Cho Aniki – “Last Battle (Ahh!)” (Taku Iwasaki)June 6, 2010
Love him, loathe him, or laugh at him, Cho Aniki is one of the zaniest game characters. Often called ‘that gay Japanese game’ for its excessively grinning, almost-naked body builders, the game takes a special perspective to look at. But worth looking at (or in this case, listening to), it certainly is. The series is best-known for the faux-macho ditties of Koji Hayama, that egotistical persona whose trademarks of cheesy samples defined both the games and his musical style. Though not composed by him (a couple tracks excepted), the Sega Saturn and PS1 outing, Cho Aniki: The Ultimate, Invincible, Most Galactically Powerful Man (1996) follows the same style with the ever-impressive complex melodic layerings and textures of Taku Iwasaki, Sanae Kasahara, and Don McCow. While this may seem fairly heavy-handed praise for what is essentially a ‘crap game’ (or kuso-ge), while the rest of the game looks unabashedly awful, the soundtrack really is deserving, as the final stage track “Last Battle (Ahh!)” demonstrates (and after all, one of the soundtracks did sell more than the game).
“Last Battle (Ahh!)” raises imagery of a martial arts dojo high in the mountains where masters of muscle-building and kung fu fight a spectacular battle while the acolytes train intensely or gaze on from the background. That’s the sort of thing you would expect, given the Buddhist tantras, heavy drums, and tribal chanting. Actually, that imagery is probably more fitting of a Capcom or SNK fighting game, as Cho Aniki instead is a fly-over of a vast metropolitan core with muscle-men spaceships flying and exploding overhead, as seen in the video below. The last boss appears to be an operatic Python-esque Hitler, and there is plenty of slapstick and surreal humor, though the battles look pretty intense. I don’t think you’d expect anything less from a game that has an album cover as surreal as this one (I mean, just wtf is going on there?!). Check out the HG101 article for more info.
Still, the track is impressive, with some great drum breaks at 1:22 and 2:42. It’s intense and upbeat, with Hayama-esque samples to boot. The end of the track is a massive explosion, which actually appears in the game as a wall of exploding muscle-men for a smooth combination of music and sound effect.
Each track on the album is also designed to merge with the next song to create a continuous audio tapestry, and so for this reason, I’ve included “The Ultimate, Invincible, Most Galactically Powerful Man (Reprise)” as the two really go together. And besides, an explosion, triumphant march, and applauding audience makes for a fine ending.
A good deal of the other tracks on this album are like this, a combination of rich melody and oozing with atmosphere (“Snake Handling Brother” is a good example, though the other half of the songs are unabashedly zany). Actually, since this soundtrack is pretty hard to track down since its debut on Slightly Dark, I just decided to upload the entire album this time. The music is just that cool.
As for the composer, Taku Iwasaki has been with the business since the early 90s, composing for Ai Cho Aniki and Soul Blade, and has lately been working on Persona arrange albums. Overall, a pretty talented composer with a good selection of soundtracks under his belt. Sanae Kasahara later went to Capcom where he now composes music for the Resident Evil/Biohazard series – quite a change from his early days with Cho Aniki. Finally, there is Don McCow (Isao Mizoguchi), who left Cho Aniki developer Masaya with Taku Iwasaki to work on Persona 2. He now seems to compose music for dating sim games such as amagami.