2011 has been a pretty stand up year for anime, all told (despite what the declinists would have you believe). Especially as far as soundtracks go there was quite the selection, and while I couldn’t possibly listen to everything, I did listen to some of it. A lot. These are those soundtracks.
Number Five: Break Blade
I’m probably being a bit unfair putting this one so low, because I do very much love the fuck out of this OST. However, the tracks all were a bit too short for my liking; right when I’d start liking a track it was already over. Music needs time to develop, man! Also, only releasing the soundtrack in a bundle with the Blu-ray needs to stop.
This one really gets my classical music enthusiast side going like you wouldn’t believe. “Sinfonia on the Battlefield” will get your blood pumping every time, and “At Dusk” is some of the best choral chanting around. Probably my favorite track is “The End of the Battlefield,” because I’m a sucker for slow music in a minor key (it’s also like the only track over four minutes long). If you like orchestral stuff, there’s gonna be at least one track you’ll like, just don’t count on it being very long.
Number Four: Mawaru Penguindrum
Once again I’m being a bit unfair, since this one isn’t even fully out yet, but what do I care. It’s great stuff. The music here is varied and interesting, and also pretty fully developed for being about as long as Break Blade’s tracks usually are. Although once again it’s bundled with the Blu-ray. Stop doing that! It’s harder (read: more expensive) to import.
This is where I would tell you which tracks I liked, but, um, I can neither read nor write Japanese, and just giving track numbers sounds a bit vague for my tastes. But really, it’s not like there’s very much out at the moment anyway, so it won’t take too long to give it a listen and decide for yourself.
Number Three: Yumekui Merry
I still do not know how a show as terrible as Yumekui Merry got such a terrific OST. Unlike the last two, this one got an actual standalone release, complete with track lengths over two minutes. Hooray. This one’s less symphony/keyboard oriented than the last two as well, with some synths and distorted guitars.
The creatively titled “Main Theme,” at just over six minutes, is one of the most rewarding to listen to, and is also one of the more symphonic compositions. “Critical Moment” starts with some bouncing synths before the electric guitar comes in to make it pure awesome. And then there’s “Hercules no Kyofu,” which… defies description, almost. It’s pretty much a remix of the earlier “Hercules no Uta,” but it does some scary things with it.
Number Two: Ao no Exorcist
This is a very fun soundtrack. It’s groovy syncopated rhythms at times, rock anthems at others, and then it all culminates in a haunting choral melody. I don’t quite like everything on here, but what I do like is truly excellent.
“Exorcist Concerto Fourth Movement D+T” is probably my most listened track from this release, and for good reason; that opening riff is one of the best things on here. Meanwhile, Mika Kobayashi’s “Exorcist Concerto First Movement Me & Creed” is basically a tribute to 30 Seconds to Mars’s “This is War,” which works surprisingly well. “AOE Suite Second Movement 5P+3P” is a more piano-centered track, with multiple layers of syncopation creating a very interesting effect.
Number One: Dantalian no Shoka
This is basically everything I thought Break Blade’s OST should have been. Its composition and instrumentation are all very classical (except maybe for the accordion), but all of its tracks are very well developed. And while the tracks have a tendency to all end the same way, they at least come off as finished. Best of all, though, is the use of piano and organ. Tsuji You really makes the piano shine on any number of tracks, and the organ is used admirably (if not to its full extent). The string arrangements make some very nice use of counterpoint without coming off as busy, and even though every other song features the same melody none of it sounds like filler. And, as it happens, many of the tracks sound pretty Christmas-y, so what better time to listen to this gem than now?
There is not a single track on here that I dislike. Not. A. One. Each has its own reason to shine, whether the stunning middle section of “Sunda Kuuki. Kanjouteki ni Nari Sugizu, Utau Youni,” or the sublime piano in “Yuragi Madoromi no Koufukukan. Kokyou no Yume.” If I had to pick a favorite, it might be “Sabireta Teien no Ato. Nanika ga Houkai Shite Ikuyou” or “Teki Jousho. Shuuu no Youna Piano Kansou,” in both cases for their use of the piano. But the short of it is that you should listen to the whole thing because it is all amazing. All of it