“We should always remember that sensitiveness and emotion constitute the real content of a work of art.” — Maurice Ravel
Composed by Maurice Ravel in 1899 and published in 1900, Pavane for a Dead Princess is a widely-known impressionist piece for its simple, yet moving attributes that drew inspiration from the Renaissance Pavane, a form of slow dance that became popular in the 16th century. Despite its curious title, Ravel stated that, rather than any sort of dead princess, the title was merely for show, and that the song was intended to evoke imagery of and nostalgia for Spanish customs. In other words, it would be the sort of song that a young princess might dance to. Ravel disliked the song for sounding unimaginative, but the song quickly picked up in popularity, and an orchestral version was performed in 1911: the inclusion of horns led audiences to find immense beauty in the song’s simplicity. Pavane for a Dead Princess is used as Yuki’s main theme in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan for several reasons. Viewers familiar with music would have picked it up when the first of the anime’s trailers began playing, but there has not been a satisfactory explanation as to why the decision was made to choose Pavane for a Dead Princess as Yuki’s main motif. In choosing Pavane for a Dead Princess to act as Yuki’s theme, Jun’ichi Wada and Tatsuya Kato craft a very specific atmosphere in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan to characterise Yuki, as well as her relationships with Kyon and the others around her. Music lends substantial meaning to scenes, expressing emotions that cannot be readily illustrated through dialogue, and consequently, using Pavane for a Dead Princess entails using the emotions conveyed in the song to emphasise a particular atmosphere in the anime.
- That this post was published on a December 18 is no coincidence: the date appears to hold some sort of significance in and out of the Haruhi universe. Today, the website was altered to display an error message, and later, a bookmark representing Kyon’s means of restoring the universe. While the novelty has long worn off, it’s not surprising to see that there still remains interest in the franchise. On that note, I will step in at some point in the future to provide my insights onto why it’s unlikely that The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi will receive a third season.
Ravel lamented that performers played through Pavane for a Dead Princess much too slowly, suggesting that the song is supposed to be more nostalgic than saddening. The variant heard in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, then, depicts Yuki as someone who’s not inclined to rush, who does things at her own pace. As the first episode begins, under the pink light of the evening sun, Yuki has dozed off when Ryouko comes to wake her for their literature club meeting. She’s very shy and hesitant around Kyon; this is mirrored in the song, which initially begins with two hand-horns in G and sounds as though the waters are being tested. As Pavane for a Dead Princess continues, flutes and oboes join in, and after the main theme is reiterated, strings and harps begin playing, as well. The song gradually transitions from pianissimo to fortissimo, becoming bolder and having a richer sound, but the tempo remains quite consistent throughout Pavane for a Dead Princess: though it is subtly forceful in parts, the song never becomes abrupt. This is mirrored in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan: Yuki, though becoming increasingly forward in expressing her feelings for Kyon, becomes bolder, but she never pushes things too aggressively or demandingly, preferring to do things at her own pace. Consequently, Pavane for a Dead Princess is intended to illustrate the different facets of Yuki’s state of mind concerning Kyon: she’s filled with a sense of longing and wistfulness, and although over time, she becomes more comfortable with expressing these feelings, she does so slowly. So, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is intended to be depict a love story that progresses one step at a time, in spite of the spirited intervention from Yuki and Kyon’s friends.
- While the section above aims to provide an reasonably detailed answer into why the choice of music is suited for The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, the remainder of this post deals with The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan OST as a whole. Following its predecessor, the soundtrack was released in an unusual fashion, mirroring the eccentricities of Haruhi. From a marketing standpoint, it makes sense, since it follows that fans of the series willing to buy physical BD volumes would also likely wish to buy the soundtrack, although it does leave out individuals who merely wish to purchase the soundtrack on its own.
There are, of course, other songs in The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan that merit discussion: the soundtrack has been included on each volume of the Blu-Ray Disks, each of which cost 6980 yen (75.73 CAD). I’ve got the track listings (plus their English translations for the songs) for the soundtracks for each volume up to and including volume five: each of the soundtracks consists of an assortment of instrumental background pieces used in the anime itself, as well as a pair of drama songs.
Volume One (Released June 26, 2015)
- “Naki Oujo no Tame no Pavane” (Pavane for a Dead Princess)
- Nagato no Omoi (Nagato’s Feelings)
- Koi no Kirakira (Sparkling Love)
- Tsuzuku Nichijou (Continuing Daily)
- Tsumari Sore wa (In other words, that’s it)
- Toritome no nai Hanashi (Rambling Story)
- Merry Christmas!
- Tsuruya-san no Shinken Shoubu (Tsuruya’s serious contest)
- Asakura-san no Osekkyou (Asakura’s lecture)
- Radio “Kitakou Bungeibu Radio Shibu”
- Drama “Christmas to Ieba Turkey!”
Volume Two (Released July 31, 2015)
- “Naki Oujo no Tame no Pavane” Kangengaku Version (Pavane for a Dead Princess, Orchestral Version)
- Nagato no Pinch? (Nagato’s in a pinch?)
- Nagato no Fuan (Nagato’s Anxiety)
- Dokidoki Harahara (Pounding Suspense)
- Kyon no Yasashisa (Kyon’s Kindness)
- Haruhi no Tsuyosa (Haruhi’s Strength)
- Sou, Sore! (So, that’s it!)
- Bouken no Tobira (Door of Adventure)
- Koi no Tobira (Door of Love)
- Radio “Kitakou Bungeibu Radio Shibu” ~Digest 02~
- Drama “Suzumiya Haruhi no Nimotsu”
Volume Three (Released August 28, 2015)
- “Yuki wa Odotteiru” Piano Version (Dancing in the snow)
- “Tsuki no Hikari” Kangengaku Version (Moonlight, orchestral version)
- “Yuki wa Odotteiru” Kangengaku Version (Dancing in the snow, orchestral version)
- “Naki Oujo no Tame no Pavane” Keiongaku Arrange Version (Pavane for a Dead Princess, light music version)
- Bungeibu no Nichijou (Another day at the literature club)
- The Haruhi
- Nagato no Omoi (Tsuyosa) (Nagano’s feelings, Strength)
- Radio “Kitakou Bungeibu Radio Shibu” ~Digest 03~
- Drama “Suzumiya Haruhi no Shinnyuusei Kanyuu Sakusen”
Volume Four (Released September 25, 2015)
- Tanoshii Bungeibu (A fun literature club)
- Tabi no Motarasu Mono (Things to bring on the trip)
- Tabi no Yoru (Night of the trip)
- Minna, Yaru wa yo! (I do, everyone!)
- Joshi dake no Himitsu (The girls’ secrets)
- Nagato no Omoi (Yasashisa) (Nagato’s feelings, tenderness)
- Radio “Kitakou Bungeibu Radio Shibu” ~Digest 04~
- Drama “Pillow Talk”
Volume Five (Released October 30, 2015)
- Yozora (Night sky)
- Yureru Koigokoro (I love swinging)
- Shoushitsu (Disappearance)
- Katai Kuuki (Rigid atmosphere)
- Aru (Ushinawareta) (It’s lost)
- Ichizu na Koigokoro (A steady, loving heart)
- Kagayaku Yozora (Sparkling night sky)
- Radio “Kitakou Bungeibu Radio Shibu” ~Digest 05~
- Drama “Nagato Yuki chan no Gal Game
- On the whole, I’m loving the soundtrack, and I’m looking forwards to listening to the remainder of the pieces, especially now that the remaining volumes will deal with the Disappearance arc and Kyon’s gradual coming to terms with his feelings for Yuki. Tomorrow, regular programming will resume.
In general, the best pieces are those with a slow orchestral component; they tie in with the more emotional moments as Yuki and Kyon struggle to properly express their feelings for one another (or look within for the means and courage to do so). There are lighter songs with a faster tempo used for comedic moments within the anime, and some variants of the songs from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi do make a return. Together, they add a reasonable amount diversity to the soundtrack to augment the different scenes within the anime. Curiously enough, I predicted that The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan would necessitate such a soundtrack, given that the manga exuded the very sense of nostalgia and wistfulness that is captured by Pavane for a Dead Princess, and this proved to be appropriate given The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan’s intended direction, enhancing the emotional tenor of all the moments to bring to life each chapter in the manga. The soundtrack’s remained quite inaccessible for the present, although those who stray off the beaten trail in search for an opportunity to listen will not find themselves disappointed. At present, three more volumes of the soundtrack await release, and I will return at some point in the near future to provide the translations for those songs, as well.