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.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Motoharu Sano -- Angelina (アンジェリーナ)

I came across rocker Motoharu Sano's(佐野元春)March 1980 debut single, "Angelina", a few nights ago. And right from the get-go, it sounds just like the image that I've had for the singer-songwriter. "Angelina" has that old-style rock n' roll with the guitar and the saxes.

There was something downright Early Springsteenian about it, and the image that coalesced in my brain was of teenage rebel-without-a-cause Rocko rumbling down the highway on his motorcycle while dreaming of his darling Angelina the ballerina. Rocko probably stood on a hill overlooking the great big city, smoking away a box of cigarettes and hoping to see the lass. Considering how Japanese pop culture back in those days included a whole bunch of rockabilly wannabes twisting away in Yoyogi Park, perhaps Sano's debut hit a certain chord.

However, there was nothing mentioned in J-Wiki about it hitting the Oricon charts. "Angelina" was also a track on his debut album which came out in April of that year, "Back to the Street". Apparently, that release also didn't chart but no problems. Sano would someday get his fame in the next few years. And this is pure speculation from me, but I wonder if Sano ended up inspiring future artists such as Ayumi Nakamura(中村あゆみ), Misato Watanabe(渡辺美里)and Tomoyasu Hotei(布袋寅泰).

Yumi Matsutoya -- Sunny day Holiday

Happy Monday! For me, Yuming's (ユーミン) best days ended sometime in the early 90s, at least where her albums were concerned. Now, some might say that I've being overly generous while others may posit that I'm being a little harsh, but that is where I stand.

Still, her singles and albums up to the present have still been hitting the Top 10 on Oricon, and I have to admit that some of the singles that have come out from the 90s onwards have resonated to a certain extent. Case in point, "Sunny day Holiday", Yumi Matsutoya's(松任谷由実)31st single from November 1997.

At the time of its release, it got some pretty heavy rotation on TV at least since I could pick up on the melody immediately when I heard it again after so many years. I did get the album that it appeared on "Zuvuya no Nami"(スユアの波...Wave of the Zuvuya), her 29th original release from December 1997 but I only listened to it a couple of times before it was placed on the shelf not to be moved again (perhaps I'll have to give it another try). I do remember talking with an old friend about the album not long after "Zuvuya no Nami" was released, and we both agreed that it was kinda meh.

Listening to "Sunny day Holiday" again, though, I also have to say that it is a pretty nice pop song through the ears of nostalgia although it's not up at the same level as past classics such as "Ano Hi ni Kaeritai" (あの日にかえりたい). Her lyrics are also sweet as she portrays a man verbally gushing out his love and gratitude to the woman in his life despite any of his idiosyncrasies. As the key lyric goes: "Kimi wa Sunny day, boku no Holiday" (きみはSunny day, ぼくのHoliday...You are a sunny day, my holiday).

"Sunny day Holiday" was also the theme song for a 1997 Fuji-TV drama "Narita Rikon"(成田離婚...Narita Divorce)starring SMAP's Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Asaka Seto. On Oricon, it peaked at No. 10.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

GUMI/Ari Ozawa, Nana Mizuki, Sumire Uesaka, Nao Toyama -- Kokoro Palette (ココロ*パレット)

It's been several months since one of my favourite anime from the Summer 2016 season, "Kono Bijutsu-bu ni wa Mondai ga aru!" (この美術部には問題がある!), finished its run, and being a fan of the comedic slice-of-life sub-genre, the show managed to fulfill a promise that any televised project wants to achieve...leave the audience wanting more. I've read that the original manga is still plowing ahead but I don't know whether there will be a second season. However, that ending scene in the final episode was good enough for me.

Of course with this blog, I've brought in the anime for the purpose of introducing anison earworms and near-earworms, and what also helped "Konobi" was the really catchy themes of Nana Mizuki's(水樹奈々)"STARTING NOW!" and Sumire Uesaka's(上坂すみれ)"Koi suru Zukei (cubic futurismo)"(恋する図形). And of course, I already wrote about those two tunes as the series was wrapping up.

However, I neglected to talk about a cute little tune adorably sung by Ari Ozawa's(小澤亜李)main character of Mizuki Usami(宇佐美みずき)during a brief montage scene in the penultimate episode which involved prepping for the annual Culture Day festival at the school. I later found out that the song was titled "Kokoro Palette" (Heart Palette).

Then "Kokoro Palette" came out in its full rousing glory as the ending theme for that final episode with the four main female seiyuu, Ozawa, Mizuki, Uesaka and Nao Toyama(東山奈央)bringing the group effort. I was finally able to get my own copy of "Konobi" and enjoyed my second round; listening to the song once more made me realize that this was a pleasant and worthy song to talk about.

But the final trigger was when I was reading the "TV Tropes" entry on the show and I discovered this kernel of knowledge in the YMMV section. Apparently, the song wasn't a product of the anime and was actually a campaign song for the manga by Imigimuru (いみぎむる) a number of years before. I couldn't be sure of the actual year that "Kokoro Palette" was recorded but considering that the original manga came out in 2012 and the YouTube video above was uploaded in 2013, I think 2013 is a fairly safe bet.

The original recording artist was a Vocaloid by the name of GUMI with "Kokoro Palette" written and composed by musician 40mP. It was a hard choice but ultimately I went with this original version as my favourite due to that hint of Shibuya-kei in there. Plus, that video above with the manga characters being drawn in as the song is playing struck me as a true labour of love. I wouldn't have been surprised if the author got a misty-eyed watching it.

And perhaps some of the fans of "Konobi" even before the anime must have gotten a thrill at hearing the song performed in the show, thinking that it should have been used as either the opening or closing theme.

Junichi Inagaki -- Boku naraba Koko ni Iru (僕ならばここにいる)

Another weekend is coming to a close. For some reason, a Sunday dinner seems to be conk me out more than the evening meals during the rest of the week so I was in a half-awake limbo for about an hour and a half before ambling over to the computer for another round of "Kayo Kyoku Plus". I was contemplating something nice and comfy from City Pop/J-AOR maestro Junichi Inagaki(稲垣潤一).

So I came across his 28th single from January 1993, "Boku naraba Koko ni Iru" (If It's Me, I'm Right Here). Incidentally, this was the single immediately following his Xmas classic "Christmas Carol no Koro ni wa"(クリスマスキャロルの頃には), arguably the song that most people who aren't Inagaki fans per se know him best for.

However although "Boku naraba Koko ni Iru" has that familiar layer of mellowness which often infuses an Inagaki ballad, I wouldn't say that this particular entry is completely relaxing. There's quite a bit more of the screeching electric guitar in there so I had initially mused about categorizing this as a J-Rock tune but I came to the conclusion that that would have been a bit too much of a stretch for Inagaki so I made a compromise and put it in Pop.

As you can see from above, "Boku naraba Koko ni Iru" was used for a Honda commercial although I think it would also have made for a nice theme song for a romance drama on Japanese TV. The lyrics were provided by Yasushi Akimoto(秋元康)and composed by MAYUMI. The reason for the slightly amped-up arrangement here was probably the message of the song in which the protagonist sounds almost challenging in his declaration to the love of his life who may be waffling a bit about commitment. This fellow is completely anchored in his resolve.

"Boku naraba Koko ni Iru" peaked at No. 4 on Oricon and was placed as a track on his 13th album "for my DEAREST" which was released a couple of months later in March. That album managed to rise to No. 2 on its chart, scoring a Gold ranking.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Top 10 Albums in Oricon History

1.  Hikaru Utada                       First Love                      7.7 million     1999
2.  B'z                                       B'z The Best "Pleasure" 5.1 million     1998
3.  GLAY                                 Review-Best of GLAY   4.8 million     1997
4.  Hikaru Utada                      Distance                          4.5 million     2001
5.  B'z                                       B'z The Best "Treasure" 4.4 million     1998
6.  Ayumi Hamasaki                A BEST                           4.3 million     2001
7.  globe                                   globe                               4.1 million     1996
8.  Hikaru Utada                      Deep River                      3.6 million     2002
9.  Mai Kuraki                         Delicious Way                 3.5 million     2000
10. Southern All Stars             Umi no Yeah!!                 3.5 million     1998

Yuko Asano -- Hanbun Aishite (半分愛して)

I've seen Yuko Asano(浅野ゆう子)mostly as an actress and as a regular presence on commercials so it was pretty surprising to hear her singing something like this. I mean, I've already written on a couple of songs from her early aidoru period that I had already been aware about through all sorts of retrospectives on TV.

But little did I know that she even tackled the smooth sounds of City Pop/J-AOR which her 17th single "Hanbun Aishite" (Love Me By Half) falls solidly into. Released in 1980, Asano channels Junko Yagami(八神純子)very well through this song penned by lyricist Chinfa Kan(康珍化)and composer Tetsuji Hayashi(林哲司)who are veterans at the genre. Had no idea that she could croon a tune like this. It makes for a nice evening down by Tokyo Bay. I can only wonder what other City Pop delights she came up with at the time.

Keizo Nakanishi -- Eien no Namae (永遠の名前)

I haven't heard much from songsmith Keizo Nakanishi(中西圭三)although I have heard that he's still out there performing. However, I think his best days were in the 1990s and so I'm happy that I've got what I think is his best work with his 4th album "Starting Over" from March 1994 which I had a chance to write about back in 2013.

One of the tracks from "Starting Over" that I didn't get to talk about at that time was "Eien no Namae" (Eternal Name). It's not particularly a ballad nor is it a really uptempo tune; it's just a simple mid-tempo love song. But although it probably won't go down as one of the most notable examples of Nakanishi's discography, his vocals and the calming arrangement by Shingo Kobayashi(小林信吾)still make it a very pleasant song to listen to.

Kanata Asamizu(朝水彼方)provided the lyrics while Nakanishi came up with the music which has that feeling of springtime...something that a lot of us here are still waiting for although the season has officially been here for almost a week.