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.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Nishi Rokugo Shonen Shojo Gasshodan -- Theme from "Curricula Machine"(カリキュラマシーンのテーマ)/ Kiyoe-chan -- Daisukitte Imi da yo(大好きって意味だよ)

In the last year or so, NHK has been celebrating the fact that it has a hit information variety show co-hosted by an Osakan comedian and a partial CG figure. "Chiko-chan ni Shikarareru"(チコちゃんに叱られる!...Don't Sleep Through Life)has also become a Wednesday night staple on TV Japan, although on the main network back in Japan, it's televised on Fridays.

The format itself is nothing new. There are the two hosts, an NHK announcer, and a duo or trio of celebrity panelists oohing and aahing over the various minutiae of trivia that everyone in Japan seems to lap up like really good Häagen-Dazs for 45 minutes each episode. However, the difference is the existence of the CG emcee Chiko-chan who proclaims herself as this all-knowing 5-year-old with a helium-voiced smart mouth to go with her smart brain. The lass is pretty even-tempered except when the panelists and co-host Takashi Okamura(岡村隆史)can't answer the trivia question posed by her, which is when she blasts out "Bo-tto ikiten ja nee yo!"(ボーっと生きてんじゃねーよ!), literally the English title for the show. If I'm not in error, the catchphrase even made it into the Top 10 Catchphrases of the Year last year.

Frankly, I don't think the video of the entire episode up at the very top here will last all that long (and it didn't) but you may notice that brief intro theme song for Chiko-chan. I certainly was intrigued by it since it seemed pretty darn eccentric and frantic even for Miss J-Smartypants. As it turns out, instead of the song being even younger than her, it's actually over 45 years old.

This theme song was actually the theme song for an NTV show that had its run between April 1977 and March 1978 titled "Curricula Machine"(カリキュラマシーン), a quirky educational program for children that according to the J-Wiki article for it that wanted to bring together the essences of the beloved "Sesame Street" and the very 1960s comedy-variety show "Laugh-In" from the United States. When I read that description, I immediately thought of another hybridization of those two series and came up with "The Muppet Show" from the 1970s.

Those opening credits were pretty bang, bang, bang in terms of the promised gags, and so I gather that the producers wanted a theme to match the energy. As such, the legendary Hiroshi Miyagawa(宮川泰), the composer behind all those hits by The Peanuts and the theme song for "Space Cruiser Yamato"(宇宙戦艦ヤマト), was asked to come up with something similarly in superball bouncy. He came up with this brief and fairly deranged tune with the kids from Nishi Rokugo Shonen Shojo Gasshodan(西六郷少年少女合唱団...Nishi Rokugo Boys & Girls Chorus)throwing in some scatting for good measure. According to a Yahoo! News article by Fuyu Kimata(木俣冬)via the J-Wiki article, one of the producers for "Chiko-chan" felt that the program was a spiritual successor to the avant-garde "Curricula Machine" so he wanted to give respect by using at least part of the original theme (without the scatting). I will probably never see a bowl-headed five-year-old girl on the streets of Tokyo again without thinking of that theme.

At the end of each episode of "Chiko-chan", Okamura and Chiko-chan end up on a Japanese backyard set bantering away and reading a letter from fans, and they are joined by a crow named Kiyoe-chan(キョエちゃん)which gleefully trolls Okamura by yelling "Bakaaaa!"(バカー!...You idiot!).

It looks like within the past couple of months, Kiyoe-chan has even contributed the current ending theme, "Daisukitte Imi da yo!" (It Means I Love You!), a heartwarming ditty written and composed by Noriyuki Makihara(槇原敬之). The song has even made it onto NHK's "Minna no Uta"(みんなのうた)series as this lovingly delivered message on how fights between loved ones only emphasize how much love there actually is between the two.

The voice behind Kiyoe-chan is unknown although Chiko-chan is voiced by tarento Yuuichi Kimura(木村祐一). However, one rumour has it that the cheeky bird's voice actually belongs to Kiyoe Yoshioka(吉岡聖恵), the main vocalist for the band Ikimonogakari(いきものがかりalthough that sounds a bit too easy as a solution. I'm also thinking of a number of famous seiyuu in the anime industry.

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