Akai Katana Original Soundtrack
Akai Katana Original Soundtrack
October 16, 2010
Buy Used Copy
Akai Katana Original Soundtrack is the first Cave soundtrack in recent years not scored by Manabu Namiki and the other composers at Basiscape. Composed by Ryu Umemoto, it offers an interesting fusion of rock, electronic, and Asian influenced music. When I was in Japan, Ryu Umemoto told me there was much pressure on him given how many fans in Japan consider Namiki the god of Cave shooter music. Does his music stand amongst the living legend?
The first indication of the quality of the soundtrack comes with the select music, “Drawn Sword”. It is a wonderful fusion of glitchy synth work, Asian woodwind harmonies, and some rock riffs. It’s short and repetitive, like most every other Cave character select music, but it’s still quite enjoyable. The same elements can also be heard in the stage clear theme, “Flash”, and the name entry music, “State”, with the latter being more laidback in nature.
Of course, the majority of any CAVE soundtrack is in the stage themes and here, Ryu Umemoto creates some extremely pleasing music. The first stage theme, “Nirvana Gate” sets the tone for the stage themes with its energetic pace, satisfying guitar line, and electronic accompaniment. It is a fantastic melody and really manages to continue with the tradition of high quality first stage themes. The music for stage four, “Kaerituno” (named after part of a katana), is another successful tune that matches the atmosphere of the stage itself. The beginning of the stage starts out underwater, and I think that the unique manipulation of the synth in the melody, combined with the electric guitar accompaniment, really captures the outset of the stage quite well. Of course, as the stage progresses, the battlefield changes to land and certainly intensifies. This can definitely be heard in the musical progression of this theme. It’s another wonderful addition to the soundtrack.
However, I think the best stage theme on the soundtrack belongs to “Koiguichi” (also named after a katana part). Umemoto-san told me that he wrote this melody 20 years ago, but never used it. Of course, he doctored it up to fit the atmosphere of this game, but I think it’s an extremely catchy and absolutely astounding tune. The constant electric guitar and the progression of the melody is easily the best thing about this track, while the Asian woodwind accompaniment helps add some depth to the whole thing. Sure, the track could be longer, but at the same time, I think it doesn’t really matter because the track as a whole is completely solid. My second favorite stage theme is “Kurigata,” which plays during stage three. Of all the stage themes, this is definitely the one with the most stylistic fusion, blending Asian, electronic, and orchestral elements in one. It manages to create an extremely pleasing atmosphere that works well with the snowy setting of this stage.
The final stage, “Kojiri”, Umemoto-san tells me, was inspired by the battle music from the Gundam anime series. It’s an orchestral and rock fusion that manages to really set an adventurous mood that signifies the end of the journey. The electric guitar melody line is heroic, bold, and really captures a lot of energy. However, I’m also quite fond of the electric accompaniment that is heard throughout the piece. It really gives the orchestral sections of the melody a nice contrast. In the end, this is another fantastic stage theme that captures the essence of the game’s setting.
The boss theme “Close Competition” is an adrenaline fueled theme that accurately depicts the frenetic nature of Cave danmaku bullet patterns. The electric guitar melody, combined with the fast paced electronic bass line, results in an exhilarating experience. The last boss theme, “Moment”, on the other hand, is more reminiscent of the new battle themes that Umemoto composed for ESPGaluda II Black Label. It features the same elements, such as the ominous choral work, frenetic synth and guitar lines, and the pounding percussion elements. Having seen this theme in action personally (as a spectator, because I am nowhere near good enough to get this far on my own), I can say that it is a wonderful fit for the epic nature of the final battle.
Lastly, the ending theme “A Blooming Flower” is a stunning Asian-influenced theme with traditional Japanese instrumentation such as the shakuhachi. In addition, the crystalline piano really helps add a beautiful ethereal quality to the music, like falling cherry blossoms. In addition, the electric guitar melody line references the main theme of Akai Katana, heard in the first stage theme. In the end, it’s one of the most beautiful Cave ending themes to date. There are also prototype versions of “Nirvana Gate” and “Flash” featured on this soundtrack, though the final versions are most certainly the definitive ones. Between tracks 15 and 27, there are also quite a few voice collection tracks on the soundtrack as well.
In the end, I think that Ryu Umemoto’s first original Cave soundtrack is quite successful. I think he managed to capture the essence of the game quite well in his music and was also able to create an extremely pleasing listening experience as well. Although I was sad to see that Namiki and company wouldn’t be involved on this soundtrack, when I finally heard the music, I was pleased with what I heard. I don’t know if Umemoto-san was able to please all the Namiki fans out there, but he certainly managed to impress me with this soundtrack. My one issue with this soundtrack, however, is the length. With only 28 minutes of music — 38 minutes, if you include the voice collection work — it’s rather short for a CAVE soundtrack. For those who want quantity of music for their money, it might not be considered an ideal purchase. However, for fans of Umemoto-san, I’m sure the price of the CD isn’t really a concern.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Don Kotowski. Last modified on January 18, 2016.