|Rozen Maiden Piano Sound Album
|January 09, 2009
|1. Tanjou -Kedakaki Dolls-
|2. Kinjirareta Asobi -Piano Sound Album Version-
|3. Rozen Maiden
|4. Odayakana Nichijou
|5. Chiisana Otome
|6. Kashimashii Otometachi
|8. Detective Kunkun
|9. Otome no Ishi
|10. Bara Otome no Unmei
|11. Alice Game
|12. Tatakai no Hate
|13. Toumai Shelter -Piano Sound Album Version-
Review: I wouldn’t have expected Rozen Maiden to receive the piano treatment, but in retrospect, there’s a strong case for doing so since many of the pieces on the soundtrack either use piano or make for good candidates for rearrangement. So after going through the Rozen Maiden Piano Sound Album, only one word came to mind when the music stopped: underwhelming. The execution fell short of my expectations and though the music isn’t bad per se, there were enough moments in which one or a combination of the following took place: either the harmony and melody didn’t work well in tandem, the transitions between the sections within each piece weren’t quite as smooth, or the piece should never have been rearranged in the first place. All told, the Piano Sound Album suffers from a series of tiny missteps that mar an otherwise good album.
Things don’t start off too badly with “Tanjou -Kedakaki Dolls-,” a piece that mixes tranquility though its slow tempo early on with a tinge of the melancholy that becomes more apparent as the piece builds up to that first shift around 2:22 where the piece becomes more somber by going into the minor key as to hint at the dolls’ eventual struggle. The section that takes over around 3:15 sounds a bit more hopeful as though there were some way to break the cycle of violence, and the hope grows as the piece continues. Overall, it’s a solid track that suffers ever so slightly from having a left hand section that sounds a bit too repetitive, but not overly so as to make it an unpleasant listen.
As far as first impressions go, this was a decent choice because it highlights this album’s biggest strength: its ability to convey the futility that the dolls undergo. “Bara Otome no Unmei” channels this feeling through its flowing melody that carries a solemn vibe as though the dolls are aware of what they must do to survive and achieve their goal of becoming Alice. Likewise, “Otome no Ishi” feels ominous as a result of the overbearing melody before it transitions to a lighter section that nevertheless exudes a sense of desperation. Though there are a few moments in which the melody tries to reassure the listener that things might not end up so bad, the overwhelming mood of this track is slanted towards a sense of grim duty, especially at 3:24 where the tempo slows down and the piece moves slowly and deliberately before leaving the listener hanging in suspense.
However, UbiQuinta’s solemn arrangements do go a bit too far at times, resulting in tracks like “Odayakana Nichijou” which feels just a bit too subdued given the way “Neat Sister” and “Change” originally sounded. It begins by taking the theme from “Neat Sister” and slows the tempo down to the point where it wipes out the spontaneity that the original offered, thereby lowering the piece’s effectiveness, especially in light of “Change,” which also lacks the upbeat feeling that made it enjoyable. Together, you’d expect this combination to yield a bouncy track that carries a sense of fun derived from day to day life, but unfortunately, the tone of this arrangement doesn’t bring out this track to its fullest potential.
Even though “Odayakana Nichijou” might have missed the point of the original, at least it’s nowhere as jarring as “Chiisana Otome” which suffers from a terrible transition as it tries to use a five note motive to hide the incompatibilities of its two sections. The first section goes up to 1:40 and runs the gamut from being regal to carrying a sort of tension through the occasional dissonant part here and there. Everything is fine until the piece switches into slice-of-life mode by putting in an arrangement of “Passion” from the soundtrack. Unfortunately, the two sections don’t fit too well together and it makes the piece feel bipolar as though it is unsure whether to pack in the stately tone or to just let go with “Passion’s” more laid-back melody.
“Rozen Maiden” is much better executed, but suffers from a different sort of integration issue. This light-hearted piece has an underlying regal theme to it as it combines “Noble Dolls” and “Garden Party” into one track. But while “Noble Dolls” was originally composed for violin and harpsichord, giving it a Baroque flavor, “Garden Party” brings out the regal vibe from the Classical tradition, thereby creating a rather strange dichotomy. They match up in terms of the theme, but the sections are stylistically different enough that it becomes noticeable.
Thankfully, the majority of the tracks are enjoyable and as I said earlier, it’s the small, niggling details that lower this album’s stock in my eyes. That’s a shame too because there’s enough variety to keep this album from becoming boring. “Yuukei’s” arrangement of “On a Gentle Hill” is faithful in the way it interprets the original’s relaxing atmosphere without being bound to the original. “Detective Kunkun” manages to one-up the original by bringing out the jazz/swing aspect of its soundtrack counterpart and doing an excellent job in transitioning the original keyboard and guitar melody over to piano. And of course, “Alice Game” is excellent in the way it packs the action and excitement through its pacing and harmony which feels like a big clash as the dolls engage in battle, take a bit of a breather during the fight, and resume the full fury of their assault.
Finally, the album closes out, appropriately enough, with “Toumei Shelter -Piano Sound Version-” which drifts along and gets a bit repetitive at times, but survives the transition to piano better than its OP counterpart, “Kinjirareta Asobi -Piano Sound Version-” which lacks originality and its melodic shifts are too inexplicable to be enjoyable.
By far, the biggest flaws in this album come from the noticeable transitions as the piece switches from one section to the next and the imperfect transitions can get in the way of being able to fully enjoy the tracks for what they are. To be sure, they are slight missteps, but the small missteps add up and one cannot help but think that the Rozen Maiden Piano Sound Album could have been more competently executed with a few more edits to the arrangements themselves. While it’s by no means bad, I’d only strongly recommend this for Rozen Maiden fans who want to see Shinkichi Mitsumune’s works transcribed over to piano. Otherwise, your mileage will vary.