11. The Music from Mashiro No Oto

This week it’s time to tell you about Mashiro no Oto (2021), the anime series that introduced shamisen to so many people.

In this article I won’t go into details of the story, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you don’t need to worry about spoilers.

If you have already seen the anime, it is very likely that you were left wanting more. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is no sequel planned, but you can always turn to the original manga created by Marimo Ragawa. Fortunately, it’s a series that’s a pleasure to revisit, even more so, after knowing the details I’ll tell you below.

Without going into the details of the story, the animation of the series is of a very good quality and very enjoyable to watch.  The direction of photography, especially in its landscapes, and the care with which the shamisen is shown are key to enjoy it at all times.

It goes without saying that the music is the protagonist throughout the anime, so in this article I want to tell you interesting facts about the artists who play the different characters and other curiosities that may be of interest to you.

Did I ever tell you about the Yoshida Brothers? Indeed, the Japanese duet has been key in the composition of the soundtrack of this anime. You might think that they have recorded all the shamisen in the series, but that’s not the case. This time, they have been in charge of supervising them and creating the fantastic and catchy ending together with singer Miliyah Katou. Here is the original music video.

I would like to tell you about some of the characters and the real musicians behind them. One of them, of course, is Setsu, the main character of the series. There is no specific information on this, but if you trust my ear, I can confirm ninety-five percent, that this character is played by one of the best Tsugaru Shamisen artists in existence today. Interestingly, the only one in history to win the Hirosaki World Shamisen Tournament five times in a row. I am talking about Masato Shibata.


Undoubtedly an ideal choice for this character who perseveres to find the ultimate sound of Tsugaru Shamisen. Tsugaru Jongara Bushi’s performance in the first episode is a delight worth watching and listening to a few times on loop.

As a curiosity, Setsu is not always played by the same artist, in fact, in the song he plays together with his brother, あれ(Are), the musician is no longer Masato, but the Yoshida Brothers.

And how do I know this? Well, again, you’ll have to trust my ear, as the shamisen playing nuances are very different. Can you discern the differences in sound from the video above?

In the final stretch of the series, during the performance in the shamisen competition, Yoshiyuki Kasai takes control of Setsu’s three-string. He is another of the great champions of the world shamisen tournament held in Hirosaki.

This time, the differences in sound are more evident to the ear, as Kasai has a very different style to that of Masato Shibata, one could say more classical and at the same time more sensitive and colourful. Be that as it may, it is once again a delight to the ears.

This dynamic of switching between musicians playing the same character occurs throughout the series. Masato Shibata and Yoshiyuki Kasai are the only ones who appear in the shamisen music credits, but there are many more. Among them, most of the members of the sadly disbanded super band Hayate.

To finish off, I’d like to tell you about one of my favourite moments of the series. The performance of Tsugaru Ohara Bushi with the voice of traditional music singer Masakiko Yoshida. The scene in question captures, in a masterful way, the feeling of the song. This “fight” between mother and son perfectly reflects many of the intricacies that arise between voice and shamisen when performing a traditional song. Honestly, I don’t think it could be done any better.

And that’s all for today. Remember I’ll be back in two weeks to tell you about one of the most important events in the shamisen world. It’s that time of the year when the sakura blossoms and the best shamisen players do too…


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