As some of you might know, Kalafina is my favourite band, and has been for many years now. I hate to be the bringer of sad news if you don’t know about it already, but Yuki Kajiura has already resigned her position as Kalafina’s composer not too long ago, and it has recently been announced that one member is leaving the group. Apparently, the member leaving is the alto, Keiko. This source has all the updates, if you wish to know more.
It perplexes me that Keiko’s the one leaving, especially because she apparently applied for the rights to the trademark “Kalafina” in January. I doubt we’ll get any more info on that though. I highly doubt that Kalafina will have the same appeal to me in the future, but I’m glad that they have brought to the world many wonderful pieces over the duration of nine years and a bit more. As such, I’m going to dump all my thoughts and feelings about this band in this post, and start a series of Kalafina song recommendations in the not-too-distant future.
For those unfamiliar with the band, Kalafina has done many anime theme songs. Notable ones include: Kara no Kyoukai, Fate series, Kuroshitsuji, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, and many more. Check out this video for a brief introduction:
Kalafina is a trio, normally with Wakana as the soprano, Hikaru as the mezzo, and Keiko as the alto. With Yuki Kajiura’s arrangements, the three’s roles are pretty balanced, and aside from the earlier Kalafina songs that exclude Hikaru (only two of them), it’s hard to imagine any one of them missing from a song. The band started out with a fourth member, Maya, but she quit early on and I don’t have enough insight about her to share.
Hikaru‘s dark and powerfully emotive voice works marvelously as the lead in pop/rock songs. Her voice was often considered to be the flattest and least flexible in the beginning (in songs like “ARIA”), but I was never really that picky about it. You can definitely hear her growth over the years though – I feel like her voice is much richer now. Songs like “Magia” really showcase her magnetic voice. The clip I chose probably isn’t the best for showing the change in her voice, as it compares album versions to live versions, but oh well, there aren’t many videos like this out there.
Wakana‘s voice is my personal favourite, perhaps due to the fact that I’ve always sung soprano in choirs. Yuki Kajiura once compared her voice to that of a goddess, and said that there’s a tragic air to it. It’s such an accurate description. Wakana’s voice felt much rounder and more resonant in the earlier days, but thinner and clearer now, I think. There was a transitional period of instability where she went off pitch quite a bit during lives. Wakana herself did express that for whatever reason, 2012 was a difficult year for her (I’d cite all the things I say, but I’m bad at digging for sources). Many people prefer her earlier voice and claim that her newer voice sounds more like conventional pop, but I actually like her newer voice more. The “tragic air” comes through even better with her thinner voice, I think.
Keiko‘s voice has the greatest stability, so it’s a great blessing that she’s the alto. It was profound and bewitching from the beginning, but never overpowers anyone else’s voices. And her melismas, just listen to those in “Door”… Her voice + Hikaru’s is the ultimate dark and powerful combination. Keiko + Wakana, on the other hand, creates a wonderfully layered sense of harmony.
Renowned anime OST composer, Yuki Kajiura, is behind everything! Now, I don’t know much about composing and am afraid I can’t comment on much, but I sure love how she incorporates motifs from her OSTs into Kalafina songs when Kalafina sings certain anime EDs. You can hear that the most clearly in the Kara no Kyoukai EDs. If I must say something about her arrangements, I really do love the bridges of each song. It’s often where you hear a transitioning of parts from one singer to another, and Kajiura always makes sure through that they build on one another’s lines.
One of the reasons Kajiura is said to have quit is that she can’t think of new arrangements anymore. Stagnation is a scary thing even for someone as accomplished as Kajiura is. It is something that many fans have pointed out though, and I must admit that I am one of those people who prefers her older pieces to the newer ones. As for why…I guess there’s a stronger Gothic influence in the earlier songs? The newer ones feel a bit too pretty and pleasant to me, though you can definitely still see Kajiura experimenting with new instruments and techniques. If you’ll pardon my use of Burke’s theory here, I would say that Kalafina’s early songs are “sublime,” while the later ones are more “beautiful”.
If there’s one thing I have to complain about, it’s probably the lyrics. Yes, I’ve learned about half of all the lyrics to Kalafina songs, and yes, I even work on translyricizing them, but god are they repetitive. In fact, I think the reason they’re so easy to remember is because of how simple they are. Kajiura even recycles entire phrases of lyrics sometimes. Kalafina lyrics are easy to remember, and easy to remember wrong. This is because the lyrics can be quite disjointed, and different lines in a stanza don’t always come together to express a full point. This is something I found highly frustrating when making translyrics. In her defense though, many J-pop (especially anime) songs have the same tendency, so maybe it’s just me being unfairly fussy.
On another note, Kajiura is pretty great at capturing the themes of anime when writing the lyrics for anime songs, and her lyrics still have an appeal in terms of how they relate to the anime. The Fate/Zero songs are a good example. “To the Beginning” and “Manten” both illustrate Kiritsugu’s (and/or arguably Irisviel’s) perspective heartbreakingly well.
Kalafina lives are such a pleasure to watch! I love how their fashion style evolved with their voices and song styles, though I have to say that mid-2010s was my favourite when it comes to concert attire. They go from fluffy Gothic to dark Gothic to…more contemporary stuff? Dark Gothic was the best period, obviously. The three are always in dresses, and their dresses always compliment one another’s perfectly without being too similar. According to Kalafina, they only started choosing their own concert dresses after a few years of lives, so the positive changes can be credited to the members’ good taste! Normally, Keiko’s dress/skirt is the shortest, Wakana’s is full-length, and Hikaru’s is something in-between. When assigned colours, my impression is that Keiko is usually pink/red, Wakana light blue/yellow, and Hikaru purple/turquoise.
Keiko just rocks every style. I don’t think I’ve seen her look less than perfect in any concert (and I’ve watched many, many videos of their concerts). Her hairstyle hasn’t really changed over the years, and I love it that way. Keiko looks great in short dresses with boots. And corsets – there was a period in time when Kalafina members insisted on those. I wonder if it has a positive effect on their singing.
Wakana really found her style over the years. Curled hair in a ponytail + dark make-up of the early days didn’t flatter her. I think she looks best with her hair down and natural make-up, though plaited hair also gives off a nice and classy look. Wakana also lost weight over the years. I hope she didn’t force herself to go on a diet due to the pressure of being an idol, but knowing the idol industry, that is quite possible. She was far from overweight before, but I wonder if her new voice has to do with her change in body shape.
Hikaru, being in-between Keiko’s cuteness and Wakana’s elegance in terms of style, is often the one in the most interesting clothing. Not that Kalafina ever gets experimental to the point of wearing anything controversial. I like her taffeta dresses when they aren’t too dramatic – the kind that’s shorter in the front and longer in the back (sorry, I’m very bad with fashion vocab). Oh, and I really like short-haired Hikaru.
I don’t know where I’ve read this (probably a YouTube comment), but I remember Wakana being called the “goddess,” Keiko the “queen,” and Hikaru the “knight/prince.” I think it makes a lot of sense. On stage, Keiko’s the most confidently charming, Hikaru the most passionate, and Wakana the most gloriously distant. That’s how I perceive it anyways. Wakana does become more expressive over time – apparently, that’s something she struggled with in her earlier days. A YouTube comment under one “Sprinter” video that got taken down pointed out the differences in how each member sang and gestured at the line “kimi ni aitai” (“I want to meet you”). Hikaru points at different members of the audience each time the line is repeated, Keiko points straight at one extremely lucky person without breaking eye contact, and Wakana just “showers everyone with her goddess-like glory.”
Their interviews show quite the opposite. Hikaru is known for speaking very little (she even claims it’s a part of her persona by now), while Wakana is the cheerful chatter-box. Keiko, as always, is pretty consistent even in terms of image. I have to say that I find their interviews kind of dull a lot of the time. I used to watch every single one I could get my hands on, but they’re not all that different from one another. Kalafina has a radio program too (which is about to stop as well), and I also can’t really get into that. It’s probably just another part of being idols – you stick to the safe topics and don’t really reveal the more interesting sides of yourself. Hikaru is known for liking to sleep, Keiko for being fit, and Wakana for liking sharks a lot. That’s about all the info you can get out of them most of the time.
Wow, this post is about as long as the essay I should be doing instead of it today.
I’ll start my series of song reviews fairly soon, hopefully. In honour of Kalafina, I’ve also decided to accept translyrics and/or cover requests for any Kalafina song until April. I don’t know how many Kalafina fans there are out there, but I’ll do my best if I do get a request! Feel free to comment below.
Until then, you can see my past Kalafina translyrics here:
- [Translyrics] “Oblivious” and Kara no Kyoukai: An Overlooking View
- [Translyrics] “You Turn It into Light” and Kara no Kyoukai: Murder Inspection (Pt. 1)
- [Translyrics] “Wound” and Kara no Kyoukai: Lingering Sensation of Pain
- [Translyrics] “ARIA” and Kara no Kyoukai: The Hollow Shrine
- [Translyrics] “Sprinter” and Kara no Kyoukai: Paradox Spiral
I promise I’ll continue the Kara no Kyoukai series soon, but I don’t really feel up to it this month.