Oh! Samurai Girls S Music Collection
Oh! Samurai Girls S Music Collection
February 29, 2012
Buy at CDJapan
The success of the game and anime versions of Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai! meant a sequel was inevitable. With a bigger budget to work with, Minato Soft decided to hire reputed game music production company Basiscape to handle the score and put their company’s music on the map. The company’s leader Hitoshi Sakimoto has had a chequered past in this genre — producing the lacklustre scores to L no Kisetsu 2 and Dragon Master Silk 2 — so he wisely decided to take a backseat on this project. Instead, he let his two newest and brightest composers — Azusa Chiba and Yoshimi Kudo — to take the lead on the soundtrack and gave them essentially complete freedom. The end result is so impressive that, no doubt, Basiscape will become the company-of-choice for many producers in the ever-growing bishoujo game market.
Leader Azusa Chiba raises the bar for the sequel immediately with the main theme “Fight with Swords”. As expected, it’s an upbeat, catchy theme that fits the youthful characters of the game. But it’s anything but vanilla, thanks its expansive development and strong folk and jazz influences. The track is a massive improvement on its predecessors in terms of implementation, mixing high quality samples with a passionate lead performance from violinist Teisana. Continuing to follow the tradition of bishoujo scores, there are also upbeat jazz tracks such as “Designated City Kawakami”. But rather than offer a tacky, one-dimensional theme, Kudo ensured this piece is filled with substance and depth. From the rich sounds of the soprano saxophone and muted trumpets, to the bubbly pop-flavoured accompaniment, to the intimate piano solo just before the loop, there’s so much to like here. The youthful feel of the score is further conveyed with bouncy flute-led anthems such as “Summer Season Has Come”, to relaxing lounge jazz pieces such as “Ordinary and Special” and “Class of Rowdies”.
There are plenty of tracks that inspire more intimate emotions on the soundtrack. Pieces such as “Sentimental Guys” and “Yoshitsune Minamoto” straddle away from the timeworn clichés of its predecessor in favour of a more personal acoustic sound. They slowly build up emotion, rather than force it on you with a pile of slush. The latter ranks alongside some of Kimihiro Abe’s very best themes. “Sunset Amnesia” takes a more stereotypical approach — creating a desolate sound with guitar arpeggios and harmonica passages. Yet the parts are treated in such an artistic way — with Kudo personally performing both instruments — that the final track really shines. Likewise, Chiba’s “This is Warmth!”, “Desolate Plain”, and “You Become a Bit Stronger” don’t push creative boundaries with their piano and violin focus. Neither does the intimate piano solo “Childhood”. Yet these tracks are so beautifully composed and produced that they’re bound to tug on the heartstrings of more sensitive gamers. It’s clear that the composer has matured since her debut with similarly styled pieces on L no Kisetsu 2.
Even beyond these tracks, the soundtrack proves spectacularly diverse. Building on the orchestral tinges of the original game, the ever-versatile Kudo provides the Wagnerian overture “German Hound”, the vibrant march “Forth to Battle”, and an arrangement of fan favourite “Kugi Kagura”. Such tracks are top-notch in both their sampling and composition, with the former proving especially striking. Another stunning guest contribution from Abe, “Esoteric Dance” is a piercing, action-packed orchestration topped off by a very impressive violin solo. A bright rock influence comes out in Kudo’s “Young Men Should be Like This” and several tracks featured at the climax. Like similar pieces on the predecessor, this track captures a vigorous rush of life with its showy guitar solos, but avoids being as trashy or superficial. Among other surprises include the quirky country-influenced “A Very Bad Feeling” and the radiant violin-led action theme “Adversity Break”. There are sillier and cheesier tracks such as “Cheerful Comrades” or “Sporty”, but it’s clear that the artists even put considerable time into these.
The artists reserve some darker music for certain location themes. “Danger Zone” is a revelation, blending brooding ambient textures typical of dungeon themes with a lyrical contemporary jazz influence; the resultant dichotomy conveys infiltrating a perilous place. Appropriate given the samurai influence of the game, some tracks exhibit a feudal influence. The brooding “The Temple Inhabited by a God” and chaotic “A Great Duel” sound especially good — proving just as deep as Muramasa‘s pieces with their haunting Japanese instruments and moody orchestral palette. Guest contributor Masaharu Iwata further explores such stylings in a more personal way with “Investigation on a Family” and “Taiten Gyodo”. For the climax of this ever-eclectic soundtrack, each of the four composers offers a different approach: Abe’s blistering rock-orchestral fusion (“Let’s Survive”), Iwata’s epic menacing orchestration (“Awakening of Blood”), Kudo’s courageous old-school rock jam (“Improve Your Reputation”), and Chiba’s pumping electro-acoustic anthem (“Naoe Family”). The closing themes “Hymn of Courage” and “Distant Journey” restore the soundtrack to a soft acoustic sound, while capturing a sense of experience and nostalgia.
It’s unlikely that a game such as Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai! S will find its way into the hands of a typical western gamer. However, its soundtrack absolutely deserves a place in the collection of any enthusiastic game music fan. With plenty of time and resources available to them, lead composers Azusa Chiba and Yoshimi Kudo put much effort into conceiving and developing every track. As a result, every track sounds well-produced and there aren’t any real stinkers here. But perhaps the most impressive feature of the album is its diversity. Spanning everything from acoustic, to jazz, to pop, to traditional Japanese flavours, every track here stands out uniquely. But importantly, the versatile artists behind this soundtrack didn’t simply offer inferior imitations of existing styles, like L no Kisetsu 2 tended to do. Most pieces reach the heights attained by Basiscape’s best works and they all combine to create a unique collective experience.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.