Music that leaves you bre@th//less

Thinking back on the anime and games I’ve encountered over the years, a lot of the time it’s the soundtrack that sticks with me the longest.

I recently watched parts one to five of the <em>Diggin&rsquo; in the Carts</em> documentary on video game music &mdash; it strove to put a face on the composers that defined the earliest and most distinctive sounds of people&rsquo;s childhoods over several generations: the transition from 8-bit to 16-bit, arcade to home console, <em>Space Invaders</em> to <em>Metal Gear</em>. I started thinking back to which composers stood out in anime in the last while that really struck a chord with me, and I came across Hiroyuki Sawano.

<em>Guilty Crown. Blue Exorcist. Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn. Attack on Titan. Kill la Kill. Aldnoah.Zero. </em>What do all these shows have in common? The shared component is the composer Hiroyuki Sawano as the source of all your German, English, Japanese, and rhythmic choir chanting compositions of several memorable shows. Although he works with other musicians and lyricists, there&rsquo;s definitely a grand feel to his work. Sawano grew up influenced by composers like Joe Hisaishi, most notably composing for Studio Ghibli&rsquo;s films, and Hans Zimmer of <em>The Prince of Egypt, Inception,</em> and over a hundred other films. As I was thinking of all these anime, one thing that stood out above all else was the music.

<em>Guilty Crown</em> was a horrible disappointment from the time it hit mid-season (emo scarves and all), but the fact that the main storyline was centred around singing, and in the end, dancing, was what made music that much more important. Hiroyuki Sawano&rsquo;s music gave it that extra dramatic lift, along with the show&rsquo;s beautiful animation, even if the story and characters didn&rsquo;t hold up. Tracks I particularly liked were &ldquo;Bios,&rdquo;&ldquo;&pi;,&rdquo; and &ldquo;krOn&euml;.&rdquo;

In <em>Aldnoah.Zero</em>, it&rsquo;s the &ldquo;Bre@th//less&rdquo; insert song sung by Mika Kobayashi that really struck me as the song that defined the show for me, as well as the songs composed by Sawano: &ldquo;A/Z,&rdquo; &ldquo;aLIEz,&rdquo; &ldquo;Keep On Keeping On.&rdquo; His music has a large range of style influences, and from what I&rsquo;ve heard, it doesn&rsquo;t have any moments where you&rsquo;re pulled out of the story because the theme doesn&rsquo;t work with the scene. With these songs, I can pinpoint that moment in time in a show, and in a way, the music can foreshadow what is to come, simply because there might be a set time that the song will play.

&ldquo;Before my body is dry&rdquo; from <em>Kill la Kill</em>, most well known by the line &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t lose your way,&rdquo; plays at the battle climax(es), and never fails to pump me up. It really takes me back to watching the show, and realizing that music makes up as much of the ambience as colours or voice acting.

According to his Twitter, he&rsquo;s working on <em>The Seven Deadly Sins</em> and <em>Aldnoah.Zero</em> season two.&nbsp; For those more into games, you&rsquo;ll probably hear Sawano&rsquo;s work in the upcoming <em>Xenoblade Chronicles X</em> game for the Wii U, and he&rsquo;s recently delved into composing for Square Enix&rsquo;s free-to-play RPG <em>3594e.</em>

I&rsquo;ve put on Yoko Kanno&rsquo;s compositions for <em>Kids on the Slope </em>once in a while, and have &ldquo;Vertical Drop&rdquo; by James Shimoji set as my alarm clock. Anime News Network&rsquo;s online encyclopedia makes it pretty easy to see who worked on what projects, so it&rsquo;ll be an interesting project to see if you can find a common thread between the show you like and the composer that works on it.