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, July 24, 2012

Mariko Nagai -- Miracle Girl (ミラクル・ガール)

"Miracle Girl" by Mariko Nagai(永井真理子 was never an official Olympic theme song for any of the Japanese networks. However, it was the theme for the 1989 TV adaptation of a popular manga, "Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl" created in 1986 by Naoki Urasawa(浦沢直樹). In both forms, the story dealt with a young girl who is an initially reluctant entrant into the family martial art of judo before realizing that she has the same talent as her previous generations. The story ultimately leads to Yawara Inokuma heading to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics to compete for that gold medal, and the anime ends at around the same time.

"Yawara" was one of my memories of TV during my 2 years in Gunma Prefecture. I came home on Monday nights to often, if not always, watch the anime at 7:30 on NTV. And as you can see from the opening credits above, Yawara-chan is featured as this adorable girl who is as comfortable in the latest fashions as she is in a judo-gi. I only get to see judo during the Summer Olympics, so my interest in the martial art is pretty limited, but it was nice watching the show since Yawara, the most settled of the characters, usually had to deal with some of her more eccentric loved ones such as her grandfather.

"Miracle Girl" was Mariko Nagai's 10th single released in October 1989. Having been in Gunma for just a couple of months, Nagai was one of my first new singers that I discovered during this era of life in Japan. As you can see from the official music video for the song, Nagai has this pixie-ish energy that has always been her most notable characteristic. Looking almost like a little boy in that tomboy haircut, I also think she could've come off looking like Ichiro Suzuki's little sister. That same uptempo energy also comes out in the song. It wasn't a big hit apparently since it didn't show up in the Top 100 in 1990 but because of the anime and the happy-happy-joy-joy feeling, it has affixed itself permanently in my brain as one of my favourite tunes of the time. The music was provided by Hirokazu Fujii(藤井宏一)while the lyrics were composed by Airin (亜伊林), better known as Yoshiko Miura (三浦徳子)who wrote a number of Seiko Matsuda's(松田聖子) songs nearly a decade previously.

In one of those amazing coincidences, at around the time that "Yawara!"was enjoying its success on the bookshelves and TV, one of the world's foremost judo-ka, Ryoko Tani (nee Tamura) was just starting her road to success. On winning the silver medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, folks noted her similarities in terms of ability, height and age to the fictional Ms. Inokuma, and thus her permanent nickname was born. After that she attained her status as a Japanese sports heroine by capturing 2 gold medals in Sydney and Athens. Tani is now a member of the Japanese Parliament's Upper House, and is one of the 50 or so members to recently defect from the governing Democratic Party of Japan to launch a new smaller protest-based party, People's Life First.

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