水樹奈々 – Mizuki Nana

Japan is the birthplace of manga and anime, and since its creation domestic success has propagated into global adoration. It was also a natural progression for pop music in Japan to play a part in the marketing of such a distinctive visual medium that is of great importance to the nation’s cultural identity.

Perhaps one of the current leading figures of the ‘anime song’ genre is Mizuki Nana. Originally coming from an enka (early form of traditional Japanese song) background, she maintains her heritage by making the most of vocal techniques associated with the traditional enka genre. In 深愛 ‘Shin’ai’ (‘Deep Love’), Mizuki often embellishes the tails of some melodies with a Japanese style of vibrato called kobushi. The sentimental mood that pours out of her vocals is further enhanced by a symphonic ballad foundation made up of serene harp phrases and glissandos, opulently scored strings and lamenting oboe melodies.

(*It is also worth pointing out that Mizuki often features as a leading voice actress in the anime/video games the song is tied to)

However, one of Mizuki’s signature talents is arguably her capability to handle menacing anthemic EDM numbers with an extremely fast, aggressive tempo (which at times has reached around 200bpm). ‘Synchrogazer’ exemplifies her vocal mastery under scrutinising musical circumstances. Providing the opening theme for the fiery anime series Senki Zessho Symphogear, the propulsion of this track is not only launched from the main drumbeat, but also stimulated by the eruption of radiant synths, and piercing, rapid rhythmic crescendo and energetic solos just before the ‘middle 8-like’ section. Perhaps one could also mention the dramatic collapses into soothing elegiac vocal melodies as pivotal in the dramatic nature of the song, as it makes the anthem that much more volatile and unpredictable for the listener.

Mizuki’s groundbreaking collaboration with T.M. Revolution took both names to stratospheric heights in the anime song world. Written for the first series of Valvrave the Liberator, ‘Preserved Roses’ is a classic EDM ‘synth-symphony’ that has a striding momentum like a relentless treadmill. The urgency and blazing spirit (from the magical array of synths, the heart-pounding beat and the harmonic camaraderie between two powerful vocalists) that bolsters the track is simply thrilling.

Music for anime is not simply just for commercial benefits, but is also part of the experience, the journey of encountering these wonderful fantasies. Mizuki Nana’s pivotal role as the “Queen of Anime Song” has no doubt helped in maintaining a healthy existence of the unique entertainment form in Japanese popular culture.

Other Listening:

  • METRO BAROQUE
  • 革命デゥアリズム Kakumei Dualism (‘Revolution Dualism’, ft. T.M. Revolution)
  • PHANTOM MINDS
  • 純潔パラドックス Junketsu Paradox (‘Pure Paradox’)

© Isaku Takahashi

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