01 - Under the Imperial Flag
02 - Flowery Paris (Vocal Collection Ver.)
03 - Prayer
04 - Eroica / Legend of Heroes
05 - 192455631
06 - Let's Walk Together
07 - Parasol of My Heart
08 - Sentimental...
09 - A Song to Remember You
10 - Where I'll Put My Heart
11 - Declaration! Imperial Floral Assault Group III
12 - The Future (Voyage)
Bonjour! Welcome to Paris! Take in all the sights and sounds, and enjoy your stay. What's that you say? You didn't expect to hear Japanese imperial ballads in Paris? Then clearly you haven't exposed yourself thoroughly enough to Red Entertainment's "Sakura Taisen" (Sakura Wars) series.
In the series' third title, "Is Paris Burning?", the Teikoku Kagekidan (Floral Imperial Assault Group) opens a new branch, and it's not in Asia. It's right smack-dab in the middle of Paris. The girls of the Paris Kagekidan are hard at work ridding the world of various evildoers and simultaneously performing beautiful musical numbers. That's the name of the game in Sakura Taisen, and this vocal album is a beautiful example of what these gals can do.
The album opens with the new opening theme song, "Under the Imperial Flag" ("Mihata no Motoni"). Structurally, the song is similar to the old opening theme song (from the first two games), and a new version of that song exists on track 11. For both of these songs, the entire Paris Kagekidan cast sing their hearts out in what is a brilliant display of style, grace, and feminine authority. Composer Kouhei Tanaka was not fooling around when he wrote these in-your-face theme songs. I myself cannot decide which one I like more between "Mihata no Motoni" and "Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan III." Both are outstanding.
Much of the album's remaining tracks are character-specific theme songs, though there are also some duets (such as Flowery Paris, sung by Mel and Ci, or Where I'll Put My Heart, sung by Soletta and Leni). Among the character solo songs, I was consistently impressed by the quality of the seiyuu's singing voices, but I was sometimes let down by the instrumental arrangements. The first two vocal albums contained some very "Japanese"-style songs, and the Sakura Taisen V vocal album successfully managed to capture many traditional American musical genres (broadway, jazz, country, gospel, etc.). There are very few songs on this album that I would consider "French." For the most part, they are either upbeat pop songs (such as Prayer) or very...eccentric (such as track 6, Coquelicot's theme song). Of course, Kouhei Tanaka will always succeed with the moody jazz ballads featuring piano as the primary accompaniment, and that is what makes "Parasol of My Heart" such a lovely song.
The vocal trio Sumire, Sakura, and Iris team up to sing another beautiful ballad, "A Song to Remember You." I was very pleased with this song, both in terms of vocal performance and instrumental arrangement. The strange synth solo (heard in the audio sample) blew me away. I didn't know a person could so successfully create a solo by sliding a note up and down the way they do it.
The ending song, entitled "The Future (Voyage)," is one of the longest on the album, extending past six minutes. As a stand-alone piece, it is incredibly well-written and also very memorable. However, the tribal drums and inspirational musical style make me feel like I'm listening to "The Lion King" soundtrack; I don't see how this song fits a game that takes place in Paris. Regardless, the song is beautiful, and as each character in the cast sings her separate part, the music slowly builds to an incredible climax involving lots of singing, chanting, and even yelling from the collective cast. It sounds glorious, but again, not quite fitting in with the game's environment and style. Don't let that stop you from enjoying the song.
With twelve tracks spanning nearly an hour of music, this vocal collection is certainly one of the best vocal collections one can purchase in the VGM market (which is no surprise, as nearly all Sakura Taisen vocals are top-notch). If you ever find this album available, I highly recommend it to you, regardless of your previous interactions (or lack thereof) with the Sakura Taisen series.
Reviewed by: Patrick Gann