Summer Wars Original Soundtrack – Review

Summer Wars OST Cover

Album Title: Summer Wars Original Soundtrack
Anime Title: Summer Wars
Artist: Akihiko Matsumoto
Catalog Number: VPCG-84899
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: July 29, 2009
Purchase at: CDJapan, Play-Asia

Track List:

Track Title Artist Time
1. Kasou Toshi Oz Akihiko Matsumoto 2:53
2. Overture of the Summer Wars Akihiko Matsumoto 4:41
3. Jinnouchi Ke Akihiko Matsumoto 1:38
4. Wabisuke Akihiko Matsumoto 1:17
5. 2056 Akihiko Matsumoto 1:06
6. Yukaihan Akihiko Matsumoto 5:19
7. King Kazma Akihiko Matsumoto 3:07
8. Kenji Akihiko Matsumoto 1:01
9. Sakae No Katsuyaku Akihiko Matsumoto 3:09
10. Jinnouchi Ke No Danketsu Akihiko Matsumoto 5:37
11. Sentou Futatabi Akihiko Matsumoto 3:29
12. Houkai Akihiko Matsumoto 1:42
13. Tegami Akihiko Matsumoto 3:30
14. Minna No Yuuki Akihiko Matsumoto 1:34
15. 1 Oku 5 Senman No Kiseki Akihiko Matsumoto 3:33
16. Saigo No Kiki Akihiko Matsumoto 1:14
17. The Summer Wars Akihiko Matsumoto 1:52
18. Happy End Akihiko Matsumoto 2:16

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
[audio:01 SummerWars.mp3]

“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
[audio:02 SummerWars.mp3]

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.

King Kazma
[audio:07 SummerWars.mp3]

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
[audio:10 SummerWars.mp3]

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
[audio:09 SummerWars.mp3]

1 Oku 5 Senman No Kiseki
[audio:15 SummerWars.mp3]

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.

Happy End
[audio:18 SummerWars.mp3]

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.

Rating: Good


Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

18 thoughts on “Summer Wars Original Soundtrack – Review

  • December 16, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    I definitely enjoyed the OZ music in the movie, it seemed to fit the world of OZ very well.

  • December 17, 2009 at 2:53 am

    Hm… I didn’t like many of the tracks posted. I don’t dislike them, but I don’t love them either.

    It does seem decent enough though. Maybe I need to watch Summer Wars to fully enjoy them.

  • December 17, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Yeah, the weird electronica makes for a good representation of the virtual world. I do think that some of the bigger disaster scenarios that are represented through the music could have been better though and I find myself listening to the real-world tracks like Sakae No Katsuyaku more often than not.

    Maybe I picked some bad segments in the tracks that I do like. Yeah, you do have to have some appreciation for electronica to be able to enjoy this since a lot of it is unconventional, but more interesting than what I’ll get out of say… I’ve Sound’s composers (they did Index and Railgun). Context is also a heavy factor, though not as much for stuff like the first two tracks; I think those stand really strongly on their own. 😛

  • December 17, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    I loved the movie, and guess what? I got a feveh…and the only perscription….is this awesome soundtrack.

    This soundtrack is great, at times, it reminds me of Mirror’s Edge soundtrack, which I enjoyed a lot, especially Sakae No Katsuyaku, which I think is the best out of the songs you listed.

  • December 18, 2009 at 4:15 am

    I did actually enjoy the short segment from Kasou Toshi Oz quite a lot, but not the other tracks. In general, I am a fan of electronica though so I think I’ll go check out the whole album.

  • December 18, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    It’s kind of strange that I’ve not yet gotten to the Mirror’s Edge soundtrack, but if it’s as fresh-sounding as this one, I think I’ll be pretty pleased with it overall.

    That track is definitely one of the highlights though I do fear that some of the other stuff on there might not be overly enthralling, so do proceed with a bit of caution :p

  • December 20, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Listening to those tracks standalone now apart from the movie, I think they really fit their particular scenes. The beginning (Overture) and the ending (Happy End) gave me the feeling of the start of something epic and then a lovingly resolved end.

    But definitely watch the movie to fully enjoy these tracks. King Kazma wouldn’t make as much sense to me if I didn’t even know who he was.

  • December 21, 2009 at 12:22 am

    For conventional fare like Overture and Happy End, it’s easy to guess at what these moods are trying to convey, but for some of the stranger stuff, you definitely need the context to sort of guide you through it. And yes, I can’t get enough of Overture’s epicness!

  • December 21, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    @ zzeroparticle

    It’s not really fresh sounding, in that a lot of it is kind of subdued, but the vibe that it gives off to me is really good.

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  • June 2, 2010 at 1:50 am

    i like the Overture…kinda made me bounce and bounce to the office…
    …I only watched a part of Summer Wars, but i will continue watching this before my shift ends…(sigh..cant wait)

  • June 2, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    It’s just a fun, exciting, bouncy, and adventurous track, isn’t it? Even now, I really love listening to its flair and I think you’ll enjoy the movie, especially if you like those themes of solidarity and warm fuzzy family gatherings.

  • June 2, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    …as of this now I’m listening to the track 15 of the album, 1 Oku 5 Senman No Kiseki…and i can almost cry anytime…
    ..and yes, i really enjoyed the movie…i unconsciously found myself smiling at the end of it…good ending indeed…
    ..and yes, this is a must watch movie for everyone…
    ..i miss my family indeed..:'(

    “Yoroshiku onegai shimasu!!!”

  • June 3, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Yup, the ending was a bit cheesy, but you just can’t help but feeling the warmth and happiness after it all and that charm will stay with you for quite some time. Sorry to hear that you’re away from your family and hope you get to see them soon though!

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