Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
Fruits Basket: Song for Ritsuko Okazaki —Geneon (2005-02-08)
There's performance music, and then there's Fruits Basket. This soundtrack is like a diary of personal secrets, a treasure chest whose key we weren't meant to have but are nonetheless lucky to possess. “Song for Ritsuko Okazaki” could not be more appropriately named.
Pardon the “less is more” cliché, but it is breathtaking to hear how much Ms. Okazaki could emote with little more than a whisper. By the midpoint of “Serenade,” her tiny voice is utterly overpowered by a trumpet and drums, but still, it shines through with innocent defiance. Instead of being the center of her music, she let the music twist its own tale for her to follow.
Is that too abstract? Maybe. I ran into the same trouble with Wish, which has a similar penchant for perfect tones and filling every inch of its strict parameters with passion. Lest I fall into more clichés, let me suggest an interesting way to listen to “Song for Ristuko Okazaki.” Find somewhere quiet; 2 a.m. in bed would be good. Close your eyes, and listen to the entire 40-minute soundtrack from the top. Make up a story to go with the music, and maybe shed a tear that Ms. Okazaki passed away before she could tell us all of hers.
Utena: Virtual Star Embryology —Geneon (2005-02-08)
Now this is interesting. Can you name another soundtrack that opens with '70s rock anthems and ends with classical piano? Even more so than the first OST, this one gives you a real sense of the twisted, unpredictable world that is Revolutionary Girl Utena. It's a difficult recommendation since there are only one or two tracks that are pleasant to listen to, but the rest are fascinating, challenging...different enough that this one should be on the must-buy list of anybody who wants a little creativity and genre-mashing in their anime music.
I'm surprised how much Utena's music has in common with Evangelion's. The foundation is classical, maybe for a small orchestra, with one or two elegant (but short) melodies. Then it goes off the deep end in opposite directions—humor and drama. Accordions are always a threat to boost the silliness factor, and ominous chorus passages can just as easily pull everything the other way. Strange, schizophrenic, and very interesting.
Samurai Deeper Kyo —Geneon (2005-02-08)
Confession: when I first entered this weird world of anime music, I kind of liked theme songs like Samurai Deeper Kyo's “Ao no Requiem.” They were haunting, a little off-key, and just different enough to hold my attention for a while. Now I know the truth: without a competent melody, you will hate this kind of song after about the tenth time.
The rest of the soundtrack—wistful songs like the creatively named “Sad Story” and electric guitar-heavy ones like the equally creatively named “Get Excited”—is probably just fine in a TV show when you're not paying too much attention to the music. But since this is a soundtrack, and you probably are paying attention to the music, you will undoubtedly notice how slooooowly each track develops. Couple that sluggishness with hollow performances, and you'd be better off quenching your classical thirst elsewhere.