The weekend of August 26 – 27 was a hive of activity for the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) with its Symphonic Anime concert. Audiences were treated to an evening of music from such popular Japanese animated films from Studio Ghibli, Naruto Shippuden, One Piece, Attack on Titan and even Ultraseven.
Malaysians thronged to the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) for this concert, which originally began as a one night show only but due to the overwhelming demand, turned into four shows and all were sold out!
The conductor for the Symphonic Anime concert was MPO’s resident conductor Naohisa Furusawa, who usually is quite reserved as seen in previous performances, frequently addressed the audience this time around by introducing the particular anime film and its background before playing the music.
Naohisa also mentioned that, in his own personal opinion, he considers Joe Hisaishi, who is the long-time music composer for Studio Ghibli, as being as great as composer John Williams (Jaws, Star Wars, Indiana Jones series etc.).
We are not here to argue with Naohisa but there can be no doubt that Hisaishi has provided some of the most memorable, lush and stirring music for Studio Ghibli.
For example, one can feel the majestic and bittersweet emotion from the music of Princess Mononoke; the innocence and playfulness from Ponyo; the wonder and awe from Laputa; the sophistication and dedication in Kiki’s Delivery Service. All the aforementioned music pieces were excerpts from the individual film’s soundtracks.
However, the popular anime Spirited Away had its own Suite which, according to Naohisa, was composed by Hisaishi for the purpose of a live orchestral performance such as this. And this was a real treat to listen to with almost a half-hour long and going through the whole emotional spectrum of the film.
An ‘Ultra’ Surprise
It also should be noted that this concert added a light show to compliment the music which is not common for orchestral shows in general but worked very well in this case.
A surprise piece of music came from Ultraseven which is part of the Ultraman TV series which debuted in Japan in 1967. Naohisa explained that he jumped at the opportunity to play the music from Ultraseven even though it isn’t an anime because he is such a big fan of the TV show and Ultraman. He even encouraged the audience to catch the new Ultraman movie which is making its way to Malaysian cinemas in early October.
And what a great piece of music it was, upbeat and exciting, and this reviewer was nicely surprised by it so much so that he went back home and watched an episode of Ultraseven on YouTube and there was that wonderful music!
Towards the end, Naohisa spoke about growing up in Tokyo, reading manga and watching anime, revealing some of his favorites like Dragon Ball and The Fist of the North Star and that now, new shows have taken their place such as Naruto, Attack on Titan and One Piece.
During the encore though, Naohisa played the theme from Dragon Ball, taking a cue from his childhood and it was thoroughly enjoyable experience to be had by all.
Review by Rizal Johan