Amagami Original Soundtrack
Amagami Original Soundtrack
Two Five Records
April 17, 2009
Buy at CDJapan
Noriyuki Iwadare was back with even more love than ever in 2009 with his score to Amagami. Following his work on True Love Story, KimiKiss, and spinoffs, the composer dedicated an entire three discs to his work on Amagami for the first time in the series. Though he only composed 39 pieces for the game, he elaborated more than before on each of them and presented them in two different sound versions. The full sound version on the first two discs features Iwadare’s sentimental and upbeat compositions portrayed with emotional instrumental performances and high quality synth backing. The retro sound version on the last disc emphasises the melodic aspects of the compositions with old-school synth. With demand for both strong melodies and elaborate arrangements, did Iwadare bring the goods (or should that be love)?
One of the most distinguishing features of Amagami‘s soundtrack is that it is relatively relaxing compared to the hyperactive True Love Story soundtracks. The various versions of the opening title theme initially set this tone of the soundtrack with a laidback tempo and mild melody, whether adapted for acoustic guitar, music box, and 8-bit synth. “Game Main Theme 2” is one of the most sentimental compositions on the soundtrack, but keeps things unobstrusive thanks to two star instrumental performances; an acoustic guitar exposes the melody in a soulful manner before a passionate violin takes the lead during the increasingly more elaborate development sections. The first main theme definitely ups the pace, but is no way overbearing, perhaps because of the balanced instrumental arrangement. That said, it’s difficult to tell whether the change in tone is due to a conscious decision from the composer or simply the impoved technology and resources available to him. Either way, it ensures a more mature and tolerable experience than most True Love Story soundtracks.
Moving to the character theme selection, Tsukasa Ayatsuji’s theme feels much more subdued than the peppy primary character themes of the True Love Story soundtracks. It keeps Iwadare’s characteristic lyrical jazz style alive, but mellowed down with soft string chords and singing violin countermelodies. Apparently the girl portrayed on the front cover of the soundtrack, it’s easy to see why this mild yet youthful approach would fit in context. Though several other themes take a similar approach, they tend to inspire slightly different imagery for me at least. Rihoko Sakurai’s theme seems ideal for a light stroll down the street whereas Sae Nakata’s theme seems more inspired by reflections on the water. There is nevertheless quite a bit of variety. For example, Kaoru Tanamachi’s theme rocks things up for the first time with fun electric guitar work, so is likely to become a fan favourite. In contrast, Ai Nanasaki is portrayed with a downtempo jazz piece, Miya’s theme offers a few tropical rhythms and instrumentation, and Masayoshi Umehara is given plenty of touches from imperial Japan. Were I more interested in this type of game, it’d be a pleasure to see how effective these portrayals are in context.
There is a pretty wide selection of background music for the various scenes and events, ensuring a relatively dynamic accompaniment to gameplay. Whereas True Love Story might have portrayed being in a good mood with a briskly composed jazz romp, Amagami favours a fulfilling duet for piano and guitar. “Lonely Music” and “Dark Side” offer further introspective instrumental work, introducing various forces atop acoustic and electric piano solos, whereas the three “Kiss” themes are all about intimacy and revelation. Even the superficial themes have some novelty value, such as “Comical Music” with its entirely percussive palette, “At Home” with its bossa-nova vibes, and “Confrontation” with its ’80s rock power-chords. Fans of Iwadare’s upbeat jazz should not worry, however, as “Happy Music”, “Christmas Party”, and “Happy Go Lucky” all cater for this style. Following the lovely acoustic ballad “Profession of Love”, Iwadare closes the soundtrack up with three feathery epilogue themes. A particular surprise was “All Clear!”, an eight minute epic blending power rock with big band jazz, strong melodies with extensive improvisations, and, of course, all of the composer’s enthusiasm and zest for life.
The third disc provides an interesting perspective by offering unlooped versions of Iwadare’s themes with smooth old-school synth. This sound version will be the preferred one for a niche of gamers, though others will simply find it a novelty or a waste of a disc. Overall, though, it is probably supplementary rather than redundant to the full sound version. The sound version is ideal for exposing the strong melodies behind the various character themes in a crisp unglossed fashion. The event music also deals well with the synth, although relatively little new perspective is added and some things can be set off balance. The team even dealt with themes with novel palettes on this sound version, such as “Comical Music” or Masayoshi Umehara’s theme. The soundtrack also features several versions of the five minute ending theme “Stay This Way, Forever…” The theme combines buoyant female vocals portraying characteristic melodies with some rocking instrumental passages. Some may not enjoy the childish voice of the vocalist, so will prefer the two instrumental versions instead. Regardless, the theme is still a professional and enjoyable effort, if not one of Iwadare’s best.
Whereas Iwadare’s past love soundtracks were often driven by superficial melodies and emotions, Iwadare attempts a relatively subtle, mild, yet rich approach for the Amagami Original Soundtrack. For practically every theme, Iwadare was able to convincingly portray characters and scenes, offer balanced and elaborate composition, and oversee expert implementation by emotional instrumentalists. The use of live instrumentalists made many more opportunities for Iwadare to express restraint and humanity in his music after the haphazardly synthesized music for the True Love Story series. Though opinions will vary widely about the importance of the retro sound version, it was overall a good idea for Two Five Records to include it and offers an interesting perspective on Iwadare’s work. Overall, this soundtrack should prove enjoyable to any fan of relaxing instrumental or chiptune music, not just the standard fan of dating simulators.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on January 18, 2016.