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Canadian singer gives Japanese anime a voice
By Junko Hirabayashi
TORONTO (Reuters) - Anime is quintessentially Japanese, but these days, a Canadian singer is giving it a voice.
Catherine St-Onge of Quebec, according to Sony Music Japan International, is the only Western singer of songs that feature in the animated TV series widely watched in Japan and abroad.
St-Onge, who goes by her stage name HIMEKA, made her debut in the Japanese-dominated industry of animated song, or "anison," earlier this year with her first single "Asueno-kizuna" or "Bonds for Tomorrow" which became the theme tune of an anime series.
A year ago, she won the Animax Anison Grand Prix, an annual competition that gathers aspiring singers from all over Japan for a chance to earn a professional singing contract.
"I really love art, so seeing beautiful animated characters is an extra," St-Onge told Reuters in an email interview.
"As for anime songs, the fact that they are attached to the animation, you feel a deeper meaning to the songs themselves. Most of the time, parts of the lyrics really become meaningful related to the story and they become really nostalgic."
St-Onge, who publishes a bilingual blog (http://6109.jp/himeka/) said she became fascinated by Japan as a teenager after watching Sailor Moon, a popular animated TV series.
Although she did not understand the words, she was enthralled by the characters and the imagery, which inspired her to learn more about Japanese culture.
"After getting interested in Sailor Moon, I quickly became fascinated by the language and general culture of Japan. Even now I'm trying to understand why I fell in love with it -- I think it's just how everything was connected together," she said.
St-Onge started learning Japanese, mostly by herself, and last year flew to Tokyo where she found out about the singing contest on the Internet.
A year later, she says her Japanese still needs improving but that has not dented her ambitions.
"I also hope to have a chance to release a full album and hold a concert eventually," she said.
Sony Music Japan International, which signed up St-Onge after she won the singing contest, calls her the only "genuine" Western anison singer who debuted in Japan.
"I believe this is the first case a non-Japanese singer wannabe who has no Japanese background survived under the same conditions Japanese competitors did," said Sony Music's Yuichi Nakanishi.
An African-American 'enka' or Japanese ballad singer made his debut in Japan last year.
(Editing by Miral Fahmy)