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.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tadashi Yamanouchi -- Guardman no Uta (ガードマンの歌)

Earlier today, I heard about the passing of one of the most familiar faces on Japanese TV, veteran actor Ken Utsui (宇津井健)at the age of 82. He was in a ton of dramas and historical epics during his 60 years in show business, including the long-running TBS Thursday-night drama series, "Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari"(渡る世間は鬼ばかり...The World You Travel is Filled with Demons)as the patriarch. To be honest, I hadn't watched dramas all that much over the last number of years of my time in Japan, but my impression of Utsui was that he usually got the wise and paternal leader roles.

One day as I was just channel-surfing from my apartment one afternoon, I just managed to drop by the oldies channel when I came across the opening credits of the 60s detective series, "The Guardman". I read about the series in a book that I'd bought which dealt with the history of Japanese television but never saw an episode until that day. But when I saw those opening credits, the only actor I recognized right off the bat was Utsui as Squad Leader Takakura. He was only 34 years of age at the time but he was already fulfilling his role as the calm and collected top guy.

From what I've read about "The Guardman", the series was about a fictional squad of intrepid detectives based in Tokyo....kinda like the Japanese equivalent of "Hawaii Five-O" although that series was a few years away from launch. The interesting thing about the show was the fashion. Compared to the more famous cop shows of the 70s such as "Taiyo ni Hoero"(太陽にほえろ)in which there was a sharp line delineated between the sharp suits of the older cops versus the jeans and leather jackets of the younger tecs, "The Guardman" had its cast all decked out in the sober dark suits. Watching the squad walking down the street in the credits had me thinking these guys were more like regular salarymen heading out to the nearest restaurant for soba.

The series started out in April 1965 and lasted for nearly 7 years (at one point, it was garnering 40% in the ratings), coming to an end in December 1971. And during that time, the squad's district of influence apparently had expanded a million-fold since later opening credits had each member walking seriously in a different world city! By the way, none of the guys did that Mad Dash for Justice that all of those "Taiyo ni Hoero" cops would later do in that show's opening. It was more of either a leisurely walk or a trot across the street. Tokyo was apparently not quite that lawless in the 60s.

Anyways, as for the theme song, it isn't quite as memorable as the theme for "Taiyo ni Hoero" or the techno-frenzied theme song for the 90s "Odoru Dai Sosasen"(踊る大捜査線), but it does have its memorable points such as the "raindrop" sound effect and that leisurely Ventures-like guitar. It was composed by Tadashi Yamanouchi(山内正), but apparently there is a sung version whose lyrics were provided by Keisuke Fujikawa (藤川桂介)and whose vocalist was one of the actors on the series.

And just to show that things weren't always so serious in the squad room, the cast got together in 1990 for a Suntory commercial.

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