Kenji Kawai

" I especially have limitless appreciation for both the use of chorus and exquisite taiko drumming. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the regular release

Innocence (Kôkaku Kidôtai 2: Inosensu / Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence) is a 2004 quasi sequel to Mamoru Oshii' 1995 animated film, based on the sixth issue of the original manga. The plot concerns itself with the already familiar section 9 operative Batou, now paired with Togasu, to investigate a series of murders caused by malfunctioning gynoids (pleasure robots). Much alike the first film, the basic plot is another investigation, but as time passes it dives deeper into a wide variety of themes; from the familiar human cyborgs, philosophy and much more. The first film included a wealth of aesthetical dialogues, not truly needed to understand the film on a basic level, but offered different layers to investigate at free will. Innocence takes it one step further by adding a lot of philosophical quotes on top of the Godarian aesthetics of the dialogues of no real importance, as intended by the director. Other differences are much larger action set pieces, especially one towards the end, more digital influence on the animation, for better and worse, and much more expansive, more spectacular Kenji Kawai score, which also refers to elements of the previous score.

Generally, Innocence' score is an atypical product of the great Kawai. He is particular well at giving scenes a distinct, but not always pleasurable textural (outdated) accompany, illustrative and with an open view on the matters at hand, while the stronger, clearly definable sequences carry a recognizable melodic core. It sounds cliché, but it is the thing that defines his score to Innocence, one of his very best I might add.

For colouring the score, Kawai uses his personal methods of composing, recording and mixing that have made the use of the Uchida Strings group essential, while using percussion – the mother of all taiko drum scores - and normal drums, the familiar Japanese chorus, ambient, textural electronics, bass, piano, bells, and the introduction of the music box sound by the 80 note music box called the Orpheus. Unlike a majority of his scores, even the canon score to Avalon, the musical necessity bares little outdated musical instrument, technique or anything else, but it is only detectable in the slightly generic, but still familiarly good action writing of Attack of the Wakabayashi, but not in the amazing finale underscored by Kugutsuuta _ Kagirohi Ha Yomi Ni Mata Muto.

The influences of Shinto traditions, further heard in the cues with chorus, have great influence on how Kawai approaches the textural cues, resulting in a hybrid of usual ethereal synths, strings and ambient Shinto instruments. It's heard in the wonderfully brooding 'Eroforu', 'Type 2052 "Hadaly'' and 'Dungeon'.

For the Doll house sequences, the director instructed Kawai to underscore them with a massive sounding music box. The composer had written a melody carried over to a specific build huge music box, the Orpheus, also adding a Thai gong, and coiled bells, which produces a total of 80 notes. Deviating from his normal practice in writing, recording and mixing, he went through extensive lengths to produce a sound with a lot of reverberations and massive, spacious sound, which could not have been created otherwise, especially not by his usual use of echoing effects and electronic reverberations. Within the series universe, familiar themes such human shells living inside a robot, now progresses to dolls, and it are these sequences that lead to a forthcoming climactic conclusion, Kugutsuuta _ Kagirohi Ha Yomi Ni Mata Muto, in which the sound returns. The marionette theme is therefore impressively appropriate by the use of the huge sound of the music box. It sounds like an Escherian Stairwell; hypnotic, disorientating, but very stimulative to the brain, brilliant in underlying the animated designs and overarching philosophical content.

For the first film, Oshii requested the use of primitive drums for the opening credits. Kawai opted to establish a stronger effect by allowing a chorus to sing on top of this. Oshii then requested the use of old Japanese singing. Looking at the heritage of Japanese traditional folk songs, Min'yō, a chorus was something unknown to the Japanese, so the composer found inspiration in a Bulgarian folk style of singing, and combined this with a Japanese chorus singing in this technique, which proved to be quite a challenge due to their inexperience. Also, the language in which they sing derives from ancient Japanese, which these days is very hard to understand, mostly due to the differences in pronunciation, while the lyrics were inspired and lend from old Shinto wedding songs, but just as the melody itself an original creation of the composer. Altogether, it creates a level of intended mystique befitting of the film, supporting the visual display of the merge of human and machine, as well as addressing it from a spiritual point of view. While I was surprised by the use of the chorus in the opening, its prominent role in a poetic sightseeing sequence of Tokyo is one of the most beautiful marriages of film and music I have ever seen.

In Innocence, the chorus returns, raising the number of performers to 75 by choice of Kawai, but their thematic intent shifts, just slightly. The singing is still very much spiritual, but placing less emphasis on transcendal use, the same can be said about a large portion of the score. This is most likely explained by the introduction of large manufacturing of a new kind of product, that mixes with a variety of old and other newer themes of Innocence. Therefore, all the Kugutsuuta Kagirohi pieces have quite a different nuance, tone, atmosphere and instrumentation, in which emotions are more expressive and do not only communicate sorrow, but ultimately expressing hope for redemption.

Kugutsuuta _ Kagirohi Ha Yomi Ni Mata Muto is one of the definitive highlights of film music history, and one of Kawai's greatest achievements. It serves the sequence in which Batou, after having discovered a variety of things, locates the whereabouts of the main quarters of an evil entity and its rogue gynoids, and sets out to free them.

Kawai likes to structure action orientated cues by first setting a rhythm established by percussion, and it are especially the taiko drums that are wholeheartedly impressive. In hearing so many other composers efforts to produce a huge array of percussion for a score, often massive in sound, one more louder than the other, this is the one that is the most impressive. Kawai does not only allow them to follow a rather basic, yet powerful design, but by assigning the taiko drums to elevate between basic hits and aggressive, significantly louder ones, it feels more effective, rather than drowning in a massive overall sound palette, and, above all, so much more exciting than anything else I have ever heard.

The opening pulsing, bass line, another thing to establish the structure, is a hugely anticipating tension filler, especially as the cue opens, onwards aided by the chorus, portions of atmosphere and textures, bells, strings, the taiko drums, further electronics and the music box; it all comes into play in a cue that perfectly follows the climactic scene. It's a composition that follows a lot of familiar paths, musical wise and conceptually wise, using familiar motifs from the first and second film, while showing great diversity varying between styles, instrumentation, intensity and emotion. Above all, the aggressive use of taiko and chorus is especially unforgettably exciting in this 9 minute long impressive experience; one of the best cues ever composed. It matches the larger than life experience of a cue from Avalon (Voyage To Avalon (Orchestra Version), which only doesn't bare the same level of excitement in terms of aggressiveness, but it does so emotionally. As a standalone piece, I have listened to the cue so many times, often in sessions of several repeats - I have lost count - and it still never ceases to amaze me.

In films, decisions are made in how to level between sound design, dialogue, and music on designated scenes. The earlier mentioned poetic sightseeing scene over Tokyo was an astounding marriage of visuals and music only (in the first film), just as the carnival sequence in Innocence, in which Kawai's use of chorus shines. The climactic action sequence, unlike the carnival sequence, and to a lesser degree the majority of pieces of score in context, does have a lot of sound to concern itself with, by which a lot of the musical details get lost. However, on a positive side, there are some circular movements of machinery supported by sound design that blend in very well with Kawai's original standalone music.

The producer chose two songs, River Of Crystals and Follow Me for the film; the first used as source music, the second in the end credits. Both the director and composer agreed to this request, which they should not have, since it does not fit a world of such a high conceptual and aesthetic value. Oshii has made several more requests, a larger sound, specific use of a music box, but these were appointed to enhance the experience by Kawai, in service of the film. At least Kawai made the original music by Joaquin Rodrigo (Follow Me) work by transcribing it to his own sound world, with vocal performances by Kimiko Itoh. In the film, both are completely irrelevant, on album even more. Innocence is one of Kawai's greatest achievements, and I doubt anyone wants the songs included on the official CD release and in the film, and yet they are.

Kenji Kawai's music to the two Kôkaku Kidôtai films is admirable, but I do also recommend his expansive views for Oshii's expo installation Mezame no Hakobune and the live performances of numerous pieces of Innocence, both on CD and on a concert performance DVD. Another great release is the Music Video Anthology box, including a music video compilations DVD, cards, and a standard jewel case official score CD.

Solely upon looking at Innocence, I especially have limitless appreciation for both the use of chorus and exquisite taiko drumming.

1 Dungeon 1:24
2 Kugutsuuta _ Ura Mite Chiru 3:40
3 Type 2052 "Hadaly" 4:06
4 River Of Crystals - Vocals – Kimiko Itoh 5:48
5 Attack The Wakabayashi 3:31
6 Etorofu 3:55
7 Kugutsuuta _ Aratayo Ni Kamutsudo Hite 5:11
8 The Doll House I 1:31
9 The Doll House II 2:56
10 Kugutsuuta _ Kagirohi Ha Yomi Ni Mata Muto 9:47
11 Tohokami Emi Tame 0:32
12 Follow Me Vocals – Kimiko Itoh 5:01

Total duration: 47:27

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Released by

Victor (regular release 2004)