Intro by zzeroparticle: Three months have passed on by since the last iteration of this exercise and it is time once more to undergo the strange ritual where I pick up the latest season’s offerings, not for plots or anything of great importance, but to see what soundtracks I should look to add to my collection. By approaching anime in this manner, I’m rarely ever disappointed; no matter how bad the shows themselves might be, there are always at least 3-4 decent soundtracks to check out. And that holds true even for a slow season like this one, especially when come of my favorite video game composers are up to bat. So without further ado, here’s what we’ve got in store for summer and as always, my excitement is definitely a-brewin’.
Composer: Takefumi Haketa
Synopsis: The continuing adventures of Tadayasu Sawaki, a student attending an agricultural college who can see microbes and learns more about their applications from Professor Keizō Itsuki and his other schoolmates, including the grad student Haruka Hasegawa and the two good-hearted ne’er-do-wells Takuma Kawahama and Kaoru Misato.
Zzeroparticle’s Thoughts: With that last sentence in the introduction above, of course I was going to feature this one first. Normally, I’d have expected Naoki Sato, the composer for the first season to take the reins once more, but nope, looks like they swapped him out for Takefumi Haketa. That’s not a bad thing either since his rustic, simple, but beautiful music fits the anime’s agricultural theme rather nicely. That said, there haven’t been any compelling themes that have cropped up just yet, but I do hope that at some point, the show will reveal the main theme, one that will hopefully be as memorable as the one from Someday’s Dreamers soundtrack.
Yu’s Thoughts: Out of all of Takefumi Haketa’s work, I’ve only been impressed by Aoi Hana’s soundtrack and Someday’s Dreamers. Everything else he’s written has a tendency to be pleasant, but very forgettable. If he manages to come up with a catchy theme though, we’ll have a great score on our hands with Moyashimon Returns. If not, well, at least it won’t sound awful.
Composer: Masashi Hamauzu
Synopsis: Momiji is a goddess of misfortune who has been assigned to drain enough fortune away from Ichiko Sakura so that Sakura has normal fortune levels. As it stands, Ichiko is too damn lucky for her own good and has begun to drain fortune away from those around her.
Zzeroparticle’s Thoughts: Of all the composer names to get me excited, no composer has been able to surpass Masashi Hamauzu. His past works tend towards video game music, but I’ve loved nearly everything he’s done, from the ridiculously awesome “Unlimited Saga Overture” to the catchy “Präludium” from SaGa Frontier II. In Binbougami ga, Hamauzu once again showcases his impeccable sound layering that has made me such a fan over the years. His wonderful violin and piano blends in the anime along with a few electronica tracks that are reminiscent of stuff from Unlimited Saga only make me more excited to see what the finished soundtrack will sound like. The two downsides? This anime isn’t exactly and so far, the music’s thematic consistency, where Hamuzu’s strength usually shines, has not surfaced yet. I might stick it out for one more episode just to catch wind of some good tunes, but I don’t think this show is a keeper.
Composer: Iwanami Miwa (Sound Director)
Synopsis: This anime is full of ordinary dialogue so that viewers can fully enjoy how cute the girls are.
Zzeroparticle’s Thoughts: Given that ANN has no composer listed in its entry, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot in the music department. To that end, the music didn’t really disappoint as it was mostly soft and unobtrusive with the only noticeable tracks being the ones that used more classical Japanese instruments. It works in that Joshiraku is a series where you want to follow the dialogue more closely rather than letting your attention drift towards the sound. So aside from serving the show well, there’s not else to say.
Sword Art Online
Composer: Yuki Kajiura
Synopsis: A bunch of people are trapped in an MMORPG and must beat it to escape. Any attempts at logging out by forcefully removing the virtual reality helmets results in microwaved brains. Someone at the consumer protection agency is getting fired…
Zzeroparticle’s Thoughts: When I watched the trailer for Sword Art Online, Yuki Kajiura’s music seemed to be a bit more upbeat and cheerful, which definitely made for a nice change. But that only lasted so long, and once the plot hammer struck, we were back to the dissonant atmospheric themes that Kajiura has served up since time immemorial. I’m not quite sure where she’ll take us since SAO’s score doesn’t seem to be as thematically solid as even Fate/Zero’s soundtrack was. So while you can’t go wrong with her, the first episode didn’t really impress from the plot or musical standpoint, so I’ll just have to wait and see.
Yu’s Thoughts: Oh boy. If there’s anything good about Kajiura, it’s that she’s so consistent you know exactly what to expect with every single thing she writes. In other words, Sword Art Online’s score is going to have the same exact personality and quality as the past 10 things she’s written music for – a good thing if you’re a fan of her sound and a bad thing if you’re waiting for her to write something new.
Composer: Ken Muramatsu
Synopsis: Guy who has a crush on a woman who runs the nearby flower shop ends up working for her as a temp, learns that she’s a widow, and can see and hear the ghost of her dead husband making snarky comments.
Zzeroparticle’s Thoughts: With this mature romance anime, Ken Muramatsu graces us with the light, jazzy fare that’s been his general tone since I first listened to the Sketchbook soundtrack. But unlike the more laid-back Sketchbook, I find that Natsuyuki Rendezvous’s melancholy score more closely matches that of Kurenai’s soundtrack. And as hopeful as I am that things will go over well, I’m not quite sure how well he can depict the snarky dead husband to music, only because I can’t immediately come up with any melodies of his that I could call mischievous, which the dead husband definitely is. Oh well, I will certainly find out since this show is a keeper.
Yu’s Thoughts: Of all the soundtracks coming out this Summer, none have caught my interest more than Ken Muramatsu’s score for Natsuyuki Rendezvous. Muramatsu’s unique style of relaxed piano jazz is something I’ve really come to appreciate since it’s so different from the tone of any other soundtrack. On top of that, Muramatsu’s been reliably consistent at writing catchy stuff that holds up well to repeated listens. Needless to say, I’m really hoping he pulls of the same stuff here as he has previously.
Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi
Composer: Yasunori Mitsuda & Maki Kirioka
Synopsis: Animating the backstory to the famous 100 Japanese poems.
Zzeroparticle’s Thoughts: Yasunori Mitsuda’s presence on this soundtrack should be a welcome sign especially if the soundtracks to Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, and Xenogears plunge you into a world of nostalgia. And so far, I’ve found myself enthralled by his soft violin swells. Now, Mitsuda can’t compose a battle theme to save his life, but given that Uta Koi’s focus will be on love and maybe tragedy, I get the feeling that he’ll do just fine here and his music will be pleasant and enjoyable. Also, notice how I don’t mention Maki Kirioka at all. Nope, not important at all.
Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (Humanity has Declined)
Composer: Kow Otani
Synopsis: Humanity has been ravaged by catastrophe and food supplies grow scarce. That is, until mysterious food items begin showing up around town and many suspect the elves to be behind it.
Zzeroparticle’s Thoughts: I’m not really sure that Kow Otani will ever be able to outdo his score for Haibane Renmei and wishing that he’d be able to do so seems rather folly. If there is a show that can get him to bring forth those kinds of tunes though, it’d probably be this one, given how rustic and empty the setting seems to be. The music early on has nailed that rustic mood, packing it with charming melodies, though that was probably the high point. What follows afterward isn’t bad, but its simplicity doesn’t make it super-compelling either. At least the antics that the show has showered us with have been amusing and I’ll definitely stick to this one.
Composer: Shiro Hamaguchi
Synopsis: A student gets kicked out of the school choir and forms her own music club after trying to round up a few more members.
Zzeroparticle’s Thoughts: Out of all the music for the shows I’ve sampled thus far, Tari Tari is pretty much a runaway hit, and that’s no surprise when you have someone of Hamaguchi’s caliber handling the score. The anime already managed to stimulate my musical sensibilities with that choir arrangement of “Reflectia” from True Tears, but it was Hamaguchi’s lighthearted orchestral melodies that won me over. Although I am somewhat worried that Tari Tari will yield some enjoyable, but ultimately unmemorable music (see his score for Hanasaku Iroha if you want a good example), for now, I’m more than happy to indulge in the light, whimsical, mellow aura that’s on display here.
Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse
Composer: Seikou Nagaoka
Synopsis: Aliens have invaded Earth and it’s up to the Tactical Surface Fighters to slow down their advance until a solution can be found.
Zzeroparticle’s Thoughts: Seikou Nagaoka AKA the guy who composed the score to Strike Witches. He shows up quite often, but I somehow never get the urge to try out any of the shows that he composes for though this one might turn out to be an exception. His experience on Strike Witches will definitely be useful here and we’ve already been treated to some enjoyable orchestrals early on in the anime with some majestic themes really catching the bulk of my attention. That said, Nagaoka doesn’t skimp on the action music either and together, the package has been solid as I look forward to seeing what happens in episode 2 of this series.
Final Thoughts: Nine anime is quite a bit for me to be starting off on since my normal habits never quite reach this extent. Knowing me, this list will be whittled down to four. On top of that, there are also quite a few shows that I missed out on like Hikaru Nanase’s score for WHO IS IMOUTO, but since the premise is already off-putting, I’m not sure I’m too compelled to see what that’s all about. Maybe a few others worth mentioning too, but I’ll leave that for people to agenda-push in the comments section.