Anime Music Appreciation – random OPs
May 14, 2010
Anime Music Appreciation
With this post I’m kicking off an occasional series of posts dedicated to the wonderful music of anime. I’ve seen other bloggers write exhaustive catalogs of all the music that came out in a year, and others that simply give their favorites. Personally I don’t think I can decide which OPs are the “best”. My tastes change a lot, and even if I were convinced I had heard all the greatest songs, I would probably rank them differently, according to my mood. What I intend to do instead, is occassionally create a post “appreciating” something, most likely a specific performer or composer, but, who knows. In the spirit of who knows, I’m starting with five OPs that I like a lot, with no respect for theme at all. Slip on the headphones and enjoy.
As I said, these are not presented as the five “best” OPs, or my favorites, or even thematically related. If you want something clever like that, check out Chocolate Syrupy Waffles, who are posting best OPs by animation company (SHAFT, KyoAni), or Star Crossed Anime, for Psgels’ Top 25 Favorite OPs.
I should also note, that I selected these OPs because I really liked the music. I might also really like the accompanying animation, or the show itself, but I liked the music enough to share it with all y’all in ani-blog land. Since these are not professed to be the “best” don’t read too much into the order of presentation.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni
Katayoku no Tori
Hah ha! We get right into it. This song by Akiko Shikata is really nice. It pushes you toward the edge of anxiety. This keeps you from relaxing while you watch the pretty butterflies and what not, which is good, because this show is not for watching unless you are prepared to see some intense things. The choir brings intensity of timbre, and it also is singing some very intense lyrics in Italian, e.g. Judgement has arrived from the sea, and is about to be dealt. The use of Italian seems evocative both of medieval witchcraft and religious concepts such as peccato (sin). Meanwhile the main melody is beautifully wistful. A good song to work up the adrenaline, but it might be tough to use on a run, as the rhythm, though moving is based on threes.
This one’s kind of creepy, but it almost sounds relaxing compared to that last number. The vocals have been reduced to soft swells. The symphonic instruments have taken over. In fact, this first version of the OP has completely abstract visuals, so there is nothing at all to distract from listening to the pretty music. Strings, brass, choir, bells, cymbals… Toshio Masuda provides a full orchestral texture for a minimal, but effective melodic hook.
Crest of the Stars
Another symphonic piece, but this one, composed by Katsuhisa Hattori, has two very distinct melodic components. The first one is very martial, featuring staccato brass and tympani. The second is played legato and features violins. These are used effectively throughout the series, to emphasize the two main aspects of the show: wartime adventures and the developing relationship between Jinto and Lafiel. I love the use of gongs here. CRAASH! Damn, it would be fun to have one of those. Until the cops show up to tell me the neighbors have been complaining.
Performed by Enka singer Akemi Misawa, this song gives you the peaceful feeling of kicking back on a warm day when the breeze is just right. Although Enka music is very nostalgic, it isn’t appropriate to the age when the show is supposed to take place. Instead it brings the viewer back principally to the sixties and seventies, the heyday for televised jidaigeki, or period dramas. Like most traditional Enka, this song has a very ornate vocal style (lots of vibrato) over a simple melody based on the pentatonic scale.
Juuni Kokki (12 Kingdoms)
Another instrumental with orchestral passages, however this piece, composed by Kunihiko Ryou, features the flute, giving it a strong Asian flavor. Again we have two major parts with contrasting moods. The main part is melancholy or outright sorrowful, but very melodic. The flute almost sounds like it is crying because it is played with a lot of ornamentation and vibrato at a slow pace. This gives the song its haunting beauty. The end of the song is martial, and the orchestra takes over with a livelier rhythm.