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The Music of Rokka no Yuusha and Akagami no Shirayuki-hime

vlcsnap-2015-07-13-23h42m56s224Let’s talk about some Summer 2015 anime.

Rokka no Yuusha and Akagami no Shirayuki-hime are my two fantasy anime picks for this season. They’re set in very different fantasy worlds (the former appears to be inspired by the Mayan and Aztec civilisations, while the latter draws from European fairytales), but both convey a sense of wonderment and majesty that is difficult to encapsulate in words. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the two series share the same soundtrack composer – Michiru Ooshima, one of the most talented ladies in the business.

If you’ve seen an anime with an Ooshima soundtrack (Fullmetal Alchemist, Xam’d: Lost Memories, etc.) you’ll know what to expect: grandiose, heavily orchestrated themes with some well-placed synthesisers. My personal favourite soundtrack of hers has to be Zetsuen no Tempest’s – never has an anime’s tone complemented Ooshima’s musical style so perfectly.

Rokka no Yuusha and Akagami no Shirayuki-hime stack up pretty well against Ooshima’s multi-award winning record. Out of the two, I’d say I prefer Akagami no Shirayuki-hime a little more. This might have something to do with the fact that the musical cues are very well-timed in the anime. The opening scene featuring Shirayuki running through the forest is magical precisely because the soundtrack is more restrained elsewhere. Mad props to the sound director Kazuhiro Wakabayashi (who also, coincidentally, worked on Zetsuen no Tempest).

vlcsnap-2015-07-14-00h45m50s81This isn’t to scoff at Rokka no Yuusha, though. The music injects a sense of epic scope into what might otherwise feel like a rather generic fantasy premise. The scene in the first episode where Adlet receives the mark is a particular standout. It is far and away the most viscerally impactful scene in the anime so far.

Rokka’s soundtrack is arguably more memorable as well. The bombastic music certainly stands out more to the casual listener. And it’s so unabashedly straight-faced about its epicness, too. If the music can get me to take a bunny girl 100% seriously in the context of the plot, it must be doing something right.

vlcsnap-2015-07-14-01h23m36s198

In the end, it’s hard to decide which soundtrack is better overall, because both sound great and are extremely well-utilised. Perhaps it simply comes down to genre preferences. I like the whimsical sound of Akagami no Shirayuki-hime because I’m a big fan of prominent oboe parts, especially when they’re accompanied by light strings. I also simply prefer the light-hearted, Disney-esque feel of Shirayuki-hime in general. I’ve always had a sweet spot for Disney princesses, and this series scratches my shojo itch.

In any case, suffice it to say that Ooshima has done it again. I don’t think she’s produced a soundtrack that didn’t stand out to me in some way. She really needs more love.

Finally, how can I finish a post about one of my favourite anime composers without mentioning my favourite song of hers? As flawed as the story of Patema Inverted was, its theme song was really something special.

So, my readers, what do you think of Michiru Ooshima’s music? If you’ve seen Rokka no Yuusha or Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, what did you think of them? Yay or nay?

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Posted on July 14, 2015, in Anime Analysis and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Froggy, I looooove you for writing this!

    And I’m with you on preferring Akagami’s OST to Rokka’s.

    And yes, her music is absolutely perfect in Tempest (which shares the same director, Masahiro Ando, with Akagami—so there’s another connection there).

  2. Ooshima isn’t one of my favourite composers ever, but I did really like the soundtrack to Zestuen no Tempest, and I’m sure I will for Shirayuki-hime as well. I like that anime as a whole, what I’ve seen so far of it, although unfortunately I didn’t care much at all for Rokka – the setting and character designs are great, but the exposition and writing in general had me wincing, so I won’t be watching any more of that.

    • Fair enough about Rokka. I thought the exposition and pacing were the weakest parts of the anime as well. The cool visuals and music were enough to draw me into it, though. That said, I do prefer Shirayuki-hime over it on the whole. It’s such a nice little show.

      • Yeah, I’m really liking Shirayuki-hime. I had expected something along more melodramatic lines, and so was pleasantly surprised by the relatively light-hearted tone and breezy pacing. Shirayuki makes for a great character too – obviously capable and strong-willed, but not too serious.

  3. I guess the one work of hers I remember is the FMA soundtrack, one of the very few (the only?) things I like about the 2003 anime. Dat waltz Ed dances at with Rose.

    • The soundtrack was definitely one of the most memorable things about the 2003 anime. I actually can’t remember anything about the Brotherhood soundtrack at all, funnily enough.

      • I liked the Brotherhood soundtrack well enough too, though the 2003 one had the best highlights (“Bratja”. Damn it, “Bratja”). For the Brotherhood one, try checking out “Lapis Philosophorum” to refresh your memory. Overall it has this rather grandiose orchestral feeling to it too, but I must say I probably remember Brotherhood more for its great openings and endings than for the soundtrack itself.

        • Opinion on the 2003 soundtrack thirded(?). I mean I liked the 2003 anime well enough for Ed’s character too – his morals were less clear-cut, which I always like to see – but the soundtrack was one of the things that really stood out to me, especially the quieter themes (Rakuyou is one of my favorites). The Brotherhood one was a bit harsh on the ears sometimes, imo at least. I didn’t really like the grandiosity of it, but it did fit the tone of FMAB overall better, I guess. But I agree that Brotherhood had awesome openings and endings.

          Ooshima is generally one of my favorite composers – I also loved the Zetsuen OST and the Nabari no Ou one; the soundtrack was basically the only reason I felt anything at the end of Nabari no Ou tbh. I haven’t actually watched a lot of anime with her as the composer though, and I think her quieter soundtracks are a lot better than her actiony ones. I’m so glad she’s working on two anime this season – I’ll probably pick up Rokka no Yuusha just for that.

          I think Ooshima is way underrated, but Hakkenden’s OST is even more so – I do recommend it just for the OST (there’s a scene with these dragon spirit things and it’s just amazing) even if the plot is a bit mediocre.

  4. I was planning on giving these two shows a look just from the premises, but now they’re must-watch if it’s same music composer as Zetsuen no Tempest and Patema Inverted. (Both anime I thoroughly enjoyed, BTW.)
    I’ll try to give them a watch today; I’ve been in the mood to try watching more anime again.

  5. I liked both Rokka and Snow White, although Rokka just a bit more for the uniqueness of the Aztec setting. It’s actually anime original-the source light novels were quite vague on
    describing the settings.

    As for Snow, the costuming style gives somewhat Final Fantasy vibes, although without the magitech or demihumans (yet).

    • Also interesting about Rokka, besides the Aztec setting, are the names. The official US site for the anime romanises Nashetania as ‘Nachetanya’, Flemy as ‘Flamie’ and so on (http://rokka-anime.us/character/). Although the setting is Aztec-inspired, the character designs are clearly not. The anime is evidently going for an exotic flavour compared to the usual JRPG-inspired settings.

      • From the LN covers, I think Rokka’s light novel illustrator was clearly aiming for a more exotic fantasy look for the characters rather then adhering towards a specific real-world culture. Not that it matters; I find the Aztec settings complement the designs quite well.

        I did look up Rokka’s author, Yamagata Ishio. He wrote a previous LN series called Tatakau Shishou/Armed Librarians-The Book of Bantorra, which got an anime in 2009-2010. Have you read or seen this series before?

  6. I’m following Rokka no Yuusha and I like it a lot so far. I am hesitant towards Shirayuki coz we’re plaguered with red-haired heroines lately and if it’s gonna be stereotypical shoujo, no thanks. It was really good to know it was from the same person writing the ost for Tempest; although I dropped the anime, I liked the ost immensely.

    • In some ways, Shirayuki is a pretty stereotypical shoujo. The romance is admittedly lightweight fluff. The guy isn’t a supreme asshole, but it’s still a show with bishie sparkles. However, I do like the heroine, red hair or not. She’s not a tsundere, if that’s what you’re thinking of…?

      Also, glad you’re enjoying Rokka no Yuusha!

      • Hm I don’t think Yona was tsundere. The things that annoy me in shoujo are the cluelessness of the protagonist, sexist/machismo crap lines, and silly overpraise (boy, Yona could freeze her enemies with her “fiery” eyes! she killed the trafficker despite being “a little girl”, wow never mind all the rest who fought a hundred men…)

  7. I tried to pay more attention to the music in Shirayuki and Rokka after reading this post. And you were right Froggy. Michiru Ooshima is doing an excellent job.

  8. Does anyone know if there’s going to be an ost for Rokka no Yuusha ? I loved the music but the only thing i found were the endings/openings :/

  9. If you have a reaction post towards Akagami no Shirayukihime, I can’t find it D:
    This manga is like, a poster child for what shojo manga should strive to be as positive reinforcement for its youthful audience! She’s not exceptional. She’s not kickass. But she has that sense of independence, equality, self-reliance, intelligent diligence, and self-deterministic career planning that young girls really could use as a role model. (as you might see, I’m a huuuuuuuge fan =D)

    • I haven’t written a post about Shirayuki-hime. I probably should! Shirayuki is an excellent heroine, like you said. Although the first season of the anime focused way more on Zen’s backstory and motivations. In the end, we never really learn much about Shirayuki beyond what her actions show us. I thought it was a bit weird that Shirayuki’s journey of becoming a court herbalist was overshadowed by all of Zen’s conflicts. Not saying I disliked it exactly, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting after the first episode.

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