Gust’s “Atelier” series (which includes Mana-Khemia) has some awesome music. It awesome has beautiful vocal tracks strewn throughout. So very, very good are these vocal tracks, that Team Entertainment published a three disc collection of vocal tracks from the series. What will you find here? Let’s discuss.
First of all, what you won’t find. This box says 1997~2009, but it ends with Atelier Annie, not Atelier Rorona (also released in 2009). So the vocal tracks from the PlayStation 3 title Atelier Rorona are not to be found. Also, this collection doesn’t contain any of the vocal arrangements of instrumental albums that you’ll find on the two “Volkslied” albums or Atelier Elie’s Vocal Collection. Finally, if there are any vocal tracks hiding exclusively on a drama CD somewhere (and I don’t know of any, but there might be some), they didn’t make this set.
Everything else you can possibly think of from the Atelier series is here. Even the remix of the Atelier Viorate ending theme that I love (and previously was only found on a promotional “Soundtrack Book” for Atelier Iris) made it on here. The Hermina and Culus theme is found here. Jazz arrangements from singles are here. If a song exists in more than one language, or has more than one set of lyrics, it is found in all versions here. In this sense, it is a fairly complete vocal collection.
And, if you’re a huge Gust fan (like myself) and you think “there’s no reason for me to own this, since I already have this tracks in one form or another,” those sneaky composers did exactly what you would expect them to do: add three new, original vocal themes. The first track of disc one, “A Once-Beloved Picture Book (Vocal Version),” is a new vocal arrangement of the classic instrumental track from Atelier Marie, the very first Atelier game. Mitose-san does a great job with the performance here. The second track of disc one is a vocal version of “Hill of Beginnings,” also from Atelier Marie. Yuki Mizusawa, a relative lightweight among Gust vocalists, does a decent job with the performance, but it’s not the greatest song in the box set by a long shot.
The third and final original piece comes from Gust’s all-star vocalist, Haruka Shimotsuki. “LA FOLIA,” which is the last track of disc three, was a bit of a mystery. The liner notes didn’t mention at all where the song comes from. But, surprise! It’s another vocal arrangement of an Atelier Marie piece: “An Adventurer’s Song” (disc 1, track 29 on the Team Entertainment release of the Atelier Marie OST). Compare the melody of this track to LA FOLIA, and you can clearly see that the songs share a melody. So, yes, it’s another arrangement from Atelier Marie.
Throughout the three discs (named “Ground, Ocean, Air” as though I’m gaining new forms of transportation in a traditional RPG), you’ll hear all of the vocal tracks from Atelier Elie, Lilie (including “Hermina and Culus”), Judie, Viorate, Iris (all three!), Lise, and Annie, as well as both Mana-Khemias. Each vocalist really defines the style. Mamie Horie, who was very active in the earlier years but seems to have disappeared since Atelier Iris 2, often delivers strong, jazzy performances. If you want the crazy ethnic percussion and nasal chanting vocals, you want Haruka Shimotsuki. Noriko Mitose is great for ballads and all-out rock tracks (see “Lorelei” on disc three). Then there are plenty of vocalists who only appear for one or two entries in the series, and they each have their own style.
Hearing all of the opening, ending, and “event” vocal themes from one of my all-time favorite franchises strung together, one after another, is an overwhelming experience. It brought back a lot of memories. A few songs really aren’t my cup of tea (the Atelier Annie songs, specifically), but almost everything presented on this three disc set is aural gold (note the pun: “aurum” being Latin for gold).
My take on this vocal collection is that, if the vocal tracks from the Atelier series are something you really enjoy, you ought to add this box to your VGM collection. Also, if you don’t have a lot of experience with the Atelier series, but you like Ar tonelico, you may want this box as well. Unfortunately, Akiko Shikata (who is the most regular vocal performer in the Ar tonelico series) has never worked on the Atelier series. But Noriko Mitose, Yuko Ishibashi, and (of course) Haruka Shimotsuki have worked on both Ar tonelico and the Atelier series. Thus, I’ll have to wrap up my review with my best used-car-salesman pitch: “Don’t hesitate! Act now! Pick up this special box set before it’s too late!”