HIMEKA – Hatenaki Michi
HIMEKA – 果てなき道
(released November 25th, 2009)
1. 果てなき道 [Hatenaki Michi]
2. 空は教えてくれる [Sora wa Oshiete kureru]
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 2nd single. The A-side is the ending theme to the anime series Tegami Bachi (also known as Letter Bee). The coupling track is also an original song.
I loved Hatenaki Michi from the moment I watched the first episode of Tegami Bachi, and my love for the song has grown even more in the full version. Now THIS is the HIMEKA I’ve been waiting for – the vocals are strong and full (her belting is wonderful, and her head voice peak notes are gorgeous), and this song is full of passion. I love the arrangement as well – the piano, guitar, strings, and harp (!!! yes, Yoruko is a sucker for harp) give this track a beautiful wintry feel. The part before the final chorus makes me think of a snowy mountain path and a starlit sky, but maybe that’s because I’m so used to the Tegami Bachi ED sequence. Hatenaki Michi is catchy, emotional, and memorable…and much more epic than Asu e no Kizuna.
Believe it or not, Sora wa Oshiete kureru sounds even more anison than Hatenaki Michi. Good piano intro, leading into the vocals. HIMEKA’s vocals are a bit more aggressive here, and the song is more rockish than the A-side. It even sounds like something that Mizuki Nana would sing (perhaps we can hope for an Animelo duet someday?). However, while HIMEKA gives a strong performance, the song itself is a bit weak – the melody is nice, but doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that HIMEKA might have been autotuned in this (her voice sounds a bit too polished in some parts).
The limited edition of the single comes with the Anime Edit of Hatenaki Michi. There’s not a big deal to say about it, except it’s a wonderful cut. I like how it starts directly with “aimai ni…” instead of having the whole build up to it, but I still prefer the full version to it, since this one feels faster-paced and has less contrast. Overall, this single is a step up from her debut. Keep up the good work, HIMEKA – we’re cheering you on, no matter what you go through!
Favorite Track: Hatenaki Michi
Overall Grade: A
HIMEKA – Asu e no Kizuna
HIMEKA – 明日へのキズナ
(released May 27th, 2009)
1. 明日へのキズナ [Asu e no Kizuna]
2. さよならソリティア [Sayonara Solitia]
3. 明日へのキズナ ~instrumental~
HIMEKA’s 1st single. I spotlighted her a while back in my amateur J-Pop singers post, so I’m definitely excited to review her professional debut. The title track is the first opening theme to Valkyria Chronicles. Despite being French-Canadian, HIMEKA’s solid Japanese pronunciation would put the rest of us gaijin to shame.
I had been holding my breath wondering whether HIMEKA would get an epic slice of anison or something lazy and unremarkable. Asu e no Kizuna leans toward the former, with a mid-paced chorus that doesn’t slack off and a driving, catchy chorus. Perhaps the best part is that this track is completely “organic” – no blips and bloops anywhere, just your good ‘ol guitar, piano, bass, drums…okay, I think the strings were synthesized, but still. Vocal-wise, it was slightly underwhelming. In comparison to her stunning winning live, her voice sounds a bit too strained and thin – perhaps she’s just not very used to the recording process. The emotion does feel a bit subdued in some parts, but really comes out nicely during that high note in the chorus.
The true gem of the single is HIMEKA’s cover of Chiba Saeko’s Sayonara Solitia. Her head voice is used more here and it’s absolutely stunning. She sings it at a higher pitch than the original, and though I initially felt her singing is a bit overdone in comparison to Chiba’s, I realized HIMEKA was aiming for a different mood – this sounds so beautifully sad and lonely, so raw, and so HIMEKA – she has a distinct vocal style. I also really like this stripped down arrangement – the electric elements and Kajiuran backing vocals were taken away, and replaced with simple piano lines. After a few listens of the single, I definitely prefer this to Asu e no Kizuna. Overall, a strong debut single.
Overall Grade: A-
I generally don’t follow amateur artists at all because a lot of their work lacks the polished feel of ‘real’ singers’ works. I’m not talking about vocal ability…it’s the overall sound quality. While it’s true there are amateurs out there who can sing better than actual signed artists, they usually don’t have high-tech equipment to record with nor do they have a high-powered staff helping them mix.
Nevertheless, despite the setbacks of recording, there are still a few amateurs out there that pique my interest.