Alex Papillon July 28, 2007
This isn’t really a Yuki Kajiura vs. Yoko Kanno article as I think both of them are great composers in their own way. It’s more a comparison of their styles, a bit of a review on their works (that I’ve heard of) and an exploration of the anime which feature their works.
The first exposure I had was to Yoko kanno. The first show with her as its composer that I came in contact with was Vision of Escaflowne. I loved the OP song, with Maaya Sakamoto as the vocalist. Kanno works with Sakamoto somewhat regularly which is understandable because she has a very unique and beautiful voice. Their collaboration as OP is in anime like RahXephon, Earth Girl Arjuna and Cardcaptor Sakura.
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As overall composer for most of the music in a series, it’s Wolf’s Rain that I really noticed her great talent. Ghost in the Shell TV is also a good piece of work, but it’s more subtle. It’s filled with ambient techno-esque background music but the anime itself IS futuristic so it’s definitely in place. Not only is she adept at orchestral music, but she has a sound basis in rock, jazz/blues and other genres. This probably apparent in her score for Cowboy Bebop. Her talent lies in her ability to expand and dabble in various genres and her vocal songs often have strong and memorable melodies.
I’ve read that she conducts too, at times so one must respect her for having a command of the orchestra and of course, a thorough knowledge of classical music. I haven’t heard any of her soundtracks fully but I did highly appreciate the music for Wolf’s Rain, Escaflowne and Ghost in the Shell TV. Her songs often have other languages, such as Russian, ancient Romanian and English for example. Her music definitely has a knack for fitting the series very well and I respect her talent very much.
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On the other hand, I am very familiar with Yuki Kajiura’s work. Especially the Noir soundtrack, for its operatic/techno songs, latin sound and her “new-age”-ish sound in some of her songs. Working with Bee Train to compose work for Noir, Kajiura has additionally scored for Madlax and recently El Cazadar de Bruja (three very similar works…). Noir’s soundtrack is very good, it’s full of strong melodies, interesting composition and beats. It’s a mixture of violins and synthetic sounds but the two standout insert songs are of course, Salva Nos and Canta Per Me. The latin style is also done very well and her melodies are very catchy. Her work in Tsubasa Chronicle follows a similar template, full of techno-pop rhythms and operatic type vocals but it seems a bit watered down for some reason. Maybe it’s just my bad impression of Tsubasa…
I haven’t seen any of the Hack series fully, but the music is excellent and I think it’s one of Kajiura’s strongest works. She definitely has a knack for violin driven vocal tracks, exotic rhythms and a bit of synth sounds in her music. Of recent notice, FictionJunction YUUKA (one of Kajiura’s collaborations with Yuuka Nanri) has performed “Kouya Ruten” for Bakumatsu and “Romanesque” for El Cazador de La Bruja. One of the criticisms for Kajiura is that her style of work is confined to a few sounds - operatic vocals over violins, latin rhythms and pop beats. While I agree with this, I also think that she composes that style to the best of her ability and infuses a new age feel. “Romanesque” although is definitely a departure, in fact, I don’t like the song at all. It’s kind of boring, the melody is too typical and I don’t like the way it’s sung (yes this is my plug for disliking that song).
Out of the two, I prefer Kajiura - but only because I’m more familiar with the works that her music has appeared in. However, I definitely give Kanno credit for being an excellent composer in all respects - vocally and instrumentally. There’s no point fighting about which one is better, just listen and enjoy!
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Category: The Artists
A. Papillon is not amused.