Okay everyone, say it with me: Shiawase Ni Tsuite Watashi Ga Shitteiru 5-Tsu No Hoho -
/ Shikisai. God damn.
That mouthful up there, out just over a month ago on 01/28/15, is Sakamoto Maaya's first release for the year of her 20th anniversary, and currently her most recent single. I preordered my limited edition copy back in November and received my precious package the first week of February. As such, I've been listening to this single for a generous month. I should have published this review a long time ago, clearly.
Due to the enormous delay, I'll be publishing only one post for this single, as it would be embarrassing to delay the full review further by splitting it into two parts. Today, then, we will be admiring the limited edition copy with its first press/external bonuses, and I will share my thoughts on that which matters most: the single's content, some of Sakamoto's latest work.
First off, let's set the scene a bit. Shiawase Ni Tsuite Watashi Ga Shitteiru 5-Tsu No Hoho/Shikisai is, in my honest opinion, another double A-side, much like Be Mine!/Saved. CDJapan says otherwise, but I honestly see it this way. There are two main tracks - in this case, "Shiawase Ni Tsuite Watashi Ga Shitteiru 5-Tsu No Hoho" and "Shikisai" - and then a B-side, or supporting track. For this single, that track is titled "Kimi No Suki Na Hito."
For Be Mine!/Saved, "Be Mine!" was an opening for an anime while "Saved" was another anime's ending song. This time around, "Shiawase Ni Tsuite Watashi Ga Shitteiru 5-Tsu No Hoho" is the opening for an anime called Koufuki Graffiti, while "Shikisai" is the main song from an Android game called Fate/Grand Order. I'm providing this information because the bonuses are related to it.
Anywho, picture time!
Please excuse the lighting and quality of the two above pictures. I received my package on a weekday and wanted to get pictures of the single still sealed, so I had to take them in the darkness of my room. I'm also familiarizing myself with a new camera that my boyfriend gave me. It has the capacity to take pictures of much higher quality than my previous digital camera, which is always a welcomed change for my blog.
With that being said, it also has the capacity to produce shittier quality pictures when in the hands of a novice. Hey, you have to start somewhere, right?
|Notice how clear the bear is. SERIOUSLY. THE BEAR.|
There is a fresh, youthful atmosphere to the album cover for this particular single. The whitening effect of sunlight and the soft, almost pastel-like colors of the album's title make me think of winter melting into spring. It's less artistic, I think, and more naturally beautiful than Sakamoto's usual covers, if that makes any sense. The cover of the regular copy is roughly the same except Sakamoto is facing a different direction, but do keep in mind that all pictures in this post are of the limited edition version. Links to both versions will be at the end of this post if you want to take a look at the regular edition!
Anyway, let's admire Sakamoto's long hair, which has managed to stick around for some time now. Her hair and wardrobe - a loose, cozy gray sweater - are likely the reasons I think about youth and 'natural beauty' when looking at this cover. I think the design really suits the main main track of the single, "Shiawase Ni Tsuite Watashi Ga Shitteiru 5-Tsu No Hoho," which is no surprise given the fact that the cover's design goes hand-in-hand with the song's PV (although, yes, I feel it also suits the mood of the song, which I'll get into later). The same isn't achieved with "Shikisai," whose mood shows more of a disconnect from the theme upheld by the cover, but I can look past that quite easily. The reason for that will become clear by this post's end.
This single contains two main tracks and a supporting track, like I mentioned earlier. The full track list, as it appears in the above picture, is as follows:
1. Shiawase Ni Tsuite Watashi Ga Shitteiru 5-Tsu No Hoho
3. Kimi No Suki Na Hito
4. Shiawase Ni Tsuite Watashi Ga Shitteiru 5-Tsu No Hoho -Instrumental-
5. Shikisai -Instrumental-
Like many limited edition releases, the LE of this single contains two discs, with limited edition content being featured on the second disc. This time around, that content is a DVD of the live studio performance that aired circa the release of her previous single, Replica. The tracks of the performance are broken up into the following list:
2. afternoon repose
The discs, much like the album's cover, are very clean, simple, and fresh, as you can see in the above picture. They have a white base color, and the soft pastel colors from the cover's title are split in two categories - pink and blue - for each disc. Again, the design makes me think of transitioning, such as the weather transitions of fall and spring.
Now for one of my favorite topics: the first press/external bonus details.
If you're familiar with CDJapan, or have seen my other Sakamoto Maaya posts, then you know that CDJapan often includes a limited supply of extras with Sakamoto's releases that are given on a first come, first serve basis. That's a huge part of why I always preorder her CDs.
This time around, there were two bonuses: a special outer sleever featuring artwork from Koufuku Graffiti and Fate/Grand Order, and an 'alternate cover.' Both bonuses are quite different from the usual bonuses I'm used to.
Let's take a look at the sleeve first:
As much as I usually don't care about the anime/games related to Sakamoto's releases, I appreciated this bonus and thought it was a nice touch. You may have noticed from the first few pictures of the sealed single, but there were no signs of Koufuku Graffiti nor Fate/Grand Order included on the CD's external packaging. This bonus ties the two back into the picture. Although I'll be leaving the sleeve in its clear protective wrapping, I appreciate the vivid, detailed artwork showcasing the anime and game the main songs of the single were created for. And, overall, I think this sleeve would look awesome around the CD case itself.
Next is the 'alternate cover,' which CDJapan calls "exclusive another cover" on the product page:
I'm not sure exactly what is meant by 'another cover.' Is the bonus supposed to serve as a literal alternate cover that can be slipped in front of the single's booklet to change the packaging's cover? Or is this a copy of an alternate cover design that was created but discarded during the finalization of the single's production? I have no idea, but I'll never complain about having more Sakamoto merchandise. She's so pretty here!
That basically much sums up the packaging details for the limited edition of Shiawase Ni Tsuite Watashi Ga Shitteiru 5-Tsu No Hoho/Shikisai. For the remainder of the post, I'll be sharing my thoughts on the new songs released on this single.
Tracks 1 and 4: Shiawase Ni Tsuite Watashi Ga Shitteiru 5-Tsu No Hoho >>>>>
Okay, I've been dying to get this out of my system: what in holy hell possessed whoever was responsible for this song's name to give it such a long, effing title? I may never know this song's name by memory, and am compelled to refer to it as "Shiawase" for the sake of time (and because "Shiawase" looks like the word-cousin of "Shikisai"). Translated, this song is about happiness, and you can hear that in the music itself. "Shiawase" (yes, I will call you that) is upbeat, cheerful, and showcases Sakamoto's playful and youthful voice. I didn't think I would like this song much after clips of it went live, but it's actually quite catchy, and the change at the song's bridge keeps everything interesting. The instrumental is enjoyable as well, although a bit is lost once Sakamoto's voice is removed. I would rate this a 4.5, but I'm rounding it up to (THEY'RE BACK) 5 pengu flippers.
Tracks 2 and 5: Shikisai >>>>>
I knew I liked this song even after only hearing the short, limited clip of it. Now that I have the full version, I can say without a doubt that this is my favorite song from the single. "Shikisai" falls into the same category as "Buddy" and "Replica," which is no surprise considering the fact that the band behind it, la la larks, features people that were involved in the creation of both of those songs. "Shikisai" is fast-paced, haunting, and unexpected. It has a degree of disorder like "Replica," but is a bit more controlled, in my opinion. It also somewhat reminds me of "Sora Wo Miro" in the sense that Sakamoto's voice is very mature. Here we see the power her voice is capable of exhibiting. Aside from that, I kind of love how much "Shikisai" contrasts "Shiawase." They are nothing short of polar opposites. With regards to the instrumental, well, it without a doubt holds its own. You can really hear the haunting mood in the chords at the song's start, the strings build up the energy to the chorus, and all the instruments come to a tight close at the song's end. I really have nothing bad to say about this song. 5 all the way.
Track 3: Kimi No Suki Na Hito >>>>>
I heard the clip of this song and thought 'dull.' It sounded like it was in the same ballpark as one of my favorites, "Saved," except boring. And dull. I had no hopes for this song. It was sentenced to be the weak point of this single before I even gave it a chance. And then I finally heard it, because my package arrived in the mail, and I was shocked. Shocked because of how much I loved it. "Kimi No Suki Na Hito" is the CD's ballad that is, simply put, beautiful and sad. There is a powerfully emotional composition of strings and piano in this song that make it so much more than a forgotten B-side (oh "Coming up!" how I still don't care for you), and the sweetness to Sakamoto's voice brings everything together. It kills me that no instrumental was included for this song, because the music is stunning. It may not be "Saved," but "Kimi No Suki Na Hito" still carries so much impact. Also, if you're curious, you should check out the translations for this song on the blog Yumi Hokori. Dear Maaya, I am not so strong.
|An image from the single's booklet.|
I will be keeping my thoughts to the limited edition inclusion of Sakamoto's studio live performance as one section, rather than separating my thoughts by each of the three songs. For the entire performance, there is nothing more than Sakamoto's voice and Masato Ishinari on guitar. While it's interesting to hear musically busier songs as simple acoustics like this, I enjoyed the fact that all three songs - "Tegami," "Afternoon Repose," and "Okaerinasai" - are songs that translate beautifully into this medium without changing drastically. I think the weakest of the three songs is "Tegami," due to the fact that most of the song is vocal harmonies with layers of instruments - something obviously lost in this setting. As for the strongest, I really enjoyed "Afternoon Repose," which is already a beautifully peaceful and calming song. Having it performed with voice and guitar only emphasize these characteristics, and I think this song in particular blended so well with the setting of the performance, which is a room of earthy tones and soft, glowing lamplight. "Okaerinasai" is a lovely performance as well, but I can't help but compare it to the acoustic version included as the third track on her Hajimari No Umi single, which I enjoy much more.
Part of me hoped that maybe, just maybe, this DVD would also include the PV of "Replica" that ended the live stream of this studio performance but, alas, it does not.
With regards to my overall thoughts on Shiawase Ni Tsuite Watashi Ga Shitteiru 5-Tsu No Hoho/Shikisai...
As far as her post-Kanno singles go, I think I have to say that Shiawase Ni Tsuite Watashi Ga Shitteiru 5-Tsu No Hoho/Shikisai is my favorite single as a whole from Sakamoto Maaya. And yes, I feel like I need to explain myself a bit because that's a very bold statement to make.
What really captures me about this single is how appropriate it is, in my opinion, for the year of Sakamoto's 20th anniversary. I saw in this single a portfolio of what Sakamoto is capable of: her cheerful, young songs, her powerful, dramatic songs, and her sad, moving songs. I hear the clarity, power, and hollow breathlessness her voice harnesses - the reasons she can convey so much through such varying styles of music. Simply put, I see a bit of everything that I know and love from Sakamoto in this single.
In spite of its wordy title, Shiawase Ni Tsuite Watashi Ga Shitteiru 5-Tsu No Hoho/Shikisai is a strong start to a year of more milestones for Sakamoto Maaya. With her 20th anniversary album less than two months away, I can't help but say that I'm ridiculously excited to see what this year brings for my favorite artist. What are your thoughts regarding her most recent single? Are you excited for her next album, Request? Feel free to share your thoughts below!
Thanks for stopping by! 'Til next time. ('<>')>
The limited edition of Sakamoto Maaya's Shiawase Ni Tsuite Watashi Ga Shitteiru 5-Tsu No Hoho/Shikisai can be viewed/purchased here:
As for the regular edition, it can be viewed purchased here: