You Raise Me Up

The opening of an anime can set the entire tone for a series.  A great one will hook an audience (see Neon Genesis Evangelion); a weak one, and producers might lose viewers before the series has even started.

Beyond that, an opening needs to be appropriate for the series.  One the prettiest and most appropriate opening OP’s in recent memory is the one for Romeo x Juliet, the gorgeously animated retelling of the classic tale.  I lost interest in the story around episode 7 (though not enough to say I’ve abandoned it entirely; it remains on my “on hold” list), but the opening still captivates me each time I see and hear it.  The song is a revision of “You Raise Me Up,” and is sung by Korean-American artist, Lena Park (a favorite of mine during my college days).

Romeo x Juliet
Pictures courtesy of Danbooru

What’s interesting about the lyrics is that they’ve been altered quite a bit to focus more on a relationship between two lovers, rather than a love song to God as it was originally written.  “You Raise Me Up” is one of my favorite songs, so I thought I’d delve into the history of the much-covered song a bit.


The melody and verses have an almost hymnlike quality to them, reminding me of some of the prettier ones like “In the Garden.”  It feels like an old friend to me; thus, I assumed the song was decades old.  I was very wrong. Rolf Løvland, of the band Secret Garden, composed the music for the song, asking novelist and songwriter Brendam Graham to write the lyrics.  The tune is based on “Londonderry Air“; we might recognize that tune as the one which typically accompanies “Danny Boy” (my favorite version of this tune was sung by Sinead O’Conner).

The song was first released on an album in 2002, but became internationally known through Josh Groban’s and Westlife’s versions.  The lyrics discuss the power of Jesus in the life of the singer:

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up… To more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up… To more than I can be

There is no life – no life without its hunger
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly
But when you come and I am filled with wonder
Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up… To more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up… To more than I can be

You raise me up… To more than I can be

The meanings are obvious.  When one is experiencing difficult times, they should “Be still and know that (He) is God.”  God is able to help one overcome trying times.

Lena Park’s version for Romeo x Juliet, entitled “Inori (Prayer) ~You Raise Me Up,” is no less beautiful (lyrics from Words of Songs):

In the depths of my teared-up eyes
There’s your unchanging figure
“Where will the world continue to?”
Are the words from the days have ceased

On the freezing, stormy nights
I continue to go toward the still unseen you, too
Tell me, oh the wind that spreads across the ocean
Prayers surpass time

Across the hazy horizon
There’s the episode of stars that can sleep
“There’s no unending night,”
The sin from that day laughs

I embrace the trembling you
And gaze up at the unreachable void
I hear the bell that illuminates the darkness
The road that goes to you is far

On the freezing, stormy nights
I continue to go toward the still unseen you, too
Tell me, oh the wind that spreads across the ocean
Prayers surpass time

On the freezing, stormy nights
I continue to go toward the still unseen you, too
Tell me, oh the wind that spreads across the ocean
Prayers surpass time

Prayers surpass time

The singer (I imagine a “she”) of this song is singing about her love, who is far from her (I continue to go toward the still unseen you, too), or so it seems.  She offers up prayers, which “surpass time,” or bridge the gap between when she and her lover will meet again.

However, we realize there’s more to it as the verses progress.  What does “no unending night” refer to, and how can she “embrace the trembling” lover when he far away (“the road that goes to you is far”)?  Perhaps the answer is found later on, as she sings, “I continue to go toward the still unseen you.”  The lyrics indicate that the woman is separated from her lover by death – how appropriate for Romeo and Juliet – and that she will approach it as well.  Neither time nor distance can stop her prayer to see her lover.  Not having seen the climax of the anime (but knowing the end of the play), I imagine Juliet singing this before she dies (in the play, Romeo is the first to commit suicide, via poisoning).  In this instant, Juliet embraces her love, knowing that he has begun a journey toward Heaven.  She is about to begin her journey, and one day the two will meet once they reach their final destination together.

Romantic, huh?  Well, it’s a Japanese conception of the afterlife, perhaps, and not a Christian one, despite the original play being written in an Anglican culture.  And thus, the Japanese again take an idea, this beautiful song, and synchronize it with their ideas of religion and culture to create something entirely different.  The final result is a song full of beauty and power, which can be appreciated in two amazing, yet very different versions.

Check out some of my favorite versions belows, as well at the Romanji lyrics.  Any favorites among them?  Or do you have a different favorite to share?


Poor Jessica’s getting flack for what I think is a nice conclusion to this version


Josh Groban + African childrens’ choir = A-MA-ZING


My favorite version of all…

Romanji lyrics
Urunda hitomi no oku ni
Kawaranu kimi no sugata
“Doko made sekai wa tsuzuku no”
Todaeta hibi no kotoba

Kogoeru arashi no yoru mo
Mada minu kimi e tsuzuku
Oshiete   umi wataru kaze
Inori wa toki o koeru

Kasunda chihei no mukou ni
Nemureru hoshi no souwa
“Akenai yoru wa nai yo” to
Ano hi no tsumi ga warau

Furueru kimi o dakiyose
Todokanu kokuu o aogu
Kikoeru   yami terasu kane
Kimi e to michi wa tooku

Kogoeru arashi no yoru mo
Mada minu kimi e tsuzuku
Oshiete   umi wataru kaze
Inori wa toki o koeru

Kogoeru arashi no yoru mo
Mada minu kimi e tsuzuku
Oshiete   umi wataru kaze
Inori wa toki o koeru

Inori wa toki o koeru

 

TWWK

Husband. Dad. Occasionally Korean. Enjoys Star Wars, ASOIAF, and Meg Ryan movies. Tweets before proofreading. Ghibli. Oregairuuuuu. Jesus is King.

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