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Japanese Review

Kyou Kara Maou OST 3

My review of the third Kyou Kara Maou soundtrack.

I’m a big fan of the music of Kyou Kara Maou. Youichirou Yoshikawa expertly weaves together Baroque, pop, acoustic, keyboards like something out of The Princess Bride, and swelling orchestral movie soundtrack styles for an eclectic blend worthy of the cultural mishmash that is the universe of Shin Makoku, Dai Shimaron, et al.

The actual name of the third soundtrack is 今日からマ王! ユーリ陛下・生誕記念!? 想い出のアルバム, which means “Kyou Kara Maou! King Yuuri’s Birth Commemoration?! Memory Album”. I’m guessing the “birth commemoration” thing is a reference to Yuuri’s coming-of-age ceremony, which occurs early on in season 3.

The album came out in July of last year(!), but due to the odd name, which is a far cry from the easily comprehensible “Kyou Kara Maou OST2 + D“, I didn’t realize it was a soundtrack until a couple weeks ago. Perhaps this is why the album is also referred to online as 「今日からマ王! 第3シリーズ」O.S.T.&メモリアル・ダイアローグ, or “Kyou Kara Maou Third Series OST and Memorial Dialogue”.

Regardless, I was very excited when I realized what this album was, I ordered it immediately, and I’ve spent the past couple of weeks listening to it over and over. Like the other KKM OSTs, it’s got some great pieces, with a few disappointing and surprising omissions. Here’s the rundown.

1.      閃光~魔王のテーマ3 – “Flash ~ Maou Theme 3”

This is the spooky new Maou theme that made me wonder if Yuuri was going to turn evil. It first appeared in episode 81 and was used to great effect in episode 99, when Saralegui uses Yuuri against Dai Shimaron for the first time. Though the piece initially seemed to foreshadow a moral fall, Yuuri’s purity was ultimately incorruptible, and it was Geneus and Saralegui who ended up bringing forth Soushu-like energy in the end. This theme faded out as the series progressed and Yuuri matured; it stands as a testament to what can happen if Yuuri lets his emotions rule his powers.

2.     切願~ジェネウスのテーマ – “Supplication ~ Geneus’ Theme”

This theme truly serves its purpose of representing the tragic character of Geneus. It’s sad, wistful, filled with longing, quiet, despairing. It’s the theme of a man who’s been cowed, a man who acts out the wishes of another, a man with an impotent will. There’s calm but sorrowful chanting, sad strings, and then the echo of Shinou’s theme to represent Geneus’ true desire–the very thing he can’t have.

3.     神謀~サラレギーのテーマ – “Divine Strategy ~ Saralegui’s Theme”

There are two three themes used for Saralegui, both involving Asian-style string-plucking music. (I should probably know what instrument that is, but I don’t. Some kind of lute, perhaps?) This is the more evil of the three. While I’m glad to have this creeping, calculating, overconfident theme, I wish I could also listen to the piece used at the end of episode 84 or 85, when we first see Saralegui. That version is more gentle, and I think it represents the part of Saralegui’s soul that is drawn to Yuuri. When the episode first came out, I made a .wav file from my fansub so I could listen to it. The piece can actually be heard in track 26 on this album, but Yuuri’s talking over it…I wish I had a raw version, without talking or episode sound effects. The third Saralegui theme can be heard in track 25, with Saralegui talking over it. It’s kind of between the other two; not sinister but not gentle, it’s more of a general theme.

4.     神剣 – “Divine Sword”

We first hear this piece when Shori uses the Divine Sword in episode 105(?), and it comes out again in episode 111, when Alazon appears at Blood Pledge Castle and Beryes reveals his true shinzoku appearance. It’s strikingly different from most other background music in the series, powerful, with strong, eerie organ, the low tolling of a bell, cymbal and gong crashing, and chants that seem swept along by the sheer might of the shinzoku. It’s the music of the “gods”.

5.     雄飛 – “Embarking”

When I first heard this piece, in the OVA, I was irritated. The main melody is pretty much a rip of “Fireworks” from the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix OST. However, as time has passed and I’ve listened to both pieces, I’m starting to like this one a little better. Where “Fireworks” is pretty repetitive (other than a weird guitar solo that wasn’t used in the movie), “Embarking” has interesting variations and eventually goes into a different theme. It’s kind of like Yoshikawa heard “Fireworks” and said, “I bet I could do that better!”

6.     夢現~アラゾンのテーマ – “Sleepwalking ~ Alazon’s Theme”

We first hear this piece in Saralegui’s dream/flashback about his mother. It’s a very pretty, slow and dreamy piano solo. I think it represents the more innocent time of joy and love in Alazon’s life, before the Divine Sword was stolen. If back then she was “sleepwalking”, the theft snapped her awake and hardened her resolve.

7.     襲来 – “Attack”

This is the new, oft-used fighting music. It’s similar to the old standards 戦闘 (“Battle”) and 厳峻 (not sure how to translate that one!) from OST 1–lots of drums and strings all over the place, with horns heralding the encounter.

8.     反撃 – “Counterattack”

More battle music! This slower piece is used a lot with the White Ravens and includes plenty of strings and horns. Sharp bursts call to mind running and ducking behind trees, and then the slow, charging strings and horns hail the coming onslaught. The horns do something similar to what they do in 襲来, but slower and in a diminished 7th (I’m pretty sure, anyway…I’d need to check it on a piano).

9.     試練 – “Ordeal”

This piece was used when Shinou flew up to help Yuuri at the end of episode 115 and beginning of episode 116. The low, rumbling intro and  triumphant horns call to mind a warring army, a crisis, and then a regal figure appearing to bring new hope.

10.     勇姿 – “Hero”

This piece was used for Alford and for episode previews. It’s a little more simply heroic than most of the series music–there’s no gray area, no emotional crisis, just a hero doing his thing. I like it though; it’s soaring and passionate.

11.     風の子守歌 – “Lullaby of the Wind”

This is the song Greta’s mother sang to her in the magical flashback in episode 93, which shares its name with this piece. Since this song is only used in one standalone episode, I was surprised to see it included on an album. It’s okay, but I would have rather had the Latin-inspired instrumental piece from episode 89, 花嫁はアニシナ!? (“The Bride is Anissina?!”).

12.     希望 – “Hope”

This is the quiet, gentle piece that serves the same purpose for season 3 as 追憶 (“Reminiscence”) did in the first season: it gives you warm fuzzies. It’s pretty and soothing. It’s used for episode denouement and for quiet times at the palace.

13.     架橋 – “Bridge”

This is actually a variation on 邂逅 (“Chance Meeting”) from OST 2. The tempo’s the same, and the left-hand piano is identical, but the piano right hand is an octave higher doing a pretty little theme that would probably act as a good harmony to the original piece. The strings come in later, swelling to support the right hand piano theme. It’s a nice variation, but I think I prefer the original.

14.     宿運 – “Destiny”

This is the spooky piece that’s always associated with Murata/Daikenja and Shinou. It’s often played in the Shinou Temple. The theme is actually a slow, more haunting variation on 畏敬~眞王のテーマ~ (“Reverence ~Shinou’s Theme~”) from OST 2.

15.     帰還~ジェネウスのテーマ2 – “Return ~ Geneus’ Theme 2”

This is a vocal version of the music played in episode 116, when Yuuri saves Geneus’ soul and all the dark power is transformed into beautiful energy snowflakes. I do enjoy the vocal, but I prefer the instrumental and really wish it had been included on the album. It can be heard in track 25, with Saralegui talking over it.

The next eleven tracks are the individual voice actors performing lines from throughout the show–or, in Conrad’s case, paraphrasing, since much of Conrad’s character development didn’t occur in easily-recognizable dialogue.

16.     ユーリのメモリー for コンラッド – “Yuuri’s Memory for Conrad”

17.     コンラッドのメモリー – “Conrad’s Memory”

18.     ギュンターのメモリー – “Gunter’s Memory”

19.     ヴォルフラムのメモリー – “Wolfram’s Memory”

20.     ユーリのメモリー for ヴォルフラム – Yuuri’s Memory for Wolfram”

21.     グウェンダルのメモリー – “Gwendal’s Memory”

22.     村田のメモリー – “Murata’s Memory”

23.     ユーリのメモリー for 村田 – “Yuuri’s Memory for Murata”

24.     勝利のメモリー – “Shori’s Memory”

25.     サラレギーのメモリー – “Saralegui’s Memory”

26.     ユーリのメモリー for サラレギー – Yuuri’s Memory for Saralegui”

27.     大切なもの(TVsize) – “The Important Thing (TV Version)”

This is the light pop song played in episodes 92 and 117. It’s kind of cheesy, but nice.

One piece I was very sorry to discover was not included at all, not even as background music for a memory, was the Latin-influenced instrumental from episode 89, 花嫁はアニシナ!? (“The Bride is Anissina?!”). The piece is played when Gwendal drags Anissina away from the castle and everyone (even the audience) thinks they’re eloping. It isn’t used anywhere else in the series. It’s just lovely, and I’d like to listen to it on repeat. There were also several pieces used as background music in the Memory tracks that I’d like to have clean.

In all, though, I’m pretty pleased with this album. It’s great to have so much more of the music I love, and the memory tracks provide good Japanese listening practice. Maybe in a future post I’ll break down what’s said in each of the tracks.