|Image courtesy of http://mak.citylife-new.com/e36511.html|
As in "Beaches", the story of "Sugao No Mama De" revolves around the deep friendship between two very different woman, the conservative and somewhat withdrawn 月島カンナ/Tsukishima Kana (portrayed by Nakamori Akina and similar to the Bette Midler role). The two could not be more opposite in personality yet they somehow are able to put aside their differences to become the very best of friends.
|Odd Couple - Yumiko (Yasuda Narumi) and Kana (Nakamori Akina)|
|Love Triangle - Kana (Nakamori Akina), Kazuya (Azusa Mikihisa) and Yumiko (Yasuda Narumi) along with "Chibi" the dog.|
|"Queen of J-Drama" Writer Kitagawa Eriko - Coutesy of her Official Blog - http://ameblo.jp/eriko-kitagawa/|
|Cute Yasuda Narumi - Image courtesy of http://girlschannel.net/topics/19130/|
Like iconic 70s singer 山口百恵/Yamaguchi Momoe, Akina's powerful and empowering vocals had a raw, strongly defiant and rebellious tone even when most of her songs talked of sad breakups and lost love. Yet in most personal interviews she seemed very much private and almost fragile. Akina's personal life would become tabloid fodder when she would be involved in a very public romantic breakup with longtime boyfriend and fellow former teen idol 近藤真彦/Kondo Masahiko in 1989. Tabloids would later report a suicide attempt by Akina after Kondo would cancel their pending engagement.
|Shojou 'A' (Akina) - Nakamori Akina- Image courtesy of http://www.hk-fortuneteller.com/akina.htm|
|Image courtesy of http://webspace.webring.com/people/cu/um_2456/sugao.html|
Narumi and Akina have a great onscreen chemistry and they seem to be genuinely affectionate towards each other. I love Narumi's performance in particular. She really gave an enchanting performance (I especially loved seeing Narumi's cute pouting face which was absolutely adorable).
The subtitle 「JUST THE WAY WE ARE」was indeed inspired by Billy Joel's signature 1977 class "Just The Way You Are" which was a favorite of writer Kitagawa and whose lyrics seemed to fit with the drama (in the drama, the title "Sugao No Mama De - Just They Way We Are" was used for Yumiko's final children's book which gave a fantasy account of her relationship with Kana).
Confusingly, the title 「君がいるだけで」 is also used as the Japanese movie title for the 1996 Andrew Bergman erotic comedy "Striptease" which famously starred Demi Moore as a FBI Secretary who moonlights as a stripper to pay the court fees to get back custody for her daughter from her estranged husband.
|Image courtesy of http://www.suruga-ya.jp/database/250012930001.html|
J-Canuck has already covered Kome Kome Club's 「君がいるだけで」/"Kimi Ga Irudake De" in his excellent post on the song, but I wanted to just add some additional commentary.
"Kimi Ga Irudake De" is perhaps one of the all-time best J-Dorama theme songs. It's cheery lyrics, catchy hook and K2C frontman 石井竜也/Ishii Tatsuya AKA カールスモーキー石井/Carl Smokey Ishii's amazingly dynamic and powerful vocals make this song an all-time classic.
Kome Kome Club were first formed in 1979-1981 by Art College classmates Ishii Tatsuya, Onoda Yasuhide, Okubo Kansaku and Tokuno Ritsuo. Ishii had aspirations of being a painter and was also studying art history. His great fashion and art sense gave him a keen eye for style and composition and he often was asked to help evaluate and critique other student's works. They were all part of the school's film society 「A-Ken」 and it was there that they first came up with the idea of forming a performance/parody band. Onoda was a huge fan of the American New Wave Band and Talking Heads side project "Tom Tom Club" (formed by husband and wife duo of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz) and wanted to come up with a name in homage to them. While initially they came up with the name "Come Come Club", they eventually refined it to the 「 」 which eventually was written out as 「 」.
The inital lineup comprised of Ishii and Onoda on vocals with Okubo on Bass and Ritsuo on Guitar. They played mostly parodies and covers of various other artist's songs. They recorded a demo tape to distribute to various record companies but did not get much interest from it. After graduating from college in 1982, the four friends went off their separate ways (Onoda went off to find work and Ishii did occasional street performances). It would be later that year that the four would reunite again to perform for various colleges and small venues as 「」. It was Ishii's idea to incorporate "Edo Yakugou" elements into their styling and music which would explain a lot of the double-meanings and comical word play that would eventually become their signature schtick.
They would recruit additional members for the group (including Ishii's younger sister Minako) and the line up would swell to over a dozen members. As part of their "performance band" roots, the various members would adopt colorful and flamboyant stage persona. Onoda in particular would don elaborate "Kabuki" inspired face makeup and costuming during his stage performances.
|Kome Kome Club - Then and Now - Images courtesy of http://www.excite.co.jp/music/close_up/0709_komekome/ & http://www.excite.co.jp/music/close_up/0709_komekome/|
The main core of the group comprised of:
佐々木史郎/ Sasaki Shiro AKA シローブラッキー/"Shiro Blackie" - Trumpet
天ヶ谷真利/Amagaya Mari AKA "Suzie Sue・MARI" - Percussion, Vocals
Former members would include guitarist 坂本琢司/Sakamoto Takuji AKA 博多めぐみ/"Hakata Megumi" (Sakamoto in drag); Percussionist 丸山龍男/Maruyama Tatsuo AKA マル/"Maru"; Dancer 松井聡美/Matsui Satomi AKA Sweet Sue・サトミ/"Satomi" and Trumpet player 下神竜哉/Shimotsuwa Tatsuya AKA ヒマラヤン下神/"Himalayan Shimotsuwa".
There have been a number of covers for this song including versions by SOTTE BOSSE (2007), プッチモニV/Puchi Moni V (2009), 島谷ひとみ/Shimatani Hitomi (2010), aiko (2013), Psycho le Cemu, among others but my favorite has to be by all-girl R&B/Hip Hop Dance Unit trio YA-KYIM which did a pretty nice cover of the song (2008) that samples Ishii's distinct refrain and is a nice compliment to the original.
"Sugao No Mama De" is yet another iconic 90s drama that has been denied a DVD or Blu-Ray release. Perhaps it has to do with licensing issues but it is a shame that this great drama can't be enjoyed by new generations of drama watchers. "Sugao No Mama De" has however been rebroadcast recently in 2012 on the satellite channel BSフジ.
I really enjoyed revisiting this series for this post and really appreciated Kitagawa's touching tale of friendship. It is a refreshing and nice change from the dark, brooding and cynical dramas of Nojima Shinji (and Akina and Narumi are so darn captivating).