Topic: Characters, music, personalities.  (Read 134159 times)

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Fightest

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Characters, music, personalities.
« on: September 04, 2009, 07:07:57 am »
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a piece of music may be just as capable of detailing a character's personality and behaviour. I like to think that I know something about music, instrumentation and composition, so I'm putting together this thread to analyse characters' theme tunes and try to glean some personality from them.

I welcome everyone reading this thread to chip in - if you think that, say, Lunar Clock - Luna Dial's brutality mirrors Sakuya's attitude to everyone not her master, or The Venerable Ancient Battlefield's aloof, inapproachable nobility helps portray that of Kanako, then go ahead and post, even if you're not musically inclined. Otherwise I'm just writing to myself, and that feels awkward.

I will only go through the Windows games, as those are the ones I'm familiar with, starting with EoSD.

A few disclaimers first, however:
I won't be dealing with remixes (for the moment - this also includes chunks of IaMP and SWR) until I'm done with a game in question.  So I'll only get to EoSD remixes until I'm done with the EoSD core, for example. 
I feel I'm quite familiar with most of the characters presented in the games, both canon and fanon, and this will colour my interpretations of each character's piece. I'll try to keep this in mind, but if something feels off, I'd love to discuss.
I will only be analysing Boss themes, unless the Stage theme is appropriate, e.g. Alice's stage in PCB.
Of course, this is all opinion, so people are welcome to disagree.
Finally, I will attempt to be working under the assumption that ZUN knows what he's doing, 100% of the time, as questioning the creator will only lead to problems. However, I will also disagree with some of the pieces that characters have attached to them, on one basis or another. This doublethink will, no doubt, drive me mad, but eh, it's all in the spirit of fun.
I will separate posts as is convenient.


Major edit two!
Having finished every unique boss theme up to UFO, I'll link to my entries here. Links to individual analyses are either present, or analyses are in the original post; thanks go to to Lloyd Dunamis for taking the time to organise the individual links.

Perfect Cherry Blossom

Immaterial and Missing Power


Imperishable Night

Phantasmagoria of Flower View

Extra
Fightest Sign ~ Informed Recollection

Mountain of Faith

Scarlet Weather Rhapsody

Subterranean Animism

Undefined Fantastic Object


So let's start! Embodiment of Scarlet Devil.

EoSD feels to me like ZUN is still trying to figure out his synthesiser. A lot of the themes are all over the place, and, honestly, are a bit hard to analyse.

Rumia's theme - Apparitions Stalk the Night

We are immediately blasted with arpeggios that seem more in place at a trance party than in a fantasy wonderland. This sort of sound produces a sense of intensity - there are no gaps to breathe, as it were, so the entire passage blazes past you, giving that feeling of "whoa". And right now I'm gonna disagree with ZUN. From what we know of Rumia, canonically, is she's a slightly airheaded youkai with the appearance of a little girl. She also likes to eat humans. Her power is to manipulate darkness, which is so absolute that she herself can't see through it, leading to hilarious flight mishaps. There's no room here for high-powered intensity - Rumia is more macabre than she is intense, to me.
Once these are done, the piece moves into a calmer xylophone and ZUN!trumpet melody. The melody never moves out of the higher octaves, has simple accompaniment and few key changes. The key here is the high-pitched simplicity, which, to me, does a far better job of showing ZUN's Rumia - straightforward, few complications, certainly no outright twists, with very little mention of her darker side. And that's what she is, ultimately, in the game - a straightforward challenge with few gimmicks, to get our heroines warmed up. In hindsight, perhaps those few opening arpeggios attempt to show the darker human-eating side of her, and don't quite succeed.

Cirno's theme - Beloved Tomboyish Girl

Heh. Far, far too elegant and melodic for the Cirno we know and love. I doubt even Cirno thinks she's as elegant as the piece seems to suggest. It certainly doesn't give off "the strongest" vibe, but that's a fanon thing, and wouldn't be present in the piece. The piece still has plenty of merit, though.
The introduction is filled with, well, pretty meaningless arpeggios interspersed with well-chosen electronic glassy sounds to give that association with ice. Played fully legato, it's a set of very melodic passages that suggest elegance. Cirno freezes frogs for fun and has trouble with arithmetics. Elegant she is not. I did say I wasn't going to examine remixes, but IOSYS' Perfect Math Class does a far better job, to me, of showing her character with simple, confident chords with plenty of non-legato to show a simple, confident character without much flow or elegance. On the other hand, her airheadedness is reflected by the arpeggios never really going anywhere, and just sort of milling about.
The main melody pretty much follows the same procedure, although is closer to IOSYS than the introduction - a more confident melody with more focus on each individual note than on the flow, without any strong key changes to keep it clean and simple. Again, the melody doesn't really go anywhere, and mills about, but doesn't appear worried about it - there are no suggestive cadences or even out-of-key notes. Thus we have our Cirno - confident about her self and her character, unconcerned with future developments and more focused on the here and now.

ChinaHong Meilin's theme - Shanghai Alice of Meiji 17.

I always found Hong Meilin's shticks conflicting - she has flower and rainbow-themed ranged attacks in the game, yet is usually portrayed as a martial artist who prefers to go at it close and personal. Yeah, yeah, Spell Card System. Fneh.
Anyway, my personal view is that this is a gorgeous piece, and really signifies the beginning of EoSD proper to me - ZUN has seemed to get a good grip on the music now, and is really using it to get flavour across. Or at least some pretty tunes.
Shanghai Alice is, to me, all about its mixing of Eastern and Western styles. The main melody, played by violins and...something plucked - you can't miss it - has an Oriental vibe to it which contrasts strongly with its own Western cadences and key changes. The melody is quite forceful in standing out above its accompaniment, and doesn't give much room to breathe, keeping the listener hooked without an opportunity to break the suspense. Texture-wise, we hear both melodic legato, and plucked staccato, the former on violin, the latter on that plucked thing, again showing the two worlds that conflict in this piece. Putting it all together, we get a Hong Meilin who is a personality that stands out, is part of two different cultures, yet takes the strongest aspects from both, combining them into something different. We get a powerful elegance and a careful precision. We get an intoxicating intensity.
[snark]Now if only more people portrayed her as thus, instead of as a submissive gate guard.[/snark]

Patchouli Knowledge's theme - Locked Girl - The Girl's Secret Room.

My favourite piece amongst all those in EoSD. Every time I hear it, I keep thinking, why this intensity? Why never a major key? Why such a heart-wrenching melody (not even mentioning the SWR orchestral remix)? And then I realise the context, and it cracks me up. You are beating up an anemic, asthmatic, short-sighted girl who always wears a nightdress, and rarely leaves her room in fear for her health. In any context, this is tragic by itself - that gives us the insistence on the minor key. She's going to bloody well fight back with everything she's got, her pride appears to come before her health - hence the intensity, both in music and spell patterns (god damn you non-directional lasers). The heart-wrenchingness comes from the desperate power in the melody - this is where the game comes first, music second - Patchy is a fantastic mage, with more spellcards than you can shake a stick at, all of them gorgeous, but she can only use them if her health permits - this feeling of being terminally crippled is mirrored in the melody. However, I always come back to the same conclusion - it's too tragic a melody. She is never portrayed by ZUN as being significantly hindered by her disabilities. Hell, we know she's ancient so we know she gets by pretty much fine. She's perfectly capable of showing initiative, as demonstrated in the games where she can be a protagonist. Perhaps if her disabilities were more important points in her narrative the melody would be more appropriate.

Next installment (when I feel up to it): Lunar Clock - Luna Dial, Septette for the Dead Princess and U.N. Owen was her
« Last Edit: December 03, 2009, 06:40:20 pm by Fightest »

Fightest

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2009, 11:18:38 am »
Aw, no replies? Surely it's not that boring a topic!  :(

Sakuya - Lunar Clock - Luna Dial

To me, this one always comes out of nowhere, compared to Shanghai Alice and Locked Girl. Here we get more of an electronic rock vibe than anything else. Unlike with Rumia, however, I feel this is totally appropriate - a sharp contrast to the previous two Boss themes suggests something very different, and the diminished chords poking out of the background in the introduction set us on the edge. Actually, much about the piece does this, the biggest aspect, to me, being that there's not really any distinctive melody for the entire first half, with a series of arpeggioes and broken chords in the second half suggesting a possible melodic development, but never properly coming to life before the track loops. It's hard for me to say if this shows anything about Sakuya herself, as opposed to providing a background for her unstructured and somewhat confusing spellcards. Perhaps, personality-wise, this shows unresolved conflict and aggression that Sakuya prefers to loose on the world than keep bottled up. The usual uninterrupted flow of sound that we get for most of the characters' themes is present in Lunar Clock, but has a very characteristic section of a few cadences of diminished chords, where the music stops, starts, stops (you know that bit, you can't miss it) - that attempts to trip up the listener. To me, this both reflects Sakuya's time-stopping tendencies, as well as, perhaps, showing a will to intentionally deceive and take advantage. What character do we get out of this? I would say cruel, willing to do unto others before others do unto her, unafraid of deceiving and manipulating to hurt, yet is also conflicted, unsure with where she's going, and not really able to resolve a path for the future.

Remilia Scarlet - Septette for the Dead Princess

I have trouble listening to this piece. First off, take the time to listen to the PCB stage 4 track ("Capital of Flowers in the Sky"), pay close attention at around the 1:00 mark, and especially the 1:10 mark. I played PCB before I played EoSD, and I was rather confused to hear that motif as the main theme in Septette, repeated all the time. Every time it crops up in Septette, I keep making that connection, and it distracts me from the actual piece. Additionally, I watched Cruel Sisters and the Suffering Maid a few too many times, and now I just can't listen to Septette without imagining the video and the song. Admittedly, it's hilarious, but it sure doesn't help in this particular exercise.

So, Septette for the Dead Princess, final boss theme. This piece oozes with personality. I'll split the piece into several parts to make my life easier. The first part, until about 1:09 has a repeating theme (that distracting one I mentioned) played with a single ZUN!trumpet, clearly standing out above the accompaniment. The melody is calm, precise, no-nonsense, with many strong notes, yet with a clear, smooth melodic line. This epitomises Remilia's aristocratic nature. This is the Remilia you see on first greeting - collected, firm, full of confidence and power. Perhaps a bit macabre or sinister, as illustrated by the diminished arpeggioes in the sections where the trumpet doesn't play. In fact, this is something that Remilia will certainly not hide - these sections are very clear, never hidden underneath a melody.
From 1:09 to about 1:22 we have a bit of a transition section. All in major, and characterised by piano chords following the ever-present smooth trumpet section - all somewhat throwing off the image that had just been set up, followed up with a, well, mischievous cadence at the very end. Let me explain that - cadences are chord progressions, and can be a way of changing key within a piece. There are a few different types, and evoke a specific mood of the transition, most tending to string the listener along with chord after chord before resolving into a satisfying new tonic chord. 1:22's cadence does exactly that...but then holds the melody off for a second, just a bit longer than it should, stringing the listener a long, leaving him to choke a bit, then continuing as if nothing had happened. Interpret that as you will, but I clearly see a Remilia who is able to effortlessly wind another around her finger by putting on unusual character airs, but only do so to tease, certainly nothing malevolent.
From then on we start off with a doubled trumpet to mirror the first part, but these are quickly drowned out by a piano improvisation that lasts until the track loops. Although not technically an improvisation, it's clearly intended to sound as such - a stream-of-consciousness release of emotion that doesn't care if it overshadows the previously-established aristocratic coolness. And that's our final piece of the Remilia picture - ultimately, she doesn't care how she is seen, as long as she is able to operate free and uninhibited. She probably won't be actively malevolent, unless this improvisation takes her in that direction, but is just as likely to spin off somewhere else. However, that aristocratic tone will always be present in the background, whether by choice, force of habit, or something else.

Next installment (because it's somewhat difficult): U.N. Owen was her

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2009, 12:46:55 pm »
Not sure I agree that BTD doesn't fit Cirno. It's light, airy, and playful, with a kind of scatterbrained background flurry of notes. At the main happy piano part, those strings in the background are a little sad; highlighting how she gets teased maybe. But overall it's a featherweight, icy, merry tune. It's total Cirno.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2009, 01:07:33 pm by Amaterasu-ōmikami »

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2009, 01:02:47 pm »
Not sure I agree that BTD doesn't fit Cirno. It's light, playful, with a kind of scatterbrained background flurry of notes. It's total Cirno.

Oh, absolutely, it fits, but I feel that the introduction could use more of the scatterbrained-ness that's more present in the main part. I may have been a bit too harsh judging Beloved Tomboyish Girl (or was it Daughter? I could swear I saw Daughter used instead of Girl somewhere) coming off Rumia's theme.

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2009, 01:14:21 pm »
So, you write posts about how the characters are reflected thorugh their themes and you don't think of mentioning that Luna Dial uses the ticking of a clock as percussion? For shaaaaame.  :V
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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2009, 01:41:16 pm »
Also calling Remilia's last part of her song 'not improvised' is also a shame. If you think the piano drowns the music you are not listening correctly :V

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2009, 01:55:33 pm »
Flandre Scarlet - U.N. Owen was her

This piece actually creeped me out first time I heard it. It spelled gothic doom. Still does, if I'm in the right mindset. Actually thinking about it, it's far easier to work with than Septette, simply because UNO has pretty much one style that it clings to with manic persistence. Instrumentation remains consistent throughout with some sort of organ-thing on the melody supported by a bass that sits in the lower octaves to remind you, in case you forgot, that this ain't no flowers-and-bunnies piece, occasional punctuation by bells, with a thumping, oppressive drum beat in the background. Oh, and a bit of xylophone... I'll get to that one in a bit.
There isn't much point in analysing the piece bit-by-bit - the objective seems to be to unashamedly blast you with diminished chords until your brain collapses, and UNO does exactly that - every section comes back to the same manic obsession on diminished chords and oppressive beat and bass. A part that actually stands out, now that I think about it, is the little xylophone transition part at 0:55. This bit gives us a break from the mania, establishing a somewhat different character, strings us along, pulls us into a cadence... Sound familiar? This bit really reminds me of Septette's transition, if not in melody, then, at least, in style - clearly Flandre is more similar to her sister than her usual behaviour lets on. Then again, the cadence, instead of a satisfying conclusion, breaks the flow and falls back into mindscrew mode.
And here I have a question - Flandre is crazy (in a poorly-defined manner). Where (canonically) is this established? I honestly can't remember, and it'd help if someone could point it out.
Assuming she is, indeed, not sane, then this piece might give a version of the nature of her insanity - I believe it can be described as chronic obsessive-compulsive sadism. She shows a manic fixation on hurting things, doing so with no degree of shame. Occasionally she'll give sign of snapping out of it...but it's too hard to tell if it's genuine, as she could just be doing so to mess with you some more. And she will most certainly continue messing with you in an equally nasty manner. In fact, considering the vast majority of the piece is the nasty bit, I think it's better to describe her mania as chronic lack of obsessive-compulsive sadism.

That finishes EoSD! I don't really have many remixes of the pieces here, although I'll trawl through IaMP and SWR, they have some nice ones, and McRoll seems inevitable, also I welcome people to post a link or two to a remix that they feel really captures a character (don't link remixes just 'cause they're awesome - I'm sure they are, but that's not why we're here). Unfortunately, I'm going to be away from the internets for the weekend, but I hope to have a full review of PCB themes at the end. That said, next up: Perfect Cherry Blossom!

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2009, 02:05:05 pm »
Heh. Far, far too elegant and melodic for the Cirno we know and love.
Back when her theme was composed, she was not "the Cirno we know and love," she was "the ice fairy boss from Stage 2." There was no ⑨ meme, and the only hint at her apparent lack of intelligence were assumptions from her dialogue and Icicle Fall -Easy-. (In fact, Hong's statements about her last stand (and the fact that she lead Reimu/Marisa to the entrance of SDM) should've put her leaps ahead on the "baka" meme, but whatever.) Cirno was just some girl who shot icicles.

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2009, 02:10:06 pm »
So, you write posts about how the characters are reflected thorugh their themes and you don't think of mentioning that Luna Dial uses the ticking of a clock as percussion? For shaaaaame.  :V

Does it? *listens* I don't hear it. One might interpret that particular beating I think you're talking about as sounding ticking-like, but it sounds like a regular bass drum with some sort of dampener to me. Now, of course the intention could well be to make it sound like a clock ticking... but clock ticking is regular. This sure ain't, so I didn't get the association. You could be talking about something else though, so you might need to clarify.

Quote from: Helepolis
Also calling Remilia's last part of her song 'not improvised' is also a shame. If you think the piano drowns the music you are not listening correctly.

Are these two different points? The piano part clearly sounds like it has been improvised. I would think that ZUN wrote it down before playing it though, hence making it actually not improvised, but intended to sound so. Of course he could have actually been improvising during the recording. Regardless, the point is that it sounds thus. As for the second part - eeeh... I might not have been clear about that - the melody is firmly put into the background to let the piano do its thing. It's still audible, but the piano riff is by far the most important. Unless you're specifically listening for the melody and ignoring the piano, this is what you should hear.

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #9 on: September 04, 2009, 02:20:02 pm »
Heh. Far, far too elegant and melodic for the Cirno we know and love.
Back when her theme was composed, she was not "the Cirno we know and love," she was "the ice fairy boss from Stage 2." There was no ⑨ meme, and the only hint at her apparent lack of intelligence were assumptions from her dialogue and Icicle Fall -Easy-. (In fact, Hong's statements about her last stand (and the fact that she lead Reimu/Marisa to the entrance of SDM) should've put her leaps ahead on the "baka" meme, but whatever.) Cirno was just some girl who shot icicles.

Sure, my commentary has been biased by my current perception of Cirno's character. On the other hand, as you say, she didn't really have much character back then at all, forcing me to fill in some gaps. But it's true, the Cirno-as-then does not give much evidence for lack of elegance. I believe my other points still stand, however.

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2009, 03:46:52 pm »
Are these two different points? The piano part clearly sounds like it has been improvised. I would think that ZUN wrote it down before playing it though, hence making it actually not improvised, but intended to sound so. Of course he could have actually been improvising during the recording. Regardless, the point is that it sounds thus.
So you are like the type of person who doesn't notes down the part which you just improvised and it sounded pretty cool. Nice going there. Next time you won't be able to "show" that improvised part.

I guess everyone has their definition of improvising but for me, in this case music, is fitting in a part which is in total harmony of the actual fixed melody or rythm but making it yet somehow special and "seperate".

If I currently would replay Sanae's theme and add my improvised part after her chorus + write it down, before the 2nd intro starts: It would still be improvised as I made it up. I just happen to note it down to replay it the next time similar. It still stays improvised.
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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2009, 05:00:04 pm »
"Improvised" just means "made up on the spot". To say something "sounds" improvised means it sounds messy and poorly prepared.

Not saying I agree with either of you when it comes to whether or not that passage sounds improvised; I just think it's important we have our definitions clear.

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #12 on: September 04, 2009, 05:09:59 pm »
"Improvised" just means "made up on the spot". To say something "sounds" improvised means it sounds messy and poorly prepared.

Not saying I agree with either of you when it comes to whether or not that passage sounds improvised; I just think it's important we have our definitions clear.
Ay, you elobrated the point more clear. That is what I am aiming at.

I also want to add to my definition: It is hard to improvise music on the spot. Maybe in a speech or an acting/play or something else it would be easier. But with music, improvising is simply playing something in the league of the music and then thinking: "oh, this sounded pretty nice, let me try that again."

At the end it still remains on spot. Now we don't know exactly if ZUN improvised it or not (was this ever asked to him in fanmail or something?) I still see it as improvised part. But yea, that is my opinion with music.
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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2009, 07:13:50 am »
I'm back, and I'll answer the few points posted above before wading into PCB.

First off, ack, I can see where the confusion came from regarding the 'improvised' malarkey. I certainly don't mean messy or poorly-prepared. I mean much what Helepolis said earlier - fitting a melody to the ongoing harmony, but with a lot of emphasis on free-form, to really show off a stream-of-consciousness effect. Consider jazz improvisation - that's the vibe I get.

As for the writing-it-down versus not doing so...eh, to me, improvisation is for its own sake - writing it down to perform later takes away from the general experience, but this is certainly a mileage-may-vary thing, if you think different, that's perfectly fine.

I hope that's cleared things up, so I'll get going!

Perfect Cherry Blossom

There's some very characteristic instrumentation going on throughout all of PCB - lots of piano, trumpets and a very specific type of electronic sound that, to me, do well to link together many of the themes we hear, reinforcing the (rather meager) overarching narrative. Perfect Cherry Blossom is the first Touhou game I've played, so I tend to subconsciously measure up every other one to it, music-wise also. This leads to issues with some of ZUN's more experimental tracks in UFO, but that's a ways away to talk about now.

Letty Whiterock - Crystallized Silver

What jumps out at me immediately are the sharp drum beats that permeate the entire piece, making the entire thing seem as if the listener is standing on thin ice that's constantly cracking under their feet, chasing them as they brave the oncoming blizzard, portrayed by the dual trumpets. The brass plays the melody here in long, undulating passages to give a feeling of persistence in addition to the clear and obvious power that brass generally adds to the feel of a piece.
Listening to the introduction and its transition into the melody, there's some very clear imagery here, which I'll tie into Letty's canon characterisation as a winter spirit of sorts. A few bursts of plucked strings suggest a few snowflakes falling here and there, biting in their cold, interspersed by somewhat whiny electronic chords (really obvious, can't miss 'em) to show chill wind picking up, then exploding with the trumpets as the blizzard finally catches up and envelops the listener.
The melody, to me, really catches the feel of a sudden winter blizzard, which suggests just how strongly Letty's character is tied to that - her very nature is to be chilling wind and biting cold. She doesn't dawdle around, she does not hide what she is and she takes herself very seriously - she shows up and gets to business.

Chen - Diao ye zong (Withered Leaf)

Okay, this one's a bit hard. It's characteristic instrumentation - that biting drum, the glassy undulating synthesiser sound with a bit of piano in the high octaves thrown in for good measure - are still very good for capturing winter-related imagery. Considering Perfect Cherry Blossom is all about the unending winter and hawt ghosts I feel this piece is less about Chen, but more there to reinforce this unending winter vibe. Honestly, I feel this even pervades to the next stage's theme (The Doll Maker of Bucuresti).
Listening to the piece again, I think there's something to get by focusing on the piano part, as that gives us something new over the glassy synthesiser and the biting drum. The piano gives us a simple repeating motif made up of clear, non-legato chords occasionally interspersed by a little bit of that wintrey glassy staccato. The listener would expect the piano to develop into something with more substance, however, it's quickly caught up in the undulating glass, which takes over and has the piano follow it in its wake. Or perhaps the piano is content to follow it and occasionally poke out to remind us that it's there. Maybe that gives us something about Chen - uncomplicated, playful in the snow, content with letting the winter roll over, confident that at some point, it'll go away and Chen will still be there, completely unperturbed.

Alice Margatroid - Doll Judgment ~ The girl who played with people's shapes.

I was going to add Doll Maker of Bucuresti to this as well, as I feel the stage as as much about Alice as the actual boss battle is, but for the sake of brevity I'll leave it out until later, if at all.
IOSYS may have been on to something - Doll Judgment is structured like a song. An oddly conflicted song, but a song nonetheless. Go on, listen to Marisa Stole the Precious Thing. IOSYS mess around a bit by mixing in bits of Doll Maker into Doll Judgment, and their verse versus chorus structure is a bit odd, nevertheless, I maintain it's a song, and that shows something about Alice - singers are typically portrayed as creative souls. They usually have a lot of love for their work, and I'd say they come in two flavours - those that sing for others, and those that sing for themselves. Hell, they can do both, depending on mood or situation.
The verse is nice and macabre with a single motif of broken chords repeating, but changing to a different key every time. Every key change is strongly non-standard (no tonic to dominant for us) and the motif repeats note-for-note, leading to parallel fourths (I think) in the resulting harmonic line. Parallel notes in a harmony is distinctly un-classical, which leads to this entire set of passages to sound just off. Better yet, there are two melodies that do this, exacerbating the effect. The verse shows us that Alice is unlike others, unusual, possibly a loner due to this - there are no secondary, classic motifs to offset the primary one.
The chorus breaks away from the strageness to offer us something more familiar, more comforting, strong and surprisingly melodic, with gentle melancholy hinted at by a few flute passages.
The verse comes back in, unchanged, perhaps to push us away, or, on the contrary, to keep us fixed, to hear that chorus again. And indeed the chorus comes back, twice, to make sure the listener does not forget that that part is as strong, or maybe stronger, than the strangeness that you heard at first.
Alice might be one of the more popular characters in the Touhou fandom, so my perceptions are rather coloured by the way she's portrayed by fans. This in mind, I'll hope to do her character justice without falling back on the usual standbys.
Alice is creative, and enjoys her creations. It's not immediately obvious why she keeps making her dolls - whether for herself or for others, but the fact that she's lives a solitary lifestyle suggests the former - thus meaning that she is introspective, perhaps looking for a greater meaning that would be revealed in her creations.
She might confuse and bewilder on first impressions, and even when one is familiar with her, and that's an ever-present part of her character, something that is hard not to notice when she's around. Perhaps she is aware of this, and would go to rather great lengths to establish that no, she isn't all that weird, she has normal sensibilities as well, she has all the same troubles that everyone else has.

Prismriver sisters - Phantom Ensemble.

Hmm...not entirely sure what to do here. There are three characters, and one theme. Hell, the theme doesn't even really use the instruments of the Prismrivers, so it's not possible to evaluate their characters by contribution to the piece (to naysayers - there's an accordion and a guitar in there, not to mention drums, in addition to the distinct lack of violin). So what I'll do is judge them as one character.
The Prismrivers are a laugh a minute. The piece keeps blatantly changing instruments, tempo and texture. On the other hand, the melody has two very basic patterns, which are repeated by a constantly-shifting jumble of instruments to provide the feeling of variety. And that's basically it for the Prismrivers - they're a colourful lot, each one with as much personality as the other, each contributing her distinct share to the general din that we get from them. Individually they're not much to look at, but put together their presence can easily overwhelm that of other characters' - there's certainly more volume to them than to Letty, Chen or Alice.
I don't really feel I've done the Prismrivers justice, so if anyone has anything to say, please do.

Youmu Konpaku - Hiroari Shoots a Strange Bird ~ Till When.

Every time I hear this I get the feeling of inevitable, colourful and prettily arranged death. This isn't irrelevant - Hiroari Shoots a Strange Bird explodes into fast-paced pipe organ and piano and doesn't let go even when changing gears into its melody. This is Youmu through and through - poweful, explosive and unrelenting.
However, Youmu is also surprisingly simple. Her melody is no more than 8 bars long, repeated in one different key, then back to the original key. Of those 8 bars, it's basically 4 bars repeated twice. But goshdarnit, those few bars will be repeated with the force of a thousand suns (or one overdrive guitar, in this case), as Youmu doesn't appear to be able to do much else. Now, consider that melody played on something far more mellow - flute, cello, something like that, and a smidge slower. It's a very pleasant melody, actually, quite lyrical, with a bit of longing, maybe. Youmu is actually quite emotional, just those emotions are expressed through the filter of the "shoot first, ask questions later" approach that is established in the introduction.
It's unfair to say that this is how she would always behave, however - imagine, in, say, a movie, where you might have a character with a central theme, which might have variations based on situation - a high-octane rock variation for fighting, a mellow flute-and-violins variation for introspection, a majestic horn variation for those walking-slowly-down-a-corridor moments... I feel that this particular rendition of Hiroari is simply Youmu's "fighting" theme, showing a unilateral, unwavering Youmu when she's repelling intruders - powerful, ruthless, fast. She will still remain refreshingly simple, however, with her 2x4-bar melody.

Up next - Bloom Nobly, Cherry Blossom of Sumizome ~ Border of Life and A Maiden's Illusionary Funeral ~ Necro-fantasy. I'm not sure if I should do Border of Life and Necrofantasia as they're both remixes, but they're both there for very good reasons.

RainfallYoshi

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2009, 07:50:45 am »
I'm gonna have to play devils advocate on Phantom Ensemble here. I'm definitely picking up each sister in the arrangement.

Lyrica (Keyboard) - The youngest sister. Starts the entire piece with some beautiful keyboard. When her other sisters are in the foreground, she plays some rhytmic support beats percussion style. She's described as the keyboardist and percussionist of the group, so it fits that she would be some rather rhythmic support beats on that keyboard. She's described as the sly one that likes to make her sisters do the work, the fact that she slips down into the supporting rhythmic section a lot of the time reflects it.

Lunasa (Violin) - The eldest sister. She's very quiet and calculating in personality. According to her official profile, she prefers solo performances. After Lyrica's intro, she's brings in the main melody with precision. She gives up her spot rather quickly to Merlin though. She's described as someone who hates cheating and believes in fairness in her official profile, so the fact that she steps down for Merlin may be that she's letting everyone have their turn in the spotlight.

Merlin (Trumpet) - The middle sister. She's the happy-go-lucky one of the group and is always rather excited. Her trumpet sections are usually very loud, fast, and sporadic. This reflects her vibrant attitude and her desire for the spotlight. Even when all three sisters are jamming out, Merlin is usually the one most prominently heard.

Fightest

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #15 on: September 07, 2009, 08:35:56 am »
I'm gonna have to play devils advocate on Phantom Ensemble here. I'm definitely picking up each sister in the arrangement.

Lyrica (Keyboard) - The youngest sister. Starts the entire piece with some beautiful keyboard. When her other sisters are in the foreground, she plays some rhytmic support beats percussion style. She's described as the keyboardist and percussionist of the group, so it fits that she would be some rather rhythmic support beats on that keyboard. She's described as the sly one that likes to make her sisters do the work, the fact that she slips down into the supporting rhythmic section a lot of the time reflects it.

Lunasa (Violin) - The eldest sister. She's very quiet and calculating in personality. According to her official profile, she prefers solo performances. After Lyrica's intro, she's brings in the main melody with precision. She gives up her spot rather quickly to Merlin though. She's described as someone who hates cheating and believes in fairness in her official profile, so the fact that she steps down for Merlin may be that she's letting everyone have their turn in the spotlight.

Merlin (Trumpet) - The middle sister. She's the happy-go-lucky one of the group and is always rather excited. Her trumpet sections are usually very loud, fast, and sporadic. This reflects her vibrant attitude and her desire for the spotlight. Even when all three sisters are jamming out, Merlin is usually the one most prominently heard.

Awesome! I agree with your points, and they certainly do the sisters more justice than my lumping of them together.  :)

It would have been cooler, I think, if ZUN used exclusively piano, trumpet and violin for this track, but he might not have been as confident back then to break away from his usual stuff. That said, Phantom Ensemble is quite radically different already, what with it being so all over the place, so...

Nine West

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #16 on: September 07, 2009, 09:49:54 am »
It would have been cooler, I think, if ZUN used exclusively piano, trumpet and violin for this track, but he might not have been as confident back then to break away from his usual stuff. That said, Phantom Ensemble is quite radically different already, what with it being so all over the place, so...

Yes. I was quite disappointed when ZUN did not remix Ghostly Band ~ Phantom Ensemble into three different versions for the release of PoFV. That was such a good chance, considering how the Prismrivers were separated as 3 different characters. That said, the song itself is incredibly melodic, despite the fact that Merlin occasionally blasted her trumpet. :D

This is an interesting read so far, keep up the good work!

Kuma

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #17 on: September 07, 2009, 10:09:03 am »
this is enertaining.
keep going!
Wotters gonna' wot

Fightest

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #18 on: September 07, 2009, 11:47:40 am »
Yuyuko Saigyouji - Bloom Nobly, Cherry Blossom of Sumizome ~ Border of Life

As is befitting a final boss, and much like Septette, Bloom Nobly is chock-full of character. Obviously, it's very different from Septette in the character that it presents. I'll split by section as appropriate.
We start with a guitar-and-piano motif that will stay with us for large sections of the piece, comfortable and quietly establishing a main theme. It is a melodic motif, with warm harmonies, albeit played somewhat harshly on the piano. But Cosmic Mind this ain't, and Yuyuko's patience can run dry - the warm harmony is replaced by menacing chords that only seem to grow in power every iteration, towering over the listener and strongly suggesting that he take matters seriously. Once the listener is properly humbled, the piece explodes into the main melody again, at full power, melodic as before but with far more volume and density to it. Yuyuko is herself through and through, and her nature remains whether she is calm or wrathful. Yuyuko will establish her dominance, but not through manipulation, like Septette's Remilia, or brutality, like U.N. Owen's Flandre, but through sheer force of will.
Yuyuko is merciful, however. She will not impose more than she has to - she will let the listener rest, as her theme winds down into a gentle set of piano arpeggios, going nowhere really, not suggesting any developments, just carrying the piece along like some meaningless small talk.
But Yuyuko is Yuyuko, and her very presence imposes an overwhelming will if she does not intentionally suppress it. Once again the powerful trumpet theme takes over in a different melody. Yuyuko has more to her than just seen at first impression, certainly - imagine the melody that takes over played alone, without any accompaniment, and in, say, flute or clarinet. The melodic line is fanciful, whimsical, self-indulgent, perhaps a bit playful. The characteristics, perhaps, of a slightly spoiled, somewhat selfish child or teenager. Yuyuko does not mind showing this side of her, and might be even willing to do so once the formalities of "who's boss here" are settled. She, however, probably does not realise the filter through which this side of her passes - her overwhelming, mind-numbing power - so effortlessly does the melody merge with the instrumental power reserved for gods and demons. The listener is absolutely blasted by playful whimsy, and has no choice but to submit. Every once in a while she'll realise that she's crowding the listener and hangs back - during these moments the listener gets a chance to collect themselves, before Yuyuko continues in her usual vein, and once more the listener just has to brace and hope for dear life.
One final consideration - those moments of rest are extremely precise, very carefully dividing her outbursts of will. Perhaps Yuyuko is more aware of her charisma than one might think, and knows exactly how to use her power to greatest effect without burning out the listener. That in mind, the image of Yuyuko as manipulative chessmaster that we sometimes get in canon and fanon is rather appropriate.
So that's the Yuyuko we get - 50% spoiled princess, 50% charismatic chessmaster, 100% willpower.

Fightest

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #19 on: September 07, 2009, 01:45:38 pm »
I'll skip Border of Life and Necrofantasia for the moment.

Ran Yakumo - A Maiden's Illusionary Funeral ~ Necro-fantasy.

Oof. Far more complicated than U.N. Owen, with a far more complicated character to show for it. Despite how often she comes up in fanon (and in canon, every once in a while), I'm still not able to really come up with a key phrase that really captures the essence of Ran, so maybe this piece will help.

First off, there is one melody in the entire thing, approximately 16 bars long - a set of 8 bars that repeats with a fun key change at the end of the second set. What adds the complication is how the melody keeps varying.
First of all, however, we get a long, tense introduction, with a bell-like piano drone in the background to add a solemn feeling. Ran is a serious entity, and serious is how the listener would see her at first glance, and well afterwards - this introduction comes back every once in a while to remind us who we're dealing with.
The melody comes in as a slight surprise - it's very open and emotional for such a sober introduction, and the listener might think that Ran is quite open-hearted, just occasionally hiding under a veneer of seriousness. That feeling quickly falters once the listener realises that the open-heartedness is just a well-rehearsed act. Ran keeps her true self cunningly hidden just behind the act - the melody keeps varying its texture and instrumentation, occasionally letting the background to the front, hiding itself before coming back, to the point where it's somewhat hard to tell that it's still there at all (xylophone bit - can't miss it), but when you hear that characteristic key-change, the listener realises that no, it's still there, she's still completely in control. She uses that characteristic 'tell' of hers - that brief one-chord key-change - to reinforce her self-control, almost taunting the listener. It's hard to tell what drives these constant alterations in attitude, but it's probably not simple fun and games, as her 'serious' theme keeps reminding us.
I would think that gives a satisfactory view of Ran - grimly focused, able and willing to use trickery and manipulation to fulfill her objectives, whatever those may be - she is most certainly not letting anyone know with that poker-face of hers that shows only what she wants it to show.

[edit] And that brings us to the end of PCB, having blatantly missed Yukari. It's a toss-up if I skip her or not before continuing to Imperishable Night - if anyone really cares about Necrofantasia, speak up.

[edit some more] Ah. Immaterial and Missing Power. Completely forgot. And I do so like Onigashima in the Fairyland. I'll be omitting the remixes in IaMP, but I'll move on to that before IN.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2009, 01:53:23 pm by Fightest »

RainfallYoshi

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #20 on: September 07, 2009, 01:59:04 pm »
I seriously love this thread, can't wait for the more.

Fightest

  • Fighter than anyone else
Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #21 on: September 07, 2009, 03:19:57 pm »
Aw man, thanks for all the great feedback, guys! Here goes then, final update for the day:

Yukari Yakumo - Necrofantasia.

No matter what she thinks, Yukari is startlingly similar to Yuyuko. The introduction overflows with effortless power, the melody keeps flowing forth, fast and furious, as if someone turned on the tap just a smidge and the water pressure blew off the sink, along with a good chunk of the wall. Attempting to stem the flow only leads to a gradual and unstoppable buildup of pressure that only doesn't level the rest of your house because it's cut off at the source, by the source.
And then we actually get to the melody - Yukari actually shows up.
Now, this is a remix of Maiden's Illusionary Funeral, so the piece has to follow some sensibilities in being similar to its source in some way. Here the similarity is in the melody - perhaps Yukari has an act of her own that she puts on to get what she wants, but it really doesn't matter. The overwhelming intensity and power that were established in the introduction blaze through her facade, subduing the listener before Yukari even has to put on airs.
Let's make a comparison to Superman, or, specifically, how Booster Gold (or was that Blue Beetle?) sees him in that one Crisis story. If you're not familiar with Superman, consider Bleach's Zaraki Kenpachi, more specifically how he is perceived by Ichigo just before Kenpachi actually turns up. If you're not familiar with Kenpachi or Superman...what the heck are you doing on this forum? In all seriousness - the listener is well-aware of the power that simply washes off Yukari. He is awed by her might. She's probably well-aware of it as well, and thinks she's pretty awesome too, but doesn't use it as a shortcut to achieve her goals. Unfortunately, she rarely gets to use her mind or wits or charm, since that power is plenty - it is as if God wished for you to go out and do something highly unfavourable to yourself and decided to convince you to do so by presenting a well-thought-out and convincing argument - sure, he might have convinced you with the argument, but you'd likely be out of the door before he said, "Now listen here..."
That's enough for me to show Yukari - blindingly powerful, so much that she subdues others with her mere presence. She, herself, has trouble suppressing it, only reigning it in every once in a while when she might realise those around her are huddled in fetal positions. She might have schemes and plans, but rarely has to really work for them, even if she might wish to. It's possible that she's a loner (she, in fact, is, canonically, but hey, got to have something), as she has trouble expressing anything beyond that power, and others characterise her by that, instead of whatever nature she possesses. It might be that she doesn't even care about revealing her true nature any more, as there are no hints to her beyond the Ran-like facade, if you can see it without blinding yourself.

[edit] Hoo boy, that's embarassing. My comic book references seem to be way off.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2009, 02:25:52 pm by Fightest »

Alfred F. Jones

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #22 on: September 07, 2009, 04:45:45 pm »
The premise of this thread is highly intriguing. I can't wait for you to reach Fate of Sixty Years. Keep it up.

Pako

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #23 on: September 07, 2009, 07:21:00 pm »
This thread is beautifull, your analyzing skills are pretty good.

I personally can't wait till you get to "Faith is for the transient people."

This shameful piece of shit was made by a certain Anonymous-Fairy, but is now deleted- bawwwww.

Fightest

  • Fighter than anyone else
Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #24 on: September 08, 2009, 06:56:21 am »
I can't wait for you to reach Fate of Sixty Years.

Oh dear. I'm quite unfamiliar with PoFV - I've never even finished it once, although I'm quite familiar with Komachi and Shikieki. No matter! I'll do my best.

Quote
I personally can't wait till you get to "Faith is for the transient people."

I can't wait to get to it either, it's one of my favourite tracks in Mountain of Faith. MoF has a lot of really flavourful tracks in general.

Nine West

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #25 on: September 08, 2009, 07:34:11 am »
I'm no musical expert or anything, so this thread greatly interests me. Your analyzations are quite detailed, examining every components of each track. ZUN is really great at making atmosphere in each and every stages (the heartbeats in Fires of Hokkai, anyone?), since apparently, he composes his music first before designing the stage. If this shows anything, ZUN considers his music as important as the games themselves.

TEoSD - 100% agree on the whole 'ZUN trying out his synthesizer here and there.'
PCB - As you said, a lot of instrumentation on this one.

Also, you probably won't do this but, I'm quite interested in the examination of PC-98 music. :)

Fightest

  • Fighter than anyone else
Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #26 on: September 08, 2009, 09:14:13 am »
Also, you probably won't do this but, I'm quite interested in the examination of PC-98 music. :)

Hm, that might be hard to get. But hey, worth a try when I get done with the windows ones.

As for Immaterial and Missing Power - unless I'm sorely mistaken, we have only one new character introduced across the entire game. That said, Reimu and Marisa get some tunes as well, but I'll leave off those two until Imperishable Night.

Suika Ibuki - Onigashima in the Fairyland.

Somewhat similar to Necrofantasia, but both more suppressed and more uninhibited - we have the buildup of power, but without the initial blast. We have this buildup relaxing, but not because it was forcefully cut off, but because there's suddenly nothing more on the other end and everything is sucked back, as it were.

The melody comes in as if nothing had happened, a whimsical, self-contained tune no longer than 8 bars. This is Suika at her core. Perfectly happy with herself as she is - no far-reaching consequences, only a bit of self-indulgent fun. The only thing reminding the listener of that pressure they felt earlier are the deep, almost inaudible broken chords in the accompaniment.

It is entirely likely that the whimsical fun that Suika indulges in might go somewhat out of control. The tune quickly becomes more forceful with the addition of trumpet on top of the piano. A first thought is that this is uncontrolled, subconscious, if it weren't for that part that follows immediately after - once again the focus is on the buildup of pressure exclusively, abandoning the melody, as if Suika is unsatisfied with the power she's been putting out, and stops whatever she's doing and starts gathering herself. Not for anything malevolent or ominous, mind you - the whimsy is still there, so she just...wants to have fun, harder.

Fortunately, Suika is, well, forgetful. All that power just goes to waste and dissipates, possibly tripping up the listener, who was bracing for a major outburst and instead got a few bars of extremely simple broken chords with practically no accompaniment. As if Suika forgot what she was doing at the peak of her 'charge' and just sort of stood there, a silly expression on her face, wondering what the heck she was just doing.
Deciding it probably wasn't that important, anyway, the melody goes off in a different direction - a somewhat sober direction, with a melancholy feel to it - the melodic notes are long, legato with accompaniment in minor. The listener might wonder at this character change, only to have the melody wink at him with the inclusion of some scattered notes in the upper octaves, reminding us of the light-hearted whimsy present all the way at the beginning - this is a private joke between Suika and the listener, she's having fun by putting on some sort of drunken melancholy act. And drunken it is, as Suika suddenly hams it up with the melody exploding in trumpets, that 'wink' still there if you listen to it. Towards the end the melody loses some of its drive, the drums suddenly disappearing then reappearing again, the high-pitched trumpets moving into a lower key - Suika tires of this particular game, and the melody moves on, sitting on the spot for a while, wondering what to do next, growing more and more restless, before remembering what it was doing in the first place and returning to the original melody from the beginning.

So that's Suika - plenty of power there, and she knows how to use it. Unlike Yukari, she's more able to channel that power into the shenanigans that form her daily life. It also helps that she occasionally can't remember what she was up to a few moments previously, so her power is never focused in one place or direction. She does like her shenanigans, however - most of her time is spent having self-indulgent fun in a way that only she really understands, occasionally at the expense of others, someone possibly being in on the joke every once in a while, but only if Suika lets them.
Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #27 on: September 08, 2009, 03:44:08 pm »
To the TC: I didn't have the time to read through the whole thing yet, but why don't you post a view of the stage music too? Games like Story of Eastern Wonderland, Lotus Land Story and Perfect Cherry Blossom contain stage music that are better than boss music.

Fightest

  • Fighter than anyone else
Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #28 on: September 09, 2009, 11:12:53 am »
To the TC: I didn't have the time to read through the whole thing yet, but why don't you post a view of the stage music too? Games like Story of Eastern Wonderland, Lotus Land Story and Perfect Cherry Blossom contain stage music that are better than boss music.

We-e-ll... First of all, the first two are non-windows games, and are thus outside my purview at the moment, but I'd be totally happy to do stage music as well, once I'm done with boss themes - my objective now is to get some more characterisation for the characters. Their environs will come later.

[edit] Oh, and happy Beloved Tomboyish Girl day, everyone!

Prody

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Re: Characters, music, personalities.
« Reply #29 on: September 09, 2009, 11:42:26 am »
Whoaa superb work there!
Prody's anime list! - Prody's favourite MADs on NicoDouga! - Me when steam trading
I wonder if anyone knows the true meaning of the last song in Nanairo?
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