Princess Mononoke: Symphonic Suite

DUN DUN DUUUUUN!! Here comes the first (and maybe only :/) review from an outside author. Many of you probably already know the anime, Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫 Mononokehime), since it’s well… more or less infamous. Anywho, a buddy of mine, Faethin, has reviewed the soundtrack, so without further ado…

If there is one thing I am convinced Western civilisation is unparalleled with, that thing is music. The complexity this form of art reached within the West beginning three centuries ago was never developed in any other place in the world. I can’t say the same for all the other art form I’m fond of, since 1) I don’t know them as well as music and 2) Literature, I think, is vast, even bigger than music in the body of works we have produced throughout history.

Of course, the above does not mean that Western music is intended to remain Western and in Western hands.

by Joe Hisaishi and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra

Just when we think film soundtracks get a little too clichéd (not that this is the case at all, as I’ve had a glimpse of the actual difficulty of the process) in comes a little jewel of modern orchestration.

Hail the Wolf-girl!

It would be very tempting to lose myself in ranting on how much I liked the film. But I won’t. Suffice to say, Princess Mononoke is a film that speaks for itself: Detailed and careful drawing, involving story, complex characters, these are just three of the many qualities the film includes. And the music… the music…

The Legend of Ashitaka

Apart from becoming one of my favourite fictional heroes, Ashitaka was given a stirring and majestic leitmotif. The Symphonic Suite’s version of “The Legend of Ashitaka” was arranged in a slightly different manner from the movie’s original score, adding counterpoints in many instances. It’s probably the blandest of all the tracks and yet it’s beautiful in portraying Ashitaka’s character and role in the tale.


Or “The Demon God”. This is my favourite track on the album. A clever mix of classical and traditional instrumentation (and I mean “traditional” in a very vulgar manner, I’ve nooo idea where would this instrumentation would be traditional; It’s all about the drums), the haunting rhythm section takes prominence amongst the motifs and even when it is stopped its absence creates an atmosphere of even more dread.

The Journey to the West

“The Journey to the West” is a somewhat extended and more complex version of Ashitaka’s theme. Although booming in its introduction, strings predominate throughout the whole arrangement, giving it an air of lightness that contrasts heavily with the majesty of its opening. I’ve noticed a considerable likeness between this track and Final Fantasy VIII‘s “The Oath”.


San’s theme, arranged in a beautiful piano melody performed by Hisaishi himself. I wish they had included the vocal part featured in the movie though.

The Forest of the Deer God

Beautiful ambiance. I love the oboe at the beginning of this track. The counterpoint of the oboe and the clarinet gives the track a very haunting air. In this, “The Forest of the Deer God” reminds me very much of “TA TA RI GAMI”.

Requiem – The Demon Power

As “The Forest of the Deer God” began with Ashitaka’s theme once again, this track begins with San’s theme, but this soon gives way into a more sinister theme. I’m not really sure why it is called a “requiem” though. Some of themes included in this particular track reminded of Beethoven’s ninth symphony’s second movement. Overall, even though I cannot list all of the subtleties I felt within this track, I think it’s the most complex one of the album.

The World of the Dead (Adagio of Life and Death)

This march is more of an andante than an adagio, really: either I haven’t got a clue on what an adagio is or it isn’t an adagio at all. A short interlude in which strings and winds play with each other makes the overall serious theme of the track be put away for a little while.

Ashitaka and San

The third of the leitmotifs is our favourite Emishi prince and our favourite wolf-girl’s theme. The central melody is performed on the piano by Hisaishi. It’s a mellow and quite soothing track, but after the power of some of the other tracks, it gets lost amidst the storm and it ends rather quickly.


This is probably one of the best arranged albums I have ever listened to. It’s a powerful reminder that we were wrong, those of us that had fallen cynically into believing that music had lost its majesty and talent requirement, that it had become a sort of “pulp art” like, say, much of the literature produced these days. Mr Hisaishi delivers this selection of musical pieces with the same aura and authority 19th century classical composers used to deliver their work.

And I can’t emphasise enough how KICK-ASS the anime is. :D

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