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.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

V6/AGHARTA -- Wa ni Natte Odorou (WAになっておどろう)

In my household, there are a couple of NHK programs that have seen regular viewing. One is the current year's taiga dorama, "Gunji Kanbe"(軍師官兵衛...Strategist Kanbe), and the other is the daily morning wide show, "Asaichi"(あさイチ...Morning Market). For those who know both programs very well, they would know the common denominator is that the main actor for one (Junichi Okada...岡田准一) and the co-host for the other (Yoshihiko Inohara...井ノ原快彦) are both members of the Johnny's Entertainment group, V6.

One time on "Asaichi", Inohara...or Inocchi as he's usually called...mentioned half-jokingly that there are folks who are not aware of his connection with the Johnny's boys for which he gave a brief verification that he regularly sang and danced into girls' hearts just like his brethren in SMAP and Arashi. Not being anywhere near a die-hard Johnny's Entertainment fan, I had only been vaguely aware myself that V6 arose during the 90s and had to be reminded that the group of six fellows was a merger between two trios, 20th Century and Coming Century. In fact, I didn't know until writing this article that the 'V' in V6 stood for "versus" as in 20th Century versus Coming Century, although Johnny Kitagawa himself remarked that the 'V' could stand for anything from "vegetable" to "veteran". For me, I thought V6 had something to do with a car motor or a more inexpensive brand of vegetable juice (North American joke perhaps).

I don't think V6 quite achieved the status as a Johnny's group that SMAP or Arashi did but there was song that I did remember from their playlist. Quite often, the Oricon list got displayed on various TV programs, and during the late 90s I recalled seeing the guys perform "Wa ni Natte Odorou" (Let's Make a Circle and Dance), a song that struck me as being one of those inspiring numbers that exhorted everyone to jump out of their seats and link hands. It was V6's 7th single from July 1997, and their 3rd big hit, going Double Platinum while peaking at No. 2 and ending up as the 61st-ranking song of the year.

V6 did well with "Wa ni Natte Odorou" but I hadn't known that the song was originally released a couple of months earlier in 1997 by the band AGHARTA. Now, for the longest time, I was under the mistaken impression that the song had been written and composed by Koji Tamaki of Anzen Chitai fame (it turned out that he did composed an earlier V6 hit, "Ai Nanda"), but it was actually written and composed by a fellow by the name of Taro Oshambe(長万部太郎)from that band. The name AGHARTA, by the way, was derived from the mythological city that is supposed to exist at the Earth's core, and as for Taro Oshambe, well he's been more well-known under his real name of Toshiki Kadomatsu (角松敏生...yep, the same guy behind all those early Anri hits in the 80s).

The full title of the song is "Wa ni Natte Odorou -- Ile Aiye", the latter part of that title coming from the Yoruba language of the Niger-Congo family of languages in Africa. It literally means "house of the soul". I listened to the AGHARTA original from the video above and now regret not having paid more attention to the song back then. This original version is truly inspiring. Although it only got as high as No. 46 on Oricon, its use as one of the songs for the NHK children's musical vignette series "Minna no Uta"(みんなのうた...Songs for Everybody)from April to May 1997 sparked off overwhelming requests to the network. And as a result, it was brought back for broadcast for August and September, and then further into the fall.

This then gave way to the song's adoption by the official mascots of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, The Snowlets, as their theme song. Within a few months it was even used during the Opening Ceremonies.

I was indeed in Japan when those Games were taking place. Unfortunately, I was nursing a badly twisted ankle at home (not from skiing...just falling down the stairs at the former Import-Export Bank of Japan), but fortunately because of my enforced convalescence, I was able to see the Japanese ski team get their gold medal live on TV. Seeing ski team athlete Masahiko Harada totally lose it in front of the cameras was media gold on NHK! And with that, we have come full circle.

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