WHY MUSIC FROM ANIME AND VIDEO GAMES?
Japanese animation, or anime, may elicit comparisons to children’s cartoons. Yet the similarities end at the fact that both are drawn. In actuality, many anime titles are driven by mature, complex themes and contain a tremendous variety of musical styles ranging from opera to jazz to heavy metal.
The term “video game” implies that they are little more than toys. However, there are a great many video games that have embraced storytelling and character development, making them more like interactive movies than anything else. Many feature soundtracks and production values rivaling those of major Hollywood films.
Music from anime and video games inspires our imagination and evokes our emotions when a particular piece reminds us of a beloved character or a memorable scene from our favorite series. Video game and anime music always tells a story, and who doesn’t like a good story (especially when there is good music to go with it!)?
We use music from the following video games and/or anime series for our shows:
Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean
“I just wanted to be with you. To hold each other… like any other.”
Batan Kaitos tells of Kalas and Xelha, citizens of a kingdom in the clouds, who must unite against the forces of the Alfard Empire. They travel with a few others on a quest to contain a terrible magic that the Empire would use for its own purposes. The music capitalizes on powerful, epic rock sounds with the help of several electric guitars and strings.
“Love is deeper and darker than the black seas of hell.”
The sequel to Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross features the story of a teenager, Serge, who somehow finds himself in an alternate reality—one in which he died many years ago. The plot unfolds as Serge seeks to uncover the truth of what’s happened. Thanks to game console hardware improvements, composer Yasunori Mitsuda was able to work with an expanded musical palette compared to his Chrono Trigger soundtrack, and the result is a collection of even more classic video game music with a closer connection to real instruments.
Darker Than Black
“If you pretend to feel a certain way, the feeling can become genuine all by accident.”
Revolving around the Contractor code-named Hei, Darker Than Black presents a world where the mysterious Syndicate has become the world’s dominant superpower. Hei and other Contractors have special abilities which make them skilled at espionage, but using their abilities always has a price. Yoko Kanno also composed the music for this series, and uses her signature funky, jazzy style on many of the tracks. One of the pieces we drew from this series is very reminiscent of compositions by French impressionist composer Claude Debussy.
“The human whose name is written in this note shall die.”
Light Yagamai, a popular high school student, has his life dramatically changed by a black notebook entitled “Death Note.” The notebook contains disturbing instructions stating that it may be used to kill anyone in any fashion simply by writing their name within it. Light ultimately decides to use it, and the string of deaths he causes are noticed by the media, who begin to refer to the killer behind them as “Kira.” Soon, a famous detective known only as “L” begins the hunt for Kira, and Light finds himself drawn into helping with the investigation, in a clever attempt to remove suspicion from himself. The music in the series is often intense, and has quite a few themes that feature similar electric guitar-based motifs to build tension.
Final Fantasy (IV, VI, VII, and VIII)
“Anyone may claim they will act in the direst times, yet only the brave act in times great and small.”
In regards to their stories and settings, most Final Fantasy installments are completely independent games, yet some common elements tie the games together: group-based combat, recurring characters and themes, complex stories, and—perhaps most importantly—the unforgettably elegant and epic musical themes composed by Nobuo Uematsu make this series of games cohesive, consistent experiences. Uematsu is well-known for his use of the musical device called a leitmotif, attributing distinctive themes to individual characters in every Final Fantasy story.
“One cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must first be lost.”
Fullmetal Alchemist takes place in a fictional world styled after the European Industrial Revolution. After a misguided attempt to resurrect their mother through alchemy leaves Elric and his brother Al disfigured, they set out on a quest to restore their bodies. Their quest takes them into the middle of a conspiracy of genocide. These heavy themes are aptly supported by Michiru Oshima’s dire, sweeping symphonic scores that lend full weight to the grave matters faced by the two brothers.
“Am I forever dreaming?”
Boy meets girl. The boy, Ico, has horns and as such is considered bad luck by his fellow villagers. Yorda, the girl, is the daughter of a queen who plans to use her daughter to extend her lifespan. Ico and Yorda must unite to escape the castle in which they’ve been imprisoned. Michiru Oshima, who also composed the music for Fullmetal Alchemist, creates a soundtrack with both immersive ambient sounds and more beautiful, peaceful melodies with the aid of the mandolin.
“Life without pain isn’t real life.”
Two pilots on the planet Eden have been selected to test new aircraft for the purpose of choosing the next fighter to be used by the UN Spacy forces. The rivalry that grows between them threatens to tear the test program apart. Macross Plus is the first of three series included in our program with music composed by the highly accomplished soundtrack composer, Yoko Kanno.
Mega Man (2, 3, and 9)
Mega Man is an android created by Dr. Light with no other purpose than simple housecleaning. But when Dr. Wily reprograms Dr. Light’s other robotic creations to help him in his quest for world domination, it’s up to Mega Man to take them down. With the first game in the series being released in 1987, this venerable series has stood the test of time, with the latest installment, Mega Man 10, having been released in 2010. That the latest games in the series draw inspiration from the music of the originals is a testament to their undeniably classic “8-bit” rock ‘n roll sound.
“Love may kill people… but hatred cannot save them.”
This appropriately-titled, neo-noir series follows two young female assassins who embark on a personal journey to discover the truth about the mysteries from their past. Composed by Yuki Kajiura, the music of Noir maintains a consistently somber mood, while blending the distinctive styles of techno, classical strings, and female vocals in music audibly influenced by French, Italian, and Spanish flavors.
Read or Die
“Please give me back my book!”
The British Library has uncovered a sinister plot involving the creation of numerous super-powerful clones of famous historical figures called “I-Jin.” Yomiko “The Paper” Readman and other agents in the British Library’s Special Operations Division set out to discover the plans of the evil mastermind clone, Ikkyu Soujun, and halt the destruction of humankind. The music of the series is clearly spy movie-inspired, yet it maintains a rather lighthearted feel that reflects Yomiko’s relatively innocent character.
Sonic the Hedghog
“What you see is what you get, just a guy that loves adventure. I’m Sonic The Hedgehog!”
Sonic is a blue hedgehog that runs and spins across the screen collecting gold rings on his quest to defeat the evil Doctor Robotnik. This gaming franchise has been around since the release of the original Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991 and more titles still continue to be released. The speed of the game is generally accompanied by upbeat soundtracks, and the rock-like 8-bit music from the original uses the Sega Genesis’s audio capabilities to the fullest.
Super Mario Bros.
“Here we go!”
Mario is a red-clad plumber who can jump really high and defeat enemies by landing on top of them. The original 8-bit music from this series’ first game on the NES is so iconic, it has been performed as a live arrangement countless times. We like to think our take on it is true to the original while spicing it up with interesting modifications and arranging.
The Legend of Dragoon
“You are free to sever the chains of fate that bind you.”
When his childhood friend Shana is kidnapped, the young warrior Dart has no choice but to try to save her. War ignites and conspiracies abound as Dart, Shana, Rose, and six other companions set out to save the world of Endiness from its own apocalyptic destiny. This Japanese game was created with music from both American and Japanese composers; Dennis Martin, writing music in New York, and Takeo Miratsu, contributing from Japan, successfully created an engaging soundtrack that also highlights individual characters’ themes much like in Final Fantasy.
“Love and peace! Love and peace!”
Vash the Stampede is an unbelievably goofy yet incredibly skilled gunslinger on a dusty planet reminiscent of the wild west. He fights expertly in the name of love and peace while maintaining a front of a clumsy village idiot. He wanders the countryside helping out anyone who’s weak and can’t fend for themselves. Yet somehow he takes the blame for causing huge disasters in every town he visits. The desolate world and mysterious Vash are accompanied by a soundtrack that ranges from high-energy rock to low-key jazz that excellently sets the mood.
“Let’s meet up again in Paradise.”
Four wolves with the ability to take human form unite to seek out the Flower Maiden and the way to Paradise. Meanwhile, they must avoid a fanatical wolf hunter and the nobles who want to use the Flower Maiden to create a warped new Paradise for themselves. This is our final series with Yoko Kanno as the composer, which features some of her more subdued music to match the mood of this wonderful anime.