Sakamoto Maaya, Part 1 of 2: Singer-Songwriter (LE) + First Press Bonus Details (03/27/13)

So my last post was a break from the ordinary - serious, untidy, picture-less - and I thought I'd lighten the mood with something fun and way more carefree: Sakamoto Maaya's newest album, Singer-Songwriter!

I've decided that, because I have so many pictures pertaining to the limited edition and first press bonuses, I would do my review on her newest album in two parts: one on the bonuses only (which is this one and is picture-heavy), and one discussing the actual songs on the album (which will be linked here when it's up and is text-heavy). But I'll give some background on the album in both posts regardless, so there may be some repetition in that aspect.

Singer-Songwriter is Sakamoto Maaya's first album where all of the songs in it are composed by her, as opposed to other artists. I'll go more into detail about that in Part 2 of this review. In any case, this post is being put up semi-late considering the album was released in Japan on 03/27/2013 (in fact the first press bonus is already sold out on CDJapan...waaaaah I'm sorryyyy!!!!). I preordered the limited edition back in January, so I qualified for first press bonuses as well.

The album in its sleeve from the front.

The limited edition bonus (which you pay more for) is a DVD documentary on the making of Singer-Songwriter. The CD and DVD come packaged in a sleeve, shown above and below. I'm going to guess that the regular edition does not have this sleeve, since it only consists of one CD.

The album in its sleeve from different angles.

I like the design of the sleeve, and especially love the inclusion of the cat, haha.

Anyway, the following is a zoom in of the side of the sleeve, which has the LE "label," and the back of the sleeve, which shows the track list and release information.

A zoom-in of the LE "label": CD+DVD.

The back of the CD sleeve.
A zoom-in of the track list.

Now for pictures of the two cases inside of the sleeve: one housing the album itself, and one housing the DVD documentary.

The album CD on the top, and the DVD documentary on the bottom.

As you will see in the next picture, the front of the CD packaging is a different design from the sleeve (I actually like this one more), but the back is pretty much the same.

The front of the CD packaging.

A close-up of the album title and artist name. 

The back of the CD packaging. You can see it differs from the sleeve only in the information provided.

The DVD documentary, titled Road to SSW, showcases a fairly simple design, featuring basic information on the front and the adorable kitty from the CD design against a stark white background. I haven't found lyrical translations yet (to be honest I haven't even looked), so I can't say if there is a connection between this cat and any of the songs or if it's just there to be a cute cat.

The front of the DVD packaging.

Before I forget to mention, aside from a documentary, the DVD also contains the music video of track 4, "Nicola" (I almost died when I saw this title in the pre-release details - it's almost my name *high-pitched scream*).

The back of the DVD packaging is transparent and reveals the DVD itself, which is simple white like the design on the DVD packaging.

The back of the DVD packaging.
A close-up of the information on the DVD itself.

Opening the CD packaging reveals that the design of the CD matches that of the DVD: plain white with light pink text.

The CD.

The following are pictures of some of the pages from the CD booklet, which will probably come up again in Part 2 of this review since they are relevant to the details of the album itself that will be written about there.

The track list page in the CD booklet.
The big theme of this album: that "all songs [are] written & composed by Sakamoto Maaya."
A picture of Sakamoto near the end of the booklet that I thought was very pretty! She looks my age in these pictures even though she's more than a decade older. T_T

Before I get into the first press bonuses, I want to share my thoughts on the LE bonus, the DVD documentary/music video. To put it simply, I adore both, especially the documentary. I don't know if I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I discovered Sakamoto before YouTube (or at least before I knew about YouTube), so all I really saw of her were pictures that were floating on various websites online. I remember the day I was on YouTube and thought to look her up - and the first video I ever saw of her was a short commercial for her older album, Lucy. It was so weird and so exciting - to see the person I admired so much actually moving, haha. You probably think I'm psycho but it was a big day for me.

This DVD documentary makes me think of that day because it follows Sakamoto through her journey of bringing her own compositions to life, with some clips almost like mini-"vlogs" of Sakamoto working hard on the creation of these songs. And, well, this documentary isn't just a documentary of one of the biggest accomplishments for my favorite artist, but it's a documentary that shows my favorite artist doing something that I, as a person who previously performed music in bands and attempted to pursue a minor in music (and previously considered a major in music), could never do: compose her own music. Musical composition is honestly like magic to me, and to see my idol actually accomplish that task is inspiring.

As for the music video for "Nicola," I find it extremely appropriate for the album as a whole because there is no fancy travelling through different settings like most of Sakamoto's MVs. Instead, it's her sitting in a room singing with the instruments of the song (and their players) surrounding her. This album has a very "organic" feel to it, if that makes any sense, because you can hear the band in every song, unlike other songs of hers that involved a lot of synthesizers (this will be touched on more in Part 2), and the MV for "Nicola" showcases that aspect beautifully.

Okay, okay - I know I said Part 2 would be text-heavy, not 1, so I swear the rest of this post will be sparse text and more pictures! xD

Onto the first press bonuses!

According to CDJapan's website (the provider of these bonuses), the first press bonuses include a flyer and a booklet. I would say the flyer is more of a poster, but you'll see that in the pictures of it in just a bit. First lets look at the booklet.

The "booklet" from the front.

While the "booklet" may look like a booklet at first glance, it's really more of a pamphlet folded intricately to look like a booklet. In other words, it's really one big piece of paper versus a booklet with actual pages. This first press bonus is a huge bonus, in my opinion, because it contains an interview with Sakamoto, self liner notes, reviews of the album (I think, judging by the English labels for each section), and pictures of Sakamoto in a beautiful dress (love her clothes). Unfortunately, as an English-speaker whose only knowledge in foreign languages lies in Spanish, I have no idea what any of the information of this bonus says, with the exception of the aforementioned English titles. As a huge fan, however, I am still very happy to know that I have this information available to me. The following pictures focus on the different "pages" as the booklet is unfolded to its completely open form.

The first two "pages" after the booklet is opened.
The same picture as before only on the opposite side - hence why the front cover is showing again in addition to the back cover.
Unfolding the booklet vertically from the first two "pages."
Unfolding the previous picture horizontally - and revealing the last few hidden pages in the booklet's completely open form.
A close-up of the picture of Sakamoto from the previous picture of the booklet, which could serve as a poster for those who have the heart to cut it apart from the rest of the "booklet" (which would kind of destroy the booklet, since parts of the text are on the underside of it).

Lastly is the flyer, which I said before is more like a poster. Unlike most of the bonus posters, which are longer than wide, this one is wider than long. You can see this in the pictures below.

The flyer/poster laid out flat.

I was excited to see that the poster had a short message from Sakamoto and her signature - you can read more about my thoughts on mass produced signatures like this one (and why I am still so happy to have Sakamoto's since it would be nearly impossible for me to have an actual signature written by her) in this post of a previous single by her. Anyway, yes, I am ecstatic to have a blown-up version of her signature in addition to my other (mass-produced) signature of hers on a postcard. Here is a close-up of the message/signature:

And a close-up of the bottom right corner of the poster, which indicates that it is not for sale since it's more or less an exclusive bonus:

Like my phone?

Anyway, as expected this post is quite lengthy thanks to the amount of pictures in it. But I know that if I couldn't get a first press bonus of one of Sakamoto's releases, or missed out on one, I'd be really curious to see what it was. This is for those of you that share that kind of curiosity! xD I do think it is interesting, though, especially considering the surprising little extras that come by every now and then (remember the ear plugs from her "In the Silence" concert DVD?).

Hope this was helpful, and stay tuned for Part 2: my thoughts on the tracks in Sakamoto Maaya's Singer-Songwriter. 'Til next time! ('<>')>