|Summer Wars Original Soundtrack
|July 29, 2009
|1. Kasou Toshi Oz
|2. Overture of the Summer Wars
|3. Jinnouchi Ke
|7. King Kazma
|9. Sakae No Katsuyaku
|10. Jinnouchi Ke No Danketsu
|11. Sentou Futatabi
|14. Minna No Yuuki
|15. 1 Oku 5 Senman No Kiseki
|16. Saigo No Kiki
|17. The Summer Wars
|18. Happy End
Review: After listening to this album over and over, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Summer Wars OST is one of the more experimental anime soundtracks I’ve heard recently. Although its composer, Akihiko Matsumoto, has impressed me with the funky, eclectic One Outs soundtrack, Summer Wars represents an entirely different direction. The first few tracks mistakenly give the impression that this album will provide standard orchestral fare, but as one explores the album deeper, one will come across both ambient and rhythmic tracks that don’t have a melodic component to them and will bring out different reactions from every listener. For me, the experimental tracks are a decent diversion, but are hardly engrossing, thereby making this album rely upon the conventional tracks for quality listening.
Still, one of the creative experimental tracks can be found at the start. “Kasou Toshi Oz” grabs your attention through its electronic-based melody, immersing you into the titular virtual world. I particularly loved the buzzing and the electronica music because it creates the impression that the environment is packed with life and movement as an endless stream of data packets zip from one destination to the next, creating a magnificent display that sparks your imagination and drives your sense of curiosity to learn more about the world of OZ.
Kasou Toshi Oz
“Kasou Toshi Oz” starts the album off on a solid foot, but it is the “Overture of the Summer Wars” that conveys the scope of the movie in a way that will leave you in awe. Starting with the brass fanfare, one can’t help but feel a little excitement with what is to come because once the violins make their entrance, this piece really takes off. Its tempo and rhythm bring out the feel of a grandiose adventure and the brass instruments add to that by filling the air with their bombast. The piece does ease off with a slow, serene moment before reverting back to the madcap energy-filled melody and ending with a segment that illustrates how BIG this movie aims to be.
Overture of the Summer Wars
As we move away from the orchestral melodies, the stranger tracks begin appearing and this is where Matsumoto’s efforts begin to flag. I’m less impressed by his character themes since those tracks just didn’t click. “Wabisuke” is particularly hard to enjoy because the piece is pure ambience in its depiction of an iconoclast. Although Matsumoto illustrates the layers of mystery that surround Wabisuke well, the music doesn’t have a melodic line that I can latch onto and enjoy. “King Kazma” is better because the techno beat is easy to get into and the piece develops through the electronic melody that has carries the essence of a legendary figure who leaves people in awe before transitioning into a grim, intense, rhythm-heavy segment. However, the piece is just a bit too repetitive and the transitions between the various themes in the track are jarring, making the listening experience discordant. Finally, “Kenji” features calm, serene piano music, but it doesn’t do anything outlandish or noteworthy to command one’s attention.
The experimental tracks that depict the events are more diverse and creative. “Yukaihen” starts out on an ominous note before the electronic beeps and bloops make their rounds in a dissonant display that paints an unsettling image in which a dangerous foe lurks underneath the waves, looking for an opportune moment to strike. The electronica is initially enjoyable until the ambience becomes overly repetitive, which is why I prefer the more conventional “Houkai” which uses a cacophonous layer to depict chaos and doom without overstaying its welcome. “Jinnouchi Ke no Danketsu” is more tolerable because its percussive beat offers enough variety as it moves into a seven-note sequence that stacks another melodic layer to make it slightly interesting. The entire track reminds me of that scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind atop Devil’s Tower, except it takes a longer time to develop, and even then, the payoff isn’t all that great.
Jinnouchi Ke no Danketsu
So in terms of enjoyment, the experimental tracks don’t go far enough in making this album worthwhile, which is why we turn to more conventional fare. “Sakae No Katsuyaku” bounces along pleasantly before transitioning into “The Summer Wars” theme which features a militaristic march that, while grim, shows just how determined the characters are to see the fight to the finish. “Tegami,” too, is enjoyable because it brings out a somber, introspective moment which allows the characters to be at peace with themselves as they put aside their quarrels to bond together as a family. This familial bond shines through in “1 Oku 5 Senman No Kiseki,” which uses a chorus to convey the sense of togetherness as everyone is ready to do their part to see this through to the end with no regrets.
Sakae No Katsuyaku
1 Oku 5 Senman No Kiseki
Triumph then comes in “The Summer Wars” and “Happy End” and both tracks are uplifting. The latter is especially good from the start with the harp announcing the arrival of a new era of peace and tranquility and the piano and the flute come in, reprising the theme at the end of the “Overture,” to leave you with a glad heart that cannot wait for the arrival of the dawn since the future has never looked so bright. The hopeful feelings that it instills within the listener is what makes it a beautiful way to close out the album.
Summer Wars might not be the pinnacle of Matsumoto’s compositions, but it sure shows his ability to lift one’s heart through some of the more optimistic tracks and depict that grand adventure through the breathtakingly spectacular “Overture.” Because these tracks made such a strong impression, I’m willing to forgive him for the substandard experimental tracks scattered here and there. Matsumoto has the ability to improve, and if he can start writing more pieces like “Kasou Toshi Oz,” he may very well cement himself as one of the more versatile and creative (if underrated) anime composers out there today.