Otakon 2009: Meet Kanon Wakeshima and Mikazuki! (Concert Summary + Interview)

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Being a huge fan of Malice Mizer and Moi dix Mois, I decided to check out Kanon Wakeshima, since Mana, the man behind the other groups I mentioned. I immediately fell in love with her live cello playing and the beautiful artistry found within her music videos. When I heard that she was going to be one of the performers at Otakon, I had to register in order to see her live in concert. It was definitely a great time, and although she only played 7 songs, it was definitely a thrill! The press seats were great, much better than when I was in Boston for Kalafina! Check the jump for a small concert summary and my interview with this beautiful celloist!

So, seating started for the concert approximately 3:00 PM, however, it started later than expected. A local group from Baltimore named Geist took the stage to perform three songs, “Misery,” “Grotesque,” and “Starlit Opera.” I wasn’t a big fan of this style, which sounded like hardcore death metal with Japanese lyrics, but I’m sure there were fans of this group, as I saw some rabid fans near the front wailing and screaming the entire time. After some delay, Kanon Wakeshima finally took to the stage. Opening with “still doll,” Kanon immediately displayed her grace on stage. Dressed in an ornate red dress, similar to those found in Victorian times, she emulated a doll quite well, with robot-like moments. When she grabbed cello, she was definitely much more free in her movements (explained in the interview). It was a perfect way to open up the concert. I was surprised at her next song, “Suna no Oshiro,” because I didn’t expect her to play her two anime contributions back to back. This one kept the same overall atmosphere but managed to be slightly creepier. The cello work was also fantastic!

After this break, she greeted the audience, revealing that her favorite food was spaghetti and her favorite animal is a cat, of which she has two, a black one and a brown one. She also managed to imitate a kitten to describe the brown one. After this small break, she moved to “Kuroi Torikago,” which was a fast-paced mixture of baroque and electronica elements. It’s definitely a great song with a strong classical influence. However, my favorite song belongs to the next song she played, “Shinku no Fatalism.” This also keeps the fast-paced atmosphere, adds some ethereal choir, and also mixes that classical/electronica approach. The lyrics are quite dark too! The cello work, though, is easily the best thing during the concert, and album as well.

Kanon went on to introduce her white cello, Mikazuki, which translates to Crescent Moon she told us, before proceeding on with the concert. The next song, “L’espoir ~ Mahou no Akai Ito~,” had some nice percussion work and some poignant cello work in a very emotional atmosphere. The intro to the next song, “Ennui Kibun!,” was beyond cute. A make believe telephone started ringing, asking the audience if it was one of ours. As she made her way across to the stage, picked up part of her dress, and covered up the anomaly, stifling the sound a bit. The song itself was very bubbly in nature, mixing bell-like instruments, quirky electronica, and odd sound effects. It sounded a bit like a creepy carnival theme at times! It’s definitely a fun song though. Unfortunately, she had to end her concert with the next song, but it was a nice way to end. “skip turn step ♪” was another playful song that clearly showcased Mana’s classical influence. The piano and string work were fantastic and Kanon’s voice really helped accentuate the atmosphere. It was also interesting to see her incorporate the use of an umbrella into her act. I was saddened to find that halfway through the song many people started rushing towards the stage in an attempt to get in line for the autograph signing that immediately followed though.

So with that, the concert ended. I waited in line for my autograph, a fruitless attempt, but I was able to score one during the interview, which you can read now if you’d like! I think you’ll really enjoy it!

OSV: You started the cello at an early age. As you grew up, what made you decide to keep playing the instrument and incorporating it into your school activities?

Kanon Wakeshima: As a little kid, I actually liked drawing better than music, so a lot of it was my mother’s support that made me really practice and play the cello. After I grew up, it became part of the routine in my life, just like waking up, brushing my teeth, eating breakfast.

OSV: I’ve also read that you also started writing your own music while you were in high school, which is where you also sang for the first time during a school festival. Do you think that helped prepare you for performing live on stage?

Kanon Wakeshima: I’ve been playing the cello on stage since I was a little kid so I’m very confident while on stage, not nervous at all. I only performed in school once actually so recitals were more of a natural extension as to why I’m not nervous on stage today.

OSV: Your first single, “Still Doll,” was used for the ending theme to the anime Vampire Knight, while your second single, “Suna no Oshiro,” was used as the ending theme in the second season. Were these songs written specifically for the anime or did the style fit the overall theme of the anime?

Kanon Wakeshima: The first single, “still doll,” was already completed and it ended up being featured as the ending theme for Vampire Knight, so I didn’t really think about the whole series. The second single, Suna no Oshiro,” was composed by Mana after having an image of Vampire Knight, however, the lyrics are not related to the series. I think it ended turning out rather nice.

OSV: Speaking of “still doll,” the music video for this was absolutely beautiful. Did you have any input into the artistic direction? From what I gathered from the video, it seems to tell the story of a person imprisoned. Do the song lyrics reflect this, and if so, what was the basis for the lyrics?

Kanon Wakeshima: Thank you. First of all, the image, the direction of the video comes from the lyrics, so I had talked with the director to make sure this was reflected in the video. The girl in the video represents the image of being isolated and during the sections where she is playing the cello, she is reminiscing about her past when she was able to play the cello without being imprisoned.

OSV: Looking at the liner notes for your debut album, Shinshoku Dolce, I noticed that you were produced by Mana from the groups Malice Mizer and Moi dix Mois. If I understand correctly, he composed and arranged all the music, while you were responsible for the lyrics. Could you elaborate on how you ended up working with him? When it comes to the actual songs, do you write the lyrics based on the music, or did Mana write the music based on the lyrics?

Kanon Wakeshima: I had sent a demo tape to Sony, and at the time, Mana was looking to start up a project with a female vocalist, a first for him, so that’s how I hooked up with him. When it comes to the lyrics, I wrote them based on how I felt about the music that Mana had composed.

OSV: My personal favorite song on your debut album is “真紅のフェータリズム (Crimson Fatalism).” What’s your favorite song on the album and why?

Kanon Wakeshima: It’s very difficult for me to number the songs because all the songs are very personal, so it’s hard for me to pick a favorite.

OSV: This is your debut performance in the United States; however, you recently performed in Paris for the Japan Expo 2009. Was this your first performance outside of Japan and do you think it was successful?

Kanon Wakeshima: Actually, the first one took place in February of this year. I performed in France prior to the release of the album in Japan. It had been released in Europe already.

OSV: Unlike a lot of concerts, where artists usually focus on creating energy and are very active on stage, your approach was much more delicate and expressive. Could you elaborate on how you chose to perform this way?

Kanon Wakeshima: From Mana, I’ve been told that my music is more of the classical approach, as opposed the approach of more traditional J-pop music. I tried to portray this aesthetic in my performance.

OSV: Are you currently working on a new album or tour? If so, can you reveal any details?

Kanon Wakeshima: I’m currently working on some new songs, which I’m aiming to release in September in Japan. It’s a single release. I’ll also be performing live in Japan in August, once I get back.

OSV: Lastly, do you have anything you want to tell your fans around the world?

Kanon Wakeshima: Hi. I’m Kanon Wakeshima. For those who did know my music, thank you for your support. For those who have not, please check it out. If you like it, please pass it onto your friends. If you like it even more, check out my live performances.

So, are you a fan of Kanon Wakeshima? What about some of her producer’s, Mana, other projects? Did you get a chance to see her at Otakon?

If you are interested in hearing more of her work, check out her Myspace page.

(Thanks to Ryu Takahashi for translation)

Photo: Dave Wujcik/Copyright 2009 by Otakorp Inc.

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