Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Anime Juke Box - The Legend of Ashitaka - Princess Mononoke

I realized that I hadn't written about one of my favorite anime composers yet. This is mostly because Joe Hisaishi is a busy composer who has written music for Japanese movies, televisions shows and games - as well as animation. I'm not well versed in his work beyond his anime material, so I don't feel comfortable including him in my top list of composers.

However, Hisaishi has worked with one of the masters of Japanese animation Hayao Miyazaki since the film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind back in 1984. Each time these two get together, magic happens on the screen and in the music. Hisaishi nails the charming worlds of Miyazaki and each score from their collaborations is filled with highlights.

But for those looking for something less cute and more epic, then you can't go wrong with the amazing score to Princess Mononoke. It is an impressive melding of Japanese style themes with Western style orchestration. The result is a score that sounds like something James Horner or John Williams would write for a big budget fantasy adventure film. But it has a distinctive Japanese heart, one that fits the film perfectly. The score is filled with drama, a huge scope and some disturbing moments, Hisaishi manages to support all of them very well. 

Here is the end credit track, an extension of the theme heard in the opening of the film. Here Hisaishi fleshes the theme out to it's most majestic and triumphant. Enjoy The Legend of Ashitaka from the film Princess Mononoke.


  1. Do you have a big CD/vinyl shelf or do you fill up iPods?

    1. I do have a fairly large CD collection. I was collecting since I was fairly young, actually started with cassette tapes back then. Eventually switched to CDs. But once I got my iPod, it's been mostly digital releases. It saves so much space. My hearing isn't so hot, so all the sound quality issues that other people complain about with digital downloads, I just don't hear them.

      In the past few years, I've been picking up more physical CDs for my soundtracks. There are quite a few speciality labels that release complete scores or hard to find scores and only on CD (due to licensing issues, they can release the score but only in limited quantities).

      As for "Princess Mononoke" this score and "Spirited Away" are so far the only two CDs released for Hisaishi's work in animation officially in North America. One of his video game scores is available for download. But if you want to really delve into his stuff you have to seek out imports. Film soundtracks are a fairly niche audience after all.

  2. I meant to write you on this one. I really enjoy Joe's compositions as well Roman.

    He does some very nice work.

    I actually have a soundtrack I imported from Japan a number of years ago. I believe it's called The Best of Studio Ghibli. If you would ever like a copy of that music to listen to - let me know.

    All the best.