Random Curiosity

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica the Movie – Part III: Hangyaku no Monogatari »« Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica – OST I

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica – OST II

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica   OST2   Banner

To reiterate: Massive spoilers. Heck, this post will actually contain spoilers for that, if you know what I mean. Read on at your own peril!

So once again I return to Kajiura Yuki and her typically unique soundtrack for Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. Since there’s no real point in me repeating what I had to say in my last post, I’ll instead suggest that if you haven’t already read it, you go back and do so. That way I can skip straight over introductions (and recommendations at the end) and focus entirely on the meat of the soundtrack – the music itself.

Last time I spoke quite a bit about how the goal of the first Madoka Magica soundtrack was partially to deceive. While this remains true of the second OST to an extent, I find it to be far more transparent in nature than the first. Though there is still noticeable deception in certain tracks (Anima mala springs to mind), the focus this time around is far more on foreshadowing and influencing the direction of our feelings in each scene. It’s definitely not an upbeat soundtrack either – of the twelve tracks, the majority are dark and discordant or melancholic and bittersweet. Bittersweet on so many levels (I’m sure you can guess why I picked this particular image for the banner, and why this is the cover).

Inevitabilis

We start this time with a very melancholic solo piano piece titled Inevitabilis, or ‘Inevitable’ to use the English translation. It’s a very effective track – the rubato playing and the heavy use of the sustain pedal result in a slightly dragging and reluctant feeling. In most cases we never actually want to face the inevitable; we drag our feet, we rail against fate, and we struggle futilely until we finally realise there can be no other outcome. In this case, the inevitable event is likely Madoka’s predestined meeting with Kyuubei (since this is the scene in which we first hear it) – in each timeline she has always made a contract and perished, leaving Homura behind. No matter how many times Homura has tried, she has yet to stop their fateful meeting. And yet, the track is not entirely sad – with it’s slightly more hopeful B section, it hints at the more bittersweet outcomes. Had their meeting never occurred, Madoka would never have evolved into her final form as a saviour.

Venari strigas

Second to appear is Venari strigas, forming a backing for Mami’s one-sided battle with Charlotte’s first form. Like ceratin other track I spoke about recently, it seems to make use of the Spanish Gypsy scale, resulting in a rather exotic flavour, especially when combined with the middle-eastern vocals. In a sense, this suggests that something is out of place (as it very obviously is given the proceeding events). This is actually a very conflicting track for me – we have the constant repetitive beat which gives of an air of dependability but at the same time the merging of the multiple layers of musical elements creates a slightly disturbing and dissonant effect. I guess if I had to put my finger on it, I’d say it’s a track that reeks of overconfidence. The dark touch to the Cello line at the very end of the track is especially effective in context.

Agmen clientum

Agmen clientum, played first during Homura’s battle with Charlotte, is a rather chaotic and tense track perfectly suited for the typically unsettling scenery presented by SHAFTs artwork within the domains of the witches. The constant percussion hits and frequent atonal screeches combined with the chaotic rhythms, repeatedly rising harmony line and heavy use of harmonics later in the track all contribute to putting us ill at ease. It works especially well in context of what we just witnessed – trying to add to the confusion of exactly what just happened. The translation of the track title also bears a hidden meaning – ‘Army of Minions’ would obviously refer to the vast hordes of creatures the witches summon, but at the same time it could refer to the Puella Magi themselves. For this scene, the track fits Homura almost as well as it does Charlotte.

Signum malum

What could be more appropriate to show us the darker side of being a Puella Magi than a hollow, slightly discordant and melancholic arrangement of Sis puella magica!, the track which essentially serves as a theme to glorify them? And that’s exactly what Signum malum is. Using evolving soundscapes and sound design elements in conjunction with the slightly cold tones of the bell-like lead instrument we get a track which shows us the harsh reality of what it means to be a magical girl. As the sparsity suggests, it’s a lonely and thankless job – at least for most – and regardless of their power, death always lurks just around the corner. The emptiness also calls into question the reasons behind Mami’s death – did she even really accomplish anything? Knowing of the continuous cycle, that all Puella Magi either die or become a witch, it really emphasises just how empty their sacrifices are.

Incertus

One of my two favourite tracks on this OST, Incertus, is a rather minimal thought-inspiring track. The soft bells repeat a continuous cyclical pattern, mirroring the thought process of someone in Madoka’s position – constantly replaying events, moving in circles, searching for meaning. Everything is uncertain at this point; Puella Magi aren’t the all-powerful beings we thought they were – they’re just as mortal as anyone else. There’s also a sad air projected from the harmonies and soft piano melody – at this point it’s the death of a friend and mentor we’re reflecting on. The heavy reverb also contributes to the murkiness of the track and the wandering electronic percussion feels uncertain and hesitant, reflecting the slightly muddled nature of Madoka’s thoughts.

Decretum

I’m going to immediately follow up with my other favourite from the soundtrack: Decretum. This is the type of music I love most from Kajiura and has always formed the highlights of her soundtracks for me, most notably in .hack//SIGN and her contributions to the Xenosaga series. With its Celtic feel originating from the instrumentation and 6/8 time signature we once again get that association with the world of magic. On top of that we also have Kajiura’s frequently used technique of strummed guitar panned hard right and arpeggi panned hard left alongside frequent use of counterpoint. The track has both a noble and slightly sad air to it – the steady rhythms and constant motion reflecting the noble side of Sayaka’s sacrifice to heal Kyousuke and take on the role Mami left behind, while the melody itself has a more melancholic turn to it. While this is a decision which works towards good on the surface, in reality it’s no decision at all – there was never really any other option for Kyouske’s recovery and we all know how things will turn out.

Anima mala

My penultimate focus for this review will be Anima mala. Homura aside, Kyouko is easily my favourite of the Puella Magi we’re introduced to over the course of the series, and I always feel as though Anima mala does both justice and great injustice to her character’s introduction. It’s one of those few tracks on this OST I consider to follow the theme of ‘deception’ outlined in my previous post. To start with the ways in which it does justice to her character, we have the slow, wandering cello lead – it goes where it wills, does as it wants – just as Kyouko does, and it does it alone. There’s also an odd sense of calm and steadfastness to it despite the slightly more chaotic nature of some of the sound design and percussion in the background. Where it does injustice to her is in its parallels to the darker witch themes, trying to get us to see her as no better than them. Though she may consider making a wish for justice or to protect humans foolish, she’s not entirely wrong – in the end these very wishes lead to causing others more pain and suffering.

This OST also contains arrangements of two pieces of classical music, namely Ave Maria (Charles Gounod) and Vocalise Op.34 no.14 (Rachmaninoff). Both are excellent pieces which perfectly complement the mood of the rest of the soundtrack with their bittersweet (and slightly romantic) nature. For fun, you can find scores of various arrangements (including the originals) here and here (respectively).

So there we have it. Since I’ll be skipping the recommendations this time around (they’d be pretty much identical to last time) there’s not really much else to say. In some ways, I enjoy the first OST more, but at the end of the day, this is still an outstanding soundtrack which everyone should take the time to listen to every once in a while!

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica   OST2   Cover

Artist: Kajiura Yuki
Release Date: July 27, 2011
Catalogue No.: ANZX-9128/ANZB-9128
Label: Aniplex
Discs: 1

Tracklist:
01. Decretum
02. Agmen clientum
03. Venari strigas
04. Signum malum
05. Amicae carae meae
06. Incertus
07. Inevitabilis
08. Serena ira
09. Anima mala
10. Pugna infinita
11. Vocalise Op.34 no.14
12. Ave Maria
Total Time:
27’41″

June 12, 2012 at 5:00 am
25 comments »
  • June 12, 2012 at 5:21 amKoroshiyaKi

    Good work, thanks for the insight.

  • June 12, 2012 at 5:45 amKeerakun

    Nicely done.. OSTs are enjoyable and integral to a successful anime but easily overlooked by the majority of the viewers. Keep it up!

  • June 12, 2012 at 6:25 amVivace

    Good job Moomba, did you study music or something?

    • June 12, 2012 at 4:08 pmMoomba

      Yup! Studied music for several years and currently make my living writing it!

  • June 12, 2012 at 6:41 amThe_Magus_Killer

    Sayaka fails her Science test

    *Decretum plays*

    Sayaka: “Watashi, hontou baka…”

    Seriously, Decretum is my favorite here. You can literally taste the DESPAIR just by the tone.

    • June 12, 2012 at 11:31 amLuxor

      Yeah, Decretum’s gotta be my favorite in vol 2 too.

  • June 12, 2012 at 7:04 amBio D

    Yes! I have so longed for another of your soundtrack reviews!
    I’ve started rewatching this series with a friend (as mentioned in my recent post on the last soundtrack) and I’ve been overawed at all the little bits and brilliant pieces I missed the first time, including some of the workings of the soundtrack.
    For example, my favorite aspect of Venari Strigas is how the guitar tries to drown out the moans and chants in the middle. You don’t just see the overwhelming force of Mami, but it gives the sense that she’s trying to ignore her own unease.

    • June 12, 2012 at 4:13 pmMoomba

      That’s a pretty interesting take – somehow it didn’t occur to me to look at it that way but I can definitely see it!

  • June 12, 2012 at 7:12 amfragb85

    Decretum was the best track here. It practically screams Kaijura with its combination of violin, guitar and percussion. It was also the perfect track for Sayaka’s fall-from-grace. I never really liked Sayaka but her despair, Kyoko calling her name and the track playing made it one of the most haunting and memorable moments of the series.

    • June 15, 2012 at 10:37 pmcloud in pants

      Much agreement. Decretum made it seem as if everything that was ever spoken about regret was a truth bigger than anything else.

  • June 12, 2012 at 7:24 amPleiades

    Decretum and Incertus were my favourites too. Great write-up as always, Moomba.

  • June 12, 2012 at 12:00 pmFT5Havok

    Goodjob Moomba-chan!:)

  • June 12, 2012 at 1:39 pmtendo

    I have not watched this show but what is missing in the anime title is for sure the word:
    Lyrical

    • June 12, 2012 at 3:45 pmFuzzy

      Already taken by Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha :)

  • June 12, 2012 at 1:56 pminfo600

    Wow. The OSTs overall felt like a long continuous theme of loneliness and depression…

    (if we disregard the beginning and the end…)

    Thanks for putting the songs into nice explanations Moomba

  • June 12, 2012 at 2:14 pmelmaton04

    I can’t wait for your take on the third soundtrack where we get to hear some of the most intense tunes out there.

  • June 12, 2012 at 4:13 pmyumichan808@gmail.com

    I can’t wait for the concert for Kajura Yuki… But I highly doubt they will play some OSTs… hahah

  • June 12, 2012 at 4:17 pmpwnzarsaurus

    u should do a review of Ano Hana’s ost next! ur posts are fantastic!

  • June 12, 2012 at 9:53 pmShouhei

    Love the insight and your passion for music. Decretum would have to be my favourite too, particularly the flow created by the strings.

  • June 12, 2012 at 10:07 pmKJacket

    Reminds me of my theory lessons. Pretty fun to listen to soundtracks and read about what to look out for in the music. Thanks :)

  • June 12, 2012 at 10:22 pmbertman4

    I just finished watching the series. Your reviews of the music adds another dimension to my appreciation of a great anime series. Thanks for your analysis and insights.

  • June 13, 2012 at 3:09 amKratos

    Looking forward to your sagita luminis review ;)

  • June 14, 2012 at 8:08 amD-LaN

    As always, Moomba Music Class for Amateurs is good ^.^

  • June 17, 2012 at 10:42 amLuminos

    As for the songs I like Decretum the most in this OST. However I must say that I like Sis puella magica! the most in these 2 album.

    I don’t know concepts of Celtic music but I the Sis puella magica! has more essence of Celtic music than Decretum.

  • June 25, 2012 at 3:58 pmRen

    I love these posts :D