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Mobile Suit Gundam UC (Unicorn) OST Notes

I’m sure anyone left over still reading this blog would be familiar with the latest installment in the venerable Gundam franchise this year – Mobile Suit Gundam UC. Back when the show was announced, I was ecstatic to hear that a certain Sawano Hiroyuki was going to pen the score to it, given how I really loved how his pieces were able to stir my soul with the loud epic scope which made Sengoku Basara and Gigantic Formula seem larger than life.

With the second episode having aired approximately two months ago, we, the viewers have been treated to a showcase of how most of the pieces in the released original soundtrack were used in context, and it is with that knowledge I intend to write a little more on the tracks which have had less spotlight on them due to the timing of the soundtrack’s release relative to those of the episodes.

As such, I will be cherry-picking some of the tracks and writing about them individually rather than do a proper review of the entire CD. I’ll be writing from the perspective of one who’s watched both episodes released so far, so it’ll help if you’ve watched them as well. Pretty much everyone who’s watched the show, and taken note of the BGM would have easily noticed tracks like “Unicorn” and “Mobile Suit”, which gave pronounced overlay on the most noteworthy battle scenes so far. As such I would be picking tracks which attracted less attention, but still tracks that stood out in my opinion. For the ones who would like a more comprehensive review, I’d like to refer you to zzeroparticle’s writeup here (Why is it the only review of it on the internet I can find?!). Without further ado, onward to my personal choice for Anime Soundtrack of 2010…

“U.C. 0096” https://sites.google.com/site/thekrazycow/01U.C.0096.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1

Kicking things off is a track I’m sure held the spotlight for a few minutes, when it was the headliner track for the second episode’s title screen, which segued directly into the short but sweet fight where Banagher kicked some major funnel butt. The percussion coming into the forefront made me feel a grit that is not present in the other battle tracks in this soundtrack. It complemented that battle packed full of highs and lows pretty well: there’s the lulls, the intense percussion-heavy portions mixed with light strings, and of course short buildups into quick crescendos of brassy awesome.

This is one track which I failed to notice when only the first episode was out, and I felt it was a rather underwhelming piece, that is until episode 2 aired and everything fell into place as the complete package – animation, action, fanservice and music. Before that, I somehow was rather turned off by the quick alternation between the lulls and brass which probably wasn’t able to hold my attention. I’m glad that I eventually was able to appreciate it!

“Marida” https://sites.google.com/site/thekrazycow/07MARIDA.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1

Enchanting twinkling interspersed with dissonant piano lures me into a what seems to be a world of mirrors, where the real and imaginary are confused, but fascinating. The creeping undercurrent of electronica undermines the clarity, adding to the miasma and bringing into the picture voices of what seems to be a chilling past. As it all comes to a head, everything gets louder, as though each element is struggling for exclusive attention on itself, but it is finally silenced as the turmoil comes to a presumably temporary end.

This track hasn’t been played in the anime yet as far as I remember, but it is very different from the character herself whom we’ve only seen doing little thoughtful/cute things for people around her on one end and fighting her way through fierce battlefield combat on the other. When the episode comes along that delves into the details of this intriguing setup, you can bet it’ll have my full attention at the very least.

“On Your Mark” https://sites.google.com/site/thekrazycow/12ONYOURMARK.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1

The track, from my point of view concentrates the most on one theme: the frontier. The feeling of overall hope rings loud and clear in this one; hopes of discovery, aspirations of greatness, and the belief that mankind would flourish as it entered a defining moment that was the start of the Universal Century. From the symbolic trickle that is the woodwind at the start, it grows and envelops me in increasingly bigger brass and strings until the choir kicks in and reminds me that no man is left behind.

All that said, we as Gundam fans all know that it didn’t happen though. Not for at least a hundred years more! So I guess Sawano’s trademark brash loudness is really hitting the mark on this one with its obfuscation and focusing on sensational crests in the melody and repeating them with different instruments. Y’know, like a political rally.

“Bring On a War” https://sites.google.com/site/thekrazycow/14BRINGONAWAR.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1

Soft, but firm rhythms kick off this piece, and the suspense starts rising rapidly to build up the tension. I like how it’s able to give off the feeling of a covert operation with those echoing voices, and the gravity of it is nicely underscored by the intensity of the beats and added synth bass as the track proceeds on. The fast-paced mandolin that comes a quarter of the way in also is rather symbolic in how surgical it all feels as well.

Just like a Metal Gear Solid game, there will be times when the gloves come off, the element of surprise is lost, and it all balloons into a full-blown chase. The last quarter of the track is where that all happens, glorifying it all as though it’s providing the backdrop to the hero eventually jumping out of the climactic final explosion in the nick of time.

Notably, we hear the similar techniques in a later track on the CD, “Go on a Foray”, except this time the mood is a lot less belligerent with the incorporation of an Indian slant, as well as some electric guitar into the instrumentation. I didn’t like this version as much, as the electric guitar failed to mesh in properly and felt rather jarring, though the use of what sounded like a sitar at the beginning was really refreshing as I’ve never heard Sawano do that before.

“Life & Death” https://sites.google.com/site/thekrazycow/17LIFE%26DEATH.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1

“Life & Death” is subtly bleak from the get-go: a slight, but certain anger that arises from the atrocities which happen to those who get caught in the crossfire. The track wastes no time in turning this into an all-out lament with the choir bringing the sense of futility and hopelessness into full gear.

For those who have been taking note of Sawano’s anime soundtracks so far, “Life & Death” should bring to mind a similar track from Sengoku Basara: “Luster”. I really like his brand of despair that was done with these two tracks, as the large sweeping scope of both anime really does not require the use of the subtlety in my opinion and the tracks definitely do a great job of bringing it all across.

“RX-0” https://sites.google.com/site/thekrazycow/22RX-0.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1

I’m sure this track really needs no introduction for everyone who has taken a listen to Gigantic Formula‘s main theme, and sounds so similar to it that they probably can be mistaken for each other.

What is this chippy glorious fanfare I’m hearing? It’s so… happy. When the titular mecha launched in episode 2 to this theme music, I didn’t like it one bit. It really lacked the delicious gravity which “Unicorn” had so much of, and felt like a mere pomp-and-pageantry entrance by way of that simplicity of the rehashing. I heaved a sigh of relief when the BGM was brilliantly transitioned over to “Unicorn” mid-fight, and by that reaction I deem this track to be the lowest point in the CD.

And that’s my first real soundtrack post, which I would decline to call a review due to obvious reasons. Within this endlessly droning text wall are purely my thoughts on the soundtrack which are probably already irrevocably intertwined with the contextual scenes, considering how much I love the show. I thank you for your time, and I’ll leave you with a trailer of the next installment of the OVA series, titled “The Ghost of Laplace”.

(Nice theme song from Chemistry, if I may add!)

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