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.

Friday, August 31, 2018

akiko -- Happy Little Time (hlt)

When it comes to happy little times, one of them that I especially treasured while I was living in Japan was the above: a can or a bottle of Max Coffee. For those who may not have ever encountered this drink by the Georgia Corporation, this is liquid coffee sugar. One of my oldest friends used to put in nine...count 'em, nine...teaspoons of sugar into his cup of coffee back at university. Max Coffee rather represents my buddy's past folly. Coffee connoisseurs and diabetics will not want to get anywhere near this toxicity in a can.

However during the blazing summer with all of its heat and humidity, this was one of my go-to drinks. I bought the can from the ubiquitous vending machines or I got the 2L bottle from the neighbourhood conbini. And yes, it did indeed go down good. In fact, whenever I visit my old stomping grounds, I make the effort to have one can of Max Coffee.

Speaking of happy little times, I did encounter this pleasant song by R&B singer akiko titled "Happy Little Time (hlt)" which was her 2nd single released in March 1996. It's got that sunny Sunday soul in there.

There is one line in the refrain in "Happy Little Time" (aishiteru) that sparked an engram of memory. As it turns out, the song was used for a shampoo commercial that must have gotten a lot of airplay since that one lick in the tune managed to hibernate all these years in my brain.

According to her J-Wiki file, akiko debuted in 1995 after apparently making an appearance behind the mike during Amateur Night at Manhattan's famed Apollo Theatre the previous year. Perhaps there was a Japanese scout there? There are 4 albums and 3 singles in her discography, although as of 2009, there has been no more known activity from her.

Keiichi Tomita -- April Fool feat. Maaya Sakamoto(エイプリルフール)

Akasaka from Hie Shrine

Mind you, we're about 5 months later from the date that the title of this song states. However, there is nothing tricky nor trollish about "April Fool" as done via the collaboration between cool songsmith Keiichi Tomita(冨田恵一)and lovely singer Maaya Sakamoto(坂本真綾).

In fact, this "April Fool" is so relaxing and wonderful that it does fit the atmosphere of late summer rather than early spring. When it comes to his music, I would usually label the byline with Tomita Lab(冨田ラボ), but his BEST collection from 2011, "WORKS BEST 〜beautiful songs to remember〜" has his real name on top, so I will do the same here.

No matter the moniker, though, this is a recognizably Tomita song for me. It has that mellow jazzy Latin vibe and groove that kinda hints at music from decades back in time, and Sakamoto gives the primary reason for the title of this album. Even Tomita himself helps out a bit in the singing. He composed and arranged the music while Jun Kamoda(鴨田潤)provided the lyrics.

One commenter remarked that he/she wouldn't mind a walk with Ms. Sakamoto. I can truly understand those sentiments, and the walk can take place anywhere: in the city or along the coast, as long as it's sunny and the topography isn't too arduous. In the meantime, I should invest in this album.

Yuko Ohtaki -- Want You Back Again

Bright lights and big city of Shinjuku. I gather that as the Olympics draw near, there will be increased interest in this particular area of Tokyo. Folks can try the huge variety of entertainment facilities of East Shinjuku or take a walk underneath the skyscrapers of West Shinjuku or the newer shopping complexes of South Shinjuku.

Indeed, it's a Friday night so some more City Pop. For some reason, whenever I think of some of the urban contemporary stuff from the 1980s, Shinjuku is the place that comes to mind, especially West Shinjuku with those soaring towers. It could be because of the coolness in terms of appearance put together with the coolness of the songs.

When I first heard "Want You Back Again" by Yuko Ohtaki(大滝裕子), I had assumed that it was another contribution by her to the anime "City Hunter", as was the case with "Mr. Private Eye". But actually, this time, this particular downtown number has to do with another show about cool guys, namely the live-action police series "Abunai Deka"(あぶない刑事). Good ol' synths of yesteryear, the horns and the light but resonant tones of Ms. Ohtaki make it feel like I'm riding shotgun with Detectives Takayama and Oshita, although their jurisdiction is Yokohama; sunglasses-at-night sold separately.

Tommy Snyder came up with the English lyrics while Ichinen Miura(三浦一年)took care of the melody. The song appeared on the 1986 soundtrack for "Abunai Deka".

Thursday, August 30, 2018

PUFFY -- Wedding Bell(ウエディング・ベル)

Back in 2012, I wrote about the 80s vocal group Sugar and their big hit "Wedding Bell" which I had known for its sweet melody but only found out many years later that the song hid a majorly jagged shiv within its lyrics. It was such that I now wonder how some of the audience at NHK Hall had felt when the young ladies of that trio sang those words at the Kohaku Utagassen. Mind you, I do remember from the 1982 broadcast that they did get a nice round of applause.

Well, about a decade ago, down-home duo Puffy did a cover of "Wedding Bell" as the theme song for the Fuji-TV comedy-drama "Kon Katsu!"(婚カツ!...Marriage Hunt!)which was about a guy who had no interest in getting married or even having a relationship getting pushed into the marrying game.

A track from Puffy's 11th album "Bring it!" from June 2009, Ami and Yumi's take on "Wedding Bell" has more of a slightly swinging 1960s feel, and the ladies try not to tax their vocal cords as the Sugar members did.

Plus, the intro sounds like it got a bit of that Disney treatment...all the better to hide the lyrical shiv. All in all, it's a nice update on the 1981 original song. "Wedding Bell" wasn't released as a single but "Bring it!" got as high as No. 17 on the Oricon weeklies. Speaking of Puffy updates on 80s tunes, Ami and Yumi did their take on another vocal group's classic.

Techno group 80kidz even did a remix of Puffy's cover.

Anzen Chitai -- Tooku e(遠くへ)/Miss Miss Kiss

Larry and I have decided to go with the twin article treatment of Anzen Chitai(安全地帯)starting with his tribute to "Tsuki ni Nureta Futari"(月に濡れた二人)last night, one of my favourite tracks from "Anzen Chitai VI". Back on Tuesday, we had lunch at Kingyo, and we were both talking about the band and the fact that we would be presenting our articles fairly soon. Larry mentioned that there has been a special affinity between this group from the northernmost prefecture of Japan and Hong Kong, and I can believe it. I told him this as well, but when I think of Anzen Chitai and places, I don't think of Asahikawa which is where the band got started, or Tokyo. I always think of Hong Kong. For whatever reason, their music and the metropolis there seem to fit hand-in-glove.

Now, I've devoted an article to Anzen Chitai's "V" album from December 1986, and there are songs from the album that I've given single coverage before and after this article. With 36 tracks, there is plenty to chew on. So this time, I'm gonna work with the first two tracks, "Tooku e" (In The Distance) and "Miss Miss Kiss". Both songs were written by Goro Matsui(松井五郎)and composed by vocalist Koji Tamaki(玉置浩二).

I wanted to bring both songs here into this one article since there is something to compare here. For one thing, "Tooku e" has that arrangement of what I remembered first about Anzen Chitai's music, and that is that dark but attractive sound that they first became known for in the early 1980s, starting with "Wine Red no Kokoro"(ワインレッドの心).

Specifically with "Tooku e", I get that image of walking in a fog, literally and figuratively, at night in the big city, whether it be Sapporo or Tokyo or Hong Kong. The protagonist could be walking surrounded by millions of Friday night carousers and yet be utterly alone due to some sort of existential crisis. Isolation can sound pretty cool here. Very atmospheric and an introduction to "V" that could signify "Yes, this is a big album this time but we're still Anzen Chitai".

Then, with "Miss Miss Kiss", there is that infusion of difference with the inclusion of that horn section. And to quote John Cleese, "And now for something completely different". Well, not completely different since the Anzen Chitai sound is still recognizable but all those horns provided by Katsu Hoshi(星勝)and Jerry Hey kinda show that the band is hinting at something new.

My imagination here has a fellow enjoying some good times in a few of the less sleazy places in Tokyo's infamous Kabukicho (I've heard though that it's been getting cleaned up over the last few years like Times Square in New York), with that guitar representing a very slinky young lady threading through the excitement provided by the horns. I was surprised that it was quite a short number at barely over two-and-a-half minutes, but doesn't time fly rather quickly when one is having a lot of fun?

Anzen Chitai 安全地帯 - Tsuki ni Nureta Futari 月に濡れた二人

Last Saturday, my high school classmates in Hong Kong organized a 30th anniversary reunion at our alma mata, inviting all memebers of class 1988 as well as our teachers, some of whom are already retired.  There were more than 100 people (out of a total of around 200 members, I think).  It is very nostalgic when I saw the pictures.  Since I’m in the US, I was not able to join.  I wish I could.  I know a couple of friends who are living overseas but happened to be in Hong Kong at that time, and they were able to attend this memorable event.

It brought back a lot of fond memories.  For some reason, this was the song that came immediately to my mind for the year 1988.  Technically, it was 1989 when I first listened to this song.  Interestingly, I didn’t even know that this song was a Japanese song at that time.  I was listening to Hong Kong singer Hacken Lee’s (李克勤) cover version Blue Moon (藍月亮).  It was only later that I discovered the origin of the song.  Coincidentally, Hacken Lee also graduated from the same high school as mine and he’s 3 classes above me.  If you’re interested in his cover version, here’s a YouTube link

Tsuki ni Nureta Futari was first released in Anzen Chitai’s 17th single in 1988, and later released in their album Anzen Chitai 6 (安全地帯VI).  The song was composed by Anzen Chitai’s soul and vocalist Tamaki Kouji (玉置浩二), and Matsui Goro (松井五郎), who often collaborated with Tamaki, was responsible for its lyrics.

Like a lot of Japanese lyrics, it shows a piece of a story, and leaves the rest for the listener’s imagination.  If I were to tell the story of the song, it would be about a couple in the middle of a still ambiguous relationship.  Even though they’ve been together, he feels that he still couldn’t reach her heart.  She seems to be unsure.  Meanwhile, he is unable to say “I love you” in front of her, despite that voice deep inside his heart.  Telling her everything may ruin it.  In the end, he decides to just seize the moment and not worry about tomorrow, hoping that this dream he’s living will never end.

The single reached #13 on Oricon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Marcos V.'s short selection of 80s B-rated female aidoru singers

One of my new hobbies is Japanese literature, with a very special focus on Yukio Mishima (三島由紀夫) – who quickly became my favorite writer ever, right next to Marquis de Sade –, Kafu Nagai (永井荷風) and, right now, Ryu Murakami (村上龍) – also known in the West as “the other Murakami”. From the latter, I’m reading a collection of short stories called “Tokyo Decadence” (2016), and the first two parts of the book, comprised of seven short stories selected from “Run, Takahashi!” and “Topaz”, were published during Japan's bubble years (1986 and 1988, respectively). So, with the word decadence in mind, Murakami introduces a lot of intriguing characters and plots, such as in the lovely and very interesting story about a truck driver who discovers a new life as a host in a gay bar after passing through a divorce and losing his job, or the creepy story about a young man with mental disorder who ends up killing almost everyone in a family (man and two kids), with the exception of the woman, after stalking this same woman for a while, and some stories revolving around call girls specialized in sadomasochism. Yes, the content can be a bit crude (like in the call girls’ stories), and sometimes creepy (the young man with mental disorder who ends up becoming a killer), but that’s why I became interested in Ryu Murakami in the first place.

Since these stories were written by Murakami during the bubble years, and they seem to take place in that time frame, I like to read them thinking about my favorite Japanese cultural phenomenon from the 80s, aka female aidoru singers, which can also be related to the era's overall decandent feeling. And with that in mind, I decided to talk about five songs, recorded by not-so-famous aidoru singers, ranging from the late 80s to the early 90s – well, I'm aware that's not a new topic coming from me, but whatever.

Starting off, here’s “Black Velvet” (ブラック・ベルベット), one of my favorite songs recorded by sexy aidoru Aya Sugimoto (杉本彩). Originally released in 1988 as a song from her second album, “Mizu no Naka no Chiisana Taiyou” (水の中の小さな太陽), it became one of her concert staples, and I’m not complaining, since I love its funky synthpop sound that was so common during the first Eurobeat era. And really, when I think about decadence, Aya Sugimoto always pops on my mind... but I do like her a lot, which can be kind of surprising. About the video, I have three or four different live performances of “Black Velvet” stored, but Aya is particularly bouncy in this one. Vocals are always bad, so that doesn’t matter.

Risa Tachibana (立花理佐) is another aidoru who I like a lot. At first, I thought about writing about her most unique song, the over the top “Risa no Yousei Densetsu” (リサの妖精伝説), but I couldn’t resist posting the ridiculously catchy “Do You Do You?” here (I keep singing the “do you do you remember me?” part on and on). Like Aya Sugimoto’s “Black Velvet”, and also the following songs in this list, the late 80s/early 90s Eurobeat sound is predominant here, even though the song is quite rooted in a traditional pop style. It was released as a single in 1989.

Kind of similar in sound to “Do You Do You?”, here’s Miwa Kawagoe (川越美和) with her second single, “Tenshi to Yu-Waku” (天使とYu-Waku), which was also released in 1989. I particularly like the wild cascade of synths in the background during some sections of the song. Besides that very particular detail in the arrangement, it’s a generic lost tune from its time. Well, no song in this list is very memorable, but that’s the fun of listening to B-rated aidoru singers in the first place.

In general, I dislike a lot of 80s aidoru’s debut songs, basically because they all sound similar to each other, but also very tame, especially if compared to the aidoru’s following outputs. That’s not the case with Eri Aikawa’s (相川恵里) “Junai Countdown” (純愛カウントダウン), my favorite of her singles, which, unlike a traditional aidoru debut song, is not a mid-tempo ballad, nor a pure ‘fifteen years old girl’ type of song. Released in the 1988, it makes sense that the arrangement is quite heavy on the horns, synths and bouncy bass line. Besides appearing in her first album “Kiiroi Kirin” (黄色い麒麟), it was later remixed for her second album, “O.TO.NA”, turning into an even more explosive song.

To finish the post, here’s “See Through” (シースルー) by Akiho Sendo (千堂あきほ), which happens to be the lone child of the 90s in this list, being released as a single in 1991. This one also features a heavy – and melodic – synth sound, but this time with a little rock twist, so common during the beginning of the 90s. It still sounds like an 80s tune, but with a pretty nice edge. In my opinion, it’s one of Akiho Sendo’s best songs (the other being “Glass no ECSTASY” [硝子のECSTASY]).

MANNA -- Gotanda

Over my years commuting through Tokyo, I think I've managed to get off at just about every station on the JR Yamanote Line. For those who don't know about it, the Yamanote is the loop line that goes around downtown Tokyo in about an hour. Of course, I'm quite familiar with the major stations such as Shinjuku, Tokyo, Akihabara and even the above Takadanobaba.

Gotanda Station is one stop on the Yamanote that's somewhere between Shibuya and Shinagawa Stations, and it's one of those places that perhaps I've gotten off at just once perhaps. It was only because my good foodie friend in Tokyo found this great hambaagu restaurant near the station that got all of us to make a stop there one Sunday night. Hambaagu would do that to me.

Well, strangely enough, I managed to find a song with the title of "Gotanda" and it was through MANNA's debut album "Chabako Trick" from 1979. I've actually already written about one other track from the album, and that was a cover of Tin Pan Alley's "Yellow Magic Carnival" which was also MANNA's debut single. 

Unlike the disco of that song, however, "Gotanda" is fairly straight and light pop...something to take a walk through Gotanda by. As I was listening to it for the first time, I wondered how it would sound covered by Akiko Yano(矢野顕子)since the arrangements sound as if it were made just for her. Well, oh, goofball me. It was indeed Yano who had wrote and composed the song for MANNA. The song fairly trips and skips quite happily through its four-and-a-half minutes.

Yuzo Kayama -- Yoru no Taiyo(夜の太陽)

One person that I had wanted to include on my recent list of favourite summer Japanese pop tunes was the Wakadaisho(若大将)himself, Yuzo Kayama(加山雄三). However, I found out that the song that I wanted to include hadn't even been covered yet. And regrettably, I forgot what the title was. Well, it'll come to me eventually.

In any case, I've decided to go back to the very beginnings of Kayama's long career, and so I ended up in July 1961 when his debut single "Yoru no Taiyo" (Night Sun) was released. It was one of the songs included in the first of the "Wakadaisho" movie series, "Daigaku no Wakadaisho"(大学の若大将). It's been translated as "Sir Galahad in Campus" although I prefer the more conventional "Big Man on Campus". Of course, Kayama stars as the Big Man himself and the heartthrob ace swimmer.

With lyrics by Kyouji Mita(三田恭次)and music by Hachidai Nakamura(中村八大), "Yoru no Taiyo" breaks out of the starting gate with a brassy blast, and the beat takes on that jazzy Latin kayo style which was pretty popular at the time, dodonpa(ドドンパ). The term is even included in Mita's lyrics. Although I don't think the song was the theme for the movie, it certainly could sum up some of the Big Man's confidence and swagger as he paints the town red at night. However, although I've only seen a few scenes from some of the movies, my impression is that the Wakadaisho was always a good kid and probably retired from his activities early. Maybe he even drank a glass of milk before hitting the sack.

Mariya Takeuchi -- Koi no Arashi(恋の嵐)

After 70 articles related to Mariya Takeuchi(竹内まりや), I'm surprised that I had yet to cover this one since although I could never remember the title, the melody has been very familiar to me.

"Koi no Arashi" (Storm of Love) is this cute mix of Mariya's earlier 50s/60s candy pop and what sounds like "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" which was released as her 13th single in March 1986. Of course, her husband's voice is in the chorus back there, and the singer wrote and composed the song.

It sounds oh-so-sweet but actually the lyrics are about a woman's imminent arrival at the point of no return in terms of an affair that she is about to kick off with a friend on a dark, stormy night. Perhaps that's why I kinda find the cover for the single somewhat sinister with Mariya wearing that red outfit and a slightly devilish grin. Temptations, temptations...

Not surprisingly, "Koi no Arashi" was used as the theme song for a TBS drama "Tonari no Onna"(となりの女...The Woman Next Door) which dealt with the same topic. It peaked at No. 20 on Oricon and was also placed as a track on her 7th album "Request" from August 1987 and on her second BEST compilation "Impressions" from July 1994.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Little Glee Monster -- Sekai wa Anata ni Waraikaketeiru(世界はあなたに笑いかけている)

Earlier today, "Kayo Kyoku Plus" contributor Larry Chan and I got together for our semi-annual lunch and we went to our usual favourite Japanese restaurant Kingyo. Actually, the photo above is from the Xmas dinner with my fellow translators at Kingyo last year, but suffice it to say, the food at lunch is still darn good. Larry had the tonkatsu set (with really thick pork) and I had the mabo dofu set. Yes, I know, I know...mabo dofu is a Szechuan dish, but it is truly beloved in Japan. Plus, the wonderful thing is that several hours have passed and the mabo has yet to dissolve my intestines. Good, mabo, good!🙆

Of course, one of our topics was the blog and the music. The two of us conversed about the fact that the Japanese reign period will for the first time in a few hundred years change over due to an abdication/retirement of a sitting emperor rather than his death. So we know that the Heisei Era will end next year on April 30th, I believe. And I figure that in the months to come, there will be some sort of assessment on what the music was like between January 8th 1989 and April 30th 2019.

With the change over to a new period next year, I also expressed some hopes about what Japanese pop music could be like. For one thing, I hope that there can be an even bigger influx of some good old-fashioned soul to the proceedings.

Tonight, I caught the first "Uta Kon"(うたコン)after a brief summer hiatus, and the vocal group Little Glee Monster appeared. My memory then reminded me that I said that I would write up an article about one of the group's singles after having mentioned them in "Hey Wa"(Hey和)last week. But I am new to the LGM oeuvre so I had wondered which song I would sample.

It looks like I didn't have to wait too long. The song was right there and then on the program tonight. Little Glee Monster performed their latest single (their 12th) "Sekai wa Anata ni Waraikaketeiru" (The World is Smiling at You), and I realized that there was some nice light soul in that tune.

Guitarist/music producer and former member of the band SUPERCAR, Junji Ishiwatari(いしわたり淳治), and singer/songwriter Manabu Marutani(丸谷マナブ)came up with the lyrics while Marutani also composed the happy and funky melody. "Sekai wa Anata ni Waraikaketeiru" was released this month and was also used as the commercial song for Coca-Cola. Well, if we can all teach the world to sing, why wouldn't it smile at us?

Little Glee Monster started up in 2013 and has a current lineup of five women (with three ex-members): Serina, Asahi, MAYU, Karen and manaka. Along with the 12 singles, there is a digital download single which is a cover of the song "Jupiter", a mini-album, and 3 original albums.

Haruo Oka/Hachiro Kasuga -- Tokyo no Sora, Aoi Sora(東京の空青い空)

A couple of days ago, I was watching enka singer Hiroshi Itsuki's(五木ひろし)NHK music-variety show (I really ought to talk about that program sometime soon) which seems to get plugged into a time slot on TV Japan whenever the usual program has been pre-empted for whatever reason. The theme for the episode was Tokyo-based kayo, something that has also been done on "Uta Kon"(うたコン)in the past.

However, one of the songs that was featured was an old kayo that I had never heard before. It was titled "Tokyo no Sora, Aoi no Sora" (Tokyo Sky, Blue Sky) and the original singer was Haruo Oka(岡晴夫), the same fellow who had sung the jaunty "Akogare no Hawaii Koro"(憧れのハワイ航路)in 1948. It's a song that I've heard myself over the decades but have only gotten to know and pay attention to in the last number of years.

"Tokyo no Sora, Aoi no Sora" was released in March 1949, and like the more famous "Akogare no Hawaii Koro", it's got plenty of jump. In fact, I would say that Yoshi Eguchi's(江口夜詩)music is quite the whirling dervish of kayo, probably to match Miyuki Ishimoto's(石本美由起)lyrics of a young couple painting the town red on what must have been one heck of a weekend date. I'm sure that Oka must have gotten quite the workout recording this in the booth. But it's got plenty of optimism; I don't know what the state of Tokyo was in 1949, some four years after the war had ended, but if it's anything like singer, lyricist and composer have described it, then perhaps the capital city was really turning a corner. Incidentally, both Eguchi and Ishimoto were also responsible for the creation of "Akogare no Hawaii Koro".

There's a clearer and crisper cover of the original song by Hachiro Kasuga(春日八郎)who recorded it in 1976 as a part of his album "Kasuga Hachiro Oka Haruo wo Utau"(春日八郎 岡晴夫を歌う...Hachiro Kasuga Sings Haruo Oka). Listening to both versions, I got that feeling of Tokyo being that hive of industry and activity, and if I were to compare the tune to a Hollywood movie, I would think it was kinda like the first few minutes of "An American in Paris" with George Gershwin's magnificent score in the background.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Yuji Mori and Southern Cross/Toshi Ito & Happy and Blue -- Ashide Matoi(足手まとい)

I was kinda feeling that it was a while since I put up a Mood Kayo tune, and I realized that it has been about 6 weeks. Being a Monday night, I kinda figure that there are probably workers out there who want to get their first nighttime drink of the week, so perhaps it was off to the favourite watering hole after work. That would make for a Mood Kayo atmosphere.

While rummaging through YouTube for an appropriate song, I found this one titled "Ashide Matoi" (A Burden) by a group that I had never heard before, Yuji Mori and Southern Cross(森雄二とサザンクロス). The group debuted in 1975 and performed for a decade before breaking up in 1985.

"Ashide Matoi", the tearful story of a man who decides to break up with his mistress because he feels that he is just dragging her down, has got all of the enjoyable Mood Kayo tropes: a bit of that Latin guitar, the chorus work, the sorrowful lead vocal, and those strings and alto sax which sound plenty clean and crisp, like a sip of good sake. On the odd occasion that I do drink sake, I usually like it dry. Listening to this, I can only envision the high-flying areas of Ginza and Akasaka.

The lyrics were provided by Junko Takabatake(高畠諄子)and the music was by Hiroyuki Nakagawa(中川博之). "Ashide Matoi" was released in 1977.

In July 1983, the Mood Kayo group Toshi Ito & Happy and Blue(敏いとうとハッピー&ブルー)performed a cover of "Ashide Matoi" as their 23rd single. I couldn't find the original recorded version but the above performed version on TV doesn't sound too different from the Southern Cross take although there seems to be some more musical flourishes added.

Interestingly enough, former members from both Southern Cross and Happy and Blue along with one other Mood Kayo singer got together in 2002 to form Happy Southern Arrow(ハッピー・サザンアロー). But earlier in 1995, Southern Cross had decided to re-form and entertain again until earlier this year in April when Mori passed away at the age of 75.

ZARD - Forever You

(cover version)

J-Canuck and I probably share the same kind of feeling towards the 90s.

In summer 1990, I set foot on US soil for the very first time in my life for my undergrad.  I have pretty much disconnected myself from Hong Kong pop music from that time onwards.  The Hong Kong music scene was transitioning from the dominance of Alan Tam (譚詠麟), Leslie Cheung (張國榮), and Anita Mui (梅艷芳) to the 4 Gods (四大天王), namely Jacky Zhang (張學友), Andy Lau (劉德華), Leon Lai (黎明), and Aaron Kwok (郭富城).  Like J-Canuck, I also felt like I missed a lot of actions that’s happening in Hong Kong at that time.  Consequently, music from the 90s always invokes a special feeling within my heart.

Forever You was released in a ZARD 1995 album with the same name, 2 years after the tremendous success of Makenaide (負けないで).  Oda Tetsuro (織田哲郎) composed the music and ZARD, or Sakai Izumi (坂井泉水) was of course responsible for the lyrics.  This song is probably a real story of Izumi’s life, and her reflection at that point in her career.  In the song, she talks about the time when she fumbled along her way to seek her dream, referring to her early days as a race girl and model.  Now that her dream has come true, she has found happiness and just wants to take steady steps and may be, find her true love one day.  Reflecting on her past, she felt no regret, as it is the path she has chosen after all.  She also felt extremely grateful and would never forget all the people who have helped her along the way.

Forever You is one of my favorites among many ZARD’s hits.  It is also one of the favorites of Terao Hiroshi (寺尾広), ZARD’s recording director.  In his interview remembering ZARD’s 10th death anniversary, Hiroshi noted the special arrangement of Forever You.  For around 30 years since the birth of J-Pop, its formula has always been one of verse, pre-chorus, chorus (or hook) type of arrangement.  But in Forever You, it lacks a pre-chorus, and jumps from verse directly to the chorus, which he thinks is a smart deviation.  Personally, I think such simple arrangement enhances the story told by the song.

In that same interview, Hiroshi revealed that almost no song was specifically written for ZARD. Consequently, Izumi had almost no contact with the song writer.  It was because producer Nagato Daiko (長戸大幸) didn’t  want to limit the creativity of Izumi regarding lyrics.  Had she known that a song has been specifically written for her, she might be influenced to make word choices that she otherwise wouldn’t make in order to fit a particular melody, out of respect for the songwriter.  I found this point quite interesting.


Marina Watanabe -- Ureshii Yokan(うれしい予感)

The anime "Chibi Maruko-chan"(ちびまる子ちゃん)on Fuji-TV has become as much of a Sunday evening televised institution as "Sazae-san"(サザエさん)has although the latter's history has been much longer. Still, I remember watching the first year of the program from 1990 whose first run lasted almost 3 years before going on a hiatus for just as long. Then, it came back in 1995 and hasn't looked back since then.

This morning, the breaking news that came in on NHK's "News Watch at Nine" was that the author behind the original manga, Momoko Sakura(さくらももこ), had passed away on August 15th from cancer at the age of 53. Usually NHK wouldn't mention any program that was on a commercial network, and they didn't mention Fuji-TV by name but they did mention about the long-running anime.

It was a pretty big shock since I had no idea that Sakura had ever been sick and especially since I do catch "Chibi Maruko-chan" with the rest of the family on Sunday nights here on TV Japan when I am at home on those nights. Maruko may act like a brat from time to time but it's still relaxing viewing to see the Sakura family in their home in Shizuoka in the 1970s.

The news is even sadder because just a couple of years earlier, the seiyuu who had played Maruko's older sister, Sakiko, Yuko Mizutani(水谷優子), had passed away from cancer as well at around the same age. And then there was the recent passing of 70s aidoru Hideki Saijo(西城秀樹)who was a frequent presence on the show as the heartthrob that both Maruko and Sakiko were massively in love with, especially the latter.

It's hard to believe but there was a time when "Odoru Ponpokorin"(おどるポンポコリン)wasn't the de facto opening theme song for "Chibi Maruko-chan". It had started out as the ending theme during the show's first run with the opening theme being the very nice "Yume Ippai"(ゆめいっぱい)by Yumiko Seki(関ゆみ子). There were a number of other opening themes before "Odoru Ponpokorin" permanently became the song in its various cover versions for the opening credits from 2000 (although "Odoru Ponpokorin" served as opening theme for over a year between 1998 and 1999).

The first opening theme for the second and current run when "Chibi Maruko-chan" returned to TV in 1995 was ex-Onyanko Club(おニャン子クラブ)member Marina Watanabe's(渡辺満里奈)"Ureshii Yokan" (A Happy Premonition). Veteran listeners of Japanese popular music could probably pick up that this was an Eiichi Ohtaki(大瀧詠一)tune right from the jingly melody which includes the chorus arrangement by Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎). Sakura herself wrote the lyrics.

"Ureshii Yokan" was Watanabe's 16th and second-last single to date and was released in February 1995. Ohtaki's old bandmate from Happy End, Shigeru Suzuki(鈴木茂), was on guitar during the recording, and the surprising thing I read on the song's J-Wiki article was that Ohtaki borrowed the intro riff and perhaps the harmonica solo by Toshiaki Chiku(知久寿焼)from The Beatles' "Please Please Me". The single managed to get as high as No. 31 on Oricon and was also placed as a track on Watanabe's 9th studio album, "Ring-A-Bell", released in March 1996, which was also produced by the late Ohtaki.

As sad as her untimely passing is, Sakura has left her legacy of manga, songs and the anime for us to enjoy for many more years.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Makoto Kubota & Yuyake Gakudan -- Bye Bye Baby(バイ・バイ・ベイビー)

It's close to 11 pm as I type this but I wanted to put in just one more before calling it a day since a video that I saw was so fascinating.

The video was put up almost 10 years ago by a fellow named Nobuyoshi Maeda, and it features the band Tin Pan Alley(ティン・パン・アレー)playing a good ol' rock n' blues song titled "Bye Bye Baby" with singer-songwriter Chu Kosaka(小坂忠)pouring it on while Minako Yoshida(吉田美奈子)is backing him up. I don't get to see either performer actually singing on a YouTube video so it was an interesting exercise to see them back in the 1970s jammin' away. There's also a bit in the above video where Haruomi Hosono(細野晴臣)and friend were actually trying something that might have looked like an embryonic form of the Moonwalk.

Considering how "Bye Bye Baby" sounds, I had initially thought that Tin Pan Alley was performing a cover of some tune from the United States. But as it turns out, it's a wholly Japanese original that had been composed by Hosono himself and written by Yoma Fujita藤田洋麻). And the original performers were Makoto Kubota & Yuyake Gakudan(久保田麻琴と夕焼け楽団)on their 1975 debut album "Hawaii Champloo"(ハワイ・チャンプルー).

Fujita's lyrics talk about a traveling band going from town to town doing the gigs on a seemingly never-ending train ride through America. And the band just sounds like they've lived the life and have been enjoying it, or at the very least, treating it like a good enough living. One would almost think that some of the members would have picked up a drawl or a twang in their speaking.

I don't usually listen to this genre but both the original and the cover done by Tin Pan Alley are actually quite fun to the ears. "Hawaii Champloo" has been previously represented on the blog through another track which is much more Okinawan, "Haisai Ojisan"(ハイサイおじさん).

J-Canuck's Favourite Summer Tunes (Part 2)

Yes, I could use with a good vat of sangria over the next number of days since the forecast for my city is Humidex figures in the 40s. Summer is definitely not over with us yet...not by a long shot. And summer is not done with this article, Part 2 of my own favourite summer tunes coming over from Part 1 earlier this afternoon. Without further ado:

1. Jun'ichi Inagaki(稲垣潤一)-- Natsu no Claxon (1983)

I didn't mention this in the original article that I wrote for Jun'ichi Inagaki's dreamy "Natsu no Claxon"(夏のクラクション)but I think I may have heard and seen this through a concert video that was put on Fuji-TV in the early morning winter hours as I was shivering in my futon in Gunma. Oh, the irony. But then again, either Fuji-TV had a very sardonic sense of humour or the network was trying to get us folks thinking of summer thoughts to get us through the bitter snowy season. In any case, I think "Natsu no Claxon" is one of the summer J-AOR classics, and compared with the early summer vibe of "Summer Connection" by Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)who I also listed in Part 1, I like to think of Inagaki's signature song as something more mindful of the last few weeks of summer...namely now.

2. Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)-- Loveland, Island (1982)

Ugh! Trying to think of an absolute favourite summer song by Yamashita would be like a parent choosing which one of his/her kids is his/her front of all of the kids. I just can't do it and any one I choose will probably get some push back from the Tats fans, so let me just phrase things diplomatically and say that "Loveland, Island" is the representative of the vast number of beloved hot season tunes by the singer-songwriter. And I gotta say, I really love the song. I mean, I'm not too big on traveling but listening to "Loveland, Island" could make even me want to head off to tropical climes. Viva Tatsuro!

3. Maki Ohguro(大黒摩季)-- Atsukunare (1996)

When the 2020 Olympics finally hit the big stage in less than 2 years, I hope that NHK will pick a theme song for its coverage that at least matches the epic heights of Maki Ohguro's fiery "Atsukunare"(熱くなれ)which was used for the network's broadcast of the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Living in Ichikawa at that point, I did watch my fair share of the events but I have to confess that the big thing I wanted to watch at the end of each highlight show on NHK was the above video showing the agony and ecstasy of competition while "Atsukunare" was playing. Got the heart pumping, it did.

4. Mondo Grosso featuring Bird -- Life (2000)

The above is the extended version but even the single version has been a very pleasurable melodic trip through Brazil. I was wondering in the few weeks before I finally bought this collaboration between music producer Mondo Grosso and the wonderful Bird who created this fun number although I was able to peg the singer in an instant. It's one of the relatively few songs that could instantly make me bop about in my chair...not an easy thing to do when I'm typing, but that's how much I love "Life".

5. TUBE -- Season in the Sun (1986)

TUBE was definitely not going to be left out of this list by any stretch of the imagination. If there is any Japanese band that could be known as the permanent resident of the beach, it would be Nobuteru Maeda(前田亘輝)and the guys. And again, tons and tons of summer fun have been provided by the band over the years, but if I have to pick something, I will always go with their first bona fide hit, "Season in the Sun". I'm just surprised that it wasn't used by any of the TV networks as a theme song for one of their dramas.

6. Momoe Yamaguchi(山口百恵)-- Yume Saki Annainin (1977)

My next two favourites for the summer were picked because I first heard them over my cherished radio program "Sounds of Japan" during the summer itself. 70s aidoru Yamaguchi's "Yume Saki Annainin"(夢先案内人)may have been released in Spring 1977, but everything about it says summer to me. The song could apply to walking through the streets of Tokyo or the beaches of Shonan at that time but the weather is always blisteringly sunny and hot. It may be rather uncomfortable out there in a typical Japanese summer but Momoe makes it darn inviting.

7. Junko Yagami(八神純子)-- Mizuiro no Ame (1978)

"Mizuiro no Ame"(みずいろの雨)is another tune that I picked up on "Sounds of Japan" back in 1982, and along with the dulcet tones of Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子), Junko Yagami was another wonderful voice who made me realize that there were some truly amazing singers in Japan. Years before I even knew of the Japanese genres of New Music and City Pop, Yagami was already charming me with her brand of cool urban contemporary material with a Latin twist. I know that a lot of folks are going ga-ga over "Tasogare no Bay City"(黄昏のBAY CITY)on YouTube, and I love it too, but I will still have a special place in my kayo kyoku heart for "Mizuiro no Ame".

8. Misato Watanabe(渡辺美里)-- Summertime Blues (1990)

I will finish my tunes here with "Summertime Blues" which is not only a great Misato favourite but also one of my musical touchstones of my time in Gunma Prefecture. Perhaps even more than her most iconic "My Revolution", this particular single reflects Watanabe's big and bright presence on stage. I think everything about it brings back the memories of summer in Japan without the annoying heat and humidity...although I will accept the sounds of cicadas.

Well, that is my list and there are quite a number of songs this time around but as I hinted in the first article, it's awfully hard to pare these down. Perhaps some of you collaborators and commenters have your own favourite summertime tunes. If so, let all of us know!

J-Canuck's Favourite Summer Tunes (Part 1)

Now that we're in the last week of August, summer is entering its last few weeks. Pretty hot in your area? I know that Japan has been especially sweltering this season and Toronto has had its fair share of heat and humidity although the nights have been quite nice.

Well, I figure that I will do what hasn't been done on the blog before and provide my favourites for summer songs in Japanese popular music. It's one of the more difficult Author's Picks articles that I've done since there have been so many of these summery tunes and so many of them have been performed by the same singer. For example, Tatsuro Yamashita is one of the kings for the music of the sunny season.

As was the case with my favourite Technopop tunes, I will have to split my list into two and again the songs won't be in any particular order. All of them have also been covered in previous articles with the appropriate links to them.

1. Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)-- Natsu no Tobira (1981)

I can probably credit "Natsu no Tobira"(夏の扉)as not only one of Seiko-chan's early classics, but also as the first Seiko song that I've ever heard and the first summer kayo that helped me get into Japanese pop music in earnest. Certainly, that image of the Queen Aidoru of the early 1980s in her bright yellow dress and Seiko-chan cut bopping about as she sang this one on various shows has eternally seared itself into my memories of summer...especially Summer 1981.

2. Anri(杏里)-- Windy Summer (1983)

Anri is one of the singers who basically define summer music in Japan for me which explains why it was rather hard for me to come up with a favourite summer song by her. There are so many choices but in the end, I decided to go with "Windy Summer" from her "Timely!!" album. Her amazing collaboration with Toshiki Kadomatsu(角松敏生)in the early 1980s turned into summer gold, and especially with "Windy Summer", there is no way that I can even envisage a single snowflake popping up as this is playing.

3. Southern All Stars(サザンオールスターズ)-- Manatsu no Kajitsu (1990)

(cover version)

"Manatsu no Kajitsu" is one of those Southern All Stars greats which is instantly recognizable from the first few notes. Keisuke Kuwata's(桑田佳祐)band is another musical symbol of summer in the nation so once again, I had to rack my brain about which one of their songs would be a fine choice but ultimately the No. 9 single of 1990 is my pick. And it's been the only SAS song that automatically conjures up images of summer in my head...specifically, ones of young couples huddling under that blanket in front of the small fire as the sun goes down on the Shonan beach.

4. Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)-- Summer Connection (1977)

Man, she looks adorable on that skateboard! This is one of the songs that I discovered later in life but it soon cemented itself as one of my favourites for the season, and it wouldn't be a summer if I didn't play it at least once in late June or early July. As a track on one of the classic City Pop/New Music albums, Taeko Ohnuki's "Sunshower", I have mentioned in the article for that album that "Summer Connection" has that nostalgic feeling of what summer must have felt like in the big city of Tokyo back in the late 1970s. Bright sun beaming off the pavement with the humidity starting to rise.

5. Kiyotaka Sugiyama & Omega Tribe(杉山清貴&オメガトライブ)-- Summer Suspicion (1983)

I also just had to have at least one incarnation of Omega Tribe included in the list and so I've gone with the first lineup featuring Kiyotaka Sugiyama. As with Ohnuki's "Summer Connection", "Summer Suspicion" also has that nostalgic quality...this time for the 1980s as Japan was relishing its economic boom which seemed to coincide with an increase of the younger generations hitting the beaches for some seasonal frolicking. However, I don't see "Summer Suspicion" as the high noon summer song, but more as the mellower sunset sort of summer song. Speaking of nostalgia, although I wasn't in the country when the song debuted, it still reminds me of my days at the University of Toronto and the JCSA as I regularly visited those Chinatown stores selling Japanese albums and tapes.

6. Junk Fujiyama(ジャンクフジヤマ)-- Hoshikuzu no Pipeline (2014)

When I first saw the ending of Episode 6 of "Space Dandy", I had already been given warning by my anime buddy that this song would be coming up which sounded awfully like one of my favourite singers of all time. Still, my eyes rather goggled and my jaws parted with some distance as I heard Tatsuro Yamashita(山下達郎)coming through the vocal cords of Junk Fujiyama, and yet this was a wholly different and original song by Fujiyama. Wouldn't it even been nicer if someone put up a live-action surfing video set to "Hoshikuzu no Pipeline"(星屑のパイプライン)?

Well, that is Part 1 for now. Part 2 coming soon.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Mariko Takahashi -- Tenderness (Album)

My last entry for Mariko Takahashi(高橋真梨子)was for her 3rd album "Monologue" back in May this year, so I guess there is some logic in getting her 4th album "Tenderness" (March 1981) and talking about this one as well. I've already actually written about the final track from "Tenderness", "Tasogare no Machi kara"(黄昏の街から)which gave me further impetus to track down the album.

As was the case with "Monologue", tracking down any Takahashi videos on YouTube outside of her biggest hits still remains as elusive as finding the Loch Ness monster, so as I did with "Tasogare no Machi kara", I've left the link to the iTunes page with the excerpts from "Tenderness". I emphasized on the title line that this is an album since there is also an individual song titled "Tenderness" that Takahashi has sung but has no connection with her 4th album and is actually a track on her 1992 release "Lady Coast". I think that I will probably cover that song next in the Takahashi file.

Anyways, I will begin things with the first track "Ai no Rufuran"(愛のルフラン)which was written by Takashi Matsumoto(松本隆)and composed by French pianist Pierre Porte. At first, I was rather curious about rufuran but one visit to revealed that it is merely the Japanese version of refrain so I can now translate it as "Refrain of Love". Porte seems to have understood the Takahashi style of music with this gentle tune. It fits in with her early balladry that often takes things into American country-pop. Very relaxing.

Track 3 is "The Time to Say Goodbye" which takes things into a jazzier direction which is a genre that Takahashi also knows and sings very well. It's a very afternoon cocktail-friendly sort of number which brings to mind the works of vocal groups Circus(サーカス)and Hi-Fi Set(ハイ・ファイ・セット)and individual singers such as Ruiko Kurahashi(倉橋ルイ子). Takahashi's husband, guitarist/keyboardist Henry Hirose(ヘンリー広瀬), provided the gently swinging music while Machiko Ryu(竜真知子)came up with the lyrics.

City Pop has been another genre that Takahashi has dabbled in and that's represented with Track 4, "Moesashi"(燃えさし...Embers). As she sings about the aftermath of a relationship that has burned away, I can hear those keyboards and bass hinting at the hot city streets and hotels, and yet there is a certain airiness provided by one of the keyboards that provides a helicopter view of the grand metropolis. Kazuko Kobayashi and Kingo Hamada(小林和子・浜田金吾)took care of this one.

Track 7 is an even more genteel jazzy number titled "Tea For Memory" provided by primo songwriters Etsuko Kisugi and Takao Kisugi(来生えつこ・来生たかお). The piano simply provides that relaxing and undulating feeling of being out on the balcony in the backyard of some well-tended mansion in the Hamptons while Cary and Katherine are playing tennis nearby.

My last song for the evening is "Good Morning to Love" which once again takes things outside of the city although not as far out as "Ai no Rufuran" would suggest. This one seems to be out around the satellite towns since among the relaxed arrangements, there is still some of that AOR thrown in there. I did mention Hi-Fi Set before and one of the members of that trio, Shigeru Okawa(大川茂), was responsible for the lyrics while Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司), a composer who knows his way around mellowness, provided the music here.

And once again, the commonality weaving through all of the tracks is Ms. Takahashi's great sultry voice. I am so glad that I was introduced to her so early in my interest in Japanese popular music. I had to constantly remember when I was playing the tracks from iTunes that I was only getting an excerpt from each of them. I'm also happy that I finally was able to acquire "Tenderness" since it finally completes my collection of her first ten albums, although I have a few more beyond the early years.

Great voice, great songwriters and great pop. What more can I ask for?

Hiromi Go -- Koi no Highway(恋のハイウェイ)

The channel AMC seems to really love playing "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II" every 6 weeks or so, and then coming in a close second or third would be "Dirty Harry" (1971) with Clint Eastwood. Of course, "Dirty Harry" has its iconic scene as well.

While I watched Inspector Callahan dispense his rather forthright brand of justice, I realized that it was perhaps time to check some stuff from the 1970s for the blog tonight, and perhaps something on the City Pop level of things. Realizing full well that I had put up a couple of songs of that genre just a couple of days ago, I still think it's been a while since I had anything City Poppy from the 1970s, so I decided to leaf through "Japanese City Pop" for that particular decade.

Strangely enough, I found Hiromi Go's(郷ひろみ)6th album "Hiromic World" from November 1975. Plus, since I hadn't done a Go article since last October, I decided to see what kind of goodies I could find in that release. I'm not sure about nikala, who has been the only other collaborator on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" to provide Go articles, but for me, I've known and written about the hit singles on the blog but have yet to really delve into the album stuff. For one thing, I don't own any single or an album by the veteran singer aside from some of those hits getting onto compilation albums.

When I first bought "Japanese City Pop" back in 2011 and leafed through this bible of urban contemporary music in Japan, I was frankly shocked that Go was in there since my impressions up until then were that the devil-may-care singer was all about his past pop hits and full-throated love ballads. He actually has a couple of records in the book, "Hiromic World" (on Page 11) and "Super Drive" (1979), and then nikala placed an article covering "Irie Nite"(入江にて), one of the tracks from the latter album. I was pleasantly surprised that he could do City Pop pretty well with that very recognizable voice of his.

Now, "Koi no Highway" (Love Highway) is part of an earlier stab at City Pop, and compared to "Irie Nite", this particular track sounds more like a mix of urban contemporary and the 70s hits that I usually remember Go for. Still, there is that rumbling and soaring feeling of driving down the highway at sunset in the arrangement with the shimmering strings, the sexy sax and the boppy bass. It would be nice to be in that convertible zipping over the Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba, Tokyo as the day comes to a close while listening to "Koi no Highway".

More surprises were in store since I also found out that the Yumi Arai(荒井由実)handled the lyrics while Kyohei Tsutsumi(筒美京平)took care of the City Pop melody. I never imagined that Yuming and Go had actually collaborated on anything, but from what I gleaned from the article in "Japanese City Pop", it seems like she and Tsutsumi were handling all of the tracks on "Hiromic World".

DJ Takayuki Fujisawa(藤沢隆行), the author of the small report on "Hiromic World" in "Japanese City Pop", even remarked that "Koi no Highway" sounded quite similar to The Style Council's "Shout to the Top" which wouldn't come out for nearly another decade. Incidentally, the British band is truly beloved in Japan for that song and my preferred "My Ever Changing Moods". It must be really popular since apparently there is an abbreviated way of saying the band's name in Japanese: StaKan(スタカン).

In any case, I will have to make that investment in either a BEST album by Go or get either "Hiromic World" or "Super Drive", although nikala did point out when she wrote about "Irie Nite" that a CD version of the album had yet to be released. Well, perhaps I can even go for that LP if it isn't too inflated in price.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Afrirampo -- Miracle Lucky Girls(ミラクルラッキーガールズ)

Back in high school, I had an English teacher who was rather eccentric, to say the least. He was quite enormous in mind and body but wouldn't/couldn't teach conventionally. Basically, our classes with him were quite reminiscent of any sitcom. In fact, the other students would talk about any time with our teacher as being more along the lines of a tribal experience rather than a regular lesson. I heard that with one other group of students, he actually re-enacted the march of soldiers from Birnam Wood to Dunsinane Hill from "Macbeth" (not sure where he got the branches).

From Nathan Wind at flickr
Speaking of tribal experiences, along with my classes with my dear old English teacher, the other phenomenon to which I would apply those two words is the band Afrirampo(あふりらんぽ). I first heard about this wild and crazy duo, Oni and Pikachu, in an article from "The Japan Times" back when I was still living there.

From what I've read, Afrirampo performs any sort of rock, as long as it's supremely loud and involves a lot of sonic crashing. And just seeing some of the images through Yahoo and Google, their concerts probably define the word raucous with Oni and Pikachu taking on a day-glo jungle look with perhaps some of their fans feeling that the concerts are clothes-optional events.

From Facebook
Apologies to Facebook if they're not happy about me putting up this photo, but I did want to show readers the image I first saw of Afrirampo in the newspaper, and it's the image that I've always had of the ladies...looking like they doused themselves in fine paprika powder before deciding to play a game of Twister.

I had always wondered about how Oni and Pikachu came up with the band name of Afrirampo, and according to their J-Wiki page, they apparently just saw the name in the corner of a diary belonging to one of their elementary school classmates, and basically it doesn't have any sort of meaning. Good enough explanation for me. Anyways, starting in 2002, their first run lasted until 2010.

"Miracle Lucky Girls" is the first track on their 6th album "We Are Uchu no Ko" which was released in May 2010 as their final studio album up to now. I've seen a few other videos by them and the one other thing I've noticed by them is how often the ladies show off some gleaming smiles. It's kinda like being smiled at by Harley Quinn with the X-Men power of Banshee.

Afrirampo came from back from their hiatus in 2016 and have started touring again in Japan and overseas. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the duo is due to release their newest studio album, "Afriverse" next month. Nope, I'm not a fan but I have to admit that the band has made quite an entrance.

Mind you, if anyone is a fan out there, please let us know your Afrirampo experiences.

Hina Kino, Rika Nagae & Konomi Kohara -- Three Piece(スリピス)/Inkya Impulse(インキャインパルス)

As my anime buddy was telling me last Sunday, this season especially seems to be chock-filled with some crazy comedy. Of the ones whose themes I've covered on the blog, there are "Back Street Girls" and "Grand Blue" with their catchy tunes. Then, I discovered this one that my friend has not shown to me at his place; I only found out through YouTube. But before I introduce this one, let me preface it by saying that over the years from time to time, there seems to have been this sub-genre of anime which involves high school girls getting involved in all sorts of nutty antics.

For example, there was "Love Lab"(恋愛ラボ)in 2013 centering on a group of girls who start up a club on how to handle the art of l'amour.

A bit earlier in 2011, there was "Nichijou"(日常)which kinda reached near-Kafkaesque levels of humour.

Now, in Summer 2018, I managed to come across "Asobi Asobase"(あそびあそばせ...Let Fun Have Fun), a title that has popped up frequently on YouTube over the past several weeks. I finally gave in to my curiosity and took a gander at a few of the videos. Frankly, I had to wipe up the saliva spray off the screen since I was laughing out loud at some of the insanity. As I said in the article for the "Love Lab" ending theme, my anime buddy seems to enjoy comedy but only to a certain level; if it gets too crazy, he loses interest. The fact that I have openly threatened to dislodge several internal organs on watching scenes from "Asobi Asobase" probably means that he will never show this. His loss.

"Asobi Asobase" seems to have elements from both "Nichijou" and "Love Lab" with some fortified anarchy to boot. I did end up getting up a copy of "Love Lab" through Amazon last year, so I wouldn't mind getting "Asobi Asobase" as well in the next several months.

To be honest, I'm glad that I immediately stumbled onto the scenes rather than the opening credits since the latter has cleverly cloaked the show as a super-cute slice-of-life anime based on friendship and learning about life. The three main seiyuu playing the Japanese equivalent of The Three Stooges, Hina Kino(木野日菜), Rika Nagae(長江里加)and Konomi Kohara(小原好美)sing the sugary-sweet opening theme "Three Piece". As one commenter pointed out, this could be one of the most misleading opening credits sequences in anime history.

Rei Tanaka(タナカ零)was responsible for words and music for "Three Piece". Man, listening to the full version makes things even catchier and calming for me. It's almost like an opening theme with trap ambitions. Yes, let's relax for 30 minutes of meaningful conversations and splendid scenery, and enj...WHAT THE HELL?!

Of course, by the time viewers reached the end of Episode 1, the joke was out so the ending credits no longer had to put up pretenses. Instead, everything ends with the same seiyuu headbanging to some death metal and some cool graphics. "Inkya Impulse" is the title with Genki Mizuno(ミズノゲンキ)and Shuhei Mutsuki(睦月周平)behind its spawning. Ikepy & KSKN also feature in the song as well although I have no idea who they are.

Now, this sounds more like what "Asobi Asobase" really is in tone. Rock on! (I'm actually providing the devil horns with my hand as I type this...not easy to do) Mosh pit not included.

I will finish off with the very first scene that I saw that had me tearing up in laughter as much as Olivia did in disgust...for far worse reasons. All I can say is that all three seiyuu must need those throat lozenges regularly considering all the screaming that they have to do from episode to episode.

P.S. Konomi Kohara who plays the relatively least crazy Kazumi is a seiyuu that I remember from last year going into this year as she portrayed the adorable Kukuri in the updated version of "Mahoujin Guru Guru"(魔法陣グルグル...Magical Circle Guru Guru).