On August 4th 2008 a 43 year old woman, who had recently been admitted into a Japanese hospital, quietly passed away, with little ceremony, and only her closest friends and family at her bedside.
On any other day this event, although tragic, would have been an all too common occurrence.
But it was who it was, and just what an effect her death had on anime fandom [and also to me] that gave this event a much greater gravitas.
Her name was Kawai Eri, and this was her all too brief life.
Born in 1965 in Tokyo Kawai Eri graduated from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 1983 and wrote and performed both classical and contemporary music. In 1991 she successfully gained a singing contract with Kitty Records. Her first album, for the Fuji TV series “the adventure of Wordsworth”, was released in 1996, and was soon followed by other album collections.
However it was for her anime soundtracks that she will be both respected and remembered for. I can remember the first time I was introduced to her – it was whilst watching Aria: the animation, and I watching an episode that highlighted a character called Athena Glory as she performed a solo song called “barcarolle”
What blew me away about this rendition was the sheer passion that Kawai put into her performance – and indeed may of her testify to this.
Less known is that she also wrote the lyrics for Aria’s OP song, Undine, and she would later go on to both perform and write lyrics for songs for other anime series, such a Sketchbook ~full color’S~ [which she worked on with the band choro club, a band who she had also worked with on Aria], Bamboo blade, Utawarerumono, Ruronin Kenshin, Fate/stay night, the movie adaptation of AIR and [amazingly] Crayon shin chan.
However in July of 2008 kawai was forced to cancel a concert and some recording sessions due to ill health and less that a month later she had died, the cause of death confirmed as liver cancer.
In 2008 and 2009 a series of tribute CD albums were released. One, called “Sunflower” covered many of the anime series soundtracks she worked on. The other 2, “Memorial to the way the wind” and “oriental green” covered her other works, and included some of her previously unpublished work and tracks that she could not finish prior to her death.
Even though its been 3 years after her death I cannot help but feel that the anime community, and indeed the music world in general, has lost a rare talent – but I, and many fans of her work, will ensure that she wont be forgotten.