s performance in “Gravity,” which should get some sort of award for being one of the most poignant ending themes ever. I mean, it’s survived this long and has been a fan favorite since it came out in 2003.
Shiro Long Tails
[audio:Wolf’s Rain – Shiro Long Tails.mp3]
Chrono Crusade was also a show worth mentioning because it was my first exposure to Hikaru Nanase’s works. Her dark, gothic melodies earn a thumbs up from me, some of the sillier Rosette-oriented tracks are a bit annoying, only because one is an arrangement of the other and only a careful listen will really allow you to differentiate them. Still, the standouts are the OP, “Tsubasa wa Pleasure Line” sung by Minami Kuribayashi and the ED, “Sayonara Solitaire” composed by Yuki Kajiura and sung by Saeko Chiba.
Chrono Crusade might be one of Gonzo’s more underrated works. At least, I hardly see ever hear people discussing this show. All suspicions for this lack of discussion seem to center upon a mysterious organization known only as the Cult of the New.
And while we talk about shows that hardly ever get mentioned, I don’t see Scrapped Princess getting much love either. The few words that I can use to describe this is that for all intents and purposes, Scrapped Princess was a JRPG that was turned into an anime (Utawarerumono is a more egregious example of this). Also composed by Hikaru Nanase, I can’t claim to remember a thing from the soundtrack, and so, I must present you with the OP, “Little Wing,” since you can never go wrong with JAM Project.
To shift gears a bit, maybe someone can update me on what’s going on with Mikuni Shimokawa. I was first aware of her when I watched Full Metal Panic, but it was in the Fumoffu spinoff that I really appreciated her singing a whole lot more. During 2003 and for many years thereafter, “Sore Ga Ai Deshou” was my favorite anime song, and one that I’d foist upon any unsuspecting anime fans who had not heard that piece. The ED, “Kimi ni Fuku Kaze,” isn’t as awesome compared to the OP, but I also enjoyed that one a whole lot, probably because the little marching figures and the rhythm has driven it into my mind forevermore. Soundtrack is more of Toshihiko Sahashi from the first series, so you know what you’re getting into.
Kino’s Journey also features Shimokawa in the OP “All the Way” which was a really catchy song. It also was totally out of place with the general atmosphere that Kino’s Journey established through its vignettes. My guess is that they were trying to bring forth a sense of discovery since the song does a good job of making me want to pack my bags and explore the world so that I can marvel and experience all that life has to offer. After all, I maintain that traveling broadens ones mind, allowing one to see things from a different cultural perspective.
Finally, we come to Planetes, the show that I’m still guilty of not having seen to completion. In listening to the music by Kotaro Nakagawa (of Code Geass fame), I can’t help but feel a sense of grandiosity through the first track, “Outside Atmosphere,” which is marvelous as it gets you to think upon the pictures of Earth that we’ve all seen before in our textbooks. It’s an image most of us will probably never experience in person, but it never fails to leave me in awe and wonder as I look at it and realize that the sum total of the human experience is encapsulated on that tiny sphere. The rest of the soundtrack is good too, but I don’t think they deliver on as strong a first impression like “Outside Atmosphere.” Yes, I really do pimp this song a bit too much.
[audio:Planetes – Outside Atmosphere.mp3]
A limit does need to be set on the number of times I mention that I haven’t seen Someday’s Dreamers and my overriding need to listen to Takefumi Haketa’s soundtrack the whole way through since I was so impressed by “Where the Sky and Earth Meet” (found on a MALKeionbu compilation near you!). My advice is to grab the compilation, and if you liked what you hear, give the show a shot or the soundtrack a listen.
The RahXephon movie came out this year, didn’t it? I suppose that I could post the Steve Conte/Maaya Sakamoto duet in “Garden of Everything” that arranges the well-known “Polovtsian Dances” from Borodin’s opera Prince Igor since their voices intertwine beautifully, but I’ve always preferred the original 😛 Oh well, for your listening pleasure since I don’t want this section to be totally devoid of music:
R.O.D. TV gets a lot of mixed opinions and I’m on the side that found the story to be enjoyable. It also gets a lot of flak for using the same themes from the OVA, but I don’t find this to be a major fault since Iwasaki arranges the main theme so that each variation is enjoyable on its own. But then again, I’m big on the whole “theme and variations” bit that composers do (“Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini” comes to mind).
To borrow a joke from NegativeZero, Shingetsutan Tsukihime received not one, but two fan discs composed by Toshiyuki Omori. Surprising, isn’t it? The music uses the violins to create an overwhelming sense of despair that makes for a good listen, but there’s nothing that’s really really memorable here. Except maybe the OP song “Sacred Moon” and the way it hits on the gothic horror fairly decently. OK, there’s a really poignant violin track too, but this is getting to be a bit lengthy and I’m starting to feel lazy. (For those who don’t get the joke, there is no Tsukihime anime.)
Anything else that I missed other than possibly Tokyo Godfathers? I’ve been meaning to watch that, but I just haven’t found the time. And by that, I mean muscle out a block of time since it’s been hard finding the free time to actually hit my backlog, what with the stuff that’s currently out. It’ll sit on the back burner along with just about everything else.