New Japanese Vibes (1) – サカナクション Sakanaction 新宝島 ‘Shin Takarajima’

After a silent period, Sakanaction are back in the spotlight with 新宝島 ‘Shin Takarajima’ (‘New Treasure Island’), a song that is brimming with unapologetically retro, kitsch features. From the outset, a woozy synth pad fluctuates through the stereo field, the melody drawing influence from a Japanese pentatonic idiom, which returns later in the final chorus/outro, perhaps capturing the spirit of the influential Yellow Magic Orchestra.

The music is accompanied with a rather humorous music video, with an army of adrenalized cheerleaders dancing on a stage that reflects the visual entertainment style of the Showa Era, and Sakanaction themselves getting into a bit of choreography (perhaps for a witty touch, they purposefully express a lack of effort in their moves).

On reflection, this tune has all the ingredients of a powerful new wave dance anthem: a sonic narrative full of peaks and troughs, a foot-tapping drumbeat and infectious vocal and synth melodies. In the current Japanese musical climate, one may feel a sense of familiarity from the sounds, but it is also absolutely unique in equal measure.

Other Info/Context

  • This song was written as the soundtrack to the film adaptation of the popular manga バクマン ‘Bakuman’.
  • The title of this new single is taken from a manga by Tezuka Osamu (by the same name).
  • For more insight into Sakanaction, check out my blog post here.

© Isaku Takahashi