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Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi OST
Studio Ghibli Records
Another great soundtrack from another great Ghibli movie.
Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi OST
By Ridwan Khan
Among other qualities, Hayao Miyazaki’s movies are known for stunning soundtracks. This is thanks to the musical talent of the composer Joe Hisashi. Whether it is the subtle charm of the Tonari no Totoro or the rushing action of Mononoke Hime, Hisashi is adept at his work. Hisashi combines the childish wonder of Totoro with the action of Mononoke in his latest masterwork, the Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi OST.
Slated to be dubbed Spirited Away by Disney later this year, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi has been out in Japan for quite some time. It is, by all criteria, a runaway success, not only in Japan, where it is the highest grossing movie ever, but worldwide, including Korea and France. As with Hisashi’s other soundtracks, the music for Sen to Chihiro captures the onscreen emotion and is not only bolstered by it, but adds to the magic of what is going on in the movie.
Track 1: Ano Natsu he
Track 1 starts off quietly and moves into a piano-based melody backed by horns. The piano in this song is fluid, while taken as a whole, the song is stirring and heartfelt. As the track progresses toward the end, the horns take the melody and build to climactic end.
Track 2: Toorimichi
The second track sounds like something from the more brooding moments in Monoke. It again features the piano backed by horns, but the mood is far more ominous than that of the previous track.
Track 3: Dare mo Inai Ryouriten
One of the most wonderful aspects of the Sen to Chihiro OST is that Hisashi fosters a Japanese feel in the soundtrack. It is an idea visited in Monoke Hime, but in the very Japanese world of demons and bathhouses Sen to Chihiro, the musical mirror of the Japanese settings is especially effective. However, Hisashi doesn’t abandon the orchestral style; instead, it is tempered with a Japanese aesthetic. In this track, Hisashi combines Western style orchestra music with Japanese taiko drums.
Track 4: Yoru ga Kuru
Whereas previous tracks called to mind Mononoke Hime, the beginning of this song is highly reminiscent of Hisashi’s work on Laputa: Castle in the Sky. The quick notes and chorus seem to trace their lineage to the Laputa. Like the previous song, it moves into a tempered Japanese feel as well.
Track 5: Ryuu no Shounen
This track, while short, is quite powerful. It introduces one of the movie’s characters that are more important. The fluidity of the melody is similar to the first tracks. The song characterizes its namesake perfectly as both powerful and weak.
Track 6: Boiraa Mushi
Track six is mysterious and upbeat just like the Boiler Bugs it’s name refers to. It sounds similar in some respects to the “cute” themes of Final Fantasy, with a very classical/ballroom spin. This track is very Western, unlike the previous songs.
Track 7: Kamisama-tachi
In this track we see more of the playfulness of track six with the grandeur and oddity of the gods. The film presents a veritable menagerie of gods entering the bathhouse, and the music reflects that with an assortment of sounds on a march like beat. The song also has a small wordless vocal.
Track 8: Yu-Baaba
In the course of her journey, our protagonist Chihiro meets many bizarre spirits, but in oddity, Yu-Baaba is unrivaled. This track captures her imposing nature and oddity in one package, with what sounds like a lute.
Track 9: Yuya no Asa
This is another Japanese tempered track. This is far quieter than the previous tracks that slowly build into the Japanese instruments that represent the bathhouse of the gods.
Track 10: Ano Hi no Kawa
Track ten starts out with a piano and a wordless vocal rendition of the film’s theme. While this track is quite beautiful, I would have much preferred a lyrical version to this one where the singer sings the melody with “la la.” That aside, the track is quite beautiful. Towards the end, percussion is added giving the song a slight pop feel.
Track 11: Shigoto wa Tsuraize
Shigoto wa Tsuraize means “work is hard” and the song captures the feel of working in the bathhouse. It is the most “Japanese” track on the CD and it features drums (taiko) similar to those in Mononoke Hime. The beat on this track is very steady, to go with the work motif.
Track 12: Okusaregami
No one wants a foul, reeking person in their bath, even if everyone involved is a spirit or god. Yet, Chihiro and the bathhouse have to deal with a vile, smelly god in the bathhouse. This song combines the bathhouse theme with a huge, almost stomping, horns and percussion to symbolize the entrance of the mammoth, filthy god. This song helps make concrete a concept used in Mononoke Hime; the gods were symbolized in the earlier film by sweeping horns that convey a sense of wonder. This is used numerous times in Sen to Chihiro, as Chihiro meets numerous gods.
Track 13: Sen no Yuuki
Track thirteen starts out a quiet, creeping track, and then build larger and larger into a fast-paced chase, before dying down once again.
Track 14: Sokonashi
This track continues the loud, fast pace of the previous track, with an insidious undertone. Darkness begins to envelope the bathhouse in the form of a god that gives out gold. This short track highlights the monster’s dual nature.
Track 15: Kaonashi
Where track fourteen took off from the loud chase, fifteen goes back to the quiet creep. Here, Hisashi again uses Japanese instruments to illuminate the idea of the ornate bathhouse. Like fourteen, this track has a dark underbelly and even has an "evil growing" built up similar to Mononoke Hime.
Track 16: Roku Banme no Eki
Sixteen is a slow, brooding track. The violins in the song are a beautiful and gloomy.
Track 17: Yu-Baaba Kyouran
Another short track, seventeen is similar to previous bathhouse themes, but more frantic.
Track 18: Numa no Soko no Ie
Track eighteen breaks from the bathhouse, the Western styles, to paint a quiet picture. You can miss the track if you’re not listening close, but the song is beautiful, with a quiet charm like much of the Totoro OST.
Track 19: Futatabi
Out of the bathhouse, track nineteen lacks the Japanese feel of previous tracks. It is firmly orchestra. In fact, it sounds like a theme to any American drama (except better). The track sounds sincere, and there is a variety of instruments and sounds that keep it interesting.
Track 20: Kaeru Hi
Track twenty briefly recalls the god menagerie of track seven and then fades into the quiet, more introspective main theme melody. This track is one of the best at showcasing the variety of sounds and moods on the album.
Track 21: Itsumo Nando demo
This final track plays over the movie’s credits. A vocal theme in Japanese, it is beautifully crystal, but it lacks the fun energy of Totoro’s main theme Sanpo or the stunning beauty of Mononoke Hime’s main theme.
As Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi is another impressive work in Miyazaki’s canon, the soundtrack is another feather in the hat of Joe Hisashi. This particular collection seems to lack the cohesiveness of Mononoke Hime's, but makes up for this with a variety of sounds. The Sen to Chihiro is a European dish; however it is heavily garnished with Japanese spices. Spirited Away has all the makings of an anime and art house success here in the U.S.; anyone who enjoys the film would enjoy the musical journey on the soundtrack.