The Music of the Revolution

shoujo-kakumei-utena-akio-arc-duel

“My relationship with myself multiplies infinitely in the space between two mirrors, a whim of desire, a transient design…”

While Revolutionary Girl Utena, all around, is an interesting show, perhaps one of the most curious portions of it is its soundtrack, all of which was composed (with the except of the OP, Rinbu Revolution, and the first ED, Truth) by the fairly obscure J.A. Seazer. And thank goodness it was, because I doubt any of our big name anime music composers, such as Yoko Kanno or Kenji Kawai could’ve made a score quite so suited to the bizarre, highly symbolized world that was RGU.

J.A. Seazer in actuality is not “fairly obscure” as I have deemed him – he is only such really within the subculture of anime fandom, particularly for those fandoms which exist outside of Japan. This is primarily due to the fact that J. A. Seazer’s only other anime-related work was for the 1992 movie Shoujo Tsubaki… which I’m willing to bet none of you have ever heard of (which is fine since I hadn’t either until I realized Seazer had worked on it!). J.A. Seazer’s better known outside of anime, particularly amongst the generation of Japanese who were college students in the 1960’s and early 70’s, as he was part of a collective which composed many songs with the idea of changing the world as the theme, a notion that was fairly popular with the students of the time (hmm, sounds like America’s 60’s and early 70’s, huh?). Ikuhara was too young for J. A. Seazer’s heyday, but admired his work when he listened to it later on.

Fifteen years later, Ikuhara is with the Be-Papas, a creative collective of which the purpose was to create manga and anime. The project that came out of this was RGU, with Chiho Saito having the majority control over the manga whereas Ikuhara had the majority control over the anime. The central conceit of the show? The quest to revolutionize the world. Ikuhara turned to the man he had admired so much and asked him if he would be interested in doing the soundtrack; Seazer accepted (by the way, Seazer’s intials stand for ‘Julius Arnest’, while his birth name was Taka’aki Terahara). Ikuhara was thrilled, as he felt that much of Seazer’s work fit perfectly in with the themes of RGU.

Ikuhara was spot-on in his judgment that Seazer would be the best person for the task of bringing musical vibrancy to RGU. In fact, Seazer ended up re-working some of his earlier songs for the show, as is the case with the songs Spira Mirabilis Theater (Miki’s first duel chorus) and Paleozoic Within the Body (Touga’s first duel chorus), among others.

While Seazer’s non-vocal tracks are all pretty good, it is certainly the vocal tracks which stand out the most. At the same time, though, they serve to add yet another layer of confusion to an already befuddling cake – think you can simply ignore the lyrics during a duel? Pfft – of course not; better hope you can either absorb lyrics quickly while still engaging the events on-screen, or resign yourself to multiple viewings of the duels. This, of course, is complicated by the fact that all of us who are not fluent in Japanese are forced to read the subtitles the entire time. It is also important to keep in mind that no duel chorus is played twice, so you can’t simply gloss over the music just because you’re seeing the same people dueling each other for a second or third time.

Music is certainly important to any anime, as it ultimately forms a backbone for the visual experience which we as viewers honestly tend to overlook. But in the case of RGU, the music serves to further dimensionalize (I know, I just created that word) the events of the series, fleshing out the characters more than simply watching them in their lives would. We don’t hear anyone’s inner thoughts much in RGU, if at all; instead, the duel choruses give us the true window into their thoughts and situation, albeit in typically cryptic fashion.

Of course, it does help that the music sounds good. It also is very distinctive from any other show you’ll ever see, quite honestly, something I attribute to the fact that Seazer was not (and remains) part of the music portion of the anime industry – as such, he didn’t have the preconceived notions of what something should sound like for an anime, he only had Ikuhara’s requests to go by. Try listening to one of the duel choruses even once, and then try to find something that sounds even remotely like them. I’ll be shocked if you can.

If you are familiar with RGU, you might find this interesting – scroll about half-way down the page, and you’ll find that you can download one of J.A. Seazer’s albums from back when he was with Banyuu Inryoku, the musical group he was with back when all the students thought he was the shit. On the album are the precursors to the aforementioned duel choruses of Miki and Touga.

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One Response to The Music of the Revolution

  1. OH EM GEE says:

    J.A. Seazer… *tic*

    He worked on Midori!? I thought I recognized that name!

    The music on Utena was far more enjoyable than on Midori/Shoujo Tsubaki.

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