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Ni~dzuma wa Sailor Fuku Original Soundtrack :: Review by Muzza

Ni~dzuma wa Sailor Fuku Original Soundtrack Album Title: Ni~dzuma wa Sailor Fuku Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Puzzlebox
Catalog No.: Promotional
Release Date: December 2, 2005
Purchase: Buy at eBay

Overview

Released in the same year as the more widely recognised Sakura Relaxation Original Soundtrack, the Ni~dzuma wa Sailor Fuku Original Soundtrack (roughly translated as My Darling is the Teacher in Charge) is the second soundtrack by Hiroki Kikuta in what I like to refer to as the "return of Kikuta" period, where after 5 years of inactivity he came back to the music composing business. Upon his return, Hiroki Kikuta disappointed Western fans, due to his new works being for hentai or eroge games, a popular market in Japan, but a notion generally met with disdain outside of the country.

The Ni~dzuma wa Sailor Fuku Original Soundtrack pertains to this category, and thus it was expected most of the music would be light-hearted, bouncy, and difficult to digest. But seeing as the man behind the music is none other than the mastermind behind the music of Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3, and Soukaigi, even his judgmental Western fans were sure to be at least satisfied with the work here... right?

Note: Similar to the Sakura Relaxation and Sora no Iro, Mizu no Iro soundtracks, the Ni~dzuma wa Sailor Fuku Original Soundtrack was released as a promotional item alongside the release of the game, and as such it is very difficult to come across.

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) 1/2 of Fate (Short)

A vocal track sung by Mami Nakayama, the same lady who assisted Hiroki Kikuta in a couple of other scores, "1/2 of Fate (Short)" is the opening, short version of the game's one and only vocal track. There's not much to enjoy here, since the track barely reaches the one-and-a-half minute mark. The captivating piano line at the start of the track prepares a nice mood for the rest of the piece; the vocals are tolerable, if a bit underwhelming, and the melody fluctuates nicely, sprinkling a cheerful vibe over the entire piece. A decent track, but like I said, there's not much to enjoy in this version. (7/10)

2) Start Start

This track is cheesy J-rock at its worst. Beginning with some noisy drum samples, the aforementioned J-rock aspect is shown by the eventual obnoxious and cheery guitar samples (yes, I am actually offended by them and their cheeriness!). The predictable cohesion of the drums and guitar is outright awful, making the melodic development barely noticeable and the entire track hideously unbearable in nature. As for in-game context, I don't even think it's suitable there, even for a simple opening screen menu; this track is basically just a cheesy, clichéd mess. It is rather catchy, but that just makes me hate it much, much more! (2/10)

3) United, You and I

Mellow and laidback right from the very start, "United, You and I" contains a soothingly humble melody, comforted by hints of melodic sentimentality (as suggested by the track's title). Unfortunately, the melody is lackluster and meanders for much longer than it should, but conveys a very nice atmosphere of friendship and togetherness, an atmosphere that makes you think of a place where you can spend your days doing what you want without any troubles or obligations. The melodic variation is limited, but is tolerable considering that if there were an intricate development here, the lackadaisical mood would most certainly be ruined. Ultimately, a pleasantly comforting way to really unlock the hidden potential of the soundtrack; with a few fixes here and there, this could have been a wonderful piece of music. (7/10)

4) For the Sake of an Unfulfilled Day

Similar in mood to the previous track, "For the Sake of an Unfulfilled Day" also comes across as smooth and relaxing. The (again) grating percussion, comprised of some very liberal drum whacking, is unpleasantly grating on the ears and proves to be the worst part of the entire track. The primary melody adds a light, airy mood, although becomes monotonous fairly quickly. Hmm... there's nothing else I can really say. An unfulfilled review for an unfulfilled track, I guess! (6/10)

5) Jump

Finally, an interesting track: "Jump" is the innovative marvel of the Ni~dzuma wa Sailor Fuku Original Soundtrack, and as such is one of my very favourites. Essentially, this track showcases a peculiar keyboard pattern across a deep, synthesized beat. Also evident is some occasional synthesized vocals (0:24), accompanying bells, and some unique twangs (0:33), which sound like some abnormal electric guitar distortions. Surprisingly, there's a solid amount of development, which helps maintain the listener's interest; the intriguing melodic features ultimately make this one of the more memorable tracks. When I first listened to this soundtrack, "Jump" was one of the few tracks that jumped out at me, and it's been stuck in my head ever since. But be aware, this track is definitely defined as a "love or hate" one, but for me it's just abstract enough to work. (10/10)

6) Long Afternoon at the First Day Back at School

To correspond with a long afternoon at school is an extremely long title. The piano delivers a satisfying melody and portrays a nice sense of quietude and amicability; what really puts this track a cut above the others is the tasteful, well-sampled mandolin. Although short-lived, it makes listening to the long-winded build-up tolerable, as there's something very rewarding waiting when the long afternoon finally ends. Long-winded in every possible sense, "Long Afternoon at the First Day back at School" is still delicately profound in its appropriately emotional musicality. (8/10)

7) Beat of Promise

Obviously, percussion is the driving force in this track; the beat keeps the melody nicely in order and comes across as very fun due to its happy-go-lucky tribal feel. The melody develops interestingly, with layers of intrigue being added by additional instruments such as a bizarre, twirling woodwind line and some weirdly placed brass. However in spite of this, I can't help but think that the melody is a bit uninspired and predictable, even with its seductively exotic flair; at least the loop culminates in an obscure but curiously interesting way (at around the two minute mark). But still, this track is particularly boring. It's worth a listen, though. (7/10)

8) Even if Somebody Smashes the Window

Yet another elaborate track title; the reason for this sort of title must be to tie the music to in-game events. The scenario implied here certainly is an eccentric one, and when I first got my hands on this soundtrack I wondered what musical style would be utilised here to convey the intended message of... smashing a window. Well, you can colour me disappointed, because I was expecting a nice, fun, even bizarre track, but instead I was presented with a completely boring and monotonous attempt at relaxing music (I would've even accepted a hostile approach, to reflect the emotions of the window's owner!). The light instrumentation flutters back and forth, introducing little to no additional melodic components save the comparatively upbeat tempo at the end of one loop (a single loop seems to go forever in this track, too´┐Żand there are two-and-a-half of them!). Well, if you don't mind me I might go smash a window. After all, that'll be more exciting than listening to this track! (And even more exciting than having to compose a review on it; sympathy please). (4/10)

9) Straight Descent

One of the shorter pieces on the soundtrack, "Straight Descent" proves to be one of the more worthwhile ones. The marimba acts as the key instrumental feature, and with other exciting and effervescent facets, such as the intense piano line at the end of each loop, a very satisfying (and admittedly enjoyable) experience is had by all who listen to this piece. Even though "Straight Descent" is one of the shorter pieces on the soundtrack, it's also one of the most creative and entertaining. That's really why Hiroki Kikuta's such an acclaimed composer, due to his impressively unconventional music that always seems to attract a wide variety of listeners. (9/10)

10) In a Room of Only Two People

Huh, I didn't know that eroge game scores had ambient tracks (this is the first time I've encountered such music in such a score, at least). Given I'm quite partial to ambient music when it's done well, I was interested to hear how this track would progress, as it's sadly too common for an ambient piece to fall flat due to an imperfect or out-of-place melody, whether it be too varying or too tedious. The mood here is obviously soothing and calming, but I can't help but think of the circus or an amusement park when I hear the melodic progression at 0:44 (you'll think it to; I'm not crazy). That isn't necessarily a bad thing either, since the ambience is still delicately maintained despite an increase in melodic intricacy. "In a Room of Only Two People" isn't a widely accessible piece, nor is it one that you'll come back to time and time again, but it is nice to listen to nonetheless. (8/10)

11) Plan

It's about time that this soundtrack became solid! I was beginning to worry that Kikuta-san had lost his sublime ability to create exciting, upbeat music. But "Plan" has reignited my faith in this respect, at least as far as this score is concerned. I can't help but knock my head to the percussive electric guitar (strange, no?). The ineffable introduction to each loop is also extremely appealing. The melody isn't anything to write home about, but I still manage to find this track highly enjoyable; thank goodness the man can still compose some highly addictive tunes, even if they are repetitive! (8/10)

12) Mischief

"Mischief" is another one of my favourites on the soundtrack (it's not too difficult for a track here to achieve such accolades, considering the competition). The naughtiness and frivolity conveyed by the instrumentation is infectiously merry as is the melody, eventually showcased by a woodwind instrument that adds an even more accessible, wacky vibe. In addition, the glockenspiel percussion adds an even more playful rhythmic undertone. Unashamedly, I can confidently say this track is one of the most enjoyable tracks on the score! (When it comes to an h-game score, you just know that the composer stinks when they can't even compose appropriately silly, light-hearted tunes; thankfully, Mr. Kikuta has at least passed that test!) (9/10)

13) Real Feeling

The mandolin from track 6 makes a return! The mandolin was what really made and built that track, so you can imagine the relief I felt when I heard "Real Feeling" open with the same competently sampled instrument (could be better though in all honesty). An acoustic guitar acts as an accompaniment, and eventually takes control of the melody at the climax, consequently making this track bear one of the most memorable melodies on the entire score. Additionally, the flow of this track is perfect; I could listen to it for a long time without getting bored of it. Honestly, I don't think this is perfect score material, but I'm feeling kind of generous. Giving a Kikuta soundtrack only one 10/10 would surely be blasphemous! (10/10)

14) Depression

The tone of this track irks me significantly. How does this fast-paced tempo and erratic pacing represent a state of depression? It's always very difficult for me to enjoy a track when I simply can't connect the title to the melody at all. But this track bears no impressive melody to begin with; it's repetitious and highly irksome. "Depression" is on the same level as "Start Start", and is definitely a contender for the dubious honour of worst track on the score. Skip it and save your ears from the inescapable displeasure. (What a way to ruin such a lengthy run of solid tracks...) (3/10)

15) Final Night

The dreamy instrumentation emanates a nice sense of melancholia here, as well as appropriate tones of somberness and sleepiness. But that's about all the good I can say about "Final Night". The burdensome — seemingly omnipresent — pattern that plagues the score is apparent again here: an unvarying and uninteresting melody with minimal development. Hell, I don't even feel like developing my review to compensate. (5/10)

16) Regret

The same triangle-like instrument is featured in this track (it's featured in many other tracks as well, may I add), layered on top of a clean piano and a really intense beat introduced at around the one-minute mark. Angst, apprehension, and regret are all exceptionally encapsulated in this track (through the piano particularly), and the eventual electronic addition to the melody adds an equally appropriate feeling of disarray and chaos. However mediocre the melody may be, it's presented uniquely enough to give this track a relatively high score, and to save the last end of the score from utter mediocrity. (8/10)

17) Pardon Me, I'm Home

Once again, the glockenspiel provides the (catchy if frustrating) percussive aspect to the composition; meanwhile, the (unimpressive) melody is driven predominantly by the clarinet, particularly towards the end of each loop. Not much else to say here, but "Pardon Me, I'm Home" does leave a nasty, sour taste in my mouth. Needless to say that if this track knocked on my front door, I'd grab my pitchfork and chase it out of town! "We don't take kindly to such crap music here!" (5/10)

18) And I Will Embrace Your Shoulders While Sleeping

I became rather excited when I heard the tasteful piano at the start of this track. I was hoping for a piano solo, which I think this soundtrack definitely needs to add some maturity to its image and some musical sophistication to its limited palette. Once again, the instrumentation is the same as most of the other tracks, and the melody is just... there. A very unmemorable track, but I can't help but think it's very good when used in game, as it comes across as particularly atmospheric. I also get the feeling that it tells a story, however boring that story may be. If this track embraced my shoulders while I was sleeping — oh, I can't be bothered adding any more fiendish quips to my reviews. This soundtrack has worn me out! (6/10)

19) 1/2 of Fate (Karaoke)

Whether you like this track or not purely depends on how much you like or dislike Mami Nakayama's voice, and whether you really care if it's apparent in the song "1/2 of Fate" or not. I actually would prefer it if her voice was there in full, as it adds a nice edge and sense of completeness, even if it her vocal talent is a bit lacking in this score. So I guess you can piece together that I don't think much of the underlying melody itself; it's passive and structurally messy. Karaoke versions of vocal tracks are the perfect litmus test to see if the composition masked by the vocals is good or bad. In this case it's decent, I suppose. And that's being awfully generous. (6/10)

20) 1/2 of Fate

I've been looking forward to listening to this track in full after the potential-filled taste I got of it at the start of the soundtrack. However the karaoke version has made me well aware of how mediocre the composition actually is. The vocalist's performance here is sweet and corresponds well with the irritatingly cute melody. However, I still think this track is missing something; I was foolishly hoping that the full version would bear a more intriguing melodic path but, much to my disappointment, it doesn't. Having said that, the track is still a passable one, but it could have been so much better, given the melodic potential showcased. I think that perhaps the shorter version is the better of the two, in all honesty. Overall I think it's safe to surmise that not many would find "1/2 of Fate" too musically appealing. (7/10)

Summary

I was immensely displeased with this soundtrack. The instrumentation used on the whole is very similar, and many of the tracks' melodies seem uncharacteristically uninspired for Kikuta-san. Of the twenty tracks here, less than half of them are what I would consider "good" tracks. The remainder are either "tolerable" or, to put it bluntly, awful. It's a shame that a score with awesome tracks such as the energetic, innovative "Jump" and the tastefully memorable "Real Feeling" had to be hindered and outnumbered by much more mediocre tracks, such as the abominable "Start Start", which I hope was Mr. Kikuta's idea of a joke (a failed attempt, by the way), and the cumbersome and depressing "Depression" (I guess there is a correlation that track title bears after all!) Almost every composer has a "let-down" release of sorts, and I guess (and hope) that this is Hiroki Kikuta's first and last.

Overall Score: 6/10