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.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hiromi Iwasaki -- Mangekyo (万華鏡)

It's always quite a thrill for me listening to some of the old kayo kyoku that I've listened to for years and years, and still gleaning something new. Case in point: Hiromi Iwasaki's(岩崎宏美) "Mangekyo" (Kaleidoscope). This was her 18th single from September 1979, and it was a song that I first heard on a BEST tape of hers that I got 30 years ago. At the time I listened to it, aside from the dramatic vibe, it didn't make a huge impression upon me. It wasn't an amazing song but neither was it a bad song (as difficult it is to imagine that Hiromi-chan could ever sing a bad tune).

Then, listening to it again after some years, and of course with all of the blogging here and the knowledge that I've picked up about songwriters and song styles, I've gained a lot more appreciation for it. "Mangekyo" was released at what I thought was a time of reckoning or transition for Iwasaki, at least when it came to her singles. From what I've picked up on through the Net and her early singing career, the late 70s seemed to be a period between her time as the short-haired energetic aidoru with the chart-topping tunes and her time as the long-haired chanteuse singing the chart-topping ballads. It was a time when her singles weren't getting all that high up on Oricon, but she was trying out to mix in music such as disco and City Pop which was quite interesting.

"Mangekyo" has that feeling. Although the song as written on J-Wiki was merely listed as an aidoru kayo kyoku, there was that percolating bass and that certain beat which just said that the song could only relate a story taking place in the big city. Plus, I have to give my new appreciation for the piano player who pulled off that opening riff up the keys. The song was composed by Koji Makaino(馬飼野康二)and the lyrics were by Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子).

Speaking of the lyrics, Miura brought together a story that seemed to belong in a haunting romance. Iwasaki sings from the point of view of the woman who is intent on haunting a former beau or even a failed suitor as he sees the mystery woman in a shop window and a rear mirror among other reflective surfaces. However at the end, the last line says that she is so alone, perhaps seen by the man as a dream or as a lie. Both characters are not in a good place. There's something somewhat ghostly or gothic, and Iwasaki's softly, softly delivery enhances that impression which makes for an interesting contrast with the urban contemporary arrangement.

Connected to that spookiness, I read on the J-Wiki article on "Mangekyo" that according to a Japanese-language Excite article, the song has been listed as one of a number of kayo to have "ghost voices". Now, knowing how some of my old students got majorly freaked out over ghost images in photographs although to me, they were obviously double exposures, I could only imagine how the powers-that-be behind the production of the song would have been freaking out if such rumours about "Mangekyo" came out when it came to the business side of things. And supposedly, there was talk that there had been a strange low voice of a man on the recording, but apparently it turned out to be a male backup singer whose contribution was toned down on the master tape. I believe I heard it on the very top video and basically it just sounded like Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之). Nothing scary about that.

To finish off, "Mangekyo" managed to peak at No. 10 and then become the 64th-ranked song for 1979.


  1. I'm wondering if my earlier post got through.

    1. No, I'm afraid it didn't. I was expecting a comment from you, though. :)

  2. The first clip is from a program called "The Star", which (so I gather) centres on a single performer who hosts and performs various songs. Hiromi presented a series of them in February 1983, and unfortunately she seems to have been suffering from a cold at the time, judging by her lip synching some of the songs and her husky voice in the others. She's still sexy as hell in them of course, and there's still the trademark belt in places, such as Sayonara no Banka (another of her late 70s songs). I've actually acquired a taste for her songs, and especially her performances from that period. There's an energy in her performances of songs like Slow na Ai Gaiwa and Joyuu, that captures the camera from the go, and doesn't relent until she's done.

    She seems to regard Mangekyo as one of her representative songs, along with Romance, Shishuuki and Lullaby (and possibly Namida), judging from how often she performs it in her concerts. There are some clips of a dual concert with Junko Yagami from around 1995, where she performs that selection, and what looks like a repeat around 2013 with the same songs. I find the gospel-ish coda unusual for a Japanese song, and something I'd expect from a specifically American-influenced or American-produced record like Momoe Yamaguchi's LA Blue. However, Mangekyo was recorded some years before I Won't Break Your Heart.

    1. Hi there, and thanks for your comments again.

      "The Star" seems to be the ancestor for a current NHK program called "SONGS". As for her cold, I remember that she was suffering from such an ailment when she was recording part of her album, "Hatachi Mae"...I think the remastered version has both the first version of one song when she had that cold and then the polished be honest, I couldn't really tell any particular difference; she sounded fine in both versions.

      That amazing talent of hers really made things interesting for listeners as she transitioned from aidoru to City Pop to balladry from the late 70s into the early 80s. There's even one technopoppy song she did called "Koi wa Senso" that was also quite interesting although she sounded as if she had to catch up to the melody at points.

  3. Talking of SONGS, is this what you mean?

    It's a retrospective of her career, with what she obviously sees as her representative songs. It also has a section on her stage musical career, including her rarely mentioned stint on Fiddler on the Roof. In a rather charming photo of a rehearsal of Les Miserables, is that Yuki Saito in the middle in a similar outfit to Hiromi? I think Kaho Shimada is on the left.

    1. Yep, that is indeed the SONGS show. I see that Ms. Iwasaki still has that mighty fine voice. Couldn't really recognize Yuki Saito in that picture, though.

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    3. Hi, Kenji.

      Lovely song, isn't it? The wonderful voices of Iwasaki and Yagami together at last. I'm not sure if the two had ever done duets together, but it's never too late for them to start.

    4. Hi
      Recently (in 2014) Hiromi made a duet with Yagami
      Hiromi made duet mostly with her sister Yoshimi. I like very much her duets with Akira Fuse.
      I am waiting with impatience your next article about Hiromi. You should talk about her recent songs.

    5. Hi again.

      Thanks for the tips. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Hiromi's songs is only up to 1987. I haven't really listened to her recent output. Would you have any recommendations?

    6. Recently she did a lot of cover albums. I recommend you her first "Dear Friends" (it sales quite well) and if you like Yuu Aku her last one.
      She did also a few self-cover albums. I recommend you her album "Praha" and her album "My Songs"
      In her original albums I recommend you "Natural" and "Love"
      I have all her recent albums and I can share them with you.
      If you want to know how Hiromi looks like in these days you just have to check my channel.

    7. I've heard about "Dear Friends" before. I'll have to check that one out, and I think through the blog, I did hear about her concert in Prague. It's quite wonderful to hear that she's been able to hold performances in a number of other nations.

      Thanks very kindly for the offer of these recent albums. I'll consider it! As for how Hiromi looks like, she appears fairly often NHK's "Kayo Concert" so I've seen her a couple of times this year...still has that wonderful smile! :)

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  4. I think they're talking about Mangekyo's background wailings in this video.


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