Masamichi Amano - Symphonic Suite Selection
International Title
Music By: Masamichi Amano
Record Label: Quantum Leap Music
Running Time: 53:02 Discs: 1
Release: October 2005 CD Number: QLM-0005
Anthony Romero
First, thanks goes to Jessica Stan for sending this in for review!

To be frank, I had no idea this CD existed until it was sent to me. I consider myself a huge fan of Masamichi Amano's score for Super Atragon (1995), placing it among my favorite soundtracks of all time. Its a tremendous body of work, but its origins are from a so-so direct-to-video Anime film. The fact that we had two soundtrack releases for it already, one in the US no less, was a miracle in itself. To find that there was another release, taking the material in a new direction, was quite exciting... and then disappointing to find that, while the phenomenal music that shaped the score is still here, little was done to let it earn the "Symphonic Suite" title rather than that of a compilation.

Before diving into the contents of the disc, I do want to talk a little about Amano's techniques and his fondest for using the Polish Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. Believe it or not, this was, at the time of the Undersea Warship's release, seen as slightly controversial. Amano was, in publicated form, criticized for outsourcing his orchestrations and not using Japanese orchestras. This seems silly on of all things an OVA, but if you look at more releases from Quantum Leap Music, one quickly realizes that Amano had a lot of work done in Poland. So this animated film may have been the straw that broke the camel's back. Regardless, I find these huge orchestras refreshing from the normally small ones found in Japanese soundtracks, and feel they give a lot more depth to scores which Michiru Oshima enjoyed for Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002).

Now, this disc is split, although not evenly, just about down the middle between its contents based on the Undersea Warship film and Giant Robo. I'm going to focus more on the Animated Atragon film, being one of my favorite scores and also the Toho entry off this disc. When I first heard about this disc, I was expecting something like the Symphonic Suite: Princess Mononoke (TKCA-71395) which had new orchestration that sounded similar to the original recordings at places while it breathed new life in it at others. This release, however, is simply the original recordings edited together or presented exactly the same as they were in the film. The most commendable of these is "1st Movement: Ocean's Remembrance" which was intelligently expanded from the original track "1945, Day of Destiny" from the earlier album. "Warrior's Rest", however, is identical to "Go and Annette" from the previous soundtrack. The remaining three tracks are edited slightly, such as "Ocean Dragon" simply chopping off the last part of "Decisive Battle: When the Pacific Ocean was Dyed Red". "Sea of Hatred" is a melding of "Departure of the South Pole" and "Theme of the UN Forces", although the edit to bridge them is pretty obvious and doesn't feel organic for those familiar with the original scoring. Finally, "Great Prayer" is a bridge of "To the Ends of the Deep Blue Sea" (which is the second half of track 9) and the "Main Title".

Kind of disappointing, as yes a few cues are edited differently, but if you own the original ground-breaking album there isn't much merit to own this one as its the same music, same recordings, same everything just edited slightly differently and not always for the better. Regardless, what that doesn't change is that the music is still phenomenal. Masamichi Amano taxes the larger orchestra to their fullest and produces a very robust score with a great mix of commanding and sometimes soothing themes. While this CD falters as a true "symphonic suite", it does excel for what it actually is: a compilation. The selection for Super Atragon (1995) is also well picked, encompassing some of the best themes from the OVA. Taken at face value, the music still shines.

Now, the second part of the disc are a pair of suites for Giant Robo, also done by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. I haven't seen the subject matter or heard this work before, so can't comment how this might differ. While the quality is a notch below the Atragon work, it's still with a lot of flair from Amano and a rousing at times suite of music. It sounds a bit more American in its methods, like at times its reaching to be like John Williams, which certainly isn't a bad thing as it does convey a more romanticized serial flavor to it.

Overall, people who own the original CD should stick with that. People who don't own the original CD, even if it fetches top dollar, are still better off looking for it over this release. Anyone who loves the soundtrack the way I do, and has some money to burn, won't go wrong with this compilation-like symphonic suite though. Despite any drawbacks, the actual contents are great and the disc has a lot of replay-ability. On a side note, getting to compare this CD with ADV's Super Atragon - Metal Pulse Music Edition (CSA-001), it's pretty obvious that the audio quality is notably better on this release, with more clarity in the instruments and an overall richer sounding experience.
Rating: Star Rating
    Super Atragon (1995)
    Suite Symphonique 1
  1. 1st Movement: Ocean's Remembrance
  2. 2nd Movement: Sea of Hatred
  3. 3rd Movement: Warrior's Rest
  4. 4th Movement: Ocean Dragon
  5. 5th Movement: Great Prayer

    Giant Robo
  6. Suite Symphonique 2: "GR" /Train Chase Edition
  7. Suite Symphonique 3: "GR" pour l'Orchetre de Vent