Album Review: HIMEKA – “ラブ · アニソン 〜歌ってみた〜”

Tracklist:
1. ゆずれない願い (Yuzurenai negai; Unyielding Wish)
2. 瞳の中の迷宮 (Hitomi no naka no meikyuu; Labyrinth In Your Eyes)
3. Blaze
4. 魂のルフラン (Tamashii no rufuran; Soul’s Refrain)
5. Voices
6. それが、愛でしょう? (Sore ga, ai deshou?; Isn’t That Love?)
7. Dreams
8. Last Regrets

ラブ · アニソン 〜歌ってみた〜 (Love Anime Songs ~I Tried To Sing Them~) is HIMEKA’s first album, and was released on March 3, 2010.

She looks absolutely adorable. She really loves to cosplay!

~

ゆずれない願い was originally sung by Naomi Tamura as the first opening to the mid-90s anime Magic Knight Rayearth, and as an uplifting pop song, I think it makes a pretty good opener for this album. HIMEKA’s version is slightly rearranged, and it manages to keep its light pop feel while not sounding as dated as the original. I was really impressed by how nice and clear HIMEKA’s voice was, whether she was singing lower in her range or belting it out. All in all, I was really pleased by this opening track and hope the rest of the album is this good!

From Yami to Bōshi to Hon no Tabibito, a considerably more recent anime, 瞳の中の迷宮 also sounds a lot more anime theme-y, which I guess means HIMEKA is more in her element in this song. The music is distinctly rock with a few faint electronic elements, and even though I’ve yet to hear an original single like this from HIMEKA, she doesn’t sound like she’s struggling at all. The song has a great chorus, and HIMEKA’s voice sounds considerably more mature than Ai Kayo’s. In truth I think I can say that this version is better than the original, if judged only by the vocals.

The interesting thing about Blaze is that it was originally sung by a man – Kotani Kinya, also known for his contribution to the anime series Gravitation – as the opening theme for the CLAMP anime Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE. The key of the song had to be adjusted in accordance, but HIMEKA makes it sound near effortless. This is one of those “epic”-sounding anime themes that require a lot of passion and HIMEKA delivers on that front. The music is not very different from the original, but that’s fine. Another masterfully delivered song.

Here’s where we get to the heavy-hitters. 魂のルフラン made its original appearance in the film Evangelion: Death and Rebirth, which is part of the single most influential anime of all time. For HIMEKA to take on a song of this caliber is incredibly ambitious, but at the same time not very surprising, seeing as she’s a big fan of the series. This is probably my favorite song on the album so far, because HIMEKA seems to really understand the lyrics, and she uses that understanding to give her vocals beauty, grace and power. Everything about this song works for HIMEKA – from the dance-rock arrangement to the haunting chant in the middle of the song. It’s all great.

Voices is the first song of its kind on this album. It starts off a cappella, and then becomes an ethereal, atmospheric song about nature. The original is from Macross Plus, a part of an anime series largely focused on war and destruction, and it’s clear that the song’s meaning has not lost its relevance or poignancy. This is a profoundly beautiful song and I’ll go so far as to admit that it moved me to the verge of tears. (Lol, I’m a sap.)

I think それが、愛でしょう?is better at this stage in the album than it would be at, say, the beginning, since we’re just coming out of two rather serious songs and the breeziness of this song helps us get back into a happy mood again. I’ve never seen Full Metal Panic or any of its other incarnations but I can tell that this is a sweet love song, and HIMEKA does it really well. This is one of the longer tracks on the album but it doesn’t feel that way at all.

Ooh, a Gundam song. That sure is a wide pool to choose from, huh? Dreams is the first opening theme to After War Gundam X, and it’s a good one. This song is from back in the day, when Gundam themes weren’t emo rock, but electronic dance songs. It’s similar in style to 瞳の中の迷宮, and HIMEKA handles this song equally well, which was nice to hear.

At first I wasn’t so sure about Last Regrets, the slightly melancholic opening theme from Kanon, being the song to close off this album. Now that I gave it a full listen, it seems more appropriate. The original song has that typical I’ve Sound electronic feel, but HIMEKA’s version is more rockish, which takes away a lot of the anime theme-ness. HIMEKA’s voice is very soft and controlled in this song, which reminds me of some of KOTOKO’s anime themes, and even leads me to think that HIMEKA may be taking a page or two from the KOTOKO songbook. In the end, I think I would have chosen a different song to close the album, but this was a nice song even so.

Summary: Not gonna lie, I was totally disappointed when I found out HIMEKA’s first album was going to be a cover album. I just didn’t see the point in re-doing old material. Well, obviously that sentiment blew over. HIMEKA came to Japan to become an anison (anime song) singer, and by releasing a cover album, she not only gets to showcase her incredible talent, but also pay homage to her roots as an anime fan and her knowledge of a wide variety of anime series and their theme songs. After giving this album a full listen, I’m extremely pleased and excited to hear what else HIMEKA has in store. My only problem with it, I suppose, would be that a lot of the songs sound a bit similar, but other than that I absolutely loved this album.

Album Grade: A
Recommended Tracks:
Blaze
| 魂のルフラン | Voices | それが、愛でしょう?

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