Credits

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.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

B'z -- Q&A


As usual, "Meitantei Conan"(名探偵コナン...Great Detective Conan), the adventures of the amazing boy detective continue on TV Japan on Thursday nights. And just as usually, there are the periodic changes in opening and ending themes. Furthermore, once again, the boys of B'z have contributed their own anison to the long-running series (you can check out one of their earlier contributions right here).

To be exact, "Q&A" is the 36th opening theme for "Conan" (or "Case Closed" as it is called here) that was used from May to November 2013 (yup, we're behind here in Canada). But when it first came on a few weeks ago, I had assumed that it wasn't B'z behind the rousing and rollicking song but some sort of B'z clone since Koshi Inaba's(稲葉浩志)voice sounded an octave higher for some reason. But indeed it was the real McCoy, and heck, it is indeed the super-exciting B'z sound.


Heck, from that concert performance of the song, even cold-as-ice Haibara would be throwing herself into the mosh pit. Man, the fans must get their money's worth in pyrotechnics when they head over to a B'z concert.

"Q&A" wasn't an official single by the duo but was part of another BEST album by B'z: "B'z The Best XXV 1996-2012". Not surprisingly, the album made mega-yen when it was released in June 2013. It went Double Platinum as it hit No. 2 for 2 weeks in a row and ended up as the 3rd-ranked album of the year. The song itself lasted on the charts for 38 weeks.

Speaking about statistics, it looks like we broke a record here on "Kayo Kyoku Plus". We managed to put up 80 articles (mind you, 4 of them were rankings lists) in one month for the first time, our highest output to date. And here I was thinking about semi-retiring from the blog back in January!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ruby_shop/8451889067
by Ruby Rose

Ann Lewis -- Woman



Along with the sad news of Chiyonofuji's passing, I also caught the somewhat surprising report that former TV Tokyo broadcaster and former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike(小池百合子)became the first female governor of Tokyo. Many congratulations on the victory but I was surprised that she did win since the mandarins of her old political party, the Liberal Democratic Party, had been doing their darnedest to discourage the politician from grabbing the brass ring. And frankly, I thought former governor of Iwate Prefecture and former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, Hiroya Masuda, was a shoo-in.

One of my students remarked to me that he frankly thought Koike seemed to lap up the media attention too much during her time as a national politician. I'm merely hoping that she doesn't end up like her two immediate predecessors and spend the metropolitan coffers as if it were her own personal bank account. If she can keep her hands out of the taxpayers' till and keep a good handle on the Tokyo Olympics, she should do OK....I hope.


I hadn't put up an Ann Lewis(アン・ルイス)article in many a moon so under the circumstances, perhaps it is time to rectify that situation. "Woman", Lewis' 32nd single from September 1989, was a song that I had initially thought was sung during my Kuri days at university by one of the members of our karaoke cadre. For those folks who have read the manga by Akira Toriyama, "Dr. Slump", she was the spitting image of the character of Akane Kimidori in terms of her looks and sassy attitude. So I had mistakenly assumed that she had owned the karaoke-singing rights to "Woman".

However, since it came out in that September of that year...well, I was already in Japan teaching at junior high school so my memory was definitely not right. But I do know that it was a favourite song at karaoke so probably during my JET days or in my years in the Tokyo area, it was performed by students at many a karaoke joint that we visited at night.


Written by Ayuko Ishikawa(石川あゆ子)and composed by Hideya Narazaki(中崎英也), "Woman" was also a song that I had thought was meant to be powerfully delivered, judging from the karaoke performances that I'd heard. However, as originally delivered by Lewis, it was actually a relatively quiet form of encouragement against the backdrop of screeching electric guitars, but no less defiant in the lyrics which basically throw a huge "Screw you!" to that man who wronged the woman. She will no longer take the guff.


There is nothing listed about how well "Woman" did on Oricon, unfortunately. However, getting back to Koike's big win today, it looks like she took the song's message to heart. The song was also used as the ending theme to a special episode of the famous anime "City Hunter" series known as "The Secret Service". Regrettably, though, anything connecting the anime with the song has been muted due to copyright issues. But below is a promo for that show.




Takeshi Kitayama -- Byakuya no Ohkami (白夜の狼)



Somewhere in the United States, an old friend of mine from the JET Programme may be tearing up a bit.

You see, when we were meeting each other almost weekly up in the mountains of Gunma some 25 years ago, I found out that he was a huge fan of sumo legend Chiyonofuji(千代の富). In fact, one time we were watching a biographical documentary on the yokozuna and near the end, my friend was actually tearing up something awful since he was so touched by the rise of the Wolf which was Chiyonofuji's nickname. The Grand Champion actually finished his active career during our time as teachers on the programme. His time was from September 1970 to May 1991, and during that era, he won 31 tournament championships which was second only to the mighty Taiho. Plus, he had also held the record of consecutive winning bouts at 53 until still-active Hakuho took the record at 54 back in 2010. Even a casual fan like myself was well aware that the Wolf was special in that he was a relatively small wrestler at just 6 ft tall and 280 lb (1.8 metres and 127 kg) but he looked like a tightly-coiled powerhouse and was able to take out much larger rivals with as much brain as brawn.

This morning, when I woke up I caught the shocking news on NHK that Chiyonofuji had just passed away at the too-young age of 61 from the ravages of pancreatic cancer. I know that retired sumo wrestlers have their health issues but I never thought that anything could take him down like that.


Anyways in honour to Chiyonofuji, I decided to put up an enka ballad which fits the yokozuna titled "Byakuya no Ohkami" (Wolf Under The Midnight Sun). Takeshi Kitayama(北山たけし)sang this as one of his singles from July 2013, and it was written by Shinichi Tsuji(つじ伸一)and composed by Saburo Kitajima(北島三郎)under his pen name of Joji Hara(原譲二). And as would be the case for a Kitajima-penned tune, it is a manly enka sung with gusto by Kitayama about being that fellow with a dream to pursue relentlessly until finally caught and realized. There are those powerful strings and guitar in there but at the very beginning, there is a clarion call by the lone trumpet which must have been a riff off the score of a samurai drama. Truly lone wolf stuff.

(karaoke version)

As I said, the lyrics by Tsuji seem tailor-made for Chiyonofuji's hunt for greatness up the sumo rankings to achieve the ultimate title of yokozuna. Unfortunately, "Byakuya no Ohkami" wasn't quite as successful in its quest to hit the top of the charts, only getting as high as No. 20. Still, I thought it was quite the right song to put up for the legend. I'm sure the next couple of sports broadcasts will be going over the life and times of the Wolf.

To quote an ending line from an old Hollywood movie: "So long, champ!"

https://www.flickr.com/photos/shinjidesigns/3899858374/?ytcheck=1
from Shinji Fukumasa
at shinjidesigns.com

Top 10 Albums of 2007

1.  Mr. Children                              Home
2.  Kumi Koda                                Black Cherry
3.  Kobukuro                                  All Singles BEST
4.  Avril Lavigne                            The Best Damn Thing
5.  Ayumi Hamasaki                      A Best 2 -White-
6.  Ai Otsuka                                 Ai Am Best
7.  Ayumi Hamasaki                      A Best 2 -Black-
8.  Ketsumeishi                             Ketsunopolis 5
9.  Yui                                           Can't Buy My Love
10. Sukima Switch                       Greatest Hits

Well, how about that? Canada's in there!






Top 10 Singles of 2007

1.  Masafumi Akikawa                    Sen no Kaze ni Natte
2.  Hikaru Utada                              Flavor of Life
3.  Kobukuro                                   Tsubomi
4.  Arashi                                         Love So Sweet
5.  KAT-TUN                                  Keep the Faith
6.  KAT-TUN                                  Yorokobi no Uta
7.  Keisuke Kuwata                         Ashita Hareru Kana
8.  Mr. Children                              Tabitachi no Uta
9.  Kanjani Eight                             Kan Fu Fighting
10. NEWS                                      Weeeek





Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kaori Mizumori -- Kumano Kodo (熊野古道 )

Kumano Kodo
by Ippei and Janine Naoi
https://www.flickr.com/photos/ippei-janine/7001518416

As one of my translation assignments, I actually worked on a site that has been recognized as part of the collective UNESCO World Heritage site in Japan known as the "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range."  Known as the Kumano Kodo (Old Kumano Trails), these are ancient pilgrimage trails which lead to the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano. The trails are all over the Kii Peninsula which occupy a good chunk of Wakayama Peninsula, the home of my ancestors.


So of course, something this grand just had to be given its due tribute via an enka song. And no genre covers the geography of Japan like enka! Plus, as Noelle mentioned in the first article for this particular singer, who better to sing the enka tribute to Kumano Kodo than the Queen of Geography Enka herself, Kaori Mizumori(水森かおり)?

My parents seem to appreciate her so much for singing "Kumano Kodo" that I had thought that Mizumori had actually been born and raised a Wakayaman. Actually, she was born and raised in Kita Ward, Tokyo. However the sentiment is still there with my folks, and Mizumori's vocals have a similarity to another enka singer that they like, Sachiko Kobayashi(小林幸子).


And I gotta say that the melody by Tetsuya Gen(弦哲也)stands out a bit from the usual enka song. The immediate intro starts things off as if it were a celebratory song but then quickly takes on a slightly more solemn but no less majestic song. Nothing less for a UNESCO site! Plus, there is that electric guitar that I would have heard usually in one of those manly-man enka by George Yamamoto(山本譲二)or Saburo Kitajima(北島三郎). Still, overall, "Kumano Kodo" has that feminine touch to it, with Ryutaro Kinoshita(木下龍太郎)providing the lyrics.

"Kumano Kodo" is Mizumori's 14th single from April 2006. It went up to No. 5 on Oricon and proved to be enough of a hit for the singer that she received another invitation to the Kohaku Utagassen that year. In fact, Mizumori has been on every Kohaku since 2003. When it comes to our family at least, this particular song will be her trademark ballad.

Ryoko Shinohara -- Lady Generation


Time to pluck myself back to the nostalgic 90s...the time of the Tetsuya Komuro Boom(小室哲哉)with Namie Amuro(安室奈美恵)and trf. With those big stars in there, it can be easy to overlook that actress Ryoko Shinohara(篠原涼子)was also part of the TK collective. I first got to know about her from her mammoth hit "Itoshisa to Setsunasa to Kokorozuyosa to"(恋しさとせつなさと心強さと)with Komuro as the theme song for "Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie".

She was in her early 20s then and was a very well-known face everywhere on the telly. Shinohara graced the magazines and commercials along with her appearances as a comic tarento on variety shows. But of course, there was her music career which began with her time as a member of Tokyo Performance Doll which led to her association with Komuro. A little over a year after scoring big success with "Itoshisa to Setsunasa to Kokorozuyosa to", there was the other song that I knew by her, "Lady Generation". Well, mostly it was from the commercials plugging her 6th single from August 1995 and that saucy cover of the album of the same name. I have just seen the entire video for the first time in the last half-hour.

"Lady Generation" was also another Shinohara-Komuro collaboration but listening to the entire song, I didn't think it had quite the oomph factor that the "Street Fighter" theme had. Mind you, anyone who had a crush on Shinohara probably was quite satisfied from the music video. However, despite the familiar Komuro beat, the melody kinda stayed at the same level throughout.


The song was also used for a campaign involving Family Mart. That's one zippy song for a convenience food chain...although I enjoyed their bento over there. Anyways, "Lady Generation" managed to peak at No. 5 and went Double Platinum. It ended the year as the 64th-ranked single.


Hachiro Kasuga -- Hyotan Boogie (瓢箪ブギ)

shop.columbia.jp/goods/?page=E4332

Bura bura bura bura ~ Hyotan Boogie ~ 

It came as some sort of epiphany a week or so ago that most singers would have a song or two in their repertoire that isn't like the others, or a piece with a musical style that you wouldn't usually associate the particular singer with. So because of this and a lucky coincidence when planning the articles, this set of Yonin shu articles will feature works by these four enka veterans that deviate from their status quo in one way or another. With that said, let's begin with Hachiro Kasuga (春日八郎).


The moment I heard "Hyotan Boogie" being sung by one of the Oji-sans at the karaoke bar back in Sugamo, I knew I had to put it down in an article some time once I got back. This tune was not only catchy, it also revolves around the hyotan a.k.a. calabash a.k.a. bottle gourd, which is quite strange in an amusing sort of way, and something you don't see/hear of everyday. Why I feel that "Hyotan Boogie" is my choice for this set of songs is because, to me, Hachi equals more serious sort of enka rather than fun little ditties. Of course, he has stuff similar to "Hyotan Boogie" in his extensive discography, but I don't see him performing those often, if at all - y'know, besides his hugely popular hit from the same year, "Otomi-san" (お富さん).

You can see what a hyotan is here.

Showa era composer, Yoshi Eguchi (江口夜詩) was the one behind the jolly melody, and together with Hachi's carefree way of singing, "Hyotan Boogie" sort of reminds me of "Otomi-san", just that the former has a more Western flair. From what I've read about the ditty in the above video's description, the late Kikutaro Takahashi's (髙橋掬太郎) lyrics seem to talk about the Yoro waterfall in the Gifu prefecture and an old story behind it. I'm not entirely sure what goes on in it, but there's something about the water at the falls being turned to sake, and people would used the squash (hollowed out and probably also dried) to collect this water-sake and bring it home to drink... The fellow in "Hyotan Boogie" must've brought back too much sake.

"Hyotan Boogie" was released in 1954, which wasn't long after Kasuga made his debut. While it's a catchy tune and all, it didn't seem to be one of the First Enka Singer's mega hits. The song can be found in Hachi's compilation album set "Uta no Takumi Kasuga Hachiro Kayo Zenshu" (歌の匠 春日八郎歌謡全集). The picture at the start is from the second album in the set, but "Hyotan Boogie" is actually in the first album. I chose this picture in particular because it looks like it fits "Hyotan Boogie" better as it has an animated Hachi.


To round things up, here's Michiya Mihashi's (三橋美智也) take on "Hyotan Boogie". Personally, I prefer the original. Kasuga's higher and more nasally voice brings out the fun in the song - it's easier to imagine the main character happily dancing around in a drunken stupor with a hyotan filled with sake in hand. I actually find Michi's rendition to be rather flat in comparison. Michi's version can be found in his cover album of Hachi's songs, "Kogane no Utagoe Mihashi Michiya 'Kasuga Hachiro wo Utau'" (黄金の歌声 三橋美智也 “春日八郎を歌う”).

Friday, July 29, 2016

Makoto Saito -- Aru Gray na Koi no Baai (或るグレイな恋の場合)


Well, I'm still waiting for that latest installment from the "Light Mellow" series of City Pop/J-AOR songs. I had been hoping that it would arrive today since all of us here in Toronto will be entering a long holiday weekend but since it didn't come to the door, any potential arrival will therefore now be Tuesday at the earliest. Ugh, is all I can say for now.


One of the reasons that I decided to get "Light Mellow - Wave" was for a cool song by a musician-songwriter that I hadn't heard of before by the name of Makoto Saito(斎藤誠). And while waiting for that CD, I decided to take a gander at another YouTube ad video for another in the "Light Mellow" series, with this disc called "Travellin'". The usual urban contemporary material from Japan was present but then I got intrigued by the 4th track's excerpt. Looking up the tracks at Amazon, I discovered that it was once again Mr. Saito.


Fortunately, the whole song could also be found on YouTube. Allow me to introduce "Aru Gray na Koi no Baai" (The Case of a Certain Gray Love), a groovalicious number by Saito that was his 3rd single from 1984, and a track on his 2nd album from that same year, "Be-Gray". One of the commenters stated that Saito has some Michael McDonald influence, and yup I think there is a nice amount of Doobie Brothers in the arrangement. It does sound light and mellow although Saito is singing about trying to get a relationship out of the gray zone. Saito did indeed write and compose the single.

As for Saito himself, he was born in 1958 in Tokyo but moved about with his family during childhood to places like Hiroshima, Takarazuka and Shizuoka. In 1977, when he entered the prestigious Aoyama Gakuin University, he also entered a music circle called Better Days which also included his senpai, Keisuke Kuwata(桑田佳祐)of Southern All Stars. Kuwata was indeed the inspiration for Saito to become a professional musician and songwriter. Saito would make his major debut (although he had already become involved with the music industry before then) with the album "LA-LA-LU" in 1983.

When Saito consulted Kuwata after graduating from university about his next steps into the music world, the latter simply told him "You're 10 years too early to quit music!", perhaps suspecting some trepidation in his Padawan. Luckily for us Japanese music fans, Saito heeded his advice. Now I'm not only going to have to get "Light Mellow - Travellin'" but also the original "Be-Gray". So many aural temptations out there.

Sumiko Yamagata -- Kaze ni Fukarete Ikou (風に吹かれて行こう)



Long time, no see, Yamagata-san! The last time an article was written up about Sumiko Yamagata(やまがたすみこ)was back in January 2014 by nikala for her 2nd single "Natsu ni Nattara"(夏になったら).

I started the other way around with my approach on the singer-songwriter from Tokyo. Because I first saw her in the annals of "Japanese City Pop", I encountered her music when she made the switch over from folk to City Pop through songs like "Moonlight Jitterbug" (ムーンライト・ジルバ) in the late 1970s. But listening to "Natsu ni Nattara" again, I realized that she had that comfortable voice for folk.

So, I went back to the beginning with her debut single "Kaze ni Fukarete Ikou" (Let's Go With The Wind At Our Backs), another breezy and summery song written and composed by Yamagata. Released in February 1973, images of kids out in the fields trying to catch butterflies with their nets materialized in my head as I listened to this comfy tune with the recorder intro which came out when she was still just 16. That high voice and her baby face made her look even younger as an elementary school student.


And that innocence was also in play in Yamagata's lyrics which reassured the listener that love doesn't have to get in the way of a friendship. Just enjoy the good times together as a best-friend duo. I wonder if that wisdom came from personal experience...then again, doesn't all wisdom?


The Miku Hatsune(初音ミク)cover has pictures of Yamagata as she grew up from a teenage folk singer-songwriter into a young and slightly more glammed-up New Music singer. "Kaze ni Fukarete Ikou" also appeared in her debut album from March 1973, "Kaze, Sora, Soshite Ai"(風・空・そして愛...Wind, Sky and then Love).


I came across the YouTube advertising video for the "Light Mellow" CD compilation of Yamagata's works from that latter half of her career.


Eigo Kawashima -- Jidai Okure (時代おくれ)


This morning on "NHK News at 9", there was an unexpected feature on the late Yu Aku( 阿久悠), the prolific lyricist of the Showa Era who I've equated as the Japanese version of Ira Gershwin or Irving Berlin. It has been almost a decade since his passing but the reporter revealed that Aku had kept a diary for many many years which contained not only his thoughts but also newspaper articles and trendy catchphrases at the time.

I didn't understand 100% of the feature but my impression is that Aku had made the transition from frequent lyricist to author since he felt that an ever increasing group of new and young songwriters popping up in the 1980s was making him a bit out-of-date. However, he never was quite content about being just a writer of words instead of lyrics and from time to time, he would still produce songs for some of the greats in the Japanese music industry. But with that peek into his diary, I got the feeling that there was a sense of desperation as his time came to an end...that he didn't want to relinquish his greatest gift.

Perhaps those feelings came to the fore when he wrote "Jidai Okure" (Old-Fashioned) in 1986 for singer-songwriter Eigo Kawashima(河島英五). Another kayo veteran, composer Koichi Morita(森田公一), took care of a melody that sounded downright elegiac. The NHK report also mentioned that the song had been created just on the eve of the Bubble Era when the then-young generation of Japan was about to truly taste a time of decadence through travel, hostess clubs and discos such as the famous Julianas. Aku may have seen this and jotted down his observations into the diary and felt that an age was truly passing by with him being swept along. "Jidai Okure" certainly is melancholy but there is still a sense of wistfulness and gratitude that the happier age did exist for him and his contemporaries to enjoy. The one line that stands out is "Jidai okure no otoko ni naritai"(時代おくれの男になりたい)which means "I want to become an old-fashioned man". Perhaps the song also has a defiance stating that Aku and the others would rather keep their old-fashioned attitudes and songs instead of moving on, but the rest of the song also illustrates the protagonist slowly getting quieter...not yelling at his kids so much and not standing out as much as he used to as a young and ambitious fellow. In a way, I see it as a lyrical declaration of passing the baton to the newer Young Turks.

The original recorded version is below but I thought Kawashima's performance in the video above had an even better tone with just him and his majestic piano. Wouldn't be surprised if there were a fair number of folks in the audience quietly tearing up.


Listening to "Jidai Okure", I was also reminded of another majestic ballad by Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi(長渕剛), the karaoke favourite "Kanpai"(乾杯)which is arguably one of the best go-to songs to celebrate a wedding among all those family members and friends. "Jidai Okure", then, could be more for retirement as a few buddies get together to celebrate and commiserate. The song is supposedly set in a bar or an old neighbourhood izakaya for the guys to drink down the realization that an age is passing.

To add to the wistfulness of it all, the song only got as high as No. 77 on Oricon although it won a special prize at the Japan Cable Awards. But listening to the recorded version, I guess I can't be that disappointed since the original sounds a little too cheerful (it was actually used for a sake commercial). If it had taken on the gravitas of the performed version from the top video, I think Oricon could have shown it some more love. However, the good news was that when the song was re-introduced on a 1991 NHK documentary on Aku, "Jidai Okure" suddenly gained in popularity leading to it being re-issued as a single. Kawashima then appeared on the Kohaku Utagassen at the end of that year to perform it; ironically 1991 was seen as the end of the Bubble Era.


Covers have been made of "Jidai Okure" including one by Koji Tamaki(玉置浩二). I'm sure Kawashima who died in 2001 would have approved. And I gotta say that along with his other magnum opus, "Sake to Namida to Otoko to Onna"(酒と泪と男と女)that was a karaoke staple at my old haunt of Kuri during my university years, Kawashima could really belt out those "take-a-moment-to-reflect" ballads.

As for Aku, he would live for at least another 20 years after writing the words to this poignant song. It may not have been at his old frequency but he still continued to provide his lyrics to other singers, so I'm not sure whether "Jidai Okure" was a culmination of some mid-life crisis after which he gained a certain contentedness about that part of his life. However, he did leave a song that has become a symbolic tune representing the passing of a certain time period to be reminisced over among friends and family, and for that, I'm sure a lot of kayo fans are grateful.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Michiko Maki -- Watashi no Gallery (わたしのギャラリー)


Aside from Japanese popular music, I'm also into jazz, 80s Western of all genres, and even some of the classical stuff. I know Beethoven's 5th and 9th, Chopin's "Polonaise" and "Nocturne", and Pachelbel's "Canon" among other masterpieces, but I can hardly say that I'm anywhere near the expert there that I am with kayo kyoku/J-Pop. Often when it comes to the centuries-old stuff, I usually characterize it with the name of the composer, a number and the key. Of course, I will hear something and know it but cannot for the life of me identify it by title.

Such was the case with the above piece. Until a few hours ago, I didn't know that it was titled Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Symphony No. 40 in G Minor" although I have heard it many times in the past. In fact, I knew it as part of the "Hooked on Classics" album from 1981 which was a huge hit on radio and in stores because it gave all of the old masters' works a disco beat (that strange rumbling sound I heard was Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Beethoven rolling over in their graves). But even before that, it was played all the time as an accompanying piece on an early-morning aerobics show that was on TV when I woke up. I knew it as that Classical Exercise Song. Every time I hear it to this day, I get that image of a young woman contorting herself into a pretzel. It warped my fragile little mind.


However, even earlier than that, Mozart's "Symphony No. 40 in G Minor" had apparently been co-opted into a kayo, strangely enough. I only encountered Michiko Maki's(牧美智子)"Watashi no Gallery" (My Gallery) a few days ago and though it started off as the usual 1970s light kayo tune, it started veering into Mozartville enough that I just went "Whoa!" Oh my golly...the lady in the leotard just made a reunion with my mind for the first time in several years.

This was Maki's 7th and final single from May 1977...information that I got from the few lines of description under the YouTube video. As I mentioned for her other song "Akatsuki ni Kakeru"(暁に駆ける), there isn't a whole lot of data on this singer who went back to a normal life after the release of "Watashi no Gallery". But I have to say that she gave this song which wove back and forth between Mozart and kayo quite a nice little vocal spin...kinda like having white wine with eggs n' bacon...in a nice way, of course. Maki's voice could almost be considered operatic but she keeps it in the comfortable field of pop kayo.

"Watashi no Gallery" was written by Kazuya Senke(千家和也)and composed by Hiroshi Takada(高田弘). Well, part of it was composed by Takada....of course, there was that help from that fellow from Austria. No idea how well it did on Oricon and perhaps Mozart may have rolled around back then, too, but still, I give my compliments to Ms. Maki. Nice way to bow out.


And here is "Hooked on Classics" straight from my radio memories to you!

Ueno Museum

Ayaka & Kobukuro -- WINDING ROAD


The famous line from the original "Ghostbusters" (nope, haven't seen the new one yet) with Bill Murray yelling "Cats and dogs living together...MASS HYSTERIA!!" came to mind when I saw this ad for the Nissan Cube in Japan. There are a lot of those commercials for the Cube on YouTube but for some reason, I couldn't find the one that I was looking for rather ardently.


And it's a pity too since it had the campaign song with the most soul. Popular singers Ayaka(絢香)and Kobukuro (コブクロ) appeared one day on Fuji-TV's venerable "Music Fair" program and apparently enjoyed the experience working together so much that the former visited the latter in their dressing room after the taping. She then asked if they would like to collaborate again at the Warner Music Japan Convention Live concert since the two of them not only belonged to the same label but were also due to perform there anyways. Kentaro Kobuchi(小渕健太郎)of Kobukuro then counter-proposed that they all create a song just for the occasion.

Thus, "WINDING ROAD" was born. It was performed for the first time in the summer of 2006 but didn't actually get out as a single for several months until February 2007. The music video of the three on that rotating stage got a lot of heavy airplay as I recall.


Furthermore, I'm sure that "WINDING ROAD" probably got a lot of play as a karaoke song as well. It's a rousing tune with plenty of heart and that aforementioned soul but when I hear Ayaka and Kobukuro sing their internal organs out for this song that is officially listed as J-Pop, I hear some of the old country songs that used to be performed in grand cooperative style by singers on one of my parents' favourite programs "Hee Haw". And maybe The Grand Ol' Opry comes to mind also. Another reason could be the title itself. When I see that title, I imagine those big rigs traveling across America that were often the topic for a country ballad performed by folks like Jerry Reed and Alabama. However, imagining an 18-wheeler trying to navigate a winding road in the Rockies could be somewhat concerning.

Well, in any case, a cute little Cube car and not a huge truck got "WINDING ROAD". And the collaboration between Ayaka and Kobukuro was very successful. The single went Platinum, broke 2 million in sales, along with hitting No. 2 on Oricon. It just barely missed getting into the Top 10 of the year by peaking at No. 11. The song was even performed at the Kohaku Utagassen at the end of 2007 with the effect being that after it had left the Oricon Top 100 weeklies, its performance helped to gush the song back up to the 20s in the first week of 2008.

If the sheep and wolves had come back for the commercial with "WINDING ROAD", I'm pretty sure that the meadow would soon have been filled with the adorable sight of hybrid sholves and weep.




Miho Nakayama/Cindy -- ROSÉCOLOR


I had been wondering about how Miho Nakayama(中山美穂)was doing recently since the last news I did hear was that she had divorced her husband, writer-composer Hitonari Tsuji(辻仁成)after 12 years of marriage. Tsuji had also been married once before to actress Kaho Minami(南果歩)who would later marry actor Ken Watanabe(渡辺謙)...but enough of that matrimonial merry-go-round. Apparently at this point, Miporin is continuing to live in France with her son but appeared in her very first stage play earlier this year and was a performing guest last December at the annual "FNS Music Festival" for Fuji-TV, her first appearance on a music show in 18 years.

My recollection of the the 80s female aidoru is divided into the early 80s aidoru featuring ladies such as Seiko Matsuda(松田聖子)and Akina Nakamori(中森明菜). But in the second half of the 1980s had the rise of a sassier and take-less-guff brand of aidoru; I always saw Shizuka Kudo(工藤静香)and Nakayama as the leaders of that "movement". And in fact, I read on J-Wiki that for that latter half of the decade, the aforementioned two aidoru along with Yoko Minamino(南野陽子)and Yui Asaka(浅香唯)were dubbed by the media as The Four Aidoru Queens.

(starts from 1:24 although the earlier footage
shows a small blooper with Miho and a Bullet Train, and no
it didn't involve a collision)

In terms of music, my arrival in Gunma Prefecture came following the July 12th 1989 release of Miporin's 16th single, "Virgin Eyes" which had me hooked because of that dynamic melody composed by Anri(杏里). And as a result, for some years, I kept my eyes and ears on the singer who seemed to be making that transition from regular aidoru to pop star because of "Virgin Eyes" without investigating too much about her earlier material.

Consequently, I didn't really know much about her preceding single which came out in February of that year, "ROSÉCOLOR", aside from the title all in caps. A bit of a pity since it is a nice little Latin-infused ballad which was written by Chinfa Kan(康珍化)and composed by Cindy.

One of the reasons that Nakayama and Kudo have stood out to me despite that label of The Four Aidoru Queens is that I always had that comparison between the two singers. Kudo was the aidoru with the oomph factor in her songs and dancing while Nakayama struck me as being at her best with the balladry, vocally speaking. But even in the above performance on "The Best 10", there were some of the characteristic off-notes that I've often associated her with when it came to her uptempo stuff. Still, it is a soothing tune that I wished I could have gotten to know earlier. Well as they say, better late than never.


"ROSÉCOLOR" was the 5th in a string of 5 No. 1 singles that Miporin had between 1987 and 1989 (she would have three more No. 1s after that). It would finish the year as the 27th-ranked single. The ballad would also be used in a Shiseido commercial.


I also came across a video featuring PSY-S' Chaka singing a more straight-ahead pop rendition of "ROSÉCOLOR"; no idea whether this was ever made into a track for one of her own solo albums or as part of some compilation project. The performance stops midway to introduce the cover (with some of that Latin flavour back) by composer Cindy herself for her 1991 album "Don't Be Afraid". She would cover it again in 1997 for her final album "Surprise". At the risk of offending fans of Miho Nakayama, I think Chaka and Cindy delivered smoother versions. The one other reason I put this article up was in a tribute to Cindy herself that I started with my first article on her.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Cindy -- Watashi Tachi wo Shinjiteite (私達を信じていて)


I came across the above video and thought that if someone made an anime opening to the long-running soap opera "Days of Our Lives", it would look something like that. With that lass always on the pursuit, I can imagine the monologue going like this: "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our liv--MATTE!"

Lame joke aside, I liked the song that was being sampled although I could have done without the fade-in and fade-out. Anyways, it didn't take too much of a look to find out that it was based on this tune.


"Watashi Tachi wo Shinjiteite" (Keep On Believing In Us) is a track on the album "Angel Touch" (1990) by Cindy. I have nothing to say except that I have fallen for this song: hook, line and sinker. It's that combination of the light soul melody and that drum pattern plus the vocals of Cindy. This would have been a fine song for EPO to tackle but I really love Cindy's voice which is smooth but it also has that appealing faint rasp. And most certainly, the real thing is better than the sampled version. "Watashi Tachi wo Shinjiteite" was written by prolific lyricist Chinfa Kan(康珍化)and composed by Cindy and Hiroshi Narumi(鳴海寛). It also did come out as her 4th single in June 1990 at the same time as the album.

If J-Wiki is correct, Cindy's real name is Mayumi Yamamoto(山本真裕美)and she was a singer-songwriter who debuted in 1984 with the single "Chance On Love". As a composer, she lent out her talents primarily to Miho Nakayama(中山美穂)on many of her songs. On her own, Cindy released 6 singles and 4 albums.

Sad to say, but Cindy passed away in Los Angeles in December 2001 from cancer. According to J-Wiki, the news was released by Nakayama herself on her own fan club site.


Memories of my Standout Singers: 1989-1991


Although my excitement at the time was understandably all focused on starting my very first post-university job in a foreign country and finally living life on my own, my bona fide collection of Japanese pop music started with my arrival in Gunma Prefecture for the JET Programme. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but years of owning a few LPs and tapes bought in Chinatown and taping episodes of "Sounds of Japan" would transition into a ravenous habit of purchasing tons of CDs in Tsukiyono-machi, the regional capital of Maebashi and the megalopolis of Tokyo over the next two years.

Looking back on those years and then comparing them to that July 1981 trip which launched my musical journey in the first place, I find it fascinating at how different music was between the beginning of the 80s and the end of that decade. The scene of fluffy-cute aidoru in frilly dresses and questionable bridgework had changed into a small cadre of mellow singer-songwriters in tandem with girl bands who wanted to rock out with their guitars or their voices. Plus, there was even more synth work but not to show off any blippity-bloppity technopop but to anchor songs in a somewhat more mature style.

When I moved into my room atop my host family's chiropractic practice, I turned on my TV and saw Yoko Oginome(荻野目洋子), the super-dynamic aidoru of the mid-80s simply acting away in a drama. Things were indeed a-changing. In any case, I welcome you to Part III of the series.

1. B'z


Being blasted awake every morning by "Bad Communication" by B'z made sure I was aware of this band. B'z was part of the realization that I was no longer in kayo Kansas. Koshi Inaba and Takahiro Matsumoto(稲葉浩志・松本孝弘)were the introduction to the part of J-Pop that was now in full thrall to more eclectic bands.

2. Kazumasa Oda(小田和正)

(cover version)

I had to find out from one of my English teachers in class about who Kazumasa Oda really was. On finding out that he was that distinctly mellow voice on many an Off Course (オフコース) ballad, it was a revelation on how urban contemporary he became as a soloist. "Little Tokyo" was the template sound to me for this new Oda who was already turning out to be one of the coolest middle-aged guys in music.

3. Wink


My impression between 1989-1991 was that the old-style aidoru phenomenon was finally starting to peter out. And yet, when I arrived, the Wink duo of Sachiko Suzuki and Shoko Aida(鈴木早智子・相田翔子)had already made a huge splash with a style that seemed anti-aidoru: no bopping about and no emotion. Just near-robotic moves and expressions reminiscent of exquisitely handmade dolls. "Samishii Nettaigyo"(淋しい熱帯魚)is the song that I will always remember them for.

4. Mariko Nagai(永井真理子)


Speaking about anti-aidoru, Mariko Nagai may have had plenty of bopping dance style but I couldn't ever see her as an aidoru. There was a cuteness to her, to be sure, but not of the early 80s calculated variety but something that was far more girl-next-door and down-to-earth. In many ways, "Miracle Girl"(ミラクル・ガール)is the one representative song that symbolized the female pop sound of those years in Gunma.

5. Misato Watanabe(渡辺美里)


I already knew about Misato Watanabe while I was still an undergrad at U of T but spending the turn of the decade in Japan, I got to know far more about her thanks to the hit singles (such as "Summertime Blues") and albums that came out during my time there. And "Summertime Blues" was another one of those happy songs that also signified my 1989-1991 period.

6. Miki Imai(今井美樹)


(cover version)

If it hadn't been for that stopover at that comfortable lodge cafe between Maebashi and Tsukiyono, I may not have been able to discover the wonders of Miki Imai. Well, that's not true...the lady with the mile-wide smile was already gaining so much popularity that I would have found about her eventually. But that cafe setting while hearing the relaxing sounds of her "Natsu wo Kasanete"(夏をかさねて)pretty much imprinted my falling for the lass. A lot of girl spunk out there but Imai was lovely and mellow.

7. Princess Princess


There was no place to avoid Princess Princess and the band's megahit "Diamonds". The very happy song was all over media and it was already a favourite tune to play during the schools' Sports Day outings. Girl pop/rock was all the rage at the time I arrived in Japan and Princess Princess was the band to beat.

8. Noriyuki Makihara(槇原敬之)


Noriyuki Makihara broke out just a month before I was to leave Japan for home. But his "Donna Toki mo"(どんなときも)was so infectious and positive that I simply had to obtain the CD single before getting on that last plane home for Canada. And I finally got it in a department store in Kumamoto City. It may have been the first disc that I ripped open on getting back to my family's condo.

Although the above are my standout singers, there were so many others who together with those above trailblazed a new path into Japanese popular music, and things got more interesting when I returned to Japan a few years later for a far longer stay.

Saburo Kitajima -- Namidabune (なみだ船)



Man, what an intense face! No fooling around here...indeed that is the young Saburo Kitajima(北島三郎)years ago, now the elder statesman of enka.

Back in May 2015, I wrote about Sabu-chan's debut song, "Bungacha Bushi"(ブンガチャ節)which was perceived fairly or unfairly as being a little too racy for aural consumption (you can read about the issue here) when it was released in early 1962. I've got no idea how he and his minders felt on getting his television performances summarily yanked because of his very first song. However, I don't think he or lyricist Tetsuro Hoshino(星野哲郎)or composer Toru Funamura(船村徹)cried very long at all since the three of them got another song dispatched later in June, titled ironically enough "Namidabune" (Ship of Tears).


Now, this is what we all recognize as the quintessential Saburo Kitajima song, and perhaps it could have been the template for all the songs that followed to a certain extent. It's got the singer on a fishing vessel fighting the rough seas and trying to grab as big a haul as it can. For me, though, I can only imagine the lad standing at the bow of the ship, arms crossed and staring straight ahead as "Namidabune" is playing. He might be staring down the roiling ocean as a samurai would against an opponent in a katana match but there is probably also a single tear rolling down his cheek. The battle against the ocean may be won but he just lost the war of love.

As comical and suggestive as "Bungacha Bushi" was, "Namidabune" was as epic as a mighty chanbara conflict with the wall-of-sound chorus, Funamura's military melody and Kitajima's full-throated delivery hinting at both defiance and mourning. This was definitely OK with the censors, I'm sure. There was no Oricon at the time, but its success was reflected through the singer winning the Newcomer Prize at the Japan Record Awards that year and breaking the million barrier in sales. His long history with NHK's Kohaku Utagassen would begin the following year in 1963 but it wouldn't be until 1982 when he finally got to sing his first big hit on the Shibuya stage.

I wonder if that tux cost more
than the ship.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Works of Reiko Yukawa (湯川れい子)


Everybody by now knows about my penchant for putting up photos either at the beginning and/or the end of my articles. The above is a photo of the view outside of my good friend's apartment in the district of Musashi-Kosugi in Tokyo. I would have loved to have put up an actual photo of the topic of today's Creator article, lyricist and music critic Reiko Yukawa, but I couldn't really find one from a site that would have allowed me to post it up without any sort of potential complaints in terms of copyrights. But in a way, the photo of the dramatic city view can be considered apropos since it kinda fits my impression of Yukawa in terms of some of the songs that she has helped create. From what I find out from her J-Wiki biography, she has written Japanese songs across the spectrum whether it be a pop love ballad by Akiko Kobayashi to a Latin-infused kayo sung by enka heartthrob Kiyoshi Hikawa(氷川きよし). Referring to that image, though, whenever Yukawa's name pops up in my mind, I usually think urban contemporary in Japan, namely J-AOR and City Pop for some reason.




And the song that pops up consequently is "Long Version" (ロング・バージョン) from 1983 by mellow crooner Junichi Inagaki(稲垣潤一). As I posited in the article for the song, this is one tune that deserves to be heard while looking at my top photo and sipping back a bourbon.


However, arguably, her most famous work might just be on Akiko Kobayashi's(小林明子)"Koi ni Ochite"(恋におちて)from 1985 with those wistfully sighworthy lyrics about falling in love. I've sung it in karaoke a number of times but of course, I had to change one line (with all due respect to Ms. Yukawa): "I'm just a HU-man, fall in love". I sounded somewhat like a Ferengi when I sang that (all you Trekkie kayo fans can chuckle quietly now).


But for some information on Ms. Yukawa. She was born in Meguro Ward, Tokyo in 1936 with her father being a captain in the Japanese navy and a great-grandfather who had been the man to introduce the beloved brand of pear known as La France to Japan among other famous relatives. In 1953, she took her first steps into show business by debuting as a stage actress and appearing in movies. Yukawa had even entertained the troops at American military bases in Japan as well, and through an old boyfriend, she started gaining an interest in jazz. In 1959, she was employed as an interviewer and a jazz critic for the Japanese magazine, "Swing Journal", following which she also got gigs as a radio DJ and a commentator on TV wide shows. In fact, I was surprised to find the above video in which Yukawa in her twenties appeared on an old American game show I used to watch as a toddler, "What's My Line?"


In 1965, Yukawa wrote the Japanese and English lyrics for "Namida no Taiyo"(涙の太陽)as sung originally by Emy Jackson. Now I'm not sure if this song was the very first contribution by the lyricist but it's the entry that does come first in her bio about her songwriting so you can take it as you will. And I didn't find any information about how Yukawa gained her prowess in the English language but she certainly did well on "What's My Line?" and she is also listed among her other credits as a translator.


I guess there was something about the music of Americana that stayed with Yukawa since she contributed to a number of The Chanels's hits such as "Runaway" (1980). The band is now known as Rats And Star (ラッツ&スター).


Yukawa also provided lyrics to 80s aidoru such as Yui Asaka(浅香唯). I haven't applied a fine-toothed analysis into the lyrics that she has written but my initial impression is that she worked on songs with a bit more of a dynamic edge for the Japanese teenyboppers. The above is "Hitomi ni STORM"(瞳にSTORM...Storm in Her Eyes)which was composed by Daisuke Inoue(井上大輔). Incidentally, both Yukawa and Inoue were also responsible for the aforementioned "Runaway". "Hitomi ni STORM" was released as Asaka's 7th single from May 1987 and it went all the way up to No. 4. It is also included on her 3rd album "Rainbow" from the same year.


Anison was also an area that Yukawa dabbled in. For example, she provided the lyrics for the soaring Kanako Wada(和田加奈子)theme to "Kimagure Orange Road"(きまぐれ・.オレンジ☆ロード), "Natsu no Mirage"(夏のミラージュ). And she was also behind the words for one of the opening themes to another 80s classic anime "Maison Ikkoku"(めぞん一刻), "Sunny Shiny Morning"(サニーシャイニーモーニング)from 1987 by Kiyonori Matsuo(松尾清憲).




Do you remember The Monkees? Sure you do! Watching their Saturday-morning program was one of my rituals way back when. Davy Jones was the cute little British member that all the girls fell for. Plus, it seems as if he had an effect on folks in Japan since I did see him time and again show up on variety programs over there. Well, I found out from Yukawa's bio that she and Inoue once again got together to weave a disco tune just for him back in 1981 titled "Maho de Dance"(魔法でダンス...Dance, Gypsy). No idea how the song did on Oricon, but I rather noticed the Roy Orbison riff that Inoue placed in the song.


I'd like to leave off my exploration here with another Junichi Inagaki tune, "Ame no Asa to Kaze no Yoru ni"(雨の朝と風の夜に...Rainy Mornings and Windy Nights)from August 1996 as his 34th single. It's pure Inagaki here with Toshiaki Matsumoto(松本俊明)behind the mellow melody. Yukawa's lyrics seem to describe a contented couple some 10 years into their marriage walking through the park. The song got as high as No. 83 on the charts and is a track on his 16th album "PRIMARY" from September in the same year. It made it up to No. 30.

The trigger that finally had me writing up about Yukawa was on seeing an NHK interview of the now-80-year-old lyricist recently. I found out through the J-Wiki bio that she is a huge fan of Elvis and The Beatles, and she gave an anecdote to the interviewer about the time that she actually got to interview the Fab Four in 1966 at what may have been the Hotel New Otani (one of the places that I taught at for years). The story is also listed in J-Wiki, but apparently although Paul, George and Ringo were really nice to Yukawa, John Lennon was not exactly the most welcoming sort, and in fact, simply snubbed her. Some years later after The Beatles had broken up, Yukawa got to interview Lennon on his own and asked him point-blank about his attitude back then. John also remembered the cold shoulder he gave and apologized as he explained that at the time, a long line of sycophantic politicians were lining up to meet the band and he simply got really pissed off at the lot and thought that Yukawa was one of the same folks.

I still don't know all that much about the life and times of Reiko Yukawa but I've got the feeling that she has amassed an iceberg's worth of stories over the past 50 years. As for an impression of her lyrical style, I can only give a surface opinion since I have yet to go through all of her songs and I know that the list given in J-Wiki is not comprehensive, but from what I have gone through, I gather Yukawa is a student of love in all its aspects.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Kiyotaka Sugiyama & Omega Tribe -- Silent Romance



I guess this would be my annual contribution to Omega Tribe (オメガトライブ)....certainly I don't mean this as any slight to the mellow band, but it just happens that my last article about them was written a little over a year ago.

But hey, at least I've got this summery band here at the right time. It was pretty darn hot and steamy today in T.O. and it looks like we're gonna have another mini-heat wave for the bulk of this week. Let's see if I can cool things off a bit at least on this page with this Omega Tribe song during Kiyotaka Sugiyama's(杉山清隆)time with the band.

"Silent Romance" is the final track on the band's 2nd album, "River's Island" which was released back in March 1984...I do love that cover, by the way. As that fuzzy silhouette hints, the J-Wiki article on the album stated that the title was indeed referring to New York City, specifically Manhattan.

The article also mentioned that the album was focused on a more metropolitan setting as compared to Omega Tribe's first album which went more for the beach. And "Silent Romance" has that City Pop feeling with Chinfa Kan(康珍化)providing the lyrics and Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)composing the song about love potentially being lost amid the whirlwind of a party in swanky urban surroundings. If I had a set of keys thrown at me on a table by my significant other, yeah, I would take that as a bad sign.

For a final track, "Silent Romance" is a bit of a surprise since it isn't a pure ballad despite the sad lyrics; it's quite an uptempo track to finish off the album. But with Sugiyama's vocals, the urban sax and Hayashi's mellow melody, it's certainly a good ol' Omega Tribe tune. "River's Island" by the way peaked at No. 3 on Oricon. Plus, the album also has the band's 3rd single "Kimi no Heart wa Marine Blue"(君のハートはマリンブルー).

Shibuya

Tomato n'Pine -- Wanna Dance! (ワナダンス!)




Happy Monday! I've often been enjoying some of the contributions by YouTube artist Artzie Music in weaving remixes from older/newer Japanese pop songs to form what could be called examples of Vaporwave or Future Funk, or as I would call it, Kayo on Disco Acid. Part of the pleasure personally speaking is trying to find out what the original song was. Last night, I saw the above video and got hooked onto the song here. I had to go through the YouTube comments with a fine-toothed comb and finally found out that the tune was a relatively recent creation.


The song is "Wanna Dance" by the late aidoru group Tomato n'Pine. I first heard about this trio consisting of YUI, HINA and WADA in Marcos V.'s March 2014 article on his "Retro Grooves and Underground Aidoru Gems Playlist". I was grateful to my co-blogger for introducing me to the various artists especially the 80s City Pop-influenced aidoru unit Especia. I ended up getting a couple of CDs by them because of the very catchy "Kurukana" (くるかな).

When I first heard of Tomato n'Pine, my first impressions were either of a new fruit juice on the supermarket shelves or a vegan detective duo. Nope, they were actually that aforementioned trio that had a brief life between 2009 and 2012, and it seems like they were in the same vein as Especia in terms of their devotion to the lively pop music of yesteryear.


With "Wanna Dance!", there was even more of a funk and disco element than what I heard from their "Captain wa Kimi da!" (キャプテンは君だ...The Captain is You!) from Marcos' article...and I could even hear a hint of the old theme song from the US cop show "SWAT" (cue wistful sighs). It's quite the combination of the aidoru vocals from Tomapai teamed up with music that I used to hear the grownups boogie to when I was a kid.

Catchy "Wanna Dance!" was Track 3 on the unit's 3rd and final single for Sony Records, "Jingle Girl Joui Jidai" (ジングルガール上位時代...The Superior Era of the Jingle Girl) from December 2011. The single didn't get any higher than No. 68 on Oricon, but listening to this fun track and remembering Especia, y'know, I wouldn't mind hearing some more of these examples of aidoru doing disco. Perhaps a new genre can be born: Aidoru Funk. Ah, just before I forget, "Wanna Dance!" was written by Kenji Tamai and Jane Su with the disco melody by Takahiro Furukawa.

Just to follow up, I think giving the members' full names might be in order:

YUI: aka Yui Koike(小池唯)
HINA: aka Hinako Kusano(草野日菜子)
WADA: aka Erika Wada(和田えりか)


Kyohei Shibata -- FUGITIVE


At last, I had watched an "Abunai Deka" (あぶない刑事) film! I managed to catch the latest installment of the buddy cop franchise that spanned three decades on the way to Japan about a month ago and it was aMAzing to finally see Hiroshi Tachi (舘ひろし) and Kyohei Shibata (柴田恭兵) in action.

Admittedly, the plot for "Saraba Abunai Deka" was rather weak, just as any nth sequel would have, and that it was pretty much an 80's action flick in modern clothes *ahem "The Expendables"*. But it did have its insanely cool and surprisingly funny moments. Plus, most of the guys were impeccably dressed and stunning to look at - Koji Kikkawa (吉川晃司), who played the villain, looked incredible with his silver hair, and there were even times where I didn't know who to root for! However, I think I might have appreciated it more if I had watched the previous films and/or the TV series as there seemed to be some running gags in there.

twitter.com/k0_8_1_8s/status/753277521811021824

There were a number of scenes that had my eyes popping right open and my excitement levels to the max. That includes Tachi going head to head with Kikkawa in a fist fight, and him riding a Harley with hands occupied by a shotgun - totally makes up for at least 5 minutes of seeing him mope and sulk after the tussle. And let's not forget about Shibata; dang, that guy really impressed me in this movie. He's got some slick dance skills, and seeing him sprint like his life depended on it (seems like a staple in the series) was incredible at his age!

I was quite taken by Shibata's chase scene, as you can tell from up there, and the background music that played as Sexy Oshita hunted down his target fascinated me. From what I vaguely remembered, there was this cool vibe to it, but at the same time it also had an element of urgency. Without a title and the only clue being that it was most likely sung by Shibata himself, I had to do some hunting myself.


It wasn't particularly hard to find what I was looking for as Kyo-sama's discography isn't particularly extensive, and I mainly focused on songs that sounded like they could be used in an intense chase scene. After some digging around in YouTube, I narrowed it down to "RUNNING SHOT", "TRASH", or "FUGITIVE". From what I'd been reading, "RUNNING SHOT" seemed to be the song I was looking for. But somehow I was underwhelmed when it was playing - I expected more. "TRASH" was decent, though I was aware that this was the least likely choice. Lastly, "FUGITIVE". The name itself also potentially implies hunting down a criminal so there was a chance that it might fit the bill.

If there's one word to use to describe "FUGITIVE", it's "unpredictable". Why? As the first few seconds of the song unfolded, you'd think it's some calm and soothing piece as the piano and sax hits your ears. Just as you're about to get nice and comfy, the drums, loud and sudden, kick in with a nice beat to wake you up, followed by the shrill synths to make a quintessentially 80's, high octane melody that keeps one (me, at least) going back for more. Also, I like Shibata's voice - deep and mellow. "FUGITIVE" is definitely my favourite out of the three tunes I picked.

Composing this was Ichiro Haneda (羽田一郎). As for Chiroru Yaho's (谷穂ちろる) lyrics, I'm not entirely sure if they are in the wanted criminal's or the cop's point of view. Either way, to make sense of the sudden jump in tempo, I'm guessing that one of them must've been relaxing, maybe getting a cup of coffee or something, but one spots the other, setting off alarm bells in both their heads, and the game of cat and mouse begins.

Dang, he was really cute back in the day... And that voice... ~.~

Although I'm still unsure about whether or not "FUGITIVE" or "RUNNING SHOT" was used in Sexy Oshita's chase scene in "Saraba Abunai Deka", I managed to find a clip of half of the duo running after the bad guy with the former tune playing in the background. You can kinda see Shibata's knack for sprinting too - probably stemmed from his love of baseball.

"FUGITIVE" wasn't one of Kyo-sama's 15 singles, but it was released in his 1st album "SHOUT" on 21st June 1987.

"Ikuze!"