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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Twelve(?) Anime BGM That Deserve More Love Part 1

First off, let me tell you how annoying it is to keep the same style of title with a phrase like "background music", which has no plural form...  Anyway, it's the beginning of the end here in this month of obscure anime music appreciation, and what better way to end it off than to appreciate the stuff everyone hears but only rarely is remembered: The Background Music, or BGM for short.  Granted, there are some people in the anime industry that have become iconic solely through their OSTs.  People like Shiro Sagisu, Kenji Kawai, Susumu Hirasawa, Yoko Kanno, Yuki Kajiura, & Kohei Tanaka might vary in terms of name recognition, but just about every single anime fan knows at least one song from their gigantic catalogs, much like how Nobuo Uematsu is an icon of video game music.  That said, there are plenty of great BGM from other people that aren't as well known.  Like what?  Well, I'm glad you asked...  (Yes, I know you probably didn't ask...  Shhhh, you'll interrupt the great music!)


"This world III" by Hideki Taniuchi (from Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor)
You know you have excellent music chops when you go from doing the guitar to two excellent OPs of a boxing anime classic & start doing your own anime music.  That's what Hideki Taniuchi did, originally doing the guitar work for Shocking Lemon's contributions to the original Hajime no Ippo anime series before going solo & doing music for Madhouse anime, starting with 2004's Otogi Zoshi.  Taniuchi's guitar work is downright masterful, creating not only upbeat anthems but also downright creepy & downtrodden works like this very one.  While there are also "The world" & "The world II", those two don't quite deliver the intense, life or death mood that Kaiji is all about with its games.  Really, Taniuchi's OST for the entire first season is simply one of his absolute best, & "This world III" is only a portion of what this man can do.  The continual addition of instruments between each repeat of the beat just makes the song sound all the more evil.  Unfortunately, in May of last year Taniuchi was arrested on marijuana charges, and while that wouldn't do much a musician's career here in North America in Japan a charge like that can be an absolute career killer.  The previous year had Tsuyoshi Kosuga of the band cro-magnon (who did the OP to Hyouge Mono) hit with the same charge; cro-magnon called it quits shortly after & Hyouge Mono's OP was changed after only six episodes.  Considering that Taniuchi's last anime work was Kaiji: Against All Odds from 2011 I worry that the man's anime career is essentially dead now, and if that's the case then the anime industry has lost one of it's best up & comers.  Oh, where did that subtitle for Season 2 come from?  Why it's the subtitle CrunchyRoll is using for its official stream for that half of the show!  That's right, Kaiji has an easily available, official English streaming option!  Watch it now!!

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"Jiro's Guitar Part 1" by Akira Mitake (from Android Kikaider: The Animation)
As much as Shotaro Ishinomori is known for his focus on "superheroes", his very heroes usually had some sort of sadness to them.  Probably the saddest was Kikaider, the story of an android named Jiro who, through his "Gemini Circuit", wanted to be a real human and actually hated his two-colored transformation, especially when others considered him a "monster" because of it.  Jiro was able to pick up the guitar after seeing someone play it just once, and in the anime adaptation this leads to this very song being the one tune Jiro would always play.  It perfectly gives Jiro's sadness a form that the viewer can understand it through & Mitake simply delivered with this song.  There is a "Part 2" to this song, and it's a hopeful song that shows the journey Jiro goes through, but this first part is truly the most identifiable song from this extremely underrated anime; second would be the OP itself, "Theme of Gemini".

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"LETSU" by Masayuki Yamamoto (from Ginga Reppuu Baxinger)
Another J9 song here, and it's another song I became a fan of through SRW GC & XO.  Unlike "Try! Try! Tyr!", though, this is a song done by the man behind the show's music & in this case it's the very theme of the band of galactic motorcycle ronin known as J9-II.  In true fashion for the series it is absolutely catchy & easy to get into, and a small amount of lyrics, Letsu, woah, & Baxinger, make it instantly memorable & easy to recite.  It's a rallying call for those who wish to take out evil within the galaxy, perfect for the series it comes from, and it's another song I would honestly love to see recreated in real life by a giant group clapping their hands in unison.  Unfortunately, it is a relatively short song, lasting barely two minutes (if that), which makes you want to put it on repeat for a few times just so you don't have to say goodbye to it so quickly.  All right now, you know what to say:
"Letsu! *clap, clap clap*" x8
"Wooooaaah, wooooaaah, Baxinger...." x2


"Nouryoku Battle!" by Akifumi Tada (from The Law of Ueki)
Sometimes in anime OSTs two similar beats will be combined into one "song" (or "track", more specifically), because they are either used in similar situations or relate to each other in a stylistic fashion.  This song is a case of the former, with the first portion being used during the battles between power users in Ueki, which always tended to be very fun & inventive in how the characters' various zany abilities have battle uses.  It's a nice, fast song that fits the battle focus, but the second portion is where the real fun begins.  This portion is used during the climax of the battle, when the seeming victor has the battle "in the bag" & it never get old listening to.  It fits the zany battles perfectly & the footage that went with it also tended to work really well, too.  In some instances during the first half of the show the climax of a battle would utilize the actual first OP, "Falco" by Hitomi Shimatani, which also worked really well, especially if the climax needed to go on for longer than a minute, but for those wacky & quicker finishes "Nouryoku Battle!" fit the bill just right.

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"Tenkuuyori no Shisha" by Tachio Akano (from Machine Robo: Revenge of Chronos)
One of these days I will have to simply sit down & get through all of the first Machine Robo anime, especially since it is one of my entries in my "Twelve Animes I Want to Review But Can't" list.  There are rips of the HK/bootleg version now & I do still own the three DVDs CPM released, but when I watched that first DVD it was really rough viewing.  I've mentioned before, but while Machine Robo has really cool characters, the adventures they go through in those early episodes are definitely generic & boring.  That said, there was always one moment in every episode it was featured in that never got old: Main character Rom Stol surprising his enemy from behind with a soliloquy about how evil can never win...  And how he has no name for people like them!  This music was always played to go with it & it worked like a charm.  The beginning, while Rom delivered his soliloquy, sounded like something straight out of a Sergio Leone spaghetti western & the rest afterwards was nothing but absolute badassness.  This type of scene was even utilized in Machine Robo's few appearances in SRW, where Rom would deliver his awesome soliloquy to even enemies from other series!  This is an anime series that I feel like I shouldn't hate, but at the same time it offers very little for me to get into, which is really a shame because it feels like something I should really enjoy.  I've heard that it does get somewhat better as it goes on, especially by having a downright bizarre ending, so one day I'll bite the proverbial bullet.  But, until then...  I have no name for the likes of you!


"For Real (Guitar Version)" by Motoi Sakuraba (from Saiyuki)
First off, hardcore RPG fans might recognize that name up above, and that's because Sakuraba is more of a video game composer than an anime composer, having done the music for games like Baten Kaitos, Beyond the Beyond, El Viento, the Shining Force III trilogy, the Star Ocean series, & numerous entries in the Tales Series (such as Destiny 1 & 2, Phantasia, Eternia, & Symphonia).  He also did the music for Star Ocean EX & the anime adaptation of Tales of the Abyss, which he also did the game music.  Therefore, it makes perfect sense why this variant of this anime's first OP, originally performed by Hidenori Tokuyama, sounds like something out of a video game.  To be fair, though, that works just fine because this song has one real use in the series: To be played whenever the Sanzo Party is kicking ass!  In that respect this song definitely delivers & then some, being an excellent companion to any battle's finish.  In some ways, & in certain situations, this version actually surpasses the original Tokuyama version, which isn't exactly an easy task because that original song is really good, too.  Some people might deduct points from a title because it's music sounds too much like video game music, and in some cases it's a valid point, but sometimes there's nothing wrong with sounding like a video game because sometimes it just fits too perfectly.


"Aerobatic Funk" by Akihiko Matsumoto (from One Outs)
After doing Akagi & Kaiji, Madhouse had their third gambling series be different in two distinct ways.  Gone was the connection to Nobuyuki Fukumoto, in his place was Shinobu Kaitani, & Hideki Taniuchi was replaced by Akihiko Matsumoto.  Really, though, the change in musicians was for the better, because this series based around baseball wouldn't have worked with Taniuchi's hard rock style.  Matsumoto's fusion of jazz & funk went perfectly with the subject matter, though, and no song represents that better than "Aerobatic Funk".  Played numerous times throughout the series, this song just represented the world of baseball perfectly (& probably makes the sport more interesting to those who don't care for it), and even without the baseball footage the song works excellently on its own as a sublime mix of jazz & funk.  This is a song that I could simply to listen to over & over, because it's just so absolutely addictive in its sound & composition.  If you've never heard of One Outs, and it definitely seems to be the least-known of Madhouse's gambling anime productions, then I definitely feel that simply listening to this song would get you interested in checking it out.  Though it isn't legally available in any fashion yet, certain developments might change that fact sooner than you think...


"Midnight Lightning" by Ryouichi Kuniyoshi (from City Hunter 1)
All it takes is one listen sometimes to get a song forever stuck in your head.  That's the case with this song, which I only recently found out the name to.  I heard it during the climax of episode 4 of the first City Hunter anime series (of which I've only watched a few episodes, shame on me), when Ryo Saeba had chased his target into a subway station.  The target had a hostage & was on the other side of the tracks while the subway train started to run between the two.  Ryo, being a badass, was able to aim his shot to go through two open windows in the train & hit his target without hurting the hostage; during this spot in the scene this song plays.  Needless to say I was hooked on it.  Those electronic beeps at the start just grab your attention right away, and then that addictive beat starts up before the song goes all the way.  Interestingly enough, this song was not done by Tatsumi Yano, who would return to do the music for CH '91 & some of the TV specials (including the last one in 1999), but rather was done by Ryouichi Kuniyoshi, who hasn't done anything else of note in anime.  That's pretty shocking, because this song is definitely an ear grabber.  I heard it once years ago, found it again for this list, and now I can't ever forget it...  Proof of an excellent piece of BGM.

That's the end of Part 1 of this look at underrated anime BGM.  Luckily, I was able to get most of these clips from YouTube...  I can guarantee that I won't be that lucky for Part 2.  But, hey, think of the bright side: I'll be showing you guys songs that you've likely never heard before & might really like!  Or maybe you'll just wonder why I bothered to make clips for these songs you don't care about.
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It could go either way, honestly.

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