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Monday,Apr 12,2004
Hoshi Furu Yoake - A totally Subjective Review

Full disclosure: I am woefully ignorant of the "professional" methods of reviewing a musical piece, so what you will be getting in this review is a "pseudo-technical" analysis of the various elements of the song as rendered by an unabashed layman.

Song information:

Title: "Hoshi Furu Yoake" ("Starry Dawn")
Performed by: "Hino Rei" Kitagawa Keiko
Music by: Gary Newby
Track Length: 5:04
Part of the Album "Pretty Guardian Sailormoon Character Song SAILOR MARS

Initial Reaction

In my review of Sakura Fubuki, I had expressed surprise at the upbeat, J-POPish nature of the character song (which seemed at odds with the reserved nature of Hino Rei, especially the PGSM version who seems based on the manga). Since that time, and having reconciled myself to the fact that, as Pretty Guardian Sailormoon is a "Drama" show-- with all that entails-- I was not expecting anything different from "Rei's" second image song, Hoshi Furu Yoake. Thus, rather than chronicle a sad tale of quasi-anaphylactic shock at the tone of this song, I shall instead open this review with a quick "stream of consciousness" overview of the song as I first heard it:

This is slower, more mellow. Much. Still too emotive for Hino Rei, but not too chirpy. My ears bleed at that stretched syllable. Wait, now it's like Teenybopper Angst Rock. Is she mailing this performance in? Now it's getting definitely 1960s, in a mellow hippie sort of way. Must be the tambourines. Maybe she's making the only practical use she can of that new special item Artemis left in the hideout last episode. What... here come electric guitars. Now it's mellow again. And back to Teenybopper, but more upbeat. Hmm, it's done. I don't like it as much as Sakura Fubuki.

More Measured Reaction

As readers of my last review may have noted, I did not preface this review with the notice "I am now going to proceed to heap praise upon this song". This is because I am not going to. I have some problems with this song that I did not have with Sakura Fubuki, mainly stemming (unfortunately) from Kitagawa-san's delivery in this song,


Sadly, I got what I asked for in a sense. Last song, I had maintained that "Hino Rei" was acting too upbeat in Sakura Fubuki, and that the next song should be a slower, mysterious, more reflective piece. Well, that's what I got (sans "mysterious"), and I must say it's a step backwards:

In this song, Kitagawa-san goes for a quieter, more "mellow" song, with a style of delivery that requires her to drag out the ends of her lines, and while the works most of the time, with some of the lines she ends up sounding somewhat off-pitch or "weak".

(I lack a better way to explain what I mean, but I shall try.) A lot of Kitagawa-san's lines start off with great emotive force--relatively speaking-- but then when she has to end a line, she drags out the syllables whilst trying to be "soft" about it, and the end result ends up either sounding like an irritating attempt to deliberately hit a high note without actually doing so (as opposed to trying and failing) or collapsing in a tired fade-out (especially just before the music changes style). This has the unfortunate side-effect of making it sound like she just isn't "into" some of her lines. (I'm sure this isn't actually the case.)

The way Kitagawa-san quiets down before "loudening up" for the beginning of a new musical segment also is something of an irritant, as one cannot "settle in" to the "groove" of the song as with Sakura Fubuki... it's like constantly being lulled to relax and then being jolted back into action (and vice versa).

On the positive side of things, Kitagawa-san synchronizes her voice with the background music exceptionally well, down to the drum beats in the background (which is aurally impressive, at least to the likes of me). In fact, I wonder if her perfect sync with the guitars isn't actually part of the *problem*...


This time out, I am fortunate to have access to the Karaoke Track of the song as well as the regular version, so I can take a closer look at the musical construction of the song separately from the vocal track.

As my initial stream of consciousness reaction indicates, this is a musical story told in several parts. It starts off slow and mellow, before picking up the pace in clearly defined "sets" corresponding to the verses, adding in (or subtracting) intensity, shifting the music according to the mood. It uses Acoustic Guitars, Tambourines, Drums and Electric Guitars to create a varied, well-rounded BGM that is as good as any J-POP I have heard (it reminded me of some L' arc en Ciel songs I heard a long time ago, in terms of style).

By way of comparison, after examining the karaoke tracks of both Hoshi Furu Yoake and Sakura Fubuki, I can say with some confidence that while Sakura Fubuki is the more "energetic" of the two songs, Hoshi Furu Yoake, despite whatever other misgivings I might have about it, is the superior musical piece. Sakura Fubuki is incredibly repetitive, using basically the same beats for four minutes with only a few sprinklings of piano music and synth to vary it. (This is much less noticeable in the regular song version-- and indeed I missed it-- because of Kitagawa-san's singing adding the missing dynamism to the piece). Hoshi Furu Yoake, as I have detailed above, is a much more varied piece that sets out to use its music to help tell the story as opposed to just being sonic wallpaper (although Sakura Fubuki is very well textured sonic wallpaper.)

Does it fit "Rei"?

As usual, I consider these songs in terms of the character they are supposed to portray-- after all, this is not "Keiko Kitagawa" singing, it's ostensibly "Hino Rei". So, does the tone and mood of the piece fit her?

Without taking the lyrics into consideration, If this were just the manga Rei, the answer would be *perhaps*. (Anime Rei is an open question, she seems to have a more cheery, extroverted persona, but PSGM Rei is basically the stolid and aloof Rei of the Sailor Moon Manga).

Putting aside the J-POP bubbly BGM which is mandated by the PGSM format, this "Rei" would be someone who, if forced to sing, would produce a sound that was somewhat mellow and wistful. The song "feels" at first mellow, sad, then upbeat and hopeful. In that sense, it's a close a fit as I think we're going to get.

Once one looks at the translated lyrics, I can say that this song *is* far more like something that would come out of Hino Rei's mouth (could you see a Miko who is apparently very serious about what she does saying "There's no such thing as God" as she does in Sakura Fubuki? (All right, given what's happened to her in her life it *is* remotely possible, but I doubt it.)

This song is about Rei having to proceed through life on her own, relying only on her own strength and hoping for the day when she can "unlock her spirit", something which I find to be perfectly in character with the person we see on Pretty Guardian Sailormoon, who is initially cold and aloof, but gradually opening up to those around her.

This theme also *perfectly* fits the mood of the music, which starts out quietly and ends on a very upbeat note, taking the listener through the aural equivalent of Rei's journey in PGSM.


This song is *good*, but at least to my ears, the problems with Kitagawa-san's delivery detract from the overall experience. To my mind she was much better in Sakura Fubuki-- I think because there she could "cut loose" with the full range of her vocal talents. In this song, it almost felt like she was forcing herself to hold back, and overcorrected at some points... the result is a song that has feeling, but not nearly as much as it could. The music is good in the J-POP way, though still not in character for as mysterious character as Hino Rei.

In retrospect, while I maintain that a proper "image song" for Hino Rei would be more along the lines of those spoken word poems as in the "In another Dream" Sailor Moon R Image CD, given what I've heard of her vocal talents, if she is to sing, it should be in "full throttle" mode as in Sakura Fubuki, where she acquits herself superbly, as opposed to this "forced quiet" style of singing, wherein her vocal talents are arguably done a disservice.

So, in sum, I think that as a single this song might not be a good investment, but in combination with the excellent Sakura Fubuki it's certainly something worthwhile of being in a playlist (though not on repeat).

- 北川景子 は火野レイです -

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