|sugar sweet nightmare & Bakemonogatari Original Soundtrack
|Satoru Kousaki; Horie Yui; meg rock
|ANZB-9459 (packaged with DVD)
|February 24, 2010
|1. sugar sweet nightmare
|Yui Horie; meg rock
|2. sugar sweet nightmare -Instrumental-
|4. Machi Dan Chimata Setsu
|11. Kami Iki
|12. Ika Kaisou
Review: After listening through Satoru Kousaki’s compositions for Bakemonogatari, I came out of the experience ambivalent. There are some noticeable tracks, but the vast majority did not have as strong an impact unless you’ve seen the anime. That doesn’t mean it’s bad music, especially for fans of minimalist music (Eric Satie’s compositions for example). The problem is that absent context, it comes down to whether one likes this kind of music and after listening to Bakemonogatari’s score, I conclude that I do not.
Before we dive into the details of the BGM, there is Yui Horie’s OP song for the Tsubasa Cat arc to mull over. Of Bakemonogatari’s OPs, this one would have been the least memorable if they had anyone else singing it, but with Horie at the helm, it’ll get some notice. To her credit, she delivers a passable performance. Like most of Bakemonogatari’s OP themes, “Sugar Sweet Nightmare” is a love song, but one that differs because of the slight edge that suggests she’s trapped in a situation that will ultimately result in the destruction of her loved one if she is forced to reach out to him to seek his aid. For those who have watched the anime, you’ll find that this song mirrors Hanekawa’s (voiced by Horie) situation perfectly. To that end, Horie does a good job of intoning her anxiety-filled feelings to the audience, sharing her innermost thoughts. While unmemorable, in light of her other recent works, “Sugar Sweet Nightmare” deserves a pass.
[spoiler show=”Sugar Sweet Nightmare”]
It’s harder to decide whether Kousaki’s compositions meet that standard. Granted, a soundtrack composer’s role is to write music that fits in with the anime’s mood, and if I were to judge solely on that criterion, Kousaki would pass with flying colors. In “Machi Dan Chimata Setsu,” the piece plods along with its purposeful rhythm and you can hear Meme Oshino’s mind moving methodically through the melody, making sure not to leave any stone unturned until he nails down the cause of the supernatural problem. The contextual enjoyment can also be had in “Shugendou,” which gives off the atmosphere of a Shinto ritual through the measured drumbeats, and works to draw you in with its mystical tones.
Machi Dan Chimata Setsu
Where they don’t work too well is when you listen to it on a standalone basis. Both tracks employ a repetitive melody and because none of these pieces deviate from the pattern that they set early on, both turn bland quickly. Kousaki does work in some variety through the really repetitive tracks like “Jinchiku” and “Tawagoto” by adding instruments to the main piano or xylophone part. It packs the pieces with more substance and if I knew more about music theory, I could spend time figuring out how the instruments work well to complement the main melody. Unfortunately, my preferences are much more basic than that, and though I recognize both pieces’ musical complexity, as a more casual listener, the repetitiveness is irksome and I oftentimes find my attention wandering elsewhere when listening to it.
But my attention is brought right back through tracks like “Haikyo” and “Kami Iki,” both of which exhibit a country blues melody through the harmonica. Aside from Cowboy Bebop I’d be pretty hard-pressed to come up with other anime series that uses this type of sound, and so, its novel use is very enjoyable. I particularly like the mini-cadenza at the end of “Haikyo” which allows for the performer to show off just a bit with his harmonica skill to engage the listener further. “Kami Iki” is the more mournful of the two and it works along with the bells to intertwine a sense of mystery and tragedy into the piece. What these two tracks demonstrate is Kousaki’s ability to go off in different genres and execute them well and had this soundtrack contained more of these tracks, I would have enjoyed it much more.
In the end, it all boils down to an issue of taste and how much you like listening to repetitive, minimalist tracks. It doesn’t change the fact that Kousaki is a competent composer. It’s just that in Bakemonogatari, his focus on working the music within the scenes doesn’t make the score a memorable one unless you’re using it as a means to remember the show’s wonderful moments. If that’s precisely what you’re looking for from your soundtracks, you may enjoy it. It might not glue you to your seat, but at least it won’t staple you there either.