A Tribute to Kalafina

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.

kalafina150202a

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:

The Vocals

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.

The Composition

kalafina 1

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”.

The Lyrics

kalafina 2
Kajiura-go lyrics

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.

The Appearance

kalafina_best_walp_by_afterstory100-d7ijabr
My desktop wallpaper; feel free to steal

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.kalafina keiko 2

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 kalafina wakanaponytail + 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.

 

kalafina hikaruHikaru, 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.

The Personality

426f3be2-s
From their blog

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:

I promise I’ll continue the Kara no Kyoukai series soon, but I don’t really feel up to it this month.

kalafina 3

Advertisements

35 thoughts on “A Tribute to Kalafina

  1. Dang. Sad news. ;_;
    Kajiura’s music just goes so well with them… I practically considered Kajiura to be a part of Kalafina (Even if her individual stuff, like osts, are still great)! well, I hope that I’ll get to hear more from the trio in the future, even if not together.
    Even though I typically don’t get too invested in bands, it’s always a pleasant surprise to see a Kalafina song attached to an anime. Magia from Madoka Magica being my go-to example.
    Down a super talented songwriter and an important part of their trio… I’m both interested and worried about the future of Kalafina and its previous members!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Angelica Destler

    I’m going to have to check out this Kalafina! It’s surprising to see an alto singing pop stuff these days, since most singers seem to be sopranos… which isn’t fair; altos are awesome, too! (I’m biased, though. I’m an alto. 😋) I’m sad to hear that things aren’t going well for them now, though. 😔

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Angelica Destler

        Wait, they did Credens Justitiam?? Well, of course I liked them, then, if they did Madoka music! XD And I think the song I heard was called something like “To The Beginning”…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah, To the Beginning is great! I’d totally recommend you more right here, but I think I’ll save those for my actual recommendation posts.
        Brace yourselves for more Kalafina, people.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This was such a Catch-22 😦
    Except both outcomes are true (it was all rumors until a little while ago). I will say though, that for a project that was initially only meant to sing for the Kara no Kyoukai movies, at the time I never would have thought that Kalafina would continue to make music for 10+ more years. Part of me thinks we should count ourselves lucky for that at least 😀

    While you’ve heard me on multiple occasions (lol) say that my favorite member was Hikaru, I always favored Wakana’s vocal’s the most. It’s hard to put into words other than that she would indeed be what I imagine a goddess would sound like. If I’m remembering correctly, Kajiura once described Hikaru’s voice as that of like wind chimes or brass pipes — sort of like a hollow resounding voice. Keiko’s low register was an acquired taste for me, admittedly, and I only came to appreciate it after Magia. I can’t yet imagine hearing these voices separately now moving forward.

    “I find their interviews kind of dull a lot of the time.”
    > lol, I distinctly remember one interview where I think ot was Wakana that was asked what she usually does after practice, and she says she just pops a lozenge in her mouth and rides her bike home xD

    As for a request, Hikari no Senritsu! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah, I definitely consider myself lucky that they didn’t just stop at Kara no Kyoukai. And that sounds like a pretty interesting interview! I totally watch/read it. And cool, Hikari no Senritsu is one of my favourites~

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I know them for being the one who sang two of Black Butler ending and the ending of Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu.
    This make me sad since I really enjoyed their song. It was something different from what I usually listen to

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like we don’t have enough info on Keiko’s application for the trademark to judge the implications of that, but it does seem like all of them are going to continue singing. Too bad they won’t be together anymore…😢

      Like

    2. You shoul hope she WILL or DID get it at this point, because I certainly do. That company was really going to keep the Kalafina trademark from its true creator and lyricist — and Keiko is EXTREMELY respectful regarding her career with Kajiura, the only person she’d ever sung for in the business when all this mess started. She stated that she fully planned to follow any of Kajiura’s plans upon departure (and has, as she’s with FictionJunction Station) and would have the opportunity to pass the trademark back to its rightful place.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. At least it’s looking like Keiko and Hikaru are trying to get back together now. I follow Hikaru on Twitter, and the two seem to maintain close interactions. Don’t know about Wakana, who’s starting a solo career…

        Like

  5. I always sort of casually listened(started because of Kara No kyoukai) to Kalafina and really loved their songs but I don’t know much about the members. It’s always sad however when someone leaves and it’s probably going to affect their music a little. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Their music is probably going to be affected by more than a little, I’m afraid. The loss of such a powerful alto and such a unique composer would certainly make a difference.
      Oh well, we can still hope for the best…😳

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Great (and very sad, obviously) post.
    I’m not sure Kajiura’s (only) reason was stagnation. Sure, she’s getting a bit repetitive but I immensely enjoyed the OST of Princess Principal – to me it doesn’t sound the least bit uninspired. Agree about the change of her sound. Canta per me for example feels way more raw compared to her contemporary safer stuff but during the years Kajiura mastered harmony and structure so I guess it more or less evens out. By the way, Kajiura said in one interview that she has been a choir singer during her school years so I guess that’s one source of beautiful harmony in her works.
    Well, at least all of Kalafina are alive and well (I pray) so I hope they’ll continue doing something similar. I’ll probably be problematic but Kajiura could still invite the girls to sing in some solo projects, or herself be hired as a freelancer to make several songs. And maybe after several years there’ll be a reunion? Oh well, that’s a fanboy in me speaking.
    I’d like to request some Kalafina song review but so many songs feel so precious that I don’t know what to choose. Write about what you like and I’ll be happy about that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for mentioning Princess Principal! I love its OST even without having seen the anime. Even if she does do amazing things these days though, the pressure from the community is still real. Perhaps she simply needs a well-deserved break from her job.
      A reunion would be the best thing! Not sure if it’s okay to be this optimistic though…
      And thanks for commenting and requesting! I’ve never thought about doing pure song reviews, but I can see it being really fun!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s quite funny because I also stumbled upon the OST of Princess Principal first and only then decided to watch the anime. It’s true about the pressure.
        If she needs a break, let her have it as much as she wants if later on she returns with some amazing stuff (as always).
        Well, as far as I know song reviews aren’t a thing in anime community, so there’s definitely a niche, though I don’t know how big. At least I’ll gladly read your thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. It certainly is sad. But, without Kajiura doing the composition or Keiko providing powerful alto support they wouldn’t be the same, so, I’d prefer leaving with good memories of them.
    I too find their lyrics either banal or inscrutable. I’d be curious to see your interpretation of the Hikari Furu lyrics.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Mel’s Round-Up Week #76 | Mel in Anime Land

  9. Pingback: Colour-Coded Kalafina Songs: Red – The Moyatorium

  10. What an analytical, beautiful, and passionate ode to one of the greats, if not, THE greatest. It was a sheer delight to see Yuki Kajiura listed on anime projects in the past (with Kalafina on either the OP or ED), but now, I have to full-on celebrate the few chances I get to hear her today. It was Kalafina (and Kajiura’s) music that inspired me to compose my own music, so to learn of the group’s separation, well, it shakes us all up a great deal.

    If we’re lucky, a fresh, bright-eyed singer will come to replace Keiko (god, that hurts to say), and the group’s old music will live on in our playlists and our hearts as a brief yet lovely period of gothic glory. Wishing everyone involved with Kalafina’s incredible success these past several years good health and fortune in the future to come—and may we remember the reign of Kalafina for all the irreplaceable moments—heartbreaking and uplifting alike— it has brought to our favorite anime!

    Loved this post beyond belief, and I can’t wait to reminisce with you more in the posts to come!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, glad to bond with another Kalafina fan. This may be one of the greatest rewards of these posts. I’ve put out part 1 of my color-coded song recommendations already, and part 2 is on the way.
      It’s amazing that you were inspired to compose your own music! I’ve certainly been inspired as well (one of the reasons I went to this singing contest), but I lack the musical skills to actually compose.
      It’s possible that we’ll still hear bits of Kalafina in Fictionjunction from now on (perhaps Hikaru can participate once in a while too?), but I don’t know if it’ll have the same feel.
      Thanks for appreciating this post, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the posts to come!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: March 2018 Monthly Content Round-up – The Backloggers

  12. Pingback: April Jon’s Creator Showcase – Let’s Discover Awesome Content | Mel in Anime Land

  13. Pingback: Weekly J-Song Roundup #1 – UNCHAIN, Goose house, Kamishiraishi Mone (and more!) – Slice of Alfredo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s