A Boundary-Breaking Story Told Through the Lens of Hifuu Arrangements: A Review of ＜echo＞PROJECT’s Touhou Arrangement Album “Mary had a little love”
Touhou Arranged Music Reviews: “Mary had a little love”
A Boundary-Breaking Story Told Through the Lens of Hifuu Arrangements
With its songs’ immersive lyrics that offer glimpses of a dark story set in the world of the Hifuu Club, and music perfectly aligned to that worldview, ＜echo＞ PROJECT’s Hifuu Club arrangement album “Mary had a little love” has captivated many listeners since its release.
Furthermore, not content to listen idly, many fans of the album have written extensively about their own thoughts and theories concerning the underlying story contained in the album’s lyrics-and this fervor is not limited to Japan. There is even a collection of content created and curated by overseas fans dubbed “秘封羊学” or “Hifuu Sheep Study”, which consists of articles and videos outlining various theories, and many people from all around the world have praised “Mary had a little love” as a masterpiece.
So let us take a look at this fascinating album then, shall we?
Track 02: 鉄塔 (Transmission Tower)
“Transmission Tower” is marked not only by its rock instrumentals and powerful vocals, but the intense visuals painted by its chorus, which stay with you long after the song is over.
The streets are stained with twilight
Under rivers of flowing, shining headlights
The signal’s in no mood to change, as the street-cats prowl…
The first stanza of the song starts off with a somewhat melancholic, everyday depiction of evening twilight—but this only serves to contrast Merry’s inexplicable behavior in later stanzas.
Look at her fall from the transmission tower!
From mid-air, I watch—
—as reality plays out before my hollow eyes, the wind beating against my face!
This powerfully sung stanza from the chorus, which depicts Merry falling from a transmission tower, occurs without warning or explanation, as if we, the listeners, should have expected it.
For being only the second track on the album, “Transmission Tower” carries a lot of impact, but I believe the shock of its impact is vital to maximizing the listener’s experience of the atmosphere and allure of the album as a whole.
This track also plants the seeds of curiosity in the listener’s mind, preparing them to question and search for hidden meanings in the lyrics that follow for the rest of the album.
Track 04: Stray CS am:3:00
Compared to “Transmission Tower”, “Stray CS am:3:00” is bright and upbeat, and depicts a scene in vivid detail of Hifuu Club members Merry and Renko out on one of their midnight excursions.
seek you, seek you, I’m so seek you.
“Seek you” is sung over and over again, emphasizing the love and longing of their relationship, but the song is also strewn with other words and phrases, including radio call-sign terminology, that point the listener towards a deeper hidden meaning.
Track 05: drop+drop / Track 06: whip*syrup
These two tracks offer a glimpse into how the two members of the Hifuu Club view each other, with “drop+drop” sung from Renko’s perspective and “whip*syrup” sung from Merry’s perspective.
White cream floating upon an amber surface…
Everything you order is always so sweet
You’re going to give yourself heartburn, you know?
This white whipped cream floating upon my amber-colored drink
Paired with the magic of a little excitement, brings me so much happiness
From the lyrics of these two songs, a more complete picture of Renko and Merry and their opposite-bound relationship comes into focus, with Renko shown to have a somewhat more mature attitude grounded in realism, while Merry is more child-like and romantic.
This contrast between them mirrors the difference in their abilities, with Renko’s leaning scientific and Merry’s leaning fantastic, and is a crucial part of what makes the Hifuu Club the Hifuu Club. The way these two songs play into this contrast gives them an added weight, and makes them feel even more convincing.
I must also mention that while both songs are arranged from the same original track: “Satellite Café Terrace”, they are arranged in very different ways, giving a completely different feel to each song. This is another kind of contrast that enhances the enjoyment of listening to this album.
Track 09: chime
The final track I will cover in this review is “chime”, a vocal arrangement that excels at conveying both the intense emotions and an overwhelming sense of despair that permeates the space between Renko and Merry as they reach a point of no return.
I press the broken door chime again and again, screaming,
My bursting pleas trailing off emptily…
From these lyrics, bursting with emotion, you can feel viscerally that their relationship has fractured beyond repair.
How did they get to this point? The album does not offer any concrete details, but hints may be gleaned from the other tracks and the overall trajectory of the story.
Although I only touched upon a portion of the album’s tracks, those that I did not mention are also thick with story and laden with secret troves of dark and emotional lyrics. I hope that you take the time to listen to the entire album from start to end.
When enjoying works of art, regardless of genre, there is a saying that goes, “Don’t think, but feel.” However, for this album, I feel it is more fitting to say, “Feel, but also think.”
I feel that way because this album has exceeded the boundaries of mere music. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, one of the reasons this album is so loved and so studied by fans is because it reaches beyond its medium to draw listeners into the story it poses almost like a question, enticing them to find their own answers and paint in the rest of the story themselves.
I specifically recommend “Mary had a little love” to those who want to immerse themselves in the unique and alluring atmosphere of the Hifuu Club. It is an album that can be thoroughly enjoyed from two angles: as music, to listen to time and time again, and as a story, to dive into and investigate to your heart’s content.
『Mary had a little love』
For us as a Touhou doujin music circle, it is truly an honor to have music we produced over ten years ago still actively listened to and enjoyed by the community! This was our very first “concept album”, and I still remember nearly passing out immediately after we finished the final master, after pouring all our energies into the process. In particular, we put a lot of effort into recording sound effects, hitting pillows with all our might, so please enjoy the very real sounds of human bodies slamming into things.
In May of 2022, ＜echo＞PROJECT made “Mary had a little love”, along with the circle’s other past albums, available for download on BOOTH.
＜echo＞PROJECT as a whole remains on indefinite hiatus, but its individual members have continued to create.
Feel free to search the following keywords online to find them:
Aftergrow, Water Color Melody., MN-logic24, 極東アウトブレイク (Kyokutou Outbreak), 少年ヴィヴィッド (Shounen Vivid)
If there are any updates in the future, I will share that information via our official Twitter account, so if you are interested, feel free to give us a follow!