I don't generally appreciate the synth soundtracks of anime. Quite often I find that the harsh sounds detract from the overall enjoyment of the experience. This means that every once in a while a good orchestral score might just be the right thing to liven things up, and a good orchestral score is what composer Koh Otani has delivered, for the most part, for the 1995 Gundam Wing universe. The first CD in a series of four, Gundam Wing Operation 1 contains a great deal of musical material from various sections of the show.
The score itself is an ingenious meld of orchestra and electronics with some rocking electric guitar as well. The first five tracks are the great musical representations of the Gundam pilots, with the initial "The Wings of a Boy that Killed Adolescence" as my personal favorite. These character themes are the best example of the rocking orchestral style containing the guitar. Some of the tracks later in the score place much more emphasis on the grating synths, while many of the tracks midway lean more towards pure orchestra. Each of these tracks is entertaining and many contain some marvelous highlights, such as "The Curtain of the Next Chapter Lifts Now", which sounds like a great entr'acte from an opera. Oddly, the grouping of tracks of similar styles seems to be the entire soundtrack's only notable weakness. All five tracks containing the theme for the heroine Relena Peacecraft are stuffed back to back! This makes it difficult to listen to the CD straight through. It would have made more sense to spread things out a bit.
The two songs are great highlights of the album as well. The techno song "just Communication", written and performed by TWO-MIX, is *wonderful* (it's why I purchased the soundtrack in the first place) and is reprised in an arrangement by Otani in track 38. The song "It's Just Love" at the end of the CD is more like typical anime pop, which isn't to say that it's bad, just not quite as interesting. Perhaps the concluding song's most endearing trait is the outstanding vocal performance by Rumi Ohishi.
All in all, Gundam Wing Operation 1 is a great musical experience worthy of any anime fan's attention. It has a great deal of high quality score with a couple of fun songs. The orchestral performance under the baton of Hiroshi Kumagai is excellent and the orchestra sounds quite large. There are three other CDs in the Gundam Wing series, but none of them match the strength of the original. I recommend it with few reservations.