Anime, Reviews

Music I Wish I Heard While Watching: Urusei Yatsura music file ~Unreleased TV BGM Collection~ (Review)

December 6, 2009 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Music I Wish I Heard While Watching: Urusei Yatsura music file ~Unreleased TV BGM Collection~ (Review)on Twitter

So I stumbled upon this two disc miracle at a used store (thank you, Book Off!) for a great price. The album was released in 1985, when compact discs were “hot technology,” and as such, the retail price on the back of the box was a steep 5,500 yen. Book Off throws on an 80% clearance sale on the item, and it’s mine.

And it wasn’t just the great deal that attracted me to this soundtrack. No, it just so happens that Urusei Yatsura was one of the first anime series I was ever exposed to, and the first among the many anime/manga series from manga writer Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2, InuYasha, Maison Ikkoku). The 195 episode TV series that ran in Japan from 1981 to 1986 features some fantastic music from composer Fumitaka Anzai.

Now, I’m not crazy enough to hunt down the Urusei Yatsura Complete Music Box (KTCR-9018~30, 13 audio CDs plus two more CDs with bonus material). I’m happy to have, instead, one of the earliest CDs released for the series. And it’s an oddball, indeed. The Urusei Yatsura music file ~Unreleased TV BGM Collection~ (also from Kitty Records, catalog number H55K20010~11) is exactly what the title suggests. The music was never actually worked into the TV show at that point. They are leftover cues that Anzai wrote for the first few seasons that just wouldn’t get used.

For OSV’s full review of this “ancient” (amazing that I can call the ’80s ancient) soundtrack, just follow the jump.

I’d lay out a tracklist at this point, but it’s pretty simple to just explain it instead. The first disc has eleven tracks, the opening and ending tracks being vocal performances from Shoko Minami. The other nine tracks are BGM “cues,” four or five per audio track, broken with a few seconds of silence. The second disc is ten tracks of more BGM cues. All in all, it’s about 70 mini-compositions and motifs that didn’t find their way into the show, but hold all that same fun and silly Anzai style (game music fans might want to check out an early Fortune Quest album to hear more from this composer!).

Let’s start by talking about those vocal tracks from Shoko Minami. In my mind, they epitomize ’80s J-Pop. Minami is forced to jump back and forth between English and Japanese lyrics on both tracks. In the opening track, she sings “I am watching you, you are watching me!” And in the ending vocal, she sings “It’s so wonderful, all right!” And in the same musical strains, she switches back to Japanese, all-the-while maintaining that impossibly happy bubblegum-pop sound. The synth keyboards, the saxophones, the slap bass, the pitched drums, all of these instruments help to aid in the über-cheese sound. What can I say? I love this stuff! It’s not as nasal and annoying as, say, Cyndi Lauper, but it’s just as cute.

The instrumental tracks? There’s a vast array of musical genres/styles represented here. Anzai uses a full range of instruments. Some tracks are entirely synthesized, others use all real instruments recorded in a studio. Classical orchestra pieces, ethnic-specific dance styles (tango, waltz), jazz, marches, minimalist techno-pop: all this and more can be found across the two discs. And Anzai does an excellent job executing each of these genres appropriately for Urusei Yatsura.

My favorite track on the album? Disc one, track ten. This track runs for over twelve minutes, and features some incredible studio orchestra and jazz band recordings. It blows my mind, when I listen to these beautiful melodies and whimsical dance-able tunes, that these are the unused portions of the music Anzai wrote for this anime. What else is out there? Believe me when I say that I want to find out.

Now, where are you going to find this two disc set? Nowhere, I suspect. I consider myself fortunate to have stumbled upon it. But if this article piques your interest, there are Urusei Yatsura soundtracks, scored by Fumitaka Anzai and others, that are readily available. Be sure to check them out. And if you’ve never seen Urusei Yatsura, either the TV anime or any of the movie releases, be sure to check that out as well. It’s a happy time EVERY time, I assure you.

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