Review Summary: Hope
Say what you want about about Zankyou no Terror as a show. It may not have been perfect, but by the end I was fully engaged in the world I was watching, and by the end I even began believing in it. The gorgeous animation and strikingly realistic themes depicted throughout the show's short length were detrimental in increasing the show's ever growing popularity. Yet for me, it wasn't really the story, animation, or even characters that were the best aspect of the show. The soundtrack to Zankyou no Terror is the best part the show has going for it, and it succeeds at being far greater than that. Start to finish, the soundtrack to Zankyou no Terror contains some of the best songs composer Yoko Kanno has ever put out, and not a single song on this should be dismissed, as it is simply one of the most complete soundtrack I have ever heard.
In the anime world, Yoko Kanno is very similar to the likes of Kayo Dot or even Sufjan Stevens. She is always looking for a way to reinvent herself and express her music through different genres and no matter what succeeds at creating a composition that always deserves a standing ovation. Whether it be the critically acclaimed jazz of Cowboy Bebop or the energetic trip-hop of Ghost in the Shell. Kanno is well versed in almost every genre she has approached. With Zankyou no Terror however, there really isn't a specific genre. It is layered to the brim with piano tracks, hard hitting rock, and even minimalistic and lo-fi indie. However, all songs are centered around the general theme of progression. Yet, not only does this work at providing interesting harmony, it showcases the beauty behind the central theme of the anime in the brightest way possible. The music is the essence of hope, blended and refined into magnificent sound.
For how distant and cold everything feels from the start, the uplifting presence of each climactic build up and release just breaths hope. Even in the softer tracks where the progression is simple and smooth, it all comes together in these gorgeous soundscapes. The music progresses slowly throughout the album into more heavy hitting tracks such as the progressive rock of "Nc17". The track starts out faster than others, with a dancing piano until an acoustic and electric guitar join the mix. Just moments later the song explodes into a joyous rock climax.The best example of the progression comes in the form of "Ess", a short yet Godspeed You! like track that has soaring horns and an incredible climax that sounds like something right off of F#A#. There are times where the album takes a break from the progressive formula, but even succeeds to create meaningful Lo-fi indie tracks such as Pop ETC's "Is" which is littered with heartfelt lyrics and solid instrumentation.
The true beauty of the album comes in the form of a single instrument, the piano. Yoko Kanno is gifted in transforming seemingly simple melodies into vast and expansive harmonies as the song progresses. The soundtrack's two best songs both contain a piano that follows the same melody throughout the entire song, but never strain from being just wonderful to hear. The best of the two being "Von", a breathtaking six minute track where Kanno's piano leads Icelandic vocalist Arnor Dan through a cold, surreal, and uplifting track. Starting off with a slow and peaceful piano, three words are repeated through the entire song that add on to the complexity until the eruption of strings towards the middle of the track. The song is a lyrical masterpiece, and should be listened to by any fan of music; even if the vocalist speaks a different language.
The album ends with Bless, another track with vocals by Arnor Dan, and honestly the soundtrack couldn't have ended better. It's short, yet leaves a heavy impression on the listener through its beautiful vocals and dreamlike atmosphere, with the word "beautiful" really being the best word to describe the soundtrack as a whole. It's evident from start to finish that Kanno poured out all of her emotions and drenched every track. There isn't a single dull moment, not a single song to skip or do away with. Zankyou no Terror simply has one of my favorite anime soundtracks of all time, and I advice everyone to give this a listen at some point in the near future.