Kanon Wakeshima and Mana in Paris
On February 12, Kanon Wakeshima and her producer Mana celebrated the European release of her debut album on the French label Wasabi Records with an event in Paris.
At around 8:30pm a male and female presenter appeared on the small stage, and informed the audience that taking photos and making videos was strictly forbidden, jokingly threatening physical violence to anyone who dared to break this rule. They then announced the program for the evening, starting with Mana's Q&A session.
Greeted with loud cheering from the crowd, Mana entered through a door at the back of the auditorium, looking very elegant in a black velvet hat, black Ritual Print shirt, long black trousers (all courtesy of his fashion label Moi-même-Moitié) and high heeled platform boots. He climbed up the stairs to the stage, sat down next to an interpreter and began to answer questions. As usual, Mana didn't actually speak, but wrote his answers on a notepad, which he passed to the interpreter, who then relayed them back to the audience while Mana underlined them with expressive, often deliberately funny gestures. Despite his dark image he definitely has a sense of humour!
He explained that he was happy to be back in Paris because the city holds pleasant memories for him, that Sony invited him to become Kanon's producer and that in his eyes she is the perfect girl because she plays the cello very well and also draws beautifully. Speaking about Shinshoku Dolce, he said that each track on the album has its own personality, so you can listen to it over and over without getting bored, and that the mixture of vocals, cello and electronics is unique. Of course the fans were also curious about his own band, Moi dix Mois, but he replied that, although he would like to, they don't have any plans at the moment to return to Europe. Finally he asked the audience to be nice to Kanon because she is still very young and travelling abroad for the first time. Then he bowed and disappeared the way he had come.
Next a white cello was carried on to the stage and the two presenters appeared again, announcing Kanon's performance. She had already given autographs and held a brief Q&A session at a solo event the previous day at the FNAC record shop on the Champs-Élysées. During the session she explained that she had learned a lot from Mana and that working with him was very rewarding, and that her inspiration comes from fairy tales such as Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland, which appear naïve at first glance but also have a dark side. It is this ambivalence between darkness and naivety that interests her. She also explained that although she didn't know "Vampire Knight" prior to her songs being chosen for its ending theme, she has come to love it and wouldn't mind attending Cross Academy because the uniforms are so pretty. Thereafter, the evening at La Bellevilloise was reserved exclusively for her musical skills.
Kanon entered through the same door as Mana, dressed in the long red ball gown, headdress and glove she is wearing on the cover of Shinshoku Dolce, while the audience chanted "Kanon! Kanon! Kanon!" Her hoop skirt was so full it barely fit through the door, but she gracefully made her way to the stage and immediately began to perform Shinku No Fatarythm, followed by Suna no oshiro. Her voice was clear and strong and she delivered both songs with great confidence and charm, alternating between cello, microphone stand and a hand-held microphone while dancing along to the music and toying with her full, long skirt.
After the second song she paused to address the audience. "Pure" is a term that seems to be almost forgotten in our increasingly loud and vulgar world, but it describes Kanon Wakeshima better than any other. She exudes the genuine sweetness and innocence of a young girl who hasn't been in show business for long and hasn't yet been exposed to its less pleasant sides. After announcing the release of her debut album, she introduced herself in surprisingly clear and fluent French before blurting out excitedly that she has been playing cello since the age of three; that she loves drawing, Paris and croissants; that her favourite food is spaghetti; and that she loves cats and hers is black.
Then the live performance continued with her debut single, still doll. While she sang, Kanon moved like a mechanical doll and then picked up her cello with the same stiff, jerky movements to play her solo. Those who could pry their eyes away from her for a moment and turned around were rewarded with a glimpse of Mana, who peered through the door at the back of the auditorium, watching his protégée and the reactions she was receiving. When the crowd cheered loudly at the end of the song she thanked them with a big smile and a happy "merci!" Finally the set ended with the light-hearted tune skip turn step♪, which seemed to be everybody's favourite. Kanon asked the fans to clap along with the music and they obliged with enthusiasm, and when she opened a ruffled red umbrella and waved it along with the music some members of the audience followed her example and waved their own umbrellas while the rest of the audience continued to clap. After a final heartfelt "arigatou gozaimasu" Kanon left the stage and disappeared.
Now it was time for Mana's autograph and hand shaking event, which took place on a gallery on the left side of the room, while a projection of DIXANADU ~Fated "raison d'étre"~ Europe Tour 2007 was shown on the stage downstairs. One by one the fans, some of whom were carrying presents and flowers, were led upstairs to the table where Mana signed their DVDs. Next to him sat again the interpreter, who wrote down the fans' names so Mana was able to dedicate each autograph to the fan personally, and translated whatever they had to say to him. When everybody had received his or her autograph and hand shake, Mana climbed down the spiral staircase that led from the end of the gallery to the auditorium downstairs, where he was greeted with spontaneous applause and cheering from the audience. He bowed deeply and then, just before he disappeared through a small door next to the stage, he turned back and waved to the audience.
The evening ended with a sneak preview of the first two episodes of the upcoming French release of the "Vampire Knight" anime and finally a "Vampire Knight" quiz.
Kanon and Mana can be satisfied with what they have achieved so far. Kanon's classically inspired music and melancholy lyrics are a far cry from the straightforward heavy rock that dominates Western J-music fandom, but on this first trip abroad she enchanted everybody with her girlish charm and the strength of her performance. We hope that we will be able to welcome this exciting young artist in Europe again soon and wish both her and Mana the very best for their future endeavors!