Over the past couple of years, Katou Tatsuya has very rapidly risen to be one of my all-time favourite soundtrack composers. While not yet as prolific as the likes of Kajiura Yuki or Kanno Yoko (neither of whom had any involvement with the soundtrack, in case I give that mistaken impression), I will not be remotely surprised to see him rank up there in the near future. Soundtracks of note are Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls, the recently concluded Mirai Nikki, and currently airing Medaka Box.
From the moment I decided to do soundtrack reviews for RandomC, I knew that Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon was going to be one of the very first. To be entirely honest, I’ve been both dreading and anticipating writing about it. If I was forced to evacuate to a desert island with only a handful of soundtracks (I have no idea why this would happen), the Horizon OST would be one of them – it ranks pretty high in my favourite soundtracks of all time. The problem is that it’s a very long soundtrack and almost every track on it has some unique aspect to it that I really want to talk about. Rather than focusing entirely on the ‘best’ tracks (in fairness, it’s extremely hard to pick because they’re all very interesting to listen to), I will be writing mostly about the more ‘unique’ ones.
The first track I want to highlight is Tooshi Douka. Not because it’s the best track on the OST, nor because it’s featured in four distinct versions (plus an instrumental version in Kore wa Matsuri sa), but because it’s possibly one of the more interesting tracks based on its role within Horizon’s continuity. I’m sure that many of you reading this have heard the Japanese children’s song ‘Tooryanse‘ in the past, though most may not be familiar with it by name. Horizon is a series very much based upon reality (the background to the story is all about the re-enactment of history) and as such we get many concepts and organisations which mimic their historic counterparts, such as the Tsirhc Church (Christianity) and the various nations. One of these warped counterparts is Tooshi Douka. The first thing to note is the melodic similarity of the first line of Tooshi Douka to the first line of the vocal version of Tooryanse. It’s also present in the version played at crossings, but not quite as emphasised. The second (and perhaps most important) thing to note, is in the lyrics:
As you’ve probably noted, there’s more than just a passing resemblance there – it’s almost like the results of a game of Chinese Whispers with one being the starting message and the other the message relayed by the final participant.
In keeping with its sci-fi nature, Horizon features several electronic tracks, but I’ll restrain myself to talking about only one. Sora wo Ikeba Tsubasa ga Ari. Winged lesbian angel witches. That is all. But in all seriousness, this electronic dance track, complete with heavily filtered, glitched and auto-tuned English vocals makes for perfect BGM during the duo’s battle. A lot of people dislike the use of auto-tune in music, and while I agree with this to an extent, I find it makes a great addition to a track when used for musical effect outside its original purpose.
Toori has many themes throughout the anime, designed to represent different aspects of his personality. There are two that I intend to mention, the first of which is Baka wa Tsugeru yo, a piece of music that very eloquently captures Toori’s
One of the main things that draws me to the Horizon OST is its diverse nature. While there is an overwhelming amount of orchestral music, tracks range from having traditional Japanese influences, to Celtic folk music, to Danny Elfman-esque comedic horror (Dareka ga Iru yo), and way over to thinly veiled porno funk music (Taikutsuha no Yoru). This works extremely well for Horizon since it’s a series in which a huge variety of cultures come together, not just in the warring nations occupying the remains of Japan, but also in the diversity of the main cast.
The second Toori theme I want to mention is Ore wa Koko da to which seems to represent his more playful and mischevious side. According to the liner notes, the track was written to have a Middle Eastern feel to it which is definitely very noticeable. The percussion has a very strong Middle Eastern vibe while the instrumentation, melodies and harmonies are very reminiscent of certain styles Jewish music found in Israel and other parts of the continent.
The Horizon soundtrack also features its fair share tracks which are sad and reflective in nature. My favourite of these is probably Daiji na Koto sa. It utilises heavy reverb with a prominent guitar lead piercing the mix for a very melancholic feeling, emphasised by the male backing vocals – a style quite reminiscent of Ishimoto Takeharu.
Machi wa Nigiyaka ni, a very heavily Asian folk influenced track, is quite possibly my favourite track on the OST. It works perfectly as the backing track for the somewhat feudal Japanese town that acts as the setting for the anime. Listening to it evokes images of a lively market street in a traditional JRPG. Several traditional instruments are used alongside the chanting and subtle synths, an example being the Ryuteki, a traditional Japanese woodwind instrument. In addition, the majority of the track is accompanied by harmonies provided by female backing vocals which, to me, feel very Celtic in nature… almost like something from Enya or Clannad.
This next, Rikutsuha no Asa track is based on a rhythm originating from 19th century Cuban dance music: the habanera. The habanera rhythm was also adopted into traditional Spanish music which is why the track may seem to have a Spanish flair to it. By using this rhythm, we get a jerky and disjointed sort of feeling, similar to motions of a puppet on strings. The liner notes make specific mention of Coppélia, a ballet telling the story of an inventor who creates a life-size doll which he tries to bring to life and which one of the protagonists proceeds to fall in love with. I’m sure you can see the parallels there.
In all honesty, there are way too many amazing orchestral tracks for me to properly do justice to, so I’ll only skim over a couple which particularly catch my attention. The first, Ohayo Kyoukaisen, was written to play during Horizon’s awakening – when she regains her first emotion. Though the emotion is ‘sorrow,’ the track does not necessarily reflect this in a bad light, focusing more on the victorious feelings of having regained the lost emotion. The choral chanting also adds a reverent and divine feeling, almost a cry of ‘Hallelujah’ and the occurrence of a miracle. Interesting note: The percussion loop used in the background for most of the track (and used in many other tracks across the OST) actually comes from Stylus RMX, an impressively large library of percussion loops.
The second, Saa Ikou ka, is the theme for the descent of the Tres España ships. The aggressive and threatening constant repetitions seem likely to be a reference to Holst’s Mars, the Bringer of War, while the uniformity of the rhythm gives off a militant air.
The cast is assembled… it’s time to head out to battle. No thoughts of whether it’ll be a victory or a defeat; stepping out to claim a victory is the only thing on their minds.
That’s actually a poorly paraphrased version of a note from Aoi Kimi in the OST liner notes. I had to include it because it’s such a perfect summary of Ikou ze Minna, a track I absolutely could not get away with leaving out. It’s one of the best examples of a perfect meld of music with animation that I can think of in anime – the emotions generated by events and dialogue mirrored and amplified tenfold by the music. The noble horns act as both a portent of victory and show of determination while the unison strings parallel the unity of the cast’s goals and desires.
If I were to compare the Horizon soundtrack to others out there, I would be hard-pressed to find anything that spans anywhere near its range. Some of the more folky music brings to mind Kajiura Yuki’s past works, mostly .hack//SIGN and several of the electronic tracks are comparable to Rinne no Lagrange. To a lesser extent, some of the orchestral music could be likened to Macross Frontier and the currently airing Aquarion EVOL. Of Katou Tatsuya’s own works, the one which bears the most resemblance (though mostly in an orchestral capacity) is probably Mirai Nikki, but all in all, I would consider the OST to Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon to be pretty unique.
Related note: Stilts will be doing a special retrospective post on Horizon ahead of the coming season – look forward to it!
The OST is amazing and it’s always fun listening to the different versions of the Song of Rite.
The first season didn’t get the recognition it perhaps deserved – one of my more guilty pleasure shows to watch. You going to blog the second season?
Nope, but I am! Look forward to it 😉
Damn, you beat me to it! I was going to write something about not wanting to be stabbed to death 🙁
It’s a legitimate concern for any writer who tries to take my Horizon-tan >:D
The first season of Horizon was sadly underserved by the blogosphere, glad to see that Stilts (and certain other relatively new members of older group blogs *cough*) are going to take up the torch.
I..despite loving the anime, never appreciated the Horizon OST.
Awesome! I need to get my hands on this o____________________o!
Definitely one of the more interesting OST’s I’ve listened to, and was more than worth it to download.
Hope to see more posts like this one.
A shame none of my favorite tracks from the OST made it into the post.
Koukai no Todoku Michi no Ue eto
Kocchi wo Muke yo
And Daiji na Koto sa. However this one sounds different in my playlist. It’s the one played during the angels’ attack in the first episode. Maybe the names got mixed up somewhere.
Horizon featured one of my favorite OSTs of all time. It seems like a good time for good OSTs recently. Guilty Crown’s blew me away, too.
There’s an incorrectly tagged OST out there (I have no idea how it came about) – the track you refer to as Daiji na Koto sa is actually Sora wo Ikeba Tsubasa ga Ari which is the second track I mentioned in the post so I did get at least one of your favourites in there!
Ideally I would have liked to talk about a lot more tracks but the post was already getting a little long and I didn’t want to force people to read through something rivalling the length of the Light Novels themselves. 😛
Lantis incorrectly tagged the first one, sent it out to a few people, then another person who bought the first edition of the CD didn’t realize he had it until a few days before the official corrected version came out and he ripped the whole thing and uploaded it, then someone released the whole thing on /a/ which got promptly uploaded to the rest of the internet.
Anybody has a comparison between the incorrectly and correctly labeled OST? I managed to find the misnamed one, but I don’t know which tracks are which so I can’t correct them D:…
You can listen to samples of every track on Amazon Japan – should be able to piece together which track is actually which from there.
I love this OST. The show was rather hit and miss, but the diverse soundtrack is god tier.
Really really love the OST and the anime
Can’t wait for the Season2 for more OST <3 <3
I had no idea there were so many cultural references from the OST so your post is extremely enlightening. Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon ranks pretty high in my favorite OST of all time too. It has some of the very best orchestral and electronic tracks out there but if I had to pick one, Ikou ze Minna would probably be my favorite and your post captures how I feel about the song perfectly.
Can’t wait for Stilts nii nii’s retrospective post. It’s definitely one of the more under-appreciated animes within the Western community. Anyone wants to have a dance-off? 😉
A dance-off? Can I pick a champion?
Aoi Kimi, I choose you!
thx moomba for the post…. i must say, saa ikou ka sounds like its a track from star wars
I kind of felt that the OST and the anime went by unnoticed. I’m glad to see otherwise.
Show was ok and fun but this OSt was definite highlight and will be remembered. Also I love these post dedicated to OSTs, so keep up the good work.
A great OSt is a big highlight to watching an anime version of a franchise other than manga/light novel. Main reason I love visual novels is you get great story and sound.
Also, you guys gotta check out this awesome live performance of Horizon’s OP by Minorin at Animelo Summer 2011. Prepare to be TERMINATED ☆～（ゝ。∂）
Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon. Divine’s Last Regret.
Thanks for your high-quality post Moomba. I’m looking forward to Stilts retrospective.
Wait… why is my OST tagged different from what you have mentioned? its like completely out of place…
The very first torrent of the OST was completely mistagged. Replace it with a later release. Any of more recent versions should be correct.
While I lack the musical knowledge to do reviews such as this, I must agree that this is a fantastic OST on every level. In fact, for pure listening pleasure, this may just be one of the best, even beating out ones I may consider “better” when placed in full context (such as Kajiura Yuki’s Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica OST). The variety of sounds really makes it a fun listen.
Wow, I can tell that you really understand music; uncovering all those hidden nuances most surely requires an intimate understanding of music; the kind that only a musician would have.
A deep, diverse (and awesome) soundtrack for one of the most unique and intricate shows to hit the screens in the last 5 years; quite fitting if I must say….
Yeah I really wishes that it was blogged on here but there’s we can do about that now. What’s done is done.
I can’t wait for the second season. To come out in summer I’m so excited. (=^ェ^=)
Damn, this is good music <3
Creative, fun, poignant, driven. Damn, I can't imagine how I missed this.
Great post Moomba. I find your insight into music so educational. As expected of a professional freelance composer I guess!
If you’re okay with it, you should think about sharing some of your portfolio music later on. I really think your compositions deserve the publicity. I’d be interested in hearing what you were thinking when you composed your pieces as well.
I gather readers still aren’t fully aware of how “in tune” with music you really are, so once they find that out, they’ll probably hold your analysis of soundtracks in even higher regard. I know I do.
Ohmygod, hi Divine! Nice to hear from you. 😀
On to the topic, I’d quite like to hear some of you music, Moomba. I’m really enjoying these posts too. ;3
I really can’t type on my playbook. -_-
Thanks for the nice words Divine! On the topic of sharing some of my portfolio, I do actually have something in mind but it’s not quite ready yet. Hopefully I’ll be able to show it off in the near future!
Looking forward to it Moomba. It must be really good stuff if you managed to make Divine-sama a fanboy 😉
A wild Divine had been encountered!
I can’t really speack for anyone else, but from just reading Moomba’s introduction post how he(?) was a composer and looking at his(?) writing in general, it’s pretty clear to me that Moomba is pretty in tune with music, not just in an anime sense, but in general and is quite knowledgeable about the subject matter. So I already hold Moomba’s writing in this panel in a pretty high regard already.
That said, you hinting about his portfolio now makes me more interested in knowing more about his musical knowledge. You make it sound very good actually.
Moomba’s stuff is pretty epic I must say. Look forward to it. 🙂
I don’t have many instrumental tracks in my standard playlist but “Ikou ze Minna” is one of them.
There’s just so much energy bursting from the seams of it.
I love the OST. I imported it when I could not too long ago, so yeah, I’ve had it on my iPod and phone since I got it. XD
You’d be pretty surprised Lol (but seriously, don’t end up in such a situation)
Hey, a bloated soundtrack for a bloated show with bloated boobs right? 😛
But seriously though, while I wasn’t a huge fan of the show, I will admit it was pretty fun and now that you gave your review I will agree that it must have been largely thanks to the music composed.
Katou Tatsuya is an interesting composer. While I’m not a fan of his, I do think he has a lot of talent and this Soundtrack really doe showcase his abilities to create many different and unique themes. I suppose that on some level, he might have gotten on this project to really test himself and see just how good he really is and also show to everyone just how varied he’s composition really is. At least, that’s what I had gotten from listing to the tracks you listed (a little of a test to yourself as well, perhaps 😉 ) I don’t own this OST, so all my experience with the music comes from your post and the actual show, FYI, so I can’t really comment that much on the OST in general.
I don’t think that anyone can mistaken this work as something from Kanno Yoko (who has a very distinct style to her music, that even across different show you can tell they had he signature on them) or Kajiura Yuki (who is actually rather limited in her spectrum, unlike Tatsuya-san had shown, even if what she had shown with Madoka Magica and Pandora Hearts, though her work on Fate/Zero leaves a lot to be desired IMO)
I don’t know, it’s not exactly that uncommon, and I do think there are better lengthier OST’s out there. Michiru Oshima’s Bōnen no Xam’d OST, in particular I felt to be among the best long OST’s I had heard in years.
Brilliant! I simply love it.
One of my faves in my playlist is TERMINATED.
So LET’S SING IT!
Nani ga mieru?
Ari no mama no kimi wa tsuyoku naru made itoshisa wo tojite
Nani wo kiku no?
Himitsu no kobeya de inishie no hibi katarou ka
Kioku ni dakarete kudakareta Mysteria
Higeki wo koete odayaka na inori
OWARI GA HAJIMARI
Shinsekai de hito wa mirai wo bishu no you ni
Nomihoseru ka sae shirazu
Shinsekai wa tsumetai risei to kiseki no hazama
Doushite koko de kimi to…aeta no?
Nice analysis, can’t wait to see more.
What the hell, man. Nenshou Kairou is the best song on the OST. Not a mention?
After watching the anime and looking rather desperately for certain BGM, I would have to recommend Toori’s “Mr. Impossible” theme, Kami Mo Mamono mo Tada Hashiru (Disc 01, Track 07). Nice build-up music. I’ve also toyed with making Yagate Subete ga Furueru Toki (Disc 02, Track 01) my alarm-clock soundtrack, for those hard-to-get-out-of-bed mornings. Nothing like hearing Chicken Little’s “The sky is falling!” BGM to get the blood going first thing.
But a LOT of this music made me have flashbacks of my tour in Iraq, or similar military scenes in movies, lots of infantry-marching type BGM.
Oh, my God. Thank you sooo much for this review. Hearing Tooshi Douka almost bring tear to my eyes. And not exaggerating, but the other songs also made my chest like welling up with emotion, especially while remembering the relevant events in the anime. You just made me love the series even more~ 🙂
ah, horizon. To be honest I was really skeptical with anime at first, it need me to look at the LN translation to get hint of the series depth before I have any interest to watch beyond the second episode. I’m really glad i did. Really look forward for the upcoming 2nd season.
This definitely one the best article that ever grace Random curiosity (OK, that’s maybe kinda exaggerated, still top post on my favorite list though). Keep up the good work, Moomba! 🙂
i always enjoyed anime OST and I am really glad that finally i saw a review for OST. I havent watch the anime yet so I cant comment on the OST but keep up the good work!
Although its been months since its release, why no love for Nenshou Kairou?
The OST of this series is beautiful.
err, I noticed that the soundtrack in the last episode, from 12:40 to 14:28 is not among the tracks in both CDs