Tenshou Gakuen Gekkouroku Original Soundtrack
Tenshou Gakuen Gekkouroku Original Soundtrack
November 8, 2006
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Motoi Sakuraba concluded 2006, his biggest year to date, by releasing the score to Asmik Ace’s Tenshou Gakuen Gekkou Hasumi. One of his least known works, it’s entirely unrelated to his work on Telenet Japan and thus Namco, Camelot, tri-Ace, and tri-Crescendo. Set in a Japanese high school, this Japan-only ‘adventure game meets simulation RPG’ has a light and Eastern flavour. Its score reflects this and is unique as one of the most outwardly positive works Sakuraba has created.
Given the game focuses around the Moon Song Academy, Sakuraba created five ‘Inside and Outside the Moon Song Academy’ themes that change according to the circumstances within the game. Each theme shares the same cheery and well-developed melody, which is rather enjoyable. Hearing how the familiar melody changes with the game’s seasons adds novelty and an element of interactivity in the game. However, all the incarnations of theme are clustered together on the soundtrack and take up 16 minutes of the middle of the first disc. Endless repetition of the same melody is difficult to stomach and the arrangements are too minimal and superficial to prevent one’s brain from melting. ‘Spring’ has light rock vibes and some jazz undertones, ‘Summer’ adds a dated synth bassline and a few novelty sounds, ‘Autumn’ is slower and focused on a flute melody with piano accompaniment, and ‘Winter’ sounds sickeningly Christmassy with its bell use. More interesting is the climactic ‘Inside the Barrier’ theme; suspended low brass diminished chords and martial percussion accompany a single chime melody to give an eerie and dissonant sound. I find the darkening of this theme very reminiscent of what Kondo did with Majora’s Mask’s ‘Clock Town’ themes. Overall, the themes are pleasant and effective, but should have been scattered around the score.
There’s no shortage of novel features in this score. There are several Iwadare-style synth-based optimistic themes that reflect the youthful nature of the game. “Slide Puzzle” and “GG Machine” both come to mind. “Fun”, too, but for bad reasons. Actually fun are “Festival”, a slapstick march that is reminiscent of the Mario Sports series, “Briefing Screen,” a take on the good ol’ militaristic preparation theme format, and “Fellow Companion”, which lies somewhere between the two in style. Then there’s “Christmas”, a parody that seems to hint at “Jingle Bells” in places, “Australia”, a similarly chime-dominated theme that is nicely backed by some acoustic guitar strumming, and “Moon Island Marine Park”, a classically-styled piece with a childish twist. Eastern instrumentation use can be heard in several atmospheric setting themes — the melodious “Chrysanthemum Palace Hall”, the outstandingly boring “Heaven Shining Village”, and, best of all, “Shrine of the Red Hill” — as well as the delightfully adventurous themes for the executive and ex-executive. The famous first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is arranged in “Eye Catch”, possibly a hint at what’s to come for Sakuraba’s work on the Chopin RPG Eternal Sonata. It features a condensed version of the theme’s piano progressions and accompanying synth vocals to emphasise its ethereal nature. A decent, if shameless, gimmick guaranteed to displease purists.
However, the work still feels very much like Sakuraba’s other soundtracks in places. “Opening” is an epic symphonic work that blends a cinematic introduction with brisk and crisp string work in the body; the bold work changes in direction several times to encompass both whimsical and brooding sections and some parts are nicely decorated by an ethnic flute. “Title Screen” and “SG Course Theme” combine bombastic Mario Tennis-esque brass melodies with buoyant orchestration and rock backing that gives the tracks incredible rhythmic impetus; the former is especially good. “Purple Higher House and Village” is a dubious hybrid of Sakuraba’s Silmeria and Tenshou style; it blends melancholic piano progressions and a beautiful flute melody, though is marred by annoying and inappropriate tuned percussion and synth vocal accompaniment. Better, if a little simple, is “Comrade”, which uses the same piano and flute combination, but without any other accompaniment. The entirely string-based “Crisis 1” uses a mixture of Psycho-esque tremolo and Silmeria-style haunting pizzicato strings to reflect danger. “Crisis 2”, on the other hand, is reminiscent of Star Ocean -The Second Story-‘s “Shiver” and features short rhythmically jagged string phrases that obsessively revolve around chromatic chord progressions. Last and certainly least, there’s Sakuraba’s very typical suspended string use in “Painful” and “Conspiracy”.
The soundtrack concludes with the battle and ending themes. The Tales of the Abyss meets Bushido Blade 2 battle themes are among the most interesting parts of the album, though are cumbersomely clustered together and vary in quality. The interplay of the shamisen and shakuichi in “Regular Battle 1” works well against fast-paced light rock accompaniment. The mediocre “Regular Battle 2” is relatively slow-paced and mostly focuses on diminished brass and string chord progressions, though is decorated by Eastern percussive effects. The themes used to represent the battles with Sobriety, Rashomon, and the Peak of Perfection are worth listening to only for their solid instrumentation use and are thus a very select taste. With respect to “Last Battle”, it’s typical Sakuraba bombast, but a few delicious dark brass cues saves this otherwise disappointing theme. As for the concluding themes, “Start of Love” is an unconvincing and robotic take on love, while “Men’s Finale” is fairly uninspired orchestral pomp with a drum kit. Better is “Another Ending”, which reunites the light-hearted and oriental aspects of the score. “Staff Roll” is an excellently done 8:31 medley with some impressive orchestral build-ups; it brings everything about an extraordinarily diverse and temperamental score togetherÖ apart from the Beethoven and Christmas references, thankfully!
The score for Tenshou Gakuen Gekkou Hasumi lacks consistency and depth, but makes up for it by an abundance of highlights. For instance, the various battle themes, novel marches, the opening theme, the staff roll, and even the Moon Song Academy themes in small doses. It’s interesting to hear Sakuraba take on Iwadare, Beethoven, and Eastern culture to often impressive effect. Highly recommended for Sakuraba fans that haven’t gone bankrupt from his recent unstoppable influx of album releases.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on January 16, 2016.