“Boku no Sensou [My War]” by Shinsei Kamattechan
Arguably, yes. The short 90 second version is definitely up there. The long version though? That’s a different story. “My War” short ver. is cinematic, theatrical and it perfectly captures the vibe of this season as well as the whole concept of Attack on Titan. It’s almost as powerful as any OST main theme should be. Yeah, it is seriously good.
One of the reasons I like it so much is because it’s bold, intense and packed with strong and varied music elements. A good amount of the instrumentation is conventional but there are some unconventional and unusually rough timbres that resemble weird laryngeal “ah-ah-ah-ah” sounds, at the 00:39 mark. Oh, that sounds awkward, I love it. I like everything about the fiddle, how the vocal line evolves into something more intense with a lot of different notes and biggish leaps in the melody. I also like how the arrangement has a lot of layers and how the final 16 seconds are full of suspense yet not unnecessarily loud.
But what I like the most is something that I found really smart. This is the main reason I love this OP. The smart thing is how “Guren no Yumiya” was featured in “My War”. Yes, season 1 OP was featured in Final Season’s opening. The first music phrase of the vocals in “Guren no Yumiya” was slightly altered and became the first main vocal melodic phrase of “My War”, at 00:26. The reason it’s so well done is because it’s recognizable whilst not being overly pronounced. The one extra note, the slower tempo and the development are what made it identifiable and exciting. And frankly, this is the reason why I didn’t like AoT OP3, OP4 and OP5. They became unimaginative, repetitive, marginally susceptible of copyright infringement (I’m looking at you “Shinzou wo Sasageyo!” resembling “Asturias”) and -let’s not deny it- Linked Horizon ran out of ideas.
Oh, the visuals. What’s not to like? For a single moment, I thought the shots weren’t from Attack on Titan. I started watching explosions, ships, flamethrowers, zeppelins and “nazis”? Don’t deny it, that’s what they are, we just don’t call them that. Ahh, there are the titans. Now I see.
Look, I’ve been an Attack on Titan fan since the first season premiered and I can say -hands down- that this opening has delivered. We’re in the right mood, the visuals are astounding and it’s memorable. It’s all you need from a good opening theme. And for me, it’s up there.
But here we are now. The full version has been released. And I have listened to it.
What. A massive. Letdown.
All the creativity was concentrated in 90 seconds. The rest was nothing more than incoherent sounds put there to make the OP pass for a song capable of qualifying for a release. So the fuss, the three month wait and all the fans’ brainwashing (ie. listening to the short version a million times and waiting for the full version like crazy) went down the drain. It’s as if the wait was for nothing.
Don’t you wanna know why I dislike the full version of “My War” with a passion? The last 90 seconds of the song were chaotic but not in a good, being-loyal-to-the-mood kind of way. They were chaotic in the sense that the song’s development was misleading; its evolution shouldn’t have been what it is. What I heard was a mixed-and-mashed arrangement of many tracks and vocals on top that weren’t really mixed and mastered properly. It was as if I was listening to a karaoke version of the song and not the song itself. And that definitely didn’t leave a good aftertaste. It left me with the impression that they desperately needed to cover some ‘airtime’. If it was up to me to decide, I would have liked more wiggle room. I’d want to add a new contrasting section, a standalone music idea and I’d like to blend it with the core elements of the composition. That’s what I would have done. But if I was told that I could not add anything ‘new’ and that I had the same core elements to work with, my approach would still be different. I’d probably change the concept of the entire vocal part and I’d re-arrange the repetition (approx. the last 90 seconds) in order to create a nice tension that would lead to a climax and keep the listeners intrigued. Still, though, it would not be as I had imagined it would have been.
Another thing that didn’t sit well with me was the cliché music phrase on 00:52. In the full version, it stood out even more. To me it doesn’t make sense because as soon as I hear that phrase, I think of games; the kind of games you find on the App Store that have unnecessarily ‘good’ graphics, poor and jerky animation and the gameplay isn’t that great either… The thing is that the source material of Attack on Titan isn’t a game. So my logic says that the cliché music phrase doesn’t fit anywhere in the music narrative.
It seems that there were some really good music ideas that were poorly combined and poorly developed. I still can’t figure out why the first new music idea on 01:34 -ie. the transition between what we had already heard from the OP to the new and presumably exciting sections of the full song- could as well have been a beginning or a transition of a popular Latin cha-cha-cha tune. Why? Does Armin like to warm up by dancing Rumba while in titan form or is Mambo a long lost tradition of Historia’s family? Why don’t we listen to it again later in the song? The general rule of thumb of music composition is this: if it’s once, it’s probably a mistake but if it’s twice, it’s there for a reason.
The problem is that the full song doesn’t really work well with the concept of the AoT story and it doesn’t really make sense as an anime-unrelated song either. So, the next time I’ll listen to this season’s opening theme, I’ll definitely go for the short version. And that’s exactly why “My War” is not the best OP of the entire series. The way I see it, “Guren no Yumiya” still beats it because it is pleasant to listen to the entire thing, not just the 90 seconds that made the cut.
I was going to publish this article before the full release of “My War” but my procrastination is on a different level. I was waiting for the full song like crazy and this is exactly what disappointed me. Nevertheless, I still hum its melody from time to time. If we only take into account its impact as an OP, then it rocks.