Where most companies, including Toho Music, have backed off doing soundtrack releases for classic Japanese movies, Cinema-Kan is stepping up to the bat. In fact, they are making a major effort to release scores from maestro Masaru Sato. This includes everything from his science fiction work to war films and even samurai productions... although this entry is more of a black comedy spoof of the latter.
In doing so, the company is releasing many scores for the first time, including this 1968 movie score. True to form, this soundtrack is also a lively score from Sato, although does suffer a bit from a very short runtime.
Presented here in Mono, as it was recorded, the soundtrack starts off with one of its best tracks in the form of the "Main Title". This initially drum heavy cue is very energetic, going full big band with trumpets and string work in a manner that is right in Sato's wheelhouse at this point in his career. This motif gets played with a lot during the soundtrack as well, including a well done soothing variant in "Just Like Two Years Ago". In fact, the score has several soothing tracks that stand out positively, with the slightly playful "Genta and Jurota" and "Chino's Sorrow" striking a good balance between being elegant yet lively.
Sadly, the weakness of the score is that it's quite short. Around 33 minutes in length, there isn't a ton of music on this release and what's more is that the score is repetitive. Motifs are used again and again. The main title theme is particularly suspect for this, appearing in the outtakes but also variants such as in "Raid". The variations are usually strong enough to make the tracks work, but for such a short soundtrack it does add a slight degree of repetition to the proceedings.
As a side note, the track titles are supposed to be humorous in nature, which is hard to translate. For example "Old Woman, Messy......!?" relates to the scene where Hanjiro Tabata discovers that the old woman had hung herself. It treats the scene with about the some level of seriousness that Hanjiro does, although is hard to translate without feeling like a train of thought (婆さん、メシだ……!?). Usually I can translate these track titles from memory of the movie as a base guidelines. However, with this score I had to literally watch the movie as I was translating, learning new words like Kago for when people are carried in large baskets, and still the track titles are pretty strange. In doing so, though, I did note that there is a track missing off this set between M5 and M6 and also between M7 and M9 (which is not the M8 found in the bonus tracks), although they are both repeats of earlier cues.
In fact, in terms of the score presented here versus the movie, it's kind of faithful. M32 for example was duplicated twice in the movie, although appears here only once. Purists can always duplicate the track if they want to be movie faithful, although the soundtrack's approach of including it only once was probably wise. Also, at the very end of the bonus selection is the song "High Jinks". In terms of chronological order, this appeared in the film between M18 and M20.
Overall, despite a lot of weaknesses... the score contains such an engaging main title theme and some stellar, soothing tracks that it's hard not to recommend it. While I drifted between a 3.5 and a 4 star rating, settled on the former in the end, although was quite close.