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Sound Decision
Keiko's Corner

by Jonathan Mays,
If you've been keeping up with Bamboo's Shelf Life column (and if you haven't, make sure she doesn't find out!), you're well aware that last week she enlisted Juna from Earth Girl Arjuna to write a lil' bathroom jig to the tune of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon's "C'est la Vie." Clearly, it's hard to top "C'est la Toilette," but I think we've pulled it off. Indeed, we went straight to the source and pulled Keiko Kitagawa away from her Sailor Mars duties to give a few thoughts on this week's CDs. She only had time to give a quick impression, but I think you'll find her opinions quite conclusive. It seems she also squeezed in a bit on her new CD, which was released in Japan yesterday. I had nothing to do with it, I swear.

Texhnolyze Original Soundtrack Geneon Anime Music (2004-06-08)

"The day the war started, I was heading out to my next recording session."

I never dreamed I'd be reading about Iraq in an anime soundtrack booklet. Anime and, for the most part, entertainment in general feel so far removed from the Middle East conflicts that I guess it's easy to forget they share the same planet. It's just an offhand comment on the bottom of the fourth page, but the line certainly brings Texnolyze's international scope to the forefront.

Toshiaki Ohta recorded the soundtrack in three different cities: New York, Tokyo, and Rome. While that's unique in itself, what's more important is that he enlisted no fewer than seven different composers to conceive the Texnolyze soundtrack. Miraculously, they form a coherent whole.

Artists like Gackt and Hajime Mizoguchi contribute to the more traditional (but not at all trite) half of the soundtrack, with beautifully sweeping string and acoustic guitar passages that sound like they were composed and performed effortlessly. Hajime's a world-class cellist, and Gackt is one of Japan's most sensational artists, so maybe they were.

The other half is the realm of Keishi Urata, the exceptional music engineer who produced Megazone 23's soundtrack, as well as albums for several popular singers. His techno style defines Texnolyze's cold world, a severe contrast from Hajime's peaceful compositions. Juno Reactor's Guardian Angel is the show's opening theme, which coalesces well with Urata's work. If you've seen any of the Matrix movies, you already know Juno Reactor's at the top of its class.

Has an anime soundtrack ever amassed this kind of talent before? You'd be hard pressed to find one. Gackt's cathartic closing theme is probably the most alluring ED I've ever heard. The strings and piano are equal to Haibane, and the techno is much more refined than BG2040. Regardless of your taste, you'll surely find something to love here.

Keiko Kitagawa says:

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: DJ Moon 2 —Columbia (2004-05-19) [Import]

DJ Moon 2 continues Sailor Moon's rich tradition of releasing the same songs on multiple CDs and hoping you'll buy all of them. The show hasn't even been out for a year, and already some of these songs are showing up on their fourth of fifth CD. It's truly insane. But I guess they still sell.

Ridiculous practices aside, DJ Moon 2 is a reasonable collection of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon's music, which features mostly memorable orchestral themes that rank a little above average for an anime or sentai show. The two main attractions are the background pieces from the second quarter of the show and the original drama tracks. Like a number of anime soundtracks, DJ Moon 2 boasts a short, mildly amusing story, this time about a youma whose weaknesses are flowers and, naturally, singing.

Michiru Oshima's incidental music is hardly original or challenging, but it's catchier than your average BGM, which is a definite plus. On the other hand, the two new vocal pieces by Chisaki Hama and Myuu Azama are very, very boring rock songs. I didn't make it through either in one sitting. Why couldn't they have included Hama's "Mi Amor" instead? It's easily the best song in the show so far.

Highlights include the tender Usagi/Mamoru theme and Keiko Kitagawa's "Sakura Fubuki," a cool Latin pop song, which, in case you're wondering, is also available on four other CDs. There's also the (in)famous "C'est la Vie" (Sailor V? Nah... ) It's light, bouncy fun, even if its reputation is severely tarnished by the show's tendency to play it two or three times in a single episode. Oh, and assuming the planned Song Collection, DJ Moon 3, and Koro-chan Packs hit their street dates, it'll be on nine other CDs by July. But I digress.

There are many ways to make fun of DJ Moon 2, most of them valid, but in truth, it's pretty decent music and a worthwhile buy for Sailor Moon fans. Everybody else might get some fun out of it, too.

Keiko Kitagawa says:

Licensed by Royalty: Vocal Side Geneon Anime Music (2003-11-06)

Engrish sucks. Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying or hasn't listened to L/R Vocal Side. Eleven of the twelve songs on this soundtrack are completely ruined by incompetent singing and absurdly nonsensical lyrics, and they're all in English, so you don't have the option of ignoring the words.

Listening to Vocal Side is akin to sitting in the back of a karaoke bar, chuckling to yourself at the ineptitude of the drunkard who thinks he's Ray Charles. The musicians play the pop soul numbers to perfection, but my goodness, these guys couldn't sing in English if Ray Charles himself showed up at their doorstep and promised them eternal fame and fortune in exchange for correctly pronouncing "run." Not that there's a proper way to belt out, "You can take your way to left, You can take your way to right," or "Jumpy Bumpy life is like a thrilling game."

The one exception—and wow, what an exception—is is the show's opening theme, "Go Where No One's Gone Before," sung by the one and only Billy Preston. He has the perfect voice for soul, and his piano playing perfectly complements the rest of the band. If Geneon had released this as a single, I'd be begging you to buy it, but alas, Shinki Kakizima and company had to go and screw it up with a bunch of junk vocals.

There are worse soundtracks you can buy, as I think you'll get more out of a CD you positively loathe than one that evokes nothing at all. But even then, why bother?

Keiko Kitagawa says:

Hand Maid May Original Soundtrack Geneon Anime Music (2004-04-13)

I've listened to a lot of dreadful soundtracks (see above), but I don't think any of them has frightened me quite like Hand Maid May. You see, fully half of the tracks are part of a so-called voice collage, where the truly devoted freak can mix and match syllables in order to make his own personal maid messages. Who wouldn't want to hear May say, "Have a nice day, [name]-san!" or, even better, "I feel warm, [name]-san"? If that doesn't give you the creeps...well, it should.

Enough about lolicom fantasies; I wouldn't want to divert too much attention from Toshio Masuda's sorry excuse for a soundtrack. In Mahoromatic he proved he was capable of making competent anime music, even if it wasn't particularly innovative. But this time around, Masuda has nothing. No cute themes, no depth, no signs that he put anything more than a half-baked effort into the music.

Actually, there is one pleasant track, number fifteen, with a simple, sufficient cello and violin part. But it's also a near-exact copy of the "Last Wish" track from Mahoromatic. I guess Masuda's a one-trick pony, eh? The opening and ending themes aren't too bad, except the latter, "My True Feelings," is poorly mixed. The instruments are simply too loud for Mikaki Takahashi's nasal voice. It also sounds eerily like the Mahoromatic opening, but that shouldn't surprise you.

Even if you take out the harebrained voice collage kit, Hand Maid May's soundtrack is still a shameful fusion of rehashed material with flagrant disinterest. Let's hope Masuda decides to care next time.

Keiko Kitagawa says:

Thanks for reading, as always. I'll be back next week with another guest—if Namie returns that phone call.

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