Just about everyone out there is gearing up for the Spring 2009 season with their previews and I figure that I should also hop on board the bandwagon but take a look at things from the musical side of the equation. While this post is only going to cover the two shows mentioned in the title, both Valkyria Chronicles’ and Guin Saga’s soundtracks are being scored by composers better-known for their video game soundtracks with Hitoshi Sakimoto composing the former and Nobuo Uematsu scoring the latter. For those who aren’t aware, Uematsu is well-known for writing the music to the Final Fantasy game franchise while Sakimoto has had some anime soundtracks under his belt in Romeo x Juliet and the Tower of Druaga though he is better known for his work on Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, and Odin Sphere. That Sakimoto is credited with the soundtrack to Valkyria Chronicles is no surprise since he scored the game itself and because of this, I am definitely going to pay a bit more attention to what Uematsu will bring to the table with his compositions in Guin Saga.
Guin Saga and Uematsu
There are two main reasons I wanted to focus on Uematsu’s efforts on Guin Saga. The first should be fairly obvious because Guin Saga is Uematsu’s anime soundtrack debut (if you don’t count Blue Dragon’s music). The second reason is that I haven’t been impressed with any of his game compositions as of late. Sure, Blue Dragon contained a lot of Uematsu’s signature styles and was a decent soundtrack overall and Anata o Yurusanai had a few good jazz pieces worth exploring, but again, it wasn’t a huge standout either.
My main concern here is his ability to impress me with epic-sounding fanfares, subtle melodies that work to soothe the listener, or poignant pieces that convey the feelings of love between two characters on screen. Uematsu has demonstrated his ability to write such works, which is why the lack of masterful pieces has made this VGM fan a bit eager to see him return to form. The last piece of his in which I was truly awed by was the opening piece to Final Fantasy XI which combined the ever ominous “Memoro de la Ŝtono” together with other melodies like the “Prelude” from past Final Fantasy games. Before that, it was his works on Final Fantasy VIII like “Liberi Fatali,” “One Winged Angel” from Final Fantasy VII, and the famous “Aria de Mezzo Carattere” from Final Fantasy VI that thrilled me and demonstrated the full spectrum of his composing skills.
Final Fantasy VIII – Liberi Fatali:
Final Fantasy VI – Aria de Mezzo Carattere:
[audio:Aria De Mezzo Carattere.mp3]
Needless to say, I’m hoping that Uematsu can work his magic in Guin Saga and it’ll be interesting since I think this kind of story can fit in with Uematsu’s musical style. For those who can’t be bothered to look it up, Guin Saga is a fantasy series that focuses on an amnesiac warrior whose face is concealed by a leopard’s mask. The overall tone of the series seems pretty grim based off of the artwork and I predict the series will be gritty, brutal, and violent (it’d almost have to if Kentaro Miura of Berserk fame has drawn inspiration from it). Because of this, we’ll be seeing tracks that are more in line with “Memoro de la Ŝtono” and possibly some harsh-sounding rock tracks (look up his Black Mages albums as a reference) during the combat scenes.
The Black Mages – Those Who Fight Further:
[audio:Those Who Fight Further.mp3]
Uematsu has shown his brilliance back in the NES (Famicom) era all the way to the mid-PSX era, but since then, he hasn’t been quite as impressive. As such, Guin Saga will be a test of sorts to determine how well he can transition over to anime music and whether he still has enough creative juices left to impress his longtime fans. Somehow, I think that even if he does fall short of expectations, the soundtrack will at least be competently written.
Valkyria Chronicles: Sakimoto’s Pretty Much Set
Hitoshi Sakimoto doesn’t have quite the same problem since he’s written the music for the Sega game of the same name and the soundtrack has been released for quite some time now. Jayson Napolitano over at Original Sound Version has already written an excellent review of Valkyria Chronicles’s OST complete with Sakimoto’s commentaries on some of the tracks themselves, so there’s really little need for me to add in my own comments regarding the game soundtrack itself beyond suggesting the people give it a whirl.
If there’s one thing that becomes apparent after listening to Sakimoto, it’s his ability to bring tracks that make an excellent backdrop for a war setting, thereby rendering it an excellent fit with Valkyria Chronicles. The whole story does focus on a resistance movement that tries to fight against an invading empire and I’m interested in seeing how good the storytelling will be. Yes, I realize anime adaptations of video games have had a terrible track record and that wishing for this series to buck that trend seems unlikely. Nevertheless, I do hold out the hope that they can pull it off since it’d be nice to have a war story that doesn’t involve mecha for once.
As for Sakimoto, I’ve been a longtime fan of his music ever since I first listened to Final Fantasy Tactics’ soundtrack because the sheer intensity and emotion present in tracks like “Apoplexy” and “Antipyretic” are just so beautiful in conveying the rhythm and pace of battle. His works have continued to impress and I’ve yet to be disappointed by any of his output because he can seamlessly transition from writing music for serious RPGs, move to space shooters (Gradius V), and even shift over to a more whimsical, lighthearted RPGs (Opoona). So by extension, Valkyria Chronicles’ soundtrack is a solid effort and I do hope that non-VGM fans use this opportunity to listen to his pieces and hopefully enjoy it enough as to use it as a springboard to explore some of his other works.
Provided that the anime series doesn’t annoy me by making me angry enough to drop the series, I’ll be following Valkyria Chronicles for the music. Probably not the best decision ever, but since I haven’t played the game, I hope that the series can act as a substitute and won’t turn out too shabby. If nothing else, I can at least use this opportunity to comment about the music whenever it turns up. In the meantime, enjoy these 5 excerpts from the video game soundtrack. Yes, I am a fanboy when it comes to epic themes such as these:
[audio:Main Theme – VC.mp3]
Daily Life of the 7th Platoon:
[audio:Daily Life of the 7th Platoon.mp3]
Anyhow, I’m interested to know what people are expecting soundtrack-wise out of the Spring 2009 anime season. FMA is all but confirmed to have an excellent soundtrack, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on this matter, on other shows, and the concept of having video game composers writing music for anime and vice versa.