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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ox -- Girl Friend(ガール・フレンド)

It had been quite the while since I actually put up a Group Sounds article so looking through the list of GS bands on J-Wiki, I came across the band Ox(オックス). Now, how the band got that name I have no idea, but it's a name that I had seen in the past so I decided to give them a look-see. My pre-look-see image was that, considering the name, the guys would be these pretty well-built All-Japan jock types. And then I saw the cover for their debut single above...they looked like Shakespearean ice hockey referees (Thy penalty is icing, my young thane!)!

"Girl Friend" is the title of that debut single from May 1968, and it is this fairly soft-sounding ballad done by the band that reminded me of the band The Beau Brummels from the same decade. Written by Jun Hashimoto(橋本淳)and composed by Kyohei Tsutsumi (筒美京平 of his very early works in a very long career), lead vocal Hideto Noguchi sings about putting that young lucky lady on that very high fantasy pedestal as he hopes that the two words of the title can become one at last. The single was the most successful of their career (which lasted from 1968 to 1971), hitting No. 6 on Oricon. In total, they would release 9 singles and 2 albums before the breakup came.

Ox consisted of Noguchi(野口ヒデト), bassist and leader Toshio Fukui(福井利男), drummer Yuji Iwata(岩田裕二), guitarist Shiro Okada(岡田志郎), and organist/vocal Ai Akamatsu(赤松愛). Fukui and Iwata had belonged to the band Kings but decided to break away and create a new group and eventually recruited the other members to become Ox. After the band broke up in 1971, vocalist Hideto Noguchi changed his name to Hideto Maki(真木ひでと)and became an enka singer. Drummer Akamatsu left the group in 1969 to be replaced by Yuki Taura(田浦幸)for the remainder of their time together.

Shizuko Kasagi/UA -- Kaimono Boogie (買物ブギー)

This was a song that has popped up on NHK's "Kayo Concert" a couple of times including the previous episode last night (so glad that it's back)...and no surprise; it just seems to be tailor-made to be performed on stage.

"Kaimono Boogie" (Grocery Shopping Boogie) is a rapid-fire report on the craziness of doing the daily shopping by kayo boogie queen Shizuko Kasagi(笠置シヅ子). Written and composed by Ryoichi Hattori(服部良一)in June 1950 for some Nichigeki revue show (ah, no wonder it's great on stage), the song gained a great reputation so it got its own single release. I think Kasagi was definitely the big factor here as she sings out the role of a harried-but-tough-as-nails housewife hitting the fish market and fruits-and-vegetable shop while bantering about in the Osakan dialect non-stop...and if there's a group of people who can talk and shop at the same time, it's the Osakans. There was no Oricon at the time (and there wouldn't be for the better part of a couple of decades), but I can only wonder how it would have done on the charts since "Kaimono Boogie" managed to sell about 450,000 records.

As I've said before, nostalgia has had a huge hand in Japanese pop culture, and when something as snappy as "Kaimono Boogie" is created, it's pretty much rendered immortal. So unsurprisingly, the 1950 song has been covered by a number of artists including Osaka-born UA for her 2010 album "KABA". Here she is performing it on stage.

Glad to see you again, Sachiko Kobayashi(小林幸子). She was actually on Tuesday night's "Kayo Concert", and this is her performing "Kaimono Boogie" on stage with all of the trappings of mid-Showa Era living. I'd say that it was a tribute to Kasagi when she performed it as part of the stage show, and Kobayashi plays it up to the hammy hilt. It would be nice if she could come back to the Kohaku Utagassen to act out something like this on the Shibuya stage and leave the planet-sized costumes to posterity.

One of my supermarkets in the neighbourhood: Y's Mart.
Good ol' Minami-Gyotoku was truly blessed with no less than
4 supermarkets and a good sprinkling of convenience stores.

ALFEE -- Kiri no Sophia (霧のソフィア)

Well, it's almost been a year since I've written an article on ALFEE. Welcome back! I think the last one I did about them was their debut "Natsu Shigure"(夏しぐれ)from all the way back in 1974 when they were known as ALFIE.

"Kiri no Sophia" (Sophia in the Fog) is ALFEE from their full-throated glory days in the 80s. It was their 21st single from October 1985, and it's actually the first time I've heard it. Written and composed by the dandy member of the trio, Toshihiko Takamizawa(高見沢俊彦), with Ken Takahashi(高橋研)co-writing the lyrics, it's Takamizawa singing and mourning about the loss of his beloved Sophia as he still can't let go of her while remembering about their last dance together on that foggy night.

The music shifts slightly between urgent and wistful as ALFEE does what it does best and provides some power pop/rock to the concert masses. Whenever I hear one of their epics from this decade, I always envision some sort of sword n' sorcery video game for some reason. The single peaked at No. 2 on Oricon, and was first placed on their 1985 BEST compilation "The Best Songs".

PSY-S -- Hana no Yo ni (花のように)

30 years ago as a university student, I was witness to the above scene when the Toronto Blue Jays clinched their very first American League East title. Yup, it was quite the magical moment, and then of course, some years later, we had those glory years of 1992 and 1993 when the team did it all and grabbed a couple of World Series championships. Then there was a long period of 22 years of not even making the playoffs. I guess it was as a good time as any to head to Japan for a couple of decades, eh?

But I'm glad I'm back now. The Jays did it again and just clinched the American League East about half an hour ago.

30 minutes ago, I probably wouldn't have been able to put up this article since my fingers would have been way too twitchy with excitement. But things have settled down so I can place something nice and soothing and inspiring. How about PSY-S' "Hana no Yo ni" (Like A Flower)? Written by Yukio Matsuo(松尾由紀夫)and PSY-S' Masaya Matsuura(松浦雅也)as the duo's 21st and 2nd-last single in February 1994, I think it's the ideal song for my current state of mind since it talks about making it through all of the ups and downs to a happy conclusion...just like my baseball team. And compared to some of their past high-energy material, "Hana no Yo ni" is a nice little cool-down tune vocalized wonderfully by CHAKA. This is kinda like meeting PSY-S at a cafe somewhere on a side street in Harajuku, although I think for most Jays fans downtown right now, they are most likely revving it up at the local watering holes. Not quite for me, though...I'll take a cup of that chamomile tea right by my laptop as I type this.

Ah, the song, by the way, was also a track on their final album to date, "Emotional Engine" from December 1994.

KAN -- Yokereba Issho ni (よければ一緒に)

Though I discovered KAN early on in my Japanese music escapades - he was the first other singer I tried listening to besides Chage and Aska - I don't listen to him all that much. In fact, it had been quite a long while since I touched any song related to him. It was only within the last couple of days when I had the urge to revisit "Yoteidori Guzen ni" (予定どおりに偶然に), a collaboration between him and C&A's ASKA, did I finally hear the preppy-looking singer-songwriter's somewhat high and pleasant vocal delivery again.

While enjoying the jaunty tune that is "Yoteidori Guzen ni", I was sifting through the suggested videos part of the page in order to find something else by KAN, and that was when I came across "Yokereba Issho ni". I took a liking to this song immediately upon hearing it's breezy, laid-back style that is comparable to the feeling of taking a leisurely stroll on a Sunday afternoon. And what made me appreciate it more was the meaning behind it. As I found out online, "Yokereba Issho ni" translates to something on the line of "Would you like to come along with me?", so I'm guessing that's what the song is about: the fellow thinking that it would be more of a joy if this particular person (KAN's lyrics did not really specify, so it could be that special one or just a friend) were to join him on his journey through life. It sounds like a good theme song for a couple of the anime I watch, like "Natsume Yuujincho" (夏目友人帳) or "Shirokuma Cafe" (しろくまカフェ) where the theme of friendship is evident.

"Yokereba Issho ni" was KAN's 32nd single, released on 10th February 2010. It did alright on the Oricon charts, peaking at 49th place.

Just as a side note here, but I think KAN's voice is really suited for sweet, feel-good songs like this.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Kenichi Mikawa/Hibari Misora -- Onna no Asa (おんなの朝)

Another rustle through the 33s and 45s produced a most interesting discovery. I came across an old Kenichi Mikawa(美川憲一)single...well, actually I guess if I were using more updated terminology, I would say it was a maxi single: two songs per side. The surprising thing is the cover which showed a quite bidanshi young Mikawa looking pretty dapper.

The first song on the 33.3 was "Onna no Asa" (A Woman's Morning) which was Mikawa's 18th single from Christmas Day 1970. Compared to some of the Mood Kayo that he had sung in the past, this particular song was absolutely jaunty. Masao Yoneyama's(米山正夫)melody has a bit of a skippy Latin beat which puts "Onna no Asa" right on the line between enka and kayo pop, and although the song has a triumphant feeling, the lyrics by So Nishizawa(西沢爽)relate about a secret tryst that has to come to an end. Still, it seems like the protagonists involved are parting without too many regrets...and I'm sure the hotel staff didn't seem to mind the business.

I don't know how "Onna no Asa" did on the charts but in 1971, it won a prize at the Japan Lyricists Awards.

And unfortunately, I also don't know when Hibari Misora(美空ひばり)performed her cover of "Onna no Asa", although it is on "Cover Song Collection - Hibari Enka wo Utau"(カバーソング・コレクション~ひばり演歌をうたう...Hibari Sings Enka), a 2-CD set which came out in 2008. Her version sounds like a more conventional enka take with the sound of the saxophone hinting that the affair was taking place more in the shitamachi neighbourhoods of the city. Still, the happy-go-lucky feeling is still very much in place.

Quite the clothes horse back then.

Masaharu Fukuyama -- Sakurazaka (桜坂)

Well, last week, I had to give out some sad news from the world of Japanese show business, so I'm quite happy and a tad surprised to give out some good news for a change. I heard yesterday that actor/singer-songwriter  Masaharu Fukuyama(福山雅治)tied the knot at the age of 46 with 33-year-old actress Kazue Fukiishi(吹石 一恵). From what I saw on NHK News, the reaction from women over in Tokyo was congratulatory with a bit of regret to see another eligible celeb bachelor go off-market. Hey, plenty of fish out there still.

So, what better way to commemorate the occasion than to put up one of his most successful hits, "Sakurazaka" (Cherry Blossom Hill) from April 2000? I was never a big fan of Fukuyama and the only other entry by me about him on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" is "Gang" which was a later single that I enjoyed for its old-style jazziness. However while I was in Japan, I couldn't deny that "Sakurazaka", his 15th single, was all over the airwaves. It was almost everyday that I saw that video of him looking out the patio window on the telly as he crooned this ballad which stubbornly stayed up in the upper echelons of Oricon.

"Sakurazaka" remained at No. 1 for 3 weeks and later became the 2nd-ranked song for 2000. It broke the 2-million barrier and it won Song of the Year honours at the Japan Golden Disc Awards, but apparently it wasn't enough for him to get onto the Kohaku Utagassen...or perhaps he declined the offer. According to J-Wiki (although there is no reference so I can't be sure about the ultimate veracity), he got the title from a Sakurazaka which was located fairly close to where he had used to live in Ota Ward, Tokyo. Apparently he liked the name so he thought about making a song about it someday. Once the song became a hit, so did that slope. It became a popular date spot with the couples, although I wonder what the noise level may have been like for the residents.

Especially when I hear Fukuyama sing "Sakurazaka", I've occasionally theorized that he could be the 21st-century version of actor/singer Yuzo Kayama(加山雄三)who has also been a charismatic crooner and songwriter since his early days as the big man on campus in the 1960s. There is a certain similarity between the two of them although it may just be me.

In any case, I wish him and the blushing bride my congratulations.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Kengo Kurozumi -- Pastel Love

For those who already miss the summer, I will have to apologize and warn you in advance since I've got something very summery for this article. Kengo Kurozumi(黒住憲五)is a name that has popped up in front of my vision during my many looks through "Japanese City Pop", but until the last few days, I never had the opportunity to listen to his music.

Well, thankfully, there are a few videos of Kurozumi music on YouTube that I discovered. And I came across this Resort Pop gem by him, "Pastel Love" which is a track on his 1982 debut album, "Again". I couldn't find the exact credits for this particular tune but since he is listed as a singer-songwriter, I assume that he was also responsible for its lyrics and music. In any case, this song paired with the lovely beach scenes will probably have lovers of the hot season crying in their frosty mugs of beer. Having often suffered through Tokyo summers, I'm not such a fan (although I've been faring much better with Toronto summers), but hearing that ol' 80s electric guitar, Kurozumi's vocals and the synths, I got rather nostalgic. Plus with that title, I got reminded of all of those pastel colors that were really popular on fashion back then....aka the TV series "Miami Vice".

Kurozumi was born in Okayama Prefecture and is listed as a J-AOR singer-songwriter according to J-Wiki. He attended Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, before becoming the vocalist and drummer for the band Boomerang in 1973. The band broke up a year later and he became a solo act, releasing his first single, "Ushiro kara Ame ga"(後ろから雨が...The Rain Came In From Behind)in 1976 and becoming a supporting member for the session band Camino. Another singer to peruse.

Judy Ongg -- Tasogare no Akai Tsuki (たそがれの赤い月)

Over the weekend, I'm sure a lot of the media all over our big blue marble was hawking about the big Super Blood Moon that was to appear in the night sky. So, of course, the citizens, especially those folks who have that hobby in astronomy, were all whipped up into a frenzy. I'm not so much into space that I would consider myself an amateur astronomer but I did go out last night with my digital camera to see if I could get a pic of this huge red orb in the sky. And this is what I got:

Yup, it looks like Super Moon decided to wear his Amazing Cloak of Invisibility last night over my neighbourhood in Toronto. Darn you, clouds! Well, hopefully I will be around in another 18 years when the next opportunity comes by.

Some hours before I went out for my ultimately failed attempt, I had checked out YouTube out of curiosity to see if there were a kayo kyoku which had anything to do with a red moon. Instantly, I got a Judy Ongg(ジュディ・オング)song, "Tasogare no Akai Tsuki" (Red Moon at Sunset) from July 1967. The only other Ongg song I have on the blog is her most famous "Miserarete"(魅せられて)from 1979 with the wind blowing in from the Aegean and that really flowing dress, and I had been curious whether I could find another song by her to place at KKP.

"Tasogare no Akai Tsuki" was Ongg's 4th single and according to the uploader on YouTube of the video, Hideo Oikawa, it was her first big hit. Listening to the song by Choei Shiratori and Shosuke Ichikawa(白鳥朝詠・市川昭介), there is very much of a lonely Group Sounds sound as Ongg pleads with the red moon to find her a soulmate. Hopefully, she didn't have to wait 18 years to find one. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ruiko Kurahashi -- THE BEST IN MY LIFE

Some years ago, I had put up an article on an album by one of my favourite singers, Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子)"Main Course" (1986). Unfortunately, most of the videos for the songs covered in the article have been taken down one by one until only one has remained. So I had to put the article in mothballs, but I can still talk about the one that still lives on YouTube.

That track is "THE BEST IN MY LIFE" which in terms of content and title is about as close as any Japanese singer has probably come to a Whitney Houston power ballad without it actually being a Whitney Houston power ballad. Written by Yumi Yoshimoto(吉元由美), who would help out Anri(杏里)later on with a lot of her R&B/pop material in the late 80s and into the 90s, and composed by Katsuo Ono(大野克夫), who created the melodies for Kenji Sawada's(沢田研二)hits "Katte ni Shiyagare" and "Casablanca Dandy", plus an early Kurahashi song "Uwasa Still Love You", "THE BEST IN MY LIFE" can be the song to provide the finish for a concert. One darkened stage, one spotlight on the singer...that's all that's needed for this ballad. And right at the end, she can walk off the stage to rousing applause. Heck, in a certain mood, a box of tissue might be mandatory. I think it was certainly needed for Kurahashi above who got a bit verklempt.

Akira Nakai-Sho Takahashi & Coloratino/Sachiko Nishida -- Shianbashi Blues (思案橋ブルース)

For the first time in the history of this blog, I feel totally uncertain about the name of an artist or group. I believe the name of this Mood Kayo outfit is Akira Nakai-Sho Takahashi & Coloratino(中井昭・高橋勝とコロラティーノ)but the readings of the given names of the two leaders were giving me some fits, so if I offend any of the fans out there, forgive, and more importantly, correct me. One reason for the uncertainty is that the topic of this article is listed in J-Wiki but not the group itself...another first for me since it has often been the other way around.

In any case, "Shianbashi Blues" (Shian Bridge Blues), was the debut song by Nakai, Takahashi and Coloratino, and incidentally their only big hit, which was released in April 1968. Written and composed by Hiroshi Kawahara (川原弘...the trumpeter for Coloratino), it follows that tried-and-true kayo trope of some rather sad lyrics (another romantic breakup) accompanied by fairly more cheerful music. And within the enka/Mood Kayo genre, it follows the penchant of basing the song in some particular region within Japan; this time, it's Nagasaki. From what I read in the J-Wiki article for "Shianbashi Blues", the 1960s were a good decade for promoting the city in western Japan as ballads like "Nagasaki no Onna"(長崎の女)by Hachiro Kasuga(春日八郎)and the representative Mood Kayo for the city, "Nagasaki wa Kyou mo Ame Datta"(長崎は今日も雨だった)by Hiroshi Uchiyamada & The Cool Five became hits.

The romance may have been coming to a bittersweet end, but boy, was it ever nice to take that final stroll through Nagasaki including the titular bridge. Melodically speaking, although it was fitting for Mood Kayo, there was a bit more of a softness to it since there was no trumpet in there (I believe I said Kawahara was the band trumpeter); instead, the flute and strings held reign, and the vocals by everyone reminded me more of the Hawaiian-tinged songs of the genre.

As for how the song did, it got as high as No. 3 on Oricon and finished the year as the 15th-ranked song. The group Akira Nakai-Sho Takahashi & Coloratino was discovered at a cabaret called Juu-Ni Ban Kan(十二番館...The No. 12 Building)in Nagasaki where they were playing as the house band. Of course, free enterprise being what it is, there were rival clubs for Juu-Ni Ban Kan, one of which was Ginbasha(銀馬車...Silver Carriage). Guess the house band there? It was Uchiyamada & The Cool Five.

There have been cover versions of "Shianbashi Blues", one of which was done by veteran kayo chanteuse Sachiko Nishida(西田佐知子). I'm not sure if her version had been recorded shortly after the original by Coloratino but it is a track on her 2007 "Nishida Sachiko Kayo Daizenshu"(西田佐知子歌謡大全集...Sachiko Nishida Great Collection of Kayo). The arrangement is similar to the original, but I think I may end up liking Nishida's version even better because of that clear-as-a-bell voice of hers.

And speaking of the Cool Five, Kiyoshi Maekawa(前川清)and the guys performed their rivals' song as well in that distinctive Five fashion.

Dick Mine -- Yogiri no Blues (夜霧のブルース)

Ah, I love it when I'm able to see scenes that remind me of certain songs. That photo up there with its atmospheric lighting had me thinking of "Yogiri yo Konya mo Arigatou" (夜霧よ今夜も有難う). But what you see in the picture isn't light from the street lamps filtering through night fog, it's actually the haze from three nights ago when it was at its worst, and I wasn't particularly thankful for it. Nevertheless, the night scene it created was quite pretty despite being quite detrimental to one's health. The Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) close to or around 300 at that time, which caused quite a stir amongst the locals in Singapore since it usually doesn't get that bad. As for myself, I was just happy that my nose did not have any violent reactions to the air. Thankfully, it has gotten a lot clearer again in past couple of days, but I can't help but pity the folks in Indonesia, where the annual haze has been coming from, who have it a lot worse.

But anyway, since we're sort of on the topic of night fog, I'd like to write about another tune that concerns this natural phenomenon, "Yogiri no Blues". While more severe than "Yogiri yo Konya mo Arigatou" in terms of both its jazzy musical arrangement, with "Yogiri no Blues" having a more haunting sound brought to you by Tokujiro Okubo (大久保徳二郎), and the vocals of the singers - Yujiro's voice was lighter and laid back, Dick Mine's (ディク・ミネ) had more of a deep, guttural growl that sent shivers down my spine - it fits the bar scene very well. I can just imagine "Yogiri no Blues" being played in a quiet drinking establishment late at night, and listening to it is a work-worn salary man at the counter with a smoking cigarette in one hand and a glass of brandy in the other.

"Yogiri no Blues", released in 1947, was one of Mine's biggest hits and it allowed the jazz singer to regain his popularity after World War II, but surprisingly, Mine did not sing it during any of his 6 appearances on the Kohaku. Many covers of this song had been done by other singers as well, like Yujiro Ishihara (石原裕次郎), Frank Nagai (フランク永井), and Naomi Chiaki (ちあきなおみ). "Yogiri no Blues" was used in two movies; the first being "Jigoku no Kao" (地獄の顔) in 1947, which was set in Shanghai hence there are references to some spots from that city in Kinya Shimada's (島田磬也) lyrics. The second movie that used "Yogiri no Blues" as its theme song was also named "Yogiri no Blues", aired in 1963, and it starred Tough Guy - I think they used his rendition rather than the original though.

The video above has Yujiro's cover of "Yogiri no Blues". Yup, his delivery of this song is definitely a lot smoother and softer than Mine's. I don't have a favourite version as both are good in their own way.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Tatsuro Yamashita -- Futari

I was having a conversation with Noelle about good ol' Tats earlier today. Noelle is usually our resident expert on all things enka and Mood Kayo but she expressed some interest on one of the great icons of City Pop because of the soaring and summery "Loveland, Island".

As I was coming up with some recommendations for her on some of the fine music by the famous singer-songwriter from the late 70s and early 80s, I came across some of the tracks from his 6th studio album, "For You" from 1982. "Loveland, Island" and another great number "Morning Glory" are on this release, but then I came across yet another track which pretty much cemented my decision to get "For You" sometime by the end of this year. And that would be the ballad "Futari" (Two) which begins with a bit of flirtatious piano by the late Hiroshi Sato(佐藤博)before Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)goes into this slow romantic waltz which becomes ever more epic, thanks to those famous layered vocals of his.

Yamashita composed the song and his frequent friend and collaborator, Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子), wrote the lyrics, but I couldn't help hearing her not only in the backup chorus but also within Yamashita's music as well. This is pretty sentimental and mushy coming from me but I can imagine a newly-married Japanese couple on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii dancing to this as the sun goes down. "Futari" could be added onto the list of good wedding reception songs. According to J-Wiki, the singer-songwriter remarked that the ballad wouldn't have been complete without Sato's contribution. This was the song that ended Side A on the original LP of "For You", a very appropriate position for this track and just an appropriate ballad, period, considering the title of the album. Time to warm up my Xmas wish list a bit early.

Cast of Joshiraku -- Never Give Up/Jigoku no Gyuudon (地獄の牛丼)

"Joshiraku"(じょしらく)has been one of my favourite anime since I first saw its run back in 2012. In fact, I'm currently seeing it again on my computer for the 3rd or 4th time. And before I go any further, I should give credit where credit is due and list the main cast of the 5 rakugo comediennes, something that I didn't do when I wrote the article on the super-catchy opening and ending themes back in 2013:

Ayane Sakura(佐倉綾音)as the aggressive Mari Buratei
Nozomi Yamamoto(山本希望)as the lucky Tetora Bohatei
Kotori Koiwai(小岩井ことり)as the cute (if secretly scary) Kigurumi Harokitei
Yoshino Nanjo(南條愛乃)as the bespectacled Gankyo Kurubiyutei
Saori Goto(後藤沙緒里)as the ever-blue Kukuru Anrakutei

In any case, as much as I still love those bracketing themes for "Joshiraku", there were also a couple of songs that intrigued me as well but didn't know they were actually on a CD that came with the Blue-Ray of the series. One was "Never Give Up", a cutesy AKB48-friendly tune concocted by Kohei of SIMONSAYZ and sung by the rakugo ladies for Episode 3 of the series when they were coerced to put in a song-and-dance (I think they were trying to emulate the 90s group ZOO) element to their performances....much to the audience's fury. The song still works on its own, though.

Then, there is "Jigoku no Gyuudon" (Gyuudon of Hell) which has the troupe going into death metal territory (Kigurumi's genre of choice) as they rock out the joys of that dish of flavoured beef and onions on hot white rice. I forgot which episode it was but it was one of the later ones in the cour when Kigu and the gang suddenly transform into their own version of KISS for a couple of minutes. Anime director Tsutomu Mizushima(水島努)provided the lyrics, half of which are "gyuudon", while Masaru Yokoyama(横山克)came up with the headbanging melody.

Strangely enough, in all my time in Japan, I never really ate gyuudon at Yoshinoya or at the other franchises all that much despite how inexpensive it was. I can only surmise that karaage, sushi, hambaagu and tonkatsu had to come in first.

As one last piece of trivia for those who are not all that well versed in the seiyuu (I'm still trying to get a handle on all those names and characters), Ayane Sakura who plays the caustic Mari also played the much more adorable Cocoa in "Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka"(ご注文はうさぎですか?)in which she also performed the opening theme with the cast.

Yoshinoya last year

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mariya Takeuchi -- Natsu no Koibito (夏の恋人)

Months and months ago, I wrote about Mariya Takeuchi's(竹内まりや)debut album, "Beginning" from November 1978 in which I said that I would write about the lone song in there which was written and composed by Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎). Well, that time has come...finally.

As I mentioned in that article, the lady was only in her early 20s at the time and she was trying a number of genres in the album. Yamashita's lone contribution to "Beginning" was "Natsu no Koibito" (Summer Lovers) which is this really laconic Resort Poppy song that takes place by a swimming pool...most likely in some 5-star hotel in Hawaii. The scene that Mariya describes here would be perfect as a picture on some postcard with the writer and her new beau enjoying a very relaxing time. I could say that the hotel is probably located on the even sleepier side of Margueritaville. Lee Ritenour and Mike Porcaro help out on guitar and bass respectively.

Junk Fujiyama -- Schedar (シェダル)

It's been a while since I could funk to the Junk (OK...I wasn't trying to be obliquely obscene there). And to be honest, Junk Fujiyama's "Schedar" isn't anywhere in the R&B genre. This was the singer-songwriter's 3rd CD single (he had already had a lot of singles out...mostly through limited download) from January 2013, and it's a happy straight-on pop piece about how much in love he is. By the way, the above video is just a small excerpt of it.

First off, I was wondering about the title. Fujiyama's lyrics relate about his love is just so far-ranging that it has blasted off into the cosmos. When I punched in the katakana for Schedar into the rest of J-Wiki, I was ultimately taken to the English Wikipedia to the article for the star in the constellation of Cassiopeia known as Alpha Cassiopeiae. The star is also known as Schedar. I think the woman of his dreams should be quite flattered at how far his love goes.

Yoshihiko Chino(知野芳彦)came up with the music that one YouTube commenter, 10CPhil, likened to an 80s anthem. Right from the beginning, "Schedar" sounds like it is the theme for a regular high school kid from that decade (like me, except far cooler and trimmer) in his mullet hairdo racing down through his neighbourhood on his bike to pick up his girl for a fun's a PG movie.

Anyways, the CD single only got as high as No. 138 on Oricon. The song also got onto his 6th album from March 2013, "Junk Scape" which peaked at No. 81. My first encounter with the song was on his BEST compilation, "Kazemachi"(風街). Perhaps Junk hasn't gotten as much fame as he deserves but his fans and I know what and who we like.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Naomi Kawashima -- Bara no Hana Midara (薔薇の花みだら)

(empty karaoke version)

Some sad news from the geinokai earlier today. I read on the Net that actress Naomi Kawashima(川島なお美)passed away from complications due to bile duct cancer on the night of September 24th Japan Standard Time at the age of 54. Far too young for her to leave this mortal coil. A few weeks ago, there was mass media speculation when she appeared in public looking happy but very emaciated. I saw that appearance of her as well and a warning light went off in my head. I didn't think about cancer at the time but thought that she must have just gone through a major health scare. Unfortunately, that scare ended tragically.

There was an NHK news report on their morning program paying tribute to Kawashima and stating she had started her career as a singer. Her singing career began in 1979 with "Champagne No. 5". But during my years in Japan, I only knew her as an actress and an occasional guest on TV variety shows, and also commercials like the one above she did in the 90s.

Probably her most famous work as a singer was "Gemini", a bouncy somewhat City Poppy tune from 1983 by Meiko Nakahara(中原めいこ)that is the only song I knew by her. JTM provides his own feelings and description in his article on the song. Aside from that tune, I could find another song by her, "Bara no Hana Midara" at NetEase which was released in May 1998 as her 11th and 2nd-last single. From what I've read of the lyrics by veteran Yoko Aki(阿木燿子), it's a typical love song supported by an appropriately mellow melody by Kohei Miyuki (幸耕平...who also composed "Champagne No. 5") which was the theme tune for an NTV drama starring Kawashima. As for the meaning of the title, I'm not particularly sure about the "midara" part but it could mean "Rose Obscenity" or "Rose Indecency" which sounds a tad odd but considering that she had appeared in some fairly racy roles and photobooks, perhaps it's not all that surprising.

I've seen a number of tweets and comments elsewhere and they all read as if the writers were all shaking their heads sadly. I have to say that I am one of them. Go-meifuku wo o-inori shimasu.

Shinichi Sasaki -- Ano Ko Tazunete (あの娘たずねて)

A few nights ago while hopping from video to video and sampling some classic Mood Kayo I hadn't yet listened to on YouTube, I came across a familiar name, Shinichi Sasaki, and I recognized its song title to be that of his most successful single from way back in 1966, so I went ahead to check it out.

As I was greeted by the dashing lad you see up there and the quick tempo of "Ano Ko Tazunete", I actually forgot that this was the same Sasaki that sang "Hana Yome Toge" (花嫁峠) decades later until his high, nasally voice was heard - my brain has been programmed to expect a mellower vocal delivery upon hearing this sort of bossa nova music. It came as quite a shock really, that Sasaki, who sounds right at home with a traditional enka tune, would tackle something as snazzy as "Ano Ko Tazunete". Though it felt odd at first, I soon got used to it and found myself taking a liking to his delivery of the song. Now I wonder what it would be like if someone like Yujiro Ishihara (石原裕次郎) were to cover it.

Besides Sasaki's Minyo-esque voice, what gave "Ano Ko Tazunete" an enka vein was Hiroshi Nagai's (永井 浩) lyrics. They seem to be about our lead man here wishing he could meet up with the girl he likes again, and he brings this feeling to the places that are frequently mentioned most enka songs, that being Tokyo, Osaka, Kagawa and of course there are shout-outs to various landmarks in the said prefectures like the Imperial Palace. Composing this song was Sasaki's mentor, Seiichi Sakurada (桜田誠一).

As I mentioned earlier in the article, "Ano Ko Tazunete" was Sasaki's biggest and breakthrough hit, and it became a million seller.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Kyoko Koizumi -- Makka na Onna no Ko (まっ赤な女の子)

Quite the bouncy aidoru Kyoko Koizumi(小泉今日子)was...even her vocals seemed to bounce around quite gaily especially in the early years. Case in point: her 5th single from May 1983, "Makka na Onna no Ko". I'm still not crystal clear on how to translate the title. One person translated it as Girl In Red, but considering that Chinfa Kan's(康珍化)lyrics describe fun and frolicking on the beach, I wonder if it should be Sunburned Girl or Blushing Girl. Well, looking a little more closely at the words, it seems like it's about the typical scene of young school boys trying to sneak a peek at the girls in their swimwear on the shore, and with one of those girls catching a look back. Perhaps there was some embarrassment involved so I will go with the last option of "Blushing Girl".

In any case, Kyohei Tsutsumi's(筒美京平)summery and bouncy melody with a tiny bit of techno-pop thrown in and Kyon-Kyon's onomatopoeia of "chiri chiri, jiri jiri" make for one of those adorable early 80s aidoru ditties that I used to hear a lot of through those old video tapes. And it looks like the adoration translated into the charts as well since "Makka na Onna no Ko" was the first of her songs to break through the Top 10 at No. 8. It would eventually become the 54th-ranked song of the year.


Kaoru Chiga/Mizue Takada/Hitomi Shimatani/Hideaki Tokunaga -- Mayonaka no Guitar (真夜中のギター)

I found this one purely by accident tonight. It's "Mayonaka no Guitar" (Midnight Guitar) by Kaoru Chiga(千賀かほる)from Kagoshima Prefecture. There isn't a whole lot of information on her and what little there is seems to surround this song which was most likely her biggest hit, although she released singles from 1969 to 1978.

But "Mayonaka no Guitar" was her debut single from August 1969, and it's this lullaby-ish folk song of reassurance. If you regular readers of KKP may recall, I wrote about a guitar-themed Mood Kayo from the same decade last night by Michiya Mihashi(三橋美智也)which portrayed the protagonist as this dark knight strolling and strumming through the back streets of the city sporting a guitar like a samurai would brandish a katana. Well, you might say that "Mayonaka no Guitar" is the softer side of things. Chiga doesn't sing about having to endure a solitary musical existence; instead she invites the listener to join her in her little concert and share any miseries to resolve them. In all likelihood, Chiga isn't even strolling the dark streets. She's probably sitting on a tiny balcony while she's performing with the full moon overhead. In any case, it's a very relaxing and sway-worthy ballad, best listened to over a cup of chamomile.

"Mayonaka no Guitar" peaked at No. 4 on Oricon selling close to 450,000 records, and the song was able to win a Newcomer Prize for the 21-year-old Chiga at the Japan Record Awards, and has remained one of her representative tunes. It was written by Osamu Yoshioka(吉岡オサム)and composed by Toshio Kawamura(河村利夫).

The soothing tune has become a standard of sorts that has been covered by a number of artists over the decades. Mizue Takada(高田みづえ)was perhaps the first singer to do so as the B-side for her 1981 single "Ai no Imagination"(愛のイマジネーション).

Nearly 3 decades later, Hitomi Shimatani(島谷ひとみ)provided her own cover as her 30th single in 2010. Her arrangement sounds quite similar to the original. It managed to peak at No. 64.

(Sorry but the video has been taken down.)

Then, there are the high tones of Hideaki Tokunaga's(徳永英明)version of "Mayonaka no Guitar" which is even slower and more wistful. It was a track on his 2012 album "Vocalist Vintage". However, I think the pure vocals of the original by Chiga still win out in the end.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hiroko Taniyama -- Yoru no Buranko (夜のブランコ)

As I mentioned in my last entry for Michiya Mihashi's(三橋美智也)"Ako to Guitar to Uramachi to"(アコとギターと裏町と), which was a B-side ballad for his 1964 single "Yoru no Buranko" (Night Swing), I was searching for the latter song at the usual sites such as YouTube. I was unsuccessful but then I found out that "Yoru no Buranko" wasn't exactly an exclusive title. There was another song with that same title by singer-songwriter Hiroko Taniyama(谷山浩子).

Now, Hiroko Taniyama has been a name that I have heard before although up to today I had never indulged in any of her music. There is one article on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" in which she did provide the lyrics for a Yuki Saito(斉藤由貴)single in the mid-80s, "Doyoubi no Tamanegi"(土曜日のタマネギ). In fact, she provided a number of songs for Saito and also aidoru Naoko Kawai(河合奈保子)among many other singers. But the surprise piece of trivia here according to J-Wiki is that her possibly first contribution of her music career was all the way back in 1970 as a 14-year-old when she composed and wrote the song "Boku tachi no Himitsu"(僕たちの秘密...Our Secret), a B-side for the single "Shiroi Tenshi"(白い天使...White Angel)for the group Baby Brothers who would soon transform into Finger Five. And this was a couple of years before she released her own debut single, "Ginga Kei wa Yappari Mawatteru"(銀河系はやっぱりまわってる...The Galaxy Does Turn).

The Yokohama-born Taniyama has released 23 singles and 36 studio albums to date. Single No. 22 is the aforementioned "Yoru no Buranko" from June 1994 which is this very atmospheric urban contemporary ballad about a secret tryst. It's perfect for night listening and I always love a bluesy saxophone as Taniyama almost delivers the lyrics as a whisper to emphasize the illicitness of the affair. Considering that she created the song in the early-mid 1990s, the arrangement of her "Yoru no Buranko" had me thinking of folks like Kazumasa Oda(小田和正), Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之)and Toko Furuuchi(古内東子)which has definitely raised her profile in my own eyes.

So far, it has just been the one song that I've heard but I am starting to get interested in the rest of Taniyama's output. Considering how prolific she's been in her own singing career from the 1970s to the present day and the fact that she's labeled as a New Music singer, I'm quite interested in how her music has evolved over the decades when I consider the musical journey that Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)has taken me and all of her fans.

By the way, this is the second title I've come across in a week in which I couldn't find the intended song and singer but found a great different tune with the same title under a different singer. Martin's tune was the first example.

October 27, 2020: Just wanted to let you know that I did get some new information from Mike according to our conversation in the comments section below so I've made a follow-up to "Yoru no Buranko."

Nope, not the "Yoru no Buranko" I was looking for
but I still found a good song nonetheless.

Michiya Mihashi -- Ako to Guitar to Uramachi to (アコとギターと裏町と)

I was doing some more rifling through Dad's ol' collection of 33s and 45s when I came across an old single by the late Michiya Mihashi(三橋美智也)from 1964. The A-side is "Yoru no Buranko"(夜のブランコ...Night Swing)which I couldn't find anywhere on the Net, but strangely enough, I could track down the B-side "Ako to Guitar to Uramachi to" (Ako and a Guitar and the Back Streets).

The old 45 was written by Ryosaku Yano(矢野亮作)and composed by Toshio Shiraishi(白石十四男), and I couldn't quite peg whether the ballad was in the enka or Mood Kayo territory. I'm tending toward the Mood Kayo side of things since it is about Mihashi as this lone wolf guitar-toting balladeer seemingly continuing on his endless quest walking through the dimly-lit byways of the drinking establishments, the prime environment for such a song although these places seem more solidly working-class rather than the high-priced bars of Akasaka or Ginza. Also, the somewhat mournful horns and the guitar backing Mihashi up sound appropriate for musical accompaniment in some swanky nightclub.

Although I never saw this sort of person with my own eyes walking through the seedier areas of Shinjuku or Shimbashi during my years in Tokyo, apparently there were (and perhaps still are?) these balladeers who would be plucking away at their guitars singing the sad songs in the nomiya-filled back streets as they leisurely did their walk and occasionally popped into one of those watering holes fulfilling any requests by the customers. I always saw these folks pop up on variety shows from time to time. The particular balladeer in "Ako to Guitar to Uramachi to" seemed to be hell-bent on carrying out his life's work even at the sacrifice of any potential romance with Ako. The story almost sounds ideal as a movie with the final scene of The Balladeer walking away from the camera and down the deserted bar alley into the bright glare of the neon lights before it consumes him. The End.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Shonentai -- Kamen Butokai (仮面舞踏会)

It's been a couple of years since I first wrote about the 80s aidoru trio, Shonentai(少年隊), and I have yet to put down anything about their most successful hit...which happened to be their debut single, "Kamen Butokai" (Masquerade Ball), written by Tetsuya Chiaki(ちあき哲也)and composed by Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平). And yet, the beginning of the song was instantly recognizable to me as soon as I heard it...those chaotic first few seconds of music before Nishikori, Higashiyama and Uekusa go into their dynamic song-and-dance...something kinda "West Side Story".

The kanji certainly wasn't too familiar with me at the time. I had no idea how it read or what it meant, but I could have figured it out from the choreography above as the ladies came out in their gowns and masks. Pretty darn spiffy for an aidoru single. And pretty darn successful for a debut single by the boys. Within a couple of weeks of its release in early December 1985, it hit No. 1 and about a year later, it would become the 3rd-ranked single of 1986 behind No. 1 "CHA-CHA-CHA" by Akemi Ishii(石井明美)and No. 2 Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜)"Desire". It also earned a Japan Record Award in the category of Best Newcomer along with a couple of other prizes.

Quite the sweet start for Shonentai. And to top it all off, the unit was invited onto the 1986 Kohaku Utagassen. However, there was a bit of humble pie when, according to the J-Wiki article on the song, kayo legend Yuzo Kayama(加山雄三)mistakenly introduced the song by saying "Their first time on the Kohaku Utagassen, Shonentai with....KAMEN RIDER!" Nope, I don't think "Kamen Butokai" was ever the theme song for the tokusatsu insectoid superhero, and I only hope that the boys were disciplined enough not to giggle through their performance. Mind you, with all of the bouncing about on the stage, I guess some comparisons could be made with the usual action on the "Kamen Rider" franchise.

Taeko Ohnuki -- 4AM

"Lord, give me one more chance..."
"Kore ga saigo kashira..." (これが最後かしら...I wonder if this is the end...)

Taeko Ohnuki's(大貫妙子)"4AM" from her 1978 album "Mignonne" contains the above lyrics, and considering what I found out about the troubled production for this album which I've mentioned in the article for it and the other tracks that I've covered solo, "Jaja Uma Musume"(じゃじゃ馬娘)and "Iidasenakute"(言いだせなくて), I wonder if she had been sending out a lyrical SOS at that early titular time. The supposedly relatively unsuccessful "Mignonne" did knock singer-songwriter Ohnuki for a loop for several months but it also put her on that path toward a more distinctive sound mix of technopop and French.

I think Ohnuki was able to pull off that soulful brand of City Pop although the margin for her was somewhat narrower since her voice wasn't as suited as those of some other singers such as Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子). "Jaja Uma Musume", which was in that vein of music, did well by her, but as much as I liked the cool arrangement for "4AM" for the richness of the horns (reminds me of Steely Dan), I've always thought that Ohnuki wasn't quite up to the vocal demands and wondered how the aforementioned Yoshida could have handled it. And that extended repeated musical riff at the end also made me wonder whether the singer simply decided to call it an early morning and left the band to its own devices.

Perhaps I can call it a noble failure, but even an Ohnuki noble failure can be wonderful to listen to.

Chage and Aska -- Say Yes

Early this week, I had discovered that Japanese dramas from the 90's are being aired here in Singapore once again, and as of now, they happen to be "Tokyo Love Story" (東京ラブストーリー) and "101st Marriage Proposal" (101回目のプロポーズ) - aw yes! I had watched both about a year ago online (didn't finish the former though), but somehow watching them on TV just felt more special, especially when their equally as popular theme songs were played repeatedly - instrumental and the real thing. It sent shivers down my spine. Watching the shows one after the other allowed me to compare the 2 well-received shows from 1991, and I found myself preferring the latter.

In "Tokyo Love Story", between the 4 main characters, there's just too much of the "I-like-you-but-you-like-the-other-fella" and "I-saw-you-with-someone-else misunderstanding", and that's just in 2 episodes. Makes it quite tedious to watch and I still have about 6 more installments to go. No wonder I never finished it. But I'm determined to watch it to the end this time. "101st Marriage Proposal" on the other hand was a lot more fun to watch. While it does have some of the moments I've mentioned earlier, it's characters are more endearing and there are a number of comedic moments to break the monotony. The only thing that bugs me is amount of crying in this series, most of it brought to you by Atsuko Asano (浅野温子). As long as she's in a scene with Tetsuya Takeda (武田鉄矢), she's bound to shed at least one tear. Such a contrast to her recent role in "Naruyouni Narusa" (なるようになるさ。) as a blunt and flippant amateur cafe owner.

As for the drama theme songs, I like both "Love Story wa Totsuzen ni" (ラブ・ストーリーは突然にー) and "Say Yes", but if I had to choose, I'd go with "Say Yes" without much hesitation as I have a much longer history with it. After "On Your Mark", the next Chage and Aska song that made its mark on my brain was the duo's most successful single though, if my memory serves, I took a slightly longer time to be accustomed to it with it having a slower pace and all.


Moving on, I consider "Say Yes" to be one of Aska's more sweet and sappy works as the lyrics he wrote are literally a profound, heartfelt marriage proposal albeit a trifle deep. Imagine a man saying whatever the duo sung in the song in a declarative fashion to the girl he loves while clasping her hands and gazing fondly into her eyes, hoping that she'll... say yes (the pun was inevitable). This made "Say Yes" the perfect ballad for a drama revolving around a bloke, completely hapless when it comes to love, desperately trying to win the affections of his lady - she's his 100th blind date (quite sad) whom he was completely smitten with upon setting eyes on her.

The video above with Takeda's contorted face shows what is perhaps the most iconic scene from "101st Marriage Proposal", where Tatsuya jumps in front of a lorry to prove to Kaoru that he wouldn't die. I know it's supposed to be an act of passion and to a certain dangerous extent, it was, but I couldn't help but snicker at the sight of the actors' faces as they sobbed and bawled.

Released in late July 1991, "Say Yes" was very well-received, staying at 1st place on the Oricon charts for 3 months consecutively, and eventually settled at 2nd place by the end of the year. On the following year, the song continued to stay within the Top 100 by coming it at 64th place, and it allowed the duo to bag numerous awards e.g Gold Disk Award and Composer's Award at the 33rd Japan Record Awards. The album "Say Yes" was released in, "Tree", also did well on the charts, peaking at 1st and becoming 1991's 2nd best-selling album.

 Here's a parody of the show's iconic scene. I love it when "Kaoru" constantly moves her eyebrows (had me paying more attention to Asano's facial expressions) and violently slams her former boyfriend into the grand piano.

I really like their album covers.
Very atmospheric.
Oh, and J-Canuck did an article on "Say Yes", you can check it out here.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mimi Hiyoshi/Akina Nakamori -- Otoko to Onna no Ohanashi(男と女のお話)

I was going through my father's stack of old 33s and 45s when I came across the above single with that image of a rather striking young woman from decades back. Her name was Mimi Hiyoshi(日吉ミミ), a kayo singer who unfortunately passed away a few years ago at the age of 64. And although I couldn't find the original version of the above record "Osaka Koi Uta"(大阪恋歌...Osaka Love Song)on YouTube, I did find the first big hit of her career, "Otoko to Onna no Ohanashi" (Talk Between A Man and a Woman).

Hiyoshi was originally born Kazuko Koike(小池和子)from Saitama Prefecture just above Tokyo in 1947. She debuted in 1967 under the stage name of Kazuko Ike(池和子)but after her first three singles failed to succeed, there was a career reset with a change in name to Mimi Hiyoshi in 1969. Her 2nd single after the name change (her 5th single overall) was the one that finally got her into the stratosphere. "Otoko to Onna no Ohanashi" was released in May 1970 as this melancholy ballad with Hiyoshi singing from the point of view of the fellow trying to advise a lady on the facts of love (and love lost) after she's just been dumped. After listening to it once, I had thought the fellow was a particularly caring bartender but looking at the lyrics by Kyosuke Kuni(久仁京介), I think Hiyoshi could be playing a regular barfly with the heart of a wannabe Casanova.

Supposedly Hiyoshi was known for her coquettish voice, but I think for this song and even "Osaka Koi Uta" which I heard on the stereo, her vocals were much more commanding (although still high-pitched) in the "I've-been-there-I-know-what-it's-like" tone. Masakazu Mizushima(水島正和)was responsible for the melody whose guitar and strings added that layer of further softness to the singer's advice to the lovelorn.

"Otoko to Onna no Ohanashi" touched a chord with listeners. It reached its peak at No. 6 on Oricon and sold over 600,000 records. And she made her sole appearance on the Kohaku Utagassen on the power of this song. Hiyoshi released 48 singles and 13 albums up to 2010.

(excerpt only)

There were a few covers of the ballad over the decades, most notably by Akina Nakamori(中森明菜)for her 2014 album, "All Time Best - Utahime (Covers)"(オールタイム・ベスト 〜歌姫(カヴァー)〜). Her version comes off as a semi-jazz waltz that Akina pulls off admirably; she seems to have that voice for world-weariness down pat on those recent cover albums. I especially like the intro into her cover since it reminds me a bit of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five"

Kiroro -- Saigo no Kiss (最後のKiss)

(karaoke version)

During that part of the 1990s that I was in Japan, I became accustomed to hearing about the various acts coming out from Okinawa, and usually my impression was that they were either performing the distinct folk music featuring the sanshin or kicking it up a notch with some high-energy dance pop (a la Namie Amuro and Speed). 

Then came Kiroro, a duo consisting of Chiharu Tamashiro and Ayano Kinjo(玉城千春・金城綾乃), high school buddies from the Nakagami District of Okinawa who made their debut under an independent label in late 1996 with "Nagai Aida"(長い間...A Long Time)before making their major label debut in early 1998 with the same song and hitting No. 1. My visual impression of the two was seeing Tamashiro standing behind the mike while Kinjo was providing the steady hand at the piano, and thanks to their big hit with "Nagai Aida", I always saw them as a pop ballad duo, especially with Tamashiro's angelic voice.

However, Kiroro's 5th single from June 1999 was "Saigo no Kiss" (Final Kiss), a sunny number which reminded me more of Dreams Come True on a fun vacation in terms of melody. Tamashiro wrote and composed the song that may not have reached the heights of their debut single, but it was fun enough for me to purchase the CD. It peaked at No. 12 on Oricon, and was placed as a track on Kiroro's 2nd album, "Suki na Hito: Kiroro no Sora"(好きな人〜キロロの空〜...The Person You Love - Kiroro's Sky)which was released in December 1999 and hit as high as No. 5 on the album charts.

I'm not sure how many ads Tamashiro and Kinjo did but I also remember that they also had their share of the limelight in the interview sessions of the music programs and even perhaps as guests on the variety shows. The two came off as being quite giddy and more than willing to have a good time with their hosts.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

ZAQ -- Alteration/Kana Asumi -- Shintouatsu Symphony (浸透圧シンフォニー)

Well, I've been quite grateful for my current translation gig handling things like travel articles. For one thing, I'm getting paid for my efforts and I'm also learning vocabulary on places such as onsen towns and the myriad shrines and temples. The unexpected benefit has to do with that latter tourist site in Japan. You see, over the past few months, I've been watching the 2013 anime "Sasami-san@Ganbaranai"(ささみさん@がんばらない...Ms. Sasami@Unmotivated)in which the plot and characters involve a lot of terms having to do with Japanese mythology such as the Sun Goddess Amaterasu and The Three Sacred Treasures of Japan. In fact, you might say that Amaterasu and those treasures are the characters. A lot of that stuff going in "Sasami-san" would have been over my head if it hadn't been for those shrine/temple articles. I had only just translated an article about a certain shrine which dealt with The Cave of Heaven, and a couple of days later, the cave got a mention in an episode of the show. Kismet or what? Anyways, the show's gotten a lot deeper and somewhat more complex compared to the debut episode which seemed to be about a sassy hikikomori ensconced in a rather nice house with an overly devoted brother with a sister complex.

But right from the beginning, I was drawn to the opening theme by singer-songwriter ZAQ, "Alteration". I have seen the singer-songwriter's name in the credits for other anime but "Alteration" has been the one by her that has finally grabbed me due to its blastoff right from the opening notes and melody which strikes me as reminiscent of a dance tune from the parapara days. Plus some of those key shifts certainly kept my ears on their toes.

"Alteration" was released as ZAQ's 2nd single from January 2013 and it peaked at No. 25 on Oricon. It is also a track on her lone album so far, "NOISY Lab." from April 2014 which got as high as No. 8 on the charts.

The other interesting thing about the show is the running gag that is the innocent ending credits. Instead of the technopop excitement of "Alteration", "Shintoutatsu Symphony" (Osmotic Pressure Symphony) is a cute aidoru-esque ending theme which for 11 of the 12 episodes, seiyuu Kana Asumi(阿澄佳奈)in character as Sasami-san refused to perform correctly for various reasons, often handing over the mike to one or more of the Yagami Sisters, her guardians, with varying results. I'm still in the middle of watching the series but I have heard that Sasami-san finally gets her act together at the end of the finale and provides the proper rendition. Lyricist and composer Kenichi Maeyamada(前山田健一)must have sighed relief. I certainly did and will be looking forward to the decent version.