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, November 28, 2016

The Square/Sound! Euphonium -- Takarajima (宝島)

Happy Monday to all! Last year, when the anime "Hibike Euphonium"(響け!ユーフォニアム...Sound Euphonium)had its debut season, things were running well enough when Episode 5 was broadcast, but then delights and ears were further raised with the Kitauji High School Band doing their own version of Yellow Magic Orchestra's classic "Rydeen". After the ultimately successful first run of the show, all of us including myself and my anime buddy were wondering if something similar were going to happen in the second season which is starting to approach its endgame.

Sure enough, there were the band versions of "Gakuen Tengoku"(学園天国)and an old Eiichi Ohtaki(大瀧詠一)tune but they were excerpts and there was the feeling that these weren't the big songs. Well, it took 7 episodes this time and it came in the middle of some rather turbulent (and frankly overwrought) drama (did I mention that I'm no longer a huge fan of J-dramas?), but this season's "Rydeen" finally entered the picture. The Kitauji High School Band did their own take on another 80s song "Takarajima" (Treasure Island) at Kyoto Station, and once again the animators stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. I loved everything about the scene since it emulated the buildup for the "Rydeen" performance...a quiet happy scene before it, closeups of the individual sections of the band clearly enjoying themselves this time, and even the leader of the band club, the much put-upon Haruka Ogasawara (played by the popular Saori Hayami/早見沙織), not only getting some redemption in the series but also her 15 seconds of fame with a solo on the baritone sax. And it was thrilling hearing those French horns as well.

However, unlike my beloved "Rydeen", "Takarajima" and the original band, The Square, were completely unknown to me. The Square (now known as T-Square) is a jazz fusion band that started its long run in 1976 at about the same time as another famous genre band, Casiopea. Apparently, according to J-Wiki, its name was inspired by a piece of apparel...the Madison Square Bag from New York City.

"Takarajima" which has become one of The Square's signature songs, was a track on the band's 11th album, "S・P・O・R・T・S" from March 1986. The description for this track is the longest among the tracks on the album as written up in the J-Wiki article on the album, but the biggest thing I got out of it was that it was voted No. 1 in the categories of "Favourite Song" and "Most Memorable Song" by EMI Music Japan which has been releasing the long-running record/CD series "New Sounds in Brass" since the early 1970s. It might explain why this particular song was chosen for "Sound! Euphonium".

So last season it was technopop. This season, it is AOR. "Takarajima" as composed by then-band keyboardist Hirotaka Izumi(和泉宏隆)is as relaxing as a slowly fizzing glass of Perrier. And the strange thing is that I may have heard this song a number of times before especially when that weird woodwind comes in right after the intro. If that is the case, then it's been used for many a feature on the wide shows and variety shows over the years. I might have discovered that "Takarajima" is the Japanese pop equivalent of Chuck Mangione's "Feels So Good".

In any case, I was so charmed by "Takarajima" that I've just bought the band's self-cover album tonight with the song, "Takaranouta ~T-SQUARE plays THE SQUARE~"(宝曲~T-SQUARE plays THE SQUARE~)from 2010 at Tower Records. Hopefully, it will get here by Xmas.

And here is the real band performance at Kyoto Station by Heian High School in the city of Kyoto. Too bad about the sound, though.

January 13 2017: Well, whaddaya know?

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