Music: Josee, the Tiger and the Fish

June 28, 2022 · 0 comments

By Shelley Pallis.

The American-born composer Evan Call has become a particular favourite of Kyoto Animation, contributing scores to Tokyo ESP and Violet Evergarden, among others. But arguably some of his best work is now showcased in the double-disc collection of the original sound track from Kotaro Tamura’s Josee, the Tiger and the Fish, the 2020 feature from the Bones studio that was, famously, their “first film not to have any explosions in it.”

In the liner notes to the film itself, Evan Call spoke of being approached by the director of Josee and asked to replicate his earlier score to Daisy Luck, which had been on the studio playlist while the film was being made. Both noted the degree to which the nature of Josee’s story – the relationship between a disabled woman and her initially reluctant carer, is much less of an “anime” story than it resembles a live-action drama, hence a very different approach to the music.

There’s a faint Irish whimsy to “Take Me Far Away” – the first piece that Call composed for the film, and hence something of an induction scene for both the film and its composer. But with a film that begins underwater, there is also a slight dampening of the sound, as if we are hearing it through a heavier medium than mere air.

Although many of the pieces clock in at little more than ninety seconds, none of them feel like the sort of throwaway stings that characterise so much incidental music. From the moment that the vibraphone comes to the fore in “Aquatic Fantasy” to the barely audible subtleties that open “If I Could Be Free” each track feels perfectly self-contained and listenable in its own right, turning the four- sides of this soundtrack package into a massive playlist with no duds.

The longest piece, and supposedly Call’s own favourite, is the five minutes plus of “The Mermaid and the Shiny Wing”, the track that underscores the film’s climactic reading of Josee’s self-penned children’s story. “, I was hoping to compose it all in one go,” he mentioned in the Blu-ray booklet, “so I started off in the morning and finished that evening. I enjoyed myself, since the story is an unrealistic fantasy, mixed with all sorts of development and feelings. I do not usually compose such a long piece of music within a day, but because I was so excited, I could keep my concentration going, and it worked a treat!”

Everything is so soft, even the titular “Tigers”, which are little more than gentle notes on a guitar, while “Under the Heavy Waves of a Harsh Reality” trusts in the visuals to carry Josee’s unhappiness, merely adding ambient tones. The tempo only raises with the butterfly excitement of “First Date”, while Call cunningly evokes the sea in his songs not with the usual stirring strings, but with the tropical associations of a ukelele.

Josee the Tiger and the Fish Original Soundtrack is available in the UK from Anime Limited.

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