Three Hours of the Best Anisong Hits! Report on Anisong Fantasy Live 2017 Vol. 1 in Singapore (Part 3)

This is the third and final article in our three-part coverage of the Anisong Fantasy Live 2017 Vol. 1 in Singapore. If you haven’t read the previous two articles yet, don’t forget to click on Part 1 and Part 2 to check them out!

What a wonderful collaboration! Excitement began to fill the hall as our reporters could hear some fans chatting about their feelings towards the joint performance they had just seen, and there was a sense of anticipation that one of the final two acts of Anisong Fantasy Live would be announced any moment now.

The moment we were all waiting for was here.

“Anisong Fantasy Live! Coming up next…”

Aimer01

“Aimer!”

The crowd roared with support!

The lighting began to dim, and as the hall fell silent, a gentle piano opening filled the space and a familiar silhouette appeared on stage, leading to even more cheering from the audience!

Then, the lights turned red, and a lone voice began to sing as fans waved their lightsticks to the first song of the segment. Many of the concert-goers were certainly familiar with the Fate series, where Aimer‘s Brave Shine was used as the opening theme for the second season of Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, cementing its place as a solid crowd favourite.

2017 was a year with plenty for Aimer fans to look forward to. Our team of reporters managed to hear from her in two interviews, in 2015 and 2016 respectively, and her best-of albums were just released a week ago. To top it off, the multi-talented 26-year old singer will be performing at the Nippon Budokan in August! With this year being her sixth since her debut in 2011, Aimer‘s unmistakably distinctive music style won her an impressive following of fans around the world, and her heartfelt vocal emotion was clearly felt at the Anisong Fantasy Live. Even the vibrato in her singing was detectable throughout the venue, helping to firmly establish her stage presence.

It was now 9pm – two hours into the concert – and a piano interval saw the audience raise an ensemble of blue and red lightsticks as the music faded away to allow Aimer to address the crowd. She decided to engage the audience entirely in English!

“Good evening everyone, I’m Aimer. I’m very honoured to be part of this event. This is my third time here in Singapore, and I’m really happy to be here again.”

Fans began to cheer as she spoke – looks like she wasn’t the only person really happy to be here tonight!

“Did you enjoy yourselves?”

Our reporters are definitely not speaking only for ourselves alone when we say that many of us certainly were enjoying ourselves.

“Last night I came here, and I went to see the Merlion and I enjoyed Singapore’s nice scenery and delicious food like chicken rice and chilli crab, and I fell deep in love with Singapore as much as I love you all. You guys are amazing!”

Aimer then introduced her fans to the next songs she would be performing.

“So tonight I sing my songs from my heart for you. I hope you enjoy. The next two songs are LAST STARDUST and StarRingChild.”

LAST STARDUST was also from the Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works series and the crowd began to sing along with her as ambient instrumentals played in the background to create a convincing setting for the song. Here, Aimer was easily at her finest in demonstrating her superior vocal technique: each time she executed a long note, it would be followed by resounding cheers and applause from an adoring audience, and there was even an eight-second-long note which was very well-received by fans!

At around the third minute into the song, the hall got significantly quieter as a soft piano segment was played, accompanied only by Aimer repeating the lines “brave shine” before resuming the chorus of the song again, this time rising in power once more! The last long note at the end of the track drew much cheering from the floor as the playing of the piano receded.

Next up was StarRingChild, opening with a gentle ad lib in the background before the instrumentals began to kick in, paving the way for Aimer to take listeners through the initial verse with her vocals and scaling it up a notch into the chorus. At some points in the song, you could literally hear a pin drop as her bare vocals demonstrated to the fullest extent her clear vocal prowess. This was a departure from the original recorded version, which had significantly more instrumental accompaniments to the song.

With the song coming to an end, there was prolonged clapping from the audience as Aimer began to engage them once again!

“Thank you! The next two songs are the last songs. I’ll definitely come back to Singapore, so I hope you’ll come to see me again.”

Aimer02

“Lastly I’m very grateful that you came here tonight; I want my songs to inspire you in the future. Thank you. Next songs are 茜さす (Akane sasu) and Ninelie.”

Aimer struck a gentle, yet at the same time determined and firm vibe with 茜さす (Akane sasu), with the notes rolling off her tongue gracefully as an attentive audience witnessed her stunning performance. It was a surreal experience to watch her sing in person, yet in the dark: with Aimer‘s preference for not drawing attention to her face, a concert-goer would pay more attention to her vocals as if they were listening to the recorded version, and yet at the same time one cannot help but notice her vibrato and know that she is physically present in the same venue as them. With an Aimer performance, the line between active participation and passive listening is blurred: you do not need to do much to become a part of her performance. You just are.

The song came to a soft finish with a piano ending leading to more applause from the crowd. This was arguably the part which many fans had been looking forward to from the start: Aimer was going to perform Ninelie! Initially released in collaboration with chelly from EGOIST, the song was used as the ending theme to Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress and would eventually win over many more new fans into her music.

The opening chords saw loud cheers follow, and our reporters overheard from some fans that this was the first time that many in the audience got to watch her perform the song live. It was a visibly emotional experience for many fans. Ninelie was also the song that introduced many anisong fans to the compositions of prolific Japanese musician and composer Sawano Hiroyuki, who collaborated with Aimer and chelly in order to produce the track. Previously, both Hiroyuki and Aimer have worked on multiple collaborations before, with their first collaboration album UnChild released in 2014.

Aimer‘s continuous, smooth yet powerful vocal flow throughout this iconic song made for a very captivating experience as her singing reverberated throughout the hall and left many in the audience enthralled. (It was no accident that we referred to Ninelie as “iconic” earlier – the original soundtrack for Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress also featured an English version of the song titled Icon!) Her noticeable vibrato and gentle transition to the refrain at the end “don’t be afraid, daybreak has come” was well-acclaimed by the audience, and by the time the song was over, fans broke into a continuous cheering and applause that would last a grand 20 seconds!

Setlist for Aimer
1) Brave Shinesecond opening theme to Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
2) LAST STARDUST24th track from the OST of Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
3) StarRingChildending theme to 7th episode of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn
4) 茜さす (Akane Sasu) – ending theme to Natsume Yuujinchou Go
5) Ninelieending theme to Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

By this time, it was already 9.30pm and the last act was going to be a very big name. A familiar announcement flashed across the screen once more as fans gathered to await the arrival of their favourite trio.

“Anisong Fantasy Live! Coming up next…”

Kalafina01.jpg

“Kalafina!”

The excitement was clearly audible at this point as green lights came on above the stage, accompanied by a grand instrumental opening and an equally epic entrance by the three Kalafina members! The cheering only got louder as the lights turned red, this time drawing the audience’s attention to the trio’s costumes – an elaborate combination of aquamarine, black, red, purple and silver with diamond patterns (not shown in picture above) that exemplifies the bold artistic style of the group.

For many, Kalafina‘s music comes hand in hand with the Puella Magi Madoka Magica and the Kara no Kyoukai anime series, and what more fitting way to commence their segment with the instantly recognizable theme song, Magia! The group, comprising of members Wakana, Keiko and Hikaru, is easily one of the biggest household names in Japanese music today and the high degree of coordination and synergy between the three makes any Kalafina performance a total sensory spectacle to behold, visually and musically alike. Their voices blended seamlessly into each other’s singing and one could easily notice that they were at the top of their game in vocal technique, with members effortlessly switching between higher and lower tones throughout the song.

But perhaps what truly stood out was the way the trio managed to synchronize an elaborate set of stage movements, accompanied by epic guitar riffs at the back, that got even some in the audience joining in and imitating their poses! Fans continued to wave red lightsticks as the group did an unexpected costume change on stage, removing their outer garments to reveal a matching set of white dresses inside – they were getting ready for their next song!

With a distinct instrumental opening, One Light was the perfect follow-up song after Magia as the trio demonstrated to a hyped audience what it really means by “unity in diversity”: their hairstyles and dress each had their own unique traits, despite being of the same colour, an apt parallel to the way they were able to harmonize well with three distinct styles of singing and different vocal tones. There was a good amount of vocal acrobatics in the track and fans kept the energy levels high with a regular “hey! hey! hey!” chant, even jumping along to the music!

Towards the end of the song, there was a special moment where Wakana, Keiko and Hikaru all shared a high-five on stage to ecstatic cheering from fans who managed to catch a glimpse! With superior synchronization and on-point stage movements, the experience of witnessing a Kalafina live performance is one that certainly should not be missed, and it is not difficult at all to see why the group is such a big hit both in Japan and around the world.

All: (EN) “Hello Singapore! We are Kalafina!”

The response was overwhelming!

All: (JP) “We’re back, everyone!”

Kalafina02

The individual members proceeded to give their own introductions as the crowd cheered in unanimous support!

Wakana: (JP) “Thank you all for listening to our music! Please enjoy our songs that we will be performing tonight! Wakana here!”

Keiko: (JP) “How is everyone doing? Still fired up?”

Certainly – some of the fans were even waving excitedly at Keiko to catch her attention!

Keiko: (JP) “Let us create memorable music together tonight! (EN) Let’s enjoy together! (JP) I am Keiko!”

Hikaru: (EN) “Thank you for coming here tonight! I’m so happy to see you all! We had our first concert in Singapore in 2011, and we’re back again because of you! So let’s have a great time together. I’m Hikaru, pleased to meet you.”

The members of Kalafina clearly knew their fanbase: Keiko decides to build up the hype by discussing a familiar anime franchise which the audience knew and loved!

Keiko: (EN) “Minna-san, do you know Madoka Magica?”

Indeed, the series was not only special to us concert-goers, but to the Kalafina trio as well! Keiko reveals the next song they would be performing and signals to the audience to get ready!

Keiko: (JP) “The next song we’ll be performing is a very significant song for us, from the anime Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. Kimi no Gin no Niwa.”

君の銀の庭 (Kimi no Gin no Niwa) proved to be a very interesting song to listen to, and even more so live – the vocals were arranged in such a way as to create an echo-like effect between the different members, and each of the three took turns to provide the backing vocals as another one of them was singing! There was a high level of chemistry forged between the vocalists and the sheer smoothness of their execution of this track once again helped to confirm the fact that Kalafina performances were a visual and auditory spectacle and an exercise in flawless coordination.

It was also perhaps fitting that bells could be heard at the end of the song, for the transition into the following track – Ring Your Bell – now made a lot more sense. With a piano opening ushering listeners into a soothing Kalafina ballad, this song had a particularly surreal feel to it as the trio’s voices coincided with each other’s perfectly, collectively following the ups and downs of the changing tempo. At one point, there was a very long note which got some fans gasping in awe! The performance was so well-loved that towards the end, our reporters even overheard someone remarking that this was an “act of precision“.

Keiko: (JP) “Thank you very much! You have just listened to Kimi no Gin no Niwa from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, and Ring Your Bell from Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works.”

Keiko decides to talk about something much closer to home for most of the audience.

Keiko: (JP) “Speaking of which, it has been about 5 and a half years since we last came to Singapore!”

Then, Wakana confirms the love affair that many Japanese people have with Singapore’s Merlion and chicken rice, much to the chuckling of fans!

Wakana: (JP) “Earlier this morning, we went to see the Merlion! It was our second time seeing it, but there were a lot more people this time. It was beautiful! We also tried chicken rice. It was delicious!”

At this point, Hikaru is trying to whip up the crowd with much success.

Hikaru: (JP) “We really love Singapore as much as you guys love Anime. (EN) Do you like anime?”

Of course!

Hikaru: (EN) “Do you love anime?”

There is a clear difference between like and love, and fans were not afraid to make that known.

Hikaru: (EN) “Do you love anisong?”

The crowd is now louder than ever!

Keiko: (JP) “We hope you all love our next song as well! The last song is Sprinter!”

The anime series which Hikaru was hinting at holds special meaning for Kalafina: the group was formed in 2007 and started out by performing theme songs for the well-loved Kara no Kyoukai series, and this song, Sprinter, was featured as the ending theme for its fifth movie. With a steady opening beat accompanied by guitar and clapping from the audience, the trio’s singing took on a more hard-rock twist as the song itself combined a much faster and heavier instrumental with vocals that alternated between slow and fast. Halfway through, there was even a segment with only the raw vocals of the Kalafina members and as the fan favourite number drew to a close, the audience began to discuss what they were going to do next!

Setlist for Kalafina
1) Magiaending theme to Puella Magi Madoka Magica
2) One Lightsecond ending theme to Arslan Senki
3) 君の銀の庭 (Kimi no Gin no Niwa) – ending theme to Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion
4) Ring Your Bellsecond ending theme to Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
5) Sprinterending theme to Kara no Kyoukai 5: Mujun Rasen

The chants were becoming more and more audible now.

An-ko-ru! An-ko-ru!” (Encore! Encore!)

Fans started clapping as they called upon Kalafina to return to the stage! What was this special surprise in store?

Keiko, Wakana and Hikaru: (JP) “Thank you everyone!”

Keiko: (JP) “Tonight, we’ll be having a special collaboration with another artiste. Let’s call her up on stage.”

Wakana: “Aimer!”

Wait a second.

There are now four of them up on stage!

The audience could not be more excited – this was going to be a special collaboration between Aimer and Kalafina, two very big acts which many were looking forward to watching for a long time! Now it was going to be both of them!

With a twist.

We heard someone in the audience exclaim aloud “she revealed her face!” and glanced up: this was one of the very rare occasions where Aimer was going to perform with her face in full view! With her black dress striking a contrast with the Kalafina trio’s white dresses, the audience looked on and couldn’t contain their visible surprise and excitement!

Keiko: (JP) “We’ve decided to perform a piece from the Fate series, given that we were both involved in the songs there. Tonight, we’ll be singing an acoustic rendition of one of the songs with keyboardist Sakurada-san. We hope you’ll enjoy it. Believe.”

A piano opening gave way to Aimer‘s opening vocals, accompanied along the way by clapping from fans as the other members of Kalafina joined in, and soon all four of them were singing together on stage! With the music rising to a temporary crescendo, Aimer proceeded to sing another solo segment before the trio continued their lines with what could only be described as perfect harmony.

The song, Believe, was indeed a memorable one for many and was originally released by Kalafina and used as the ending theme for the Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works anime series, from which three other songs were also performed earlier. With both Kalafina and Aimer lending their voices to this rare and exceptional acoustic rendition of the track, this was certainly a moment for many fans that they would not forget.

The accompanying piano instrumental reached a peak, allowing all four to sing alongside each other once more before bringing the song to a pleasant conclusion. Looks like they have something more for us though!

Keiko: (JP) “Thank you very much! How was the 4-man performance?”

From the sound of it, the crowd definitely enjoyed it a lot. This was after all not something you’d get every day.

Keiko: (JP) “This is the … third time that Aimer-chan has been to Singapore, right?”
Aimer: (JP) “Yes, the third time.”

Aimer is certainly a lot more confident on her third visit to Singapore!

Keiko: (JP) “It’s only the second time for Kalafina.” (laughs)

Many fans were certainly hoping there would be a third time and more to come! The four now discuss places they would like to visit in Singapore.

Keiko: (JP) “Do you have any good sightseeing places to recommend?”
Aimer: (JP) “During my last trip here, I visited the Botanic Gardens.”

Aimer has a very interesting opinion of the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Aimer: (JP) “The plants were very (EN) ‘wild’.”

Of course there was laughter. The crowd was wild too!

Keiko: (JP) “A wild garden?”
Aimer: (JP) “Yes. Really beautiful.”
Wakana: (JP) “Have you guys been to the Botanic Gardens?”

It sure is a beautiful place; the Singapore Botanic Gardens was the first place in the country to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, placing it in the same league as other iconic places considered to have significant cultural or natural value around the world.

Aimer: (JP) “It’s really close to here.”
Wakana: (JP) “Interesting! We’d certainly like to visit some day. Thank you!”

To be precise, it only takes fifteen minutes (whether by driving or on the MRT) to get there from the Big Box.

Keiko: (JP) “Now that both Aimer and us are up here, we decided to do one more song together.”
Aimer: (JP) “The last song is Anata ni Deawa Nakereba ~Natsuyuki Fuyuhana~.”

The title of the song means “if I hadn’t met you” in English, with a deliberate paradoxical reference to snow in summer and flowers in winter. It was no surprise that this song was meant to be sung by more than one, with refrains in English such as “I gave you everything / you gave me anything” and “you’re everything / I’m still waiting” lending a bittersweet touch to the song and making it a fitting conclusion to the Anisong Fantasy Live as well. At one point, Aimer performs an acapella portion before joining the Kalafina members again to bring the song to a finish.

Kalafina: (JP) “Thank you Singapore! We’ll be back, we promise!”

The four of them bowed and thanked the audience, and with that, the concert too was over.

As the lights came back on, the ANiBEATS Vol. 2 promotional clip was screened again as an official announcement informed concert-goers who were keen on attending the after-party event to the excitement-filled Anisong Fantasy Live that a shuttle bus service was available to take them to the venue for only $5.

Setlist for Encore
1) Believe (acoustic version)
Original artist: Kalafina
Performed by Kalafina and Aimer
First ending theme to Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works

2) あなたに出会わなければ ~夏雪冬花~ (Anata ni Deawa Nakereba -Natsuyuki Fuyuhana-)
Original artist: Aimer
Performed by Aimer and Kalafina
Ending theme to Natsuyuki Rendezvous

The first volume of Anisong Fantasy Live was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience, and our reporters at J-Network look forward to the subsequent editions of this event! We hope to see you there too!

Acknowledgements
Article written by grayingmantis with help from translations provided by Yong Jie.
Official photographs from SOZO.

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