Vinyl Review: Studio Ghibli Koyko Kyokushu

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As beloved and acclaimed as the Studio Ghibli films are across the globe, finding the soundtracks for them can be a real pain in the ass if you live outside of Japan. Despite the fact that you can get almost every Studio Ghibli film easily on DVD and Blu-ray, almost all of the scores to their films remain woefully out of print in the states, on any format from vinyl to digital. Out of the 18 films that Studio Ghibli has released over the years, only the soundtracks to two remain in print in the United States; Spirited Away, and, for some reason, From Up on Poppy Hill.

So when I discovered Studio Ghibli Koyko Kyokushu, the new 2LP compilation featuring selections from various Studio Ghibli films, I was elated. Finally, a domestic release of music from these legendary films!

Then I noticed that the release was by Mondo Tees, and it was all downhill from there.

Let me just get the positive/obvious out of the way; the music on this release is fantastic. A collection of material from five Ghibli films (Princess Mononoke, My Neighbors The Yamadas, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and The Cat Returns), it does a fabulous job of showcasing just how amazing the scores to the Ghibli films have been over the years. And kudos to the creators of this compilation for branching out to include the excellent work of Akiko Yano and Yuji Nomi in addition to the obvious excellence of Ghibli’s most acclaimed composer Joe Hisaishi. It’s great to see all of them get some attention, they all deserve it.

But they still deserve better, as Kokyo Kyokushu is a deeply flawed release.

For starters there’s the track selection, 13 pieces spread across 2LPs for a grand total of about 58 minutes of music. That’s pretty skimpy for a 2LP release, they should have at least been able to fit 90 minutes of music across both LPs. And, considering the slim selection they offer, they sure chose some odd pieces to highlight. As great as the scores to My Neighbors The Yamadas and The Cat Returns are, I’m sure fans of the studio would much rather want to hear highlights from the scores to films like Castle In The Sky or My Neighbor Totoro – neither of which are represented at all here (which is insane, by the way). With all that dead wax on both records they could have easily fit in some standout moments from both those scores. Maybe they couldn’t because of a rights issue? Who knows. Regardless, it’s a shame.

Equally as depressing is the audio fidelity of both LPs. The mastering sounds fine, but the records themselves are noisy, with quite a bit of surface noise on both LPs. That is a problem considering how quiet this music is, and I heard more than an acceptable amount of pops, cracks and scratches on both records as well.

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There are three variants of this release. One with a Princess Mononoke cover and red/blue records; one with a Spirited Away cover and yellow and green records; and one with a Howl’s Moving Castle cover and pink and purple vinyl. Of those, the Mononke one seems to be the most common, while the Howl’s one (which only has Japanese text as well as a traditional Japanese OBI strip) appears to be the rarest.

All three were obviously made to be collectibles, and that’s my biggest problem with this release, as well as just about everything else Mondo puts out. No care is put into audio fidelity because they assume that 90% of the people who will be buying this will never actually listen to it. They’re making something for collectors and speculators only, people who will buy it just to flip it on eBay for an inflated price. Why else would they deal in such extremely limited quantities? Why else would they never include a download code or bonus CD? They just want it to look “cool” so it will drive up the second-hand value (which I’ve long suspected they partake in to some extent, although who knows). It’s an insult to the films, the composers and the fans who actually like the music and want to listen to it.

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The alternate covers are in the inside of the gatefold.

Don’t buy this record. If you love Studio Ghibli films and want to own the music from their films, you can get the import CDs on Amazon, even if they are a pit pricey. And if you were considering getting this only to have something cool to display, you can still do better. Get an import Japanese poster of your favorite Ghibli film, or just buy a crapton of stuffed Totoros.  Mondo Tees should be ashamed of themselves with this one.

And I’m sure they would be if they weren’t busy working on another hyper-limited bullshit release made to rip you off.

UPDATE 11/06/13
As pointed out by a commentor, this release is actually nothing more than a re-release of a Japanese CD. Mondo Tees makes no mention of this on their website, which is pretty damn shady. You can buy the CD over at CD Japan. Unlike the Mondo release, the CD is not a limited edition item, presumably because the company that made it doesn’t rely on shady eBay dealings to make money.

6 Responses to Vinyl Review: Studio Ghibli Koyko Kyokushu

  • Phil says:

    This seems to be a vinyl reissue of an existing CD (http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/detailview.html?KEY=TKGA-502). Mondo’s most recent release is Halloween; however, it seems it’s a reissue of the 20th anniversary edition CD with all the dialogue over the music. When it comes to these reissues, it seems UK’s Death Waltz is better since I read that they remaster the music with involvement by the artist, and their business model is better, unlike Mondo which forces people who are just interested in the music to go to eBay and pay five times the price.

  • Shawn says:

    I have a question, are those three versions/covers have same content? I just got the princess mononoke version, so I’m kind of curious about other two.

    Besides, I can’t believe I could not find vinyl soundtrack for each film…But a awesome, beautiful and limited soundtrack collection is definitely a great stuff.

    About CD, it’s sad that, the quality of some old original CD records like Castle in the Sky are not that perfect. I find there is small noise in the 33 track of princess mononoke, both Japan version and America version. I really want to know what they have as master tape. But spirited away is a good one really. Don’t buy British version, that cover color is a tragedy. I actually feel the cover of America version is better than Japan because that’s more mysterious and attractive. Those pigs on the Japan version are really damaging whole feeling.

  • Jono says:

    Thanks for this review. The art and vinyl itself is amazing looking but I listen to my vinyl.

  • Donald Cramer says:

    Once I cleaned the LPs using a record cleaning machine (a VPI 16.5) they were MUCH quieter and the fidelity of the pressings could be heard much more clearly – they’re actually nicely recorded. I treasure the set and would never sell it despite the inflated prices it fetches on the used market these days.

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