GUIN SAGA ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK
Most people know Nobuo Uematsu for his works on the Final Fantasy series, but since his departure from Square Enix, he has written a lot of other scores. While he is most known for the mainly for the Mistwalker RPGs, Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, he has also contributed a rock score to Lord of Vermilion and a jazz soundtrack to Anata o Yurusanai. Most recently, he was also responsible for the score to the anime, Guin Saga. Although he once contributed some pieces to Final Fantasy Unlimited and Ah! My Goddess alongside Shiro Hamaguchi, this is his first solo anime score to date. Consider I haven't been particularly thrilled with his music since his departure from Square Enix, how does this one turn out.
Exquisite. That was my initial reaction to the opening theme, "Grand Opening - The Thread of Fate." While I bought this album on a whim, due to liking the samples I heard on the promotional site for the soundtrack, this was not included. Fully orchestrated, the opening theme manages to capture an air of regality, yet without sounding intrusive with harsh instrumentation. It appears to be the work of new orchestrator Tsutomu Narita, who surpasses Hiroyuki Nakayama's efforts on the Mistwalker RPGs in every way. The lovely harp opening, the fluttering woodwind passages, and the elegant string work makes this piece simply superb and it has to be one of my favorite Uematsu themes in recent years.
Secondly, I should mention "Guin's Theme". In all fairness, this theme seems highly influenced by the main theme to Lost Odyssey, though it is also its own beast for the most part. The instrumentation in this theme is quite effective. There is a strong focus on brass, strings, and percussion. Hints of choir are also added into the mix, giving the entire theme a more heroic feel. In addition there are quite a few other character themes. To portray another major character, "Rinda's Theme - The Pearl of Parros" is a lovely composition that varies as it progresses. At times, it offers a more melancholy sound, while during others, it features a more classical oriented and brighter outlook.
Remus has two themes. "Remus' Theme - Sun Collector" is a very playful woodwind theme that tends to sound a bit more serious as it progresses. The other, "Remus' Theme - Solitude's Shadow" sounds a bit more like chamber music and features darker passages at times. It's a nice contrast between his first theme's soundscape. The character, Istavan, also has two themes. "Istavan's Theme - Main Theme," has a slightly heroic sound with a focus on strings and brass, whereas "Istavan's Theme - Where is the Light?" sounds a bit more mysterious. Rather than the regal strings and brass, it features more simplified instrumentation and is quite barebones. I really don't enjoy this version that much. There are other character themes, ranging from the bright "Suni's Theme - The Angel of Nospherus" to the intense "Skarl's Theme," which features some fantastic percussion and a nice ethnic vibe.
Included on the second disc is the Mongaul Suite. Broken into four short themes, it offers a bit of insight into the events regarding the Mongauls, who I assume are enemies. The first, "Obsessed with the Sight of Tigers," is a dark, militaristic piece that utilizes percussion and somber strings and piano sections. The second, "Sortie," is much more action-oriented, featuring militaristic percussion and string work. It's pretty repetitive, but there are some interesting additions as it progresses, such as the woodwind flourishes and the switch to a brass melody. In sharp contrast, "The Rose of Mongaul" is a very beautiful piano, woodwind, and strings piece that seems to have a slight "Guin's Theme" influence in it. It's probably the best of the four-part suite, but unfortunately it's also one of the shortest. Lastly, "Advance of the Crimson Scorpions," reverts back to the frenetic, action packed theme found in "Sortie". Militaristic in nature, it offers an oppressive atmosphere, but I don't find it entirely effective. All in all, the suite has some ups and downs.
Lastly, I'll mention some of the softer themes. "Peace of the Chamber of the Mound" is perhaps one of the most beautiful themes on the entire soundtrack. The piano led melody, with accompanying woodwind and strings passages, ensures a very calming and extremely pleasing piece. "Out-of-Reach Feelings" is another piano and strings based composition. It's peaceful at times, climaxing to something more heroic, before dying down to a soft, beautiful piano passage that leads to another orchestral flourish. The soundtrack ends with "Hope". This piece is utterly beautiful. A soft theme featuring choir, it manages to convey emotions that the title invokes, yet at the same time, it manages to stir up feelings of nostalgia. It's a fantastic way to end the soundtrack, and subsequently this review.
Guin Saga Original Soundtrack was Nobuo Uematsu's first major anime score. While there are some expected filler tracks, given it is a soundtrack for a televised media, there are also quite a few gems, from the opening theme to the more peaceful ones, and much in between. The orchestration quality has vastly improved since Lost Odyssey and the soundtrack has higher production values overall. It's definitely worth a listen and I found it more enjoyable than Blue Dragon, but it won't be everybody's cup of tea. Still, it should appeal to those interested in the more epic and cinematic side of Nobuo Uematsu's versatile musicality.
All music composed and produced by Nobuo Uematsu
Arranged by Hiroyuki Nakayama
Disc 1: 1, 6, 7, 11, 12
Disc 2: 2~6, 13, 21
Arranged by Tsutomu Narita
Disc 1: 3~5, 8~10, 13~20
Disc 2: 1, 7~12, 14~20, 22
Arranged by Hiroyuki Nakayama & Tsutomu Narita
Disc 1: 2
Strings: Konno Strings
1st Violin: Hitoshi Konno, Takashi Hamano, Mikiko Ise, Makiko Tomokiyo, Makiko Murakoshi, Masahiko Todo, Koichiro Muroya, Osamu Iyoku
2nd Violin: Takayuki Oshikane, Namiko Kitagawa, Akane Irie, Mika Naramura, Takako Oota (大多貴子), Akiko Tajima
Viola: Shoko Miki, Kazuo Watanabe, Kaoru Hagiwara, Sachie Oonuma, Amiko Watabe
V.Cello: Susumu Miyake, Seigen Tokuzawa, Erika Makioka (槙岡絵里香), Yoshie Furukawa (古川淑恵)
Double Bass: Yamato Moritake (森武大和), Koji Makuuchi, Kazuki Chiba
Piano: Hiroyuki Nakayama
Flute: Junko Wakamatsu
Flute, Piccolo: Maiko Seino
Oboe: Masakazu Ishibashi, Yousuke Hasegawa
Cor anglais: Satoshi Shoji
Clarinet: Tadashi Hoshino, Naoki Hayashi
Bassoon: Masashi Maeda
French Horn: Otohiko Fujita, Hitomi Furue, Takanori Takahashi, Tsutomu Isohata
Trumpet: Sho Okumura, 藤澤靖, Koji Nishimura, Masahiko Sugasaka
Trombone: Eijiro Nakagawa, Kanade Shishiuchi
Bass Trombone: Junko Yamashiro, Koichi Nonoshita
Tuba: Ryosuke Kashiwada
Percussion: Yuki Hasegawa, Yoko Ishizaki
Harp: Yuko Taguchi
Synthesizer Manipulator: Tadashi Yatabe
Grand Opening - The Thread of Fate
Reluctance to Part at Sunset
Rinda's Theme - The Pearl of Parros
Remus's Theme - Sun Collector
Infinite Time and Space
Peace of the Chamber of the Mound
Istavan's Theme - Main Theme
Istavan's Theme - Where is the Light?
Suni's Theme - The Angel of Nospherus
muscle! muscle! muscle!
Driven into a Corner
The Song of Janus's Decision
Mongaul Suite, First Movement: Obsessed with the Sight of Tigers
Mongaul Suite, Second Movement: Sortie
Mongaul Suite, Third Movement: The Rose of Mongaul
Mongaul Suite, Fourth Movement: Advance of the Crimson Scorpions
Nalis's Theme - Ald Nalis
Nalis's Theme - Magnificent Rapier
Beautiful Capital - Crystal
Cries from Naught
Rushing Wind and Crashing Waves
Road of the Defeated
Remus's Theme - Solitude's Shadow
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