**I am a CDJapan affiliate and this post contains affiliate links.**
Hi all! Hooray for Sakamoto Maaya's newest single, Hajimari No Umi, which I would've reviewed sooner except its release date was 07/31/13, and I didn't get my copy of it in the mail until 08/01/13. Super quick delivery as usual, but I was leaving for California the day after! I literally snapped some pictures of the sealed album in crappy lighting the same day so I could open it, and then transferred the songs to my computer. As for the DVD, I watched it at the last minute - probably 2 A.M. or so.
As per the title and some details above, I bought the limited edition version of this single, which differs from the regular edition in the fact that it comes with a second CD: a DVD with the PV for the single's main track, "Hajimari No Umi," and footage from her Countdown Live 2012-2013 - Tour "Mitsubachi" Final (CDJapan refers to it as a "digest" on their website). And, as usual, because I preordered the single when it initially became available for preorder on the CDJapan website, I received the first press bonus.
This post will include pictures of the single itself and the first press bonus, as well as my thoughts on both the songs in the single and the content of the DVD. So, if you're interested, you know what to do. =P
Hajimari No Umi is Sakamoto Maaya's newest single, featuring the opening theme for the Tamayura: More Aggressive TV anime. I really only follow Sakamoto musically and know nothing about the anime she does songs for/voice acting for (except Arakawa Under the Bridge and its sequel, anyway), so I can only provide that bit of information on it, which is included on the single itself. Anyway, that opening theme is the song from which the single takes its name, as is normally the case: "Hajimari No Umi." Before I go into detail about the tracks themselves, I have pictures of the single's physical packaging to share.
|Hajimari No Umi still sealed.|
The above picture is the sealed single, with a partial sleeve featuring an image from the anime mentioned before. The red/pink sticker, shown in closeup below, refers to the DVD content that is included with this edition of the single.
Here is a picture of the back of the sealed single, with the anime artwork, single information, and CD/DVD track list:
|The back of the sealed single.|
|A closeup of the CD/DVD content.|
And now onto the open packaging! Here both the seal and the anime-themed partial sleeve are removed. As such, the front of the single has the same image of Sakamoto as before.
I don't know how I feel about the cover image for this single, lol. I love the water, the sky, the colors, and the bounce-back to the cassette player, but Sakamoto's placement is just...awkward. I mean, it looks badly photoshopped, her placement by the pool, or whatever body of water that is. And it's not the photoshop I have a problem with, because editing programs are essential for the creation of things like this single cover here. It's the fact that her placement is so awkwardly illogical, as her feet are positioned in a way that does not fit on the flooring she is meant to be standing on. That white...border, or step, or whatever it is, is smaller than the space her feet occupy and it's...weird.
ANYWAY, I like the back of the single more, which, once the sleeve is removed, no longer stars the anime, but rather Sakamoto herself (with her pretty new hairstyle, reminiscent of old days).
|A closeup of the CD/DVD content.|
As I mentioned while talking about the single cover, I love the color-scheme of this single - the blue, turquoise, and green. I don't know what the main track "Hajimari No Umi" is about, since I haven't come across translations for the lyrics yet, but the title is simple enough for me to see its connection to the colors on the single.
Blue is my favorite color, too. I may be biased.
But going on with colors, I love the pink they include on the single discs themselves, which makes the inside of the single as pleasant to look at as its exterior. I don't know; I got back into makeup last year because of my emerging obsession with vibrant colors, and this single's color-choice feeds that obsession satisfactorily.
|The single open, revealing the back of the booklet and Disc 1 (the music).|
|Disc 2 (the DVD) and the back inner cover of the single are revealed once you flip past Disc 1.|
Last picture before we move beyond the physical details of this single and onto the first press information is a picture of the image of Sakamoto included in the single booklet. Since the booklet only had one image of her, I thought I'd share it with you:
Now for the first press bonus details. Well, as this is a single, it doesn't come with any outstanding first press bonuses. It reminds me much of the first press bonus included with her More Than Words single, or at least part of that single's first press bonus (if you consider the included poster as part of the first press bonus, anyway). Pretty much, Hajimari No Umi comes with a "signed" postcard, whose image is identical to the back of the single's cover. It also has a short message from her, as you can see below:
I went through my whole speech about signatures and what I think of mass-manufactured ones in my More Than Words review, so I won't go into it here. I'll simply say that I'm very content to have another copy of Sakamoto Maaya's signature to add to my collection, since I may very well never get to meet her in my lifetime, let alone get her signature on the spot.
DISC 1: THE MUSIC
The track list of Hajimari No Umi is as follows:
01. "Hajimari No Umi"
02. "Itsumo De Tokoro De"
04. Medley Roots of SSW (Live)
The following thoughts for the first three tracks were written on 08/12/13 while I was flying home.
01. "Hajimari No Umi" >>>>
As per usual, Flying Dog released a clip of the PV for this single weeks before its due release date. That was my first impression of this first track, "Hajimari No Umi." In short, it had a flat sound about it that didn't amplify my excitement for the single the way it could have.
That being said, hearing the song in its entirety did change my final (as of now) opinion on it. It has a calm, upbeat sound that's pleasant to listen to, but not very complex. As such, I'm not sure when the pique of my interest in this song will change, as it almost usually does after hearing songs some hundred plus times. It's not so surprising to know that this song was composed/arranged by the same person, Mori Toshiyuki, who also composed/arranged "Okaerinasai," a song of Sakamoto's that never particularly stood out to me due to its own, greater simplicity/feeling of musical repetition. I do like "Hajimari No Umi" a great deal more, for three specific reasons: the change in the chorus before the bridge, the bridge itself, and the song's very end. I can't describe exactly why, but little details such as these mere seconds in the song can pick up or drag down my overall opinion. In this case, they pick it up.
So, yes, it isn't one of Sakamoto's most compelling songs, but it is certainly a lovely one nonetheless.
02. "Itsumo No Tokoro De" >>>>
The supporting track on Hajimari No Umi, "Itsumo No Tokoro De" gave me a better first impression than its star counterpart once clips became available online for early listening. The reason is strange, though, I'll warn you now, haha.
Are any of you familiar with the Sonic Adventure games on Sega Dreamcast, before it failed and they were transferred to GameCube? I think the second one, or whatever you'd call it, was Sonic Adventure Battle or something, where you could play through both the "good" and "bad" story lines. Anyway, the guitar in this song instantly made me think, "This song would totally fit as the music for a Sonic level." Now that I've listened to the song countless times more, my opinion is even stronger. It would fit with all the other Sonic-themed songs in the games if Sakamoto's part was instead played by the guitar. In that sense I guess you could say this song is nostalgic for me.
With that slight diversion aside, I do think "Itsumo No Tokoro De" measures up about the same to "Hajimari No Umi." Both are pleasant to listen to (or fun, in the case of "Itsumo No Tokoro De"), but they have a sense of simplicity about them. They're different kinds of songs from each other, for sure, but I enjoy them about the same.
03. "Okaerinasai" (acoustic) >>>>>
Flashback to earlier: I said that "Okaerinasai" was a song of Sakamoto's that never stood out to me due to its simplicity/repetitive music. Even my boyfriend didn't think much of it when I sent him a YouTube link.
So when I saw that this single included an acoustic version of the lackluster song, I often forgot about its inclusion.
But what the hell?
This time they hit the ball out of the park. And my boyfriend couldn't agree more. The acoustic version is absolutely beautiful to listen to.
It's so peaceful, Sakamoto's voice hitting both airy/whispering high notes and hollow low notes with nothing more than the quiet chords of an acoustic guitar and, eventually, the drip-drop-like, crisp notes of the piano (which reminds me of the song "Ame No Uta" from the anime D.N.Angel).
I know the chords were always there but sometimes, when they're brought to life by a plethora of instruments, they can sound bland and repetitive. That's where acoustic versions come in handy. The sound is cleaner and less cluttered, allowing every chord-change to be heard and appreciated. The piano instrumental at the bridge, for instance, is so much more beautiful and interesting to me than the instrumental bridge from the original.
And the acoustic guitar and piano chords at the very end are as stunning. This may just be, oddly enough, my favorite song on the single.
04. Medley Roots of SSW (Live) >>>>
This was a fun addition to the CD, though I'll be critiquing it when I get to the DVD in just a bit. It's especially exciting to me because it includes some live, partial versions of older Sakamoto songs that haven't been performed (or at least included) on any of her concert DVDs thus far, and her older songs of course hold the most nostalgia for me.
The medley includes "Mameshiba," "Platinum," "Kiseki No Umi," "Yubiwa," "Yakusoku Wa Iranai," "Magic Number," and "Hikari Are." As usual, Sakamoto sounds lovely live, and I especially love how beautiful her high notes are when she sings "Yakusoku Wa Iranai" (which is actually sandwiched between the beginning and end of "Yubiwa"). I would've given this track five pengu flippers if it was all songs I never heard live before, but she likes to include "Magic Number" and "Yubiwa" a lot, and I have to say I'm actually indifferent towards "Magic Number," lol.
DISC 2: THE DVD
DISC 2: THE DVD
The content of the DVD is organized as follows:
01. "Hajimari No Umi" (PV)
02. Countdown Live 2012-2013 - Tour "Mitsubachi" Final Digest
01. "Hajimari No Umi" (PV) >>>>>
The video for "Hajimari No Umi" is as peaceful and calming as the song itself. Often times, Sakamoto's songs have her in multiple settings that are flashed between, back and forth, from the song's beginning to its end. This video is quite simple really: it begins with Sakamoto inserting a casette into her casette player (with the song "Hajimari No Umi" on it), continues with her walking/skipping/running through various community settings, past many people living through simple, everyday activities in slowed down time, and ends with her removing the headphones and continuing her walk.
There are a few things I like about this video. One is the fact that it mimics the effect listening to a song through headphones/earphones has on the listener. It transports you to another place, and in this video you see Sakamoto having the same thing happen to her. In the background are people doing daily activities, just living their lives simply, but Sakamoto is "singing" "Hajimari No Umi" and moving to the pace of the song. It's as if she's singing the song in her head but is so immersed in it that it changes the environment around her. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has experienced this - listening to a song full-blast, as if the music is surrounding you, and feeling as if you're in a surreal place instead of just sitting in the train, heading to another day at work, with zombie-like-people quietly surrounding you (that's really what people on the stupid subway remind me of - mindless dead people).
Another thing I like about this video is the references it has in it to other videos/performances by her (at least that's what I view them as). The first is the guitarist, who I instantly recognized as the guitarist from her Countdown Live 2012-2013 - Tour "Mitsubachi" performances. Another is the juggling clown, who I instantly identified as the same clown character from her "Magic Number" PV. I don't know if there are more, or if I'm just seeing things, but these references appealed to me because of the "reminiscent" theme that seems to wrap itself around this single. It's evident through the cassette tape/player, the vivid color scheme, Sakamoto's old-school haircut (and younger, more innocent appearance), and, in this video, through the almost physical transportation to previous songs/performances as they are hinted at here and there.
The only weird thing about this video is how...well...creepy it is to see someone that's super happy running in slow motion. Lol.
Countdown Live 2012-2013 - Tour "Mitsubachi" Final Digest >>
Here is where my disappointment falls with this single, and my criticism of the previous Medley Roots of SSW (Live) comes around. That is to say, I don't know if I would have been as disappointed if the medley was excluded to begin with. The inclusion of this portion of the DVD would have still made somewhat little sense, but it wouldn't have been as disappointing to me if the medley never touched disc 1.
Back in June, a DVD of the Countdown Live 2012-2013 - Tour "Mitsubachi" Final was released for purchase. This DVD contained footage of Sakamoto's last tour date performances for the "Mitsubachi" tour. Now, changing gears a bit (stick with me, it'll make sense soon): a tour celebrating the release of her most recent album, Singer-Songwriter (which I've reviewed in two parts here and here), took place sometime in the spring (I think), and no part of it has yet been announced for release on DVD. Which means it most likely won't be released on DVD.
So one tour had part of it released on DVD for public purchase, and the other did not.
And for some reason, this limited edition single features a medley clip from the tour that has no DVD, and then proceeds to feature, as part of the limited edition bonus, a "digest" of the exact date featured on DVD of the other tour.
This wouldn't make so little sense if it wasn't for what the content of the "digest" consisted of: clips of the performances that were already made available on DVD. Let's put it this way: do you remember the preview released of Sakamoto's Countdown Live 2012-2013 - Tour "Mitsubachi" Final DVD? Here's the link from Sakamoto's official YouTube channel. In a nutshell, it included clips of some of the performances that were on the DVD, as a means to promote the DVD's sale.
Well, surprise, surprise: the content of the "digest" that's included as part of the limited edition bonus for Hajimari No Umi is essentially the same video publicly available from her YouTube channel, albeit with a few extra seconds for some songs. That's it.
Why, why, why didn't they include a video "digest" of the Roots of SSW (Live) tour? Why did they include a MP3 medley of that instead? Why couldn't the fourth track be a full, live performance from the "Mitsubachi" Tour - or, better yet, an instrumental of one of the single's two new tracks? Why?
If anything, the "digest" could have featured clips of performances from other dates of the tour - performances that weren't included on the DVD of the final tour date - so that the content would be new. I mean, I know that not everyone buys her concert DVDs, and perhaps those people would take more from the inclusion of the "digest." But to me it just seems redundant and poorly decided.
I still think that the limited edition of Hajimari No Umi is worth it - the PV of "Hajimari No Umi" alone makes it worth it - but I cannot pretend that I'm not disappointed by the ultimate choice of what would be included on the second half of the DVD.
OVERALL, Sakamoto's newest single, Hajimari No Umi, is one that I am happy to add to my collection. Oddly enough, because of its arrival at my door being so close to my departure to California, this single already holds memories for me. I wrote the following while writing earlier parts of my review during my flight home:
"I'm reviewing these songs on a plane, feeling a great deal sad and wanting to cry but doing my best to fight it off. Hajimari No Umi was released two days before my second much-anticipated trip to California, and arrived at my door the day before my flight. I never got to become truly acquainted with its tracks until I was 35,000 feet into the sky. I listened to them further while visiting familiar places that I love, with a person very dear to me. Many Sakamoto songs hold special places in my life's course, carrying many memories within them. Due to the circumstances, this single became the carrier of my trip's memories. And now I'm on the plane leaving the place I wish to build my life at, leaving the person I love tremendously, and I hurt. These songs, cheerful as some may be, hurt. I didn't want to listen to them here, but they would hurt so much worse if I put them off longer.
I am going back to my family, that I love with all my heart, but to a place that I hate. Beyond the basis of scenery, though, it's the goodbye to those I love that really hurts. I am always forced to leave someone I love. I know I did this to myself, but...
In any case, these songs will always carry that unavoidable reality for me. Their capacity to hurt will fade as I listen to them during happier times, but their initial nostalgia will always remain the strongest."
Clearly these memories aren't the happiest, but I think that the fact that they are already embedded into this single will make my reaction to its tracks over time different from other singles. And, with that being said, I'll end this review here.
I hope you found this post helpful, or interesting at least, and thanks so much for stopping by. I don't have any pending preorders from Sakamoto at the moment (nooo), so I'm not sure when a review of her music will be happening again. But I will do more posts about my favorites and whatnot in the meantime (much like this one). Have a great week, everyone! 'Til next time. ('<>')>
The limited edition of Sakamoto Maaya's newest single, Hajimari No Umi, can be purchased here:
**I am an affiliate of CDJapan and this post contains affiliate links.**
**I am an affiliate of CDJapan and this post contains affiliate links.**