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Sound Decision
Fjordland Train

by Jonathan Mays,
This weekend I saw The Lion King for the first time since it was in theaters, and I'd forgotten just how much I love that film. When you're tired of anime, check it out sometime.

On to the reviews!

Beginnings Geneon
Gemini Geneon

Back in the dark ages of domestic anime music (2002), Geneon ventured into the realm of New Age music and brought the works of violinist Norihiro Tsuru and pianist Yuriko Nakamura to the West. Without the product support like they have now, the 3-CD set came and went virtually unnoticed. Now, they're back, and anime fans should be delighted to have a second chance at some beautiful ethereal music.

Do you recognize the cover art over to the right? That's the work of Yoshitaka Amano, whose designs are featured in Final Fantasy, G-Force, and Vampire Hunter D. It establishes a pretty high standard; fortunately, the music lives up to the cover's promise. A short narration with delicate accompaniment introduces us to the fantasy world of "Beginnings," where the mellow tones of an oboe intensify the dream. For the full effect, be sure to listen to the tracks in order. You'll be glad you took the time.

Guitar takes center stage in "Gemini," a more eclectic collection, though it tends to sound more Celtic than spiritual. All of the tracks are worth a listen, but "Roht" is absolutely entrancing. The cello part is easily as good as anything in Haibane Renmei, perhaps even better. Then there's "Lagnada," with a violin solo that would've found a welcome spot in Lord of the Rings. Top to bottom, these are two of the best CDs I've heard during my time reviewing soundtracks.

I'm still waiting to get my hands on the third installment, "Progress," but after the first two, I'm expecting great things. For now, pick up this pair, as they're definite fixtures for any anime-related music collection.

Best used as: healthy fantasy.

Fruits Basket Geneon (2004-02-17)

I haven't seen Fruits Basket yet, and if I had, I bet my reaction to this soundtrack would've been much more positive. But without the show's support, Fruits Basket: Memory for You is left to rot along with all the other boring and undeveloped OSTs out there. Nothing here will catch your attention, except for the two fighting songs, which are ripped straight out of Final Fantasy VII.

The opening and ending songs are pleasant, delicate melodies, but sadly, only the 90-second TV edits are included. That leaves a bunch of slow, plodding percussion tracks and a few quaint solo tunes. "Mysterious Family" isn't bad, but everything else is sleep-inducing. Even after two or three times through, the melodies just aren't memorable enough to draw you into Fruits Basket's world.

I don't want to apologize for sticking Memory for You with a low grade, but if you've seen the show and were moved by it, chances are the minimalist themes will be all you'll need to immerse yourself in Furuba goodness. On the other hand, if you haven't seen the show, save your money and buy the anime instead.

Best used as: spoiled fruit.

Chobits Character Song Collection Geneon (2004-02-17)

Geneon promotes this as the answer for "fans who couldn't get enough 'Chobits' music." I can't imagine many people falling under that label, but we've been hit with round three anyways. Like the previous two Chobits CDs, the retro-kawaii music ranges from bearable to painfully annoying. Since it's the character collection, you won't find any dull BGM here, which is a plus, but the instrumental themes aren't too much of an improvement.

If, for some reason, you actually put down the money for this vapid dreck, you'll probably find a couple of tracks mildly entertaining. "Love of Babble" was actually composed by K-taro Takanami of the Pizzicato Five Jpop group, so it's kinda catchy, but like all the other Chobits music, it's just too hollow to keep anybody interested for more than two or three minutes. Another decent one is "Sing a Song," with a groovy backbeat that reminds me of Card Captor Sakura. As for the rest—don't bother. (I dare you to sit through "A Storm in a Teacup" twice.)

Two average songs in a sea of waste does not make for a smart purchase. Stay away.

Best used as: poison pixie stick.

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