Sound Fantasia Yamato – music by Hiroshi Miyagawa

 soundtrackNow here’s a different approach to a greatest hits album. As you’ve probably guessed, Sound Fantasia Yamato is a collection of notable background music cues from the entire history of the franchise, ranging from the first season of the TV series in 1974 to the movie Final Yamato a decade later, with memorable musical moments from all points in between. That in itself would be nice, but the producers of this 2-CD set then went in and plastered sound effects into the music, trying to create a sort of dialogue-free audio scene with these two elements.

The sound effects are often cranked up pretty high in the mix, and the result is something which ideally should, but ultimately doesn’t, focus on the music. Most of the actual music seems to have been lifted from Symphonic Suite Yamato for the earlier stuff, and directly from the soundtracks of the later chapters in the saga.

2 out of 4The first disc includes each of the sound effects in a section by themselves, with each effect given its own track. This is one of the only places to find the original Yamato/Star Blazers sound effects, so in that respect, Sound Fantasia Yamato is a real find for those who are into that sort of thing. Those looking for a good overview of the series’ music, however, are likely to be annoyed at best, and disappointed at worst, by the layers of sound effects covering it.

Order this CD

    Disc one

  1. Opening (0:57)
  2. The Universe Spreading To Infinity (5:24)
  3. Yamato’s Birth And Takeoff (8:28)
  4. Decisive Battle (7:02)
  5. Iscandar (4:09)
  6. White Comet (7:50)
  7. Yamato Takeoff (5:00)
  8. Desslar (4:55)
  9. Great Love (3:50)

    Sound Effects:

  10. Wave-Motion Gun (1:24)
  11. Main Gun (0:26)
  12. Pulse Lasers (0:10)
  13. Smokestack Missiles (0:18)
  14. Rocket Anchor (0:06)
  15. Hangar Bay Door (0:14)
  16. Main Nozzle (0:24)
  17. Sub Nozzles (0:11)
  18. Auxiliary Engine (0:19)
  19. Wave-Motion Engine (0:49)
  20. Flywheel (0:32)
  21. Main Bridge (0:33)
  22. Door (0:11)
  23. Panel (0:30)
  24. Yuki’s Radar (0:12)
  25. Video Panel (0:13)
  26. Departure Alarm (0:24)
  27. Emergency Alarm (0:27)
  28. Cosmo Gun (0:08)
  29. Analyzer (0:17)
  30. Explosion 1 (0:26)
  31. Explosion 2 (0:14)
  32. Gamlius Base (0:38)
    Disc two

  1. Dark Star Cluster Empire (4:32)
  2. New Cosmo Tigers (2:36)
  3. Double Nucleus Bomb (4:55)
  4. Within The Enemy Supply Base (3:04)
  5. Double Galaxy (4:27)
  6. Main Decisive Battle (6:11)
  7. The Sun (6:23)
  8. City-Satellite Uruku (4:06)
  9. Pluto Naval Battle (8:15)
  10. Aquarius – Planet Of Water (10:19)
  11. Yamato’s Sortie At Dawn (00:49)

Released by: Nippon Columbia
Release date: 1998
Disc one total running time: 56:48
Disc two total running time: 55:39

Space Battleship Yamato: The New Voyage

Space Battleship Yamato: The New VoyagePositioned between the second and third seasons of the legendary animè series, Yamato: The New Voyage was a slightly awkward full-length TV movie which offered only a little bit of expansion on the Space Battleship Yamato franchise – and not much dramatic innovation. As the second theatrical Yamato film had killed off the entire cast of characters (which, after fan outcry, was rectified in the second TV season, which retold the second film’s story without the high body count), The New Voyage had to do a bit of backpedaling, remind the audience that their heroes had not died, but had simply been banged up a bit in their fight against the Comet Empire, and get the ball rolling hastily for yet another showdown with an all-conquering alien force.

Cinematically, I’ve never thought The New Voyage was up to much – it lacks the dramatic punch of Be Forever Yamato and even the weak swan song that was Final Yamato – but its music, when heard apart from the movie itself, is a revelation.

Hiroshi Miyagawa’s music is to the Yamato franchise what John Williams’ music is to the Star Wars universe, plain and simple. And in this installment of the saga, Miyagawa brings some new elements into play, including the first major use of synths in his Yamato soundtracks. The modernization of the sound, while quite a departure from what came before it, isn’t unwelcome or out of place. Early on, most of the synth work is relegated to pads underneath a mostly orchestral score.

The real innovation isn’t technological, however, but musical. In The New Voyage, Miyagawa starts to put some of his well-established themes from two previous movies and two years of television series through very interesting permutations. Dessler’s theme (that’s Desslock for you Star Blazers fans) goes from being a strident, militaristic piece to a sweeping, wistful love theme that recurs throughout much of the score. The Yamato theme itself runs through some minor key variations, and one incredibly haunting cue (“Mystical Yamato”) which gives it a very ethereal quality.

4 out of 4One of the new themes composed specifically for this movie is introduced in the first track as a song (complete with vocals in both Japanese and English), but that motif too reappears in various places. The heraldic brass of the opening track was a huge break in tradition for the series, but it’s a break that was needed by this point. Overall, The New Voyage makes for better listening than viewing.

Order this CD

  1. Yamato: The New Voyage (1:50)
  2. Isao Sasaki (1:42)
  3. New Voyage – instrumental (2:54)
  4. Yamato Meditation / Great Love (2:12)
  5. New Cosmo Tigers (2:29)
  6. Tsunpa March – March Of The Underwear (0:45)
  7. Mystical Yamato (2:04)
  8. Wandering Iscandar (2:10)
  9. Mamoru and Starsha (2:11)
  10. Crisis On Iscandar (1:12)
  11. Desler’s Suffering (1:42)
  12. Desler In Silence (2:19)
  13. My Feelings For Starsha (1:51)
  14. Wandering (2:39)
  15. Goruba’s Theme (4:17)
  16. Goruba’s Theme – synthesizer (1:16)
  17. Goruba’s Theme – piano (1:18)
  18. Goruba’s Theme – strings (1:35)
  19. Goruba Chord (0:13)
  20. Parting – guitar and orchestra (1:54)
  21. Parting – strings (2:01)
  22. Parting – piano and orchestra (1:13)
  23. Parting – guitar solo (3:00)
  24. Sasha My Love – instrumental (3:49)
  25. Sasha My Love vocals by Chiyoko Shimakura (1:48)

Released by: Nippon Columbia
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 50:24

Space Battleship Yamato Part 2 – Hiroshi Miyagawa

Space Battleship Yamato 2 soundtrackWhen Leiji Matsumoto’s epic space opera Space Battleship Yamato (later imported to the U.S. as Star Blazers) proved to be a success in Japan, the show’s landmark first season was rewritten and compressed into a movie with new (and, in many cases, improved) animation. The movie also went over well, so a second film was created, though it made the ill-advised move of killing off the entire crew of the Yamato in a fateful battle with the Comet Empire.

One little problem: that movie also went over well, creating even more of a demand. So the movie was rewritten and expanded into enough scripts to cover another season of the TV series, a season which left the crew alive at the end to continue their adventures on both the big and small screens.

This is the soundtrack to that movie, which was also used for the TV reworking of the story.

Now that the history lesson is out of the way, let’s talk music. There is a vast difference between this soundtrack and the soundtrack of the first season’s music in terms of both sound quality and, on a less technical level, the sophistication of the music itself.

Many of the same cues heard in season one were reused in season two, but the technical and musical improvements are perhaps most detectable in the recycled cues. “The Mystery Of Space” is a solemn variation on “The Universe Spreading To Infinity”, one of my favorite pieces from the original season one soundtrack. In this case, it underscores the Yamato’s crew gathering at a memorial for their fallen captain at Hero’s Hill. And the effect, even without the visuals is spectacular.

In other tracks that revamp season one’s signature themes, the overall effect is bigger and bolder – brassy cues blast even louder than they did originally, and the funky cues with rock instrumentation crank it up that much more in this recording. The larger orchestra used for these sessions almost has the same impact of the 4 out of 4excellent Symphonic Suite Yamato.

Knowing in advance that Space Battleship Yamato Part 2 featured much music that had already been used in the first soundtrack, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. It’s both an excellent collection of music and a pleasant surprise.

Order this CD

  1. The Silence Of Space (1:04)
  2. The Mystery Of Space (1:45)
  3. Iscandar (1:43)
  4. The Universe Spreading To Infinity (1:05)
  5. Yamato’s Theme (1:28)
  6. Yamato Takes Flight! (1:30)
  7. Courageous Yamato (1:12)
  8. Yamato’s Battle (1:07)
  9. Wounded Yamato (0:59)
  10. Rise Up, Yamato! (0:45)
  11. Desler’s Bolero (1:04)
  12. Meditation (1:41)
  13. Desler’s Tactics (2:32)
  14. Complications (1:47)
  15. Imprisonment (0:44)
  16. The Rival I (3:00)
  17. Kodai And Dessler’s Friendship (1:27)
  18. The Rival II (1:22)
  19. Reminiscence (2:10)
  20. Menace In Space (1:49)
  21. Appearance And Attack (0:47)
  22. Comet Empire Fleet Sorties! (1:09)
  23. Battle Theme (1:18)
  24. Comet Empire Emperor Zordar (0:37)
  25. Great Love (1:58)
  26. Reunion (1:30)
  27. Thoughts Toward The Stars (1:00)
  28. Tears Of Love (0:47)
  29. Melody Of Love (1:58)
  30. Andromeda (1:30)
  31. Yamato Opening Theme (1:29)
  32. Yamato Reunion (2:03)
  33. Teresa’s Theme (1:15)
  34. Mystery Of Planet Telezart (0:43)
  35. Teresa’s Love Theme (2:20)
  36. Various Endings (3:40)
  37. The Scarlet Scarf (1:54)

Released by: Nippon Columbia
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 56:38

Symphonic Suite Yamato – music by Hiroshi Miyagawa

Symphonic Suite YamatoI have a problem with a lot of re-recordings of soundtracks. The tempo tends to be wrong, the emphasis is different (or, worse yet, there is none), or the whole thing sounds hollow. Conductors like Cliff Eidelman and Joel McNeely – themselves composers (see, respectively, Star Trek VI and Shadows Of The Empire) – make a living these days off of re-recordings, and labels like Silva Screen – the folks behind Cult Files and Space and Beyond – do re-recording compilations as their bread and butter. But the results aren’t always pretty.

Why do I bring up the whole re-recording issue? Because Symphonic Suite Yamato is, essentially, a rearranged orchestral suite of music from animè series Space Battleship Yamato (known in the English-speaking world as Star Blazers). But what sets this CD apart from other re-recordings is the complete participation of original Yamato composer Hiroshi Miyagawa. He knows the music – he wrote it. He conducts it, too, meaning that we haven’t wound up with a weak, watered-down interpretation of the original. A new interpretation, to be sure, but that’s not a bad thing.

So good, in fact, was the resulting recording that music from Symphonic Suite Yamato – originally intended to be a stand-alone recording – was actually used in later Yamato movies such as The New Voyage.

The suite kicks off with an overture built around the solo female vocal piece “The Universe Spreading Into Infinity”, one of the most haunting, lovely and unforgettable cues featured in the original series. Though it starts out as a female solo vocal again, Miyagawa reinterprets the theme for full orchestra with an absolutely stunning result. As blasphemous as it main seem, the martial main theme associated with the series and movies doesn’t kick in until later, setting the tone for the entirety of Symphonic Suite Yamato: a musical experiment bringing some lesser-known themes to the fore and developing them, as well as some new twists on the better-known pieces.

“Scarlet Scarf”, which was used as the closing title music for the Yamato TV series in Japan (and has seldom been heard in the English-dubbed edition of the series), is taken through some similarly surprising progressions, starting out with the customary mournful rendition and then exploding into a more military sound.

The track titles have little to do with music from specific scenes, and deal more with the moods Miyagawa was attempting to bring across with his new arrangements.

4 out of 4Overall, Symphonic Suite Yamato is a lovely thing to listen to; the closest comparison I can think of in recent American soundtrack music is the first two Babylon 5 soundtracks, which composer Christopher Franke re-sequenced and amended to create new longform compositions which stood on their own. And Symphonic Suite Yamato does it so much better.

Order this CD

  1. Overture (5:22)
  2. The Birth (4:27)
  3. Sashia (1:39)
  4. Trial (2:40)
  5. Take Off (2:56)
  6. Reminiscence (2:10)
  7. Scarlet Scarf (4:27)
  8. Decisive Battle (4:36)
  9. Iskandall (3:32)
  10. Recollection (3:16)
  11. Hope For Tomorrow (5:09)
  12. Stasha (3:16)

Released by: Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd.
Release date: 1977 (released on CD in 1995)
Total running time: 44:27