When I think of anime, too much of the time I associate it with musical navel gazing in the form of endless, boring Techno or House music liberally mixed with inscrutable dialog or futuristic sounds. This type of stuff doesn't do much for a larger appreciation of the genre, and even though I might like the occasional bit of Electronica, I'm also a fan of other musical genres. If you had a chance to see Samurai-X
(or 'Rurouni Kenshin,' as it shows up in various places) and liked it, you probably responded to the quality soundtrack. No Metal, Techno or even J-pop is found here, just rich Western Classical music. Although the story of Samurai-X
takes us back to 19th Century Japan, where one might expect traditional Japanese instruments and a folksier trend, the decision to go with a strong, Western orchestral sound was intentional. The composer, Taku Iwasaki, talks about his choice of music in the liner notes, and indicates he worked to avoid 'theme' music or even music that was appropriate to the moment or scene. In fact, he says he wants the music to 'be both connected and unconnected to the scenes.' Iwasaki does his own form of navel-gazing in these liner notes, but the point is clear enough. Samurai-X
Original Soundtrack is a collection of music that would be engaging alone, without any knowledge of the anime it accompanied. And, from watching the anime, I can say the music does enhance the visual effect of Samurai-X
. So, we end up with the best of both worlds, in that music and anime manage to coexist without one overpowering the other. Iwasaki is anything but understated in his arrangements, so you'll find that the Samurai-X
soundtrack doesn't lend itself to quiet, easy listening. For the spirit of this anime, a story of tumultuous times for a samurai caught in an age where samurai had ceased to be important and were in fact being hunted by those who would tear down the Tokugawa Shogunate, the music is actually very fitting.
Iwasaki, much like Yoko Kanno, proves that anime music doesn't have to fall into the same, dull patterns we've heard time and time again. Not only is the change in style a welcome one, but the quality of Iwasaki's work is very high, if a little too dramatic for its own good at times. The quality of the CD production is high, and a very analog presence is heard at all times in the recording. For the fans of the anime, this is a no-brainer, but it's also possible that fans of Western Classical music might take an interest in Samurai-X after listening to this OST. And that is always a good thing.