As an animated series, KEY THE METAL IDOL is exceptionally complex. The rich storyline touches upon subjects that are not easily given to verbal translation; perhaps this is why so much of the story is presented in an expertly-directed visual style--for quite often the most intense moments of the show occur without a word spoken. At these times, mood and thought must be conveyed with the only means left to the storyteller: visuals and music.
The storyline of KEY, aside from the "can life create life? / android become human" refrain of the series, features a significant subplot: the rigors of the idol singer industry. With time divided between telling Key's story and watching the rise and fall of the singers, the show's music seems to separate into two categories: the story background music (BGM) and the idol singers' music. As if in recognition of this, Pony Canyon has released two 2-CD sets with a third CD due to be released in February 1997.
Key the Metal Idol BGM Data Disc for First and Second Program This two-disc set comprises the greater portion of the background music for the first thirteen episodes of the series. The first disc, containing 36 tracks, features a wide range of musical themes. Take, for example, the almost carnival-like overtones of "Taiyou" ("Sun"), which suggest a kind of light humor as the android girl Key attempts to interact with society upon her first visit to Tokyo. This theme is repeated in various musical arrangements throughout the series.
Much of the storyline, however, is dead serious, and Terashima Tamiya's music matches it every step of the way. With tracks such as "Omoide" ("Recollections"), the earnest seriousness of Key's predicaments as she tries to solve the Human problem are given musical form. One cannot help but sense the terrible purgatory of Key's existence. Other tracks, such as "Saikai" ("Reunion"), evoke memories of friends and endearments past.
The darkness inherent in many the cast of characters is powerully presented by their respective musical themes. Ajou Jinsaku, who is the antagonist of the story (and arguably the most twisted villian ever seen in an animated show) is a singular exmaple. Stepping into his corporate skyscraper is like stepping into another world. Here, Ajou is God, and music such as "Kenkyuushitsu" ("Laboratory") or "Tsumetaku Kooritsuku Warai" ("Frozen Smile") makes one feel it.
The second disc is a CD single containing more BGM plus a preview for the "Second Program" of the OAV series with short voiceovers by the cast of characters.
Key the Metal Idol Vocal Data Disc for First and Second Program The first disc of this set features all of the songs performed by the idol singer characters Utsuse Miho and Koomori Beniko, both of whom are performed by Shibahara Chiyako. In addition, the disc includes a short character drama. The second disc of the set contains instrumental karaoke versions of the songs.
Two of the best songs literally bookend the story. "In the Night," the opening theme for each episode, ranks among the best title themes this reviewer has heard in recent years. The end title theme, "Watashi ga Soba ni Iru" (I am Beside You), is a wonderful ballad that manages to impart in the space of a few minutes the emotions of the show. The music and lyrics of both pieces were written by the vocalist, Kijima Sario.
With the idol singer Miho being a central focus of the story, it would seem mandatory that her music be a high point. Terashima Tamiya, responsible for the series' background music, provides several strong compositions that range from the hard-rock sound of "Runaway" to the Latin-style ballad "Sand Memories". The standout of Miho's songs, however, is the lavishly orchestrated "Lullaby," which ties in directly with the series' storyline. The vocalist for Miho, Shibahara Chiyako, also provides the vocals for idol singer Beniko's song "Shining Night."
In November 1996, the KEY THE METAL IDOL radio drama series debuted in Japan. These radio programs are being made available on CD; the first was released on 16 December 1996. There are four radio drama CDs planned.
For those who wish to sample the essence of the OVA series, either of the CD music collections is an excellent choice. By listening, one cannot help but sense the atmosphere of the show. Both are highly recommended. For those who are fans of the show, acquiring both collections is a foregone conclusion; it is not often that a comprehensive music compilation for a series is presented. Animation enthusiasts are fortunate that this is one such collection.
© 1994 Hiroaki Sato/Pony Canyon/Fuji TV/FCC/Studio Pierrot. Exclusively licensed throughout the United States and Canada by Viz Communications Inc.
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