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.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top 10 Albums for 2010

1.  Arashi                                  Boku no Miteiru Fukei
2.  Ikimonogakari                     Ikimongakari ~ Members' Best Selection
3.  Kana Nishino                       to Love
4.  Funky Monkey Babys         Funky Monkey Babys Best
5.  Mr. Children                        Sense
6.  Namie Amuro                      Past < Future
7.  Tohoshinki                           Best Selection 2010
8.  Ikimonogakari                     Hajimari no Uta
9.  Masaharu Fukuyama           The Best Bang!!
10. Kaela Kimura                     5 Years

So this will be the final "Kayo Kyoku Plus" article for 2016. A year ago, I went on to say that I would be pulling back from the blog to a certain extent. But ironically, we've ended up putting the largest number of articles in a single year at 809! So much for that prediction and we are approaching Year 5. Happy New Year!

Top 10 Singles for 2010

1.  AKB48                                 Beginner
2.  AKB48                                 Heavy Rotation
3.  Arashi                                   Troublemaker
4.  Arashi                                   Monster
5.  AKB48                                 Ponytail to ShuShu
6.  Arashi                                   Hatenai Sora
7.  Arashi                                   Love Rainbow
8.  AKB48                                 Chance no Junban
9.  Arashi                                   Dear Snow
10. Arashi                                  To Be Free

I haven't commented on these rankings anymore but, geez, 2010. I don't have any major grudge against AKB48 or Arashi but a little more variety would have been nice.

Paris Blue -- Anata ga Suki (あなたがすき)

I haven't been able to find much information on this duo which lasted from 1992 to 1996 but I found a few videos by Paris Blue on YouTube. And from what I've seen so far, I like. Just from looking at some of the photos of Miki Taniguchi(谷口實希)and Shingo Hibino(日比野信午)and hearing their melodies, I would say that this was one of those Shibuya-kei groups that I had yet to encounter.

"Anata ga Suki" (I Love You) is Paris Blue's debut single and a track on their debut album "Sing A Simple Song" from December 1992. It has that certain sophisticated swing paired with some 70s soul reminiscent of Lou Rawls with that French accordion thrown in for good measure. Taniguchi took care of lyrics and vocals while Hibino was the fellow behind the melody and backup vocals.

So, on that note, I have completed my theme of "Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue".

Masaaki Hirano -- Enka Chanchakachan (演歌チャンチャカチャン)

Entry No. 3 for my New Year's Eve whimsical series on "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue". With "something borrowed", I had come across an interesting novelty tune that came out all the way back in 1977, some months after the very first "Star Wars" had come out.

I first heard it on an episode of "Itsuki Sensei no Utau! SHOW Gakko"五木先生の 歌う!SHOW学校...Itsuki Sensei's Sing Show School...the 'SHOW Gakko' is a pun on shogakko or 'elementary school'), another NHK kayo-based show which has veteran enka singer Hiroshi Itsuki(五木先生)host a short comedy-variety series. Based in an old rickety elementary school classroom, the titular teacher stands guard over his students comprised of a mix of tarento and singers trying to get their music on.

Now, the "something borrowed" happens to be a comical little tune titled "Enka Chanchakachan". There is no translation for the title since that last word is just a bit of Japanese onomatopoeia that's put into the song for fun effect. What the song did and does is borrow various lines from other enka tunes or kayo and smash them together for the singer to traipse through gleefully. It's basically an enka smorgasbord.

The gleeful singer was a fellow by the name of Masaaki Hirano(平野雅昭)who at the time was running a bar in Roppongi, Tokyo. Although the J-Wiki article didn't make it particularly clear, it seems like he was the one who concocted this cocktail of enka hits interspersed with the happy delivery of "chanchakachacha". Among the enka songs included here were a couple of Ichiro Fujiyama(藤山一郎)chestnuts including "Tokyo Rhapsody"(東京ラプソディ), Taro Shoji's(東海林太郎)"Meigetsu Akagiyama"(名月赤城山), Yoshio Tabata's(田端義夫)"Kaeri Bune"(かえり船), Tetsuya Watari's(渡哲也)"Kuchinashi no Hana"(くちなしの花), Rumiko Koyanagi's(小柳ルミ子)"Watashi no Joukamachi"(わたしの城下町)and Masako Mori's(森昌子)"Sensei" (せんせい). Whew!

Hirano hit on something big here. And perhaps some good luck in timing helped out as well since karaoke was starting to come into its own. "Enka Chanchakachan" went all the way up to No. 3 on the Oricon charts and sold around 800,000 records after its release in November 1977. The song also had its visual element as well as Hirano himself displayed in his appearance on "Yoru no Hit Studio"(夜のヒットスタジオ). Along with having a rollicking good time during the performance, he would always stretch out his right arm while looking in that direction whenever he threw out the onomatopoeia. I gather that at the time, this was the equivalent of the karaoke Olympics...the song was probably meant for the most proficient enka lovers.

There were apparently variations on the song. The one that Hirano performed above was quite different in content from the original version. I can imagine during New Year's, there will probably be still some households with family and friends who may take this one on with the in-house karaoke machine.

bonobos -- Cruisin' Cruisin'

Well, continuing along with my theme of "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" today on New Year's Eve, here is the "something new" segment.

Bonobos is a band that I've known for one song and one song only thus far. That would be one of my biggest earworms titled "Thank You For The Music" which came out over a decade ago. Whenever I hear the boom-boom-thwack beat ring out in my memories, I just feel like searching for the song again.

In recent years, though, the band has also been helping out on an NHK kids' program that comes on just before the news, "Nyanchu World Hoso Kyoku"(ニャンちゅうワールド放送局...Nyanchu's World Broadcasting Corporation). Of course, the music provided by the band there is a lot more geared towards the little ones.

However, I did find this song that had come out as part of bonobos' latest album from September 2016, "23-ku" (23区...23 Wards). Titled "Cruisin' Cruisin'", it's actually a nice slice of slow-groovin' soul written and composed by vocalist Chunho Sai(蔡忠浩). The riffs and Sai's crooning of the title have created a new bonobos earworm for my head, and the song actually takes me more into the territory of Tomita Lab and Sing Like Talking.

But that official music video is perfect for the song. Listening to this while admiring the view on a rooftop looking out at Tokyo Sky Tree is just the tonic. I've been hearing about the flood of Air BnBs that have shown up in the metropolis over the last year or so. Wouldn't it be wonderful to track a place down with that sort of view?

Judging from the title of bonobos' album which refers to the 23 wards of Tokyo, I wonder if the release is going for a more urban contemporary beat. If so, I wouldn't mind perusing the tracks further.

Akina Nakamori -- Prologue ( プロローグ〈序幕〉)

Japan has already entered 2017 so my Happy New Year greetings to everyone out there. We're still about 12 hours away from blowing the horns and throwing the confetti ourselves. I did catch the last third of the live broadcast of NHK's Kohaku Utagassen; with the 14-hour time difference, I simply won't wake up that early to watch something that's going to be re-broadcast later tonight anyways. It looks like I lost a bet to Larry about the SMAP thing, though.

For the very final day of 2016, I've decided to write 4 articles at the very least today which is about twice as much as I usually do. Basically I'm going to go with the theme of that old-fashioned bridal rhyme of "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue".

The "something old" is not a problem at all here since this blog is mostly about the old...the kayo kyoku. And so I've decided to go with one of my Xmas purchases: Akina Nakamori's(中森明菜)debut album from July 1982, "Prologue - Jomaku". That latter Japanese word is indeed the translation for prologue. After all these decades, I finally got the album that started off her career, and man, first off, I got to say that fresh-faced Akina looks downright cherubic on the cover.

There's a theory that's been buzzing about in my head for years now. And that deals with whether the scouts, songwriters, producers and other folks in the music industry used to take a Queen Bee approach when it came to up-and-comers. I mean, if I were to graphically represent the super aidoru such as Akina, Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子), Kyoko Koizumi(小泉今日子)from the 1980s and even Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)of the 1970s and the dozens...or perhaps hundreds...of ingenues that tried to reach stardom in the aidoru industry, those four ladies would be drops of water above the ocean represented by those other girls. Did those powers-that-be garner some sort of inkling about whether someone like Akina had that certain talent or je-ne-sais-quoi quality and gave her access to the top songwriters?

Before I purchased "Prologue", I listened to the samples at the CD Japan website. Of course, each sample was all of 45 seconds but even then, I was pretty intrigued about the way the songs sounded. Akina's vocals may have been rather raw but there were hints of what she was to become in her delivery, and the songs themselves had a good mix of variation in terms of genre and some fine efforts by those songwriters. So I parted with my yen gladly. My impression was that for an aidoru album, this was a pretty special release.

The first track that starts the whole thing off is "Anata no Portrait"(あなたのポートレート...A Portrait of You) which was created by Etsuko and Takao Kisugi(来生えつこ・来生たかお).
As would be the case with a concoction by the Kisugi siblings, "Anata no Portrait" is a lush mid-tempo ballad with those shimmering strings and a contemporary pop beat. The lyrics by Etsuko Kisugi talk about a chance meeting with that special someone, and the image will no longer leave her mind. In other words, she is in major love! Now, I think moco momo does a pretty good job of emulating both the early and later Akina voices so the rendition of the song is reflective of how the real Akina sounded back then. There is some of that high-toned cracking and off-tune bits in the delivery that I can imagine an aidoru committing. It's unpolished but I would think that a lot of high school girls would have related to the mood brought about by the song. And again, there is that lovely romantic melody by Takao Kisugi.

"Bon Voyage" is Track 2. A fairly bouncy song with that hint of the tropics and maybe even some Resort Pop, this is also a tune that had me and perhaps all the folks back in the early 1980s thinking that perhaps there was something more than meets the eye with this young Ms. Nakamori. Mayumi Shinozuka(篠塚満由美), who was once a singer and a monomane tarento in the 1970s, became a lyricist and she was responsible for this song. Meanwhile, Eriko Tsukayama(塚山エリコ)provided the music.

Early on in my time getting to know Akina, I did hear comparisons between her and the aforementioned Momoe Yamaguchi. "T-Shirt Sunset" is the song that kinda sparked that memory. That arrangement of folky pop and the breathier way that Akina sings here had me reminiscing about Momoe. The late lyricist Tsuzuru Nakasato(中里綴)and composer Masamitsu Tayama(田山雅充)took care of this one.

"A-gata Melancholy"(A型メランコリー...Type-A Melancholy)is all about the blood types which are a major source of fortune telling in Japan.  I'm not sure whether Nakasato and Tayama had specifically made this for Akina since she herself has Type-A blood but it's an eerily prescient ditty since she sings about getting all hot and bothered about a fellow who's a Type-O, and I found out that Masahiko "Matchy" Kondo(近藤真彦), her future beau, also has that blood type (come to think of it, I'm a Type-O as well, heh can fantasize, eh?). Again, this is another track that had me thinking of Momoe due to the urgent strings and beat from the latter part of her career along with Akina's delivery.

Well, I finally managed to find a video with the actual Akina singing a track from "Prologue". This would be the final track "Downtown Story"(ダウンタウンすと〜り〜). And this is something that kinda hinted at the persona that she would pick up for the next little while through singles such as "Shojo A"(少女A): that of the so-called troubled high school girl running off with the bad crowd. Ayumi Date(伊達歩)came up with the words about the tsuppari breathlessly getting on back of the motorcycle with her punk boyfriend and looking forward to all of the fun down the road. Guitarist Fujimal Yoshino(芳野藤丸)generated the light rock beat.

Of course, I can't really finish the article without putting up the one single that came out of "Prologue", "Slow Motion"(スローモーション), Single No. 1 for Akina. As for the album, it did very well since it peaked at No. 5 on Oricon. Nope, it hasn't supplanted by any means "Bitter & Sweet" as my favourite Akina album, but I'm glad that I now have the source of her roots.

Ah, way back when...

Utada Hikaru -- Colors

2016 is drawing to a close, and it’s again Kouhaku (紅白歌合戦) time.  Originally, I thought I’ll skip watching this year.  But since Utada Hikaru (宇多田ヒカル) is going to perform for the 1st time, it got me interested and I think I’m going to watch again this year.  Of course, I don’t have any NHK subscription in North America and so I’ll be downloading it from the Internet in January.  I’m also hoping for a SMAP surprise appearance.

I knew Utada's name before I listened to any of her songs.  I remembered the first song I listened was “Can you keep a secret?” It was played at the end of the hit TV drama Hero, starring Kimura Takuya (木村拓哉) and Matsu Takako (松たか子). In fact, it’s not until 2012 when I bought my first Utada CD, a 2nd hand one titled “Single Collection Vol 1”.  In the past few years, I went on and bought a few other songs from Apple Store.  Now, I find myself hooked onto “First Love”, “Letters”, “Colors”, “Flavor of Love”, “Prisoner of Love”, “Sakura Nagashi”, “Goodbye Happiness”, and of course “Can you keep a secret?”.  Especially for “Goodbye Happiness”, its MV on her YouTube channel is extremely cute and it makes various references to her previous hits.  The entire video was taken in 1 shot and I was really impressed.  You should watch it if you got a chance.

I've let myself stray too far off the topic, I guess.  Today, I want to write about Utada's song “Colors”.  It was released in January 2003, her first single after she got married to her first husband Kiriya Kazuaki (紀里谷和明).  According to wiki, she wrote the song in France during her honeymoon with Kazuaki.  I guess being an artist means that you can choose your own working hours, but it also means that you’ll be working all the time!  Also from wiki, if you listen closely to her live performances, she always sang 1-key lower compared to her CD version.  Utada said she originally intend the song to be in that lowered key.  But during recording, people around advised her to sing 1-key higher, and so we now got these 2 versions.

Here’s the link to the official MV:

The lyrics of the song is very abstract and hard to follow.  Utada uses a lot of metaphors.  I’ve read a few interpretations on the Internet, but I like mine best :-) (or otherwise I wouldn't be writing about it)  Let me first say that I found a lot of sexually suggestive language in the song, starting from the very first paragraph.  According to my own interpretation, the song is about a woman who broke up with her boyfriend.  On one hand, she is not ready to give up hope on love, nevertheless she takes revenge at her ex-boyfriend by engaging again and again in one-night stands.  “Like a luring bullfighter flushing in red,” she wrote.

The first paragraph takes place in a love motel.

When I realized the mirage reflected in the mirror
Speed had suddenly picked itself up

I have never been to a love motel myself, but through various movies and documentaries, I’ve seen mirrors on the ceiling and around the bed.  When human is having an orgasm, he/she is delusional and everything he/she sees is mirage-like.  I’m not going to describe the 2nd sentence and you’ll have to imagine why there’s a pick up of speed.

We're now in the break-up scene, where her ex-boyfriend told her that “he doesn’t care anymore”.  She was disappointed and everything started turning gray.  From the very start, she’s already unsure about him but now everything is shattered.

In the 3rd scene, she remembers making love with him.

炎の揺らめき 今宵も夢を描く
あなたの筆先 渇いていませんか
Tonight, flames are flickering, and again we’ll be painting our dreams
My darling, has ink gone dry on your brush tip yet?

The chorus reveals her attitude about love and sex.

いいじゃないか キャンバスは君のもの
今は真っ赤に 誘う闘牛士のように
If there’s no blue sky in sight, let’s open a blue umbrella
Isn’t it nice? The canvas is his
One holds up the white flag only when she’s giving up
For now, I’ll be like a luring bullfighter flushing in red

Previously, she used painting as a metaphor for love making.  So "canvas" here refers to herself.  When there's no blue sky she's going to make one up herself by sleeping with men after men.  She's not ready to give up and she's doing it as if it's a revenge against her ex-boyfriend.  Her reference to bullfight is, in my opinion, sexually suggestive - as the bull charges towards the bullfighter it passes through the muleta as if it's entering into something.

In the next scene, she's met her new partner "on a black and white chessboard under fading fluorescent light."  Confused, they quickly fell in love with each other in a month's time.  I imagine that the chessboard metaphor means that they're probably playing games with each other at the beginning.

Unfortunately, things ended quickly.  It would have been great if they could just watch the orange sunset together.  But they quarreled and eventually broke up.  She vows not to wear "black outfits" because they're only for attending funerals.  She went back and continue her quest for one-night stands, intentionally leaving red rouge marks on every man's body, as if she's keeping score of her revenge against her ex-boyfriend.

Lastly, she reveals her attitude again in the ending portion of the song.

塗りつぶしてよ キャンバスを何度でも
If one say she can only produce dreamless paintings
Just paint the canvas over and over again, as many times as you please
A person only holds up a white flag when she's giving up
By now you have no idea what color I've become

If she couldn't find her true love, she'd rather sleep with as many men as she wants.  She's also telling her ex-boyfriend that the next time they meet, she'll be an unknown color to him!

Throughout the song, a total of 6 colors are mentioned: black, white, blue, red, orange, and gray, each signifying a different emotional state of the female protagonist.  The word color also serves as a double metaphor - men with whom she slept with.

I am personally very impressed with the song, both its lyrics and its arrangement.  I am not a fan of electronica.  But I really love its use throughout the song, especially in the intro and the conclusion.  It gives the song a layer of mystery.  As I listen to the music, I could totally imagine myself being in a night club, which is quite fitting for its contents.

Before I end this blog post, I want to mention one last thing that I've read on another blog.  The author said for some unknown reason, gay men are especially attracted to Utada's songs, Japanese or English.  He's himself gay and he said all his gay friends agree with him. 

The true meaning of Colors will remain unknown until Utada speaks up.  I don't know if she'll come across Kayo Kyoku Plus some day and offer her own comments :)

Let's enjoy the last day of 2016, and I wish everybody a Happy New Year 2017!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Hiroshi Itsuki -- Nagaragawa Enka (長良川艶歌)

Whaddaya know, the Itsuki picture for September
matches the song for today.
For the past three and a half months I had been busy with my school's internship - hence fewer write-ups by me - the last leg of my tertiary education - I've still got about a month left. It's got some highs and lows, but the Thursday to Sunday a couple weeks ago was probably the most harrowing experience thus far. Volunteering with a friend to help out at our workplace's (AVA... Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority) booth at an ornamental fish competition seemed exciting enough. However, with this poorly organised event lacking a number of important necessities like two categories worth of competing fish, and as such, the people, the both of us were wonderfully underwhelmed with having to tout free fans to a sparse crowd and literally counting the number of people who simply took a glance at our booth - 19 on Thursday but things picked up somewhat on Saturday. But even doing nothing is tiring if you have to do it for 6-8 hours. Kudos to this friend who stayed throughout the entire duration.

The absolute worst, however, has got to be the terrible, nonstop Christmas music blasting away. By Sunday we must've fallen too far into the rabbit hole as we imagined an idiotic "mix tape" that combines the instrumental version of "Silent Night", this hilariously awful song that has the singer going "Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!" at the chorus, and last but not least the whine of the hedge saw we heard when coming back from lunch. Imagine how that train wreck of a "mix tape" turned out to be. This horrific nightmare before Christmas made me miss enka a whole lot, and believe me I've been trying to use that to drown out the madness.

A good remedy would be "Nagaragawa Enka". It's a destination song featuring Gifu's Nagara river, renowned enka songwriters Chiaki Oka and Miyuki Ishimoto (岡千秋.石本美由起) put it together, and sung by Hiroshi Itsuki (五木ひろし), the genre's top veteran (in this current decade at least) in a kimono. Can't ask for anything more enka than that.

Rokyoku Itsuki
"Nagaragawa Enka" has got a traditional-sounding score as composed by Oka. What I find the main attraction of this melody is the haunting notes from the koto, which feels like the dark, rolling waves over the river at night, and is reminiscent of Takeo Fujishima's classic, "Otsuki-san Konbanwa" (お月さん今晩は). It's actually quite therapeutic, especially when combined with Itsuki's mellow delivery. Ishimoto's lyrics, which is set during the Ukai period in Gifu city, tells of whom I'm going to assume is a woman being reminded of a one night stand while watching the age old tradition of cormorant fishing along the river. The affair seemed to be a passionate one and the parting not on mutual terms as she seems rather sour about its end. Such is the sad fate of at least 90% of the enka characters.

"Nagaragawa Enka", from 21st April 1984 and later, 25th August, is Itsuki's biggest hit when it comes to the destination song department. It sold over a massive 10 million copies - a feat that only 6 other acts, including Momoe Yamaguchi (山口百恵) and Shinichi Mori (森進一), have accomplished - and won the singer First Prize at the 26th Japan Record Awards, the 15th Japanese Music Awards, and at the 13th FNS Music Festival. That is one decorated song. "Nagaragawa Enka" did well on the Oricon charts, coming in at 10th place at its peak before dropping to 14th by the end of 1984. It still managed to maintain its popularity in 1985 as it came in 61st for that year.

He looks good in grey suits.
With stuff like "Nagaragawa Enka" and "Jinanbo Garasu" (次男坊鴉... perhaps an article for another time), the madness of the exhibition's terrible music has mostly been exterminated. But things like the "Idiot Mix Tape" and memories from this experience will be in my mind for a long time, I reckon. What a way to end the already crazy year. Makes me wonder what next year will be like. Not as bumpy or bi-polar as this year, please. Anyways, hope you guys will have a good year ahead, and for surviving 2016... (the picture below)

Gokurosama deshita. :)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Noriko Sakai -- Kagami no Dress (鏡のドレス)

With all of the trials and tribulations pounding upon ASKA over the past several weeks due to his drug problems (although the police didn't have enough evidence to indict him this time), I've been reminded of former 80s aidoru Noriko Sakai(酒井法子)due to the drug scandal that she and her ex-husband had gotten mired in. I wonder what she is doing now. When I checked her J-Wiki article, the most recent news was that she was supposed to have appeared in some stage performance in 2014 but then suddenly left the show just before its premiere.

Marcos V. wrote about Nori-P's 27th single "Aoi Usagi"(碧いうさぎ...Blue Rabbit)which was the theme song for a popular drama that she starred in "Hoshi no Kinka"(星の金貨...Gold Coins of the Stars)back in 1995. For this article, I'm writing up about the theme song for the sequel to that drama which was titled "Zoku - Hoshi no Kinka"(続・星の金貨....Gold Coins of the Stars: The Sequel), and this was also sung by Sakai as her 29th single.

Released in October 1996, "Kagami no Dress" (A Mirror Dress) is this vulnerable-sounding ballad that has Sakai wishing for that desirable young man to help her out of her sadness. There's nothing like synthesized pan flutes to help set the proper mood. I never saw the drama but I did enjoy the song enough that I ended up getting the CD single. Listening to the song and especially the performance above, I think that Nori-P really broke out of that aidoru mold. Her vocals sounded quite a bit more mature than I remembered them back in the 1980s although they weren't exactly Akina-deep.

"Kagami no Dress" was written by Rara Miura(三浦らら)and composed by Kyoichi Usamoto(宇佐元恭一). I don't know how it did on Oricon, but at this point, I'm hoping that the singer is doing well somewhere.

Hiroshi Tachi -- Dakishimete (抱きしめて)

When I first saw the above photo in the pages of a Myojo issue, I just thought that these guys were members of the yakuza instead of the police department, especially that grim-looking fellow on the left there. Then I read the title at the bottom of the photo "Abunai Deka"(あぶない刑事...Dangerous Detectives).

I've known about the series since then for many years and even caught a few episodes. My impression was that this was the Japanese coming of "Starsky & Hutch" with a much better tailor. I didn't become a fan but I couldn't deny that the two leads, Hiroshi Tachi舘ひろし)and Kyohei Shibata(柴田恭兵), cut quite the dashing figures. Of course, Atsuko Asano(浅野温子)was just plain smoking in the photo although her character in the show was a lot goofier. A couple of days before Xmas, my Vancouver friend, Michael, was kind enough to give me his DVD sets of "Abunai Deka" so I'm gonna have to set up a schedule to see the show.

Usually Hiroshi Tachi is Noelle's territory. However, I came across this song by him on YouTube and found it in that same mold of rock n' blues that his even more famous "Nakanaide"(泣かないで)was back in 1984. As I told Noelle in that article, Tachi's appearance to sing "Nakanaide" on the Kohaku Utagassen in that year kinda helped me cement the image of the man...the dedicated detective who may not be the most upstanding citizen but he's on the side of the angels although he likes some of the devilish things in life.

"Dakishimete" (Hold Me) is actually not part of the "Abunai Deka" soundtrack but a song he performed and released in April 1990 as one of the theme songs for another show he was on called "Deka Kizoku"(刑事貴族...The Detective Nobility). According to the J-Wiki write-up, the NTV program was inspired by the American NBC series "Crime Story" from 1986 which was notable for its long-term storyline, something that has become par for the course for TV series now here but was very groundbreaking decades ago. Tachi played ace detective Shunsuke Maki for the first part of "Deka Kizoku".

Tachi also wrote and composed "Dakishimete" which has that combination of guitar, slamming drums and slightly Asian strings. Perhaps Noelle can confirm for me whether this has been a trademark musical style for some of his other creations. Another observation from my part is that for some reason, the rhythm has me reminded of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me".  Listening to him, I can see him striding down one of the main streets of Tokyo in a slightly bedraggled but obviously expensive suit after a long night out and heading back to headquarters. Sleep is for losers, according to him. He may be tired but he will still be protecting the city proudly, and that trumpet in the middle kinda puts the accent on that.

Another image I have of Tachi is that he probably treats the microphone as his lover. There is always that particular singer who cradles the head of the old-fashioned mike while he sings into it, and with Tachi, that would be the case here as well. However, he also has developed an even deeper growl to show and ask for that passion.

(Sorry but the video has been taken down.)

The above video is from a broadcast of NHK's afternoon talk show "Studio Park" in which some 10 minutes into the program, Tachi professes his affinity for the sweets, especially in this case, the very Japanese taiyaki. However, there was also an NHK English conversation seminar program featuring tarento years ago in which Tachi was a guest and showed some proficiency in the English language. In fact, I remember him distinctly saying that he and his family were Anglophiles to the extent that they used to have regular teatime in the late afternoon.

Yes, can you J-Drama fans ever imagine a young Tachi saying something "Please, Mummy, may I ask you for some more clotted cream?". Then again, one Humphrey Bogart (yes, that Bogie) used to appear in a few roles where he played the rich and spoiled guy about town very early in his career. So, perhaps, I can place Tachi as a J-Bogart?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

SMAP -- Kono Toki, Kitto Yume ja nai (この瞬間、きっと夢じゃない)

Ahhhh, yes. If you are a SMAP fan looking at the above photo, you may be swooning and even shedding a tear. After all, we're not only in the countdown to the end of 2016 but also in the last few days before the former kings of the Johnny's Entertainment castle formally end their 28-year existence in the entertainment industry.

My friend, fellow blog collaborator Larry, and I were having lunch down at my favourite izakaya yesterday and discussing partially on some of the various musical developments over the decades. The topic of SMAP came up, and Larry told me that the media is reporting that the group will not show up at the Kohaku Utagassen for one final song and bow on Saturday night. Now, that may be true but knowing NHK's penchant for throwing surprises at us through the Kohaku over the past few years, I still think the producers may be able to pull a last-minute SMAP rabbit out of the hat. Supposedly, the current kings, Arashi(嵐), are going to be the last guys up to perform at around 11:30 pm, so wouldn't it be quite the finish for those guys to suddenly give the stage to their honoured sempai in a move so typically sentimental that the ratings might spike up into the stratosphere? In any case, let's stay tuned.

The other day, I was watching the weekly Sunday sportscast on NHK via TV Japan when the usual focus on a certain athlete came on. The schtick here was that the athlete in question would also mention a song that would inspire him/her the most, and in this case, it was a female volleyball player and her choice happened to be a SMAP ballad titled "Kono Toki, Kitto Yume ja nai" (This Moment Is No Dream).

In all honesty, I had never heard of this song until that Sunday but it was used as the TBS Olympic coverage theme song for the Beijing Games in 2008. I guess I was always going to NHK for my Olympic fix. But I have to admit that SMAP's 43rd single is quite soothing yet inspiring to listen to, just the tonic for an Olympics theme if balladry is the choice here. Heck, even Nakai-kun is less grating on the ears than usual. And I'm always grateful for that.

"Kono Toki, Kitto Yume ja nai" was released in August 2008 and created by a band called Hi-Fi Camp. It was another No. 1 in the long series of chart-topping hits for SMAP (in fact, right to the end, all subsequent singles peaked no lower than No. 1). It ended up as the 49th-ranked single of the year, and has been placed in a few of their albums, one being their 18th called "super.modern.artistic.performance" which was released in September. That release also went to No. 1 and was the 38th-ranked album of the year.

Now again, if SMAP does show up at the end of the Kohaku, in all likelihood, they will sing what is arguably their most beloved hit, "Sekai ni Hitotsu dake no Hana"(世界に一つだけの花). However, if the group goes into medley mode, then I wouldn't mind hearing "Kono Toki" in there. In any case, it's been a good run for Nakai-kun, KimiTaku, Kusanagi, Inagaki and Katori and I'm positive that all of them will be showing up individually on other variety shows and dramas in the future. But let us give our farewells to SMAP. All hail SMAP!

Yes, that was the 6th SMAP member
at the lower-left corner. Do you remember who he is?
Please do not lick the screen.

Akira Terao -- Futari no Fuusen ~ Koibito to Issho ni Kiite Kudasai (二人の風船 ~ 恋人と一緒に聴いて下さい)

Nowadays when the name Akira Terao(寺尾聰), a lot of folks will probably think of the veteran actor with the slightly hangdog expression that would make most fans want to give him a helping hand through the TV screen. For people of my generation who were into kayo kyoku back then, we also knew him as not only the cop in the cool glasses working under Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎)in "Seibu Keisatsu"(西部警察....West Division Police)but also as the guy behind the even cooler "Ruby no Yubiwa"(ルビーの指輪)and its home album "Reflections" from 1981. I recently mentioned about music touchstones that got me further into my interest in Japanese popular music. Well, "Ruby no Yubiwa" was one of the biggies for me. That intro does it to me every time.

I also noted in the article for "Reflections", one of my earliest pieces for "Kayo Kyoku Plus" that Terao had been a member of a Group Sounds band, The Savage, in the 1960s. But then with the fade out of the genre entering the 1970s, the singer-songwriter did go solo. His very first album was released in 1970 titled "Futari no Fuusen ~ Koibito to Issho ni Kiite Kudasai" (A Balloon For Two ~ Please Listen Together With A Lover). So far, I've come across a couple of tracks from the album which showed that Terao was interested in the bossa nova genre.

Indeed "The More I See You" is about as relaxing as lying on Copacabana Beach (provided that it was safe back in those days). And there is quite the serenade feeling about it. Even back then, that familiar and resonant Terao voice was there but I'm impressed that his English was (and is?) quite good in those days. Considering the genre and the delivery, I think "The More I See You" would also have been quite a good song for his future "boss", Ishihara to tackle.

As with the above track, "Inakunatta Anata" (いなくなったあなた...You're Gone) is another bossa nova piece but it's a bit more dramatic according to that title. Hopefully, it wasn't the thematic sequel to "The More I See You", but I'm still a sucker for a bossa nova ballad. I couldn't find out for sure whether it was indeed Terao who concocted these Brazilian delights but from what I've heard here, I wouldn't mind if he has been able to create some more of them in his future albums. Anyways, it was good to find another one of his albums that isn't "Reflections".

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Chiharu Higa -- La La Life

Earlier this month, I was watching the variety game show "VS Arashi" as I usually do on Friday evenings, and the show regularly brings in a fairly wide spectrum of actors and tarento and comedians. Well, that one night, I encountered one fellow in his early 20s who was quite overwhelmingly ebullient.

His name is Ryucheru/りゅうちぇる (real name: Ryuji Higa/比嘉龍二), and he's a young magazine model who has recently made his way to TV fame, often amusing and/or bemusing his fellow celebrities and hosts.

While I was trying to find out some information about Ryucheru, I found out on both J-Wiki and Wikipedia that he has a sister in her 30s who is Okinawan singer-songwriter Chiharu Higa(比花知春). Then moving onto YouTube, I found this very pleasant song by her titled "La La Life" which had been released earlier this year as part of her single, "Good".

Higa has this refreshingly soothing and velvety voice and paired up with the mellow happy-go-lucky melody that's she created, "La La Life" is a pretty nice way to pick up the spirits especially after some of the sad news I've been getting about the deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher. The video has Higa and everyone encouraging folks to put up that thumb. Everything's OK.

Like a number of other popular acts that have come from Okinawa such as SPEED and Namie Amuro(安室奈美恵), Higa herself attended the Okinawa Actors' School in her early teenage years before picking up a guitar at 17 and then writing songs at 20. In 2002, she made her major debut with "Kimi wo Wasurenai"(君を忘れない...I Won't Forget You).

Princess Princess -- Koi wa Balance (恋はバランス)

by jimivr

Good golly! George Michael on Xmas Day and then today I get this news. I'd heard about Carrie Fisher's heart attack on that flight over to Los Angeles before last weekend and knew that she was in a bad way but the prognosis was that she was stabilizing. I took that to mean a hopeful thing. Unfortunately, the news came out this morning that she had passed away earlier today at the age of 60.😢

Fisher may have worn a number of hats in her career but it would always be her cinnamon bun do that I will remember her for. Of course, it's Princess Leia. When I had first heard of "Star Wars" decades ago and finally got to see it at the theatre, my impression as a callow youth was that as a princess, she would be the usual Disney damsel-in-distress. Instead, she was a 19-year-old cranky, snarky and tough belle who could go toe-to-toe with dashing-but-mercenary Han Solo. She didn't smile all that much during "A New Hope"...and frankly, how could she when the Death Star blew up her adopted planet and all her loved ones right in front of her eyes?

However, there is a trope that I found on the website "TV Tropes" called "When She Smiles" which describes a usually dour-faced character in pop culture who suddenly lights up the room...and fans...when he or she finally gives that rare happy look. That smile finally happened at the end of "A New Hope" during the medal ceremony for Luke Skywalker and Han, and I can remark that those guys' reward was just as much Leia's smile as it was those medals and recognition that they struck a blow against the evil Empire. Carrie Fisher probably melted a whole lot of hearts when she smiled in those photos but her passing broke a whole lot of them today.

So I was left thinking about how to pay some tribute through the blog, and decided to go with an old Princess Princess song. Nope, it isn't a smooth segue but it's the best I got. In fact, I have here the band's debut single under their Princess Princess moniker, "Koi wa Balance" (Love In Balance). Strangely enough, there is something fitting about going with this song for this tribute to Carrie Fisher since there has been that overarching theme of providing balance to the Force.

Released in April 1987, "Koi wa Balance" wasn't an in-band creation as would be the case with many of their future hits. Vocalist Kaori Okui(奥居香)didn't provide the music; instead it was veteran composer Kisaburo Suzuki(鈴木キサブロー)who I usually associate with the much different Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子). However, guitarist Kanako Nakayama(中山加奈子)wrote the lyrics.

It's always interesting to see how a famous band started from humble beginnings. And watching the video above, all of the ladies looked a lot less rock and somewhat more GAP Kids. The song itself was definitely more on the poppier side of things and the underlying melody reminded me of this old Italian standard from years ago. Apparently "Koi wa Balance" didn't chart but that's OK. Obviously the best was yet to come for Okui and company.

It's been a tough 2016 for our pop idol icons, folks...

(December 28th: And the sadness deepens....her mother Debbie Reynolds just passed away earlier tonight.)

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Works of Takashi Matsumoto (松本隆)

I was kinda wondering about devoting an article to the works of longtime lyricist Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)but was musing about the approach. This is a fellow who is currently 3rd in terms of best-selling lyricist in modern Japanese music history behind Yasushi Akimoto(秋元康)and the late Yu Aku(阿久悠), but he far outstrips either of them in terms of entries on "Kayo Kyoku Plus". In fact, with this entry being the 97th article with his name involved, he is the one human Label with the highest number of entries.

There really wouldn't be much to say except to suggest to readers to look at his J-Wiki entry provided they can read Japanese or go through the Takashi Matsumoto Label here and scroll down the songs (advance apologies if a number of those YouTube videos have been taken down). His own homepage was discontinued years ago and even the J-Wiki entry doesn't give any insights about his songwriting style. And the fact is that I couldn't really glean any patterns from the lyrics (aside from a love theme) that he has given to his too-numerous-to-count clients over the decades. He is just one prolific lyricist who can work with any genre save enka or Mood Kayo. However, since I have given space and time to some of the other major Creators, I would be remiss if I didn't mention him in this category. At the very least, I would like to present some of those famous hits he was partially responsible for although they have already been represented in their own articles just to let folks know that, yep, he actually did write them.

Takashi Matsumoto was born in the Aoyama neighbourhood of Tokyo on July 16th 1949. According to the Wikipedia entry for him, even as an elementary school student, he was already proving himself quite the aesthete by listening to the works of Igor Stravinsky and reading Jean Cocteau. But thanks to the Beatles, he plunged into rock music and got a drum kit.

Matsumoto's first band was Apryl Fool with Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)but that didn't last too long so his more famous outfit with Hosono was Happy End (1969-1972) as the band drummer. He already started practicing his lyricist chops since he provided the words to a good chunk of the band's output.

After Happy End broke up, Matsumoto started working with Moonriders while at the same time continuing writing lyrics and even getting into producing records. He did so with Yoshitaka Minami's(南佳孝)debut album "Matenro no Heroine"(摩天楼のヒロイン...Skyscraper Heroine)which was released in September 1973. However on completion of the project, Minami remarked that there was too much of Matsumoto in the lyrics and that "Matenro no Heroine" was really Matsumoto's album. If this scene had played out as an anime, Matsumoto's face or the background behind him would have cracked like a mirror. Ouch! In any case, any more ambitions about producing quickly leached out of him and he stuck with writing.

Matsumoto's first go as a professional lyricist, post-Happy End, was an Agnes Chan(アグネス・チャン)song "Pocket Ippai no Himitsu"(ポケットいっぱいの秘密...A Pocketful of Secrets)released in June 1974 as her 6th single. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, the gig may have been the result of a misunderstanding when Matsumoto had asked to write a commercial song, his friend in the industry had assumed it meant a pop song rather than a jingle for an actual TV ad.

But it all worked out in the end. Matsumoto's song (with composer Yusuke Hoguchi/穂口雄右) about a girl giddily asking a guy to keep their tryst under wraps got up to No. 6 on Oricon and ended up as the year's 60th-ranked single.

The band Tin Pan Alley(ティン・パン・アレー)came up with a cover version of "Pocket Ippai no Himitsu" in 1977 and you can read about it here.

Of course, one of Matsumoto's earliest hits was Hiromi Ohta's(太田裕美)"Momen no Handkerchief"(木綿のハンカチーフ)from December 1975. As sunny and cheerful as a spring day, the couple may have been parted by circumstances but somehow the feeling was that everything would be all right.

Matsumoto has had some long and successful working relationships with a number of composers. Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)was one example; he was behind the music for the aforementioned "Momen no Handkerchief". Another was fellow songwriting legend Yumi Matsutoya(松任谷由実)and together they came up with a number of classic hits for 80s aidoru Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子). Case in point: "Akai Sweet Pea"(赤いスイートピー), also a karaoke favourite. The lyric "I will follow you..." will follow me to the end of my days as one of my beloved Seiko-chan phrases.

But it wasn't all about the aidoru for Matsumoto. One of his greatest achievements was providing the words for Akira Terao's(寺尾聰)"Ruby no Yubiwa"(ルビーの指輪)in 1981. It just happened to become the No. 1 single of the year and perhaps the highest-ranking City Pop song. This would be the theme song for any walk through the hotel district of West Shinjuku when the sun is going down.

I'm a bit surprised that I hadn't already written this one up in its own article but Matsumoto also gave his lyrics on that sudden rejection by the titular "Bachelor Girl" for Junichi Inagaki(稲垣潤一), his 9th single from July 1985 with Inagaki himself providing the music.

I was happily reminded that Matsumoto was also responsible for the lyrics for one of my favourite J-Pop tunes, the oh-so-smooth "Nemuri no Mori"(眠りの森)by Tomita Lab from his album "Shipbuilding" in 2003. You gotta have a nice cup of tea while listening to this one.

But to finish off this admittedly short list of Matsumoto's contributions to Japanese music, I want to head back to 1979 with Mariya Takeuchi's(竹内まりや)"September" which paired his lyrics with the boppy disco-pop of Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司). This was one of the keystone songs that got me into this music in the first place and therefore this blog. Just so many items in the Labels that I couldn't fit her name and year in.

As I said from the top, I was a little unsure about how to approach "The Works of Takashi Matsumoto" but I'm now glad that I got it out of my system. Please consider this as a very brief stopping-off point or launch pad describing the variety of songs he has provided singers over the past 40-odd years. It's ironic that the last two Japanese song articles before this Creator article focused on Matsumoto-written tunes but I am positive that this will not be the final period on this very prolific lyricist.

Hideko Hara -- Yakusoku (約束)

I think some of the viewers looking at this will have had their second round of turkey, stuffing and gravy in as many nights so Xmas dinner exhaustion will be setting in right around now. We did the same here but all of the turkey has been ingested so we'll be back to normal eating from tomorrow.

The above is an old photo from 1981 during that Japanese Language School graduation trip with the guys and those Tezukayama Girls' High School students whose families hosted us for a few days in July. Amazing those hairstyles back then. Still, bell bottom pants were already a thing of the past so quite happy there.

(acapella cover version)

When I think of Hideko Hara(原日出子), I think of bathroom grout. Nope...that's an overly harsh assessment, but the actress/tarento has been a fairly familiar face on television through many commercials and variety show appearances. She always has had that cheerful and confident countenance as a housewife and mother. But she's also had her share of thespian performances including her stint as the main character on an NHK morning serial drama all the way back in 1981.

(Sorry but the video has been taken down.)

She even had a brief time behind the recording mike. Hara released just 3 singles between 1980 and 1982, and "Yakusoku" (Promise) is her sophomore song. Released in November 1981, it was created by the dream pair of lyricist Takashi Matsumoto and composer Kyohei Tsutsumi(松本隆・筒美京平), and although the first couple of bars sounded as if it were going to be a City Pop tune, "Yakusoku" is just a happy-go-lucky pop song with Hara giving a decent if not spectacular round at the mike. I like the melody since it is rather reminiscent of those innocent songs from a decade prior.

I don't know how it did on the rankings but I think it would be a major coup for the die-hard Hara fans if any of them manage to find a copy of this single.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

WHAM! -- Last Christmas

Strangely enough, this was going to be another Xmas song that I was planning to put up alongside Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" since like that tune, WHAM!'s "Last Christmas" beat Carey's classic by about a decade as a standard Yuletide tune in Japan.

Just within the last few hours, though, my planned article has now become a eulogy on hearing the news of George Michael's passing at the age of 53. My brother and I were talking about him over Xmas dinner tonight and although I knew that the man had his problems, I had no idea that he would leave this mortal coil so early.

"Last Christmas" was released all the way back in December 1984 as this amiable song with synths and jingle bells and Michael's soulful voice. I first heard it as a track on one of the two CDs that I have of the band, "Music From The Edge of Heaven", that came out in 1986. It automatically appealed to me but I didn't know that it also appealed to a great many people in Japan and Japanese pop culture, for that matter. I've seen it used as a background song for a fantasy movie starring Shizuka Kudo(工藤静香)and there's at least one cover of the song by a Japanese artist, Toko Furuuchi(古内東子).

On its release in Japan just a couple of weeks after its release on December 4th 1984, "Last Christmas" managed to peak at No. 12 on Oricon.

At this point, I'm pretty sure that the news has started to trickle out over in Japan and there will be some very shocked people that the golden voice behind this Xmas standard has been silenced permanently. And to think that Michael passed away right on Christmas Day has given "Last Christmas" a certain darker tinge.

2016 began with the deaths of Natalie Cole and David Bowie after which followed a veritable flood of music artists passing in an untimely manner. Now, it's George Michael and we still have a week left.

Yellow Magic Orchestra -- Kageki na Shukujo (過激な淑女)

Oh, have been holding out on me, haven't you? Had one more catchy tune, didn't you? Well, it helps out that I was only buying original albums and certain BEST compilations and that "Kageki na Shukujo" (Radical Lady) simply didn't pop up on the two compilations that I do have.

"Kageki na Shukujo" was Yellow Magic Orchestra's 8th single from July 1983. When I first got to know the group in the late 1970s through their amazing numbers such as "Rydeen" and "Technopolis", it was all about this wonderful musical thing called technopop...these instrumental pieces made through synthesizers and other computer devices that often played on old genres like surf rock and exotica. However, as I found out some years later, at the time I was really starting to get into them, YMO had already seemingly diverged musically. The techno and the pop were dividing up; going into the early 80s, I heard some colder and avant-garde techno but then I also came across poppier material that was actually sung by drummer Yukihiro Takahashi(高橋幸宏)that just used catchy synths.

"Kageki na Shukujo" is one of the latter in my estimation. I once reported in the entry for Taeko Ohnuki's(大貫妙子)"Romantique" that although Ohnuki was trying out technopop, she was reluctant to sound like the female version of her buddies at YMO and she was successful in carving out her own little niche in the early 1980s. However, hearing this particular song, I thought that YMO was ironically pulling a page out of the Ohnuki playbook with a melody composed by the band that sounded elegantly cabaret. However, it wasn't any of the members who took care of the lyrics. They were provided by Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆), Haruomi Hosono's(細野晴臣)old bandmate from Happy End from over a decade previously.

The song made it as high as No. 15 on the charts and it was placed on a YMO BEST album, "Sealed" from December 1984. It peaked at No. 64.

Midori Satsuki -- Isshukan ni Touka Koi (一週間に十日来い)

While we're just getting set up here for the family to get together for Christmas today, Japan is already into the 26th so their Yuletide is done for another year. This will mean all that the Xmas gloss and glitter will be taken down lickety-split from the various department stores and all of the New Year's decorations will be going up just as quickly. I can pretty much guarantee that the place in the above photo, Kaminari-mon, the gate for Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, will be totally crazy in the hours going from December 31st way into January 1st. When my anime buddy was in the Asakusa area once during New Year's, he had naively assumed that it wouldn't be too busy on the 1st since everyone got in their prayers around midnight. Uh...nope. Think about rush hour multiplied by a factor of 10. Anyone going there on that day, you have been duly warned.

Not that I'm saying that this song is a New Year's tune by any means but it's got that traditional Japanese brio which would make things quite festive, and as quiet as it is outside for the first few days of the New Year there (outside of shrines and temples, that is), inside is a whole lot of talking, eating, drinking and all-round carousing with family and friends.

This would be "Isshukan ni Touka Koi" (Come For 10 Days A Week) by singer/actress/tarento Midori Satsuki(五月みどり). The title is a bit odd but since the lyrics by Koshu Kojima(小島胡秋)talk about a woman lusting for some guy at a bar, I gather that it is showing the depth of her desire that he show up as much as possible. And as for that lyricist's name, I had never heard of him before I first saw the song performed on an episode of "Uta Kon"(うたコン), so I'm not quite sure how that given name is pronounced considering that he doesn't have his own J-Wiki page and the kanji doesn't seem to compute on But feel free to correct me if you know the proper way to pronounce it.

Minoru Endo(遠藤実)is a far more familiar name to me as the composer behind the jaunty enka arrangement. Kojima's lyrics may talk about potential romance in a bar as would be the case in any bluesy Mood Kayo piece, but Endo has woven a melody that is much more suited for an old-fashioned town festival. And I think for a certain generation, this would be the sort of song that could be sung together after a goodly amount of beer/sake.

As for Midori Satsuki, she was born as Fusako Omodaka(面高フサ子)in 1939 in Tokyo, and made her debut in 1958 with "O-zashiki Rock"(お座敷ロック...Tatami Room Rock). However, it seems like her breakthrough hit was in the early 1960s with "Chirimen Vibrato" (ちりめんビブラート...Silk Crepe Vibrato) which led to her first invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen in 1962. "Isshukan ni Touka Koi" was her next song to be performed on NHK's New Year's Eve special the following year, and according to the Tokyo-based Video Research Ltd., her performance set a record in terms of viewership ratings at apparently 85.3%! Nowadays, any producer of the Kohaku would kill simply for half of those ratings.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Fujisaki Girls Academy Student Council Executive -- Best FriendS

Basically speaking, my anime buddy and I agree on what we like to watch but there are inevitably some discrepancies. He's a huge fan of "Jojo no Kimyo na Boken"(ジョジョの奇妙な冒険...JoJo's Bizarre Adventure); I was immediately turned off with the murder of the dog in Episode 1 and haven't been back since then. I was quite all right with the cute show with moments of hilarity, "New Game" from this year but after the first couple of episodes, he never mentioned or showed it again on the screen.

Then I also mentioned at another time about the anime "Love Lab"(恋愛ラボ). I've been watching various excerpts of this 2013 show on YouTube and have just been having a fun time with all of the gags and parodies. Again, my friend kinda went "Meh" since he felt it was just too wacky. But then again, we've been enjoying the absolutely nuts "Kei-jo!!!!!!!" this season so I'm kinda wondering what gives. Still, I am starting to get very tempted to actually purchase the DVD set of this one.

The two stars are seiyuu Manami Numakura(沼倉愛美)and Chinatsu Akasaki(赤﨑千夏)as the short-tempered Riko and completely insane Natsuo respectively. I'm totally accustomed to seeing Numakura playing the stoic-to-cranky roles but Akasaki playing Natsuo was pretty revealing since I had been seeing her as the suffer-no-fools-gladly Nibutani from "Chūnibyō demo Koi ga Shitai!"(中二病でも恋がしたい!). Natsuo is the type of girl that Nibutani would be more than happy to kick over a couple of mountains in frustration.

Among all of my amused viewings of the antics of the Fujisaki Girls Academy Student Council Executive known in Japanese as Fuji-jo Seitokai Shikkou-bu(藤女生徒会執行部), I've also managed to find a perky little earworm as the ending theme for "Love Lab" called "Best FriendS" as sung by the entire executive via the seiyuu Numakura, Akasaki, Ayane Sakura(佐倉綾音), Inori Minase(水瀬いのり)and Yo Taichi(大地葉).

With lyrics by ENA☆ and music by Naoki Chiba(千葉"naotyu-"直樹), it's the usual happy-go-lucky song but I think there's also a little hint of Shibuya-kei in there which pulled me in further. In any case, another temptation for me to pick up the set, if possible.

The aforementioned Sakura and Minase would get together for another popular anime and theme song the following year.