Kamiyo Gakuen Makorouku Kurunugia -Music Compilation-


Review by · January 8, 2009

Note: the tracklist looks ridiculous, right? Well that’s the way it is: track title, track number, a smaller “code name,” and some mix/tempo information. There’s also some German mixed in there…

The sequel to Tenshou Gakuen Gekkouroku (which is, itself, a Gaiden to the Tokyo Majin Gakuen series), Kamiyo Gakuen Makorouku Kurunugia has a soundtrack composed by Yuki Sugiura and performed by his band, Heinrich Von Ofterdingen. Sugiura and crew last worked with Idea Factory on the Spectral Gene OST. Now they’re trying to fill the shoes of the venerable Motoi Sakuraba, who had done the soundtrack to Tenshou Gakuen Gekkouroku.

For the Japanese (or Romaji) impaired, “Gakuen” = School (usually, High School). Tokyo Majin Gakuen = Tokyo Demon High School. Tenshou Gakuen Gekkouroku = Reincarnation School Moonlight Record. And finally, Kamiyo Gakuen Kamiyo Gakuen Makorouku = Ancient School Momentary Illusion. We at RPGFan have no idea what “Kurunugia” (broken out as “Kuru Nu Gi A”) is supposed to mean, but it’s written in Katakana. There’s your Japanese lesson for today’s soundtrack review.

This genre-blending game (Graphic Adventure, Sim, and RPG rolled into one, similar to Sakura Taisen) features two types of music. At one point, we still have Heinrich Von Ofterdingen’s all-too-familiar Japanese power-rock. Whether it comes with vocals or not, there’s still plenty of ultra-distorted grunge guitar, in-your-face drums, and super-fast looped synth samples. I would expect nothing less from the group. But Sugiura himself informed me that, alongside this typical style of music, he has attempted to include music that reflects the Taishou (early 1900s Japan) era. Instrumentally, he hit the target. But many songs are still too contemporary in composition to be considered “Taishou.” For example, track 3 sounds more like something from the Gust Sound Team than a traditional 1900s Asian composition. Other pieces, like track 11, combine artificial synths, beautiful minimalism, xylophones, and a Lydian modal scale. The piece reminds me of something from Yasunori Mitsuda’s “Hako no Niwa,” and in a strange sense, I can see how this fits Sugiura’s vision of the Taishou era. The xylophone part, after all, plays mostly fourths and fifths across a Pentatonic scale (which merges well with the Lydian mode, since you get to skip the fourth note in a traditional scale).

So there is an “influence” of Taishou music, but it usually gets blended with the modern trappings of techno and/or industrial music, mostly all of it being synthesized. That’s not to say there’s something wrong; I’m rather glad I’m not listening to a straight Taishou-style album. The musical style that Sugiura creates outside of the Ofterdingen grunge rock is some of my favorite music in the last few years of VGM.

There were a couple surprise tracks that really threw me off my game. Sugiura added some jazz tracks to the album. One of them, “Twilight Show” (track 21), is a simple, light-hearted, bouncy piece that is only enhanced by the inclusion of a recurring sound effect that suggests you’re listening to an old vinyl recording. This is a good track to listen to with headphones on to hear the full depth of the artificially old sound. Track 21 is found again, in its entirety, on track 33, but in this version, a female vocalist (Miqui, the female member of HVO) sings a song alongside the xylophone’s melody. Be sure to check out the audio sample!

Take a listen to track 29, the final battle music. The piano part that runs alonside the vocals sounds something like Gust meet Masashi Hamauzu. Then, moments after the introduction, we’re thrown into a whirlwind of a hard-rock fest. Then the scratchy, non-melodic male vocalist joins the crowd, and the female choir comes back in to resolve the noise. This loop is nearly perfect: the ebb and flow of the chaos is made so clear and it’s all so intense. I love this song!

The opening vocal track is something special as well, but the “game size” version (track 1) is not nearly as good as the full version (track 32). There’s just a lot more happening musically in this 4 minute version. It would be a worthwhile single release, in my opinion. But I’m happy to have it on the full OST!

There’s a lot of clever, interesting music to be found on this soundtrack. I love when a band takes on the task of composing vocal and instrumental music for a game (as Motoo Fujiwara and “Bump of Chicken” once did for Tales of the Abyss). I’m not sure, between this and Spectral Gene, which soundtrack I prefer. But I will tell you this: between this album and Sakuraba’s Tenshou Gakuen, I quickly choose this soundtrack as the superior. Of course, some of that is because the VGM community has had too much exposure to Sakuraba, whereas Sugiura is relatively new to the field. Regardless, Sugiura’s compositions are fresh, Ofterdingen’s performances are well-produced, and this is definitely an interesting album for J-rock and VGM collectors to hunt down!

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Patrick Gann

Patrick Gann

Therapist by day and gamer by night, Patrick has been offering semi-coherent ramblings about game music to RPGFan since its beginnings. From symphonic arrangements to rock bands to old-school synth OSTs, Patrick keeps the VGM pumping in his home, to the amusement and/or annoyance of his large family of humans and guinea pigs.