Monday, January 13, 2014

Auditory Gold: The Kill la Kill OST

Kill la Kill makes shockwaves within the anime universe for its flirtation with female empowerment and fanservice, insane animation and ultra-stylized combat, and a story line simple enough to pull in fans of differing genres. My passion for this show, however, would not be complete without the original soundtrack: I don't speak a lick of Japanese, but I've listened to the series while doing other things, just for the music. And trust me, the connection between a good series and good music is a strong one (in case you couldn't tell, I'm really digging Kill la Kill).

The OST is heavily electronic, so anyone who likes 8-bit music, Royksopp and dubstep should feel at home. I gotta say, though, Hiroyuki's made some catchy and eclectic themes on this soundtrack. With that said, Hiroyuki displays his versatility by lacing the sounds of robot coitus with classical compositions; if Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer made a band together, you might end up with the Kill la Kill OST. "キ龍ha着L" is probably the most traditionally classical track, but matches Kiryuin Satsuki's regal nature and shady machinations. There's an electric guitar that sneaks up from behind the brass that drives the intensity up.

My favorite tracks happen to be themes that played during critical moments in the anime. The track "k1ll◎iLL" which begins as a frenzied dubstep mash-up with some sweet bass and drum beats apropos for a Capcom or Bandai arcade fighter. The noise gives way to a rising strings ensemble that plays faster and faster until near silence ensues... and then the choir singers come out. It's all goosebumps and chills from there. In the anime, the track plays over the first engagement Matoi Ryuko and Kiryuin Satsuki have, and I've watched that third episode multiple times just to see and hear and experience that high over and over. Another intense track is "AdラLib," which plays as Matoi Ryuko is defeated by the enlightened kendo master Sanageyama. It's entirely melancholic piano, and it is a beauty.

I have absolutely no criticisms of this album. I don't even like saying that because my inner cynic needs to complain about something, anything (I guess the English tracks sound like poor translations, but I don't recall any instance of Japanese songwriting that sounds good in English). Alas, I can't find anything that wasn't dynamic, wasn't intense, wasn't clever. An anime like Kill la Kill could have had any number of approaches to its soundscape, but the super dramatic approach has to be respected when you're dealing with an anime that, on surface level, seems anything but serious. 

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