Well, I’ve been thinking and it’s about that time – time, that is, to start writing reviews. To begin with, I’ve got the single Naraku no Hana, opening theme from horror anime Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai ( ひぐらしのなく頃に解). I’m using my default album/single-reviewing template here, so if anyone has any suggestions for how to better lay out reviews feel free to comment.
Eiko Shimamiya (島みやえい子) – Naraku no Hana (奈落の花) (2007, Frontier Works)
3. 奈落の花 Instrumental
4. FLOW Instrumental
Eiko Shimamiya’s Higurashi no Naku Koro ni opening was amongst my first exposures to I’ve Sound – and from the very second those growling synthesizers started up, I knew it was something special. So right from the start there was a lot of pressure put on Naraku no Hana, its spiritual successor and Eiko’s second maxi-single with I’ve. Would it keep the feel of the original’s claustrophobic trip through the dark forest of Hinamizawa, horror-show piano buried under layers of bloodthirsty synthesizers and multi-tracked vocals surrounding you at every turn – or would it work more with the moments where Eiko’s voice was allowed to shine through, the ray of light cutting through the forest?
Early previews showed that the latter was very much the case – although nods to the original like backmasked vocals remained prevalent in this new song, the overwhelming theme was one of escape – if Higurashi no Naku Koro ni were the trip into the forest, Naraku no Hana is the frantic dash out from its depths. “Don’t blossom here”, Eiko says in the chorus* -Hinamizawa isn’t where you belong. And the previews didn’t lie – when the full song came along, sure enough Eiko was showing you the way out.
As for whether or not the redemptive theme makes for a better song, I personally think it did. The tenderness in Eiko’s voice on the chorus, the spurts of noise in the introduction, all the elements just come together so beautifully it’s hard to think of how it possibly could’ve been done any better. At least, for the A-side that was the case – for whatever reason, I’ve decided to put one of the most weirdly inappropriate songs in their 9-year history on the B-side. It’s called FLOW, and it’s the closest Eiko has ever come to sounding like a generic J-pop idol. The song itself is pretty stupid and inoffensive, but following such a beautiful song as Naraku no Hana with a completely inconsequential track was a questionable move to say the least. And, provided this wasn’t just some one-off flirtation with stupidity, it’s a depressing indicator of I’ve’s overall move away from their hard trance-inspired electronica towards unremarkable pop music – a move that, previously, it had seemed Eiko had managed to avoid being a part of entirely. But, on the other hand, she’s had weird experiments in genres that completely don’t suit her in the past (anyone who’s heard her pseudo-denpa tracks knows exactly what I’m talking about) that never managed to damage her credibility any so for all we know FLOW may just be another one of those. Unfortunate, yes, but nothing to get too worried about.
Overall, Naraku no Hana is an amazing single (best of the I’ve summer crop for sure) brought down slightly, but only slightly, by its admittedly stupid B-side. And, as they say – if you only buy one import maxi-single this summer, make it Naraku no Hana.
* (She actually says “sonna basho de sakanaide”, but quoting Japanese lyrics just seems so pretentious)