Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro - Image Album
International Title
 Spirited Away
Music By: Joe Hisaishi
Record Label: Tokuma Japan Communications
Running Time: 37:20 Discs: 1
Release: April 2001 CD Number: TKCA-72100
Anthony Romero
First, thanks goes to Jessica Stan for sending this in for review!

If you are of hardcore Hayao Miyazaki's work you are probably familiar with the concept of image albums. If not, the easiest way to describe them is that they are an early "demo" of the soundtrack. Image albums are based off the storyboards and then developed from there. Some of the material remains mostly unchanged, some drastically altered, and some not used at all. The enjoyment of this can vary, and its more for the dedicated fans who can't get enough of Joe Hisaishi's compositions. That same basic concept applies to this release for the award winning Spirited Away, which benefits from being very different from the finished score although its heavy in vocal work that doesn't quite measure up to the orchestrated pieces that Hisaishi would ultimately use.

The disc starts off with "To the River that Day" which fittingly would become the first theme heard in the final product, "One Summer's Day". This one is sung by Uumi, although there are no lyrics as she hums and chants along with the cue. It pales in contrast to the final piece, but is soothing on its own. "The Night is Coming" follows this, which is a little repetitive and would actually be reworked and moved to a different sequence to become the theme for Yubaba instead.

"The Gods" is next, which is a vocal version of "Procession of the Gods" from the final score. The final piece did have some hymn of its own, but "The Gods" is an actual song here with vocal work by Shizuru Ootaka. It has a far more upbeat and very traditional flavor to it, although is an acquired taste. After this is "Yuya", which again goes the vocal route this time with Tsunehiko Kamijo as the singer. The cue would eventually appear as "It's Hard Work!" in the final score. This is the fourth track off this CD and already the third vocal one. Hisaishi's original concept for the score, while similar in tune, is very different thematically compared with what would end up getting used. That leads into an exception of this rule as the "Inhabitants of Wonderland" is very similar to the final cue of "Sootballs". The following two tracks, "I'm Lonely, Lonely" and "Solitude", are ones that don't seem to have a parallel in the final soundtrack. The first brings up the idea of the Faceless character from the track name, but is far too cheery. The second is a pretty good theme considering it was left on the cutting room floor.

The CD rounds out its runtime with "Sea", which is almost completely unchanged from "The Sixth Station" and still remains one of the best themes of any of Hisaishi's pieces. "White Dragon" is the best vocal theme off the disc, although sounds too pop for the movie and was a wise exclusion in the end. Meanwhile, "Waltz of Chihiro" was used near the finale in "Reprise" and it sounds very simplistic here, but would be refined and improved for the score a lot.

Overall, this is probably one of the more interesting image albums because it's very different from the final material with the wealth of vocal cues and the unused themes. However, while it might be interesting, its not the most engaging collection of music from a stand alone experience. That tends to be the general running fault of image albums is that they are amusing to see how much the score changed from the development stages, but unless its the excellent one for Howl's Moving Castle - Image Symphonic Suite (TKCA-72620) they don't tend to be very satisfying on their own for more than a few listens.
Rating: Star Rating
  1. To the River that Day
    By: Uumi
  2. The Night is Coming
  3. The Gods
    By: Shizuru Ootaka
  4. Yuya
    By: Tsunehiko Kamijo
  5. Inhabitants of Wonderland
  6. I'm Lonely, Lonely
    By: Monsieur Kamayatsu
  7. Solitude
  8. Sea
  9. White Dragon
    By: RIKKI
  10. Waltz of Chihiro