CD: Tsubaki Sanjuro - Original Soundtrack Title
 Tsubaki Sanjuro - Original Soundtrack
International Title
 Tsubaki Sanjuro
Music By: Michiru Oshima
Record Label: Avex Entertainment
Running Time: 35:29 Discs: 1
Release: November 2007 CD Number: AVCF-26521
Anthony Romero

First off, thanks goes to Jessica Stan for sending this in for review!

This disc contains the soundtrack to the 2007 production Tsubaki Sanjuro. This harks back to a very short lived period where Japan got Akira Kurosawa remake happy. It was followed in 2008 by The Last Princess before the trend was quickly abandoned. Now this particular film, as the title might suggest, is a remake of Sanjuro (1962), a sequel to the incredibly famous Yojimbo (1961). Why remake the sequel before the first film was a topic up for major debate when it was originally announced. It's generally assumed that the plan was the have this entry, Tsubaki Sanjuro, come first and then offer a prequel, since rights were lined up to remake both films. Regardless, the box office was not up to expectations and instead we have just a remake of the 1962 film. To score this production, Michiru Oshima was brought in. She gives a, at times, lively working of the material. Sadly, it's not too memorable and is one of her lesser scores that I have heard to date.

Now I haven't actually seen the 2007 remake at this current point in time. I am well versed in the original movies from the 1960's, though, and also enjoy Masaru Sato's lively, if very uneven, score. So I was curious how Oshima might approach the material. For the 1962 film, Sato's main motif was very carefree, and struck a much different tone than the score for Yojimbo (1961). For this production, Oshima is closer in style to the 1961, although her approach is anything if matching the big band style of Sato.

When it comes to the highlight of the score, that is easily the "Main Theme". This is also the track that sounds the most similar, by coincidence or through intent, to the music from the original Kurosawa films. In particular, for a brief moment, it seems to mimic the music swell of the opening title of Yojimbo (1961). The march-like motif here is enjoyable, but you will hear it a lot. It shows up in other tracks like "Bloodthirsty", "Ten Men!", "Camellia House" and more. While some cues, like "Doubt", put a more melodramatic spin on it, often times it just feels like the same theme over and over.

In fact, the greatest weakness of this score is the immense amount of repetition. Now the damage repetition has to a score does depend on the strength of the themes being reused. For example, Oshima's Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002) is fairly repetitive. The motifs reused in that 2002 score, though, are nothing short of incredible and leave you wanting to just listen to the soundtrack all over again when you are done. In this case of this score, it's that "Main Theme" that is used again, and again, and again. It's hard to express how often it's used, in fact there are four themes back-to-back that all use this same motif. It's a good theme, but not strong enough to prop up an entire score like it's utilized here. Still, when it comes to the best cue off the disc, it has to be "Finale". It's a longer version of the same motif, and had it not been used so often, would have really stood out.

Despite the repetition of the main theme, there are some other cues that do buck the trend and stand out. "A Sword Without a Sheath", for example, is a very majestic sounding track utilizing violin work to great effect. It's unfortunate it's so short, though, at just 45 seconds long. "Reconnaissance" also stands, although sounds a little goofy. The horn work reminds the listener of Takayuki Hattori actually.

Overall, the soundtrack is enjoyable but not too memorable. It would likely shine on an Oshima compilation, one that featured just the "Finale" track, but as a whole score it feels a bit too one note.

Rating: Star Rating
  1. Main Theme
  2. Thoughts
  3. Sanjuro Genru
  4. Raid
  5. Bloodthirsty
  6. Rival
  7. Doubt
  8. Ten Men!
  9. Dark Night
  10. Sword Fight
  11. A Sword Without a Sheath
  12. Camellia House
  13. Kosatsu
  14. Crisis
  15. Reconnaissance
  16. Akamatsu Road
  17. Helpless
  18. Tiger's Den
  19. Search
  20. Fire
  21. Tactics
  22. Suspicion
  23. Submission
  24. Ambush
  25. The Enemy Camp
  26. Komyoji
  27. Desperate Situation
  28. The Direction of the Camellias
  29. Camellias Coming
  30. Conclusion
  31. Uncertainty
  32. Finale

    Bonus Tracks
  33. Young Samurai
  34. Sack of Rats
  35. Rejoice