Soma Saito takes his first steps as a solo artist with “Fish Story“. This single is a stepping stone for a solo career we predict will be filled of tunes as great as the ones featured on this release. This is our review of the best solo debut by a seiyuu in the past 5 years.
Title: Fish Story Label: Sacra/Sony Music Japan Release date: 07/06/2017 Genre: J-Pop
1. フィッシュストーリー 2. 影踏み 3. スタンドアローン 4. フィッシュストーリー （Instrumental）
Track by track analysis:
“Fish Story” starts off with pompous strings leading the way. The song’s instrumental is rich, featuring several interesting elements. One could bet from the song’s intro that this track would go towards an over-the-top ridiculous feat, but that grandiosity lent by the strings is toned down enough to blend well with the melodic guitar riffs and dramatic drums that quickly upped the song’s pace. In some instances the listener can find timpani as well as piano in the instrumental, casually enriching the whole instrumental. For those that love the little details: the song comes to a close to the sound of a music box. The layers of instruments and little details are just so many that, in order to notice everything, either the listener has a keen ear to notice those things all on a first listen or it’ll take more than just one listen to spot everything. And that is a good thing. It shows just how much depth the instrumental has – without being annoying and repetitive. Saito‘s vocal approach fit the mood as he tried to elevate the instrumental with good vocalization and a musical touch to it. “Fish Story” is a solid song to kick off his solo career with. 4.5/5
“Kagefumi” is the fans’ favorite (including fellow seiyuu Kaito Ishikawa that has been raving about it for a while), this song takes Saito through well known roads. With influences from the gazettE‘s early 00’s sound, especially in the guitar and drums work, mixed with SID‘s trademark laidback bass work, and minimal synths, we couldn’t be more satisfied that such a high quality pop-rock instrumental was handed to him. We’d be lying if we said that this instrumental isn’t a perfect fit with his vocals. We’ve said it before but everytime he has to tackle a rock song, he does it flawlessly. It’s as if a fire inside of him ignites and he goes all out for a passionate vocal performance. And with this song we got a glimpse of what he can do vocally. Lowering his tone without issues, tackling high notes, sprinkle a bit of falsetto on it and make the song his with a solid performance. “Kagefumi” officially holds the title of Saito‘s best solo song. 5/5
Stand Alone completes this single in the best way possible. If you ever wanted to feel what it’s like to go to a jazz club then this song is the perfect example. The laidback mood is set by a jazzy rhodes piano, but there’s no jazz song without the almighty contrabass and some melodic guitar riffs to spice things up in the instrumental. And that’s exactly what we get, and if that wasn’t enough we even are even gifted with a bridge part that will really transport listeners to that said jazz club. Soma did an outstanding work vocally. Jazz, although it might sound like a fairly easy music genre to tackle both instrumentally and vocally, isn’t as easy as people make it. It involves an emotional approach to the lyrics but at the same time it shouldn’t sound too forced to sound laidback. He did well on this song, conveying well the lyrics and sounding at ease the instrumental piece. Welcome to Soma‘s jazz club. 4.5/5
Soma Saito surprises everyone with a solid debut single. While not sticking to one genre, Saito was able to delve into various fantasies, give a voice to them and tell us beautiful stories never missing a beat or sounding awkward. He’s matured a lot since his early days in the music business (especially with SolidS) and has only recently overcome vocal issues, something that isn’t an easy feat. Now, having tackled all those issues, Saito is still able to make a glorious performance that left us wondering just how much can he do as a solo artist.
We’ve heard countless times seiyuu trying to go all “grandiose” with their songs, some of them actually managed to deliver something interesting in those performances but the wide majority tends to fail to deliver something at the same level of emotion and quality as the instrumentals (when these are well done). Saito delivered a vocal performance in “Fish Story” that made us wonder if he’s had any musical theatre experience. His vocalization was a bit different from that of a “casual/normal” singer. It was oddly surprising how well he performed that song.
We say this because at times Saito has shown us either some shaky performances or some “okay” ones – but never really showed us the extent of his range besides his visual-kei and screamo adventures with Medicode (FlyMe Project) or his mid-tones with SolidS.
That’s when “Kagefumi” makes its big entrance and almost erases all our questions/doubts. This song has almost every little bit of what he can do vocally. Saito goes for higher notes with falsetto as faster as he can lower his tone to give an extra punch to the song. Although we weren’t graced with a ballad this time around – to fully showcase his vocal range -, this assortment of songs was more than enough for us to conclude that this single is responsible for one of the best seiyuu debuts made in the past 5 years.
“Stand Alone“, just like the other tracks, caught us by surprise. Going all out jazz is not an easy feat and few seiyuu have actually tackled a song that is, from start to finish, with that genre. Many incorporate elements – be it the rhodes piano that gives a classy touch to the songs or the melodic guitar riffs that are able to set the mood you want or even the contrabass, the epitome of good jazz music. Soma not only had all these elements but he also didn’t mix them with synths or any odd or unfitting instruments to the genre. It was a purist aproach to this, oftentimes, forgotten music genre. Vocally, he stood up to the challenge and really brought the jazz club mood to life – which we loved every little bit of it.
“Fish Story” was a complete release that surprised us with its quality. Right now we can only say that if Saito decides to embrace more of Kagefumi‘s style, he’s going to strike really big as a pop-rock singer.
We can’t wait to see/hear what he has in store for us for his upcoming releases.
“フィッシュストーリー” (Fish Story) is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.