So people have responded quite nicely to my two OST Reviews that I’ve done, and this is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while so I thought, why not now. The way I intend for this to work is to countdown the OST’s (all in article) that I’ve found to be my top 10 favourites and provide a sample via video of one of my favourite songs. On top of that I’ll give a little detail as to what I like about the OST in particular as well as who composed it and any other details I feel are relevant. So here goes…
Kachou Ouji: Hard Rock Save The Space
Cautionary Warning Special
Kachou Ouji is a little known series (at least as far as I know) that deals with the life of a middle aged former Rock Superstar who has no idea that his lifes peak is actually still ahead of him. Ouji was formerly known as Gabriel Tanaka who with his band took the music scene in Japan by storm in his younger years with the megahit….Cautionary Warning. Problem is he ended up getting one of his groupies pregnant on what he thought was a one night stand and ended up marrying her, settling down and having a kid. Now he’s a middle-aged office worker who was forced to hang up, but never quite give up the Flying V and he still longs for the chance to play that guitar again. The chance comes when it turns out that an alien race (the good one) needs the sound waves provided by Cautionary Warning to power their ultimate weapon and enlist his help in playing the song to do so as that ultimate weapon (a giant space laser) is the only thing standing in the way of Earth and much of the galaxy being overrun by the evil aliens.
If that sounds crazy it’s because it is. Kachou Ouji is all about psychedelic scenes and the theme of reliving the best years of your life and just being a real Guitar Hero and it comes through in the awesome OST. All the music works to capture the feeling of the scene, be it a touching moment between Yoko (the former groupie and now loving, but increasingly impatient wife) and Ouji, or Ouji getting back together with the old band near the end of the series. Cautionary Warning in particular which was provided by legendary English Guitarist John Sykes (Thin Lizzy) is like the overriding theme of the series with it’s screaming fast paced metal guitar and constant pitch changes which show a talent in Guitar playing I think is missing in today’s popular western music. Overall it’s just a great Rockin’ OST, but it’s really only my 10th favourite, but for the fact that it just doesn’t have a higher ratio of awesome to semi-awesome BGM’s that some of the higher up albums on the list have.
Gravitation is probably known to most who have heard of it as that Yaoi series with Seki Tomokazu not bringing in a hot blooded performance. It draws on the talents of Weiss and Kappei Yamaguchi in it’s tale of series where every male character is in a bizarre and twisted love matrix and also features lots of boy band J-Pop music. There’s something strange here though in that I actually love every single vocal track in the series and could loop any one of them endlessly without getting tired. I just enjoy them that much. Glaring Dream is actually the ending theme of the series that I listened too endlessly over the course of the Summer of 2003 and I still enjoy listening to it on repeat even now. There’s something so relaxing and enjoyable about it that pulls me right in. There are of course other great vocal songs on the OST including Rage Beat, Smashing Blue, Sleepless Beauty, Super Drive (the opening them), Easy Action, Break Through and Blind Game Again that round it out.
The reason it’s only number 9 on my list is because these songs essentially carry the OST. For all their being easy to listen too, the non-vocal BGMs just aren’t all that memorable and thus this awesome OST’s stable of favourites for me is just to small compared to other ones I’ve listened to over the years. It’s the difference between several amazing songs adding up versus a couple amazing songs and many other just great songs adding up that makes this rounds this out to number 9 on my list. Man this is getting kind of hard already .
MS Igloo is a relatively new addition to my list, and I’m not entirely sure myself if it’s not just the immediacy of it’s coming into my playlist that has earned it my number 8 spot or not, but I think it deserves some recognition. composed by Megumi Ohashi, the key to MS Igloo’s OST is in how it provides the perfect amount of tension to any given moment where a song is used as well as bringing to the forefront the overwhelming militarism that embodies Zeon and it’s motives. Military marches and lots of percussion make up much of it’s stable and it executes them better then almost any OST I can think of.
It also has a great ratio of memorable songs that while similar in theme are great in their own right. In fact in time I think it might actually start climbing the list as I get to listen to it more and perhaps rather then it having a generous place on my list it in fact might even deserve higher, but isn’t getting it because it’s a new addition. Though again while it has a lots of great tracks, the variety just isn’t there on some levels so I think for now a comfortable 8 is just right. *sweats*
Z No Koudou
That’s right, on top of being an all time personal favourite of mine, Zeta Gundam also continues some of my favourite music track. I guess it’s cause I like 80’s music, but the mix of synthesized tracks along with orchestral portions (sometimes mixed in actual tracks themselves) makes for some great music. There’s also quite a bit of variety too as a result, ranging from the laid back “Green Noah No Shounen” to the depressing as hell “Amuro Ray” to the intense battle theme that is “Fleet Battle”. It’s all a pleasure to listen too. In fact any of these next seven OST’s are actually seperated in my ranking by prety much a fraction of a decimal point, meaning they all could all amost very well be my number 1, but for that little insy-teensy bit extra that is hard to describe.
Zeta Gundam’s OST by Shigeaki Saegusa might actually have even been a little bit ahead of it’s time in some ways as it’s one of the few TV Series OST’s from the 80’s that I can think of that is so large in scope, spanning 3 discs, and as I said earlier variety. (a lot of the music in anime I can think of at the time featured a lot of remixs of one song, usually the opening) It stands the test of time and remains hovering around number 7.
The Big O
What the Big O OST lacks in size it makes up for in oomph. I never expected it to hit me so hard when I watched the series for the first time, but now I’m always humming tunes like “The Great” and “Sure Promise” along with “Stoning”. This OST’s theme has to be invoking a feel of mystery in going with the overall theme of the series it’s a part of, but it also features some nice piano tracks like Sleep My Dear and is just oozing with atmosphere in every track. It’s one of those albums where any given track always conjures up memories of the scenes in which they were played and also manages to convey those scenes pretty much perfectly as I view them.
Toshihiko Sahashi would also go on to compose the OST’s for Full Metal Panic! (and it’s sequels), Gear Fighter Dendoh and Mobile Suit Gundam Seed among other popular series, but I don’t think any of those albums manage to come anywhere near hitting the level of excellence that I get from The Big O’s tracks. It’s a shame really as he’s definitely a better composer who is capable of much more than what those series overiding themes would allow for him to come up with in terms of musical style, but there will always be Big O and it will probably always have a place on my list.
Turn A Gundam
The Story Of Escaflowne
Memory Of Military Boots
My Number 4 is actually an unbreakable tie between 2 OSTs and harken back to a time when I felt Yoko Kanno really was among the best composers to contribute to anime music, before she went down the road of becoming to Pop-ish in her compositions and ultimately losing that which I felt seperated her from any other mainstream composer. Escaflowne is a sweeping score that makes full use of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra in delivering it’s flighty and often whimsical tunes. It also contiues what remains my all time favourite favourite anime opening theme in Yakosoku Wa Iranai and the fact that the same two people are behind it as the loathsome Triangler is but one example of how far down the mainstream pop line I feel Yoko Kanno has gone. Escaflowne’s OST also makes use of Gregorian Chants (before Yoko Kanno decided that apparently wasn’t good enough and she needed her own words) before they were in damn well everything under the sun (i.e movie trailers) in such memorable tracks as Dance of The Curse (with it’s haunting and furiously fast violin portion) and The Vision Of Escaflowne, which uses the Yoko Kanno Warble Sound and Tribal Beat (TM) to actual effect as we lay eyes on the chamber of the ancient Escaflowne and the aura and mystery of it are invoked. Really the key to the Escaflowne OSTs power for me is that Yoko Kanno seems to use everything that a full orchestra can offer her to the absolute best of her ability, which is contrary to what I’m getting from her modern albums where she seems to be going for absolute miminalism. Escaflowne has that sort of all-encompassing feel to it that I mentioned with Big O’s Soundtrack.
Turn A Gundam’s OST perfectly captures the series Civil War era setting in my opinion and is a unique entity unto itself as far as Anime OST’s go. I guess it’s no small wonder to me that I enjoy this OST since I tend to look on what is presented in Turn A as an ideal era of class and perfect lifestyle. Borrowing from something I said a while back (while talking about Spice and Wolf) there’s something about the culture, the calm and often beautiful countryside with no “development” to speak of, the close knit communities, the courteous gentleman and the hardy women who toll the field to make their daily bread draws me right in. And that dear readers is exactly the kind of feeling I get when listening to the Turn A Gundam OST with tracks like Gwen Lineford’s Limousine, Air Plant and Days. It’s by far one of the most relaxing anime OSTs I can think of. Something to listen to on a rainy day or just when taking hike on one of Canada’s many open trails. It of course wouldn’t do to not mention some of the more unsettling tracks (because there are some) like Position X or Black History, the later of which features a haunting choir as the scene goes over the events that resulted in the destruction of society as we know it.
So really both of these OSTs strengths are in Yoko Kanno making optimal use of the musical tools at her disposal and they both remain frequent listens of me…..but we still aren’t done we with this list yet.
Time For A Counterattack
Number 2 is actually another tie for me. Starting with Giant Robo, I find it somewhat intimidating to even be mentioning this OST on a list because I’ve heard it has been compared to the likes of Wagner himself and called a masterpiece of animation music….and that it is. Making use of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, Giant Robo’s is a stirring soundtrack that is every bit as epic as the story the OVA itself tells. From the thumping of “Arrival of Giant Robo” and the brass that follows it’s intitial portions that is meant to mimic the steps of Giant Robo itself as it makes it’s approach, to the haunting choirs of “Bashtarl’s Recollection” that perfectly help to convey the horror of the Tragedy of Bashtaral, it is one I find all encompassing. I feel that it is a rare composition that can be appreciated as not only a work of art unto itself among anime music, but as a symphony that deserves to be played alongside the likes of Wagner, Beethoven, Mozart or any of the other masters in a theatrical setting. If I could meet Masamichi Amano in person I would do anything to shake his hand and possibly ask for an autograph
Eureka Seven is too me a masterpiece of modern music with it’s fusion of popular styles such as techno, rock, pop, orchestral, jazz, blues choir and even if I’m not mistaken some calliope (though that’s never been popular). The soundtrack contains some of the greatest variety in music I’ve ever come across in the anime scene and it’s all amazing to me. Songs like “Tiger Track” and “Get It By Your Hands” are great techno pieces that keep things exciting (unlike every Daft Punk album that isn’t Discovery), while the great opening and ending tracks provide some of the best pop and rock you will find in anime music (picture it, 8 openings and ending combined, all different styles of music, all extremely good in their own right). Sexy Lady Bluesy (Talho’s theme I think) is one of your jazzy bluesy type songs while Type TheEND is a disturbing as hell orchestral compisition mixed with synth that has one of the most goosebumps inducing sound effects at the end, just in case you thought an encounter with it was anything other then a terrifying experience. I really can’t think of any other OST in recent memory that has reached this level of style and fusion to create something of a tribute to music itself, which it sort of technically is supposed to be. If you’re one of those people who only likes what’s new and currently popular, Eureka Sevens OST is a purchase I would strongly recommend to anybody interested in hearing what I think is some incredible music.
Mobile Suit Victory Gundam
And thus we reach the end with Victory Gundam, which is technically my number one OST. So good is this soundtrack to me in fact that I’ve permenantly ingrained the name of it’s composer Senju Akira into my head as a semi-deity of anime music. Victory Gundam….how do I even describe it…wow. Picture a soundtrack that spans 3 CD’s with at least 20 tracks on each and each of the tracks on it’s own is as good as the entirety of the good songs I hear on the average anime OST. I can’t even actually bring up any special example of a track I think exemplifies what it has to offer in a given category because every song is either a perfect 10 or really close. Even the vocal insert songs are beautiful which is a rarity for Gundam….I guess I could specifically mention Shakti’s (Tied with Diana Soriel for my favourite female Gundam character ever by the way) insert song Hinageshi No Tabi No Mukou Ni, which almost floored me when I first heard it. I swear this sountrack may actually have healing powers as it can be the crappiest day for me, but when I come home and listen to any track from it I will instantly perk up. I guess it’s sort of like the opposite of that Hungarian Death song then eh? To me this is another masterpiece of anime music in and of itself that I think deserves to be played alongside and likened to that of the masters work.
That was tougher than I thought it would be. Trying to rationalize why I think some Anime OSTs are better then other’s is not easy, and I want people to know that this is just my personal top 10 anime osts. If yours isn’t on here, I’m sorry, I just either haven’t heard it or don’t like it enough to give it a spot on my pantheon. I’m also by no means an expert in music (being a C- student in that category), but I try to convey my thoughts on it to the best of my knowledge. Really my only way of picking out songs I feel are great is if I enjoy listening to them and can relax and just let the composition take me away into whatever emotions it’s attempting to stir up. If it’s successful in that then it is good music. Of course there’s the technical side that I found hard to measure, but again I try the best I can to rationalize it in my admitted musical incompetence.
Really I just hope people can feel my appreciation for the subject of anime music and I hope even more that people have found something they like in all of this. Feel free to offer your list if you want as I’m always looking for good OSTs to add to my collection. (though imagining something to replace the likes of Victory Gundam is a tough effort :p ) See you next over long article folks.