Hey, Ar tonelico fans! You know your Hymmnos Concerts, right? We always get Side Red and Side Blue, but have you ever heard of Side Mori (translated: “Protection”)?
I can forgive you if you didn’t know about it. It’s been over a decade, and I am only now discovering it. I was aware of the music’s source, but not that it was published. Turns out, it was published … three times! In its first form, side Protection came as a pack-in bonus CD for individuals who purchased the Ar tonelico OVA (original video animation) in Japan. This same disc would make a reappearance in the Kurt hymneth as disc 7 of 9 — an exact reprint. Strangely, one of the three songs from Protection (“W:R:S”) also makes a 5.1ch debut on disc 8 of that same box set, which is a DVD with remastered audio tracks from Ar tonelico I and II.
In its third incarnation, GUST published a digital-only release for this album. Please note: the digital version does not include the three “KARAOKE Ver.” tracks. This last version was published by GUST in late 2014.
What can be said about these songs? For starters, I have a personal favorite, if only because I miss the composer’s sound style and I love the vocalist as well. “LUMINOUS_DEF” is composed and arranged by Takashige Inagaki, who passed away in 2009. His sound was never replaced, nor did GUST even try to replace him with a similar composer. What Inagaki did for the first Ar tonelico specifically, that’s a big piece of what made this track stand out to me. My favorite Hymmnos tracks from AT1 had Inagaki either composing or arranging. And, often, he would work with vocalist Yuko Ishibashi, who is the vocalist on this song as well. Yuko Ishibashi is rocking it hard on the studio mic with “LUMINOUS_DEF”: a fast 5/8 rhythm with the occasional reprieve at the end of a four-measure pattern. Of course, said “reprieve” can be 6/8, 7/8, or something so crazy that even I cannot figure it out when I sit here and count it out. Once again, Inagaki’s genius with complex and irregular time signatures comes through. I feel like I’ve discovered buried treasure.
The other two songs are written by Ar tonelico mastermind Akira Tsuchiya and performed by the lovely Haruka Shimotsuki. They’re quite good; they could have fit just as well in the game as in the OVA. “W:R:S” is slower and more impactful, in my opinion, than the bouncy “MOISKYRIE.” Your mileage may vary.
Now for the bad news. This is not an easy item to come by. Even the digital version has only been released through stores that check both your IP address and your credit card’s billing address to confirm that you’re a Japanese citizen. There are work-arounds involving middleman services, prepaid cards, and/or Amazon Pay via “mora.” But with that level of effort, you may be better off searching out the OVA bonus CD on Yahoo! Japan Auctions, or seeing if you can nab a secondhand copy of the Kurt hymneth box.