Princess Mononoke Symphonic Suite

"A worthy supplement to the impeccable original soundtrack." Recommended

Artist Credits

Tracks

47 minutes total
  1. The Tale of Ashitaka
  2. TA.TA.RI.GAMI
  3. Departure ~To the West~
  4. Mononoke Hime - Piano by Joe Hisaishi
  5. The Forest of Shishi God
  6. Requiem ~Cursed Power~
  7. The Underworld ~The Adagio of Life and Death~
  8. Ashitaka and San - Piano by Joe Hisaishi
  • Released Jul 8, 1998 by Studio Ghibli Records (catalog no. TKCA-71395, retail 2913 yen).

Reviews

A worthy supplement to the impeccable original soundtrack.

Recommended

Editor's review by Adam Corn

The original motion picture soundtrack to Mononoke Hime (aka Princess Mononoke) was a masterpiece, easily one of the best adventure scores in recent memory. With original composer and Ghibli mainstay Joe Hisaishi at the helm arranging, there's little question that Mononoke Hime Symphonic Suite will be an excellent album as well. The only question is whether the differences in arrangement and performance warrant its purchase as a replacement or supplement to the original soundtrack. The answer is a resolute yes.

Compared to the 32 tracks in the OST, Mononoke Hime Symphonic Suite consists of only eight much lengthier arrangements. Rather than merging several OST tracks together in medley form as you might expect, Symphonic Suite instead provides extended arrangements of each individual theme. These arrangements are faithful to the originals, mostly building upon them through repetition and slight variation, as well as with modest changes in the orchestration and performance. As a fan of the OST, hearing extended versions of its most memorable moments with slight but noticeable differences is a relishable experience. I won't say that the instrumental changes are necessarily better or worse than the original, just that they are different - and certainly not in a bad way.

Make no mistake though, Symphonic Suite does have its moments to shine in a different light from the original. Scattered about are some arrangements and segues that are noticeably different from the OST. Among them are a booming, triumphant finale to a "Mononoke Hime" theme arrangement even more beautiful than the OST version. Also worth mention are subdued but playful additions to "The Forest of Shishi God" and march-like percussion and brass segments that really ramp up the power in "The Underword ~The Adagio of Life and Death~". I always felt that the OST was the anime equivalent to Star Wars in impact and scope, and these last two tracks sound very much like they could fit in a Star Wars movie - the first as a quirky Jawa/Ewok creature theme and the second as a stirring new Imperial March.

The question of which is the better album - Mononoke Hime Symphonic Suite or the original soundtrack - is a difficult one. For North American customers, the U.S. release of the OST is certainly a better deal with its very long running time and low price, and except for those who vastly prefer longer symphonic suite-style arrangements is the obvious place to start. Then for those that own the OST and wish there were even more Princess Mononoke music to enjoy, Mononoke Hime Symphonic Suite makes a very satisfying addition.

Thought the OST was good?

Reader review by Lawrence Lin

"Why would I want a symphonic arranged CD when the original was performed by a symphony?" This question can be answered with your own ears, provided you have the Princess Mononoke OST. Play the first track ("The Tale of Ashitaka"), and note the length of the song and how unfulfilling it sounds as it fades after only 1:30. Now play the last track ("The Tale of Ashitaka End Theme"). Composer Joe Hisaishi puts the additional 3:30 to good use - this is not filler material. Does the longer version sound better? If not, I suppose you can stop reading since this is the crux of my argument for Mononoke Hime Symphonic Suite.

Only "The Tale of Ashitaka" receives such a once-over on the OST. I was left wanting by the sheer briefness of the remaining songs. "Departure - Journey to the West" cries out for a bombastic rendition of its main theme. It appears at the end of the OST version after a long (but excellent) intro, and is limited in its dynamic range. The cymbal crash that precedes the main theme in Symphonic Suite carries some real punch, as opposed to the OST version which sounds muffled and not too vibrant.

Hisaishi is wonderful with his performance on the piano in "Mononoke Hime". It doesn't top Yoshikazu Mera's vocal version on the Japanese OST, but it does convey the feeling of "This is the song which Ashitaka is whispering to San in his mind" (www.helsinki.fi/~stvirtan/mh/song.html). Hisaishi brings the proper smooth, supple tone to the song (I found the flute on the OST a bit too harsh).

The remaining tracks hold to the high standard set by the songs mentioned above. From the always-enjoyable "Tale of Ashitaka" to the taunt, tension-filled drama of "The Adagio of Life and Death", Symphonic Suite is solid from start to finish.

Even the physical presentation is excellent - an outer cardboard sleeve, three picture postcards, and full-color liner notes.

The single weakness of the CD is its length, as at only 47:20 there is plenty of space available. "Lady Eboshi" and "Kodamas" come to mind as songs that could have been included, but that's just nitpicking. Don't expect a domestic release of this CD, so think of how much you saved by purchasing the domestic OST, and put those savings towards Mononoke Hime Symphonic Suite to enjoy the songs in their appropriate form.

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