Startling Odyssey Original Album

[back cover]
Catalog Number: TYCY-5293
Released On: March 31, 1993
Composed By: Yasushi Miyagawa
Arranged By: Yasushi Miyagawa
Published By: Toshiba-EMI/Future Land
Recorded At: Unknown
Format: 1 CD

01 - Opening Theme from Startling Odyssey
02 - Prologue ~ Lightside Versus Darkside
03 - Battle Type.1
04 - Adventurer
05 - Battle Type.2
06 - Main Theme (Warrior of Lightside)
07 - Battle Type.3
08 - Darkside
09 - Battle Type.4
10 - Elven Pendant
11 - Battle Type.5
12 - The King of Darkside Descends
13 - Final Battle
14 - The Glory of Victory
15 - Finale
16 - Town
17 - Strange Dungeon
18 - Voyager
19 - Sorrowful Town
20 - Into the Sky
21 - Ancient Ruins
22 - Dragon King
23 - Castle's Menuetto
24 - Soldiers' March
25 - Lady Battler
Total Time

In my younger years, a random purchase (motivated by my need to unveil obscure Japanese aural artifacts of the last two decades) led me to discover Yasushi Miyagawa and his compositions for Startling Odyssey 2. The album was split into an arranged and original section. The arranged tracks were really the only thing that I found worthwhile about the album.

Of course, if there was a "Startling Odyssey 2," certainly there was a "Startling Odyssey 1." It just so happens that a friend of mine, former head of RPGFan (some of you know her as "Chudah"), had acquired the first Startling Odyssey album. She told me she much enjoyed the music to it and that she was interested in locating the second. I was only mildly impressed with the sequel's music, so when she told me she enjoyed the music to the first one, I could only assume that the music to the first was better than the second. I think I assumed correctly on that day.

While the album is still split between arranged and original tracks (the PSG sounds start on track 16 and run staright to the end), they are not labeled as such anywhere on the packaging. The PSG tracks sound like something that came straight off of an old Famicom title. And, in my opinion, it is kind of annoying. This is due to the nature of the music, particularly its genre, which I like to call "well-made circus music." I'm serious.

Turning to the arranged part of the soundtrack (which is the majority), I was shocked to hear music that I immediately associated with Sailor Moon. I quickly checked to make sure Yasushi Miyagawa had not contributed to Sailor Moon (indeed, he has not). The arrangements were of an alarmingly high quality; though I doubt most of it was performed live, I still have my suspicions about the opening track, which simply sounds like a live orchestra.

What characterizes this "circus" music? The instruments that live in the high registers (most woodwinds, and pitched percussion instruments such as the xylophone) are the star of many pieces, with fast, trill-like melodies that quickly and spastically jump from here to there. Any instruments with lower registers (many of the brass instruments) have quarter-note "oom-pa" and/or "walking" patterns that sit them in the background. Percussion is generally made up of what you'd find in a high school marching band, with track 13 being an exception (the more exotic percussion on this track makes it one of my favorites).

The arranged tracks are seriously impressive. I now know why Ms. "Chudah" wanted the album's sequel: she wanted more of the same. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the second album is a disappointment compared to this one. This is a true gem.

This "gem-like" status shows. As of the time I write this review, is stocking one copy of this album. It is selling for $120. No one's bought it yet, perhaps because they are unaware of the quality of music here, of perhaps because no one CD should cost that much money. Whatever the case, most VGM fans have likely missed their chance to own this piece of treasured VGM history. Indeed, this is a great shame.

Reviewed by: Patrick Gann