J-pop star reflects on the people she’s had to say goodbye to, and why that can hurt like nothing else.

J-pop megastar Utada Hikaru has never presented herself as a delicate or timid vocalist. Yet fans know that for as strong and clear as her voice can be, there’s a certain bittersweet, wistfully yearning quality to her voice, adding a layer of complexity to her greatest hits.

So when Utada was asked about the sorrow that comes when a personal relationship comes to its end, it’s no surprise that she had something deep to say. The question was originally posed to the singer in 2020, but her answer, which she gave as part of one of her English-language Instagram Live sessions, has been generating talk on Japanese Twitter again recently, with some seeing parallels to the themes of anime franchise Evangelion, for which Utada supplied the ending theme for its recent series-concluding theatrical feature.

The question Utada was asked was “Why is getting over someone so painful?”, which prompted her to share her thoughts on loss of all kinds, whether a romantic breakup or the death of a loved one:

“When a relationship ends, or you lose someone, sometimes…if it’s painful I think maybe the pain was already there to begin with, and maybe that relationship was serving like a painkiller. A distraction, something…to take your focus away from yourself for the pain you have inside already. And then sometimes when you lose that crutch you feel that difficulty or that pain again.

I think there is a bit of that because no matter how much you try to stay not too codependent or addicted to stuff like that, it can be a bit of like a substance if you have pain already. Or at least that’s what I’ve learned from my own experiences.”

In regard to that last part, despite her relatively young age, the 38-year-old Utada has had to go through several painful partings in her life. A two-time divorcée, her own parents also ended their marriage after she achieved stardom, and her mother’s death in 2013 believed to have been a suicide.

Utada’s calm and candid thoughts struck a chord with fans, with Japanese online reactions including:

“Lyricists are on a whole other level in expressing what’s in their hearts and minds.”
“It’s like the person you lost was filling in something you lack in yourself.”
“When you lose that person who was keeping the hurt away from yourself, it’s like all that hurt comes rushing in. It really is love that makes our existences full.”
“This could be a spoken-word intro for her song ‘First Love.’”
“It’s a really Evangelion-like way of thinking.”

The dual nature of how emotionally intimate connections can be both a source of empowering protection and gaping sorrow definitely is a recurring theme in Evangelion, and Utada’s philosophy really does seem to mesh with the atmosphere of Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time’s ending theme, “One Last Kiss.” And while there’s definitely a melancholy aspect to her musings, there’s also a strong reminder to appreciate the people you’re connected to, and all they do for you, even before you have to say goodbye.

Sources: Twitter/@NemomoVR via Hachima Kiko, YouTube/YUDAI
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso
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