|Album Title:||Chihayafuru Original Soundtrack & Character Song Album 1|
|Artist:||Kousuke Yamashita, Ko-ta, Ko-hey, hidehiro kawai, SADA, Yutaka Shinya, 99RadioService, Asami Seto, Tooru Nara, Yoshimasa Hosoya|
|Release Date:||January 18, 2012|
|Purchase at:||CDJapan, Play-Asia|
|01. YOUTHFUL (TV Size)||99RadioService||1:15|
|02. Karuta Biyori||Kousuke Yamashita.||1:23|
|03. Takaburu Kimochi||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:07|
|04. Manazashi||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:05|
|05. Kokorogamae||Kousuke Yamashita.||1:34|
|06. Himeta Omoi||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:21|
|07. “Chihayafuru” Main Theme||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:59|
|08. Karta no Me||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:02|
|09. Kako no Kioku||Kousuke Yamashita.||1:25|
|10. Karta Nante||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:00|
|11. Shouri e no Michi||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:32|
|12. Aseri||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:16|
|13. Omowanu Tenkai||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:29|
|14. Hontou no Jitsuryoku||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:10|
|15. Wabito||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:23|
|16. Kumori Kokoro||Kousuke Yamashita.||1:54|
|17. Ooki na Sonzai||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:33|
|18. Katsudou Kaishi!||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:25|
|19. Osananajimi||Kousuke Yamashita.||3:02|
|20. Team Chihayafuru||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:55|
|21. “Chihayafuru” Main Theme ~p.f.ver.~||Kousuke Yamashita.||2:19|
|22. full throttle||Chihaya Ayase (CV: Asami Seto)||4:22|
|23. Yume e no Chizu||Arata Wataya (CV: Yoshimasa Hosoya)||4:40|
|24. NICK MAN!||Yusei Nishida (CV: Tooru Nara)||4:04|
|25. Soshite Ima||Asami Seto||4:25|
Review: The basis for Chihayafuru is an odd one seeing that it revolves around the world of karuta, a niche card game where the player who identifies old Japanese poems the fastest emerges victorious. Although competitive karuta might be a quirky subject, Chihayafuru’s atmosphere is no different from most other shows focused on sport or competition. The matches retain the intensity, energy, mind games and moments of self doubt that have been staples of the sports genre since forever, but, given the nature of karuta, the anime also delves into the Japanese poems’ culture and history. It’s through this backdrop that composer Kousuke Yamashita demonstrates his musical excellence, bringing not only the karuta matches to life, but also the emotions that lie embedded in Japanese poetry.
Impassioned. That’s one word that continually hangs over the anime and Chihayafuru’s score certainly reflects the energy and excitement that flows through the characters during the course of their journey through the world of competitive karuta. This passion is especially evident in the soundtrack’s main theme. The crescendo early on in the piece is invigorating as it unleashes the vast reservoir of the characters’ pent-up energy through the brassy bursts, capturing their emotions as they bask in the glory of victory. Depicting this singular moment is not enough however; in the grand tradition of main themes, it maneuvers itself to encapsulate the entire scope of the anime – the melody is first allowed to simmer in the glow of contentment before proceeding with inspirational violin swells that light up the characters’ path ahead, illustrating their boundless energy as they look forward to the next challenge with confidence and joy!
“Chihayafuru” Main Theme
With such a magnificent theme, Yamashita makes sure to work it in many of his other pieces, giving the soundtrack its thematic cohesiveness and making it a memorable listen. For example, “Wabito’s” prim and proper melody uses the flute to draw forth a traditional sound to put the listener firmly in Japan’s past as the anime delves deeper into the literary history aspect of karuta. Love and restraint emerges forth and the fleeting memories and emotions are channeled well in the way the flute expresses the parts of the main theme. Other tracks, like “Team Chihayafuru” conjure the shining inspiration that the main theme delivers, much to my delight, but the best contrasting use comes in through the piano version. Here, the piano’s soft, slower delivery brings about an introspective air, allowing both the characters and the viewer to look back on all that’s transpired and appreciate how much the characters have been able to achieve while wrapping up the instrumental part of Chihayafuru’s soundtrack nicely.
“Chihayafuru” Main Theme ~p.f.ver.~
In between all of that, the easygoing music of day to day life and the tension of the karuta matches make up the rest of the music. An example of the former includes “Karuta Biyori,” a fun, upbeat track featuring a steady piano rhythm backing up the strings and woodwinds as the latter adds a dab of whimsy here and there in the way they syncopate the melody at a certain point. “Katsudou Kaishi!” is also enjoyable, dazzling me with the energy and optimism it radiates and bringing to mind the persistence the karuta club members have as they continually strive to improve.
As the karuta matches approach, “Shouri e no Michi” evokes images of the calm before the storm of battle. The cello’s short melodic fragments express a great deal of tension through the grim atmosphere as it builds up towards a faster tempo. Once there, the rest of the orchestra enters, indicating that battle has been joined and the mood fittingly grows dark. As the drama of the matches get underway, tracks like “Aseri” surface with their ominous sounds dripping with tension. But things do look up as the soundtrack progresses. “Ooka na Sonzai” might have started out by weaving a threatening atmosphere, but the key shifts mark the turning point towards the resolution, instilling hope of victory. All is resolved in “Team Chihayafuru,” which releases the joy as the team members’ struggles bear fruit. Throughout all of this, each track, even the atmospheric ones, contributes to the ebb and flow of karuta in a way that feels natural and is rarely, if ever, boring. The consistency in its quality is what makes this soundtrack a success and joy to listen to.
Shouri e no Michi
And to live up to the album’s title, the disc also includes three character songs – Chihaya’s “full throttle” (by Asami Seto), Arata’s “Yume e no Chizu” (by Yoshimasa Hosoya), and Yusei’s “NICK MAN!” (by Tooru Nara) – and Chihayafuru’s ending theme, “Soshite Ima” by Asami Seto. Asami Seto, the best vocalist on this disc, is sufficiently energetic and upbeat in “full throttle,” even if she does strain ever so slightly when she’s trying to hit those higher registers. In contrast, Seto succeeds in nailing those higher notes in “Soshite Ima” while also channeling a calming, soothing aura during the verses. The remaining singers are mixed; Yoshimasa Hosoya’s delivery resembles the typical male J-pop ballad in that it’s enjoyable, but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression because of its vanilla delivery. Tooru Nara’s “NICK MAN!” is the least enjoyable. The chaotic mix of voices and synth during the chorus just doesn’t work for me and Nara’s voice is too heavy in the way it channels his energy.
Not surprisingly, the disc’s forte lies in the background music, and Kousuke Yamashita’s efforts yield impassioned compositions that are thematically cohesive. Chihayafuru’s soundtrack reflects well upon Yamashita’s consistent, but underrated music career and this latest work of his can sit proudly alongside excellent scores such as the ones he composed for Glass Fleet and Shion no Ou.
Rating: Very Good