Kalafina at Anime Expo 2011

Serendipity.

Sometimes things just work out. Take Kalafina at AX this year. Normally, they'd be just another act. Solid, sure. A Kajiura project, which is always nice. Not, though something so well-known as to draw huge crowds. But this year, they did the ending song for the year's breakaway hit, Puella Magi Madoka Magica. So it was really the perfect year for them.

Kalafina first came together to work on music for Kara no Kyokai, as a spinoff from Kajiura's. . . entity, FictionJunction. So they say, anyway. To me it feels like it sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus, uniquely and perfectly suited for Kajiura's style. I didn't realize it until I'd seen them live -- the background vocals are really prominent, and contribute a great deal to Kajiura's style of operatic pop. The choral effect that they have works, and it works even better live. The effect of three of them standing on stage alternately chanting is just inacapacitating.

I saw them from the balcony of Club Nokia, the press and industry area. It was a very different experience from seeing it at the show level. Everyone was very quiet and still, with rapt attention. It felt like watching an opera. It was cold because of the air conditioning, and being in that cold darkness with nothing but Kalafina's voices all around felt just right. Haunting.

There were two songs that really stood out for me. "Fairytale" felt like a short play. It was in the way they stood and moved, the way the lights moved and changed. I felt like I'd heard the song, but never understood it until I saw them sing. The falling leaves in the air, the bare tree in the background.

And even now I don't know how they did "Magia". I was there, and I saw it. The air felt like it warped around them, and their voices cut through. It was one of the rare occasions when I forgot everything else and just listened to the music, transfixed.

And that, too, was fascinating.

—jeff