Promotional photo for ANGELUS
|Artist: Hitomi Shimatani
Product Code: AVCD-30598
Release Date: 2004.08.11
Debut Ranking: #8
First Press: Inuyasha Sticker
Label: avex trax
Inuyasha is the brainchild of Rumiko Takahashi, who is a rather popular mangaka in Japan and also worldwide. This manga would eventually spawn into an anime and would receive a lot of attention. Typically anime theme songs would be assigned to less commercial artists or voice actors. However for an anime of a magnitude of Inuyasha, various popular avex artists were chosen to perform the theme songs for each season. Big names such as Ayumi Hamasaki, Namie Amuro, Do As Infinity and BoA were selected and were given extensive promotion by avex. Luckily enough Hitomi Shimatani would also be chosen to sing the sixth and the final season opening theme for Inuyasha.
After the release of her best album, Hitomi’s releases weren’t attracting so much attention. The first two singles in 2004 would struggle to chart well and both would fail to sell over 30,000 copies. These results were quite disappointing since Hitomi Shimatani was quite known for selling fairly well and the previous year showcased her into the spotlight. At that time these two singles would be her lowest selling ones. For this reason her staff was probably considering an image makeover. Hitomi’s innocent and sweet image was too overused to the point that most of her fans were quite bored of random “eyecandy” promotional videos and generic classy or cute photoshoots.
Consequently, Hitomi was given a more agressive, sexy and serious image. She would also return to her beloved Latin genre with a lot of spice added to it. The cover would feature an outfit which suggests sexiness, confidence and elegance at one go. This single would receive a fair amount of promotion. It would be performed on a fair amount of variety shows and on a wide array of magazine performances. This single would also be selected to promote the upcoming album as the promotional video of “ANGELUS” would be connected with the one of “Tsuioku+LOVE LETTER“. I felt it was a very clever marketing technique by avex.
This single would also be her first double A-Side single to be released and both songs would be released in her following album “Tsuioku+LOVE LETTER“. The tie-in combined with this new change was enough to appeal to the public and she would gain various awards. Despite being released less than one month before the album release, this single would prove to be a hit and would rank at #8 on Oricon, with a chart life of 10 weeks. Overall 53,000 copies would be sold.
This song clearly carries a lot of influence from the Latin genre, which was explored in her “Gate~scena III~” album. However this song has a more exotic undertone, defined by instrumental choice and a more powerful arrangement. One will clearly be able to listen to trumphets, horns and piano. Also this track has a lot of salsa influence, with a combination of Spanish-Caribbean hint.
Since it was an anime opening theme, it was expected that this song would be upbeat and have a radically pop tone. “ANGELUS” is an upbeat dance track, which was directed to appeal to a very wide audience. Despite these factors, “ANGELUS” still remains to contain a unique style of its’ own. The lyrics were written by the infamous BOUNCEBACK and composed by BULGE. Finally this song would be featured in a variety of Inuyasha compilation albums. “ANGELUS” would prove to be rather popular in Japan and this song would become one of her signature songs. It would frequently be performed live in various events, most notably in the 55th Kouhaku Utagassen, where she would perform in a rather saucy micro-mini peacock skirt. Internationally, this song has introduced many anime fans to Hitomi Shimatani.
There is a variety of hints which point out to the fact that Hitomi is Christian, in the case of religion. On some events she was seen wearing a cross, she released a mini album dedicated to Christmas and would film a promotional video in a modern church. In any way, the word “Angelus” is also of Christian origin. It originated with the 11th century monastic custom of reciting three Hail Mary’s during the evening bell. Presently it is known as a prayer recited three times daily, consisting of three texts describing the mystery of Mary.
The promotional video is one of the most innovative creations I’ve seen. For a first it has a very clear plot, which is quite rare for Hitomi’s videos to contain one. A darker and more mature personality is shown for the audience. For a first, she has a very sexy and vivid choreography, although it is on the simplistic side. Also on other scenes, Hitomi would fight with countless men in black suits. The fighting scene is surprisingly rather realistic and quite spectacular, reminiscent of American movies with impossible fight scenes. I really enjoyed the whole agressive and confident attitude portrayed in her assassinator persona. Overall I was beyond impressed on how this promotional video had a lot of cinematographic influences. The video is left in a cliffhanger and would be continued in the “Tsuioku+LOVE LETTER” promotional video.
2. Z! Z! Z! Zip! Zap! Zipangu!
Although, “Z! Z! Z! Zip! Zap! Zipangu!” was the other A-side of this single, I feel it is frequently overlooked by her fans. This song received no promotional video or tie-in. Consequently it is no surprise that this song is rarely given any spotlight and has been rarely performed live. Also I absolutely have no idea how her staff managed to come up with such a random and eccentric title. Probably someone dreamed it up or something.
Despite all these factors, I am rather fond of this song. As a first, this song was the first experimentation of orchestral elements within a pop song. A year later, this experimental style would come to life and Hitomi would continue exploring this exquisite genre. In any way, this early rendition of a “crossover” attempt was fairly good. The primitive-sounding instrumental choice wasn’t a very smart choice though. It is makes heavy use of keyboard and drum instruments and the chorus contains a male soprano’s vocals. I also enjoyed how her vocals were fully displayed her impressive range. The high notes were so flawless and transparent, that they are obviously the focus of this song. The result is quite impressive, however this song seems to suffer an identity crisis. It seems as if it cannot decide if it derives from a dance-pop or an orchestral genre. A year later, this problem would be solved in the crossover rendition from the concept album “Crossover“.
I must say avex was quite successful in reviving her career back then in 2004, with this brilliant single. Her past singles often had the problem of sounding too commercial and rather unoriginal, which made Hitomi look like just another pop artist. I feel that “ANGELUS / Z!Z!Z! -Zip!Zap! Zipangu” is an interesting transitional single, which moves away from her generic pop or ethnic releases. It has a lot of rough edges and flaws, but I feel it has a lot of quality and concerted effort towards making something more unique for Hitomi. The Carribean-Latin salsa song would prove to be an unique hit, while the early orchestral-pop hybrid would later evolve in a rather impeccable and refined genre. I really feel that the whole elegant-sexy image and genre fits her perfectly.
Hitomi has always had those impressively rare vocals in the J-Pop industry that would fail to be showcased at their full potential until this single’s release. Oddly enough avex would release a plethora of slow and mellow songs, with no sign of challenge, more suited for the less gifted vocalists. Luckily enough, the following years would showcase Hitomi’s vocals to their fullest potential and would prove to interesting challenges to her.
- Z! Z! Z! Zip! Zap! Zipangu!
- ANGELUS (Instrumental)
- Z! Z! Z! Zip! Zap! Zipangu! (Instrumental)