Bonus Post #54- Music: Bands Beyond the Themes: Food Wars Part 1

kibou-no-uta

If it hasn’t been made obvious enough at this point: I love music, I also love anime, and I absolutely adore it when an anime gets me into new music through their opening and closing themes. However, I’ve found that it’s easy to enjoy a great OP or ED, but never actually check out the bands who performed them. That’s why I wanted to start this sporadic mini-series, in which I briefly showcase the artists behind the songs that I feel have other material definitely worth checking out. And what better place to start than the show that inspired this whole idea in the first place: Food Wars!

Food Wars is a seriously amazing show. I loved the first season, and as you may have seen in our last review, season 2 ended up being really good as well. The characters, humor, and extremely detailed and interesting food all make for a very entertaining watch. Alongside all of this, Food Wars boasts an amazingly effective soundtrack in both its background music and its opening and ending themes.

The quality of music composition and selection in this show is best exemplified in its first opening and closing theme. Though I do not consider any of the show’s themes to be bad, the first opening and closing simply blow the others out of the water. Maybe it’s because they had the benefit of being first, but I simply cannot think or talk about Food Wars without mentioning “Kibou no Uta” and “Spice”. They are some of the best examples of feel good music. However, curiosity led me to discover that behind these gems are two really interesting bands with rich (and ever expanding) catalogues. This first part will focus on the opening theme, with the closing theme coming soon in part 2.

Opening: “Kibou no Uta” (Song of Hope): Ultra Tower

The first time I saw anything regarding Food Wars was a Crunchyroll ad for the show that featured “Kibou no Uta”. I remember immediately thinking two things when watching it:

  1. Wow that animated food looks good.
  2. That guy singing has a seriously high range.

This of course was followed by a singular train of thought:

  1. WHY ARE ALL OF THE CHARACTERS NAKED NOW?!?!?!? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!?!?

Once I got over the initial surprise in the ad, I was somewhat curious about the show, and good word of mouth eventually led me to give it a shot. I was pleased to hear the song from the ad appear again for the opening, and the complementing visuals of the OP really made me get into the song itself.

The Song

I was not all that surprised when I learned the title of this song roughly translates to “Song of Hope”. This song is quite uplifting, and really pumped me up for each episode. The most notable characteristic of this song is the aspect I immediately noticed when I watched the initial ad: the vocal performance. The instrumental isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel here. It’s pretty straight forward (though extremely refined and well performed/produced) guitar driven pop rock. The vocals build off of this solid foundation with a very memorable presentation. The chorus melody soars, reaching incredible high notes (fitting in with the theme of it being an uplifting song of hope), and delivering an insanely catchy melody. On its own merit, this is an extremely well-crafted pop song.

In addition to its standalone quality, the song also fits the concept of the show quite well. For a show about young chefs training and honing their skills in order to rise above and succeed in a difficult situation, “Kibou no Uta” fits right in as its opening. There is a very noticeable youthful energy to the song. And again, it’s really uplifting and energizing to listen to.

It should be mentioned that the song actually appears in the show multiple times. For example, episode 4 has Soma singing the chorus during a party at the Polar Star Dormitory. Alongside being a fun little Easter egg, this further cements the song as an integral part of Food Wars. I already said before that this song fits the theme of young chefs facing difficult challenges, but here is one of said chefs actually singing the song! It implies that the struggles the characters experience and the hope of eventually overcoming them are represented in this song. In this moment of happiness, Soma sings the song in celebration and in hope for more good times and success in the future. Perhaps I’m over-analyzing it a bit, but I just love it when a show goes that extra step in integrating its theme music into the show. It helps make “Kibou no Uta” more than just a song the makers of Food Wars randomly picked and put some images from the show to for an opening. It feels like a carefully calculated and deliberate choice, and I couldn’t imagine a better choice for the first opening theme.

But enough talk about “Kibou no Uta”. What else does Ultra Tower have to offer? Let’s find out.

The Band

img_ultratower

Ultra Tower is a four piece consisting of (from left to right in the photo) Terauchi Wataru on guitar, Ohhama Kengo on guitar and main vocals,  Hiragaki Yu on bass, and Takeuchi Ari on drums that started back in 2007. From what I can tell, they were actually in High School at the time when the band started. I highly recommend you check out their website (http://ultratower.net/index.html), as it actually has a decent amount of information about each member (though you’ll have to use a translator if you cannot read kanji). The part I was most interested in was the musical influences of each member. It was cool to see that Ohhama Kengo is a fan of Radiohead, Fleet Foxes, The Pixies, and Sigur Ros. Among all four members, I saw multiple mentions of The Beatles (or Paul McCartney specifically) and Oasis in this section. I suppose I can hear some of that in their music.

As I briefly stated before, Ultra Tower is a pretty straight forward pop rock band. They don’t really stray away from that niche, but they fulfill the niche extremely well. There’s a certain charm in a well-crafted, guitar driven pop song, and Ultra Tower is pretty consistent in this. The guitar work is very well written, and the melodies are very memorable, especially coming from Ohhama Kengo’s uniquely powerful voice. One can argue that their music is a bit too simple and repetitive, and I can understand that viewpoint to a degree. I still believe this band is great at what it does, and I’d be fine if they simply continued creating music similar to this, but a large part of me wants to see them grow as a band as they release more music. Again, they’ve been together since 2007, but I still believe they have a lot of potential to progress their musical style. Whether they make that leap or keep doing what they’re doing, I hope to hear some amazing releases in the future from this group. However, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Let’s look at their current releases.

Recommendations Beyond the OP

“Kibou no Uta” is the second track from their second mini-album, Bluebell. I actually own that mini-album, and can say that it is overall quite enjoyable. It consists of six songs that express “the sorrow and the joy of youth in our life” (I got that from the album art). That statement fits the release pretty well. There are very cheerful songs on the album such as “Kibou no Uta”, but also some slightly more somber sounding ones. However, each song has a youthful energy that I would still overall classify as “feel good”. This is music that just makes me happy to be alive, perfect for walking around my college campus or celebrating the end of a long week. If I had to recommend one track from this album other than “Kibou no Uta”, it would have to be “Snow Remaining in Spring”. It’s one of the more somber tracks as well as the only ballad on the album, complete with acoustic guitar and strings. The strings are a great addition, the songwriting is simple yet avoids the cheesey trappings of many other ballads, and the vocal performance again breathes so much life into the song. If you enjoy this song as well as “Kibou no Uta”, then I definitely recommend checking out the rest of Bluebell. The price of shipping a physical copy overseas may be a bit pricey, but I personally found it a worthwhile purchase.

As for their first mini-album, I can’t say I’ve had too much experience with it since I do not own it. However, the songs are all available on Youtube, which is how I came across this gem from the release:

This song and “Ruby Sparks” are definite stand out tracks. Based on my experiences listening to it on Youtube, I can pretty confidently say that this is a solid mini-album as well, though I feel that the strongest tracks of Bluebell outweigh the strongest tracks here.

And how’s this for a lucky coincidence: in researching for this post, I found out that Ultra Tower actually has a third mini-album due for release on February 8th! While I would much rather hear what they can do with a full length, I’m still pretty excited to hear the new material. I actually found a teaser for the release, and while it doesn’t really sound like a huge departure from their previous releases, it does sound like Ultra Tower doing what they’re good at, and I’m quite okay with that. I’m still holding out for a full length in the future where they really explore what they can do as a band though.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I can’t say that I constantly have their music on repeat, but when I’m in the mood for some feel good tunes, Ultra Tower’s discography seldom fails to fulfill that need. I couldn’t be happier that Food Wars opened with “Kibou no Uta”, as it is a near perfect start to what turned out to be one of the most entertaining experiences I have had watching an anime series, and it introduced me to this wonderful band that I would have never heard of otherwise. Though “Kibou no Uta” is probably still my favorite song by them, that does not mean that the rest of Ultra Tower’s discography is not worth checking out. I was happy to find multiple solid releases from the band beyond that song, with what seems like another solid release on the way.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to keep your eye out for part 2 coming soon, where I will be discussing Food Wars’ closing theme, and the band behind it, Tokyo Karan Koron. There will certainly be a lot to discuss there, and I’m excited to finally write about it all soon. But for now, what do you think of “Kibou no Uta” as an opening? Have you listened to anything else by Ultra Tower? Be sure to let me know in the comments below. Thanks again, and have a good one!

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