Impressions on a Year 2008: Scintillating Soundtracks

By TheBigN

Part 1: Interesting People
Part 2: Awesome OP/EDs
Part 3: Fun Phrases

Unlike the openings and closings of anime this year, good standalone series soundtracks (that is, good in my subjective lack of taste sense) have been hard to find for me, which is a little sad. That said, there were some pretty nice ones that I felt provided a complete listening experience, or ones that kept my interest throughout (sorry Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-, Spice and Wolf and Kamen no Maid Guy. Yes, I do include the latter here). Feel free to tell me hour wrong I am here, and some better choices, as well as some that I should hear as well (like the Naburi no Ou OST, which I should check out soon). Again, musical taste is subjective, and mine could be sorely lacking. 😛

Shion no Ou OST

For something that I watched sparingly for fun by watching people take Shougi way to seriously, Shion no Ou actually managed to grab me and make me wait to see how things would come together. Looking back on it, the background music was one of those things that helped made the show special. Kousuke Yamashita brings into play throughout the soundtrack a nice mix of styles from orchestral works, to electronica, to rock, to piano-based pieces, and on one track some awesome haunting vocals. Together, they end up highlighting the mystery and darkness that surrounds the whole show, focusing on the cool and calculating nature of Shougi, and  It was always interesting to listen to, it perfectly complemented many of the scenes in the show, and it’s one of the few OSTs this year where I like almost everything that comes from it. While neither the OP or ED are songs that I’d listen to on repeat, they are both decent songs. I would consider it the best of the year actually, if only another really good one didn’t come out… Tracks to listen to: “Sadame no Yukue”, “Akai Kioku”, “Niten Santen”, “Tsumero!”, “Naku no wa Kowakunai”, “Destiny”

Macross Frontier OST

Even if you can freely admit that Yoko Kanno has more “musical range” than, say, Yuki Kajiura, you also can’t say that when you listen to most of stuff that she’s done, you don’t hear variations of the “same stuff over again”. That being said, like Kajiura, whatever comes out sounds better than most stuff out there, if not the best out at the time, so it really shouldn’t matter. The Macross F OST is a testament to that, with some works that seem to come from the best stuff in her long and varied repertoire, and collectively making one of the best, if not the best OST of the year. Part space adventure, part silly hijinks, part poignant, moving moments, part pump-up events, part girls singing their hearts out, the overall work never fails to deliver, with strong instrumentals and strong vocals galore. Tracks to listen to: Basically any vocal track (all are awesome in various ways), “Big Boys”, “Zero Hour”, “Private Army”, “Alto’s Theme”, “TALLY HO!”, “Prologue F”, “shadow of Michel”

Simply the best.

Simply the best.

true tears OST

I would say that save for a couple of tracks that stand out in my mind, as a whole, this OST doesn’t really leave too much of a lasting impression on me after listening to it. However, the music fit the show well, there are no tracks that grate on my ears, and it’s great background music to do other stuff to, save for some tracks that sound a bit too “artificial”, if that makes any sense. Plus the tracks that do stand out, really stand out, like the dramatic “Ichijin no Kaze”, and “Nekki”, which really seems to capture the air of a serious festival (well, that and the dance that goes with the song). A pretty solid work from Kikuchi Hajime (apparently one half of the group eufonius) overall, and the decent OP track from both members of eufonius and pretty good ED track from Yuuki Aira are good bookends for the overall music. Tracks to listen to: “Nyuushakou ni, Migite wo Kazasu”, “Ichijin no Kaze”, “Kizuita Kanjou”, “Nekki ~Mugitan Matsuri no Theme~”, “Sekai no Namida”


When you think of any ARIA anime, Choro Club and Takeshi Senoo should be near synonymous with the show, as I feel like you can’t really feel the setting of the show without their music (well, that is unless you hate the music, like Author for example). Relaxing almost all the time, pensive at others, the piano-based influences of Senoo and the Brazilian/Latin-influenced string trio (bandolin, acoustic guitar, and contrabass) sound of Choro Club turn Neo-Venezia into some soothing wonderful seaside resort. To me, that makes it even more special for people like Akari and other residents to be able to live in such a peaceful place like that. Though ORIGINATION reuses some of the musician’s tracks from the first two seasons, the original material produced for this season is very solid and some of the best stuff. There’s also a decent vocal song from Alice’s seiyuu, Ryou Hirohashi, which becomes more special to listen to when you understand and accept the situation related to the song’s appearance in the show. While the OP, “Spirale”, isn’t Yui Makino’s best stuff for the franchise, it’s still a nice song to listen to, while I’ve already mentioned that the ED is one of the best of the year for me, as Akino Arai’s voice also captures the mood and mystery of Aqua. Tracks to listen to: “Rakuyou no Nami Kimichi”, “Tayori nai Funade”, “Amaretto no Natsu”, “Jet Kiryuu”, “Loomis Etlune”, “quiet tea time”, “Eien no Umi ~A Song for Zephyr~”, “Kin no Nami Sen no Nami”

It is a sad farewell.

It is a sad farewell.

Kara no Kyoukai OST

While I wouldn’t say this is a sharp departure from what people are used to from Yuki Kajiura, you could say that her works for this series have been more on the “unique” side of her spectrum (though some might joke that she has none). Songs at times tend to be more darkly industrial and elemental than usual, not really looking for simple melodies to carry the pieces, which helps set the mood of the works well. But there are still common themes present in the movies, with haunting vocals and pulsing electronic/string melodies floating throughout the soundtracks. It makes for an interesting listening experience, and for me, no two listens to the same soundtracks evoke the same reactions from me. I like the complexity throughout, but there are still plenty of tracks that scream “Kajiura”, and I don’t mind that at all. Though the naming system is a bit more confusing to get through. And the ending songs by Kalafina are great to listen to, regardless of the situation, so I’m annoyed at myself for not adding them in yesterday’s list. Tracks to listen to: Any Kalafina song, especially “oblivious”, “Kizuato” and “ARIA”. Movie 1: “M01”, “M05” , “M09”, “M12+13”, “M16”. Movie 2: “M01”,  “M07”, “M18”. Movie 3: “M19+20”, “M21”, “M22”, “M23”, “M24”, “M25”. Movie 4: “M01+02”, “M15+16+17”, “M18”

Kurenai OST

Goes from morose and pensive to lilting and happy-go-lucky with this piano and string-based OST from Ken Muramatsu. This retains the same jazz and oriental-influenced style, as well as his awesome usage of the shamisen and flourishes on the piano, that was present in his earlier work for the Sketchbook ~full color’S~ OST. Yet overall, the album is much more darker to match the atmosphere of Kurenai, and while it works, the tone doesn’t work as well for me, and I don’t have as many reasons to listen to it as a whole than I might have for his earlier work. The OST is split into two CDs, emotional side and swinging side, and you could probably tell which one of the CDs I prefer. However both CDs contain plenty of good songs, and I continue to enjoy the fact that though there might be more than one variation of the same song, each variation is pleasant to listen to. Overall, a very good soundtrack, and once again, I hope for more to come from Ken Muramatsu in the future.   Tracks to listen to: “Inori Tsudzukeru”, “Wasureenu Omoi”, both versions of “Livremente”, “Mori ni Hisomu Mono”, “Niwa no Tsubaki”, “Suheisen no Mukou ni”

Still not sure if this is the right orientation for the cover or not.

Still not sure if this is the right orientation for the cover or not.

Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~ OST

If you’ve heard the soundtrack for the first Someday’s Dreamers series, you kind of know how the BGM progresses, with interesting original songs, but mostly variations on some main themes basically the whole way though. But as with the first soundtrack, those variations along with the original songs are a joy to listen to from Takefumi Haketa. The first half, like that of the OST for the first series takes a lot of Celtic influences, which leads to fun results. The second half is a lot more blues-ish in tone, with a band lead by a lonely guitar trying to go down grooving. Sprinkled throughout are folk-influenced songs, and some techno thrown in for kicks (analogue of that salsa song in the first series, perhaps?). But it’s a joy to listen to overall, and with the rocking great OP from THYME and decent closer from micc, things never get boring to me. Tracks to listen to: “Haruka Naru Kita no Daichi”, “Kaze ni Natte”, “Blues to Tequila”, “Kuroi Namida”, “Kimi to Boku to Hikaru Umi”, “Bourbon to Rock”

Hoshi no Umi no Amuri OST

A space opera orchestral theme coupled with some elements of fantasy and a little eastern influence made up this soundtrack for the 3D-CG animated OVA. Though I’ve heard Mina Kubota’s decent work before as a pianist for variations on ARIA tunes, this is the first time that I’ve heard her as the main music director for a soundtrack, and I hope I hear from her again. Epic when it needs to be (sometimes even more so) with an orchestra, operatic vocals and bombastic electronic instruments, playful and childlike at other times (it even includes a sentai theme at one point), it makes for an interesting mixture that I think works out well (at least save for one throwaway track, “UKATAN3”, sung by the “mascot” of the series, if you could call it that). If that doesn’t work for you at most, the ED “Yaccahou yo!” goes back to those fun disco times and can do spirit, while the “OP”, “Umitorika” (and essential main theme it seems) is melancholy, soft, and touching. Tracks to listen to: “Momoiro Sango”, “Yaccahou yo!”, “Semaru Teki”, “Stola”, “Kurenai Kujaku”, “Himawari gou”, “Umitorika (Amuri version)”

A surprising pleasure to listen to.

A surprising pleasure to listen to.

Part 5 of 5: Memorable moments from anime I watched in 2008. Prepare to be underwhelmed.

3 Responses to “Impressions on a Year 2008: Scintillating Soundtracks”

  1. 1 zzeroparticle December 30, 2008 at 2:01 am

    Oh man, talk about beating me to the punch. I largely agree with quite a few of your selections.

    Though 2008 wasn’t that great of a year in terms of the number of soundtracks that were excellent, I think you’ve got most of them. Shion no Ou had a lot of good piano pieces thrown in and True Tears serves up quite a bit of the softer, mellower stuff as well. Aria the Origination’s music somehow manages to defy the odds and be on equal footing with the other Aria soundtracks, which is fairly surprising since I had been expecting a lot of recycled music to dull the experience, but that did not happen.

    Kure-nai isn’t quite on par with Muramatsu’s work on Sketchbook, mostly because the first CD wasn’t nearly as good as the second disc. I’d also throw in Natsume Yuujinchou for providing a good atmosphere and Spice and Wolf for being a surprise. Somehow, the latter managed to catch my attention despite it not standing out in the anime series.

    There’s a special thing I want to bring up regarding Kanno and how her works don’t sound all too similar and that’s because she lets herself be influenced by a lot of other musical forms. Macross Frontier is a very good example of that since you can hear snippets of Western film music scattered throughout the first album. Heck, she even quotes a large portion of the main theme of Gladiator/Pirates of the Caribbean in one of the pieces.

    Finally, I’d like to add Romeo x Juliet to the mix. True, the series did come out in 2007, but the soundtrack never got a release until 2008, so I will claim that as the best soundtrack purely based on that technicality. 😛

  2. 2 lelangir December 30, 2008 at 9:18 am

    kurenai’s OST was mostly recycled stuff like zero said but I still prefer it over Sketchbook’s 😉

    And yeah, the Natsume Yuujinchou OST is gold as well.

    A few x365 tracks had my attention too, and Kimikiss’s OST wasn’t bad.

  3. 3 TheBigN December 30, 2008 at 10:23 am

    zzeroparticle: The Spice and Wolf soundtrack was good, but it lags to me later on as I keep listening to it, and I lose interest before I can finish it. And like I’ve said, if you’ve heard some of Yoko Kanno’s music for other shows and movies before, you can hear some influences from those works on what she’s done for the Macross Frontier soundtrack. Or at least, I think so.

    lelangir: I like both OSTs from Muramatsu, but overall, I’m a fan more of Sketchbook’s as a whole. There are just some songs that I don’t really care about too much in Kurenai’s OST, where that’s rarely the case in Sketchbook. Besides, Sketchbook evokes memories of Vince Guaraldi and his work for Peanuts, and that’s a plus in my book. 😀

    x365 had some great tracks, but it wasn’t as “consistent” as the first soundtrack was, and songs on the first soundtrack grabbed me much more than the best songs for the second season.

    Thanks for the heads up with Natsume Yuujinchou. :3

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