Home > Reviews > SANADA MARU – Takayuki Hattori

SANADA MARU – Takayuki Hattori

January 10, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

sanadamaruOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The annual NHK Taiga drama is a year-long television series broadcast on Japan’s main television network, NHK, and has been a staple of Japanese television since the first one was broadcast in 1963. It is widely considered to be one of the most prestigious television events of the Japanese calendar, attracting the cream of Japan’s dramatic talent, actors, writers, directors and composers. The 2016 NHK Taiga drama is Sanada Maru, which tells the life story of Sanada Yukimura, one of the last great historical samurai warriors in the “Warring States” period, and who is famous for successfully withstanding a great military siege in Osaka in 1615. Directed by Takafumi Kumira, it stars Masato Sakai in the leading role, and has an original score by composer Takayuki Hattori, who despite being a prominent figure in Japanese film music for more than 20 years may still be best known in the West for his monster movie score Godzilla Millennium from 1999.

For Sanada Maru, Hattori made use of the NHK Symphony Orchestra conducted by Tatsuya Shimono, with featured violin solos performed b iaki Miura and piano solos by Nobuyuki Tsujii, and wrote a score which is replete with classical panache and some truly excellent passages. Miura’s violin and Tsuji’s piano bookend the score and dominate the first and last cues: the flamboyant and oddly-metered “Main Theme,” with its flute interjections and slapping percussion, showcases Miura’s technique and flamboyance, while Tsuji’s conclusive solo piano statement of the main theme in “Sanada Maru Kikou” is pretty and poignant.

Much of the rest of the score is quite rhythmic and militaristic, as befits the nature of the story, with the percussion and flute interjections running prominently through subsequent cues such as “Sakusen Kekkou,” “Kougun,” “Hi Ha Mata Noburu,” and the action-packed “Gekisen,” but there is a lyrical core alongside the staccato rhythms too, with flashy trumpet heralds, nimble oboe melodies, string runs, and moments of stirring heroism occasionally featuring a choir. Hattori also finds time to illustrate the personal moments of Yukimura’s life through a series of more tender pieces, ranging from the lyrical and romantic “Kizuna,” to the lovely “Eikoseisui” which builds from an emotional piano solo into a gorgeous theme for the full orchestra, and the reprise of the main theme in “Roku Mon Sen”. Meanwhile, “Shimensoka” and “Rakujou” have a rich vein of tragic string-led melodrama that is very appealing, and “Shoukoku Ga Yue” becomes very intimate through its beautiful combination writing for guitar and strings.

In addition, Hattori often introduces traditional ethnic Japanese instrument to play alongside the orchestra, allowing cues such as the exciting “Shukkou! Sanada Maru,” the energetic “Nochini Nipponichi No Hey To Yoba Reru Otoko,” the more subdued variation on the main theme in “Kilo,” and the tension-filled “Muhon” to have a real sense of time and place. Perhaps the one drawback to the score is Hattori’s tendency to fall back on ‘underscore’ techniques – there are numerous extended passages that are more textural than melodic, something that rarely happens in Japanese scoring, resulting in several sequences of score that are less memorable than others – but the aforementioned highlights make up for these slight deficiencies.

As was the case with Yugo Kanno’s Gunshi Kanbei in 2014, and Kenji Kawai’s Hana Moyu last year, the contemporary NHK Taiga dramas continue to impress with their musical confidence, and continue to be essential annual acquisitions. Hattori’s score is available as an import from all the usual Japanese retailers like Yesasia, Play Asia, and CD Japan.

Track Listing:

  • Sanada Maru Main Theme (performed by Fumiaki Miura) (2:48)
  • Sakusen Kekkou (2:23)
  • Shukkou! Sanada Maru (4:02)
  • Nochini Nipponichi No Hey To Yoba Reru Otoko (1:46)
  • Shimensoka (2:04)
  • Shinobu (1:33)
  • Futari De Hitotsu (2:17)
  • Kougun (2:20)
  • Sakusen Seikou (1:14)
  • Rakujou (3:36)
  • Eikoseisui (3:27)
  • Hi Ha Mata Noboru (2:51)
  • Kilo (1:46)
  • Akogare (1:22)
  • Shoukoku Ga Yue (2:59)
  • Idai Na Senaka (1:45)
  • Kizuna (3:25)
  • Jidai Wo Tsukutta Otoko Tachi (1:29)
  • Inori (2:33)
  • Ieyasu Toiu Otoko (1:50)
  • Sengoku Kyousoukyoku (1:37)
  • Gekisen (2:37)
  • Shizugokoro Naku (2:14)
  • Gunryaku (1:30)
  • Douran (1:43)
  • Muhon (1:39)
  • Kubioke (1:58)
  • Roku Mon Sen (2:55)
  • Sanada No Gou (2:05)
  • Sanada Maru Kikou (performed by Nobuyuki Tsujii) (2:01)

Avex Classics International AVCL-25888, 67 minutes 49 seconds.

  1. Gary Dalkin
    February 20, 2017 at 1:57 am

    Hi Jon,

    Apologies if I offended you by my comment about saving reviews of international scores until the end of the year. I know you publish all sorts of reviews throughout the year. It’s was just that you wrote “I usually tend to review European art house scores during my end-of-year round up, so I’ll probably get to it then.” I was just wondering why save a review of such a fine score until the end of the year. Anyway, given you’ve just sent me a batch of international reviews by email I guess I caused some unintended offense. Once again, my apologies.

    All the best,


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