|Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan ~Tsuiokuhen~
|Rurouni Kenshin: ~Tsuiokuhen~
|March 20, 1999
|1. In Memories “A Boy Meets a Man”
|2. One of These Nights
|3. Alone Again
|5. Day After Day
|6. In the Rain
|7. Quiet Life -pf solo version-
|8. The Will -pf solo version-
|9. The Wars of the Last Wolves
|10. The Will
|12. Talk to the Moon
|13. Sound of Snow Falling
|14. Shades of Revolution
|15. In Memories “KO-TO-WA-RI”
|16. Quiet Life
Review: The first few scenes from Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen are unforgettable; barely two minutes have transpired and already, the audience has witnessed a horrific massacre that is as senseless as it is brutal. As this carnage unfolds, the music conveys the totality of the sadness and despair that runs through this scene. I’m especially overcome by the lonely-sounding flute solo that amplifies the suffering and anguish the protagonist feels as he sees loved ones cut down before him. The vividness of this scene is impactful, partly because of the strength of its visuals, but also because of Taku Iwasaki’s music which succeeds beautifully at depicting the scope of the eponymous protagonist’s storied past.
In Memories “A Boy Meets the Man”
An experience of this magnitude is life-changing and the protagonist’s chance encounter with the swordsman Hiko Seijiro propels him towards his destiny as the chaos of the Bakumatsu period begins to churn violently. The music keeps our mind within this era of disorder, as “In Memories ‘A Boy Meets the Man'” paints an image of the long, lonely road our determined hero, travels down, dogged by the specters of death and suffering. These last two elements surface in “One of These Nights” which shows Iwasaki’s masterful management of the atmosphere through the buildup. The mournful sound heard in “In Memories” transitions into a discordant air that allows tension to accumulate as it waits for the action to hit its stride. Once there, the full tilt of the attack is on display and the music flows with the intensity of a crashing wave. The rhythms bring out the urgency and the chords have the sharp cut of a sword blow. It ends quickly, brutally. In the aftermath, the mournful theme returns, emphasizing the tragedy and destruction left in his wake.
One of These Nights
The thrill of the action and the emotional pain and anguish dominate this album; “Quiet Life” offers a much-needed breather. The melody in both the piano and the orchestral version is relaxed as it cordons us from the discord that has gripped the rest of the world. Its calming aura, more subdued when played by the solo piano, carries contentment, even happiness and the lulling melody lowered my guard for a brief moment. It’s provides a welcome respite, for we know that the story is not yet over; there’s still conflict afoot as the ominous storm continues to brew, one that will reach in and call upon Kenshin to kill once more.
Quiet Life -pf solo version-
So it begins in “The Wars of the Last Wolves” with its grim introduction marked by a string melody dripping with dread and purpose. The percussion section’s militaristic rhythm works in tandem with the orchestra to heighten the anticipation through a buildup that leads one to expect the action to manifest with full fury. Its intensity does not disappoint. The string section’s steady repetition carries a great sense of urgency and the rhythm conjures images of troop assemblage, mobilization, and action which springs forth effortlessly to match the conflict’s escalation. The brass part adds a pinch of glory, but the victory it connotes is short-lived as the realities of war set in. At this point, a soft trumpet takes over, bearing a forlorn, mournful melody that illustrates war’s aftermath as many of the bold and brave lie fallen. The music is sobering and poignant, and the way it depicts the conflict from start to finish yields a thrilling, pathos-filled track that makes it the best track on this album.
The Wars of the Last Wolves
As the “Last Wolves” sounds its last note, a feeling of unease sets in. The next few tracks are a varied bunch. Some wander around restlessly while others are softer and more introspective. Of those, I’m fond of “Sound of Snow Falling,” which carries a quiet, still vibe that meshes well with the pizzicato, bringing to mind the dripping sound of the snow melting partway, refreezing, and forming glistening icicles. When the mournful flute theme plays, its solemness foreshadows one last tragedy before the journey’s end. And yet, its shift towards a more optimistic tone suggests that there’s some redemption to be had and Kenshin’s sins may yet be expunged, leaving him pure once more.
Sound of Snow Falling
But the calls of battle sound and “Shades of Revolution” carries us through the final leg of this long, perilous journey hinted through the synth’s ominous sounds and discordance that grows uneasier by the second. The howls and screeches scattered throughout amplify this further until finally, the action theme materializes. It retains its intensity, though the chords strike harder than before, emphasizing the final strikes that bring an end to the conflict. But the best part comes after the solitary trumpet air makes clear the approaching rendezvous with destiny. An intense, rhythmic section quickly takes over, rushing in with bombast and flair that possesses an unstoppable sense of urgency. The glorious fanfares bring a sweet rush of victory, ending it on an affirmative note that signifies an end to this warring era.
Shades of Revolution
If albums could have bookends, “In Memories ‘KO-TO-WA-RI'” would function as exactly that. It reprises the solitary, mournful theme from the first track, but subtly shifts the tone so it’s more optimistic. The track is a perfect reflection of Kenshin’s tortured past that, hopefully, will turn out for the better in a new era of peace. Though the tragedies weigh heavily upon his soul, he endures past the pains and forges a new destiny. Iwasaki’s music has carried us through some of the most heartwrenching moments of Kenshin’s odyssey and conveyed unto us the pain and sorrow he’s experienced along the way through this evocative soundtrack that ranks among his best.