Everyone keeps talking about BABYMETAL and not enough about its mothership Sakura Gakuin! AND THAT’S MESSED UP HOMES! Well luckily for y’all— I, D-Money, will weigh in on Sakura Gakuin’s latest release, ‘Wonderful Journey’, and talk about whether or not it lives up to its name. Yah Man! Get reading!
Sakura Gakuin to me is kinda like cotton candy: I never really crave or anticipate it because it’s not around a lot of the time and only appears in certain events. But whenever one does end up in front of me, I’m reminded that it’s a light, sweet, somewhat unorthodox treat.
After Sakura Gakuin’s catchy ‘Hello! IVY’ from 2010 and their first album, they seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth, followed by just one release in 2011, ‘Verishuvi’. I was somewhat concerned about the future of a group with such scattered releases, but it’s been more consistent these days. ‘Wonderful Journey’ is the latest offering by Sakura Gakuin and stands out as the most varied, catchy and charming single they have released thus far.
The international theme this ‘Wonderful Journey’ takes on evokes PBS kids programs I watched when I was young, but I can’t deny that it’s an infectious song. It’s not only varied in that they put a cultural spin on sections of the song to reflect the country being represented, but it’s varied and fun in the very structure of the song itself. Its anthem-ish quality is very much Sakura Gakuin’s style and the pre-chorus and verses are never stale. Instrumentals are simplistic, but it matches the laid back tone of the song overall. A variety of synths are spread out to be used solely in specific segments throughout the song, and properly fills in to give it an extra kick when it needs it.
I also found the PV to be a good compliment to the song. The stick puppet motif was a pretty clever way to evoke the same cartoony quality represented in the song, such as when they talk about Paris or the Galapagos. As a celebratory song, I think much of the naive representations of countries are easily forgiven, given the playful tone of the release; it’s not like this song aiming to color the views of millions in Japan (they already have Japanese history class for that, amirite?). I thought the sets were suitable— the suspended umbrellas and clocks spruced up the otherwise incredibly plain dance floor. The pitch black background and patchy floor always struck me as an odd design choice and served as a visual reminder that it was indeed a budget PV.
The puppet gimmick aside, the choreography and showcasing of the members is done extremely well. The window sill solo shots are especially great, and there’s lots of group close-ups that are fun and full of energy. There’s lots of personality tied to these moments that highlight members in memorable and fun ways. Suzuka’s accumulated a lot of charisma and recognition from her BABYMETAL releases and it definitely shows here (as well as Moa and Yui) but this PV also showcases the other members just as well, aiding in remembering members I’ve had a hard time recognizing before.
When I listen to the song, vivid moments from the PV automatically pop up in my head, which I take to be a trait of a well crafted music video. I’ll be honest, this isn’t the type of song I’d normally listen to in most situations; but I can’t help but be charmed whenever I come across it. The kiddy quality of ‘Wonderful Journey’ teeters precariously on the edge, but if you’re able to let go of that I think it’s a solid song and just plain fun to listen to and watch.