|Mononoke Original Soundtrack
|September 19, 2007
Review: To get into the ‘spirit’ of things for Halloween, Anime Instrumentality proudly presents yet another holiday special. In a season iconically represented by ghosts and other supernatural beings delivering a frightful experience, there is nothing like a healthy dose of Mononoke to raise hairs and send chills down the spine. Best of all, you won’t need to feel silly about it afterwards.
Instead of going with the standard convention of listening to tales of witches and goblins, we shall listen to the tales of Mononoke, all weaved together beautifully through what is easily Yasuharu Takanashi’s greatest work thus far. This story begins not with Bulwer-Lytton’s ‘dark and stormy night’, but the taiko and koto situated amidst an uneasy serenity, which are later joined by the harpsichord and the haunting vocals to set up Mononoke’s premise. Although the entry of the shakuhachi brings in the feeling of loss, the track stays true to the anime’s placid approach and avoids dramatic or extensive displays of emotions.
After the short prelude, we are immediately drawn into the heart of the action, with a fast-paced track which combines Japanese flutes, vocals, violins and low brass, all of which is set to a strong and relentless drumbeat. The ponderous sound that results ratchets the tension by quite a bit as it highlights the dangerous and unforgiving task of exorcisms.
While the first two tracks perfectly represent Mononoke as a whole, the later tracks delve deeper into the show’s subtleties. “Ononoki” tells of the formation of an ayakashi, starting with a loneliness which transforms into a heart-wrenching sense of anguish once the vocals come in, before the desire for vengeance takes over. The way the track builds up to incorporate the shakuhachi, voice and percussions one by one draws out those many different sentiments, making it the most evocative track on the album. “Samishige”, on the other hand, moves towards more peaceful, if melancholic waters, as this requiem leads a spirit to its salvation. “Isamashige” is a return to action as it embodies the battle against the spirits. Its rapid progression and frenetic melody played by the nohkan masterfully depicts the warped realm of the supernatural.
Takanashi also brings his musically evocative powers to the fore through “Ayashige”, which conjures an image of spirits frolicking at a festival, showcasing Takanashi’s dexterity with Japanese instruments as he composes a piece consisting solely of taikos and kagura suzu. Also of note is “Abunage”, which illustrates the thick fog of deception the Medicine Seller has to pass through in order to arrive at the truth. The light tapping of the shime-daiko amidst the heavy, punctuated beats symbolises him connecting the dots while still being thwarted by the many obstacles in his way.
Ending off the album, “Utsurigi” closely mirrors the melody and instrumentation of the first track, “Oboroge”, but the note of finality presented through the violin segment marks an end to the tales of Mononoke.
The traditional Japanese instruments and composition effectively bring out the unique flavour in these tales, but unlike other soundtracks which serve to accompany the anime, Mononoke’s OST tells its own stories in parallel with those in the anime. The more you listen, the more you unravel them, and despite the air of dignified impassivity it maintains, the emotional weight of these tales will hit you. All these truly puts Mononoke in a class of its own, and a masterpiece in every right.