Tsubasa Chronicle Original Soundtrack - Future Soundscape I
The last time that I fell in love with an anime series purely because of its music was .hack//SIGN, and it's happened again with Tsubasa Chronicle, the latest CLAMP manga to be adapted into an anime series. This is not surprising, however, as Yuki Kajiura is the mastermind behind the music for both series.
The CD, which contains music from the first half of the series, saw its Japanese release in August. The disc runs to just under sixty minutes, and includes vastly different pieces, from the beautiful to the dark and somber.
The limited edition CD cover is basically the same as the regular edition, with an image of Syaoran holding Sakura in his arms, with the sun setting over the land of Clow, with ruins behind them. However, for this version, the image is extended to show Syaoran with a golden staff, from the cover of the hardback Japanese edition of the first volume of the manga. The deep red tones come off well, contrasting with the pale colors of Sakura's dress and the green of Syaoran's cloak.
"Ship of Fools" is the first piece on the CD. We first hear it in episode one, and it introduces the female chorale that provides backing to several of the best pieces on the CD. A creepy song full of strange echoing samples, "Ship of Fools" is a herald of trouble, serving as the villains' theme.
Next up is a TV-sized version of "BLAZE," the opening song by JPOP artist KINYA. Personally, I've rarely encountered an opening song that I didn't like or that didn't seem to fit with the anime. "BLAZE," with its rhythmic drumbeat, keyboard and electric guitar, pulls you into the Tsubasa Chronicle experience. It takes the themes of lost memories and traveling through unknown worlds to heart, and it provides a breathtaking opening to the series.
"Believe" uses violins and a hint of their larger cousin, the double base. The speed at which the track passes means that itís not a sedate piece of music, but it is still beautiful to the ears.
Using the koto and harp to create authentic Japanese-sounding samples, along with a synthesizer and saxophone, "Black Sword" is the theme of the land of Nihon, and of Princess Tomoyo and Kurogane. The tempo makes it feel like a warrior's piece, but it also seems somewhat chaotic at times.
Magician and all-round nice guy Fai gets his own theme in "Strange Games." This piece combines flute-like pipes with a fast beat, but it also sounds distinctly foreign, almost Arabian. It makes me think of distant unexplored lands, much like Fai's home of Ceres, with its starry skies and floating islands.
"Break the Sword of Justice" retains the use of flutes and violins; however, it uses drums and various other instruments to create a beat before fading off in a crescendo. It seems almost too short, but it mixes in so many instruments and styles that you receive a lot of sound in one short track.
"You Are My Love" is the first of several vocal tracks featured in the series, and this version is sung badly in English by Eri Itou. "You Are My Love" is one of Sakura's themes, and I much prefer the Japanese version sung by Sakura's seiyuu Yui Makino.
"Dewdrops" is the first track that truly makes me want to cry. Violins evoke the essence of Syaoran's sadness and despair in those moments alone with Sakura when he realizes that things are never going to be the same. Yet it is also one of the strongest pieces on the soundtrack, as it plays a vital part in reminding listeners that Syaoran's quest is not all fun and games.
"Tsubasa" is the second of Sakura's image songs. Sung by FrictionJunction KAORI, it is in English, but it comes across better than "You Are My Love." I actually prefer the English language version to "Tsubasa no Yume," the second version sung in Japanese by Yui Makino on the second soundtrack for Tsubasa Chronicle.
"A Tiny Sunshine" is the one carefree song that gives a sense of happiness. It is used in those quiet moments when the gang is exploring the various worlds or when taking a break. Violins and flutes provide a relaxed, yet upbeat song for those moments when all is not in danger.
"Through the Gate" is Mokona's theme. The chorale returns, reaching to a crescendo when the violins take over. It gives the suggestion that the music is rushing past, heading off into unknown lands. There are also some strange vocal samples thrown in that cannot be identified, but the piece itself is perfect.
"Hear Our Prayer" is the second solemn track to portray Syaoran's sadness, and it is one of my favorites. I never thought it was possible to accurately show a character's heart breaking just by playing a piece of music until I heard this.
"I Talk to the Rain" is dominated by the amazing and ethereal vocals of Eri Itou, with violins and piano subtly hidden in the background. Itou's vocals are what makes this song memorable, despite the fact that the song is not lyrical. Instead, this song is more of an exercise for Itou in the range of notes that she can pull off, and in this, it is certainly a success.
"Ruthless" is a piano piece which is refreshingly simply, given the complexity of the other tracks. The track has a power all of its own, proving that a piano can be just as emotive as an entire orchestra. The subtle guitar melody is enchanting, and even at its busiest and most chaotic, "Ruthless" is starkly different from the rest of the soundtrack.
"Guess How Much I Love You" is a nice romantic-sounding song that brings back the violins and a simple piano melody to evoke Sakura and Syaoran's unspoken bond. It sounds sad, yet it is a calm and unhurried piece.
A mournful piece, "Morning Moon" is dominated by the harp and piano. Simple and lacking a melody, its plainness is amplified by the violins, but the effect is powerful and heart-wrenching.
"Witch" introduces the koto, sitar and other oriental instruments to create a cacophony of noise. Despite its out-of-place nature, the track seems to belong to the album. I don't like this track. It sounds particularly doom-laden, and it gives an overall impression of impending peril.
"A Song of Storm and Fire" is my favorite track on the entire CD. It's a powerful fast-paced track, dominated yet again by Eri Itou's ethereal vocals. It resurfaces repeatedly throughout the series, particularly in moments when important foes must be fought. This song is the sole reason that I bought the CD.
"Best Years of Our Lives" is the theme for Syaoran's flashbacks of his and Sakura's friendship as children. It's a nice harmonious track with subtle piano and flutes that contains a sorrow that reflects Syaoran's unhappy childhood before meeting Sakura.
Last, but by no means least, we have the ending song, "Loop," sung by veteran seiyuu Maaya Sakamoto. This gorgeous song melds Sakamoto's amazing voice with J-pop, and the lyrics fit the song perfectly. I prefer the full version, which was released separately as a single, but this cut-down version rounds off the first Tsubasa Chronicle soundtrack nicely.
The Limited Edition CD contains a nice pink pen made from one of Sakura's feathers. It is not a quill; it's simply a pen with a feather attached. The booklet itself is the usual size, and it contains the lyrics to the opening song, two insert songs, and the ending song. There are two character pages, and several pages dedicated to screenshots from the anime itself. Finally, there is a comprehensive list of the staff and cast.
Overall, this is a beautiful CD. The music is enchanting, and it is bound to appeal to anyone who enjoyed .hack//SIGN. I bought it for the amazing vocals and the unique fusion of the different instruments, but Jpop fans will enjoy the opening and ending themes. If you love Tsubasa Chronicle, then this is the CD for you.