|Sept. 3, 2008
|2. Natsu Yuuzora
|4. Watashi no Sora
Review: Kousuke Atari has this interesting style that takes some time to get used to at first, but once you take the opportunity to listen to it for a few times and judge it on its own merits, you’ll find that it has a very soothing, ballad-like quality to it that feels like a nice change from most music used during OP/ED sequences. It certainly fits in with Natsume Yuujinchou‘s atmosphere because the anime itself is fairly mellow and each episode ends on such a note as to allow “Natsu Yuuzora” to blend in seamlessly. The rest of the album also provides an excellent listening experience, making it a good album to rotate in and out to add a bit of variety if you are looking for relaxing, easy-listening music.
As a departure from the usual, this album consists of four songs instead of the usual two songs and two karaoke pieces and places the ED song to Natsume Yuujinchou is located on Track 2. Instead, this album opens up with the eponymous “Kizuna,” which establishes the mood of this album through its mellow introduction accompanied by a rather pleasant piano harmony which complements Atari’s voice really well. For his part, Atari demonstrates his ability to channel his emotions as the song builds up, noticeably around 2:00 and again at 4:01 when he goes into an utterly beautiful refrain. Also noteworthy is the section from 3:33 to 4:01 where he puts forth a strong, forceful display of emotion which serves as a good setup for the refrain at 4:01. Finally, this song ends the way it begins: that is, with a piano melody that leaves you calm and at ease. While there isn’t much to criticize here, I did find Atari’s crescendos felt a bit sudden at times, but they did not detract too much from the song, allowing “Kizuna” to serve as a solid opener.
Track 2 is the one that most of you are looking forwards to and “Natsu Yuuzora” definitely shines right away with its acoustic guitar introduction. When Atari starts singing, you begin to notice a subtle change between this track and “Kizuna.” While “Kizuna” gives off a more emotionally charged feeling (it sounds a lot like a love song, to be honest), “Natsu Yuuzora” has the feel of a ballad as through the singer were reminiscing over a childhood summer or equally relaxing theme. The song flows really smoothly, with Atari and the acoustic guitar keeping pace with each other to create a wonderful, mellow feeling. It doesn’t really try to stand out by doing anything fancy, but still succeeds at being an enjoyable song just purely based on the strength of its melody and the imagery of a nice, slow summer day that it manages to evoke within the listener.
Next up is “Sansara,” which is more energetic than the preceding songs and has an air of optimism to it as though the singer doesn’t have a care for in the world. The piano accompaniment emphasizes that feeling through the higher notes at various points during the song through its use of grace notes to make it feel playful. However, this piece does drift towards bouts of seriousness around 1:35 and again at 3:13, though the latter one is a bit more introspective through the background instruments, which back off just a bit, allowing Atari to make a graceful closure. The transition between the playful and the serious segments do feel slightly off, part of which owes to my inability to understand what the lyrics are and as such, have no idea what the song is actually about (this has been, and will be a recurring issue in all of my reviews). It does not change the fact that this song is enjoyable for the most part and the blend of voice and background instruments contributes a lot to that.
“Watashi no Sora” closes up the album with a pleasant introduction established with the mix of an acoustic guitar, piano, and even an instrument that sounds like an electric ukelele. The pervasive mood throughout this song can be heard around 0:50, where Atari’s voice gives the feeling of a laid-back day full of possibilities to explore. Within the context of this album, this song was a good choice to end this album because it’s nice, calming, and soothing, which serves as a good last impression with which to leave the listener.
It took me a few listens to really appreciate it, but once you get used to what sounds like traditional Japanese music mixed with Kousuke Atari’s voice added on top, that’s when you’re really able to absorb the melody and find a certain degree of calmness and inner peace. The strongest point this album has is that its music is fairly consistent in the quality department without any tracks that are noticeably worse than the others and are, in fact, fairly enjoyable. So while this album might fit in perfectly with Natsume Yuujinchou, don’t be fooled into thinking its odd-sounding melodies are only good within the context of the ED sequence. It’s actually a very good album that stands well on its own.
Rating: Very Good
Track 2 – Natsu Yuuzora