Saki Original Soundtrack – Review

Saki Original Soundtrack Cover

Album Title: Saki Original Soundtrack
Anime Title: Saki
Artist: Tsuyoshi Watanabe
Catalog Number: LASA-5018
Release Type: Soundtrack
Release Date: October 7, 2009

Track List:

Track Title Artist Time
1. Tokimeki no Toki Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:53
2. Majanbu de no Hitotoki Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:34
3. Koukou Seikatsu -Seichou- Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:40
4. Nagoyakana Nichijou Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:35
5. Maid Kissa Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:49
6. Dotabata Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:38
7. Introduction Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:46
8. Saki – Gakkou Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:43
9. Natsukashii Kimochi Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:44
10. Wa – Yuutousei Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:48
11. Ano Toki no Kimochi Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:56
12. Tacos Cota Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:36
13. Yuuki -Dajiee- Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:48
14. Ano Toki wa… Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:58
15. Tsutsumi Komarete Tsuyoshi Watanabe 2:16
16. Yoi Ko to Issho Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:39
17. Ojou-sama Toiu Mono wa Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:47
18. Omoiyari to Yasashisa Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:59
19. Kussetsu Shita Omoi Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:46
20. Koerare nai Kabe Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:36
21. Kuyashisa Tsuyoshi Watanabe 2:02
22. Shiai Mae Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:39
23. Da Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:45
24. Te no Uchi Tsuyoshi Watanabe 2:19
25. Sassou to Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:41
26. Kousei Tsuyoshi Watanabe 2:24
27. Shinkaku Tsuyoshi Watanabe 2:20
28. Attouteki na Chikara wo Mokuzen Toshite Tsuyoshi Watanabe 2:00
29. Kami no Ryouiki Tsuyoshi Watanabe 2:02
30. Kami ka Akuma ka Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:41
31. Kono Itte de Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:38
32. Shouri he -Ketsui- Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:54
33. Heroic Star Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:59
34. Tatakai no Nochi ni wa… Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:43
35. Kazoku no Omoide Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:30
36. Chotto Mae Made wa Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:56
37. Futari no Yakusoku Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:44
38. Glossy:MMM (Arrange ver.) Tsuyoshi Watanabe 1:54

Review: When I had written about the Spring 2009 season, my initial impression of Saki’s music was that it was going to be short and undeveloped, signifying an unambitious, but functional soundtrack. Although this sounds like a value judgement, it shouldn’t be seen that way because all I expect is some good music and on this front, the composer, Tsuyoshi Watanabe (of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu fame), delivers with some catchy, enjoyable themes. Even those who have not seen the show will be able to derive enjoyment out of this album because its simplistic nature doesn’t require much imagination to figure out what the track is supposed to depict. A quick listen will show that Saki’s soundtrack runs the gamut of easygoing slice of life tracks, character themes, emotional pieces, and intense tracks that convey the thrill of the mahjong matches. Though the music is as far from being mind-shattering while still being enjoyable, it need not be thrilling to succeed.

Saki’s soundtrack’s strength in simplicity is evident from the first track, “Tokimeki no Toki” which lelangir had described as a well-executed ojou-sama piece. The piano and the harp work together to bring forth a dainty aura that carries with it a scent of romance and innocence throughout its duration. In doing so, its sets the tone of the series by driving expectations for a feel-good anime that, in spite of its tense moments, assures the audience that the ending will be a happy one.

Tokimeki no Toki
[audio:01 Saki.mp3]

The slice of life moments then spring forth with “Majanbu de no Hitotoki’s” upbeat, easygoing atmosphere that it projects through its harmonica and piano melody, sculpting a scene in which the stresses of day to day life are nonexistent. “Saki – Gakkou” builds up on the laid-back setting with a quaint piano melody that immerses the listener in an aura of contentment and “Yoi Ko to Issho” adds to it through a high-pitched recorder that meanders about as it calms the listener in a lullaby-like fashion.

Saki – Gakkou
[audio:08 Saki.mp3]

Given the show’s idiom, romantic feelings inevitably flutter about in a simplistic, innocent manner, with moments where the characters do their best to summon up the courage to pour their feelings out. “Ano Toki no Kimochi’s” piano melody pauses often, illustrating the anxiety that comes with confessing their love and how the characters go through a cycle of false starts. “Tsutsumi Komarete” a few tracks down furthers the anxiety, but adds a greater sense of urgency through a faster tempo. Unfortunately, that’s about as varied as it gets; most of the pieces will fall along the same vein and by then, you’ll want a break from all the feelings that the characters keep bottled up inside.

Ano Toki no Kimochi
[audio:11 Saki.mp3]

That is where some of the sillier tracks step in and “Maid Kissa” injects a high dose of energy into the soundtrack. The image that it conjures through its track title and melody is that of a fanservice moment as the characters find themselves in a state of embarrassment and must cope with it as best as they can. Then comes “Dotabata’s” brand of silliness which is novel the first few times one hears it, but its flighty, impish aura can be slightly irritating after a while. Because of this, my preference goes more towards pieces like “Tacos Costa” and “Yuuki ~Dajiee~.” The titles capture Yuuki’s persona perfectly as the former serves up an atmosphere one might find in a tropical cabana out in the Caribbean while the latter’s fast-paced, frenetic tempo does an excellent job depicting her hyperactive nature.

Tacos Costa
[audio:12 Saki.mp3]

After establishing the setting, atmosphere, and characters, it’s time to move into the mahjong matches. “Shiai Mae” shows just how serious the competition with its militaristic melody that covers both the excitement of being at the tournament and the jittery feelings that will inevitably follow. The serious tone then takes over once the matches get under way. Here, one is treated to dissonant that tracks like “Te no Uchi” which drive home the fears the characters experience at the mahjong table. Although there are a few points in which the intense tracks will take a break, allowing for victory-sounding pieces like “Kousei” to settle in, it’s only a respite serving as a release from all that tension.

Shiai Mae
[audio:22 Saki.mp3]

Once the series hits its stride through its formidable matchups, the soundtrack follows suit, reflecting the incredible powers that some of the mahjong players wield. “Attouteki na Chikara wo Mokuzen Toshite” carries a feeling of doom through a repetitive section that speeds up as the piece progresses until it hits a point of no return, screaming out a warning as it’s enveloped by the danger. “Kami ka Akuma ka” emphasizes that atmosphere further to demonstrate how truly scary some of the opponents are. The music in “Kami ka Akuma ka” is heavy-handed, bringing with it an oppressive air designed to give the audience an idea of what the other players are forced to endure even if it can get unbearably repetitive at times. However, this series does deal in cliches, and it’s not long before the breakthrough comes along.

Kami ka Akuma ka
[audio:30 Saki.mp3]

As soon as “Heroic Star” begins playing, it becomes obvious that the end is in sight, bringing with it a sense of relief along with the taste of sweet, sweet success. The trumpet fanfare gives an adrenaline rush as it pours all its energy into creating that spectacular finale to leave the audience in awe at Saki’s clutch performance. To be sure, “Heroic Star” is cheesy, milking that glorious moment for all it’s worth but it does the trick in dissolving all that tension that had built up, leaving nothing but a sense of relief.

Heroic Star
[audio:33 Saki.mp3]

From this point on, the tracks wind down as it depicts the tournament’s epilogue as all of the competing school reflect back upon their experience. The peaceful melodies that dominate this section allows the listener to relax and look forward to the challenges that are to come. Saki’s soundtrack then closes out with “Glossy MMM (arranged)” which wraps things up nicely through an acoustic guitar melody. It differs from the original piece by toning down the excitement appropriate for an ending track. At least, until next time when the mahjong madness begins anew.

Glossy MMM (arranged)
[audio:38 Saki.mp3]

For an anime soundtrack that doesn’t aspire to much, Saki manages to achieve its objective of matching up the music with whatever is taking place on screen while delivering an enjoyable listening experience. While criticisms can be lobbed at it because of its general lack of development, the music is never boring. And as long as a soundtrack is capable of achieving that bare minimum, I have no qualms about giving it a passable score.

Rating: Good


Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

0 thoughts on “Saki Original Soundtrack – Review

  • October 30, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    I think this OST has a lot of restraint, which is a very important quality I don’t think you’ve taken into consideration. While songs like Tokimeki no Toki may be full of long phrases and 16th note runs, there’s a delicateness to the harmony which really points out the composer’s virtuosity. The march in your sample, Shiai Mae, is very creative – if I remember how the whole thing goes, I’d rank it on par with Kouhei’s Gunbuster March, not in terms of orchestration but in structure and melody.

    I’d rank this much higher than anime with similar target audiences like Kimikiss or Clannad, generally, I found this OST much more interesting than a lot of Orito’s stuff (save for a handful of extremely memorable pieces).

    Throughout the anime I found myself constantly pleased at how well the music depicted the scenes. There was such a great gel between the two. It’s not like, say, Toradora, where the music was so-so but felt like it could adapt itself to any old romcom; but not Saki’s OST. Like I said, it shows restraint, but it’s also exuberant and energetic and fits the nearly-sarcastic tone of the fan-service-plus-GARmbling-mahjong-can’t-go-wrong atmosphere. I will look out for Watanabe with a watchful eye now. [but not if this means torturing myself with sEkretz 0taku purezzzzzzza~ щ (゚Д゚)屮]

  • October 30, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Eh, although the music was good when played along with the anime, I personally don’t find it as appealing for just listening to.

  • October 30, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Yeah, the level of restraint this OST shows is one part I did not address in this review, so I’ll just do so here. In listening to this in conjunction with the show, I have to agree that it’s a perfect matchup since there was never a point during which I felt the music to be inappropriate. Having a bombastic soundtrack would undoubtedly ruin the mood of the series since this series (and the soundtrack) thrives by its simplicity and honestly, I can’t imagine any kind of music other than Watanabe’s that would work better (though Kouhei Tanaka’s work on Angelic Layer comes close).

    Through the pretty melodies that this soundtrack pours out, I do catch the sense of joy that you touch upon and one cannot help but feel good after listening to it.

    That said, as Reltair’s comment above notes, it’s not quite as appealing during some segments. The points where I penalized the album was towards the middle where they had a slew of emotional tracks that were a tad too samey and the competition pieces also suffered a bit from the techno beats that were a bit too repetitive. Did they work in the show? Definitely. The soundtrack on its own? Yes… but some variety would have been nice too. So I kept that in mind and chose a rating that I would consider a happy medium. So I gave it a 7/10 effectively, which I thought is a fair mark since it’d probably be a 6/10 without the context and a 8/10 with. Part of my motive is to get people who’ve never seen the show to give it a shot too. Maybe I didn’t convey it across too well, but that’s what I try to do =P

    Anyways, this music is better than Toradora’s since as I noted, I never felt bored and I definitely agree that it’s better than Shinji Orito’s work on Clannad. If you look through the Clannad tracklist, you’ll find that most of the better themes are composed by Jun Maeda and I have no trouble putting Maeda on a higher pedestal than either Watanabe and Orito.

    Good luck with PUREZZZZAAAA though. Maybe you should just listen to the soundtrack when it comes out and imagine what scenes it’d depict. Probably isn’t too hard an exercise either :p

    And with that tl;dr response, I covered more or less your concerns. I think.

  • October 31, 2009 at 8:22 am

    I think another relevant example is Nanoha. All the music is pretty low-quality in that it’s all computer music….and the samples sound so fake. But in a way that’s what makes Nanoha so interesting sounding. Very childish but adventurous? hmm….

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  • October 31, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    When I watched Saki, I was expecting something that’s just functional and uninspired as well. However, a few songs did manage to be quite catchy. Still, I don’t think this is an OST that I’d loop and listen to for a long time.

  • October 31, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Guh… I felt like the Nanoha soundtrack is where I got trolled majorly. After listening to the music in the anime, there were a few jingles that caught my attention and I was hoping they’d be prominent in the actual disc. Come time to listen to the OST and I found myself dying of boredom. There were some redeemable tracks, yes, but the majority of it was terrible.

    Yeah, what I’d do with this one is just create a playlist of the ones that’d catch my attention and go off with those. The others are just one shots at best.

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