|Hisashi Shirahama, Ryo Ishibashi, Ichiro Tanaka, Yukari Hashimoto,
Triple H: Marie Miyake, Yui Watanabe, Miho Arakawa
|December 21, 2011
|01. ROCK OVER JAPAN
|02. Everyone Went Crazy!!
|03. BAD NEWS (Kuroi Yokan)
|04. Scorching Soul
|05. Daddy’s Shoes
|06. Private Girl
|07. HIDE and SEEK
|08. In the Shadows of Tomorrow
|09. Ash Wednesday
Review: HHH is a playful but serious album that reflects all of Mawaru Penguindrum’s themes in musical form, ranging from thundering rock to smoother jazz to melancholic ballads. A simple title betrays the complexity that lies within: three voice actresses cover songs by 80s/90s Japanese rock band ARB, with each one of the actresses’ character names taking a nod to famous female singers of Japan using the consonant ‘H’ in their names. Furthermore, the reference to the word ‘ecchi’ can’t be forgotten here; the original album is written and sung by an all-male rock band, creating traces of sexual tension in the remake. Painting a story through its track ordering, this album is enjoyable both intellectually and emotionally thanks to its excellent blend of present and past in its music.
Starting with the insert song from the anime, “ROCK OVER JAPAN,” the album leads its listeners into its electric world with every bit the impact that the animated segment for Himari’s “Seizon senryaku!” did for the anime’s viewers. Slightly faster and more hurried than the original ARB song, this remix has kept the thundering bass that was a hallmark in its prior incarnation. It’s a fantastic remake, though sometimes you can’t help but wish the girls were more rock — they don’t have the same umph behind the screaming parts.
ROCK OVER JAPAN[audio:01 – HHH.mp3]
Signs of trouble begin brewing with the third track “Bad News (Kuroi Yokan)”, which was first released in 1980 and came at a time where Japan’s economic development propelled it to status. A piece that draws from crazy times during which it was composed, the HHH version inserts it own personality by trading a pulsing bass guitar for a more lyrical feel. Most surprisingly, the whistling in this piece almost seems to speak out on its own, melodic but solitary in a way that captures the problems soon to come in the anime’s plot.
Bad News (Kuroi Yokan)[audio:03 – HHH.mp3]
The next piece is my absolute favorite on the entire album, and I can’t help but tear up when I listen to it. Championing the notion of nostalgia instilled within the entire album, “Daddy’s Shoes” in particular brings to memory that feeling almost everyone is familiar with: filling in the shoes of someone that you respect, look up to, and came before you. A gentle piano introduction is joined by a light, airy drum beat, both of which combine together with vocals to create a wonderful jazz piece that critically differs from other songs on the soundtrack. Placed right in the middle of the album at track #5, “Daddy’s Shoes” is the song that glues the entire thing together.
Daddy’s Shoes[audio:05 – HHH.mp3]
Even though most of the songs on HHH are used as ending themes, none are more hauntingly beautiful than “Ash Wednesday” (“Haiiro no Suiyoubi”) which implores the listener to “come on, remember / the time when we loved each other / the time when we looked at each other with serious gazes.” Starting in A-minor, this song instills a sense of melancholy between the melody, which floats and sinks in oscillation, and the steady yet dramatic piano that shapes the rest the piece. The song reaches climax toward the end when the refrain gains increasing urgency as the piano crescendos along with vocals. A final brighter, happier C major chord brings an end to the track by capturing musically the idea of hope, another crucial theme of the show.
Ash Wednesday[audio:09 – HHH.mp3]
Finally, the album returns to its rock origins in the final song “HEROES ~Eiyuutachi~.” A song of parting, this piece shifts from its innocuously balladic opener that depicts the state of a wonderful, utopian world. This image is shattered as the song picks up pace, morphing into what can be called a tone of celebration after the first verse. This dynamism that appears adds a layer of contrast between the subject of the lyrics and the musical mood; despite knowing fully that the current world is illusory, the girls are happy to urge along the burying of past visionaries. Rounding out the ten-track album, this last song symbolizes a sense of complacency and a willingness to put things in the past, echoing the situation of the characters in the anime, further reflecting on how quickly the world buries its heroes.
HEROES ~Eiyuutachi~[audio:10 – HHH.mp3]
HHH is a masterpiece that succeeds in integrating the serious themes of the anime with a modern flavor, extending the original rock influence into something broader. One huge problem with this is that the complexity of the album — and the anime — is not immediately obvious; a naïve listener may hear this CD and think nothing of its intricate musical play and complicated network of references to modern Japanese history. Thus, where the album succeeds in its delivery, it hurts itself in another sense: HHH is a character soundtrack designed for a Japanese audience familiar with the anime it was composed for. It is a masterpiece of a character song album, but unfortunately, it may not be the most perfect album on its own. Also, not everyone may find the remaking of classic rock songs to be a good thing. However, for fans of the anime, this is an album that cannot be missed.