Ragnarok Online II was a sequel to the massively popular MMORPG Ragnarok Online. It gained a loyal fan base throughout the years, so much so that it garnered a re-release in 2012 under the same name, albeit with a different subtitle: “Legend of the Second.” While only lasting 3 years before being shut down, the game still provided the basis for some incredible music in the soundtrack release.
Composed and conducted by Yoko Kanno, of Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex fame, and performed by regular collaborator the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, this album accurately, and sometimes eerily, conveys the atmosphere felt while traversing the world of Midgard. This is also another outing that features recurring singer Gabriela Robin, long rumored (and all but confirmed) to be a pseudonym of Kanno herself. The album was released over a year and a half after the debut of the game, for good reason. The limited edition box set came complete with game manual, hard cover art book, a jigsaw puzzle, a figure of the famous “Pukui,” and of course the OST. The quality and presentation of this limited edition is impressive overall, so much so that it’s easy to understand why only a thousand copies were produced.
The album starts off simply enough — melodic chimes and soothing vocals detailing a feeling of sadness, but as the song progresses you feel as though you have being whisked away atop the clouds in the brightest blue skies. This mood is immediately broken by the furious and powerful second track, accurately named “Din Don Dan Dan.” This track has enough power and speed to make even the most skilled Irish stepdancer feel challenged. There are beautiful instrumentals flawlessly performed throughout the OST, but none seem to pack the same punch as this one. This is in no way meant to imply that the rest of the album isn’t of the same caliber, but I genuinely had fun listening to this track.
The album dips with highs and lows, going from down-right catchy, to completely off-putting. The songs range from background music for a walk about town to those that might accompany a charge into battle. Vocal tracks are sporadically placed throughout the album, and at times feel almost awkward. That’s not to say these tracks ruin the overall feel of the album, but they could have been placed at better times. At times throughout the album I would get lost, and completely forget about the last song that I listened to. By the end of one album go around, I have already been able to peg which songs I will listen to again, and again, and again.
While I sit here thoroughly entertained (in various degrees, of course), I can’t help but feel that the majority of the album doesn’t feel like something I haven’t heard already. Generic may be a harsh term, but it feels as though some songs lack personality. This is remedied by listening to other tracks, such as “Red Wolf,” “Hold your Life,” and a personal favorite “5 Years War.” The best way to describe the entirety of the album is, unfortunately, 70/30. The bland songs are simply bland, while the songs that are “good” are actually incredible. The solid 22 minutes you get of completely beautiful and memorable songs more than make up for the other 47 minutes of mediocre songs you might as well have already heard. But don’t get me wrong – those 22 minutes are absolutely unforgettable.