HIMEKA (real name Catherine St. Onge) is a 27 year old weaboo from Quebec. She’s traveled to a lot of conventions, including Anime Expo, and participated in singing competitions like AX, hoping to become the next big anisong singer. Around 2006, she finally made the big move to Japan and tried to participate in as many auditions as possible while doing sidejobs here and there. It wasn’t until September 2008 when things started to hit off and she won the Animax Anime Song Grand Prix contest. Immediately, she was signed onto Gaigokujin section of Sony Music Japan records and got to work on her first debut single Asu he no Kizuna, the OP for Valkyria Chronicles. The single will be avaliable on May 27th 2009.
If I bothered to make a entry on a Wiki like Jpop Stop! (the replacement of wiki.theppn), this is probably what it would look like. But really this doesn’t encompass much of what can be said, or thought, about her.
First off, let’s start with Asu he no Kizuna:
The song itself isn’t really anything to write home about it. It’s not a bad song but it’s the typical anime OP that’s been done to death since 15000 B.C. It’s still got a nice orchestra line and is catchy enough to the ear. I’ve also heard it fits Valkyria Chronicles but I wouldn’t exactly know that….
As for HIMEKA’s vocals, well she definitely CAN sing. She definitely knows her singing techniques and she’s got a decent tone to match. However, her voice also sounds strained and thin at times, especially during the chorus (listen for the “kizu noooooo”). I’m not going to lie, it’s disappointing, especially when you listen her live contest performances on YouTube. After much speculation, I figured that HIMEKA’s vocals sound like that because she’s not used to the recording process. I believe she recording Asu he no Kizuna around December/Janurary which was only a few months after she won. Doubtless, she was rushed as hell and with promotional appearances and desparate attempts to cram Japanese, she probably didn’t get that one extra take. Who’s fault is this? Her record company Sony of course.
The Record Company:
Sony is, unsurprisingly, one of the top record companies and has under its belt many popular artists such as YUI, Ken Hirai, Yuna Ito, TM Revolution, Crystal Kay, Shoko-tan, Kalafina, Mika Nakashima, etc etc. They’re also the ones that seem to run the mainstream shounen anime world and get tie-ups for their not-so-anisong artists. But Sony also has a reputation for not treating everyone fairly and screwing over quite a few artists such as K, Younha, Kana Nishino, and Stephanie . So what the hell does that mean regarding HIMEKA?
In one sentence, they’ve got to milk the cash cow quickly. I’m sure Sony wants their money rightaway and wants to ride on the hype of the competition. It’s a smart business strategy but not necessarily the best choice music-wise. While they’ve been securing HIMEKA her tie-up and securing interviews and promotional appearances, HIMEKA’s been stumbling over basic Japanese sentences and is trying to figure out what mike to sing into. I only hope Sony keeps on promoting the hell out of her and keeps her on the right path before she becomes a flop and eventually a “dropped”.
And since I brought up her Japanese…
She admits it, everyone admits it. Her Japanese sucks. Not that I expect her to speak like a native at this stage, but she’s having trouble answering interview questions and has had to say “sumimasen” more than once. I understand that she’s trying to best her cram but if she doesn’t learn quickly it’ll become more of an annoyance to her audience. I know I’ve already heard more than one person complain already. Then again, maybe it would be easier to use a translator for the time being, or at least have one on hand.
Personality (In the Public’s Eye):
From what I read of HIMEKA’s blog and see of interviews, she seems to be a genuine shy otaku and weaboo. She definitely knows her anime and is well beyond the “OMG I LOVE NARUUUUTO AND BLEACH STAGE”. She’s also similarly knowledgable in the anisong world and has amassed a decent collection of CDs (though probably not as much as j1m0ne or danie ~ ). She’s even mentioned that her favorite singer is Nana Mizuki, a wise choice and ideal role model, if I say so myself.
Personality-wise, she seems to be a very very shy and nervous person. While it’s normal for anybody to be nervous, she lets her nervousness get to her and messes up her lyrics or forgets what to say. I know it’s good to be “easy on her because she’s new” but as obvious advice-grow a backbone, girl. I hope these traits don’t become eternal because this behavior gets endearing real quickly and I’m much more impressed with the hardworking, determined girl that stuck to her dream even when she was barely making ends meet in a foreign country.
Chances of Success:
It’s hard to say without even one debut single out. But I think HIMEKA’s problem will be getting that past the “novelty” stage. Sony’s already starting the promotion machine and people are starting to pay attention to her because she’s a white gajin trying to be anisong singer obviously. I’ve seen a lot of people compare her to Leah Dizon but really her situation reminds me a lot of JERO -you know, that black enka singer. Overall, I’ve got to play the “wait-and-see-card”. Unless you’re a fortune teller, you can’t go around saying “she’s going to be SO FAMOUS” like her stans or “she’s only going to get 2 singles at most” like the naysayers.
It’ll be interesting to see where this one goes. Image-wise she’s different but I see a lot of talent beyond her looks. I do like her quite a bit and I’ll try to keep an open mind as I purchase her debut single and wait for the next. Hopefully she’ll discover who she is as an artist and will make better music because of it. For now, there’s not much to do to but watch and wait.