“Secret Garden” from Howl’s Moving Castle. By Joe Hisaishi.
If you played through Final Fantasy IV you probably remember the moment the characters abruptly decide they need to ride a space whale to the moon. Composer Nobuo Uematsu seems to have understood it might have been a hard sell, since he works pretty vigorously here to convince us. It’s majestic! It’s magical! Yes, it is clearly the path to saving the world!
Junichi Hirokami’s theme for the 2010 NHK Taiga drama, Ryōmaden, featuring Lisa Gerrard. I enjoy this theme because it’s a traditionally heroic and orchestral arrangement about a historical character, but doesn’t get caught up in weighty, ponderous respect for the past– it feels vigorous and dynamic, and appropriate to the rapidly-changing Japan of 1800s.
Sakamoto Ryōma, the subject of the show, was famous for wearing traditional samurai clothes with Western boots.
(sexier television version of Ryōma)
Opening from the soundtrack to Darkon, a documentary film about a group of live-action role players. Jonah Rapino’s score works to the action-and-fantasy feel without becoming caught up in it. The light arrangement with live instruments allows the drama feel more intimate instead of typically reaching for the “epic”. The approach of the music reflects that of the film– on the one hand detached and bemused, on the other, with a clear understanding of the excitement, wonder, and self-actualization that Darkon offers its most dedicated players.
(Warning: starts loud!)
One of my favorite boss battle tracks from any game is the theme for Yatagarasu from PlayStation 2 game Genji. The music is intense in the traditional modern-soundtrack fashion with its driving percussion and repeating bassline, but it also offers its subject– a huge heavenly three-legged crow– a spectral, mystical dignity through its winding figures in high strings and a theremin-sounding instrument. Composed by Yasuharu Takanashi.
"Showdown" by Shiro Sagisu. Florid, melodramatic, operatic, Evangelion was the ur-anime of the 90s. The theatrics of the chorus are so extravagant that, like the show itself, it cannot help but regard its own absurdity.
Fight or die with truth and honor
This is the final showdown
This is the last horizon
No second chance for losing
There will be no tomorrow
Tear the heart from your aggressor
This is the final showdown
With no more road to go down
Prevail or pay the devil
This is the end forever
(this version is from the modern feature film re-interpretation, Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone)
"Oh dear… what have we here? Are you a new servant?"
Music for the Daughters of Chaos, one of the groups with whom the player may form a covenant in Dark Souls. The sad story is only hinted at in the course of a normal playthrough, but the music by Motoi Sakuraba gives full vent to the sisters’ tragic history.
"Beautiful Area" by Akihisa Yamaguchi– certainly not the first, or second, or even the third thing would have come to mind if given only the name of the game soundtrack it comes from: Gran Turismo 5.
"Brain Wash (Stage 4-1)" is a somewhat arresting track by Junichi Masuda for the Mega Drive game Pulseman. The developer, Game Freak, subsequently created Pokémon, for which Masuda wrote much of the initial music. Today, Masuda is on the board of directors of Game Freak and one of the leaders of the Pokémon franchise.