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KANO – Naoki Sato

February 28, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

kanoOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Kano is a Taiwanese sports drama movie, about the Kano baseball team from southern Taiwan, which comprised of Japanese, Taiwanese and aboriginal players, and overcame extreme odds to represent the island in the 1931 Japanese High School Baseball Championship, at a time when Taiwan was still under Japanese rule. It’s an important and famous story in Taiwanese sporting culture – a classic example of an overachieving underdog – with a similar sense of ‘triumph over adversity’ to American films like Rudy, The Natural or Miracle. The film is directed by Umin Boya, and has a score by the popular and acclaimed Japanese composer Naoki Sato.

Sato is a composer rooted very strongly in the rich, orchestral traditions of Western film scores, and Kano is as inspirational and stirring a score as one would imagine it would be, based on the film’s themes of sporting triumph and heroism. The brief overture, “Jokyoku”, presents the score’s main theme, which features strongly in the score thereafter – as lovely, intimate piano pieces in “Hizashi ni Tsutsumarete”; with an almost lullabyish tenderness in the bittersweet “Boku no Shippai”; with a sense of stately remembrance and nostalgia in the beautiful string-led “Taka ni Manabe”; and so on. While not as immediately memorable as the themes from, say, Priceless or Space Battleship Yamato, it’s still vintage Sato, full of heart and emotion, but on this occasion tinged with a definite sense of sentimentality.

Upbeat brass-led themes full of triumphant brass fanfares dominate cues such as “Moeru Toushi”, the optimistic “Kaimaku Chokuzen”, and the stirring “Iza Shutsujin” – perfect accompaniments for montages accompanying the players as they round the bases, knock the ball out of the park, and sprint for home, cheered all the way by their disbelieving fans. Other cues are more contemporary guitar-led light rock pieces, such as the fun and lively “Taiyo no Nukumori”, and the more sensitive “Furuki Yoki Jidai”, which combines both the guitars and the orchestra with a lovely wordless female vocal performance, making it one of the most effective cues on the album. The enormous, sweeping, James Horner-esque crescendos at the end of this track are simply superb – listen for the soaring brass countermelody straight out of The Pelican Brief.

The final three cues, from “Fukutsu no Seishin” through to “Gaisen”, are where Sato pulls out all the stops, allowing his main theme to be performed with the most amount of emotion and gusto. He intersperses the statements with just enough tension and anticipatory build-up – chugging strings and staccato brass pulses – to make the thematic parts worth waiting for, and when they come – despite some superficial similarities to Randy Edelman’s Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story – the effect is film music gold, and a fitting musical accompaniment to the legacy of this most unlikely baseball success story.

The score is bookended by two versions of the same J-pop song, “The Romance of a Hero”, performed in different languages by regional artists RAKE and Jason Chan. Both of them are nice enough, but can easily be programmed out for anyone who doesn’t care to listen to songs they don’t understand. With or without them, Kano is one of the best scores to emerge from the Far East in 2014, and further cements Naoki Sato’s reputation as one of the best composers working in Japan today.

Buy the Kano soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • The Romance of a Hero (performed by RAKE featuring Suming, Youkui Wutao Van Fan and Kousuke Atari) (5:08)
  • Jokyoku (0:47)
  • Hatenaki Michi (0:35)
  • Taiyo no Nukumori (4:03)
  • Hizashi ni Tsutsumarete (1:13)
  • Moeru Toushi (2:26)
  • Boku no Shippai (4:07)
  • Kaimaku Chokuzen (5:44)
  • Taka ni Manabe (5:45)
  • Iza Shutsujin (5:48)
  • Furuki Yoki Jidai (3:55)
  • Maboroshi no Daichi (3:02)
  • Fukutsu no Seishin (4:12)
  • Kurotsuchi no Chikara (6:41)
  • Gaisen (5:57)
  • The Romance of a Hero (performed by Jason Chan and the VNP Chorus of Guangdong) (5:11)

Sony Music Entertainment Taiwan 460872 (2014)

Running Time: 65 minutes 09 seconds

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