Rena Uehara WA2 songs interview (part 2)

—The second song, “Sayonara no Koto,” is the ending theme from the third episode onward. This was a new song written by director Naoya Shimokawa, who was involved with the music for the game, right?

Rena Uehara-san: He handled the music and the lyrics entirely himself, which was a first. I was surprised when I listened to it for the first time. Before it came through, I assumed it would be more of a ballad—as I listened, the verses sounded narrative and very emotional, but then they transitioned very lightly into the chorus, with some added freshness. According to the director, he wanted to inject something youthful into the song, recalling a purer time. It’s very different from all of the other White Album 2 songs up to this point.

—With the lyrics and melody, this is very much a winter song.

Uehara: Winter seems to be one of the main themes.

—The narrator in the lyrics uses “boku” [suggesting a male point of view]. However, the lyrics, “It wouldn’t hurt so much if I had never met you,” sound more like a woman, I feel.

Uehara: The “who” of this song isn’t really designated, so even though it uses “boku,” that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s from Haruki-kun—the idea was to make it so that it could be considered from anyone’s point of view.

—The line “Winter will come again, not for us, but to lovers” hits especially hard. It seems to suggest the end of love, and the way you imbue it with emotion and nuance is even more superb.

Uehara: I am very fond of that phrase myself. “Winter will come again” is really an emblem of White Album 2, and it’s often used. The lyrics suggest something that is felt after the whole story has ended, and I think people who have made their first contact through the anime will be thinking, “What do these lyrics mean?” “What’s going to happen?” and as they continue watching, the meaning will become clearer and clearer.

The thing is, since I know the ending of the game, simply listening to that one phrase makes me think back over the whole story and sigh, because it makes my heart hurt. (laughs) That line doesn’t show up in the anime, so I’d like for people to listen to the full version of the song.

—“I never doubted this happiness, never learned the meaning of the word ‘goodbye’”—that was a line I could understand very well. Nobody thinks about the moment of separation while they’re in love.

Uehara: It really hits hard. I think it might be especially piercing for people who had their hearts broken in winter. (laughs)

—How was the recording process?

Uehara: The recording was done in the presence of the director, and it went well, but up until I went in, I was very anxious. I had orders from him—“My desire is to convey the lyrics, so I want you to be conscious of singing in a way that will make each word come through smoothly, even if someone isn’t looking at the lyrics.” I put a lot of work into that. (laughs) The feel of my voice is slightly more emotional than the other two songs, but I kept an awareness of a sense of warmth as I sang, so I hope people will notice that while they’re listening.

  • Reactions to the unexpected use of “closing ‘13”! Listening for the exploding emotions in the hook

—After “closing ‘13” appeared as the ending theme for episode 2, I was sure that it would continue as the ending theme for the rest of the series, but the next week, it had changed to “Sayonara no Koto.” In a sense, it almost felt like a special, even though it was early on.

Uehara: It helps that they applied it to a really good scene. (laughs) I think that for people who played the game, “closing” already has a strong link to Kazusa, but then, in the anime, it plays in the scene when Kazusa finally speaks. I’m sure that brought a grin to the faces of the original game’s fans. After the episode ran, I saw people posting about it on blogs and things, how they never imagined that this song would show up in episode 2.

—What are the differences from the original version?

Uehara: All three of the songs, not just this one, were recorded with a live rhythm section, and the strings were recorded live, as well. That’s the biggest difference. I also wanted to put more emotion into my singing, so I didn’t hold anything back, which I think put a more genuine feeling into the chorus, revealing the true thoughts with a bang.

Also, the emotion in the song builds gradually from verse to chorus, so I was told to stifle the emotion during the verses, and then to expose even more than the original in the choruses. That’s another difference.

—The length of the guitar solo at the interlude was especially striking.

Uehara: The sound is just so cool, isn’t it? But while I was singing, I had to match the strength of my attack while singing to the timing of the drums. It was more difficult than I expected—I even had the director sing it for me.

—Even as the lyrics sing about the pains of love—“I will never fall in love again, I can’t stand the pain of losing it”—they still reaffirm the strength of another feeling: “I don’t want to let you go, I don’t want to leave you, I can’t give up now.”

Uehara: The lyrics in the verses show the internal conflict of not being able to be honest with yourself, and then, in the chorus, it all pours out because it can’t be held back any more.

—The end of the hook has a certain cuteness, softening the serious vibe that leads up to it. The last chorus, “I just want to tell you I love you, even though I can’t say it to your face,” is especially killer. (laughs)

Uehara: I feel like I need to show my own tsundere side, too. (laughs)

  • Can we expect any further musical surprises?

—With “closing ‘13” having played at the end of episode 2, do you supposed there are fans who are hoping for still more surprises?

Uehara: There’s no telling what will happen until the end! I’m looking forward to it myself. This is a work with great emphasis on music, so beyond the theme songs, the soundtrack that appears within the show is full of great tracks. I think all of the music can be enjoyed and appreciated.

—With the delicacies in all three tracks when you listen all the way through, it seems like they wouldn’t be out of place in an otome game soundtrack.

Uehara: They’re definitely delicate. I think women will have an easy time empathizing with them. But during my shows, I’ve actually seen a fair number of guys crying when I sing songs from White Album 2, as well. The story and the songs match so outstandingly, and White Album 2’s songs share the common ability to resonate deep in your heart, which I think is part of what makes them so popular.

  • The “Todokanai Koi ‘13” music video: focus on the intense band scenes and painful emotions!

—There’s a TV spot showing currently for “Todokanai Koi ’13.” You look very cool singing with the band, in a place that looks like a factory.

Uehara: That was one part of the music video being used. In the full version, in addition to the band scenes, there are scenes of me looking melancholy on a white couch in the studio, putting my hand into a birdcage, and facing myself. The whole single is wrenchingly emotional, so I did my best to keep the pain in my expression from start to end. (laugh)

—One way of viewing it could be to see the band scenes as Setsuna singing, while the scenes of you standing alone suggest the solitary Kazusa.

Uehara: I see. You certainly could look at it that way. I hope the people who watch will all come up with their own ideas and enjoy it. You can see the TV spot during programs and on my official site, so please give it a watch.

—The picture of you on the jacket has a noble, ladylike quality, too.

Uehara: You think so? (laughs) I look more like I would for a concert in the full-body pictures. I brought the kind of outfit I would wear while singing in White Album 2 shows to the jacket. The full-body pictures are in the booklet, so you’ll have to buy it to see. (laughs) The limited edition is in a sleeve format, with a picture of Setsuna and Kazusa standing back-to-back, depicting their relationship.

  • ”White Album 2 Concert” and Tokyo-Nagoya-Osaka tour announcement!

—There will be a “White Album 2 Concert” taking place on November 24th, following the release.

Uehara: This will be my first White Album 2 show in a concert hall, with strings and a grand piano and everything. I’m looking forward to it myself. I almost wish I could see it from the audience! (laughs) I’m already thinking about what I’m going to wear. The anime will just be reaching its climax, so I think the people who are watching will be in a more emotionally receptive state of mind, and the live instruments may make it even harder on your tear ducts. (laughs)

As a matter of fact, the premium edition of White Album 2 ~The Other Side of Happiness~, currently on sale for the PS3, includes footage from the “White Album 2 Live” show that I did this year as a special bonus! It was a really wonderful show that’s stuck with me ever since, and I’ve never forgotten the smiles on everybody’s faces during the encore. For people who were there, you can relive the excitement! Those who weren’t able to attend can experience the show for themselves in their own homes. And, if you watch the video before attending the “White Album 2 Concert,” I think you’ll enjoy it even more.

—You’re also set for a Tokyo-Nayoga-Osaka tour in March of next year.

Uehara: This is my second time performing solo. The first time, I was just desperate to make it succeed—this time, I’m giving myself a little more room so that people can really enjoy it, and I hope everyone will get a sense of how much I’ve grown. I have more songs than before, and some that people will probably be hearing for the first time, so your impressions of me might change as a result of this show. I hope you’ll all come out and see me.

  • Next: the opening theme of Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord!

—I understand you also were also in charge of “Many Futures,” the theme song of Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord, which was just released a few days ago for the PS3.

Uehara: Yes. “Many Futures,” unlike the other tie-up songs I’ve sung, is a solid rock number with an up-tempo melody, and very stylish. I think it’s the type that will get everybody roused up when I sing it live. The game version is included on the mini soundtrack CD packaged with the limited edition of the game, and OTOTOY and DWANGO are also distributing the full version, plus “Many Futures (ballad version)” and the featured song, “Until –from Hispania-,” so enjoy those as well.

—To close, please give us a message for all your fans.

Uehara: This is my first single in about three years, so thank you for waiting! For those of you who are watching the TV anime, keep watching it as it airs, listen to the single, and immerse yourself in the heart-wrenching world of the story. For those of you who haven’t watched the anime yet—after you listen once, you’ll want to watch! All three of the songs are very emotional, and if you listen through the whole CD, I think you’ll find yourself in a very sentimental mood. It should be perfect for the upcoming autumn and winter. (laughs) Beyond that, I have White Album 2-related events and next year’s tour coming up, so please come and hear “Todokanai Koi ‘13” performed live!

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