|GIRLS und PANZER ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
|Girls und Panzer
|Shiro Hamaguchi, Masumi Ito, Tsutomu Mizushima, rino, Kana Yabuki,
佐々木裕, Steffe John William, John Philip Sousa, Hoffman, Niel Herms,
Knipper Lev Konstantinovich, Blanter Matvej Isaakovich, Hisako Kanemoto,
Sumire Uesaka, Sayaka Sasaki, ChouCho, Mai Fuchigami, Ai Kayano, Mami Ozaki,
Ikumi Nakagami, Yuka Iguchi
|December 26, 2012
Review: The rich history between music and the military is wide-ranging, encompassing the proud marches of John Philip Sousa, the bombast of the “1812 Overture,” and the innumerable wartime folk songs from cultures worldwide. Its varied moods can range from the solemn to the brisk to the proud-chested and pompous, but, needless to say, the heritage that binds music and the armed forces is undeniable.
Girls und Panzer’s OST, scored by Shirou Hamaguchi of Tari Tari fame, draws from this vast reservoir of tradition in the form of the western military march. I’ll go ahead and say it: Girls und Panzer’s score, when at its best, is an absolute success.
Well, at least one track is. The first disc starts strong with “Senshadou March – Panzer Vor!,” the piece which, in a lot of ways, has become THE piece of Girls und Panzer, with good reason. It’s a 3-minute-14-second-long love letter to the grand canon of military marches the world over. An exquisite tribute and its own profound statement, “Panzer Vor!” captures and distills to the very essence what makes marches great. It’s whimsical and lighthearted, yet serious and prideful; delicate and dignified, yet stirring and emotional; stately and composed, yet rowdy and unrefined. Though it unfortunately doesn’t conform quite as neatly to the traditional march form as I’d like, it’s still utterly fantastic.
But therein is also the problem. Hamaguchi was likely so pleased with himself after composing “Panzer Vor!” that he decided to sprinkle it across the entire soundtrack.
What initially comes off as thematic development is really just the unabashed, graceless, sometimes awkward reuse of melodic elements from “Panzer Vor!” Proper theming includes the careful and purposeful reintroduction of themes and motifs throughout a musical work to invoke a recollection in the mind of the listener, thereby instilling a desired effect. Hamaguchi’s orchestration is not always so clever – more often than not, he simply lifts the melody from one song to another. It really is a shame; with such a fantastic main theme, a more subtle touch with the thematic development could have had a very powerful effect. Instead, the tracks come off as stale, redundant, and often ham-fisted in their execution. This might not have been a problem had the theme not appeared so often:
Tracks that Contain Themes from “Senshadou March – Panzer Vor!”
- Advance Ooarai Girls’ Academy Team
- To Ride a Tank
- The Academy Ship Boldly Sails the Ocean Each Day
- Cute Decoration of the Tank
- I’ve Made my Decision
- Come on! I Want a Challenge!
- Stalemate on the Front!
- A Tense Situation!
- Yesterday’s Enemy is Today’s Friend!
- You’re All my Best Friends
- Tank Anthem
Granted, not all of these are as bad as I make them sound (some of them, like “A Tense Situation!,” are decent in their own way), but when a solid third of the tracks on a disc use the same general melodic components, not even the best arranging can prevent it from sounding wearisome.
If all of this sounds very negative, I don’t mean to say there’s absolutely nothing else to like. Some truly good tracks are sprinkled throughout the first disc, and they’re always the ones that avoid sounding anything like “Senshadou March – Panzer Vor!”
“Senshadou is an art for girls to master” is an incredibly moving track with a distinct Spanish edge to the tone and a rosy, emotional outro. If there’s any track that’s in need of some additional development of its ideas, it’s this one, as there are some truly sublime themes here that are sadly underutilized.
Much the same can be said for the very British-styled “The glory of the national Senshadou tournament,” which sounds as if the British March King himself had returned from the dead to pen this gem. It plays like a long lost first draft of another one of his masterful marches that never was, and that it likely will never be anything more than that is really a shame.
When depicting the day to day and not march-inspired, the tracks get almost unbearably generic and flavorless. Tracks like “Hidden Feelings Felt” exemplify this; mild, inoffensive, and bland, they make even less of a statement than if they were outright terrible. Bizarre electronic additions such as “Arrival at the tank-café” and “Sports news, the daily report on Senshadou” offer some variation, but are altogether vanilla and unstimulating.
Shows like Nichijou and Kamichu! proved that songs depicting the everyday don’t have to be boring. Yet, Garupan’s score, when not at the top of its game, is utterly uninteresting and forgettable; what is actually good is either beaten into the ground through tiresome repetition and reuse or too thinly wrought to really come into its own.
Thankfully, the second disc is much more consistent, but not necessarily on account of Hamaguchi. A small collection of renderings of existing march songs from around the globe, these numbers are an authentic snapshot of the celebrated heritage Garupan’s score is inspired by. It feels strange to credit an original soundtrack for tracks that are, well, not original, but what’s included is without question impeccable. Some of the best march music the world has to offer is here, and they’re so lovingly recreated that one can overlook the fact that their origins are external.
Sousa’s own “US Field Artillery March” is still the grand, stomping good time it has been since 1917. Strangely, the entire first and second strain of the original score is omitted, replaced by another repetition of the arguably more iconic trio and breakstrain. Regardless, its inclusion was more than a pleasant surprise in the show and on this disc.
I’d be remiss not to mention this show’s version of “Katyusha.” As if the melody weren’t hopelessly catchy already, the incorporation of the vocals of the characters from the show sung by their respective voice actresses makes the track nearly irresistible; this is the kind of song that will make you want to bear arms and fight for the Motherland yourself. I can’t speak for the Japanese seiyuus’ reproduction of the Russian lyrics (likely horrendous), but given how well the track as a whole was executed, it’s difficult to take issue, especially if you’re not familiar with Russian.
It’s difficult to rate soundtracks like Girls und Panzer’s. Do the thrilling march numbers compensate for the lackluster bulk of the first disc? Or do the swing-and-miss daily life tracks inevitably diminish the snap and crackle of the home runs of the score? I’ll honestly have to call it somewhere in between.