How does a song sound like a Japanese high school student?

There seem to be certain techniques that recur often enough in anime that they can be used to quickly and easily express ideas. This goes for sound effects, facial expressions, and even descriptors used in speech (such as “seishun”, in phrases like “seishun da!”, which, when translated, seems a little weird. “It’s passionate youth!” just isn’t something one would normally say in English). So I’m not sure why I’m surprised to find it in music, too.

“Yuuri’s Theme” from Kyou Kara Maou, rendered in piano and strings, evokes both busy city life and a sort of calm–you might imagine the scene from Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu in which Sousuke and Kaname are rushing by bicycle to get back to school, and they take a shortcut down a narrow side street and end up gliding alongside seemingly endless rice paddies, the sky bright blue overhead, and everything still, all the world’s beauty captured in that fleeting instant. It’s high school. It’s a world filled with activity and promise, and the briefest of moments that remind you of comfort and home. (The full title of the piece is “Seishun ~Yuuri’s Theme~”.)

At first I was disappointed by this piece, compared to the beauty and complexity of some of the others. “Kaisou”, with its mournful piano; “Seisou ~Conrad’s Theme~”, and its skilled, folksy, comforting yet somehow haunting guitar; “Hisou”, with piano trills like falling tears; “Tsuioku”, with strings and bells swelling to bring the promise of goodness in the world. (Those titles roughly translate to “Reminiscence”, “Refreshing”, “Tragic”, and “Recollection”, respectively.)

I originally thought of “Tsuioku” as being more Yuuri’s theme than “Seishun”, because that’s the music that plays when he’s calm and confident and secure, when he’s being a leader and making tough choices based on love. But there is something comforting about “Seishun” that I can appreciate now. Musically, it’s set apart from the other pieces–it, and others that involve Yuuri (like “Seigi” [“Justice”], the self-parody cowboy/feudal hero music played when he “punishes” someone), invokes Japan more than the other pieces, which are written in a more European/classical style. “Kourin” (“Advent”), the music of the power of the Maou, is unlike any of the other pieces, for good reason.

Ultimately, all of these pieces bring out different parts of Yuuri…and, given that, I can understand why “Seishun” is labeled as his theme. “Seishun” is who he is in his heart. It’s his core, it’s his personality, it’s what made him right to be the Maou. “Tsuioku” is how he expresses his core. “Kourin” is his raw power and potential. And “Seigi” is how his personality deals with having that much power–with self-deprecating flamboyance. He knows who he is–a “wimp”, in Wolfram’s words–and he has trouble taking himself, and the idea of being a demon king, seriously.

Which is, of course, yet another reason why he is such a great ruler.