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, April 25, 2014

Issei Fuubi Sepia -- Zenryaku, Michi no Ue Yori (前略、道の上より)

One of the images that got me interested in Japanese pop culture over 30 years ago comes through the above video which had the Takenozoku (竹の子族)in Harajuku dancing the Sundays away for about a decade.

One of the more intriguing music acts from the 80s that I witnessed was the unit Issei Fuubi Sepia (一世風靡セピア). When I first saw the kanji for the name, I couldn't make heads nor tails of it, and now that I can finally read it, I've been trying to translate it into something appropriate. 「一世風靡」is translated as "ruling the times" or "holding sway over the people" according to, but those don't exactly make for an easy adjective, so I'll just go with the handy "incredible" and call the group, The Incredible Sepia.

Anyways, Issei Fuubi Sepia was a performance unit that originated from the mother (father?) group called Gekidan Issei Fuubi(劇男一世風靡...The Troupe Incredible), a male street performance group that was formed in 1983 and danced away on the street in front of NHK headquarters in Shibuya every Sunday. One day, one of the senior members of the group proclaimed, "Hands up for whoever wants to cut a song!" 7 hands went up and that was the beginning of The Incredible Sepia. As for the sepia tag, according to one of the dancing and singing members, the question was what would happen when all these guys of "varying colours" got together. Apparently, sepia was the answer.

Issei Fuubi Sepia's debut single in June 1984 was "Zenryaku, Michi no Ue Yori" (Cutting to the Chase, From the Street). I've always seen and heard this song on TV rather than just hear it since I think the visual performance has to be there. Looking at these guys, I think they appeared as a mix between those summer festival guys in yukata pounding on the taiko and either the Jets or the Sharks from "West Side Story". They certainly had enthusiasm although they, not surprisingly, had more control over their dancing than their singing at the time.

"Zenryaku" was written by the Sepia boys themselves and composed by GOTO. I couldn't find out how they did on the Oricon weeklies but their first song became the 34th single of the year, selling almost 300,000 copies.

Now, as for the member who explained about the origin of sepia in the unit's name, it was Toshiro Yanagiba (柳葉敏郎)who has become a well-known TV and movie actor since the trendy drama days of the late 80s. Another member, Sho Aikawa(哀川翔), also made the leap to thespian in a number of hard-boiled flicks, but my first impression of Yanagiba was as the happy-go-lucky sidekick with the toothy grin in those rom-com-style trendy dramas. But then, in 1997 he took on the role that he is arguably best known for now, the by-the-book uptight Inspector Shinji Muroi, on the police comedy-drama "Odoru Dai Sosasen"(踊る大捜査線...Bayside Shakedown) and for a while, he seemed to take on the same sort of stick-in-the-mud roles. Quite the change from his leaping and "So-Ya"-shouting days (by the way, I think that's him landing on his butt in the video at the very top when the guys were performing on "Yoru no Hit Studio").

Yep, it's Toshiro Yanagiba.

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