CD: Turning Point in Showa History: Battle of Okinawa - Original Soundtrack

 

Turning Point in Showa History: Battle of Okinawa - Original Soundtrack


Japanese CD Title

激動の昭和史 沖縄決戦 オリジナル・サウンドトラック
[Gekido No Showashi Okinawa Kessen Orijinaru Saundotorakku]

Music By:
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Masaru Sato
Cinema-Kan
January 2017
54:09
CINK-23

Based On:

Battle of Okinawa

CD

Review

By: Anthony Romero

Cinema-kan continues to valiantly release the work of composer Masaru Sato, issuing many soundtracks which have not been made available in full before. That trend reaches another of Sato's war scores with Battle of Okinawa. While this is quite removed from one of the composer's best efforts in the genre, it's still a lively score that begins to show hints of the composer's big band tendencies. Although with some highlights, it does suffer a bit, though, due to the many of the best cues being on the short side.

Now one of the cool things about soundtracks is being able to take a closer look at certain themes. So anyone who has seen Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), and I'd imagine it's gonna be rare for someone to be reading this review who hasn't seen that energetic film, will instantly pick up on the "Beautiful Okinawa" theme. This theme is actually the genesis for what would become the "Main Title" theme from the 1974 Godzilla movie. The connection makes sense, considering the opening for the 1974 film deals with Okinawa. However, for Battle of Okinawa this motif was awkwardly edited into the movie, looping the beginning of "The Journey to a Decisive Battle" and then having it overtly fade into "Beautiful Okinawa". Thankfully, the isolated version of that track can be heard in full at the end of the track in the bonus material. Since it's the best theme to come from the score, it's great to have it in full. It stands out as well as the motif is only used again as part of "The Young Girl's Survival - End Title", outside of a vaguely similar style used in "The Tragedy of Tokashiki Village". This also gives a good time to talk about sound quality, as if you compare the "Beautiful Okinawa" song to the "Main Title" from earlier soundtrack releases for Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) you notice really nice clarity here, and Cinema-kan has generally been good about producing good audio quality for their releases so far.

This does highlight one weaknesses of the score, though: a lack of memorable cues that aren't tragically short. Right off the bat with the 16 second "Toho Logo" theme is a great example of this. The track sounds a bit more ominous than the rest of the score, like it would have been better suited for Submersion of Japan (1973), but is enjoyable. "Operation Kikusui Number 1" is a slightly lively track and at 80 seconds is an exception, as it's aided by some nice trumpet work. It falls short of the big band style of energy that Sato can sometimes tap into, though. "Operation Kikusui Number 4" does the big band style with much more class, having shades of a Mexican mariachi at moments. However, at 21 seconds in length, it's just way too short. "Airfield Construction - Operation Iceberg" is also another rousing theme, but is less than a minute long too and finishes a little weak. That said, the "Under the Smoke - Resting Under Tension" is a longer at 90 seconds, and features some great trumpet work. It was wisely included as one of the themes off Toho's large compilation set War History of Men - Toho War Movies Soundtrack Collection (P-0001/P-0002).

In terms of the bonus content, there is actually quite a bit found on this disc. The movie score runs about 36 minutes long, while the bonus material clocks in at almost 18 minutes. So the extra material accounts for almost half the CD's runtime. Most of this material is structured around outtakes, which as is generally true are very slight variants from the final version used in the movie.It does have an unused, and unnamed theme, though. It's short, but has some nice trumpet work and is oddly enough more memorable than many cues that did make it into the film. The bonus section also includes a stock cue from Battle of the Japan Sea (1969) called the Warship March. This cue intentionally sounds dated, like it's being listened to from a radio with a lot of extra static and noise interference. The music is still real rousing, though… but will make listeners crave the full score, which Cinema-kan recently released as Great Battle of the Japan Sea (CINK-13).

Unfortunately, the bonus area also contains a number of songs. None of them are particularly great, the first version of "Girls' Normal School Song Sound Mix" ends very awkwardly, while the second version is a school chant that goes on for only a minute but feels much longer. "Radio Gymnastics" I will give a pass for being humorously awkward, as someone yells what sounds like exercise routines over very soothing music, great such an awkward juxtapose that it's hard not to laugh. The worst offender, though, is "To the Army Sword of the Back" which sounds like a drunken group trying to sing and feels like it shouldn't have been included as there is a lot of awkward banging and other background noises that makes it feel like it was lifted straight from the final cut of the movie. On the plus side, the start of the "Hometown Song" is pretty pleasant… up until it awkwardly, and out of nowhere, transitions into women moaning.

Overall, it's nice to have this score in its entirety, even if the song inclusion is mostly a miss. There are complaints to be had, and arguably it works better in a slightly abridged compilation format. In fact, most of the best themes from this set are also found on the eight track selection included with the War History of Men - Toho War Movies Soundtrack Collection (P-0001/P-0002). So this release is a great way to appeal to completionists, although soundtrack collectors who don't fall into that category and already have the earlier Toho compilation probably don't need to add this one to their collection. Also, those who really champion sound quality should be impressed with this release, as it offers quite a bit more clarity when compared to the Toho compilation. This is especially true for the track "Airfield Construction - The Iceberg Strategy", which sounds murky on the other release by contrast where here the drum work is so much more vivid that it's really night and day between the two.

As a side note, I have seen a few sources give odd cue numbers for the tracks on this disc. This includes the normal notation for outtakes (TX, where X is the take number such as T3) but also spelling it out so it's "M1 Take 3" and even odder the "M1 Track 3". Not sure where the latter originated from, as it's on many online stores like Amazon, but the "take" spelled out appears that way on the back of the CD case. However, the inside booklet uses the normal notation such as M1-T3. As another bit of notation, oddly the track title from the main selection to the outtake changes on cue M32.

Rating: Star Rating

Tracks

  1. Toho Logo (M1-T3)
  2. Hell in the Pacific (M1A)
  3. The Journey to a Decisive Battle (M10A)
  4. Main Title - Beautiful Okinawa (M10A + M2-T2)
  5. The 32nd Military Headquarters (M3-T2)
  6. No Need for Evacuation (M5)
  7. Airfield Construction - Operation Iceberg (M6)
  8. From the Ruins (M7)
  9. Green Frog in Kerama (M8)
  10. Okinawa Youth (M9)
  11. The Enemy Fleet Appears (M10)
  12. The Young Girl in Okinawa (M11)
  13. Kadena Bay Special Attack (M12)
  14. The Tragedy of Tokashiki Village (M13)
  15. Okinawa Landing (M14)
  16. The Grenade and the Young Girl (M15-T2)
  17. All-Out Attack Decision (M16)
  18. Auxiliary Survey of the Battleship Yamato (M17)
  19. Operation Kikusui Number 1 (M18-T2)
  20. The Sinking of the Yamato (M19)
  21. Operation Kikusui Number 2 - The Night Attack Fails (M20)
  22. Operation Kikusui Number 4 (M22)
  23. Under the Smoke - Resting Under Tension (M23-T2)
  24. Hell Resumes (M24 + M10A + M10)
  25. Abandonment of the Imperial General Headquarters (M25-T2)
  26. Shimada and Ushijima (M26)
  27. Hell in Okinawa (M27)
  28. The Bridge and the Tank (M28)
  29. The Wandering Young Girls (M29)
  30. "The Fighting Citizens of the Prefecture" (M30)
  31. Dedication Not Rewarded (M31)
  32. Flaked Bonito and Sugarcane (M32-T2)
  33. Duty to Advisers (M33)
  34. The Boys of Okinawa (M34)
  35. The Young Girl's Survival - End Title (M35-T2)

    Bonus Tracks
  36. Toho Logo (M1-T1)
  37. Toho Logo (M1-T2)
  38. Beautiful Okinawa (M2-T1)
  39. The 32nd Military Headquarters (M3-T1)
  40. The Grenade and the Young Girl (M15-T1)
  41. Operation Kikusui Number 1 (M18-T1)
  42. Unused Theme (M21-T1)
  43. Unused Theme (M21-T2)
  44. Under the Smoke - Resting Under Tension (M23-T1)
  45. Abandonment of the Imperial General Headquarters (M25-T1)
  46. Farewell Flaked Bonito (M32-T1)
  47. The Young Girl's Survival - End Title (M35-T1)
  48. Thank You Mr. Soldier (DB1A1B)
  49. To the Army Sword of the Back (DB2B)
  50. Warship March (DB2A)
  51. Thank You Mr. Soldier (DB2B)
  52. Radio Gymnastics (DB2C)
  53. Girls' Normal School Song Sound Mix (DB3A)
  54. Girls' Normal School Song Sound Mix (DB6A)
  55. Farewell Song (DB10B)
  56. Hometown Song (DB11D)
  57. Beautiful Okinawa (M2-T2)