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Sekaiju no MeiQ I & II Piano and Strings Arrange Version :: Review by Don

Live Music by Piano and Strings ~ Sekaiju no MeiQ I & II Super Arrange Version Album Title: Live Music by Piano and Strings ~ Sekaiju no MeiQ I & II Super Arrange Version
Record Label: Five Records
Catalog No.: VGCD-0149
Release Date: October 8, 2008
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Over the past couple of years, the Etrian Odyssey series has become a very popular franchise in terms of gaming as well as music. Prior to the release of this album, there have been two other Super Arrange Versions, one for Etrian Odyssey and one for Etrian Odyssey II. The first arrange album featured a few guest artists, but was primarily arranged by members of GEM Impact in a variety of styles. The second album was also arranged by GEM Impact members, including Norihiko Hibino himself, but it also featured arrangements from prominent artists. Live Music by Piano and Strings ~ Sekaiju no MeiQ I & II Super Arrange Version, in contrast, is arranged entirely by Norihiko Hibino and is more consistent in style. It was actually inspired by his arrangement of "Labyrinth I - Woodland Ruins" from the Sekaiju no MeiQ II Super Arrange Version. According to a recent interview, Koshiro really liked Hibino's arrangement, and thus this album was born. It offers a very relaxing atmosphere with its mixture of light bossa nova pieces and meditative small ensemble performances. Do all the arrangements translate well to this style? You'll just have to read on to find out.


Most of this album consists of the various labyrinth themes from both games, though there are also a few other themes as well. Both opening themes are featured on this album. Etrian Odyssey's "Spinning the Tale" starts off with some mysterious string and piano work. As the piece progresses, the tone becomes more playful and the piano takes a more prominent role, despite still being the accompaniment. The melody continues on in the string line. I find it to be one of the weaker arrangements on the album, but it's worth a listen. The opening theme from Etrian Odyssey II, "Come On, Start the Adventure," is a much more relaxed piece with some light jazz influence.The strings and piano take turns providing the melody and accompaniment and it works quite nicely. It's a very delicate arrangement that offers a hint of mystery, yet at the same time, manages to keep a very playful tone. It is much better than its counterpart and nicely bringes two sections of the album.

There is a sole town theme on this album. From Etrian Odyssey, "Town - The Roadside Trees Outside the Window" is one of the most beautiful arrangements. The violin and cello work marvelously together to create a very subdued, yet evocative, atmosphere. It's almost as if someone is staring outside the window, wishing to explore the world before them. The piano adds some beautiful accompaniment to the piece and also has a sense of longing in it. Overall, it's one of my favorite pieces on the album. In addition to the sole town theme, there is also a sole event theme. Also from Etrian Odyssey, "Scene - Blue and White" provides another melancholy, but ultimately provocative, piece of music. The piano is the prominent instrument here, with some fine acoustic guitar accompaniment, and it helps to provide an air of delicacy. The violin and cello accents also help to add some contrast to the piece. As the piece progresses, there are some slightly dark passages, but nothing that is too extreme for the rest of the arrangement.

When I first say the tracklisting for this album, I was really worried when I saw the battle theme medley arrangement. Loving the originals, I figured that a slower paced arrangement would ultimately harm the pieces. Featuring the main battle themes from both games, "Battle - Initial Strike / Battle - The First Campaign," is actually probably my favorite arrangement on the album. The "Initial Strike" section manages to keep the core melody and atmosphere of the intense battle theme, despite such a dramatic change in tempo. The piano accents add some wispiness to the piece while the violin and cello manage to impress in the main melody line. The transition between the battle themes adds a slight hint of suspense before entering the "The First Campaign" section. Unlike the former piece, this piece is probably an even better representation of the battle theme. Rather than choosing to use strings, Hibino opts for the piano and acoustic guitar to carry the melody, thus keeping the simplicity of the original intact yet elaborating on it greatly. The acoustic guitar section is easily my favorite part of piece, as it features some nice improvisation on the main melody. The strings add some nice accompaniment as well, but don't really participate in the melody until towards the end of the piece.

While I'd love to mention all the labyrinth themes, I'm only going to mention a few of my favorites. Like the battle theme medley, there is also an arrangement that features both Labyrinth I themes from the series. "Labyrinth I - The Green Green Woodlands / Labyrinth I - Woodland Ruins" is a nice arrangement combining some of my favorites from the respective games. "The Green Green Woodlands" section utilizes the acoustic guitar for the melody line, helping to add some exoticism to the piece. However, the most impressive part of this arrangement is the harmony between every single instrument. The violin, acoustic guitar, cello, and piano all combine effortlessly to provide a chilling experience that carries an air of mystery and uncertainty. The second portion of the arrangement, "Woodland Ruins," on the other hand, opts for a jazzier approach. The acoustic guitar and piano once again provides some nice improvisation to the main melody. The harmonization isn't nearly as intense as in the first portion of the arrangement, but it is particularly reminiscent of Hibino's arrangement of this labyrinth theme from the Sekaiju no MeiQ II Super Arrange Version. In the end, it provides beautiful soundscape to the listener.

My favorite labyrinth themes in both games of the series belong to Labyrinth IV. "Labyrinth IV - The Withered Forest," is an upbeat piece that transforms the melancholy original into something with a bit more character yet, at the same time, retains some of the soul heard in the original. The featured instruments on the album all take turns adding their unique spins to the melody. It's quite a nice transformation to hear and the jazzy improvisation of the piano and acoustic guitar make for another entertaining listen. The other theme, "Labyrinth IV - Cherry Tree Bridge," is definitely a more peaceful arrangement. As with the original, this arrangement is pensive. The subtle use of the acoustic guitar to accompany the piano helps to create an especially ethereal feel. As the piece progresses into the B section, the strings take over the lead melody while the piano serves as the accompaniment. From this point on, the piece takes on a bit of a melancholy atmosphere, but in the end, remains to this day, my favorite single labyrinth theme arrangement.

"Labyrinth III - The Thousand Year Old Blue Woodlands," from Etrian Odyssey, is another slow arrangement. Overall, there is a sense of tranquility heard in this arrangement. The melody transitions between all the instruments quite nicely. The acoustic guitar adds some thoughtful tones, the piano provides a hint of playfulness, and the strings offer some more emotional tones. When the acoustic guitar, piano, and strings harmonize with one another near the end of the arrangement, some mysteriousness is added to the arrangement, giving it a small sense of danger. It's quite an exquisite arrangement. Lastly, "Labyrinth II - Ever-Scarlet Forest," from Etrian Odyssey II, offers some nice melodic interludes between piano and violin. Considering this is the longest arrangement containing a sole composition, it manages to keep interest throughout by providing some nice piano and acoustic improvisation towards the middle of the arrangement. It's one of the more melancholy arrangements, yet at the same time, it offers some nice playful passages.


This album is like a dual-edged sword. On one hand, the arrangements of this album translate extremely well, some even to a surprising degree. On the other hand, if you listen in one sitting, you might think some of the pieces meld together due to the relaxing nature of the album. This is a perfect album to sit down, read a newspaper, and drink some coffee or tea. It seems to wash away any tension that I might be feeling at the time. If you carefully listen though, you'll find that each arrangement takes a thoughtful approach that respects the original, but puts a very nice twist on many of the pieces featured. If you enjoy the other arranged albums for the series or the originals, I'd look into picking this up.

Overall Score: 8/10