Few people talk about Shunsuke Kikuchi. While not the quality of say, Yoko Kanno's contributions, or the emotional power of Hiroshi Miyagawa's work, Kikuchi has been in the business of incidental music (that is to say, background music) for decades. Cutting his teeth on tokusatsu programs, Kikuchi got work scoring the anime adaption of the popular Akira Toriyama manga Dr. Slump. He is best known, however, for scoring the anime adaptation of Toriyama's most popular work, Dragon Ball. Taking cues from old films, Kikuchi is a little Wang Fu-ling and a little Bernard Hermann.
I've been thinking about how to best describe the Kikuchi sound in the Dragon Ball franchise. It really runs the gamut. Sometimes it's cute (but never cutesy), other times it's triumphant, and sometimes it's grandious. The overall effect seems like part parade music, part toddler tunes, and part building orchestral. It comes off as this very spirited score, one that captures the atmosphere of not just the setting but the pace and mood of a scene. In one scene, a simple piece with tingle bells added creates the effect of focusing on Gohan. In another scene, roaring horns sound and drums snap as Goku transforms into a Super Saiyan. A careful amount of synthesizer is thrown in for good measure.
I think there's a real sense of genuine personality to the music. It doesn't feel produced to sound "cool", nor does it emphasize action over atmosphere, like some of the American soundtracks to DBZ. It has this very corporeal tone to it.
So it's no surprise that I have favorite pieces of Kikuchi's. Here are my top 10: