Tales of Symphonia: Tethe'alla Hen ED – Inori no Kanata – Review

Album Title: Inori no Kanata
Anime Title: Tales of Symphonia: Tethe’alla Hen
Artist: Akiko Shikata
Catalog Number: FCCM-315
Release Type: OP/ED Single
Release Date: April 28, 2010
Purchase at: CDJapan

Track Title Artist Time
1. TETHE’ALLA ~Tai no Kodomo Tachi~ Akiko Shikata 2:45
2. Inori no Kanata Akiko Shikata 4:19
3. Aki Kakushi Akiko Shikata 4:54
4. Inori no Kanata (Instrumental) Akiko Shikata 4:01

Review: Once the regular Mizuki Nana, ELISA and Tamaki Nami J-pop gets tiring, one starts going off the beaten path, which does yield some treasures from time to time (though as a warning, it also yields its fair share of trash). Of the albums that I’ve unearthed lately, Inori no Kanata is a gem that continues to leaves an impact, even after countless, repeated listens.

The single starts off with the B-side, ‘TETHE’ALLA ~Tai no Kodomo Tachi~’, which begins majestically before subsiding into the quieter instrumentals at 0:32, for just a few seconds before the fanfare resumes. All in all, the short track packs a punch, propelled by Shikata’s voice, which is unbelievably versatile, and really heightens one’s expectations up for the rest of the single.

Shikata’s music stands out in the way it’s produced; both ‘TETHE’ALLA’ and the A-side, ‘Inori no Kanata,’ sounds like something from a soundtrack rather than a single in the way it immerses you into the setting. Shikata opens the song with a fragile and gentle voice, before the background vocals smoothly glissandos up, then down, as though it was opening the doors to the lush land of Tethe’alla. The dancing flute melody spread throughout the track and dramatic chanting at 2:55 adds to this effect, and it is the imagery conjured through the song that propels this single above the ordinary J-pop. In one word, this track can only be described as magical. For the casual listener, this track is probably the only (slightly) normal one, and a break from the eccentric B-sides.

In the second B-side, ‘Aki Kakushi,’ Shikata once again starts off with a lighter voice, which flows like poetry, all the way up to the festival-like chorus breaking in at 1:01. The song even goes as far as to insert the word ‘Utae’ (“sing”) right before the chorus. Given such cues are virtually non-existent in J-pop, having one here packs both the surprise element in addition to marking where the song fully opens up. On the whole, ‘Aki Kakushi’ fluctuates between calm and feisty stanzas, all with very appropriate transitions so that the impact is just right, neither too jutting nor too subtle. The beat and instrumentals are also heavily Oriental-influenced. The chorus, for example, sounds really Chinese. Personally, nothing delights me more than hearing the traditional in contemporary songs, so having such themes once again establishes Inori no Kanata as one of the most outstanding even in the realms of the unusual.

One point I must also comment on is Shikata Akiko’s vocals. I find it very hard to believe all the vocals are just provided by one person. The effect created is very choral in nature and we see so many different facets of her voice in this single. Indeed, the only close contender would be Kalafina, though I’d give Shikata Akiko the edge since her vocals are more versatile and the style is more unpredictable than Kalafina’s. Also, Kalafina has three vocalists compared to Shikata’s solo after all.

Another plus would be the sheer number of instruments used. While staples like violins are not forgotten, Shikata Akiko also includes the more uncommon additions like the Koto, Bouzouki and whistle. And, of course, all the tracks are composed by Shikata Akiko herself, and listening to them made me realize how much attention she pays to each one of them. Indeed, she deserves a lot of praise for that alone, and more for how well they all turned out.

After all, when the mediocre songs are heard, they are subsequently forgotten; it is the unique ones which leave a lasting impression. And this is one single which will be staying firmly among my favourites for a long time to come.

Rating: Masterpiece

Tales of Symphonia: Tethe’alla Hen ED – Inori no Kanata

Jen

I have been a contributor to Anime Instrumentality since late 2009 (blimey...). Being a lousy musician trained in cello, keyboard and voice, I feel obliged to censure the other amateurs who have the cheek to release their rubbish to the world, and to affirm those who actually deserve their salary. Nothing gives me more joy than listening to good music, though I admit that writing scathing reviews on bad ones comes close.

7 thoughts on “Tales of Symphonia: Tethe'alla Hen ED – Inori no Kanata – Review

  • June 16, 2010 at 10:51 am
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    I love the mix of chanting and soft vocals. It’s a very beautiful piece!

    Vid seems to be broken. :(

    Reply
  • June 16, 2010 at 3:06 pm
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    Akiko Shikata’s yet to disappoint and the thing I really like about her music is how it’s got that light ethereal touches where needed, but she’s not one to hesitate to fire off a strong delivery when it calls for it. Like I mentioned before, I really like the effort she’s put into her stuff for Ar Tonelico and the OP she did for the Umineko conveyed that sense of danger really well in the way her voice ebbs and flows.

    Good stuff!

    Reply
  • June 16, 2010 at 8:24 pm
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    @zzeroparticle: I was just about to comment that “Tethe’alla Hen ED – Inori no Kanata” reminded me of Ar Tonelico. Now I know why. 😀

    Awesome stuff.

    Reply
  • June 17, 2010 at 3:30 am
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    Ah, always good to see Shikata Akiko getting noticed. You guys should try her recent albums, such as Raka or Harmonia, cuz the songs are of similar styles.

    A little sad that most people only know her through Ar Tonelico and didn’t venture out to discover more of her music. There’s some information about her albums and other things on my homepage.

    Reply
  • June 17, 2010 at 6:47 am
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    @Yi
    Fixed the video. =)

    @zzeroparticle
    I should really go listen to Ar Tonelico. I’ve heard her single for Umineko, but maybe because I heard it just after hearing this one and was still in the festival-ly mood of this one that Umineko didn’t manage to grab my attention much.

    @Depthcharge101
    Yea, Shikata Akiko is quite under-rated. She really deserves more attention. I have listened to a bit of Harmonia. The style seems really similar to this single.

    Reply
  • June 17, 2010 at 9:10 pm
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    I’m a fan of the Tales of Symphonia series. With that being said – the mix they did was fantastic. I enjoyed it and cant wait for the next one.

    Reply
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