Just when you thought eight discs worth of Sakura Taisen was all there was, Wave Master publishes the second batch of vocals, which again comes to eight lovely discs worth of music.
Complete Song Box 2002~2006 picks up were the last box left off. These boxes cover live shows, studio-recorded musicals, songs from animes, and vocals from the games in the series. From 2002 to 2006, there weren’t too many Sakura Taisen games of which to speak. Sakura Taisen 4 is right on the line between the two boxes. After that, there’s Sakura Taisen V (which includes Episode 0), the PS2 remake of Sakura Taisen 3, and Sakura Taisen: Monogatari, and…well…that’s about it.
The vocals from Sakura Taisen V are found scattered across discs five and seven. I’d written separate reviews for the Sakura Taisen VOST and vocal album in the past. I still love each of these vocal tracks, so much so that I think they are generally more enjoyable than the rest of the many songs in this box set. Little Lip Theatre, Kiss me sweet, Shining Constellation, Downtown Heart: these are all great songs from the new generation of Sakura Taisen characters: the New York group.
But between the original Japanese group, the Paris group, and New York, there’s no question that Japanese fans still love the originals the most. So, to this day, musicals and live shows are being written and performed using classic characters (like the original Sakura, or Sumire, or Kanna).
I’d also like to note that, generally, RPGFan does not cover the “extra” albums in the Sakura Taisen world: those that don’t directly relate to the games. The review for this box set comes to you because the Sakura Taisen V music is on it, and the rest is here to give you a chance to see what presence the franchise has in Japan.
It amazes me to see the amount of work Tanaka has put into the Sakura Taisen series, especially since he is regularly involved in other projects simultaneously. The man is clearly a hard worker. What’s more important to me, however, is that he’s consistently good at what he does. Across these eight discs, dozens of musical styles are represented…though the “Broadway musical” style seems to be present, if only in the background, during every single song. Truly, it’s a unique experience, and one has to wonder if an equivalent experience could ever happen in America. When was the last time a game and cartoon series spawned into live musicals and studio-recorded musical-style albums? Yeah, it’s not going to happen.
There are a lot of great songs on each and every disc of this set. There’s no way I could give a track-by-track rundown, but let me give some specific details on some of my favorite songs.
“Ohayou! Good Morning!” Oh, it’s a lovely day, so let’s great everyone with a “good morning,” right? Well, that’s the message to disc 1 track 2. I love how well this bouncy song reflects the spirit of a person walking down the street and wishing others a simple “good morning!”
Track 10 of this same disc, “Prayer of a Kneeling Princess,” is a beautiful, slow ballad. The next track is your typical everyone-together finale, and it’s very well done.
The next disc contains a lot of live-recording tracks. Obviously, the quality is a little lower here. But the humor level is up, especially with the spoken dialogue found in some of the tracks. Now, obviously, if you know zero Japanese, this stuff is worthless. But for those interested in the fun, silly humor and semi-sweet drama of Sakura Taisen, it’s perfect.
In the same way we said hello, good morning! At the beginning of disc one, we find ourselves saying “goodbye” to sadness and tears at the end of disc three. “Tears, Au revoir” is a surprisingly light and uplifting song. A few tracks later, we’re treated to one version (among many) for the Sakura Taisen 3 theme, “Under the Imperial Flag.” I assume this came about due to the PS2 remake of Sakura Taisen 3, but I can’t be entirely sure.
“Yunhooa” is my favorite track on disc four. Pop beats meld with simple, traditional Asian strings and melodies. Cheesy? Of course. Beautiful? I think so.
Some over-the-top genre-specific numbers show up on disc five. “Season of the Night” is a Latin Jazz dance number, complete with the guitar, the trumpets, everything you’d expect. “Modern Boogie” is a funky-fresh, almost disco-friendly ’70s tribute piece. I found myself attracted to this song almost out of compulsion. The instruments backing up the singers are what I really enjoyed.
Disc five is also the disc that springboards us into Sakura Taisen V. “Surface Warriors” and “Little Lip Theatre” end the disc, but ST5 songs don’t continue until disc seven. We are briefly interrupted with some excellent tracks on disc six. “Flower Review,” the opening track, kicks the disc off nicely. This disc has a lot of jazz-influenced music, with great performances from saxophonists, pianists, and others. Again, the vocals are a matter of taste, but I personally like most of the cast vocalists here (and across the whole box, really).
Disc seven brings us back to Sakura Taisen V. Man, I love these songs! I’m obsessed with these songs, seriously. “Downtown Heart,” the quasi-gospel-soul number, is catchy as can possibly be: and hearing Japanese lyrics over what sounds like an American spiritual can make you smile and laugh as easily as it can have you clapping along. “Harrerujah Children your Rord!” Forgive me for being insensitive, but you know that’s how it’s coming out. “Looking to the Blue Sky” has great piano and string accompaniment, and “Shining Constellation” is an indie-pop style 3/4 piece; in some ways, I am reminded of British vocalist Imogen Heap. And then there’s “Kiss me sweet,” the song I loved enough to have played at my own wedding (before the ceremony, anyway). The whole cast from Sakura Taisen V comes out and sings alongside this lovely jazz ballad, snapping fingers all the way through.
After the Sakura Taisen V numbers, disc seven continues with some more live performance recordings. I wasn’t impressed with these: I really despise the songs by lesser-known male characters, and there are lots of these during this section of the album.
The final disc brings us to a lovely closing point. There are some cute and fun pieces that exist for seasonal purposes, like “Christmas Paris.” There are also songs that are so classic that you just cannot release a box set without them: yeah that’s right, I’m talking about the ORIGINAL opener, “Declaration! Imperial Floral Assault Group” (in Japanese, “Geki! Teikoku Hanagekidan”) followed by the classic Paris opener, “Under the Imperial Flag.” Really, it’s awesome stuff.
If there’s one thing I’d warn those out to buy such an extravagant collector’s box, it is this: don’t listen to it all in one sitting. This box has a variety of sources (more than eight separate releases, I assure you that), and hearing them all run together can numb your mind with the sugar-sweet musical sound, and before you know it, you don’t even know what you’re listening to. Take it in small doses; it’s not worth marathon-ing this, just like it’s not worth listening to a complete Rodgers and Hammerstein discograph in one sitting. But really, it is good stuff, and it’s unlike anything else you can find in the VGM market. Kouhei Tanaka is a genius, end of discussion.