Susumu Hirasawa – Berserk 剣風伝奇ベルセルク (Original Soundtrack)

5 out of 5

Label: Vap

Produced by: Mitsurua Oshima, Various

Being relatively green on anime when I viewed Berserk, it took some coaxing from a wiser viewer to get me to hang in there long enough to get hooked (which I did, massively, learning the valuable lesson that anime generally requires a bit more patience than US / UK TV before saying yea or nay).  However, even at my initial take-it-or-leave-it viewing stage, I was completely entranced by the opening and closing credits’ themes, and appreciated the dreamlike score during the episodes, adding to the admittedly uniquely somber and contemplative vibe of the series (accepting that I only considered it a contemplative veneer at first, but again, wisdom won out…).

Lo, wouldn’t ya know, the score turned out to be by a guy I would also later come to massively respect – Susumu Hirasawa, of P-Model, and with whose Paranoia Agent soundtrack I was already quite enamored.

‘Kay: those fucking catchy themes, plus Hirasawa?  Sold, even at the pricier import price.  And g’lordy: worth it.  Music that I half-suspected I’d listen to on a lark has burned into my brain: Penpals’ sloppy, thrashy opener introduced me to a great sloppy, poppy band; Silver Fins’ murky closer led me to Japan’s short-lived version of Sonic Youth.  And in between, Hirasawa does everything to your emotions, with mystical, burbling tones, or threatening, pummeling beats, or peaceful, rhythmic jaunts with ominous undertones…. The tracks stretch out, often, to six or seven minutes, yet never feel like they’re just biding runtime; the experience works together beautifully, and definitely intrigues all on its own, without the supporting imagery of the show. Of course, matched to that imagery, it gains even more strength.

Well worth it for Susumu followers – of a like mind to his Satoshi Kon stuff – and for those who, like me, just got hooked hearing the music while watching.