Subarashiki Kono Sekai Original Soundtrack
Subarashiki Kono Sekai Original Soundtrack
August 22, 2007
Buy at CDJapan
Before taking on this project, the composer Takeharu Ishimoto had worked for Square Enix as a synthesizer programmer. Some would argue that his skills in that profession were a bit weak, especially with the poor quality of sound that existed within Kingdom Hearts II, but we aren’t here to debate those merits.
We are here to discuss the soundtrack It’s a Wonderful World and its merits. The game itself sounds like it could generate an interesting soundtrack, what with a story of the protagonist Neku Sakuraba, a 15 year-old boy with a hobby for music and graffiti. He wakes up in the Shibuya shopping district of Tokyo with no idea how he got there and suddenly being able to hear the thoughts of others.
It’s this that forms the basic goal of the game, he has been charged with the task of finding ‘noise’, described as the negative thoughts of people which takes on the forms of animals. And he has seven days to find all of the ‘noise’ or he will be erased from existence or at least this is what the Shinigami says to him. (Shinigami are the Japanese incarnation of death, like the grim reaper).
Thus the soundtrack on paper sounds unique: “It includes a large variety of music with an influence of hip hop and techno.” So let us see how well Ishimoto blends those sounds into the whole soundtrack.
Starting off the soundtrack we get “It’s So Wonderful”, which isn’t that wonderful. The thing that hits you right away with this track is the piano. It’s almost as if the composer decided to go for all the wrong notes rather than the right ones. Occasionally a bit of dissonant sound is great for contrast, for instance atonality or 12-tone are all about sounds that don’t fit the conventional chord structure and harmonic structures that we all know and love. The difference between good atonality and bad atonality is purpose. This track seems aimless and formless; it never really goes anywhere and that seems to be the biggest frustration I have with it.
This is the same frustration I have with “Twister”. It’s all about weird, but there’s no sense of purpose or flow. Here we have distorted vocals which don’t sync up with the music and a strange collage of sound that makes me feel as if I’ve wandered into a sort of Kafkaesque fever dream that was filmed by David Lynch by mistake.
But from track four onwards, we begin the steady stream of vocal themes, starting with “Long Dream”. These tracks all seem to follow the same general rule and form: Take a basic rhythmic track, which consists of a guitar, some sort of beat generator, and some synthesized noises. Then toss a female vocalist on top. Strangely enough this isn’t a bad formula at all; in fact some of the tracks are quite enjoyable at first listen.
The biggest issue I have is that as you move forward you start to realize how similar the sound is. If I didn’t have the proper track data telling me which performer was on which track, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between female vocalist A and female vocalist B. And the general form and sound would easily bleed together if it wasn’t for the small injections of non-vocal filler tracks stuck in between.
By the time you reach track eleven, “Give Me All Your Love”, you start to ask yourself if you’ve accidentally left the repeat button on. It makes it very difficult to compare and contrast this section of the soundtrack, if it sounds too much like one big amorphous blob that has nothing that stands out good or bad. Of course this is also the blatant repetition with track 7, “Hybrid” which reappears in Japanese as track 25. That just reeks of laziness.
I assume there are people who like rap music, but I’m not a fan of track 21, “Owari Hajimari”, at all. I’m not a fan of the genre at the best of time, but when it is in a language I can’t understand, then I start to tune out completely.
Once we get through the vocal collection, we enter the tracks which aren’t sampled audio. Starting with “Let’s Get Together”, which sounds strangely like unrefined synthesized sound from the Game Boy classic sound chip. There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of low quality sound, but track 16 and 17 don’t seem to have any sort of melodic hook to them. This does not bode well for the listener at all.
I think the biggest issue I have with these background tracks is that there isn’t much meat to them. They usually run around a minute in length and consist of looped sounds. While such looping is usually always a given in most video game soundtracks, they usually have more substance than the offerings here.
The tracks which do run for a longer run time seem to suffer from the same feeling of soullessness that plagues his shorter offerings. Like most things in music, it’s not just about hitting the right notes, but its knowing why they need to be played. Without that sense of purpose conveyed by the artist, the tracks seem to lack heart. A good example is “psychedelic” which sounds perfectly fine as a techno driven track. The problem is that I don’t get a sense of what Ishimoto is trying to convey with it.
And maybe that’s the core problem I have with this soundtrack. It reminds me of listening to someone tell me a story that begins with “This really happened to a friend of mine…”. Without that personal experience that comes from the original storyteller, the story would hit all the right notes and tell you what you needed to know, but wouldn’t convey the emotional connection. Most of these tracks feel as if Ishimoto went straight to the catalogue of well worn musical forms and tried to tell you a story that others have told already. Except without an overarching sense of connection, the story feels like it was manufactured rather than created from personal or artistic experience.
I don’t want to say that Takeharu Ishimoto is a bad composer. He is relatively new to the game, and I’m sure that the early works of Nobuo Uematsu aren’t quite as refined as his later ones. Perhaps with time, he might develop a voice that sets him apart, but at this moment I think his vision needs a bit more work.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by Andrew Oldenkamp. Last modified on January 17, 2016.