|Album Title:||Play Ball|
|Anime Title:||Sakamichi no Apollon: Kids on the Slope|
|Artist:||YUKI, Yoko Kanno, Hidenori Tanaka|
|Release Type:||OP/ED Single|
|Release Date:||May 02, 2012|
|01. Play Ball||YUKI||4:36|
|02. Sakamichi no Melody||YUKI||4:44|
Review: YUKI’s performance in this latest single, Play Ball / Sakamichi no Melody, takes me back in time to an earlier era of my anime fandom, specifically when I laid eyes on the unforgettable Honey and Clover opening sequence. In singing “Dramatic,” YUKI’s shrill, nasally voice was initially off-putting and the visuals were eccentric to say the least. But whether it was a blend of those oddities, the show’s depiction of the ups and downs of college life (one that I could identify with), or something else entirely, the novel experience it presented was not an unpleasant one. With each passing episode, I found myself drawn into the wonderful strangeness it served up.
Sakamichi no Apollon’s OP theme, “Sakamichi no Melody” is far more conventional from both the animation and performance standpoints; YUKI’s characteristic shrillness is muted, creating less of a distraction and allowing the listener to take in and enjoy the other aspects of her performance. Her entry into the song is marked by a wistful, nostalgic feeling that soothingly builds up towards the energetic chorus where YUKI shines in large part due to the energy she unleashes. The delivery is impeccably urgent and the way in which she navigates the lyrics evokes images of someone desperately grasping at ephemeral memories while striving to live life to the fullest.
As apparent as this impatience is, the chorus does simmer down gently so that the subdued second verse can wend through, growing more expressive as it progresses (not unlike the anime’s protagonist Kaoru!), and ending once more in a way such that the pleasant dose of euphoria lingers on. But as much as “Sakamichi no Melody” showcases YUKI’s vocal excellence, the song’s composer, Yoko Kanno, also deserves props. From the guitar, which works in conjunction with YUKI to create that nostalgic aura, or the very catchy trumpet solo, Kanno once more shows an ability to work her magic in such a way that the vocalist and instrumentals seamlessly complement each other, with neither component overpowering the other.
Although the first A-side, “Play Ball,” doesn’t quite have the same cachet as “Sakamichi no Melody,” its bold-sounding introduction will catch your attention and YUKI’s introductory lines in each stanza do stand out for sounding smooth and graceful, without the hard vocal edge that characterizes YUKI’s trademark delivery. “Play Ball’s” measured, catchy chorus is only slightly less energetic than what YUKI delivered on Honey and clover’s various opening themes, but the emotions the song as a whole leaves us with provide a pleasant buzz as YUKI closes on a euphoric note.
In performing “Play Ball” and “Sakamichi no Melody,” YUKI delivers a consistent effort. Her delivery is so consistent that the only point that tilts me more towards “Sakamichi no Melody” is in Yoko Kanno’s ability to blend instrumentals and vocalist. It’s something Kanno has done since working with Maaya Sakamoto and, with few exceptions, I continually find myself impressed by the way she succeeds in writing music that fit a vocalist’s style so well.
Rating: Very Good
Sakamichi no Apollon OP – Sakamichi no Melody