A Canadian singer with an anime voice

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Anime is quintessentially Japanese, but these days, a Canadian singer is giving it a voice.

Catherine St-Onge of Quebec, according to Sony Music Japan International, is the only Western singer of songs that feature in the animated TV series widely watched in Japan and abroad.

St-Onge, who goes by her stage name HIMEKA, made her debut in the Japanese-dominated industry of animated song, or “anison,” earlier this year with her first single “Asueno-kizuna” or “Bonds for Tomorrow” which became the theme tune of an anime series.

A year ago, she won the Animax Anison Grand Prix, an annual competition that gathers aspiring singers from all over Japan for a chance to earn a professional singing contract.

“I really love art, so seeing beautiful animated characters is an extra,” St-Onge told Reuters in an email interview.

“As for anime songs, the fact that they are attached to the animation, you feel a deeper meaning to the songs themselves. Most of the time, parts of the lyrics really become meaningful related to the story and they become really nostalgic.”

St-Onge, who publishes a bilingual blog said she became fascinated by Japan as a teenager after watching Sailor Moon, a popular animated TV series.

Although she did not understand the words, she was enthralled by the characters and the imagery, which inspired her to learn more about Japanese culture.

“After getting interested in Sailor Moon, I quickly became fascinated by the language and general culture of Japan. Even now I’m trying to understand why I fell in love with it — I think it’s just how everything was connected together,” she said.

St-Onge started learning Japanese, mostly by herself, and last year flew to Tokyo where she found out about the singing contest on the Internet.

A year later, she says her Japanese still needs improving but that has not dented her ambitions.

“I also hope to have a chance to release a full album and hold a concert eventually,” she said.

Sony Music Japan International, which signed up St-Onge after she won the singing contest, calls her the only “genuine” Western anison singer who debuted in Japan.

“I believe this is the first case a non-Japanese singer wannabe who has no Japanese background survived under the same conditions Japanese competitors did,” said Sony Music’s Yuichi Nakanishi. SOURCE: Reuters

Macross Crossover Live A.D. 2009x45x49

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F-Tama, the official fan club for the Macross Frontier science-fiction anime, has announced to its members on Saturday that it is holding two “Macross Crossover Live A.D. 2009x45x49” concerts at the Makuhari Messe convention complex near Tokyo on October 17 and October 18.

The “galaxy’s biggest crossover” will feature Mari Iijima (Lynn Minmay in The Super Dimension Fortress Macross), Yoshiki Fukuyama (the singing voice of Macross 7’s Basara Nekki), Chie Kajiura (the singing voice of Macross 7’s Mylene Jenius), May’n (the singing voice of Macross Frontier’s Sheryl Nome) and Megumi Nakajima (Macross Frontier’s Ranka Lee).

This is the second event to mark the “first year of Macross” after the Macross “space launching ceremony” in February. (The first episode of the first Macross series aired in 1982, but its story was set in February of 2009.) The first Macross Frontier film will open in Japan on November 21.

Tickets are already available to people who join the F-Tama club between Saturday and July 25. People who joined the club before can purchase tickets between July 13 and July 29. The organizers plan to offer the remaining tickets to the general public on August 22, initially through the FamilyMart convenience store chain’s ticketing system.

The last time that this many singers from this many Macross series held a concert together was in 2007’s “Macross 25th Anniversary Live: Minmay meets Fire Bomber” concert. During that concert, Iijima, Fukuyama, Kajiura, Nakajima, and Nobutoshi Hayashi (Basara’s speaking and occasional singing voice) performed.

Since Nakajima had just been selected in a nationwide audition and Macross Frontier was months away from its television premiere, Nakajima had sung the “Voices” song from Macross Plus.

The last time that more Macross performers were on stage together was in “Macross One-Night Stand“, the 15th Anniversary Live concert in 1997. That concert featured Iijima, Fukuyama, Hiroko Kasahara (Ishtar in Macross II), Akino Arai (one of the singing voices for Myung Fang Lone and Sharon Apple in Macross Plus), and Yoko Kanno (composer and pianist in Macross Plus).

Kanno held a Seatbelts concert this month that featured songs from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Macross Frontier, Arjuna、RahXephon, Macross Plus, Wolf’s Rain, Cowboy Bebop, The Vision of Escaflowne, Aquarion, Card Captor Sakura, and other titles. More at: ANN

I.G. Animates New Maaya Sakamoto Music Clip UNIVERSE

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Production I.G and Victor Entertainment have teamed up to produce a fully animated music clip for the song “Universe,” performed by Japanese pop singer Maaya Sakamoto and included in the artist’s forthcoming album, “30minutes night flight,” to be released in Japan on March 21, 2007.

The video clip will be made available on DVD format in the limited double-disc edition of the album.

The beautifully animated bitter-sweet atmosphere of “Universe,” that unfolds like a watercolor-painted picture book, is the creative accomplishment of a most promising duo concealed under the collective pseudonym of Gekidan INU Curry, who designed the characters and directed the film produced at Production I.G’s Studio 4 under the supervision of line producer Hidekazu Terakawa (“Jin-Roh,” “IGPX”).

The “Universe” Story Concept: Under the night sky feebly illuminated by twinkling stars, a little girl wanders alone through a magic world that is not today and not tomorrow, inhabited by 6 billion of lonesome souls. What will she encounter in her solitary journey?

Maaya Sakamoto (坂本 真綾 Sakamoto Maaya) was born on March 31, 1980, she started her professional career as a singer at 15, when her talent was discovered by world-famous composer and music producer Yoko Kanno. She made her debut in 1996 as the voice of Hitomi Kanzaki in the hit anime series The Vision of Escaflowne.

In addition, she sang the opening song “Yakusoku wa Iranai” and the movie closing song “Yubiwa”. She has since teamed up with composer Yoko Kanno and has had many subsequent voice roles in anime such as Record of Lodoss War, Kanon, RahXephon, Gundam SEED DESTINY, .hack//SIGN, and others.

She also has had voice roles in video games such as Panzer Dragoon Saga, Kingdom Hearts, Fullmetal Alchemist 3: Kami wo Tsugu Shoujo, and Napple Tale. She also does the voice of Padmé Amidala in the Japanese dub of Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III and Max in the television series Dark Angel. She plays the role of Eponine in the Japanese production of Les Misérables.

On her singer side, Sakamoto has released five solo albums, one mini album, numerous singles, and two singles collections. In December 2003, she released her fourth original album, Shounen Alice, and a DVD of a short original movie from thedirector of Mizu no Onna called 03†. Sakamoto occasionally writes her own lyrics but most often works with others.

Frequent collaborators include Yuuho Iwasato for Japanese songs and Tim Jensen for English songs. In 2004, Sakamoto’s new fanclub “Idling Stop” opened. Composer Yoko Kanno worked with Sakamoto up until Yūnagi LOOP, her fifth album, which has no songs composed by Kanno. Her new album 30 minutes night flight is advertised to be released on March 21, 2007. More at: ANS