Danganronpa -Trigger Happy Havoc- Original Soundtrack
Danganronpa -Trigger Happy Havoc- Original Soundtrack
Sound Prestige Records
February 14, 2011
Buy at CDJapan
Following the very experimental score for Vanquish, which Masafumi Takada composed with Erina Niwa, Takada recently lent his musical talent to an acclaimed PSP game called Danganronpa -Trigger Happy Havoc-. I’m not entirely sure what the game is about, but it seems to be a mystery-type game with a bit of a horror aspect as well, gathered from the various descriptions and gameplay videos online. The soundtrack was released by Takada’s newly formed label Sound Prestige Records. Let’s see how Takada handles his first major solo project since leaving Grasshopper Manufacture…
The album opens up with the title theme, “DANGANRONPA”. A wonderful fusion of sounds, it features some suspenseful electronic tones mixed with an extremely catchy electronic beat. In addition, there are some jazzy piano and percussion passages, haunting female vocal parts, and electric guitar solos. Overall, it’s haunting, extremely complex, and a wonderful way of introducing the various styles heard on the soundtrack. There are also two other versions of this theme featured on the soundtrack. “Danganronpa -Trigger Happy Havoc-!” focuses more on the jazzier aspects of the title theme, while “DANGANRONPA (DR Version)” is a remixed and expanded version of the title theme, but with a more prominent focus on the electronic elements of the original.
One of the more upbeat themes, “Beautiful Days,” features an extremely bright and uplifting melody. I really like the various electronic harmonies featured in this theme, as they help add a nice depth to the overall piece. In my opinion, the melody would suffer without the additional complexity. In contrast, “Beautiful Dead” has a very somber tone through its focus on jazzy piano and electronic beats. It is a beautiful theme, even with the somber, sad mood portrayed. The piano manages portrays a stunning melody, while the electronic elements, both in terms of ethereal synth and edgy beats, create an encompassing atmosphere. “Beautiful Morning” borrows the motifs heard in “Beautiful Dead,” and turns it into a more electronically focused theme. There is a very futuristic and bright nature to the theme, but at the same time, the somber approach of “Beautiful Dead” is still heard.
As mentioned in the overview, there are some themes that feature elements of music reminiscent of Vanquish. “Class Trial Dawn Edition” has an atmosphere similar to his work on this game, except without a slightly more uplifting beat. It is a theme that lacks a strong, focused melody, but it manages to incorporate a lot of enticing electronic elements in the “melody” line and the bass line. On the other hand, “Class Trial Turbulent Edition” is akin to some of Takada’s more action oriented themes on Vanqish. It features a strong electronic focus that features some sinister elements, such as suspended strings, particularly in the accompaniment, but, like “Class Trial Dawn Edition,” it doesn’t rely on a focused melody despite a slight hook being present. Lastly, “Class Trial Solar Edition,” is another upbeat theme similar to said game’s battle themes as well. Rather than focus on sinister elements, like the turbulent edition of this theme, it focuses on a more dance-like beat with some fantastic electronic and acoustic accompaniment. It’s probably the best of the Class Trial themes and manages to bring a refined Vanquish sound to the mix, appropriate for this game, of course.
Upon hearing “Mr. Monokuma’s Extracurricular Lesson,” I was reminded a bit of Shoji Meguro’s more modern Persona soundtracks. However, unlike Meguro, who focused more on rock and pop elements to bring about this modernism, Takada incorporates an almost trip-hop sort of sound, with its blend of futuristic soundscapes, heavy electronic tones, and classical instrumentation. It’s an extremely catchy theme that really manages to convey a sense of the ominous, but with a bit of fun as well. On the other hand, “Mr. Monokuma’s Lesson,” is, in essence, a sharp contrast to the former. It has a very classical sound and focuses more on traditional instrumentation with the incorporation of electronic elements for emphasis. There is a very tropical, jazzy sound created through the use of steel drums, big band brass, and some male vocal samples. I don’t enjoy this as much as “Mr. Monokuma’s Extracurricular Lesson,” but it’s nice to see something that contrasts quite drastically with a lot of the soundtrack.
Another intriguing theme is “BOX 15.” It has a lounge influence, but at the same time, it incorporates some more sophisticated jazz and club elements. The brass work creates a very smoky and dark atmosphere and it really contrasts nicely with the lounge percussion and electronic work. In the end, it’s a stunning theme that really manages to show Takada’s diversity as a composer. “BOX 16,” on the other hand, has a classic rock sound. The melody features extensive use of electric guitar, which helps provide a funky atmosphere. In addition, the lounge jazz atmosphere of “BOX 15” is also incorporated into the mix through the use of percussion, brass, and electronic elements. It’s a lush soundscape and one that really manages to bring an edgy sound to the soundtrack.
There are also a series of themes related to the game’s discussion scenes. “Discussion -Break-” is an extremely hard, edgy electronic theme that features extensive use of deep male vocal samples and lush electronic and rock soundscapes to provide a frightening atmosphere. Likewise, “Discussion -Mix- (EDGE Version)” is a lusher rendition of the Break version” with more electronic elements, particularly some trance elements in the melody line, interspersed throughout to create, as the name suggests, a slightly edgier sound. “Discussion -Heat Up-,” speaking of trance, reminds me a bit of Yuzo Koshiro’s work. There is an extremely intense electronic beat accompanying a surreal, but powerful, trance melody that also incorporates some of the deep male vocals heard in the previous Discussion themes. Lastly, “Discussion -Hope vs. Despair-” is an extremely dark and frightening version of the Discussion theme. Hardcore techno beats collide with prominent use of the deep male vocals, sinister trance leads, and some electric guitar work to create a meaningful blend of sounds. This is another highlight of the soundtrack, provided you can handle powerful electronic soundscapes.
“Welcome Despair School” has a very haunting soundscape. The use of bell-like synth, coupled with ambient electronic elements, spooky electronic accompaniment, and some suspenseful harmonies, manages to create a foreboding and ominous tone that really manages to stand out against some of the more straightforward and bolder themes on the soundtrack. “Goodbye Despair School,” on the other hand, features a more liberating soundscape. While it doesn’t boldly offer closure, the ambient nature of the piece has a calming, relaxing theme that gives the listener a sense of freedom. It’s a beautiful piece of music, but the static nature of most of it may make some listeners want to move onto the next track.
There are also three M.T.B. related themes on the soundtrack, although I couldn’t tell you what the initials meant. “M.T.B.” is an electronic theme that definitely harbors an ominous touch. The intense, industrial beats match nicely with the sinister tones heard in the melody line. While it’s definitely a more atmospheric piece, given the repeating nature of the melody line, it does manage to provide an exotic soundscape that may attract certain listeners. On the other hand, “SUPER M.T.B.” manages to provide a more inviting tone, albeit only slightly. The sinister nature of its counterpart is still present in the melody line, but the incorporation of dance beats manages to offset this sinisterness by adding a bit of a jovial nature. Lastly, “SUPER FINAL M.T.B.” is an uptempo version of “SUPER M.T.B.” but also adds in some woodwind synthesizer passages from time to time. Overall, these themes are decent, but I feel there are much stronger electronic offerings to be had on the soundtrack.
Now that I’ve covered all the related themes, there are a few standalone themes that bear mentioning. “DISTRUST” is a dark electronic theme with a bit of a rock edge. There is definitely a mysterious, smoky, jazz atmosphere heard in the melody line through the use of the synthesizer, and overall, it manages to convey a deceiving sort of atmosphere, as the name might suggest. On the other hand, “Living to the Fullest,” is definitely Vanquish all over again. It’s an intense electronic theme that encompasses that feel of battle. I’m not sure how appropriate it is for this game, since I haven’t heard it used, but on a standalone basis, fans of his edgy electronic soundscaping will surely enjoy this.
“Climax Reasoning,” on the other hand, manages to convey a more futuristic soundscape with a modern touch. The trance melody line, coupled with the crystalline piano accompaniment, really manages to create a very bright and inviting soundscape that works together quite well with the house beats featured in the accompaniment. It’s an exotic, lush theme full of rich passages, even if it may be a bit too repetitive for some. “New World Order” plays a bit with the motif heard in “Climax Reasoning” and “Beautiful Morning” to create a very upbeat theme with some lush orchestral accompaniment, piano in the lead, and a strong focus on heavy electronic beats. It’s a theme that masks the piano melody a bit, due to the intense nature of the surrounding elements, but all in all, it manages to convey a sense of tomorrow and the future.
“Desire for Execution,” features an ambient atmosphere that portrays a horror-like quality. The desolate, hollow sounding synthesizer couples quite nicely with the sparsely used acoustic instrumentation. It’s not a theme to listen to for its melody, but fans of atmospheric pieces will probably find this one to be quite enjoyable. Similarly, “All All Apologies” incorporates desolate synth to incorporate a feeling of despair, however, the lack of any other prominent instrumentation, unlike “Desire for Execution,” leaves a bit to be desired.
Lastly, “Saisei -rebuild-” is a jazzy rock vocal theme. Featuring Megumi Ogata on vocals, her voice — which is so deep that at times it sounds like a man — really fits with the overall soundscape of the theme. The big band brass accompaniment, the funk-rock electric guitar solos, and progressive keyboard work really help create an upbeat and entertaining theme. It’s not the best vocal theme for a video game, but it’s nice to hear something aside from the myriad of ballads and pop songs used in the majority of video games. I also think it really fits quite nicely with the overall direction of this soundtrack.
In the end, I think that Masafumi Takada created an extremely diverse soundtrack that showcases his diversity as a composer. At times, there are themes that cater towards more hardcore electronic music, some that mirror his work on the Vanquish, others on No More Heroes, and yet others that are totally unique for the game. Personally, I don’t enjoy it as much as I do his work on Vanquish, but it is an accomplished soundtrack that, filler withstanding, manages to be a fitting accompaniment to the game and a pleasant stand-alone listen.
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 August 1, 2012.