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.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Kotringo -- Kanashikute Yarikirenai(悲しくてやりきれない)




Back from another round of anime at my friend's house. For me, it was a bit strange today since today, September 24th, was the debut of the latest "Star Trek" show that is being filmed here in Toronto, "Star Trek: Discovery". Perhaps 20 years ago, I wouldn't have hesitated...I would have given my friend an excuse not to come out today and wait fervently in front of my TV to catch this new show. However, the "too little, too late" feeling of "Star Trek: Enterprise", followed by the not-so-great Abramsverse part of the franchise (I mean, I liked the first "Star Trek" in 2009 despite the plot progression), and the relative indifference to the 50th anniversary of Gene Roddenberry's space adventure last year in my opinion has ended up dulling my enthusiasm to the point that I'm not even sure I can call myself a dedicated Trekkie/Trekker anymore. However, I got home in time to see the last 10 minutes of the 2nd episode of "Discovery" and it does look markedly different from any of the past series although it does remind me of the Abramsverse (are those lens flares again?).

Instead, the main feature today at my friend's house was the second of the three big anime motion pictures from 2016. A few weeks ago, I caught "Kimi no Na wa"(君の名は。), the space-and-time-cross high school romance. Tonight it was "Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni"(この世界の片隅に...In This Corner of the World), a film that I think is even better than "Kimi no Na wa" although my friend liked it even better than I did.

From what I had heard from my anime buddy and had read online, the movie is supposed to be a slice-of-life flick about wartime Japan in the city of Kure near Hiroshima. Well, my first thought was how can a slice-of-life flick traipse around the first nuclear bomb blast. After seeing the movie, my answer came: it doesn't. There is a lot of lightheartedness and gentle humour in "Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni" but it doesn't hold back on the tragedy of war especially in a couple of scenes. Still, it's not a war movie or an anti-war movie.

My friend actually saw the movie in Japan during his trip last year at a Tokyo theatre and he said that although he saw it some three months after its premiere, there was still a full house at the first morning show and there were a lot of folks who he considered to be not regular anime-watching folks in the seats.


The movie starts out with the opening theme, a wistful tune by Kotringo(コトリンゴ)as people are going about their daily lives. As the song went along, I detected a certain familiarity when the words "kanashikute, kanashikute" were heard, and I realized that the singer-songwriter was doing a cover of the old 1968 folk song by The Folk Crusaders, "Kanashikute Yakirenai"(I Can't Bear How Sad It Is). Noelle has already provided an article of that chestnut here so you can listen to the original version. But Kotringo makes the song her own with her soft-as-cotton delivery and that ethereal combination of piano and guitar and chorus before it rises into a brief boil and quickly subsides.


Kotringo's cover of "Kanashikute Yakirenai" originally came on her 2010 album "picnic album 1" and although that version was used in the trailers, an interview with the singer on the website OtoCoto via J-Wiki back in March 2017 noted that it couldn't be used for the movie itself due to the usual red tape so I guess what I heard tonight during the opening credits was made specially for the movie.

Anyways by the end of "Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni", I felt like I caught one of the best movies that I'd seen this year.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

ONE III NOTES -- Shadow and Truth


For a recent anison article, I received a comment from someone recommending this theme song for an anime titled "ACCA". When I first read the title, I assumed from the short acronym all done in caps that the show must be something very ethereal or hardcore military. The original manga's full name is "ACCA Juu-san-ku Kansatsu-ka"(ACCA13区監察課...ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.)and it actually didn't fall into either category. From what I've seen of the trailer for the anime that came out during the Winter 2017 season above, it seems to be about some internecine intrigue within this massive police organization on the lines of the FBI.


Along with my original assumption of the anime, I had also thought that the theme song would similarly go along the lines of ethereal or military march. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find "Shadow and Truth" is a catchy R&B number by ONE III NOTES. I'm not sure whether this unit led by bassist Ryo Takahashi(高橋諒)and vocalist PON from ORESAMA is going to be a dedicated band or just a one-off project since it's only listed for this one song, but ONE III NOTES nicely puts its all into "Shadow and Truth". I actually had to find out from the ORESAMA J-Wiki article that PON was singing for the unit.


This has got a fun mix of rap and good old-fashioned funk and soul which reminds me more of a theme song for a 1970s/1980s gritty cop show instead of a monolithic intelligence agency. Composed by Takahashi and written by Konnie Aoki, I actually started shimmying to the music and this was pretty late in the evening when I'm usually quite ready to hit the hay. Unfortunately "ACCA" probably didn't pass muster with my anime buddy so never got to see the show but at least I'm happy to be acquainted with the cool opening theme.


Yumi Arai -- Watashi no Francoise (私のフランソワーズ)


Starting to get into Japanese pop music when I did, I found myself having to go back through a singer's catalogue as much as I did following him/her into the future. Made things quite an adventure. That has certainly been true with Yumi Arai/Yumi Matsutoya(荒井由実・松任谷由実)whose career is steadily approaching 50 years. With things beginning in the early 1980s for me, Yuming(ユーミン)was already an established pop star and accomplished songwriter with her eminently listenable music. So it was an interesting journey going back into early days when she had her maiden name of Arai and was being a part of this New Music trend in Japanese music back in the 1970s. Her voice was surprisingly mellow back in the day.


I pulled this one out of the vaults, specifically from her 2nd album "MISSLIM" from October 1974. When I first listened to "Watashi no Francoise" (My Francoise), I felt it was quite a tribute to this lady who I hadn't known about. Was she a departed friend or someone that inspired her from Yuming's past?

Well, according to the J-Wiki article on "MISSLIM", this heartfelt ballad was created in honour of French singer-songwriter Françoise Hardy. Yuming, who has made a reputation for weaving her songs out of her observations of women in regular life, probably didn't hesitate to talk about her own loves and feelings so I think her admiration and love for Hardy poured out as her words for this song. I translated one verse which says it all:

My Francoise
I come home to your music
Whenever I feel sad


I think singer YO-EN does a great version of the song as seen above, and she does sound like Yumi Arai here. Considering her musical love letter, "Watashi no Francoise"  reminds me to a good extent of Anri's(杏里)debut single "Olivia wo Kikinagara"(オリビアを聴きながら)which came out 4 years later.

Referring back to the video at the top, after merely listening to Yuming's body of work for a number of years, to see the singer show some excellent chops as a concert entertainer on a videotape of her "Wings of Light" tour was quite the revelation. But I also realize that even earlier than that, she had quite the style and presence on stage.

As for "MISSLIM", it reached No. 8 on Oricon and became the 44th-ranked album for 1975. A year later, the Oricon rankings had it all the way up to No. 14.


To wrap up, here is Yuming's own idol with her breakout hit, "Tous les garçons et les filles" from 1962.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Crazy Ken Band -- Hirugao (昼顔)


I was quite fortunate living where I was in Ichikawa City, a burg that really spread out like crepe batter. The subway station was a 10-minute walk away from my apartment (that could be great or bad depending on your own circumstances), but my community and I were blessed with having a lot of convenience stores and four supermarkets within walking distance. One of them is in the above picture, Y's Mart. That used to be my main market in the early years of my stay but with the renovation of the supermarket across the street and right under the subway tracks, my loyalty gradually shifted over there. Still, if I did come home early before lunch, I still dropped by Y's Mart to grab a bento.

Including Y's Mart, three of the four supermarkets were fairly small affairs but the fourth was a Daiei department store that had a massive supermarket in the basement on the size of the SuperCentres we have here in Toronto.


There was no Seiyu supermarket near my place but that is also a famous brand that was actually close by my friend's old apartment in Jiyugaoka way out in the western end of Tokyo. And at the end of the last decade, they had a pretty funky campaign song.


Name of said song? It's "Hirugao" by the Crazy Ken Band(クレイジーケンバンド). Released in July 2009 as one of four songs on the band's 11th single, "Girlfriend"(ガールフレンド), I wasn't quite sure how to translate it initially. According to jisho.org, it can be defined as a type of plant called the Japanese bindweed but I have a feeling that vocalist and songwriter Ken Yokoyama(横山剣)wasn't particularly trying to pay tribute to a weed. The word was also the Japanese title for the 1967 French film "Belle de Jour" starring Catherine Deneuve as a wife who secretly worked as a daytime prostitute while the husband was off at work.

Hmmm...if anything, the lyrics by Crazy Ken have a fellow declaring his undying love for an older woman (married/single) and willing to do anything for her at any time at any place. The fact that he keeps calling her "okusan"(奥さん...madam)almost as if she's a potential client might make the guy a gigolo although I think he's more of a desperate suitor. In any case, it's an interesting song for a supermarket but I gather that the point here is that it's willing to do anything to keep its customers satisfied. And dang, isn't it catchy?

"Girlfriend" peaked at No. 12 on Oricon. Meanwhile, "Hirugao" and the main song of the single were also on Crazy Ken Band's 11th album from August that year "Girl! Girl! Girl!"(ガール!ガール!ガール!)which scored a No. 4 ranking.

Satoko Shimonari -- Aki no Ichi Nichi (秋の一日)


Autumn arrived officially at 4:02 pm today on September 22nd. However, a certain season apparently didn't get the memo. Yep, summer is making up for what was basically not all that hot (literally and figuratively) with a final week of blazing weather here in Toronto. Until this time next week, there will be plenty of sun and heat and humidity with the highlight possibly being tomorrow as the Humidex pops off potentially at 37 degrees Celsius or 97 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, true to how quickly weather in my city can turn, once fall truly arrives next Friday or Saturday, the temperature will drop as much as 20 degrees within a day. Even for weather masters such as Torontonians, that could take a toll on the good ol' metabolism.


Still, as I am wont to do on this seasonal day, I try to find an autumnal kayo somewhere. And that I did with Satoko Shimonari's(下成佐登子)"Aki no Ichi Nichi" (One Fall Day). Shimonari has been one of the many singers that I have been able to discover because of my work on the blog and strolls through YouTube.

For the last couple of articles on her, I was looking at her contemporary (for that day) pop work such as "Time goes by" from 1987. Well, I've gone back to her beginnings with her debut single from August 1978 which was written and composed by Shimonari.


As I've mentioned before, autumn, when it comes to kayo, often signals the loss of a relationship, and "Aki no Ichi Nichi" continues that tradition. Her wistful debut depicts a woman dealing with such a loss or lamenting something that never came to pass as she ends up folding up some stationery in her home into a paper airplane and simply tossing it into flight.

Shimonari's melody certainly gives off that melancholy feeling in waves. The version near the top is the original single from 1978 and has that typically wistful feeling thanks to those violins. The one immediately above has a slightly different arrangement with a more intimate-sounding intro with a guitar and an addition of a soft chorus. This version is the title track from her debut album that actually didn't come out until November 1981. I like both versions but if I had to choose, I would probably go with the album take. In any case, I'm a sucker for the nostalgic stuff.

Fall is my favourite season, partially because when I was living in Japan, it was a great time for food. Although the late summer burst will be much appreciated, I will also be grateful when the temps finally get a little more bracing.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Logic System -- Domino Dance


I realize that I could have chosen a photo of a synthesizer for the greeting picture above but I couldn't find one so I decided to go with my ancient copy of "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock" since we are going to be entering logic here.


Logic System, ロジック・システムto be exact. Good heavens....all these years thinking that Yellow Magic Orchestra was the only technopop band in town back in the early 1980s. But actually speaking, Hideki Matsutake(松武秀樹), who was seen as the 4th member of YMO as the band programmer (although I think Akiko Yano(矢野顕子)should also get at least honorary band member status), started up his own unit by the name of Logic System in 1981.


For the next year or so, Logic System released 2 singles and 3 albums with the first single being "Domino Dance", a bouncy number that alternately reminds me of the B-52s and surf rock bands. And for another reason, I get images of ska music and Adam West's Batman doing the Batusi. Not cold at all...there's a nice sense of warmth buried in all those circuits.

I'm going to have to listen to some more of Logic System's output to see if Matsutake wanted to make his own techno sound apart from what YMO was doing at the time. With "Domino Dance", it doesn't sound too vastly different from the music of Sakamoto, Hosono and Takahashi.


I didn't realize that Matsutake had been into electronic music for much of the 1970s and was even an apprentice to the late Isao Tomita(冨田勲). Then after helping out on Ryuichi Sakamoto's(坂本龍一) "Thousand Knives" in 1978, he joined the YMO ship.

Logic System took a long hiatus after 1982 but then after Matsutake had been involved in some other projects, he decided to bring back the old band in 1991 for a couple of more years. Three more singles and two more albums came out during that time. Then, in 2003, there was another go at it with one single, "Clash" coming out in 2011 with three albums having been released between those two years. According to J-Wiki, the band is still going on and it even has its own store.


Of course, there was another dance of dominoes done by another technopop band.

Taeko Ohnuki -- History: 1978-1984


All the way back in early 2012, I wrote my first article on "Kayo Kyoku Plus" regarding singer-songwriter Taeko Ohnuki(大貫妙子)through her early song "Itsumo Douri". In it, I spoke about how the very first album by Ohnuki I had purchased was her 2-CD BEST set of "History: 1978-1984". Her name was something that I had heard for years through various sources and never knew the lady, but finally my curiosity got the better of me, so when I came across this BEST album, I decided to invest my yen and check it out.

Well, as I also mentioned in "Itsumo Douri"(いつも通り), I guess I wasn't quite ready for the alternately quirky and sweeping stylings of Ms. Ohnuki since after giving it one listen, I simply put it back onto the shelf and let it stay there for a number of years. And I guess I really wasn't ready since at the time I bought it...perhaps in its release year of 1999 or shortly thereafter, Japanese pop music was in a much more different space.

Obviously, I finally got over my hangup and gave it another go into the 21st century. And this time, I had to slap myself in the back of my head since I wondered whatever would possess me to ignore the songs by this lady.

Anyways, the lineup over the 2 CDs represents Ohnuki's output through the following albums:

A) Mignonne (1978), B) Romantique (1980), C) Aventure (1981), D) Cliche (1982), E) Signifie (1983) and F) Cahier (1984)

I've yet to actually cover "Cahier" which is why it hasn't been linked. The other albums have been covered and the songs that appear on "History" will have the corresponding letter next to it to refer to their original albums and follow-up articles. At the same time, there will be linked entries without any letter since they already have their own individual articles.

CD 1

1) Tema Purissima
2) Kuro no Clair (黒のクレール)D)
3) Ai no Yukue(愛の行方)C)
4) Bohemian B)
5) Aventure(アヴァンチュール)C)
6) Kaze no Michi(風の道)
7) RECIPE
8) Mitsuya Cider '84(三ツ矢サイダー’84)
9) El Tourmanie(エル・トゥルマニエ)
10) Umi to Shonen(海と少年) A)
11) Shikisai Toshi(色彩都市) D)
12) Peter Rabbit to Watashi(ピーターラビットとわたし)
13) Cosmos Mitsuketa(宇宙みつけた)
14) Mizuumi(みずうみ)
15) Yokogao(横顔) A)
16) Atarashii Shirt(新しいシャツ)
17) Totsuzen no Okurimono(突然の贈りもの)


Basically although from the title for those dedicated Ohnuki fans, it's assumed that this BEST album is covering her era of French-titled albums and collaborations with Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一), a few songs from beyond that time into the late 1980s have managed to sneak into the set. In fact, the very first song on CD 1, "Tema Purissima", is the first track from her 13th album, "Purissima" from September 1988.

"Tema Purissima" is away from that European/French sound and the technopop influence that characterized much of Ohnuki's work during the early 1980s. In fact, I'd say that it even sounds like a ballad from a Disney musical, several months before even "The Little Mermaid" was released, starting that whole musical animation ball of wax rolling.


But of course, that period is well represented by "Kuro no Clair". I've already written about it, but it still remains one of her best songs, in my estimation.


"RECIPE" is from "Signifie" and I'm happy to cover it here. It's about the joy of whipping up a dish for that beloved one, and one of the highlights is hearing Ohnuki rattle off her the contents in her spice rack.


Along with creating all those wonderful singles and albums, Ohnuki was also known for whipping up commercial jingles for a number of products. "Mitsuya Cider '84" which starts popping up at the 57-second mark in the above video is one example. I personally miss the drink myself.

CD 2

1) Cahier(カイエ)
2) Grand Prix(グランプリ) C)
3) CARNAVAL B)
4) SIGNE
5) Genwaku(幻惑) E)
6) Natsu ni Koi suru Onna Tachi(夏に恋する女たち) E)
7) Rinbu(輪舞)
8) Amour Levant
9) SONY HANDYCAM
10) Ame no Yoake(雨の夜明け) B)
11) Saigo no Hizuke(最後の日付) C)
12) Metropolitan Museum(メトロポリタン美術館)
13) Hikari no Carnival(光のカーニバル)
14) Kuro no Clair (Reprise)
15) Himawari (ひまわり)


"Cahier", as I said off the top, is an album that I have yet to cover. It is her 8th album from June 1984, and its first track, "Cahier I", is another memorable jingle that Ohnuki had created for Konica Film. I used to hear this "pom pom" song all the time on TV but hadn't known it was Ohnuki. For a camera film ad, the song sounded rather "Lord of the Rings" during a more introspective scene to me.

At 5:52 of the same video above is "Rinbu" (Round Dance), a pleasant little ditty that has an arrangement of what sounded like "sweet music" that was popular almost a century ago. I'm sure you can even dance to it....provided with a bit of help of some sherry or something as strong.


At 6:56 of this video is "Amour Levant" which is the French version of "Wakakihi Bourou"(若き日の望楼), a song that was first performed in her album "Romantique". It's pretty rare to see Ohnuki in any sort of conceptual music video and I have to say that she looks lovely in this short version.


The final track of the whole album is "Himawari" (Sunflowers), the theme song from the soundtrack of the 1997 movie "Tokyo Biyori"(東京日和...Fine Tokyo Weather)starring Naoto Takenaka(竹中直人)and Miho Nakayama(中山美穂). It was also released as an Ohnuki single and it's quite the mellow song for a lazy Sunday afternoon. One of the scenes from the movie is the couple enjoying a boat ride..."Himawari" would be the ideal tune for that especially with that liquid introduction, thanks to the guitar and keyboards.

Glad to have gone through the two discs again in preparation for this article. Once I finally "got" Ohnuki, "History: 1978-1984" was the starting point for me to start tracking down those original albums and then going back further in time to her New Music days. What I will need to do now is find out more of her discography from the late 1980s onwards.