Single Review: HIMEKA – “未来へ・・・”

Tracklist:
1. 未来へ・・・(Mirai e…; Toward the Future…)
2. Winding Road
3. 未来へ・・・ ~Instrumental~
4. Winding Road ~Instrumental~
5. 未来へ・・・~Anime Edit~

This is HIMEKA’s third single, which was released on May 26, 2010. The single reached #78 on the Oricon Weekly Chart and sold 1,177 copies. The A-side was used as the ending theme for the anime series Senkou no Night Raid.

I think the color scheme used in these covers is very pretty. However, I also think HIMEKA has forgotten how to smile. She lost it after the 明日へのキズナ covers. /shrug

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HIMEKA, why are you so awesome? Seriously. I’ve been a big fan of HIMEKA ever since she debuted in May of 2009, and with 未来へ・・・my fandom for her is as strong as ever. The first of her A-sides that’s also a ballad, 未来へ・・・is a fairly long song at just about 6 minutes, but the heartfelt lyrics, in combination HIMEKA’s powerful voice, make this a genuinely gorgeous song. I think Japanese ballads, especially the romantic ones, have a tendency to come across as cheesy at times, but here, the guitars, strings, and piano are used such that they really showcase HIMEKA’s earnest performance. I truly love this song, and think it’s HIMEKA’s best single yet.

It’s not difficult to hear the influence of anime while listening to Winding Road. It’s got that “adventure”-y feel, and since HIMEKA is an anime singer, she sounds right at home. As always, I was impressed, while listening to this song, by the power in HIMEKA’s performance and her ability to control her voice. She sounded pitch-perfect is what I’m trying to say. The song itself was pretty fair; I felt it had a nice melody, especially in the chorus, but it kept that typical anime sound throughout and I wasn’t as impressed as I was by, say, 空は教えてくれる from her last single. All in all I’d say this song was a good fit for HIMEKA as an anison singer but it didn’t bring anything new to the table.

Summary: The thing I find most remarkable about HIMEKA as a singer is her consistency; honestly, there isn’t one song of hers that sounds anything less than great, or that sounds like she didn’t give it her all. This single in particular marks a new step in HIMEKA’s career, in that it features a ballad as its A-side, and what a ballad it is. HIMEKA can now add versatility to her repertoire. The B-side, while not groundbreaking, reaffirms what I had known so far as HIMEKA being a knowledgeable and practiced anime singer. I am a true believer in what HIMEKA can do, and I look forward to all of her future releases and endeavors.

Single Grade: A
Recommended Tracks:
未来へ・・・| Winding Road

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?

Single Review: HIMEKA – “果てなき道”

Tracklist:
1. 果てなき道 (Hatenaki Michi; Endless Road)
2. 空は教えてくれる (Sora wa Oshiete Kureru; The Sky Will Let Me Know)
3. 果てなき道 ~Instrumental~
4. 空は教えてくれる~Instrumental~
5. 果てなき道 ~Anime Edit~

HIMEKA’s second single was released on November 25, 2009, and reached #29 on the Oricon Daily Chart. The A-side was used as the ending theme for the television anime series Tegami Bachi.

Hm, a bit of a letdown after 明日へのキズナ. Not only does her smile look totally forced, her complexion looks so washed out. At least put some blush on her or something! T_T

~

Rather than being another generic anime theme, I found 果てなき道 to be a gratifyingly unique song. The first verse, set lightly upon ambient strings and synth, gives way to the second where the beats kick in and begin the setup for the chorus. HIMEKA’s belting technique seems to have improved since her first single, since she makes skillful use of it during the choruses. The arrangement of the song is a blend of rock ballad and electronic – kind of like something KOTOKO would have released four or five years ago – and it really compliments HIMEKA’s sweet but powerful voice. I’d rank this song as a big improvement over her previous A-side.

空は教えてくれる is immediately more dramatic than its predecessor, beginning with cascading piano and rolling drum. The instrumental contains very prominent rock guitars, which is nice, although at times HIMEKA’s voice is a bit soft up against them. But this is easily forgotten when she goes into belt mode, which she knows how to do better than most singers as it always sends chills down my spine. Overall, although I feel this B-side felt a bit rushed, it worked with the general feel of the single and definitely met the standard set by the A-side.

Summary: HIMEKA’s been going through a hard time. I know this, because I’ve read some of her blog entries in which she seemed genuinely depressed. Her fans began to really worry about her, but after this single, things may start to look up. Who knows. Both songs were well-composed and well-executed, and Lord knows HIMEKA’s voice is simply out of this world. I truly do hope HIMEKA doesn’t let the pressure of the anime music industry get to her, because she is genuinely a wonderful addition to my iPod and the iPods of anime/J-Pop fans everywhere.

Single Grade: A

Single Review: HIMEKA – “明日へのキズナ”

himeka Tracklist:
1.明日へのキズナ (Asu e no KIZUNA; A Link to Tomorrow)
2. さよなら ソリティア (Sayonara Soritia; Goodbye Solitaire)
3. 明日へのキズナ~Instrumental~

 French-Canadian singer HIMEKA’s debut single, 明日へのキズナ, was released on May 27, 2009. The single peaked at #28 on the Oricon Weekly Chart and has sold 7,279 copies so far. The A-side is being used as the opening theme song for the anime adaptation of the video game Valkyria Chronicles.

Wow! What an amazing debut we have from HIMEKA. 明日へのキズナ is an inspiring, uplifting rock song that has a certain epic feel about it. Although the guitars and piano in the arrangement are great, HIMEKA’s powerful vocals are what impressed me most. The only thing I’m not a big fan of is that this song sounds extremely formulaic and not very unique. A voice this beautiful should not be made to sound like any other J-Popper on the scene.

さよならソリティア, a cover of the ending theme to the Chrono Crusade anime sung by Saeko Chiba, is a touching piano ballad. HIMEKA’s vocals, once again, sound great and damn, her Japanese is flawless. Had I not known that HIMEKA was French-Canadian and speaks both French and English, I would honestly think she was a Japanese singer. That’s really how awesome she sounds.

Summary: Absolutely blown away. That’s really the only way I can describe my feelings after hearing HIMEKA’s debut single. There’s been a huge trend lately involving multilingual singers in the J-Pop industry and its looks like HIMEKA will not let that trend die out. As I stated before, I just wish her debut single wasn’t so predictable – it was great, but it sounded like every other song out there. There is nothing ordinary about HIMEKA and there shouldn’t be anything ordinary about her music either!

Single Grade: A