I always have very mixed feelings when it comes to writing about the Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon Soundtracks. On the one hand, Katou Tatsuya never fails to deliver magnificent music with enormous variety, but on the other, it’s always so hard to pick and choose between tracks to write about and I always feel like I’m leaving out something important. As always, this particular OST is frequently reminiscent of RPG music, though compared to the previous one, there’s far more stately music to represent the focus on Great Britain and its role in the story. Since I already talked about most of the important stuff in the last post (check it out if you haven’t already!) I’ll just dive straight into the music!
What better track to act as a representation of England in the Horizonverse than Anata to Odoru Yousei Kokka with its various nods to Scottish and Irish music in terms of instrumentation and the slight hornpipe feel, combined with a more mysterious – almost Danny Elfman-esuqe at times – edge to represent the otherworldly nature of its inhabitants. The gradual increase in chaos and counterpoint reflects the festive mayhem we get to see multiple times over the course of the series!
With a jump to a completely different mood and style, Nigiyaka na Hibi no Naka is slightly unusual compared to a fair bit of Katou Tatsuya’s other music. It’s another of those somewhat minimal tracks that feels like it would slot perfectly into an RPG, bringing to mind some of the music from the more recent Atelier games. It’s light-hearted, with a slightly bustling pace, painting a picture of a lively port in which people go about their daily business while working together. The vocal adds an extra dimension to the track, not always quite following the rhythm of its accompaniment, taking its own carefree pace.
Ketsui wo Himete is probably one of my favourite tracks on this OST – Katou Tatsuya really excels at writing this type of music, the kind that almost tells a story and never fails to get you pumped! There’s expectation and anticipation in the soft strings – a promise of what’s to come. The uplifting staccato string repetitions and the steadfast horns represent strength and determination, while the melodies add beauty to the mix. It’s a tale of love and heroism, of minds made up, of discarding hesitation and anxiety to do what needs to be done, and of unwavering resolve. The sudden addition of guitars and kit really helps to ramp up the intensity and draw out our emotions in light of the scenes taking place.
From uplifting orchestral music to a rather dark and gritty electronic rock, Kane ga Watashi no Kokoro wo Yonde brings us a rather hectic and unusual theme apparently written for the equally crazy Hatton. With the glitched vocals, scratching, and harsh arps, we have the chaos required for combat music, contrasting noticeably with the use of the Westminster Quarters as a rather English theme. As a fun side note, apparently the Westminster Chimes are used as the school bells in Horizon’s Oxford!
Just from listening to Kanojo ni Tsugete, it’s fairly easy to tell what kind of scene it was written to portray. The 3/4 time waltz and use of harpsichord give the piece a rather stately and regal air befitting of the English court, while the organ and string writing give off an otherworldly atmosphere. It’s the perfect theme for Elizabeth, Oxford, and England, looking down from a throne at those below, with an untouchable air about them.
Once again we move off in an odd direction, ending up at some rather stylish swing music. There’s such an elegant and refined feel to be drawn from the slightly jaunty pace which also provides a young and carefree atmosphere. The sudden transitions between the two contrasting sections, written with completely different metric styles, makes for a really nice change of pace. If I remember correctly, this is the theme for the dates midway through the series – it certainly conjures that sort of friendly and enjoyable vibe!
Thematically speaking, Raku mo Ku mo Tomo ni Suru Naraba is one of the stranger tracks on the whole OST. It has that typical feel we regularly associate with piracy these days thanks to the slight hornpipe edge, yet it also has the soaring solo muted trumpet so frequently associated with Spanish music. When I originally heard it, my first thought was that it would be Grace’s theme, but the decidedly Spanish edge led me to consider it more likely a representation of the armada. However, it is neither – it is in fact a Mitotsudaira theme! It does work in this sense thanks to that sort of stately walking tempo march that we could easily associate with Neito’s mannerisms and nobility!
According to the liner notes, Jud. was written to be a sort of Ikou ze Minna 2.0, intended to surpass it in every aspect from intensity to emotional impact. To be perfectly honest, I still prefer Ikou ze Minna, but Jud. does a magnificent job in its role nonetheless. With the slightly atmospheric guitar riffs and the massive orchestra backed by synths and complemented by vocals, it stands as another great track to demonstrate unity much in the same way as its predecessor. Like many other tracks in Katou Tatsuya’s repertoire, the title is significant – Jud. as in the Horizonverse equivalent of an affirmative. Just as the title suggests, it’s a very resolute and forward moving track.
Yuuki Motetachimukau is yet another great orchestral track, opening with a sort of call and response pattern which gradually moves through the various orchestral sections before the main body of the track begins. There’s certainly a very militant and hostile feel to be found, perfect for the approach and attack of the armada. In a sense, the beautiful sweeping string melody is a little reminiscent of Kajiura Yuki, though the track as a whole is very different to the styles she normally writes.
Save you from anything has to be my favourite track on the entire OST. It’s one of those masterful pieces of writing that’s great to listen to alone, but when tied with thoughts from how it was used in the show and what it represents, it takes on an entirely new level of impact. Katou Tatsuya really seems to enjoy messing around with sampled vocals (these particular ones come from Vocal Foundry) and various Auto-Tune effects. There’s a beauty to the human voice that really contributes to the track, especially given the choice of lyrics. With its extremely uplifting combination, it’s a perfect accompaniment to the camaraderie and co-operation beneath London’s moonlit skies. Really, it’s the track that defines the entire series – ‘Save you from anything’, a line that applies in so many ways to events from Elizabeth and Mary’s promise to the central romantic themes and Malga’s struggles.
Perhaps one of the biggest themes in Horizon’s second season was the romance between Mary and Tenzo. Saiwai ni Saku Shiro no Hana is the perfect complement to this, soft, beautiful and with a slightly melancholic tone as a backdrop for their time apart and their time together. Being so often associated with ballads and romantic dances such as the waltz, I always find triple time to be fantastic for this kind of love theme, with that slightly nostalgic upturn and gradual build being almost like the break of dawn. In that sense, it’s ideal for the representation of the struggles that brought the two to this point – dawn breaking after a dark night or clouds parting after a storm.
As a theme for the hectic aerial battles, Nanimo Kamo Muda dewa Naku mostly catches my eye because of the swift breakbeat and its passing similarity to the style of battle music used in the Shadow Hearts series albeit without the usual folk vocals. With the arpeggiated synths, booming percussion and minimal chaos, it captures the urgency of the battle quite nicely.
I may have said that Save you from anything was my favourite track on the OST, but in truth I’m a little torn. Tamerainaku Tobikomu no wa is another magnificent track that could well deserve the top spot. The opening with its string ostinato and subsequent build are fantastic, immediately drawing full attention – something massive is happening here. According to the liner notes, this track was written to give the feel of breaking through or overcoming odds and it certainly has that power to it. The use of Requiem chorus and the chaos of the B section both give the track massive intensity while the downward octave runs in the brass section give brightness and hope to the track as a whole.
Much of the second half of the second disk of the soundtrack is dedicated to ‘light arrange’ and instrumental tracks, all of which are interesting to listen to in their own way, but none of which I particularly feel the need to talk about in any great depth. I actually find it a little funny that many of the instrumental tracks are those which had sampled vocals from various libraries – it seems strange to listen to the tracks without them when they played such a large role in the overall atmosphere of the music. It’s also a little funny in the sense that he actually broke the license agreements on many of those sample libraries by not crediting the vocalist and original writers, but I doubt anyone cares about that too much!
All in all, much like the first soundtrack, this was a magnificent OST, full of so many wonderfully written tracks in all manner of styles. It’s not just impressive in how vast Katou Tatsuya’s repertoire is, but in how well he writes across the different genres and how perfectly they fit with the themes within the Horizon universe. Stories tell of how ridiculously dedicated Kawakami Minoru is to the universe he created and its adaption into anime form, and Katou Tatsuya seems to be the perfect counterpart to this – writing so much music, a fair amount of which was never actually used in the anime itself, for the show. Reading the liner notes, it’s evident just how much passion he had for the job and I can’t say I blame him! I rather hope for a third season, not just because I love the show, but because it will give me a chance to listen to another fantastic soundtrack!