It's almost time for the National High School Baseball Championship at Koshien Stadium. Starting from today, I've been seeing the NHK reports on the various high school teams punching their tickets to get into the much-vaunted competition. All that sweat, all that grime, all those tears from the winners and losers...the Japanese simply adore this event....probably more than the Japan Series (the nation's equivalent of the World Series) in the professional leagues.
When it comes to baseball songs in Japan, I can only think of two. One is "Rokko Oroshi"（六甲颪）, the theme song for the Hanshin Tigers that I've already written about, and the other comes from the famed manga-turned-anime, "Kyojin no Hoshi"（巨人の星...Star of the Giants）. The original manga about the Yomiuri Tokyo Giants by Ikki Kajihara （梶原一騎）had its run from 1966 to 1971, but in 1968, the studio Tokyo Movie Co. produced the anime version for a 3.5-year run. Not too surprisingly, overall control was from The Yomiuri Group which not only owns the Giants but also the TV stations NTV in Tokyo and YTV in Osaka which broadcast the series. Talk about keeping things in the family!
Sports anime has never really interested me but even I knew the opening credits to "Kyojin no Hoshi". The hero, Hyuma Hoshi（星飛雄馬）, running the bases, Hyuma getting the brutal training from his retired pro father, the ever-worried sister peering behind the trees and the final cathartic hug between Hyuma and his catcher. Then there was the theme song, "Yuke Yuke Hyuma" (Go Go Hyuma).
With a trumpet fanfare that reminded me of a mariachi band, "Yuke Yuke Hyuma" is a grim but determined battle hymn compared to the jaunty anthem that is "Rokko Oroshi". Written by the Tokyo Movie Planning Department and composed by Takeo Watanabe（渡辺岳夫）, prolific composer for anime, dramas and historical dramas, (he also came up with the theme songs for "Cutie Honey" and "Mobile Suit Gundam"), the theme was known as soon as the anime launched in March 1968. By June 1969, 420,000 records were sold. As for the singers, Ensemble Bokka（アンサンブル・ボッカ）, I couldn't find any information about this group, even via J-Wiki or Yahoo.jp. Still, I think with this song, they were pretty much immortalized.