Eiko Shimamiya’s latest single is the titular theme song from the film Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Chikai, the second live-action adaptation of popular visual novel Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.
Advance warning: concept review, do not attempt to take at face value.
Eiko Shimamiya (島みやえい子) – 誓い (Chikai) (2009, Frontier Works)
3. 誓い -Instrumental-
4. OXISOLS -Instrumental-
The first thing I thought when I saw her was that she didn’t look right. Maybe it was her posture that did it. Skinny neck held too far back as if it had something to prove, weak shoulders obviously tensed with her bone structure distressingly visible thanks to her questionable choice of dress. There’s a certain point in a woman’s life when she should stop trying to wear halter tops and white studded belts, and this particular specimen’s time had quite clearly came a good decade or so prior. What this relic was doing in a club where all around her were the young and beautiful, much less why the notoriously selective bouncers let an uncomfortable-looking thirtysomething (or was she in her forties by now?) in, would remain a mystery forever if I didn’t make an attempt at conversation. Maybe she owns the place? I entertained this idea briefly, before recalling an article I’d read in the Times mentioning that this particular establishment was owned by some pretty-boy rock star whose name didn’t warrant remembering. Or maybe she was a VIP of some sort? It seemed unlikely given the fact that she was sitting at the bar instead of at a table, but either way I couldn’t help but realize my own curiosity starting to overwhelm me. I had to know who this woman was, and so that’s what I was going to find out.
Swallowing my pride along with the remainder of an Old Fashioned that cost a few dollars more than it probably should’ve, I walk up to her and try and think of an opener. “Can I get you a drink?”, “do I know you?”, “come here often?”, I mentally sorted through every non-threatening icebreaker I could think of and found them all sorely lacking; this poorly-preserved relic seemed to be worthy of something more despite herself. And, in keeping with a time-honoured tradition of failing to find the right thing to say, I settled on a noncommittal “hey.”
Her silence had me thinking she might not have heard me, not exactly the biggest surprise as the club’s sound system was seemingly designed as a superweapon in anticipation of a war against music-hating aliens, but after a considerably awkward pause she spoke her first words to me, cutting through the white noise the house DJ was spinning with alarming clarity.
“Why don’t you sit down?”
It was shocking to hear her speak, a voice at once both tender and worn-out even when asking something so mundane, and as I sat down beside this mysterious woman my own silence was one of both reverence and puzzlement: had I actually met her before? Sizing me up with her eyes, which were now a particularly unconvincing green thanks to colour contact lenses, she seemed to be asking the same questions of me I had of her.
“Going to say anything?” she asked, cracking the slightest hint of a smile at my smitten speechlessness. Trying my hardest to squeeze out a quick reply, I fumbled and by accident said exactly what I wanted to say. “Let’s get out of here!” I half-shouted over the bass thump that had been quickly growing tiring; I should’ve known better than to visit this particular club when the house DJs were playing.
Skipping the pauses for once, this obscure object of desire decides to accept my invitation, and in the 5 minutes that I’ve gone without saying anything we’ve left the club and are now in a taxicab en route to the hotel I’ve been staying at for the last week or so. The comparitively superior lighting of the taxi’s interior gives me a better look at my companion, and from any objective standpoint the results of further visual examination are not what you’d call ‘pretty’. Too much makeup, too carelessly applied, a platinum blonde wig that wouldn’t fool a blind man, and a tattoo with some chinese character on it whose meaning I neither knew nor wanted to ask, even before getting to how she was dressed it was obvious that she wasn’t holding herself in the highest of esteems. The halter top far too risque for her age, leather microskirt with a wide white belt (with studs throughout, seemingly only to push the questionable fashion statement into the realm of ‘bad’) and wedge platform shoes all worked together to oversell the idea that the wearer was a skank of the worst kind, but something about the unsure way she carried herself, coupled with that voice of hers, got me thinking that there was assuredly more to this girl than appeared on the outside. Granted, her lack of hesitation to leave the club with a strange man she hadn’t even had a proper conversation with would seem a counterpoint to this theory, but either way I was fascinated by her.
As we entered the hotel suite, I popped the question. Figured it was best to get it out of the way, what with the inevitable conclusion of this encounter being even more needlessly sleazy without it.
“What’s your name?” I asked her as she overeagerly loosened the string holding her skimpy top behind her neck, her back turned to me.
“Is it OK if I don’t take off my shoes?”
“Don’t you want to talk first?”
“Like what you see?”
Untying her thong underwear and turning to face me as the skimpy undergarment dropped to the ground, I could see tears starting to form in the corners of her eyes. It was then that I began to understand what had taken place; my anonymous lover-to-be had been used so many times she had come to accept it, even to expect it from people. She dressed younger than she was to escape her reality, but when she took off the garish clothing of a particularly unfashionable teenage skank was when she became truly beautiful.
“If you took off the wig.”
Her hair was a boyish cut, jet black with the ghosts of failed dye jobs past still haunting stray clumps. Far prettier in its authenticity than the bland perfection of the straight-cut blonde wig, her sadness gave way to a bittersweet chuckle as she joked that she was going to buy a different one next week anyways.
Dejectedly, she sits down on the side of the hotel room’s too-small bed (that’s what I get for travelling on a budget, I figure), legs crossed and chin in her hands. Sitting down beside her, I wrap my arm around her shoulders and pull her in close. We stay like this for god only knows how long, and when one of us finally breaks off it’s because she has to use the washroom.
As I sit on the side of the bed awaiting her return, I get to thinking about the tragedy of her insistence on hiding her beauty behind cheap makeup and tacky clothes. I still don’t even know her name, but from the moment I heard her speak it seemed like I knew everything about her. From her teenage years as a notorious late bloomer, to all the times she had seen her friends around her go on to popularity while she languished in obscurity, to a series of unsuccessful marriages, all these things she’d never alluded to seemed like I’d known them forever. And, hearing her ridiculous platform heels clunking around in the bathroom, I knew that this tragic figure uncomfortable in her own skin had already become one of the greatest loves of my life.