Last Wednesday, February 5, 2014, Sakamoto Maaya released her newest single(s), yay! Not surprisingly, I preordered my limited edition copy back in, oh I don't know, December or so, and I finally picked it up from the post office this past Saturday. I had it shipped to California, since I was there during the release and didn't want to wait 'til I got home to open it, haha.
You might be wondering why I say newest "single(s)," and I'll clarify that now: technically speaking, Sakamoto released two singles last Wednesday. But, when it boils down to it, the only difference between the singles is the official single title - Be mine!/SAVED for one, and SAVED/Be mine! for the other - the arrangement of the tracks, and the anime artwork sleeves. Otherwise they're identical, down to the limited edition extras.
You do not need to own both, content-wise. The only reason to order both is to own both sets of anime artwork, as the two main tracks are from different anime. But that is wasteful in my opinion, hence why I only purchased one.
The differences could have been slightly more interesting, but whatever. I can only see one logical point as to why this decision was made - and I'll get into that briefly later - but, besides that, I'll never understand the marketing behind it.
Anyway, so the copy I decided to pick up was Be mine!/SAVED, purely because "Be mine!" is the opening song for an anime and "SAVED" is the closing song for another anime. It chronologically fit.
As per usual, I'm going to start my review by showing pictures of the actual packaging. The covers for the two singles are different, as well as the anime sleeves, depending on which single you buy. As I mentioned earlier, the two main tracks are songs from two anime. "Be mine!" is the opening song for Sekai Seifuku and "SAVED" is the closing song for Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha. Since I purchased Be mine!/SAVED, my copy has the sleeve featuring artwork from Sekai Seifuku. I'll go into that more in a bit.
First off, here is the CD packaging, already opened because I literally opened it in the car after picking it up from the post office.
I'm happy to see Sakamoto with long hair again, as it's been a while and I prefer her hair long *lol*. I like the simple cover design, though I must say it's a dramatic change from her usual covers, which tend to be on the more artsy/playful side, or reflect on the CD's PV. This doesn't fit in either category.
|Front of the single.|
Speaking of PVs: although "Be mine!" has a PV, neither the limited nor regular editions of the single include it. And Sakamoto doesn't look anything like she does on the above cover in the PV. She has a random fringe, straight hair, and a short pink dress. I prefer the look she sports above.
|Back of the single.|
The back continues the simple design of the front, with Sakamoto looking pretty and radiant. The track lists for both CDs/discs that are included with the limited edition single, which I'll zoom into below, is displayed in simple text to the left.
|LEFT: The spine of the packaging.|
RIGHT: A zoom-in of the track lists.
The color theme for this single is yellow, and as such the booklet and the main CD are both yellow. The limited edition bonus CD is black which still falls into the color scheme, in my opinion, as Sakamoto's hair is black. Very, very simple.
|The main CD in the packaging.|
|The limited edition bonus CD in the packaging.|
Here are closeups of both CDs:
|Closeup of the main CD.|
|Closeup of the limited edition bonus CD.|
As you can see, both CDs have their respective tracklists included on the CDs themselves. I don't think her CDs are usually that detailed in terms of what content they have, but this time around they are.
For the hell of it, I thought I'd include a picture of the first page of the booklet.
|A closeup of the page with the track lists and instrument list.|
Now for the anime artwork! The single comes with an anime sleeve, as well as a loose insert in the CD booklet with more artwork for the anime. As I mentioned before, my anime sleeve/insert features artwork from the anime Sekai Seifuku, an anime I have no interest in watching. I'm assuming that they took the opportunity to create two separate singles because the two main songs are from separate anime. As such, fans of Sekai Seifuku can purchase the Be mine!/SAVED single, with artwork from that anime, while the fans of Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha can purchase the SAVED/Be mine! single, with that anime's artwork. I only came up with this reason to release separate singles after I read about Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha and developed an interest in it. Yes, if the opportunity ever arises, I would like to watch that anime. I also prefer "SAVED" over "Be mine!"
|The anime sleeve that comes wrapped around the CD packaging.|
|The anime loose insert from the booklet.|
I now kind of wish I had purchased the SAVED/Be mine! single instead. The artwork that I've seen for it online is a lot prettier than the artwork for Sekai Seifuku, too.
Lastly, as is often the case, CDJapan, the website I purchase from, included an external bonus exclusive to them for this CD (I'm afraid to say that the external bonus is no longer available at this time). Much like More than Words and Hajimari No Umi, Be mine!/SAVED came with a postcard featuring a mass-produced Sakamoto signature. No poster this time, unfortunately, but I'm happy to have another bonus with her signature (even if she didn't actually write on my copy herself).
|The external bonus: a signed postcard.|
I know this post is fairly long at this point, but I want to include my thoughts on the tracks in the same post, so bear with me.
Let's start with the main CD, which has six songs:
1. Be mine!*
4. Be mine! (instrumental)*
5. SAVED (instrumental)*
6. Koe (instrumental)
*For those curious, the different track arrangement for the SAVED/Be mine! single is basically these tracks reversed. In other words, "SAVED" and its instrumental are the first and fourth tracks, while "Be mine!" and its instrumental are the second and fifth tracks.
Tracks 1 and 4: Be mine!
The first time I heard this song, I didn't care much for it. It's a very fast-paced, rock-esque song - the childish counterpart of "Buddy," one of my top Sakamoto songs. But after listening to it multiple times, it has grown on me. I don't like the abundance of English words thrown here and there, but it's one of those songs that makes you feel stronger/happier/more confident, etc., via the music. I still prefer "Buddy" because "Buddy," though fast, still exhibits more organization than this song, but then again the anime for "Be mine!" deals with totally different content than "Buddy." As for the instrumental version, I think it totally holds its own, much like "Buddy" (again). What I mean to say is, I find myself often deciding whether I want to listen to "Be mine!" or its instrumental (usually I listen to both the original and the instrumental in succession, or I don't listen to the instrumental much period).
Tracks 2 and 5: SAVED
I loved "SAVED" from the start. It's one of Sakamoto's loveliest songs to listen to, and one that I enjoy from start to finish. The beginning is the calmest part, but once the full set of instruments kicks in after the first chorus, this song truly comes to life (much like "Ame Ga Furu," now that I think about it). I find the end, with its repetition of the line "You saved me," to be especially powerful. Its instrumental, however, though comforting, is one that, like most instrumentals for me, is not strong enough on its own that I choose to listen to it. I find that although the strings are beautiful, I personally think the music and Sakamoto's vocals are codependent on each other. They are at their strongest when they are played as one.
Tracks 3 and 6: Koe
I don't know if I ever mentioned it here, but Sakamoto performed a song for the game Monster Hunter: Frontier G called "Secrear" last year. "Secrear" was sung with words that, I think, were totally made up, and so for this single Sakamoto rerecorded "Secrear" with Japanese lyrics, and called it "Koe." Perhaps it's because the mysterious air of the nonexistent language paired well with the mysterious, moving arrangement of the song, but this Japanese version is not as powerful as the original. Regardless, I love Sakamoto's voice (she hits some lovely high notes here) and the prominent strings are reminiscent of Sakamoto's earlier albums. The instrumental, much like "SAVED," does not particularly stand out to me, though, as beautiful as the music is.
Let me just make this clear: I'm THRILLED to have instrumentals included again. Since I like to sing Sakamoto's songs, her instrumentals are especially helpful for recording. :)
Now onto the limited edition bonus CD, which is referred to as a "mini live album." This CD, too, features six songs, and all six are from one of the tour dates of Sakamoto's "Roots of SSW" tour, that myself and many others hoped would be released on DVD. Well, it wasn't, but this CD lets us hear live recordings from that tour. The track list is as follows:
3. Cloud 9
4. Park Amsterdam (the whole story)
5. Scrap ~ Wakare No Uta
I don't want to go into detail on every song. Simply put, I'm happy to have live recordings of "Grapefruit," "Cloud 9," and "Scrap ~ Wakare No Uta" on my iPod, and I'm happy to have live recordings of two of the songs from Sakamoto's self-composed album, Singer-Songwriter. I don't think these are the best live performances of Sakamoto's - her voice seems strained/nasal-y at times, and her English shows its decline in "Park Amsterdam (the whole story)" - but I'm happy to add them to my list of Sakamoto songs regardless.
Overall, I am really happy with Sakamoto Maaya's Be mine!/SAVED single. My main thoughts are that the songs of the single itself - "Be mine!," "SAVED," and "Koe" - outweigh the limited edition bonus live recordings. "SAVED" is one of the nicest songs, in my opinion, from Sakamoto to date. My main problem with the single are the marketing of it - two separate singles with the exact same content still feels unnecessary to me.
My biggest problem, though, is that I received another insert in the CD booklet with a code that, once coupled with personal information online, would enter me into a lottery to win tickets to a special Be mine!/SAVED concert. You can imagine that I was thrilled to have this opportunity - seeing Sakamoto live is one of my life goals, really - and I was equally disappointed/annoyed when I found out that only those with addresses in Japan could complete the information online. It's as if being excluded from Sakamoto's official fanclub, Idling Stop, wasn't bad enough. I don't understand what is accomplished by excluding overseas listeners. Her recent digitally released live album, featuring even more songs from the "Roots of SSW" tour, did the same thing: it was only available for purchase to those in Japan. It's frustrating and leaves an overall bad taste behind seeing that I am not allowed an equal part in releases/bonuses - especially the purchase of the live album, for which I was willing to fork over the money. I guess money doesn't always talk.
I hate to end on a bad note, but I don't really care to drag this on any longer than it already is. So, with that being said, I hope you found this review enjoyable/helpful, and thanks for stopping by! 'Til next time. ('<>')>
The limited editions of Sakamoto Maaya's two singles can be purchased here:
Sakamoto Maaya's Be mine!/SAVED (LE)
Sakamoto Maaya's SAVED/Be mine! (LE)