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Hai Fidelity
Aki Misato - here I am

by Rachael Carothers,

Click below for a clip of the song "here I am "

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Aki Misato's first single was “Kimi ga Sora Datta.” Released in 2004, this song was the first ending theme for My-HiME.  Since then, Aki has performed many theme songs for both anime and video games. On December 10, 2008, she released her third full-length album, here I am. As usual, quite a few theme sounds can be found here.

The first opening song for Strawberry Panic!, “Shoujo Meiro de Tsukamaete” (“Catch Me Inside The Young Lady's Maze”), also opens the album. This fast-paced pop tune is led by cute vocals and throbbing drums. Considering the catchiness of the song, it's not surprising that it is a theme song. All of the elements come together to form a toe-tapping beat that makes you want to see if the show that follows is as good as the song itself.

With a faster pace sounding like a pop song that wants to be a dance tune, “disarm dreamer” slides in next. This one is the opening theme song for Genshiken 2. It is still catchy yet it doesn't sound very different from the previous track. Yes, it is slightly faster but the vocals sound almost the same and the instruments still sound…well, manufactured. While that is good for a theme song that you only hear for about 30 seconds, a full album of the stuff will grow boring quickly.

“Boukyaku Butterfly” (“Forgetful Butterfly”) is the first track that is not a theme song. Unfortunately, it shows. The vocals are light and still somewhat catchy, yet it is still missing that little something to push it over the edge. As a result, we are given a song that seems satisfied to live its life in mediocrity. It's not terrible but it's not awesome either. It just is.

Blassreiter is a demonic anime series that aired earlier this year. Surprisingly, the opening theme song for the show is “sad rain.” You would normally expect something harsh and scary to open a show about humans becoming monsters. Instead, “sad rain” is a rather sweet, mellow ballad. Despite the melancholy sounds that would be a better fit for a romantic drama, it is a very good song. However, this is probably a song that you have to be in a certain mood to really enjoy.

Attempting to head out of ballad territory, “Ima no Kimi ga Tookute mo” (“You Are Distant Now”) almost finishes off the first half of the album in the fifth spot. “Ima” is the first non-theme song that is really good. It starts off slow with a noise that sounds a lot like a vinyl record played backwards. As the song progresses, the intensity builds through the verses and choruses until it peaks in the bridge. This intensity only lets up for the last 20 seconds of the song. Don't get me wrong, it's not a ‘hardcore’ intense as a rock song but, for a pop song, it's awesome.

The first half of the album ends with “Ano Hana no Saku Koro ni” (‘When That Flower Blooms”). As the grand ending theme to the dating sim game Eternal Fantasy, the song does have a somewhat epic feeling to it. Each vocal line in the chorus has a peak note in it, which may fall in the middle of the line or toward the end. In addition, an acoustic guitar and piano punctuate the romantic feeling of the song. You can almost picture the ending credits rolling over images of the ‘ideal’ romantic pairings or humorous cut scenes from the game.

“Blood Queen,” the opening theme song for the Princess Resurrection anime series, bops into the seventh position on the album. While the track is a little rougher than the other songs we've heard so far, it is still very pop. Electric guitars lead the way behind the cute vocals. Somehow, this ‘cute + rock’ Sound Works for the song and it's easy to see why it was picked as an opening theme. Not to mention that it's nice to hear something different from Aki for once.

Heading back into the Eternal Fantasy game, the insert song for the Euretta character slows us down again. “Kokoro ni Saku Hana” (“Flowers That Bloom In The Heart”) is an annoyingly slow and boring ballad. Perhaps it grates on the nerves because it follows such an energetic song as “Blood Queen.” Then again, perhaps it is just dull. The vocals are uninspired and the backing instruments are bland. I suppose that's a perfect match for a dating sim insert song.

In late 2007 and early 2008, a live action version of Cutey Honey aired on TV Tokyo. The Sister Miki ending theme song,” I lost the place,” appeared in a handful of episodes. Despite being faster than “Kokoro,” that doesn't make this song any more interesting that its predecessor. It still sounds like a typically bland drama ending song. I wonder how many people stuck around to listen to the song instead of skipping past it completely.

Yet another dating sim theme song, “Sayonara no Mukou Kawa de” (“On The Other Side of Goodbye”), slides into the tenth spot. This one is from the all-ages consumer port of Da Capo II: Plus Situation for the PlayStation 2.  On one hand, the song is slightly more interesting than the other video game theme songs on the album. On the other hand, it is still a very typical ballad. If you enjoy this type of music, chances are that you absolutely love this song. Everyone else is likely to skip to the next track.

At the end of the album, we are given two non-theme song tracks. The first is “another life.” This is exactly the type of music that Aki should be performing instead of sticking to all the theme songs. Her soft vocals match perfectly with the slightly funky/slightly folksy background music. It still fits into the pop genre but it has a little more oomph to differentiate it from the competition. Sadly, Aki is likely to stick to the theme songs that she is known for.

The final track is the album's title track, “here I am.” Just like “another life,” “here I am” is so much better than the other songs we've been given. The background music changes throughout the song, keeping you on your toes, while the vocals are a tiny bit more forceful. Of course, this would be a song declaring who you are to the world without going overboard. It's too bad there aren't more songs like this on the album.

“Here I am” is a mixed bag. A majority of the songs are the usual tunes that clutter anime series and video games with the same bland sounds. There are a few amazing tracks that stand out but not enough to warrant putting up with the mediocre ones. Aki Misato is obviously a talented singer. I hope that one day she will break out of her theme song rut and release an entire album that can stand on its own feet.

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