I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Shonan no Kaze -- Grand Blue

It doesn't happen all that often during my anime buddy's sessions, but once in a while, one or two anime kinda end up not being all that great. So what happens is that my friend simply ditches it out of the schedule after giving me a heads-up. That was the case with "Last Period" which kinda petered out (although I still like the theme songs), and perhaps might be the case with "Uchuu Senkan Tiramisu"(宇宙戦艦ティラミス).

Then, as might be the case with any television broadcaster who has to deal with a cancelled series, my friend sometimes looks for a replacement. When I was talking with him earlier this week, he was rather gushing about this Summer 2018 anime called "Grand Blue"(ぐらんぶる).

Spring 2018 had "Amanchu! Advance"(あまんちゅ!~あどばんす~), the oh-so-mellow sequel to the original series of high school girls finding friendship and serenity through diving somewhere along the Izu Peninsula. Things became downright fantastical, especially in the latter half of the series this time around. Basically, that particular part of Japan was a magical place.

But then, just down the shoreline...

"Grand Blue" also has the setting of the Izu Peninsula, but this time it's a bunch of guys who nominally like diving like fish but really like drinking like fish. It's apparently as raunchy as much as "Amanchu!" is comforting. Teko from the latter show would probably faint at these guys' antics while Pikari could jump right in. And some slang has erupted from "Grand Blue" from what I've seen from the YouTube comments, such as water and oolong tea for something far more potent.

I will be seeing the comedy "Grand Blue" for the first time later this weekend, but I'm already enjoying the opening theme song by reggae band Shonan no Kaze(湘南乃風), "Grand Blue".

This would be the type of summery song that would have the college folks running down the coastline with every sense of abandon. It's all about sweating, swimming, sunning and squeezing every little bit of enjoyment out of the hot season before the leaves start turning.

Shonan no Kaze also took care of words and music for "Grand Blue". The band consists of Red Rice, Wakadanna, Shock Eye and Han-Kun, and they first got together in 2001 with former member Goki. They've released 19 singles and 7 original albums since going major in 2003. Their best known song, according to Wikipedia, is "Junrenka"(純恋歌...Pure Love Song)from 2006 which I will have to also check out soon.

In any case, like some of the newbies in "Grand Blue", back in my university days, I treated a whole mess of screwdrivers and creamsicles (the cocktail variety) during a barhopping Xmas party like water, and paid for my folly dearly. Treat alcohol with respect, kids!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Off Course -- Kaze ni Fukarete(風に吹かれて)

The lovely thing about listening to an Off Course(オフコース)number is that it can be as cooling and refreshing as the sound of a fuurin wind chime during the summer. Plus, I also like a tall glass of cold Calpis at that time as well but Calpis is also super-sweet, and I couldn't really say that the band's songs are that.

I found another one of their songs that can fulfill that cooling and refreshing feeling via their 16th single from June 1979, "Kaze ni Fukarete" (Blowin' In The Wind). Nope, nothing to do with the Bob Dylan classic. Instead, it's that wistful ballad of regret and moving on after losing that opportunity to create that potentially beautiful relationship with a woman.

Kazumasa Oda(小田和正)wrote and composed "Kaze ni Fukarete", and as usual, Off Course's arrangements just bring back those sigh-worthy sepia-toned days of romances won and lost. The single did fairly modestly, selling around 37,000 records and reaching a peak of No. 41 on Oricon.

When I considered the title for this song, I thought about the symbolism that a wind has in any sort of Japanese TV program including anime. A waft of air could occur after a particularly cornball joke is told with the requisite "No Sell" reaction. It could also symbolize rejection or loneliness, but it can also signify reassurance and a feeling of renewal going ahead into the future. I realized that over the time that I've been writing about Off Course songs, often Oda has written about sad events regarding relationships, so loneliness was definitely included in "Kaze ni Fukarete" but I also think that renewal and hope were also included at the end.

Miki Sakai -- Eien ni Suki to Ienai(永遠に好きと言えない)

My interest in Japanese dramas has basically waned down to zero, but back in the day, I used to remember some of the big names from that age such as KimuTaku(キムタク), Yuji Oda(織田裕二), Honami Suzuki(鈴木保奈美)and who could forget the Double Asano?

As has been the case in North American TV and movies, below the A-list stars in Japan, there has been the layer of other thespians whose faces I could recognize but, for the life of me, could never remember the names. They usually get the roles of second-best friend or the friendly shop owner in the neighbourhood. No offense to her fans but I think Miki Sakai(酒井美紀)would probably be included in this cadre. Although even when I was watching J-dramas, I couldn't say that I was ever binging on them, I did see Sakai's face plenty of times since she was also appearing in commercials.

What I hadn't known was that Sakai was also a singer early in her career. In fact, she debuted with "Eien ni Suki to Ienai" (I Can't Say I Love You Forever) back in April 1993, a couple of years before she made her first foray into acting.

Y' my estimation, Sakai wasn't half-bad as a singer. I think she had a pretty pure delivery, and "Eien ni Suki to Ienai" may not have been a hit, but it's a pretty pleasant tune with a couple of famous songwriters behind it, Masao Urino(売野雅勇)on lyrics and Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)on melody. The song is about the well-worn trope of kataomoi...that one-sided love for that kid in high school.

Sakai's singing part of her career was kept within the 1990s as she released 13 singles between 1993 and 1998. Plus, she released three original albums along with a BEST album.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Kyoko Goto -- Pegasus no Shojo(ペガサスの少女)

As I always say, there is always room for another Pegasus kayo. We've got the robust and fun-loving "Pegasus no Asa"(ペガサスの朝)by Hiroaki Igarashi(五十嵐浩晃), and then I found another different song with the same winged animal.

This would be "Pegasus no Shojo" (Pegasus Girl) which was the theme song for a 1980s anime feature titled "Arion"(アリオン)adapted from a manga which had its run between 1979 and 1984. Singing the breezy theme is Kyoko Goto(後藤恭子).

According to her J-Wiki bio, Goto had been selected from 6,118 entrants to sing the theme for "Arion" the movie, and she definitely got the big guns to write the song for her. Lyricist Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)and composer Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)put together "Pegasus no Shojo" which caught my ear since it had that nostalgic 1980s aidoru-ish arrangement. And yet, Goto was never an aidoru; in fact, this was her only song although in the 1990s, she, Miki Ikuma(生間美紀)and Kaori Yanagi(柳香織)formed a short-lived singing trio called K3 Girls. Afterwards, Goto changed her name to Kyoko Fujimoto(藤本恭子).

Goto went mostly into television acting and modeling once she got her foot in the door. Still, I think she did quite well with "Pegasus no Shojo", and the song had this cascading string sound which popped up twice which reminded me of some of Joe Hisaishi's(久石譲)work. Strangely enough, Hisaishi took care of the score for "Arion".

Humbert Humbert -- Tora(虎)

Late last year, I wrote about a longtime folk duo, Humbert Humbert(ハンバート ハンバート), and their gentle and refreshing ballad "Onaji Hanashi"(おなじ話)from 2005. I came across their name again while scrolling through the Labels section on the blog, so I decided to see what else I could find by the husband-and-wife team of Ryosei Sato(佐藤良成)and Yuuho Sano(佐野遊穂).

It looks like I didn't need to go too far back. In fact, I only needed to go as far back as a few weeks since Humbert Humbert released their 10th album, "Folk 2" on July 25th this year. And one track from the album that has gotten its own music video is "Tora" (Tiger), written and composed by Sato.

With that heavy piano anchoring things, "Tora" sounds like it has quite a story to tell. And going through Sato's lyrics, the story is about what seems to be a songwriter who is going through some major angst-ridden writer's block, although I think the words could certainly apply to any artist experiencing a slump.

That straggly-haired fellow between Sano and Sato in the video happens to be Naoki Matayoshi(又吉直樹), a comic and successful author. He's become a familiar presence on Japanese TV for a few years now just on his own although he's one-half of the comedic duo, Peace. I don't watch too many of his shows but know him as a somewhat deadpan deliverer of quotes. Considering the theme of "Tora", I think that he's a pretty well-placed character.

"Tora" sounds like a tune that would make for a popular song to be performed by high school glee clubs at annual competitions but perhaps the lyrical content might be a bit too depressing.

Gokudols Niji-Gumi -- Hoshi no Katachi(星のかたち)

About a month ago, I talked about the increasingly nutty "Back Street Girls ~ Gokudols"(ゴクドルズ), the story of three Yakuza members who get a unique punishment from their ambitious and deranged boss. The show of course has gone ahead a few more episodes, and now apparently, the aidoru group Gokudols Niji-Gumi(ゴクドルズ虹組...Gokudols Rainbow Gang)may have a fourth American member in the wings after making that same life-changing trip to Thailand (So long, George. Hello, Rina!).

The opening theme "Gokudol Music"(ゴクドルミュージック)has already become one of my anison earworms for 2018, and it's to the point that I will probably no longer hear that famous Yakuza trumpet fanfare without the launch into the super-cheerful theme song. However, the ending theme, also by Gokudols Niji-Gumi, has started to grow on me like a weed in recent weeks.

Titled "Hoshi no Katachi" (The Shape of Stars), it's less frenzied than the opener but it's still plenty effervescent with perhaps a little bit of a Latin twist. It's written by Taku Inoue and composed by CHI-MEY, and I'm hoping that the full version of this also comes out pretty soon. In fact, some of the other tunes by the group have been popping here and there through the episodes, so my anime buddy has said that he will definitely plunk down his yen, if a CD comes out with all of the songs together.

We're halfway through the season, so I'm looking forward to how much crazier "Back Street Girls" will get, and supposedly Episode 6 may throw out the Gokudols' biggest threat yet in the form of an embittered and vengeful enka singer. Much hilarity to continue, I'm sure.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Miki Imai -- Second Engage(セカンドエンゲージ)

Whenever I think of Miki Imai's(今井美樹)3rd album "Bewith" from 1988, I'm always going to envision that red-orange tent by the beach. It's been several months since I've written up an Imai tune (the previous one was also from "Bewith") and it was nice to come across this number from her early days.

As I've said before, I will always have a fondness especially for Imai's early days as a singer in the mid-late 1980s. There was something about the arrangements of her songs back then which had a refreshing lightness and mellowness. One such song that I've become re-acquainted with is "Second Engage" from "Bewith". It's a pretty happy tune by Hideya Nakazaki(中崎英也)although Masami Tozawa's(戸沢暢美)lyrics are a bit more bittersweet as a woman gives a final goodbye to an old flame before she takes off for new horizons.

I hear those champagne synths in the song, and this time, instead for a paint-the-town-red City Pop tune of the late 1980s, they're used to lighten "Second Engage". Of course, there are those wonderful Imai vocals as well lifting things up.

"Bewith" was Imai's first No. 1 album and it won Best Album at the Japan Record Awards for the 2nd time in a row after her 2nd album "elfin".