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.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Nagisa Katahira -- Futari no Symphony(二人のシンフォニー)

Back in my childhood, my family and I saw our share of game shows on Canadian and American TV. One of our mainstays was "The Newlywed Game" hosted by Bob Eubanks in which the new husbands and wives guess each other's answers through often embarrassing questions such as "When you are making whoopee, which animal would you be?" A lot of the answers went over my head at the time but my parents got quite a kick out of them (they knew more English than they let on).

There was a similar show in Japan. Titled "Shinkon-san Irasshai!"(新婚さんいらっしゃい!...Welcome the Newlyweds!), this has been a show that's been on since 1971 which, like its US counterpart, has newlywed couples on as guests, but instead of the game show format, the first half of the show involves the hosts interviewing two couples and letting the banter naturally provide the humour. It doesn't seem to be that difficult, especially since one host, who's been the host right from 1971, happens to be veteran TV presenter and rakugo comedian Katsura Bunshi VI (桂文枝), formerly known as Katsura Sanshi. After both couples are interviewed, then comes a game show segment in which the couples vie for prizes including the famous Yes-No pillows!

"Shinkon-san Irasshai!" was often a must-rent at Nippon Video after we got our Panasonic top-loader VCR in the early 80s. I was getting into university at the time, but once again some of the rapid-fire stuff was over my head, although I did enjoy it whenever Katsura sensei literally fell out of his seat at some particularly hilarious quip by hubby or wife or when his partnering host would start giggling uncontrollably.

Ah, about his co-host...since the beginning of "Shinkon-san Irasshai!", Katsura has had 7 co-hosts with the current lady being aidoru-turned-tarento Mami Yamase(山瀬まみ)who's also been the longest-serving co-host since she started in 1997 (she is featured in the video of the show above). However, the co-host I knew back on those VHS tapes was the comely Nagisa Katahira(片平なぎさ)(1981-1992...the second-longest reign). Now I had no idea who she was when I did see those episodes way back when...I just knew her as Miss Gigglesworth. She would just start speaking in the wonderful language of laughter whenever either Katsura or the newlyweds said something even semi-funny. It's a pity that I couldn't find any really old footage of the show featuring her.

I'm not sure how the current episodes of "Shinkon-san Irasshai!" begin now, although I get the impression that TV Asahi just has the two hosts go straight into the introduction of the first couple. But back then, Katahira would start the show by singing an excerpt of a mellow ballad that I really enjoyed before Katsura appeared on stage. I had never found out what that song was or even if it had merely been just a quickly written-up little ditty just for that intro of the show.

Well, I found out a few hours that the song in its entirety exists on YouTube. It was an official single of Katahira, her 16th from 1982, titled "Futari no Symphony" (Symphony for Two), and it was created by Etsuko and Takao Kisugi(来生えつこ・来生たかお). As soon as I saw those names, I rather knew that I was in for a lush ballad. And even though I had heard Katahira's rendition of it on the show often enough, I was pretty impressed by the original recording....she just sounded like one of my favourite singers, Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子). Nice soaring piano and strings with those breathy vocals.

In the years since I first saw Katahira on "Shinkon-san Irasshai!", I learned that she started out as an aidoru in 1975 and has branched into acting. I now usually associate her with suspense dramas, but one of her notable shows on her resume was "Stewardess Monogatari"(スチュワーデス物語...Stewardess Story)from 1983 in which her character of Mariko lost both hands in a skiing accident...and apparently inherited Dr. No's hands.

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