Wednesday, February 15, 2006

CD Review: Trigun: The First Donuts

The anime series Trigun, based on the manga by Yasuhiro Nightow, takes place on a desert planet that resembles the Old West. The show revolves around Vash The Stampede, a gunslinger who has a $60 billion "double-dollar" bounty on his head. Despite his infamous reputation, Vash is actually a nice guy who hates violence, sometimes acts incredibly goofy, and has a love of donuts. Just as Vash represents extremes (a man who must have done something incredibly bad vs. a man who wants to do nothing bad), so does the first soundtrack to this anime series. Trigun: The First Donuts is an eclectic soundtrack that combines rock, jazz, electronica, and blues in wild and unexpected ways.

Some of the music from Trigun has been previously released in the United States. A few years ago, TOKYOPOP released Spicy Stewed Donut, a compilation of music from the show's two soundtracks. Now Geneon, the company that first released Trigun on DVD back when it was known as Pioneer, has finally brought over the show's first soundtrack in its entirety.

Musician Tsuneo Imahori composed 18 of the 20 songs on The First Donuts. Imahori is no stranger to anime music. He has served as guitarist on several soundtracks by Yoko Kanno including those for Cowboy Bebop, Arjuna, Wolf's Rain, and Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. As far as I know, his work for Trigun is the only time he has composed music for an anime.

If there is one unifying element across The First Donuts it is the guitar. It figures heavily on much of the soundtrack. "NO-BEAT" opens the album with a deft combination of rock and electronica. Most attempts to combine rock and electronica fall flat because one genre seems to overpower the other. However, "NO-BEAT" achieves a balance that makes the song immensely enjoyable. "H.T.," which is the opening theme song of Trigun, is a guitar lover's dream. This track is a short burst of hard rock fury that, unlike most anime theme songs, has no vocals to dilute it. "KNIVES" is a fun song that is only enhanced by multiple types of percussion. "BLUE FUNK" has an infectious, downhome feel that perfectly fits the show's dusty setting.

There is also a lot more to be found than guitar-heavy tracks. "BIG BLUFF" is a smooth piece of funk with light electronic elements that make it stand out. "Permanent Vacation" combines jazz and blues into a catchy piece that's not even two minutes long. Jazz and electronica converge on the fast-paced (but supremely relaxed) "PHILOSOPHY in a Tea Cup." "Cynical Pink" has a whimsical charm to it while odd chants and percussion dominated the goofy "WINNERS." "Sound Life ~ REM," one of the two songs not composed by Imahori, is a wonderful piece of soothing pop. However, the most surprising track on the album may be its closer "Perfect Night." It's an incredibly dark and heavy piece of electronica that's genuinely creepy at times. This song may plod along to its ending but the journey is well worth it.

Overall, The First Donuts is a very good album and one of my favorite anime soundtracks. It combines disparate genres in unorthodox ways while managing to be a fun, enjoyable listen. Tsuneo Imahori proves that he is an interesting, creative composer in his own right. I don't know what other solo work he has done, but I am interested in hearing it.

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