Thursday, July 1, 2010

[Review] Sunao Ni Narenakute Part I- The Music

Quick, fellow drama addicts, listen to this songs, and what is the first thing that pops into your mind?

If you shed a tear recalling Aya's courage and determination in 1 Litre of Tears and now feel a renewed sense of purpose in life, good for you! You have also passed the challenge. 

Alright, alright. I digress. 

I’ve watched a few “classic” J-drama in my day, and after the final scene is overrun by end credits and the screen fades to a blank, there are few things that resonate as clearly in my mind as the theme songs that accentuated the poignant moments of the drama and lulled me out of frustration each time an episode ended in a cliffhanger.

 The quality of a J-drama’s soundtrack can make or break a drama. And in Sunao ni Narenakute’s case, its unique, modern and sophisticated sound certainly elevated to “instant classic” status in my books. I would say, watch this drama even if it’s just for the music, because it is one of the best soundtracks that I have heard yet.

            At the risk of being politically incorrect, I have to admit that much of what gives Sunao ni Narenakute its matured, sophisticated feel is the raw, distinctly English lite-rock music that accompany almost every scene in the series. Most of the soundtrack against which the story of SnN unfolds brims with melancholic charm, featuring raw, husky vocals and minimalist, acoustic instrumentals. Most of the songs seem like quite obscure and dated to the casual listener, yet lend a well-rounded contrast to the “modern-day Tokyo” setting, as if reminding us that the story of love, loss, and friendship that holds the many threads of the drama together is truly a timeless tale.

In fact, some of the classics of American music even play a direct part in the plot of the drama: once the five twitter-bound friends have gotten to known each other, clearing up many white lies that they each made up to cover up the dismal state of their personal lives, they decide to name their small circle of friends “Sunao ni Narenakute” (Sunao ni Nare for short, meaning “Hard to say I Love You”) after hearing Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” in a cafĂ© during one of their many gatherings. Personally, after finishing the drama I felt that a more direct translation, “Hard to say I’m Sorry”, would have been an even more fitting name for the group, given the fact that none of the relationships one would expect to blossom out of this odd gathering of young adults are all but dissolved by the end of the series- but that’s another story for another time. As one watches the drama, it is easy to pick up on this drama’s retro and foreign music tastes.

            However, though much of SnN’s soundtrack is English, its two main themes are Japanese- and what a wonderful taste of J-pop it is. The main closing theme of the drama, “Hard to Say I Love You” by WEAVER, a recently debuted band that distinguishes itself from the crowd by featuring a pianist the place of a guitarist.

 The song rings with an undercurrent of quiet urgency from beginning to end, with the staccato piano chords highlighting the melody against the perfect melding drums and bass. Pianist and vocalist Yuji Sugimoto’s caramel smooth voice may be a tad too “typical” in the sea of Japanese singers, it ties together the eclectic sound of the piano rock band perfectly. Opening with a understated yet purposeful tune in the first verses, the song slowly but surely escalates to a feverishly addictive chorus, in which Sugimoto delivers the perfect blend of passion and melancholy as he begs the one he loves to “stay by my side,” even if “I cannot touch your heart.”

WEAVER band members Yuji Sugimoto (vocalist and pianist),
Shota Okuno (Bassist)and Toru Kawabe (Drummer), rocking
it out on their latest mini-album TAPESTRY.

Such lyrics tie in perfectly with the overarching storyline of the drama itself and make it the perfect ending theme for the series as it closes each episode by reminding the viewer of the central struggle common to each of the main characters: most obviously, with “Linda”, who contains his unrequited love for “Nakaji”, knowing fearing that his confession would only leave him alone and abandoned. However, the song also resonates with every character’s relationships- “Peach”, who simply longs for someone to love and to be loved, who throws herself at Nakaji for comfort- and Nakaji’s seemingly unrequited feelings for Haru, whom he resolves to simply be friends with after she decides to go out with “Doctor.” Even “Doctor”, who actually wins Haru’s heart through sheer earnestness and will, goes through a period of insecurity in which he feels Nakaji is his rival and that he could never win over the cool and suave budding photographer.

Meanwhile, R&B singer Sayuri Sugawara of Final Fantasy fame contributes a wintry insert track named after the drama. The sparkly, delicate melody that opens the song immediately evokes a cool, bleak feeling, and Sugawara’s rich yet restrained voice immediately instills a deep-seated mood of yearning. Slowly but surely, soothing synths and beats layer the melody beneath Sayuri’s emotive voice, and what emerges is a bittersweet a blend of sadness and hope as Sayuri echoes some of the central themes of the drama, “I always held these gentle feelings that you had been deprived of because my heart cannot become honest.”

Although a tad bland upon first listen, the beauty of this song lies in its un-intrusive nature, as it subtly unifies each character’s moments of mourning with a universal feeling of loss and longing: 

Sayuri Sugawara on the cover of her
                 breakout single "Kimi ga Iru Kara",
              a tie-in as the theme song of Final Fantasy XIII
This song calls to mind the heart-wrenching times when Haru can no longer supress her frustration at Nakaji's aloof, playful ways and breaks down, murmuring, "I liked you..." at the train station- when Nakaji finally confesses his feelings for Haru only to be rejected because Doctor's affections had lulled Haru into a sense of adamant loyalty; when Linda's calm exterior crumples, as he realizes how disgusted he is at his own weak, assenting to performing sexual favors for his boss to get ahead in his career while not having the courage to confess his love for Nakaji. When Peach's heart drops, knowing that her noncommittal scumbag of a boyfriend will only throw money at her to take care of the baby he fathered, refusing to have anything further to do with the child and even encouraging her to have an abortion.  

Sunao ni Narenakute is truly a wonderful drama- something I’ll expound upon in later parts of this review- but its indelible soundtrack is what makes each of its twists and turns all the more poignant and moving- each note makes the happiness of reunion more comforting, the relief of confession more relaxing, and the knife of pain more cutting. Whenever the official OST comes out, (and it had better come out,) you can be sure that I will be the first in line to grab it.

Agree? Disagree? What songs are some memorable songs from J-dramas/Anime/etc. that you have seen?

Part II of the review (because I just loooove this drama that much-) will focus on the five protagonists (or… four- I have to complain because one of the “protagonists” tended to drop off the face of the earth for episodes on end only to conveniently reappear when needed) and the acting etc. That’s probably when all my fangirly spazz will come out haha. I’m having a lot more fun with this than I thought I would. Look forward to the next part :)   


  1. Excellent work! I am quite interested in Sayuri's song. She carries a lot of power and emotion in her voice. By the way, did you change your layout? Site looks good!

  2. thanks! Have you listened to Sayuri's album "First Story"? It gives you a pretty good taste of what she has to offer.
    And yeah, I did change the layout... needed something a little more summery and wanted to have a pretty boy to ogle at XD.

  3. i farking loved this soundtrack, too. thanks for doing this post :))

    the first time i heard them play "hard to say i'm sorry" in the b/g, i flailed, because it's one of my all-time favourite songs, not just chicago's version but az yet's version as well (^_^) but i def agree that they should've named this series "hard to say i'm sorry" instead as it reflects their inner turmoils much more effectively.

    and weaver is at the top of my iPod playlist atm. i really like the piano. everytime they played sayuri's song i teared up because i was like, "why, oh, why, eita & juri-chan,why can't you guys just be together already?" T_T

    i'm working on a review, too. but i am really looking forward to part II of your thoughts on the series. from the sounds of this post, i think we may share the same sentiments *tears of fondness*

  4. Hey Jicks ^^
    It's a special day in doramaville when I decide to dedicate an entire post to an OST :)
    about part two haha. Yeah, I need to get off my lazy ass and get to it.


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