Fractale OP/ED Single – Harinezumi – Review

Album Title: Harinezumi
Anime Title: Fractale
Artist: Hitomi Azuma
Catalog Number: ESCL-3648
Release Type: OP/ED Single
Release Date: March 09, 2011
Purchase at: CDJapan

Track Title Artist Time
01. Harinezumi Hitomi Azuma 4:59
02. Onaji Yume Hitomi Azuma 6:14
03. Down By The Salley Gardens Hitomi Azuma 3:19

Review: If Fractale’s OP sequence, with its mesmerizing colors swirling and out, doesn’t sufficiently capture your attention on its own, then Hitomi Azuma’s “Harinezumi” should make it more stimulating. “Harinezumi” derives much of its captivating power from its impeccable combination of vocals and instrumentals. Neither component overshadows the other and both work together in concert to deliver a transcendent experience. Azuma’s delivery, in particular, is engrossing in the way it ebbs and flows, moving from a confident tone to a brief melancholy interlude before she navigates towards the energetic chorus.

Once there, Azuma’s emphatic expression knocks me out of my subdued, wandering reverie as it shakes off the shadowy burdens and pushes me into a higher realm of being. The hefty dose of energy accompanying the chorus, dealt through the synth, also makes me more sensitive to the singer’s longing and anguish which she delivers through the lilting phrases. It helps that “Harinezumi” isn’t static either. As it proceeds, the melancholy slowly melts away, replaced by a smidgen of hope which creeps in until it becomes wholly elevating by the end, making it one of the more engaging techno J-pop fusions I’ve heard lately.

The next track, “Onaji Yume,” true to its title, does an excellent job in sculpting an animated dreamscape. It starts with a light techno pajama-pop sound (think Lullatone), imbuing the song with a light, bouncy atmosphere and evoking the image of someone wandering past corridors filled with quaint, childhood memories. Azuma’s mellow delivery reinforces the nostalgia as the two vocal layers are interwoven to form a pleasant aural quilt made up of those playful memories yearning to make themselves known once more. Their wishes are granted, and they bubble forth during the chorus, showering me with a bevy of synth that feels like an explosion of life and color. The joy it exudes is inviting, and I can’t help but surrender my senses so as to relive those euphoric moments once more.

Finally, this album closes up with a Japanese-accented rendition of “Down by the Salley Gardens” played to a traditional-sounding Irish theme. Its folksy atmosphere serves as a nice contrast to all the techno and pajama-pop in the prior tracks while demonstrating the extent of Hitomi Azuma’s expressiveness through her yearning delivery that hearkens towards a rustic sort of nostalgia. The only major issue lies in her Engrish pronunciation, but on the whole, this nice, slow-paced track makes for a relaxing way to close the album out as it allows the listener to fondly reminisce over lost love.

In Harinezumi, Hitomi Azuma shows us her grasp for conveying confidence, melancholy, mellowness, and nostalgia through her singing, and doing a competent job of it all. Given that this is her debut single, that feat is all the more impressive, and I do hope there’s a long career ahead of her, especially since she has the vocal chops to back it all up.

Rating: Very Good

Fractale OP – Harinezumi

Fractale ED – Down by the Salley Gardens

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Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

11 thoughts on “Fractale OP/ED Single – Harinezumi – Review

  • March 21, 2011 at 7:57 am
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    Harinezumi is one of the OP/ED themes I been most looking forward to a full version. (Along with Gosick’s Resuscitated Hope ED) The beginning of the bridge in the full version is such a strange little jig followed by a downplayed ending. The coda is also surprisingly somber. Overall I was hoping for a little more variation in the rest of the song while still maintaining the energy of the TV size. I fell in love with the multi-layered chorus when I first heard it. I remarked that it reminded me a little of something Susumu Hirasawa might come up with. Overall I quite enjoyed Harinezumi even though the parts I really love were straight out of the TV size.

    Oh my god, I love Onaji Yume. The interweaving vocal layers is one of the greatest things I’ve heard all year. If you want me to love a song layer a song like this. I can’t get enough of it. I don’t usually like a song just on the initial listen but I definitely love Onaji Yume.

    Sally Gardens I could take or leave the previous 2 tracks more than make up for anything that the engrish takes away.

    Reply
  • March 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm
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    I heard the full version of Harinezumi and it sounded amazing… Something with the techno and the vocals blends into something interesting and appealing to listen… I agree that this, Madoka and the ED from Hourou Musuko.

    The ED slightly gives a mood backlash in one of the episodes, but I like the calm and lofty feeling it gives. I like it.

    Reply
  • March 21, 2011 at 10:18 pm
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    @Taka
    It’s kind of strange. Even though I’ve seen quite a bit of Fractale, somehow, the OP managed to skip by me altogether. I mean, everything was packaged nicely enough, but I sure as hell didn’t expect to be sucked in like I have just listening to the single on its own. But yeah, this one’s quite a gem in the way it’s beat out those preconceived notions to become a really wonderful theme. And yeah, great catch on the Susumu Hirasawa bit. Almost like the Paranoia Agent theme where it makes you want to get up and MOVE!

    Also, B-side is lovely like you said. The multilayered vocals… I can’t seem to remember the last time something like that was ever done so well, but needless to say, that turned out to be quite captivating all around.

    And yeah, last track can stay or go and somehow, I wasn’t too bothered by the engrish. Probably because it was sung well enough.

    @Chikorita
    I’m usually not predisposed to liking techno, but this one really did a great job, hooking me from the ambient instrumentals along with Azuma’s vocals. I’ve heard that Azuma’s a House singer, so that might explain it.

    As for the ED… can’t be worse than Lia’s “Torch” in terms of mood whiplash!

    Reply
  • March 22, 2011 at 5:23 am
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    I heard this single recently and immediately went to try and find out more about her. The fact that this is her debut explains why I could hardly find anything. With the new artistes nowadays being either modeled after Korean bands and idol groups, or just countless seiyuus coming into the music scene, she’s definitely a nice break. I’m really impressed by the strength of her vocals, as well as her expressiveness. Though personally, I still feel that her confidence is rather lacking…

    Reply
    • March 22, 2011 at 8:56 pm
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      @Jen
      Can you expand on that confidence bit? I ask because I don’t really hear any hints of timidity. Furthermore, I’m not sure any of the songs require a confident tone and I thought the soft serene voice in the last track, the playful blending in the B-side, and, of course, the energy she pours out in the A-side.

      But yeah, I’m very pleased that this turned out to be anything but vanilla J-pop. With all the OP/EDs I’ve ignored over the years, it’s kind of nice to hear something off the well-beaten path.

      Reply
  • March 25, 2011 at 9:21 pm
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    While we’re on the subject, I’d like to point out that the opening animation is made up of shifting mathematical fractals, which is a geometric pattern made up of parts which are smaller versions of other parts of the pattern, like the Mandelbrot set. A rather clever play on the anime’s title, in my opinion.

    Another notable use of fractals in opening sequences is the opening to Casino Royale, which used the patterns extensively.

    The ED reminds me heavily of “Oh Danny Boy.” Just from a cursory listen, I think it’s safe to say that the two songs use the exact same chord progression.

    And that OP must really be something else if it pushes you into a “higher realm of being.”

    Reply
  • March 26, 2011 at 6:49 pm
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    @Aftershok: When I first heard the title Fractale, I thought of the ones found in math, which made the OP sequence a nice treat when I first saw it.

    I’m surprised that this is her debut since I found her songs to be quite good when watching the anime. Listening to her sing is very calming.

    Reply
  • March 28, 2011 at 12:11 pm
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    Love the relaxing mood of Fractale ED… I can almost feel the warm breeze and the soft grass.

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  • March 29, 2011 at 12:42 pm
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    @Taka
    Thanks for the additional info and talk about an interesting fusion of music. The only thing I can really remark on is wishing her voice was a bit stronger, but that was pretty enjoyable all around.

    @Aftershok
    If the song you’re referring to relies upon traditional Irish folk music, it wouldn’t surprise me if the similarities exist between that and Salley Gardens. And yeah, the OP starts out with a mesmerizing tone that rockets you to a higher realm through the energetic chorus and her voice certainly helps with the elevation quite a bit.

    @Reltair
    It might not be her debut, but her voice is certainly a notch above what most J-pop artists are capable of putting forth. Her voice shows promise for sure!

    @Yi
    That’s how Celtic/Irish music rolls for most people and it’s why that’s one of my more favorite ethnic styles.

    Reply
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