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.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Hi-Fi Set -- Fish and Chips(フィッシュ・アンド・チップス)

Me and fish n' chips go back a long way. When my family lived further downtown, we often went to a fish n' chips store which was located just around the corner from our apartment building. It was run by a Greek family, and for those Canadians and Americans who can remember the classic Olympia Cafe sketch on "Saturday Night Live" from the 1970s with John Belushi and Bill Murray, I remember it being very much in the same way in terms of how the guys behind the counter took care of the customers. For the record, I wouldn't find out about tartar sauce for decades; it was all salt and vinegar for my halibut.

The fish n' chips there were batter-fried and I recall that the ratio of batter-to-fish tended to stray toward the batter side, but as a kid who was ravenous about food, I surely didn't complain, and the fish inside was indeed halibut. To this very day, I subconsciously compare any fish n' chips, whether at a restaurant or brought home to stay in a freezer, to the fare from that Greek place on Howard St. So far, the best place has been The Olde York.

Anyways, I was tickled pink to find out that the vocal group Hi-Fi Set(ハイ・ファイ・セット)actually sang a song titled "Fish and Chips" from their debut album "Sotsugyo Shashin"(卒業写真), released in February 1975. As opposed to the mellow tones of the classic title track, the Set decided to bring in a little more American, I mean soul into the proceedings for "Fish and Chips". They also must have needed many Sucrets lozenges after the recording considering how high their voices were pitched. But their laryngeal sacrifice has been noted by me since listening to it rather gives me that image of walking down a New York avenue on a sunny day.

(Sorry but the video has been taken down.)

"Fish and Chips" was also on the menu for Hi-Fi Set's 2-disc live album "Collection" from 1989. Unfortunately, I couldn't find out who were behind the lyrics and music. I like this live version of the song because of that brassy interlude, and basically the whole song has been given some really high energy.

Mariko Takahashi -- Monologue(モノローグ)

You would think that I was trying to go for an ethereal effect with the camera to match the similar beauty that is evoked from the lovely Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子)on the cover of her 3rd album "Monologue". Of course, you would be wrong...just couldn't get the darn thing to focus properly.😒

Indeed this is one of the early releases by Takahashi, coming out in August 1980. To be honest, I feel like I have already spoken a good deal of the album already since three of the songs from "Monologue" are already represented on the blog, the hopeful "Runner"(ランナー), the jazzy "Uramado"(裏窓)and the epic "Aphrodite"(アフロディーテ).

Still, despite the fact that original Takahashi songs are hard to find on YouTube, I think it's worthy to bring "Monologue" to light since I am a Takahashi fan and I think it's always good to introduce onto the blog an album that's not specifically aidoru, City Pop or enka. A lot of her songs are simply wonderful collaborations of great pop arrangements and her just-as-great voice. So, you can refer to the iTunes site for excerpts.

It's kinda too bad that "Daybreak"(デイブレイク), the second track, has its fine introduction cut off at iTunes since it is one of my favourite tunes. The ballad is another showcase for Takahashi's voice as she sings of a woman enjoying the early hours while resting beside her lover in bed. The always reliable Etsuko and Takao Kisugi(来生えつこ・来生たかお)came up with this one.

Track 3, "Mary's Song" was actually written and composed by Takahashi herself. From back in those days, I think the singer was one of the few alongside Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)who liked to tackle something with a bit of a country twang. But it's not all country-&-western here. There is also something in the arrangement that is vaguely reminiscent of background music for a wholesome Japanese comedy-drama show. Considering the title and her whole participation in the songwriting process here, I believe that there is something of an autobiographical element in "Mary's Song" as she looks back at a supposedly silly young girl.

"Monologue" is an overall great album for Takahashi fans but I have to say that another standout track is "Yuunagi"(夕なぎ...Evening Calm), her tribute to the sea. Another creation by the Kisugis, this song is the quintessential Takahashi ballad that got me to like her in the first place: great vocals, heartrending arrangement with a bit of rock guitar in there for some added oomph. The highlight is when she sings out the word "etranger"...I'm glad that the excerpt at least carried that part.

JASRAC and perhaps even Ms. Takahashi herself may not be too thrilled about albums like "Monologue" getting online without proper payment, but still, I think it's great when there's at least an opportunity for folks who may be getting into the older Japanese pop to come across the samples. Even when I was still living in Japan, it was becoming increasingly more difficult to find the singer's earliest CDs on the music store shelves.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Serani Poji -- Pipo Pipo(ぴぽぴぽ)

Just 18 months ago, I encountered the wonderful perky but cool wonders of Serani Poji(セラニポージ)thanks to some game music they provided back in 1999 for the Sega Dreamcast. Somehow those whispery vocals and the running R&B melody fit each other hand-in-glove.

Last night, I was reminded of the unit again when I discovered another really catchy tune by them called "Pipo Pipo". It was placed onto Serani Poji's 2nd album from November 2002, "one-room survival". This time, the melody canvas isn't R&B but the other aspect of Japanese urban contemporary, Shibuya-kei. In a way, the vocals fit even more with "Pipo Pipo" because they remind me of the breathy voice of Kahimi Karie(カヒミ・カリィ).

In any case, "Pipo Pipo" is becoming a darn earworm now. I did mention in that first article that there were three folks involved in Serani Poji: Yukichi(ゆきち), Yumi Higashino(東野佑美), and Tomoko Sasaki(ササキトモコ). Well, as it turns out, Yukichi completed the first album with Sasaki, "manamoon" before he left, and then Higashino came in for "one-room survival" and a third album before she left. Currently, it is just Sasaki minding the store with the latest album having come out back in 2010.

Tomiko Kobayashi -- Natsu e no Express(夏へのエクスプレス)

I wrote about a Masayuki Kishi(岸正之)ballad the other night, and so far on the blog, I've only covered two songs performed by him and one tune that he provided 80s aidoru Marina Watanabe(渡辺真理奈), so I can hardly say that I can gauge the man's style. But my impression was that Kishi was one of those really mellow AOR balladeers.

Well, perhaps he himself is when performing, but I came across this song composed by him and written by A-mi, which shows that he can show off some uptempo chops as well. "Natsu e no Express" (Express to Summer) is a track on Tomiko Kobayashi's(小林登美子)1st full album after 2 mini-albums, "Soul Wonderland" from September 1994.

There's barely anything about Kobayashi online (no J-Wiki article) aside from the fact that she apparently went from MOR material in her first two releases before hitting the soul music with "Soul Wonderland". As for "Natsu e no Express", it's a great summer nighttime number (heck, I think it's good for any season) for driving around to as Kobayashi herself is doing on the cover, and there is that old/new Motown feeling reminiscent of what Keizo Nakanishi(中西圭三)was doing at the same time.

Looking at another site, though, that so-called first mini-album, "Profile", looks pretty full to me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

France Gall/Mieko Hirota/Eiko Matsumoto -- Yume Miru Chanson Ningyo(夢見るシャンソン人形)

After writing the article for one of the more inspired choices for an anime ending theme, a cover of the late France Gall's "Le temps de la rentrée" for "Hisone to Masotan"(ひそねとまそたん), a commenter remarked that there was another song by Gall that had also made some traction in Japanese pop culture back in the day.

On hearing "Poupée de cire, poupée de son" (Wax Doll, Rag Doll), originally released in 1965, I realized that I had heard this back in Japan a number of times through TV commercials. The Japanese really love their yé-yé tunes. Writer and composer Serge Gainsbourg created the song and there is a detailed analysis of it on Wikipedia. In fact, music journalist Sylvie Simmons through her book "Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes" gave an interesting quotation here from Wiki:

(She) wrote that the song is about "the ironies and incongruities inherent in baby pop"—that "the songs young people turn to for help in their first attempts at discovering what life and love are about are sung by people too young and inexperienced themselves to be of much assistance, and condemned by their celebrity to be unlikely to soon find out."

I kinda wonder what Simmons would think of Japanese aidoru then. Moving on...

Perhaps within a smattering of months following the release of Gall's original, a Japanese cover was recorded in August of that year by Mieko Hirota(弘田三枝子). The title in Japanese is "Yume Miru Chanson Ningyo" (Dreaming Chanson Doll) with lyrics by Tokiko Iwatani(岩谷時子). There is quite a brassier edge to the arrangement.

An extensive list on the Japanese article for the song exists with all of the singers who have covered "Yume Miru Chanson Ningyo". This includes Eiko Matsumoto(松本英子)who did her version as a coupling song for her January 2003 single "Kotoshi no Fuyu"(今年の冬...This Winter). Nice boogie-woogie arrangement.

Although her name is not on that list, I found Hitomi Ishikawa's(石川ひとみ)gentler and folkier cover particularly nice as well. Not sure when she recorded her version.

Hibari Misora -- Hibari no Madorosu-san(ひばりのマドロスさん)

Tonight's "Uta Kon"(うたコン)reminded me that today is the birthday of the Queen of Kayo Kyoku, Hibari Misora(美空ひばり). I think this may be the very first time that I have ever written a song on the blog about Misora that actually landed on her birthday. She would have been 81 years old today.

Well, let's go with a good one. I looked up her article on J-Wiki and found the song that she performed on her first NHK Kohaku Utagassen appearance in 1954 which was the 5th annual show. "Hibari no Madorosu-san" (Hibari's Sailor) was a song released in May of that year, and according to the J-Wiki article, this particular number itself is a special one in that it has been treated as the very first of the "madorosu" kayo (didn't know that there was such a sub-genre). Apparently, Misora would release some more of those sailor-themed tunes along with other singers.

Lyricist Miyuki Ishimoto(石本美由起)and composer Gento Uehara(上原げんと)created "Hibari no Madorosu-san" as a fairly gentle but cheerful song about Misora admiring her favourite sailor on the ship. Considering that the singer was born in the port city of Yokohama, the song was a good fit for her.

According to Nippon Columbia, the recording company responsible for the song, as of 1998, "Hibari no Madorosu-san" sold around 900,000 records. Misora's final appearance on the Kohaku was in 1979 in a special guest capacity, and she performed that very song as the first in a medley. As for the expression madorosu, it originated from the Dutch or Flemish word matroos.

Kazuhito Murata -- Hitokakera no Natsu(ひとかけらの夏)

Well, nikala beat me by over three years, but I finally got my own copy of the late Kazuhito Murata's(村田和人)"Hitokakera no Natsu" (Fragments of Summer), his second album released in June 1983, from the good folks at Tower Records. She was the one who brought Murata onto the blog through his sunny 3rd single "Ippon no Ongaku"(一本の音楽).

After hearing some of his other material on YouTube, I had decided to get one of Murata's albums and I had been thinking of getting his BEST compilation to get an overall taste. However, his BEST was sold out so, remembering nikala's article, I made the order for "Hitokakera no Natsu". Certainly haven't regretted getting it.

Overall impressions from the first listen? Well, Murata owes a lot to Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)in terms of his singing and the arrangement. As nikala pointed out, Yamashita was the one who launched Murata's career in 1978, and in fact, Mr. Summer City Pop took care of the arrangement for many of the tracks on "Hitokakera no Natsu", including "So Long, Mrs.".

Murata took care of the 70s Margaritaville melody while keyboardist Yoshihiko Ando(安藤芳彦)came up with the lyrics weaving the bittersweet story of a fellow giving his good wishes to a former flame on her wedding day. The setting might be a church but all I'm getting is beach umbrella-and-Corona vibes...a nice place to be these days. The above live version, which was recorded in 1988, is included in the re-released album and Murata even pays a cute tribute to his mentor Tats near the end. The original version also included Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)as one of the chorus and Yamashita working a number of the instruments.

"Catching The Sun" might sound from the title like more of the sunny beachside AOR but Murata's 2nd single from August 1982 is a jazzy little number for the most part, although a bit of that AOR sound comes in somewhere in the middle. Murata took care of everything here. The above video is the original single version that has also been added as a bonus track to the album, but I prefer the album version since it has a genuine jazz group helping out.

Ando and Murata teamed up again for "Yasashisa ni Good-bye"(やさしさにGood-bye...Good-bye to Kindness), and this is about as close to Yamashita that I've heard so far on the album. Perhaps I can even call this a "Mura-shita" effort? Tats once again provides a lot of instruments as he handles not only the electric guitar, but also a 12-string guitar, an auto harp and percussion. The song is once again about Murata reminiscing over a past romance and one of their summer days together.

I guess Murata really liked those lovelorn ballads. "Illusion"(幻影)was once again composed by him but this particular number was written by Mariya Takeuchi with her husband arranging it and on most of the instruments in the original version.

To finish up, I would like to quote Yamashita himself when it comes to Murata's "Hitokakera no Natsu" (which is a keeper): We've got summer right here in our hearts (from "The Theme From Big Wave").

Monday, May 28, 2018

Masayuki Kishi -- Long Way To Love

Well, from such humble beginnings...if memory serves me correctly, the above two cool actors are Takeshi Kaga(鹿賀丈史)and Yosuke Eguchi(江口洋介). Namely, it's the Chairman from "Iron Chefs" and the feckless Mikami from "Tokyo Love Story" respectively. Apparently, they were in the NTV detective series "Jungle" as two intrepid gumshoes in its second season in 1988.

Both Kaga and Eguchi can sing, but this article is not about either of them this time. Actually the single version of the opening theme, "Dangerous Night" by saxophonist Jake H. Concepcion was released with the B-side being the actual song du article, "Long Way To Love" by singer-songwriter Masayuki Kishi(岸正之).

Quite a soothing urban contemporary ballad by Kishi, there is something very Omega Tribe and Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)about "Long Way To Love". Now that the summer seems to be finally making its way here, I would be more than happy to listen to this again while lying on a lanai and sipping a cocktail as the sun goes below the horizon. That sax solo also sounds very Carpenteresque.

There is no mention of this song at all even on his own website so it was pure luck that I came across this little gem.

Minako Yoshida -- EXTREME BEAUTY

I was talking with my friend yesterday and he remarked that we've basically gone from winter to summer within a period of several days. He's right...if I'm not mistaken, less than a month ago, we were at the mercy of a chilling ice storm, and now we've been sweltering in heat and humidity that has obviously merited a Humidex warning. Not that a lot of folks here are complaining, mind you. We've all gone through several months of snow and cold so it's great that we can actually wear less clothing. I even sent some of my winter coats out for dry cleaning this morning.

Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子)has been one of the more underrated singers, in my estimation, over the decades. Perhaps it's not too much of an exaggeration to declare that Yoshida can be called The Godmother of J-R&B. In my case, though, I'm not working from a huge collection of her discography since I only have four of her albums from her early years thus far with the most recent one being "Light'n Up" (1982) which was the one disc that I had purchased first. However, from what I have heard, she is one of the best singers that I've ever come across.

A few days ago, one commenter Bruno J. Silva asked me in Portuguese if I could actually write about "EXTREME BEAUTY", Yoshida's 13th studio album which was released in February 1995. I had been a bit hesitant since I've not sampled any of her material beyond "Light'n Up" but this was Yoshida and I figured that the lady could do no wrong so I did a search for any of her songs from this particular album.

For those Yoshida fans out there, this is not surprising news, but finding her material on YouTube is daunting at best since both she and her representatives have taken a pretty hard line against any of her music being placed on the video site, and considering the usual copyright issues, I can understand her stance. By the same token, I can also understand why fans are happy to put up her songs and risk the strikes.

Having said that, I was able to discover "EXTREME BEAUTY" on Dailymotion (for now) and another site. I was also fortunate to find a fairly extensive and interesting explanation of the album on J-Wiki. Ah, fair warning to you...the Dailymotion video tends to cut out for those 15-second commercials right in the middle of the songs. Yes, annoying as all heck, but websites gotta make money, too, I guess.

Thirteen years following "Light'n Up", I would assume that Yoshida's choice of music would have evolved since then, as it should have. At 2:57 is the track "Beauty", which was also her 8th single from January 1995, written and composed by her. It is the same soulful voice with even more flavour but the music is not the funk n' soul of her City Pop days; it's more of a breezy and inspirational pop.

I was surprised to read that at that point, it had been 13 years since Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)had collaborated with Yoshida since I felt that those two folks were tied at the waist when it came to songwriting and performance. However, he was back to assist in the chorus for "Beauty" and the other tracks. The song was used for a winter campaign for East Japan Railway Company.

Reading the mass of Japanese contained in the article for "EXTREME BEAUTY", my general impression is that Yoshida may have had a crisis of sorts along the lines of "What am I really doing here with my career?" The release of this album was her first in 5 years since "gazer" in 1990. And apparently, she relayed in a 1995 interview for Schola Magazine that she had gotten rather stressed out and simply wanted to withdraw from the world for a while to recuperate.

At 21:23 is "Liberty" which was the coupling song to "Beauty" with Minnie Shady and Aki Ikuta生田朗...Yoshida's husband, so I'm wondering if Shady is simply the singer's pseudonym)providing the lyrics while Yoshida composed the gospel-influenced tune. It is actually a cover for a song that had originally been performed by Masayuki Suzuki(鈴木雅之), and I think the song is in one of the albums by Martin that I have. Isn't it perfect for him? For that matter, isn't it perfect for Yoshida? If there were a track on the album that probably got the singer-songwriter to regain the joy of singing, it would be probably this one. From the J-Wiki article, I think the gist of some of those sad times involving her was that, according to her, she may have gotten distracted by things other than the music and once she realized that her priority was her songs, she got her groove back. In a way, her experience seems to mirror that of her contemporary Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)during the two years between "Mignonne" and "Romantique" back in the late 1970s.

My final song is at 46:17 "Seirei no Oriru Machi"(精霊の降りる街...Spirited Town)which seems to settle nicely in the middle between "Beauty" and "Liberty" in terms of tone. I've only gotten to listen to the song twice but I have that feeling of inspiration and movement. And yet, going back to the article via that Schola interview, Yoshida insists that the songs aren't meant to be religious or directly connected with gospel. Furthermore, although she feels that the songs aren't meant to be sung while in a trance and have been performed as calmly as possible, she admits to being affected by a feeling of sorts at points. I was quite intrigued by that statement since her opinion comes across as being quite coolly rational, almost Spock-like, although I think many listeners including myself have been moved by the album.

Again, I'm not sure how long the album will stay up at Dailymotion but there are excerpts at as shown above. However, "EXTREME BEAUTY" would be a fine album to acquire and to add to my collection, and if you're a Yoshida fan and you don't have it yet, why not make that investment?

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Haruomi Hosono -- Sports Men(スポーツマン)

First and foremost, I've always associated Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)as one part of the amazing Yellow Magic Orchestra. It wasn't until much later that I discovered that the bassist-songwriter had also been part of another legendary band Happy End and had owned his own successful career for several years through some eclectic music between those two gigs. Of course, post-YMO, Hosono managed to keep the music going.

I have to quote this one fellow on YouTube, mikkabouzu, who commented on hearing "Sports Men", a quirky earworm from his 6th original album "Philharmony"(フィルハーモニー)which came out in May 1982. He said that listening to the song and Hosono, he felt that it was akin to "...a drunk Lou Reed crossed with New Order, through a Japanese accent filter". Before coming across that comment, I was going to say Bob Dylan, but I will go with mikkabouzu.

As I said, "Sports Men" is quite the infectious tune especially with Hosono bleating "Twitching, probing, twitching, probing". It's an innocent butterfly of a song that was written and composed by the fellow with Giles Duke and Peter Barakan also contributing to the lyrics.

Dang! Country music version as well? Amazing! Anyways, when I hear this, I think that the original version should be placed in some Hollywood comedy in which the main character, an overweight schlub, is desperately and comically trying to lose the pounds through some exercise montage. Another commenter even stated that "Sports Men" ought to be used as the official anthem for the 2020 Olympics. Fat chance (no pun intended) but I could imagine it being used as background music by one of the official broadcasting stations around the world. NBC? CBC? NHK?

Mayumi Horikawa -- Lemon Kankaku(レモン感覚)

"Now, let's get out there and make a DIFFERENCE!"

Caught "Deadpool 2" with the guys today, and although it wasn't quite as good as the first one, it still provided plenty of enjoyment, and there is a mid-credits sequence that has to be seen to be believed which will have the Marvel fans punching their fists in the air.

Quite the contrast talking about the raunchy Deadpool and then bringing in this calm and cozy song by Mayumi Horikawa(堀川まゆみ), but let me have my Blogger's Privilege here. This would be her 2nd single "Lemon Kankaku" (Lemon Feeling) from April 1979, and compared to her relatively melancholy debut effort "Daddy"(ダディ)from the previous year, "Lemon Kankaku" is lighter and happier. Perhaps I can even catch a bit of Motown in there.

Created by the same tandem who took care of "Daddy", lyricist Keisuke Yamakawa and composer Masataka Matsutoya(山川啓介・松任谷正隆), the song was also placed as a bonus track in what I'm assuming is the re-released version of Horikawa's debut album "Elm Douri no Shojo"(楡通りの少女...Elm Street Girl)which had been originally put out in December 1978.

Considering that she became more known as a songwriter for future singers such as Miki Imai(今井美樹)and Kyoko Koizumi(小泉今日子), it's always nice to hear her material as a singer herself.. It's not bad to hear kayo from the 1970s that are just straight-ahead pop.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Hiroshi Sato -- Sweet Inspiration

It has been an interesting time if you're into Japanese pop culture and you are a foodie. Since returning from Japan back in late 2011, a lot of Japanese cuisine has rooted itself into the Toronto firmament: ramen, izakaya food, cheesecake and now it seems as if Japanese-style pancakes have arrived in The Six.

This is quite an ironic development. In my final year in Japan, this Hawaiian franchise decided to take a chance and see if their pancakes could make some inroads in the notoriously fickle nation of foodies. And these were just the usual flapjacks with the gimmick being that they were merely the base for a huge tower of whipped cream; the whole thing looked like the dessert version of a part of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Well, the owner of the franchise didn't have to worry. Appreciation and interest were proven by the hours-long lineups. Admittedly, the dish was very Instagram-friendly.

Now, folks in Toronto might be getting into the really fluffy Japanese pancakes which are whipped into these inflatable cushions of egg yolks and other ingredients. I went to one such place a few days ago that opened up recently called Fuwa Fuwa. Nice pancakes and not a single drop of maple syrup to be found anywhere near my plate....quite eggy in taste and texture.

I was inspired by this sweet to introduce "Sweet Inspiration" by Hiroshi Sato (佐藤博...see what I did there?:)), the opening track from his 5th album "Sailing Blaster" released in June 1984. Provided lyrics by Cindy Yamamoto(シンディ山本)and composed by Sato, the singer-songwriter-musician is in his Howard Jones voice once more to give this quirky and boppy fun tune an even fluffier Japanese pancakes.

Wasn't initially sure how to definitively categorize "Sweet Inspiration". Although it's got the hint of City Pop through some of Sato's arrangement and instrumentation, I can't say that it is a downright piece of the city. In the end, I decided to play peacemaker and say that it can be both City Pop and straight pop. I'm fairly sure that Sato and Cindy wouldn't mind too much. It's still a pity that both of them are no longer with us.

Kohei Dojima/Yum!Yum!ORANGE -- Kameari Rhapsody(葛飾ラプソディー)

When I was living briefly in Katsushika Ward(葛飾区), Tokyo, in November 1994, I remember taking the local train from Shibamata(柴又)down to Ueno and passing by a station called Kameari(亀有). I never got off at the station but many years later, I found out that a famous manga and later anime were set in that neighbourhood. Have yet to read the manga and watch any of the anime in its entirety but I remember seeing from time to time the main character of "Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen-mae Hashutsujo"こちら葛飾区亀有公園前派出所...This is the Police Station in Front of Kameari Park in Katsushika Ward...the literal translation although the official English title is KochiKame: Tokyo Beat Cops), a burly policeman with some monstrous eyebrows manning a koban there.

Considering that Shibamata is the furusato of the one-and-only Tora-san, the beloved and eternally lovelorn traveling salesman of the movies, I've sometimes wondered if Officer Kankichi Ryotsu(両津勘吉)and Torajiro Kuruma(車寅次郎)ever lived in the same ward of Katsushika in the same universe. Both of them are utterly zany and keep on concocting various harebrained schemes. However, with Ryo-san, from what I've read of his description, he seems to have the enhanced strength and stamina of Captain America but the personality of Bart Simpson. Tora-san will always be Tora-san. If the two of them ever met, I predict that it would be either hate-at-first-sight or middle ground.

After my month of life in shitamachi, I moved out to Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture. Not that I ever regretted my residency in suburbia (will never complain of an area with the amount of convenience stores and restaurants my old neighbourhood had), but I've sometimes wondered what it could have been like living in the old downtown of Tokyo.

One reason for the wondering is strangely enough the third opening theme for "KochiKame", the down-home "Kameari Rhapsody" by singer-songwriter Kohei Dojima(堂島孝平). I don't think I had ever heard of any kayo, let alone an anison, done in Dixieland jazz style but with "Kameari Rhapsody", there it is. It's quite comforting in its way so I can imagine taking a nice walk to the local street mall to pick up some groceries in Kameari while listening to this one.

For Dojima, this was his 7th single from May 1997 and it was also included in his 2011 BEST compilation, "BEST OF HARD CORE POP!"

In 2003, the ska band Yum!Yum!ORANGE released an energetic cover version of "Kameari Rhapsody" as their 2nd single. It peaked at No. 87 and it can also be found in their 2nd album "Orange Juice" from August 2004. That album went as high as No. 49.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Pizzicato Five -- Banji Kaicho ~ tout va bien(万事快調)

Indeed a Friday night, so why not finish off with something fun and Shibuya-kei tonight?

The very first time that I had ever even heard or seen the legendary Pizzicato Five was on an episode of "The New Music", a local hip program on various kinds of music produced here in Toronto at City-TV way back when. One of the episodes was devoted to weird and wonderful Japanese music, and one of the acts that was showcased involved a sylph-like woman in a massive purple afro and 70s fashion just shimmying away. That was indeed the first time I ever met the divine Maki Nomiya(野宮真貴)and I really couldn't figure out what she and P5 were all about initially.

Perhaps the above video for "Banji Kaicho" was indeed where I had seen Nomiya for the first time. And I ought to use the French title "tout va bien" (Everything Is Fine) in future references since "Banji Kaicho" sounds just a little too stiff and formal, and Pizzicato Five is anything but. Grooving on the dance floor is P5's shtick. And according to the music video, everything is indeed fine as Ms. Nomiya has some of her buddies enjoying themselves with her including her partner in crime, Yasuharu Konishi (小西康陽...who also wrote and composed the song) and Keigo "Cornelius" Oyamada(小山田圭吾)from Flipper's Guitar. They danced pretty much the same way that I danced back in my university days, which means that there had been hope for me, after all.

If I'm not mistaken, that "beep-beep-beep-beep-YEAH!" is a phrase that I've heard many times somewhere, so perhaps "tout va bien" has reached the annals of memedom as well. The song headlines P5's 6th album "Sweet Pizzicato Five" from September 1992. Good choice there to start off some happy swing-worthy Friday-night-loving listening and shimmying. The only thing missing is that famous announcer going "A NEW STEREOPHONIC SOUND SPECTACULAR".

Masayoshi Takanaka -- An Insatiable High

"You...actually jogged?"

That's the response that I've usually received from friends whenever I tell them a bit about my past. Yup, considering how I look now, I can understand why they may look like they want to do a spit take, but indeed, when I was in junior high school, I actually did run a few kilometres most mornings in the area of my school. Crazily enough, I actually was thin once upon a time but that had just as much to do with those sudden growth spurts of adolescence as it did with my running. Even crazier was I also entered a half-marathon at the Toronto Zoo...and actually finished without spurting out my internal organs like a defensive sea cucumber.

All that preamble just to introduce one scintillating song by guitarist/songwriter Masayoshi Takanaka(高中正義). Seeing that cover for his 3rd solo album, "An Insatiable High" (1977), I wonder whether he caught onto jogging a few years before the activity got as huge as it did. That title also makes me ponder whether he had also been aware of that phenomenon known as "a runner's high". Yes, I also did experience that when I was running at the zoo...wondering through my huffing and puffing whether I would last much longer when I suddenly hit the perfect stride and things looked and felt a whole lot better.

That's what I thought when I heard the title track from the album. "An Insatiable High" actually goes for over 10 minutes, and its trip sounds and feels like Takanaka is relating a condensed melodic version of a marathon on a sunny day through some great countryside. And perhaps like the perfect run, he has buddies on his journey...some pretty famous ones. According to the article for the album on "Music Avenue", guitarist Lee Ritenour is jamming in there with Takanaka as Steve Forman, Paulinho Da Costa and Motoya Hamaguchi(浜口茂外也)are helping out on percussion with Jun Fukamachi(深町純)providing that nostalgic synthesizer sound. The one surprise is that pianist Patrice Rushen is handling a solo in "An Insatiable High"; I still remember her for "Forget Me Nots".

Considering the easy but fun run that Takanaka and friends take us, perhaps the song already has us in that zone or runner's high. Interestingly at about the 7-minute mark of this 10-minute odyssey, all of the heart-racing activity suddenly slows down into something far more mellow. Maybe it's here that Takanaka has crossed the finish line and we are experiencing the happy relieved collapse and the cool down. To be honest, the first time I heard this, I was a bit disappointed that the jamming suddenly came to an end with three minutes left to go but I think I will actually start appreciating the relaxation coda in time.

As for Takanaka himself, the Tokyo native debuted in 1971 and has straddled the rock and fusion worlds with this guitar. He apparently first participated in the band Strawberry Pass(ストロベリー・パス)with Hiro Tsunoda(つのだ☆ひろ)before getting together with others to form Fried Egg(フライド・エッグ), and isn't that the perfect name for a rock band of the early 1970s? He also took part in the Sadistic Mika Band(サディスティック・ミカ・バンド)before going solo with his first album "Seychelles" coming out in 1976. His most recent release was his 30th original album "Yonjuu Nenme no Niji"(40年目の虹...40th-Year Rainbow)in 2011.

Masako Mori -- Kanashimi Honsen Nihon Kai(哀しみ本線日本海)

It's Friday night....let's start off with a bit more shibui, shall we?

I'm sure that there must be at least some folks residing in the northern prefectures of Japan who sometimes wring their hands in frustration about why their homeland has perennially gotten chosen as the place where romance dies. I mean, as expressed through kayo, it's a beautiful death, but still, it just seems as whenever a poor fellow or lady has broken off a relationship (short or long), he/she may have that penchant to head for Aomori or Hokkaido or Iwate. Perhaps it's the snowy environment...autumn has usually been the season for relationships to go south; maybe winter is the time for the post-mortem.

Anyways, enough theorizing. As I said, let's go with something shibui and lovely at the same time. I've got Masako Mori's(森昌子)37th single from July 1981, "Kanashimi Honsen Nihon Kai" (Sorrowful Main Line Along The Sea of Japan). Listening to this atmospheric kayo, I think it's as shibui an enka as Akira Terao's(寺尾聡)hit "Ruby no Yubiwa"(ルビーの指輪)was as shibui a City Pop tune, and both came out in the same year.

Written by Toyohisa Araki(荒木とよひさ)and composed by Keisuke Hama(浜圭介), it's designated as an enka but the arrangement by Koji Ryuzaki(竜崎孝路), who also dabbles in R&B and general pop, suggests something beyond the Japanese shores, especially with the instrumental bridge. Mori sings about a final message to her paramour and wondering if he will cry for her once all is said and done. I think there is something about a lonely ride on a train heading north along the Sea of Japan that brings out the melancholy in listeners. My anime buddy is really wanting to take a trip along that long shore soon with his camera but in his case, it's not too sad at all.

"Kanashimi Honsen Nihon Kai" peaked at No. 36 on Oricon and won a Gold Prize at the Japan Record Awards. It also got Mori an invitation to the 1981 Kohaku Utagassen. That particular show has been a touchstone in terms of my love for Japanese music but I can't quite remember her performance then, but I can imagine a lot of dry ice fog being pumped onto the stage when she sang it.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

H Jungle with t -- WOW WAR TONIGHT: Toki ni wa Okose yo Movement(時には起こせよムーヴメント)

Have you ever had the feeling of being the outside guy looking in? To elaborate a little bit more, what if you simply didn't understand or like something that seemingly has become a huge favourite phenomenon with everyone else?

That is the feeling that I have had for over 20 years when it comes to this song "WOW WAR TONIGHT: Toki ni wa Okose yo Movement" (Movement to Raise Hell Occasionally) by H Jungle with t, comprised of musician-producer-songwriter Tetsuya Komuro(小室哲哉)and comedian Masatoshi Hamada(浜田雅功)from the Osakan duo Downtown. This mid-90s collaboration began with a simple guest appearance by Komuro on the long-running show "HEY! HEY! HEY! Music Champ" when co-host Hamada asked the fellow to write a hit song for him someday.

The debut single was indeed "WOW WAR TONIGHT", released in March 1995 with Hamada on the mike while Komuro was wailing away on his guitar. I remember the commercials selling the single and remarked that "Wow! Hamada really is singing out there". As the ball got rolling on the song, I started hearing about the genre of music known as jungle that apparently applied to "WOW WAR TONIGHT" (the duo's name was a big hint), but since electronic music outside of YMO and Pet Shop Boys at that time was largely unknown to me, I could only identify Komuro's music as a light reggae beat.

By the time 1995 was coming to a close, I recall that the song had become a massive hit, and in fact, was the song to sing at the many bonenkai (year-end parties) and karaoke outings to get everyone in a party mood. According to the J-Wiki article on "WOW WAR TONIGHT", Komuro said that he ended up creating the song when he thought about how extremely busy his partner Hamada had been at that time as one of the most popular entertainers around, and that it expanded to become a cheer song for all those fellows in their 30s working hard in their companies after seeing a bunch of salarymen in the Tokyo quarter of Hamamatsucho.

Reading the "WOW WAR TONIGHT" article, I have kept seeing a ton of praise being heaped on Komuro by folks such as Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一). And as such, it not only hit No. 1 on the singles charts but it stayed there for 7 straight weeks from March to May 1995, and it ended up as the 2nd-ranked single of the year. It also earned the JASRAC Gold Prize in 1996 and a current place as the 17th-ranked single in Oricon history, hitting the 2 million mark. Of course, the Kohaku Utagassen came calling.

And yet, I really hated the song when it came out. I thought Hamada was belting away like Japan's most famous amateur karaoke singer after a few stiff drinks, and when it came to the finish, the song struck me as being almost unlistenable. But I think that was the point with "WOW WAR TONIGHT"; it's about a straight-talking everyman exhorting everyone to unshackle those daily chains and let loose once in a while. It struck a chord with a lot of folks, then. In particular, karaoke wasn't the venue to show one's amazing prowess behind a mike; it was the place to de-stress and what better way to do so than singing one's favourite tunes while drinking down stuff with good buddies?

Listening to it in its entirety again after so many years, my feelings toward it haven't improved all that much, despite all the accolades (even from The Professor) and its status as the song to support the average man. Mind you, the softer parts of Hamada during the song and just remembering the times surrounding it with the Komuro Boom and my time as a NOVA teacher have softened my hardness toward it as a form of nostalgia. I felt that I had to put it up onto the blog...finally...since there are folks out there who really liked it and it has perhaps become one of the representative tunes for that decade. Plus, since I had been wrestling about whether to put up "WOW WAR TONIGHT" for literally years, I'm glad that I finally got it out of my system.

Yuko Matsutani/misono -- Lum no Love Song(ラムのラブソング)

Back in 2015, I wrote about the theme song for "Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer"(うる星やつら2: ビューティフル・ドリーマー), "Ai wa Boomerang"(愛はブーメラン), which had come out in 1984. I confessed that I was never a fan of the original series but that the character of Lum(ラム)was pretty well iconic to the point that even I knew about her.

Years ago, when I was living and working in the Tokyo area, a friend and I dropped into the famous Mandarake(まんだらけ)shop in Shibuya since my friend wanted to find a few things such as some manga. Apparently, it may have been one of the rules that at least some of the staffers there had to perform some sort of cosplay. Well, as I was walking through one of the narrow aisles, I encountered a young lithe lady who was decked out as the Lum. Yep, shrinking tiger-patterned outfit and all...just like the lady in the video above at Moa Channel, although the staffer at Mandarake was far more nonchalant. I quickly moved back the other way.

Last week, I wrote about singer-songwriter Izumi "Mimi" Kobayashi(小林泉美)who had been in the urban contemporary side of Japanese pop music from the 1970s. I found out that she had a lot to do with a number of the theme songs for "Urusei Yatsura", although "Ai wa Boomerang" wasn't one of them. However, she was partially responsible for the very first opening theme for the TV anime, "Lum no Love Song" (Lum's Love Song) which came out as a single in October 1981.

Sung by Yuko Matsutani(松谷祐子), who would also sing "Ai wa Boomerang", Kobayashi took care of music and arrangement while Akira Ito(伊藤アキラ)provided the lyrics. I only heard it for the first time a few nights ago, and it seems to come across just as saucy and coquettish as Lum herself. Nice touch with the Latin in there. The original version topped off at No. 50 on Oricon.

misono came out with her more hard-rocking version of "Lum no Love Song" as her 14th single in September 2009 which came out on the same day as her first album of cover songs "Cover Album"(カバALBUM). The single did even better than the original on Oricon by peaking at No. 18 while the album went as high as No. 28.

According to J-Wiki, when asked for the reason behind covering "Lum no Love Song", misono replied that since her older sister, Kumi Koda(倖田來未), had gotten her big break with her cover of the theme song for "Cutie Honey"(キューティーハニー), another anime from yesteryear, she naturally thought that she could do the same with her own cover of an anison.

Ami Ozaki -- Wanderer In Love

Finally! According to the local weather broadcaster, it had been 8 months since my city actually got a 30-degree Celsius temperature. Yes, it's been a long and hard winter but things seem to be finally looking up.

What added to the good vibes today was listening to this song by songsmith Ami Ozaki(尾崎亜美), "Wanderer In Love". And all I can say is that it further answers the question "What would you get if you brought together TOTO and Japanese pop?" Well, that has already been answered by folks like Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや)and Naoko Kawai(河合奈保子)from that time, and "Wanderer In Love" is another fine response.

As with Takeuchi and Kawai, Ozaki got to work with David Foster and Tom Keane in crafting tracks for her an album. In her case, it was "Hot Baby" from May 1981. For those who love the AOR on both sides of the Pacific, this is the one for you. You've got Ozaki's familiar velvety vocals paired with music that was performed by a combination of TOTO (Steve Lukather & Jeff Porcaro) and Airplay (Foster & Jay Graydon) and a great sax by Tom Scott. My inner 80s was crying for joy at the accomplishment.

"Hot Baby" has been mentioned in "Japanese City Pop" and "Music Avenue", and both book and website have specifically identified "Wanderer In Love" as one of the highlights. Gotta try and get this album.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

orange pekoe -- Gokurakucho ~ Bird of Paradise(極楽鳥)

The songs by orange pekoe that I've posted in the past have been categorized as both jazz and Shibuya-kei, and that's only two of the genres that identify this band from Hyogo Prefecture. Kazuma Fujimoto and Tomoko Nakajima(藤本一馬・ナガシマトモコ)have also brought Latin, Indie Pop and the general J-Pop to the fore, but this particular single is absolutely pure joyous jazz.

Being an old swing fan, I really like orange pekoe's 6th single "Gokurakucho" from May 2003. It's the type of song that would get me thinking of those days back in Japan when I really got into the swing (pun intended) of things when it came to jazz. I've always appreciated modern takes on the old stuff (yes, I'm fully aware that the single came out 15 years ago). And "Gokurakucho" is one of those numbers that probably could get the folks back in the day to snap their fingers and hit the dance floor.

If the usual pattern holds true, then Fujimoto composed the song while Nakajima wrote the lyrics and provided her snazzy vocals. "Gokurakucho" reached No. 25 on Oricon and was also included on orange pekoe's 2nd album "Modern Lights" from July 2003. That peaked at No. 6.

My Pace -- Tokyo(東京)

Less than 15 minutes ago, I just finished watching this week's "Uta Kon"(うたコン), and the theme was on all sorts of kayo about Tokyo (along with tributes to the two singers that left this mortal coil over the past week, Hideki Saijo and Yukiji Asaoka). I realized that the odes to the Big Sushi have been represented through different genres such as the pop/rock of Kenji Sawada(沢田研二)and the classic Mood Kayo of Frank Nagai(フランク永井).

Folk has also given tribute to Tokyo, and I discovered a song that I hadn't heard before from a group that I hadn't heard before either. My Pace(マイ・ペース)was composed of a trio of junior high school classmates from a small town in Akita Prefecture before it got amalgamated with two other towns to form the current Katagami City.

Mitsugu Morita(森田貢), Susumu Ito(伊藤進)and Tsugio Kon(根次男)released their first of four singles, "Tokyo", in October 1974 for which Morita was both lyricist and composer. It's a gently jaunty tune describing a fellow's happy trips to the Japanese capital since his beloved was living there. Singer-songwriter chay was the one who performed it on tonight's "Uta Kon" and I liked it so much that I decided to track it down. Happily, the original also has plenty of enjoyment.

"Tokyo" became a hit for My Pace as it apparently stayed on the charts for a long while and peaked at No. 28. Along with the four singles, the band released two original albums in the 1970s and a BEST compilation in 2009. According to J-Wiki, "Tokyo" has been covered by a lot of artists including BEGIN and Toshi Ito to Happy & Blue(敏いとうとハッピー&ブルー).

As for the band name, "my pace" is a form of wasei eigo(和製英語)that I learned back in my Ichikawa days. Basically, if a person is referred to as a "my pace" kind of guy, then he goes to the beat of his own drum and no one else's. To be frank, I'm that sort of fellow to a certain extent which has irked and bemused people around me fairly often.

I have a small P.S. here, since the kanji for the names of the three members of My Pace have a number of readings, I'm not totally sure whether I have gotten them right. If someone can verify the above names for me or if somehow the band members themselves read this and let me know, I would be eternally grateful. Also, I do love the video above for the original recording but that last scene is most definitely from Yokohama. :)

Setsuo Ohashi & Honey Islanders/Yujiro Ishihara -- Shiawase wa Koko ni(倖せはここに)

Back to the regular work week here for everyone including myself. So, perhaps back in Japan, that could mean the usual visit to the beloved watering hole after work. Time for another Mood Kayo.

I found "Shiawase wa Koko ni" (Happiness is Right Here) by chance last night, and it's an interesting blend of Hawaiian (courtesy of that steel guitar), jazz and Mood Kayo, according to the above video although I don't know what the original performance was like. Would love to see the cocktail that would go with this song. It was sung by Setsuo Ohashi & Honey Islanders(大橋節夫とハニーアイランダース)in 1959.

According to Ohashi's bio on J-Wiki, he has been seen as one of the pioneers for bringing in that Hawaiian sound into the Mood Kayo part of Japanese music; in fact, he also played the steel guitar, one of its representative instruments. He started up the Honey Islanders in 1948 and has been credited for arranging Yuzo Kayama's(加山雄三) trademark tune "O-Yome ni Oide"(お嫁においで)later in 1966. The Tokyo-born Ohashi was presented with the Order of the Sacred Treasure in 1995 and then a Distinguished Service Award at the Japan Record Awards in 2000. He passed away in June 2006 from respiratory failure at the age of 81.

"Shiawase wa Koko ni", which was written and composed by Ohashi, may sound rather melancholy but according to the lyrics, it seems like the song is about being content with that special someone in that special place...most likely the favourite bar. It's probably been covered by a lot of enka/Mood Kayo singers over the decades, but the J-Wiki article mentions Hiroshi Itsuki(五木ひろし)and Yujiro Ishihara(石原裕次郎).

The Tough Guy's rendition of the song was released in June 1967, and he brought out some of that typical Ishihara richness in his delivery. Still, I'm rather torn about which version I prefer: the Ohashi original versus the Ishihara cover.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Kinki Kids -- Aisareru yori Aishitai(愛されるより 愛したい)

Watching TBS' "Countdown TV" in the wee hours of Sunday morning in Ichikawa, I was somewhat impressed at how much the producers were able to crunch in those rankings, sometimes all the way from No. 100 to No. 1 within 45 minutes (although I've read that "CDTV" has now been expanded to 70 minutes). The No. 50 to No. 100 songs were always given that one-second exposure at such a speed that if I hadn't had my lights on, I would have been afflicted with seizures.

The other night when I was watching "VS. Arashi"(VS嵐), some of the Arashi fellows were reminiscing about dramas that they had appeared in years and years ago with one of them being "Bokura no Yuuki ~ Miman Toshi"(ぼくらの勇気 未満都市...Our Courage: Not Quite A City)back in 1997. Basically, this was a couple of years before Arashi even debuted as a singing and dancing Johnny's group. The sci-fi drama was actually a showcase for their senpai, Kinki Kids.

As they were referring back to "Bokura no Yuuki", the theme song was playing quietly in the background, but I heard enough of it to plunk myself on the head and go "OMG! I remember this one." It basically blew through the windmills of my mind all these years. The theme was "Aisareru yori Aishitai" (I Want To Love Rather Than Be Loved) by Kinki Kids.

Now, I did mention "CDTV" at the top there. Well, it turns out that I kept hearing excerpts of the song during the ranking reports on the show, and although it did very well on the Oricon charts (for which I will give the stats later), I could only remember the brief excerpts. I don't recall ever hearing the whole song.

Until very recently. As it turns out, "Aisareru yori Aishitai" sounds pretty darn good. As was the case with their hit debut single, "Garasu no Shonen"(硝子の少年), created by the veteran hitmakers Tatsuro Yamashita and Takashi Matsumoto(山下達郎・松本隆), Kinki Kids' 2nd single was also handled by a couple of vets, lyricist Hiromi Mori(森浩美)and composer Koji Makaino(馬飼野康二), and "Aisareru yori Aishitai" also had that touch of past music infused into it...perhaps some 80s disco. I only ever heard the main refrain but on hearing the rest of the song with that decade's melodic essence in there, I could only go "Where have you been all my musical life?".

I mentioned in the "Garasu no Shonen" article that even songwriting masters Yamashita and Matsumoto felt a really large sunlamp on them since Johnny Kitagawa slapped down the conditions that the Kinki Kids' debut had to be a No. 1 from the get-go and a million copies sold. The song did deliver in huge spades but now according to the J-Wiki article for the 2nd song, Mori related that he had felt tremendous pressure in helping make this song due to the huge success of "Garasu no Shonen".

He and Makaino needn't have worried. Although "Aisareru yori Aishitai" debuted in November 1997, it not only did two 2-week stints at No. 1 on Oricon by the end of the year, it became the 59th-ranked single for that year and even ended up as the 8th-ranked single for 1998. In fact, it sold half a million copies in its first week alone and would become the second-best selling single in Kinki Kids' career, just below "Garasu no Shonen" with over 1.6 million copies sold. This may only be the second time that I've mentioned that a song actually went Quadruple Platinum.

Mori and Makaino must have really celebrated with a goodly amount of libation on getting the good news.

Noriko Miyamoto -- Matenro Monogatari(摩天楼物語)

Cool and good.

Found this lovely number on the City Pop radio provided by Van Paugam.

This is "Matenro Monogatari" (Skyscraper Story) from Noriko Miyamoto's(宮本典子)1982 album "Noriko". Another urban and funky number by the divine Mimi, that voice, those horns and that bass can probably get the average stuffed-shirt politician from Parliament strutting down the streets of Tokyo. Perhaps it could even get included in the Japanese equivalent of the classic album "The Dude" by Quincy Jones.

"Matenro Monogatari" shares album space with the previous Mimi entry "Lovely City" on the 1982 album, so that tears it. I'm getting "Noriko" if it's still available out there. Mind you, I've just fired off a few bullets from my wallet so I have to exercise discipline and won't probably get it until later this year.

Riko Fukumoto -- Shoujo wa Ano Sora wo Wataru(少女はあの空を渡る)

To all those in Canada, Happy Victoria Day! Mind you, I'm not so indebted to Queen Victoria since I grew up calling the annual holiday Firecracker Day. And sure enough, when my friends and I were out enjoying a bucket of chicken wings at Wild Wings last night, there were some starbursts taking flight.

Had the usual anime outing for the first time in a few weeks, and yes, it looks like my favourites for this season are "Hina Matsuri"(ヒナまつり)and "Hisone to Masotan"(ひそねとまそたん...Hisone and Masotan). Both have a rather central fantastical element firmly planted within Japanese society, with the latter incorporating dragon/fighter jets battling for the Air Self-Defense Force. Not quite sure how the quirky but appealing show has merited in Japan itself but it looks like "Hisone & Masotan" has garnered a nice little audience. Plus, it seems as if a couple of memes have been generated from it including the Rain Dance thing above and even the dancing from the end credits.

The opening theme for the show has also implanted its earworm. "Shoujo wa Ano Sora wo Wataru" (The Girl Crosses That Sky) by 17-year-old Osaka actress Riko Fukumoto(福本莉子)has that sense of an inspiring song with hints of a better tomorrow just beyond the horizon. I also have the impression that Fukumoto's delivery and the composition/arrangement by Taisei Iwasaki(岩崎太整)approach Studio Ghibli levels of soundtrack. Especially, the intro strings have dug themselves into my head as something quite epic, and that same introductory riff has been used in certain dramatic scenes in the episodes. Mari Okada(岡田麿里), the screenwriter for the show itself, provided the lyrics.

So far, I've only been able to get the song during the opening credits but I'm hoping that the full version will come out since this would be one anison that I would be more than happy to purchase.

Well, whaddaya know?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Maison book girl in Brighton (2018.05.18)

When my boyfriend started getting into the alternative idol scene, one of the first groups I remember him showing me was Maison book girl. Before I knew it, I already had several of their songs in my phone in heavy rotation everyday, as I went from home to college and back.

The group, formed in 2014, is composed by 4 girls: Megumi Koshouji, the leader (part of the original formation of BiS - probably the most well-known alternative idol group ever), Aoi Yagawa, Yui Inoue and Rin Wada. Their producer, Kenta Sakurai, is also the composer and arranger of the songs. Their arrangements use similar sets of sounds, which match the overall minimalist image of Bukuga (as they're affectionately known), but the key to their uniqueness is the composition, which gives each tune its flavor.

Bukuga soon became one of my favorite modern idol and J-pop acts, as well as my boyfriend's, and as soon as we knew they were performing in the United Kingdom, we started planning a trip - to Brighton, the first date confirmed and the one more suitable to our schedules. This would be my first time leaving Portugal, my first live idol act, and an unforgettable experience.

Brighton Station

Our schedules left us with only two days to spare for our trip, so we landed in Luton before lunch and grabbed something to eat before heading to Brighton by train (a two-hour trip). We didn't really look up much about the place; we essentially knew it was a beachside destination with a pier. But it proved to be a very interesting and especially lively place, with a big Asian community and an active alternative music scene. The concert we were watching was part of a bigger festival, The Great Escape, with venues all over the city.

After checking into the hotel, we had some spare time. It went by really fast, since among other things, we had to go get our festival wristband and enter in the venue (The Arch nightclub, right in front of the beach) soon enough to catch a good spot.

From @maisonbookgirl on Twitter

We managed to see Maison book girl enter the venue, and we were positively surprised by how cuter they look in person, rather than in the pictures and videos we were used to see. And I got really embarrassed, lol. It's hard to admit, but it was the first time I really got into my head that the idols I see through a phone or computer screen are real people.

We got really nice spots, right at the front, but the venue didn't seem too packed, though I stopped paying attention a while before the live started. There were a few dedicated Japanese fans by our side, but zero wota dances or yells, understandingly. Bukuga's style makes them feel like they're not your usual idol group, but somehow they are.

The live started at 8pm and lasted 30 minutes. Besides the songs featured in their first UK single, bath room and karma (which opened and finished the show, respectively), they featured some other songs, such as lost age (covered by J-Canuck around the time they visited Canada) and faithlessness, the one I started this post with. There were short talk segments, where we heard the girls speak some English, and that allowed them some rest. (Being a person with little physical ability, I admire idols' well-maintained skills to simultaneously dance and sing for long periods of time.) The lightning complemented the experience, making for a great performance.

As for me... I was just there, almost standing still, smiling so much my cheeks hurt, and singing everything I knew by heart. I think that right until the end, I was trying to remind myself that that sight was reality, looking at my boyfriend and watching him enjoy it as much as I was. Until a few weeks ago, I thought seeing idols live was almost like daydreaming, that it wouldn't happen this soon.

I felt like in that venue, we were one of the "elites" that were there for them because we were their longtime fans. And the girls acknowledged that - I know they did.

The following act was Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, so I'm still tagging her in this post. Maybe some people will get mad that we didn't give her as much attention as Bukuga, lol, but we do like her, and we watched some of the concert, but from a further spot. The nightclub was tightly packed after we came back from buying merchandise. She sang her most famous hits, and the public was definitely as "decora" colorful as expected from your usual Kyary fan.

Pamyurin from a distance

Concerning Maison book girl, there were no pictures allowed with the fans. We were saddened, but still greatly satisfied for the amazing performance. But, it didn't end there. I won't disclose what happened since it concerns the girls' privacy. I'll just say destiny gave us two more chance encounters that night, which completed our experience.

One of the views from the pier

We had to leave the following day, but managed to plan things well enough to have some free time. That allowed us to walk by the beautiful Brighton Pier, some of the main streets, and calmly have lunch before heading back to Luton Airport and subsequently to Lisbon.

The blues have been quite tough on me since I boarded the plane home. It's proof that it was an excellent experience, but I'm sure it won't be the last. I became more passionate for Bukuga and modern idols in general than before... Way more. Also, I'll keep an eye wider open to J-pop performances in Europe, which I hope will increase in number in the future.