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Hakuoki Reimeiroku OST
Catalog Number: N/A
Released On: November 24, 2010
Composed By: Takamitsu Ono, Takahiro Asano, Kenji Kaneko
Arranged By: Takamitsu Ono, chokix
Published By: TEAM Entertainment
Recorded at: Unknown
Format: 1 CD
Tracklist:

01 - Distant Wind
02 - At Dawn
03 - Peaceful Days
04 - When the Cat is Away
05 - Recollection
06 - Horrible Presentiment
07 - Repentance
08 - Pleasure Quarter
09 - Fencing Lesson
10 - Fierce Battle
11 - Prepared to Fight
12 - Distant Dream
13 - Bad Company
14 - Skirmish
15 - Fleeting Feelings
16 - Today and Forever
17 - Unextingushed Rainbow
Total Time:
49'16"

Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom is a game that pleasantly surprised me. Sure, some people might snicker and refer to the game as "hock a loogie" or something like that, but they're just mindless haters who never even played the game and probably should. Anyway, my sonic experience with the game was certainly not bad, but the only standout tracks are the title theme and the vocal numbers that bookend the game.

...But this review isn't about Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom or its music. No, this is about the soundtrack to Hakuoki Reimeiroku – a "prequel" sequel that takes place prior to the events of Demon of the Fleeting Blossom and stars a blue-haired ronin named Ryunosuke. Since the Hakuoki IP was an unexpected surprise for me, I dove into this music hoping it would be a pleasant surprise as well... and it is! The music presented here is a vast improvement over what I heard in Demon of the Fleeting Blossom, which makes me want to see more of this franchise in the US.

With the exception of the vocal themes, the music is composed by Idea Factory's in-house composer Kenji Kaneko. His work on other Idea Factory games could be described as "innocuous" or "plain vanilla." The music was the weakest aspect in Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom. This is why the Hakuoki Reimeiroku soundtrack is such a surprise to me. The music here is actually quite good and it makes me ask, "Why have you been holding out on us?!"

The compositions themselves befit the visual novel genre very well. They are subtle enough that they don't overshadow the plot, yet stirring enough to add gravity to it. The arrangements don't have millions of instruments crammed into them, which allows the compositions to breathe. The compositions themselves, despite not having a million notes per minute, don't have predictable or catchy melodies so they need time and repeated listens to percolate in your brain and stick with you. The more I listened to this soundtrack, the more I wanted to play the game and experience this music within that context. I want to know what's happening to Ryunosuke and company during those evocative piano pieces like track five. I want to experience the game's definition of "slice-of-life" during acoustic guitar jams like track three. And I'm most curious where track 13 fits in because it has so many contrasts in it. There are moments of whimsy with a touch of foreboding and a sense of levity with melancholy skepticism.

The soundtrack features three vocal numbers: tracks 1, 16, 17. All of these contain the elements I favor most in vocal songs: catchiness, depth, and robust female singing that doesn't sound like preschoolers on helium. Hakuoki is no cutesy bubblegum IP, so the vocal songs have an earnest melancholy about their melodies and more deliberately-paced tempos.

The only aspect I would have liked to see more of is the use of traditional Japanese instruments, like the shamisen. Track eight is the only one that really puts Japanese instrumentation at the forefront, punctuating that sense of period in Hakuoki. Other tracks use Japanese instrumentation more as a garnish to enhance the compositions. When I think about it, though, perhaps it's better that the traditional instrumentation is used sparingly, since Hakuoki is a modern take on a period piece and the soundtrack should befit that.

I don't know what "Hakuoki" means in Japanese, but to me it means "serendipitous surprise." The first game was better than I expected it to be, and this OST for the second game was better than I expected it to be. I hope the Hakuoki IP is given a fair shot in the West because Reimeiroku's soundtrack makes me want to play the game right now.

Reviewed by: Neal Chandran



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