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Sekaiju no MeiQ II Shoo no Seihai Piano Sketch Version :: Review by Chris

Sekaiju no MeiQ II Shoo no Seihai Piano Sketch Version Album Title: Sekaiju no MeiQ II Shoo no Seihai Piano Sketch Version
Record Label: Atlus
Catalog No.: Promotional
Release Date: February 21, 2008
Purchase: Buy at eBay


The Sekaiju no MeiQ II Shoo no Seihai Piano Sketch Version is a set of seven solo piano pieces composed and arranged by Yuzo Koshiro based on his musical ideas for Etrian Odyssey 2. Released as a pre-order bonus for those who bought the Japanese version of the game, it is intended to give a hint as to what the March soundtrack release will sound like. As the name implies, these are not full-fledged arrangements, but rather short scribblings. Koshiro nevertheless demonstrates that Etrian Odyssey 2 is full of melodious, creative, and expressive music with his surprisingly sophisticated exploration of the score on the piano.


While listening to the album, I studied the sheet music. For the first piece, the performance direction 'Merlancolic' was placed below the Japanese title and next to moderate tempo marking. I was fascinated that Yuzo Koshiro may have used an Italian term that I was somehow unfamiliar with; however, Googling yielded zero results and I can only assume this was a typo for 'Melancholic'. The otherwise immaculate presentation of the score compensated for this minor niggle. I was impressed by Koshiro's subtle and meticulous use of markings for phrasing, accents, pedalling, and dynamics, incorporated beautifully into the performance. It was also clear that he has intricate understanding of the piano, given his careful consideration of playability and elegance. In the first dungeon theme "Woodland Ruins", a gentle arpeggiated six bar introduction gives way to a mellow dance-like melody that charms with its innocent explorative character. The accompaniment seemed largely functional with its meditatitive 'quaver-crotcher-quaver' rhythms and conventional diatonic chord progressions. However, colour is provided by the expressive performance, the occasional unexpected chord (such as the suspended tritone at B25 and the transient modulation at B39), and the use of an intermediate harmonic section. It is glorious to hear such profound musicality from intrinsic simplicity.

The album stays true to the melodies and emotions of the original pieces but presents them in a different form. For the second dungeon theme "Ever-Scarlet Forest", Koshiro creates colour and mystery with many impressionistic features. In the first eight bars, ghostly melodies descend above misty pedalled arpeggios in E minor, leading to a sublime resolution by a D major chord in its second inversion. An eventual comforting modulation to Ab major yields a series of lush dominant modulations, causing an emotional climax at B35. The piece, however, ends even more enigmatically than it began. The event theme "Cherry Trees and Wings" features continual triplet motion in the right hand to provide a gorgeous sense of fluidity. Mysterious chord progressions are mediated by the resounding upper note of every pair of triplets and the low-pitched octaves played every two bars. At B21, there is a more elaborate relationship between the two hands and crotchet triplets are also introduced, leading to a dreamy passage of triplets in close harmony from both hands at B25. The other event theme "Guardians of the Sorrowful Ice" is a short but emotional romantic miniature. It opens with a crisis motif accompanied solely by repeated low octaves and develops by thickening its chords, dramatically modulating, and obsessively repeating melodic fragments. A passionate arpeggio section leads to an abrupt chordal conclusion.

Unfortunately, the normal battle theme "The First Campaign" does not sound pianistic in its treatment here. The right-hand features an overkill of accents and muddy chords creating an oppressive sound rather than the motivating one intended. The bass line alternates between the same note at different octaves creating a clumsy texture reminiscent of subpar fan arrangements. A rock feel is communicated and there are moments of splendour, but the piece feels like it is tripping over itself throughout its development. The secret track features the last boss music and similarly lacks somewhat due to accent overkill and bombastic harmonisation. However, the focus on creating cross rhythms between the right-hand triplets and left-hand duplets adds coherency and atmosphere to the primary section of the piece. From B13, there is also complex brisk elegant development, leading to an aggressive yet highly lyrical section from B21 reminiscent of many modernist composers. The final piece "Vast Lands Spreading in the North" recounts the town theme. It seems to bring the album round full circle reminiscent of the opening bars of the first piece of the set with its arpeggio-based harmonisation. Another expressive and creative piece despite its overall minimalistic nature, it ultimately ends 15 minutes of piano music on a content and uplifting note.


On an outward level, the piano music featured here creates a very different sound to the retro synthetic music of the game itself. However, this is largely because of differences in the timbre and they both ultimately reflect Koshiro's wonderful ability to depict Etrian Odyssey 2's world. By reconciling visual inspiration and musical creativity, he is able to portray innocence, mystery, aggression, excitement, and contentment with just melody and accompaniment. Though this album is too short to warrant a stand-alone purchase, it shows that Koshiro can use the piano very competently and provides a fine introduction to the upcoming original score to Etrian Odyssey 2. It also demonstrates that the music for the Etrian Odyssey series would be a good candidate for a fully-fledged piano arranged album and, in my opinion, this treatment is more suited to the series' music than the Super Arrange Version series.

Overall Score: 8/10