Sometimes I review soundtracks without having seen the movies first. Sometimes this happens because the soundtrack is part of a merchandising blitz ahead of the movie release (see: every Star Wars soundtrack over the past decade-and-then-some). Sometimes I just haven’t gotten around to seeing the movie yet, or the soundtrack’s been sent to me by the label ahead of the movie’s release. But this is a first: I haven’t seen the movie because it hasn’t been translated into my language yet. (For the record, I’ll take subs, dubs or both.) We’re talking about the first half of the surprising resuscitation of the Space Battleship Yamato franchise, better known in the English-speaking world as Star Blazers.
This revival is two-fold: the first-ever live-action film based on the classic anime series is expected at the end of this year. The first animated continuation of the original series in over a decade was released at the end of 2009. To say that both are eagerly awaited is an understatement along the lines of “Those Gamilon planet bombs sure are reducing property values around here.” This soundtrack, of course, is from the recently-released (but apparently not very financially successful) Space Battleship Yamato: Fukkatsu Hen (Space Battleship Yamato: Rebirth Chapter). Clocking in at over two hours, the movie may have gained bad word of mouth by ending on a cliffhanger promising resolution in further movies… which, naturally, could be endangered by this film’s cool reception at the box office.
So much time has passed since the last movie in the series (1983’s Final Yamato) that there were numerous impacts on the new film(s?), including the death of the original voice actor behind lead character Susumu Kodai and even the death of Hiroshi Miyagawa, the composer who created almost all of the original Yamato themes and scores. For Rebirth Chapter’s music, it was apparently decided to mix-and-match existing music from Miyagawa’s previous work (in the form of new arrangements with new bridging material by Naoto Otomo. If that’s not confusing enough, Final Yamato themes by the late Kentaro Henada are also referenced.
And then, if we aren’t already right on the edge of losing musical cohesion (though Otomo’s arrangements do wed the Yamato film and TV compositions quite nicely), roughly half of the soundtrack is taken up by selections from the classical canon. Perhaps the classical music is explained as a plot point of some kind in the movie, but simply as a listening experience, it’s disconcerting (ha!) to hear a thundering, hard-rock-with-orchestra remake of the original Yamato theme and then wind up with Beethoven and Grieg a few tracks later. As much as I love the new treatments of Miyagawa’s music, I really find myself wondering if a more cohesive end result couldn’t have been achieved by finding some new talent and allowing them the freedom to reference Miyagawa and Haneda – if they wanted to – among their own original work.
The highlights of the soundtrack are the first track – a gorgeous new recording of Miyagawa’s “The Universe Spreading To Infinity” theme (but not a significantly altered arrangement) – and especially track 6, “Yamato Hasshin”, which is the aforementioned rocked-out new version of the original Yamato theme, featuring J-pop band The Alfee. My favorite revived piece of Kentaro Haneda’s is “Fly-By Warp”.
It’s hard to really judge fairly the odd balance of classical music and more-recent-but-still-recycled Yamato music without knowing what role the classical pieces may (or may not) play in the narrative. Someone’ll have to translate it for the western world so I can make that determination. But purely as a listening experience, Space Battleship Yamato: Rebirth Chapter’s soundtrack is pleasant enough, but never really establishes a feel that’s truly all its own.
- Mugen Ni Hirogaru Uchuu (Miyagawa) (1:42)
- Cascade Black Hall (Mahler) (2:39)
- Kodai No Kikan (Miyagawa) (5:55)
- Wakamono Tachi (Miyagawa) (1:43)
- Hyoukai Ni Nemuru (Miyagawa) (3:13)
- Yamato Hasshin (Miyagawa / featuring The Alfee) (5:45)
- Senka No Uzu He (Kousuke Yamashita) (3:50)
- Fly-By Warp (Haneda) (2:47)
- Amar (Tchaikovsky) (5:35)
- Golui (Beethoven) (5:33)
- Joou Ilya (Chopin) (5:27)
- Mirai Heno Tatakai (Beethoven) (5:46)
- Sus Dai Yousai (Grieg) (5:46)
- “Fukkatsu Hen” No Tame No Symphony (Haneda) (4:17)
- Metzler (Kousuke Yamashita) (2:45)
- Kono Ai Wo Sasagete (featuring The Alfee) (6:00)
Released by: EMI Japan
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 65:32