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Idol Retrospective: 3 Inch CD Single March 13, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Idol Retrospective, Jpop.
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While conditions in Japan are still looking quite grim from the effects of the Sendai earthquake (especially with the diminishing condition of the Fukushima nuclear power plant), I imagine the best thing I can do on my blog is to just try and post like normal. Honestly, the words I write here can’t help search for survivors or prevent a meltdown from occurring. What they can do is provide me a bit of escapism, and hopefully a bit for you as well. And because of this, I will continue to write.

For those who are interested Dreamtiny has constructed a list of all Hello! Project members that have been verified as safe.

Additionally, CNN has created a guide on how you can provide aid to the victims if you wish to do so.

For those of you that have been reading my blog for a bit might have noticed that I’ve taken a definite liking to Moritaka Chisato over the last couple of months or so. Well a few weeks ago I saw a copy of “Watashi ga Obasan ni Natte mo” come up for sale on eBay. This is easily one of my favorite songs off of ROCK ALIVE so I thought, “Why not?” and placed a low bid.

And as luck would have it, I won.

I admit that I’ve been pretty curious about the old single format for a while now. I remember when I was just beginning to get into Jpop with Matsuura Aya there was a store in the Little Tokyo district of Downtown Los Angeles that had a pretty large selection of the 3inch CDs, but since none of those had anything to do with Aya I didn’t really care… ^^; Unfortunately, they’ve since been out of business for a few years now.

The singles themselves come in what’s called a “snap-pack,” and they’re actually pretty cool.

Size comparison with typical modern CD single - Front

The best way I can describe it would be like a flip cover, or maybe one of those police badge holders. The “snap-pack” is enclosed in a reasonably thick, but flexible plastic case to protect the paper cover. The actual CD and lyrics insert are held in-place with a hard plastic insert.

Size comparison with typical modern CD single - Disc

This copy even included the original 19 year old mail-in card, though I have a nagging suspicion that it probably wouldn’t do any good to send it in now.

Needless to say, that disc is pretty tiny. It looks quite odd when placing it into my CD player, as if I’m trying to use the wrong media in it. It does play just fine in my tray-based players, though. I certainly wouldn’t try it in a slot or file-type player for fear of damaging the disc and/or hardware.

Also of note is the fact that the disc only contains two tracks: the title track, and a B-side. No karaoke or instrumental versions here.

So, what about the song itself? Personally, I find it quite charming. Moritaka’s voice is quite sweet, and even the lyrics are quite cute. I admit that the B-side, “Jitensha Tsuugaku” is a little bland, though. Compared to the album version on ROCK ALIVE the single version uses a less intrusive instrumental more heavily focused on real instruments, while the album version features a slightly more aggressive and synthetic instrumental track. While they are quite close, I do prefer the album version slightly. The song simply seems a bit more distinctive on Rock Alive.

For a bit brighter piece of news, my humble little blog has been nominated by International Wota for best new blog of 2010! This is an absolutely amazing honor, and something that I simply couldn’t have imagined happening. If you would like to vote you can go here and do so. I am certainly not going to tell you to vote for my blog, but merely want to give you the opportunity to do so if you please.


Idol Retrospective: Wink – Samishii Nettaigyo January 14, 2011

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Idol Retrospective, Jpop.
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Tonight, I’ll be taking a look at 1980’s Japanese idol group Wink’s performance of Samishii Nettaigyo (淋しい熱帯魚), as suggested by bode1967.

Wink (derived from the English word “twinkle”) was formed in 1987 with Suzuki Sachiko and Aida Shoko. The two members had actually met in a beauty contest sponsored by “Up to Boy” magazine. Apparently, this duo was so popular at one time that they had their own chain of stores called “Winkers” that sold their merchandise!

The particular song I’ll be looking at is Samishii Nettaigyo, translated it means “Lonely Tropical Fish.” This song was originally released on July 5, 1989 and reached #1 on the weekly Oricon chart, charted for twenty-five weeks, and made it to the #7 spot on the yearly chart for 1989. After it’s release Wink went on to win the Grand Prix Award at the 31st Japan Record Awards, and the All Japan Cable Broadcast First Prize. The popularity of this single even allowed Wink to appear on that year’s Kouhaku Uta Gassen. It’s easy to see that this single was a really big deal at the time!

The actual performance I will be looking at is possibly from Music Station (as an uploader of another, slightly more rough, copy of this performance has surmised), and this uploader states that it took place on the 7th of July, 1989. The actual reason I chose this particular performance should become apparent pretty fast:

Yup, that may very well be the greatest stage ever devised for a musical performance.

I really love bright, vibrant colors, and that may very well be the pinnacle of brightness and vibrancy! The background illumination is pretty impressive as well, changing from solid, to black, and then to multicolored. It’s apparent that a lot of thought (or at least construction! ><) went into the creation of this stage and it shows.

Suzuki and Aida's lolita-style costumes are fairly intriguing as well. Their color scheme seems to compliment their stage quite nicely, as well as being visually distinctive enough to allow the audience to immediately tell them apart. The one singular aspect of their costumes that really stands out to me is the combination of a tutu over a pencil skirt. You can also see a similar combination of layered skirts being worn in this song's official PV. This stands out so much to me, because frankly, it’s a little odd, but also quite distinctive. Now, I know absolutely nothing about 1980’s Japanese Lolita fashion (or modern Lolita fashion, for that matter) so this *may* not have been so odd at the time, but is still an interesting detail to take note of now.

In stark contrast to the bright happy colors of the stage and costumes are the girls’ very serious, reserved demeanors, in fact it’s almost ironic. For myself it’s actually rather jarring to see idols with such little emotion on stage. Modern idols like Mano Erina have made a name for themselves based heavily on their infectiously happy or “genki” personalities. Even Moritaka Chisato displayed this same trait in her live performance of Kono Machi that is of the same vintage. Now, it’s true that a more serious song like this would not lend itself to the cheerfulness commonly characterized by those other idols, but in comparison they are still rather stoic. According to Wikipedia, this duo’s more serious nature and rejection of a “cutsie” image helped them stand out and gained attention for themselves. This I can certainly understand, as I don’t think I’ve ever seen an idol group perform in quite the same way as Wink did.

Their dancing is a typical para-para style, but has a very laid back feel to it which seems to match their demeanor. I couldn’t help but notice that they don’t match up exactly with their timing. The fact that there are only two of them right next to each other on stage, and that they are doing the same moves (albeit mirrored) accentuates any small timing differences. Also, I probably just being a bit picky about it, as it really doesn’t detract from the performance.

The song itself is quite nice. Musically, it’s a rather slow-tempo song, but I wouldn’t quite call it a ballad. Suzuki and Aida are quite talented vocally, and their voices are a pleasure to listen to. I would actually recommend watching the official PV to get a better listen to their voices, as the audio on this live performance really isn’t the greatest.

Interestingly, this song was actually covered by the Hello! Project group W, a duo consisting of Tsuji Nozomi and Kago Ai on their 2004 debut album Duo U&U. The performance below took place on August 13, 2004 at Omiya Sonic City during the “2004 Natsu First Concert Tour ‘W Standby! W & Berryz Kobo!'” tour.

Now, W does a good job at keeping the song quite similar to the original version, but the attitudes of the girls during the performance are completely different. While they are singing Tsuji and Kago keep a straight face like Suzuki and Aida but as soon as there is an instrumental section you can see them break out the smiles and exaggerated dance movements. W was a rather light hearted group, and Suzuki and Aida’s style of performance doesn’t really suit them. Overall, they did a commendable job at an authentic feeling reproduction while instilling a bit of their own spirit into it.

Overall, I can’t really make up my mind on what to think about Wink. On the positive side of things their music is unique in sound, and they have very nice vocals. On the negatives, I find their stage presence to be a bit sterile, and I prefer my idols a little more upbeat. Now, it’s true that in the writing of this article I only listened to a handful of other songs from them, so my opinion is far from expert! Wink is definitely worth checking out though, especially if you are interested in a very unique, more serious type of idol sound.

Idol Retrospective: Moritaka Chisato – Kono Machi Live November 9, 2010

Posted by Nights4Saturn in Idol Retrospective, Jpop.
Tags: , , , , ,

Tonight I’m going to talk about something a little bit different than normal. Instead of discussing the latest Hello! Project release/scandal/picspam, or even AKB48, I’m going to talk about something that happened nearly twenty years ago.

That’s right twenty years ago.

Cruising around Youtube a while back I happened to stumble across a couple of vintage idol performances, one of which I want to share with you guys tonight: Moritaka Chisato’s live performance of “Kono Machi.”

You guys might find that name a bit familiar as she was the one to originally write and sing “Watarasebashi” back in 1993, which is now more often associated with Matsuura Aya and Goto Maki who each released covers much more recently.

Now, I admittedly don’t know exactly when this performance was filmed. The song “Kono Machi” was released on Moritaka’s fifth album Kokon Tozai on 10-17-1990, almost exactly twenty years before this post. Using highly advanced Guesstimation™ techniques I would say this performance probably occurred sometime between 1990 and 1993 (Major hints come from this performance that supposedly occurred in 1993, showing her in significantly shorter hair). UPDATE: Thanks to bode1967, we now know that this performance took place during the “KOKON TOZAI ONI-GA DERUKA JA-GA DERUKA” Tour. This means that this performance took place sometime between December 15,1990 and March 4,1991.

Without further ado, I present to you Moritaka Chisato – “Kono Machi”

I honestly find this performance to be really fascinating. On one hand, you can see how much idols have changed since the late 1980’s/early 1990’s and frankly how similar they are as well.

The first thing that stands out to me is her costume. There’s no doubt that it was inspired by “magical girl” sailor uniforms, and it personally gives me a very Sailor Mars-esque vibe (I think this is primarily from her similar hairstyle and the predominant red tones). There is one part of this costume though, that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen worn by a modern idol: sheer nylons. It’s odd, but I really can’t remember any costume from the more recent live performances I’ve seen where the girls wear nylons. It’s possible that there have been a few, but they certainly aren’t commonplace.

Another neat thing you can see is that she is accompanied by a live band. This too is a bit of a rarity for modern idols. Matsuura Aya has performed with a live band on multiple occasions, such as her Aya The Witch Tour, but she only started doing this quite recently, arguably after she stopped trying to be an idol.

Another aspect of this performance that one can still see in modern idols is her para para dance style. Para para dancing is characterized primarily by the usage of arm movements with basic to no lower body involvement. For a solo idol this style is obviously beneficial in that it induces significantly less physical strain compared to traditional dancing that one would see in more Western music. For a modern equivalent one need look no farther than Morning Musume’s “SEXY BOY ~Soyokaze ni Yorisotte~,” which while significantly more intricate a dance than what Moritaka performs, is still obviously an example of para para.

The greatest difference that I can tell between this nearly twenty year old performance and a more modern one has nothing to do with the idols on stage but with the crowd. The odd thing to me, is that Moritaka’s crowd is absolutely quiet. Now, we know it’s not due to them being edited out in post production, as you can here them roar slightly when she engages them at the 3:09 mark. As a H!P fan I’m thoroughly used to hearing loud, raging crowds screaming out their wotegei calls. For an example, take a look at Morning Musume’s performance of “Mikan” from Summer of 2008 Wonderful Hearts tour. Certainly a huge difference. This raises an interesting question though, when did wotegei start exactly? It’s certainly possible that other fans of other idols at the time practiced wotegei, but hers did not, but I would find this a little hard to fathom. Certainly something to look into. 😀

And what about the song itself? I think it’s rather enjoyable and quite cute. I really like the synth percussion beat they sprinkle here and there in the song, which is undoubtedly characteristic of it’s era and adds a bit to its overall charm. Another interesting fact was that this song, and the vast majority of her other songs as well, were all written by Moritaka herself. Now, I obviously cannot vouch for how insightful her lyrics are, but this is still quite the accomplishment, and something I would certainly like to see return again for many of today’s modern idols, even if just for a special fan club event or what have you.

As a final note, if you look closely at the 3:50 mark you can see her open her eyes very, very wide (I honestly tried to cap this, but I don’t think it can be done in an even remotely flattering way). This may seem like a really silly thing to point out, but I noticed that she displayed this very same quirk in several of her other performances and PV’s as well. Something neat to keep an eye out for if you plan to look into her other material at all.


I hope you guys enjoyed this post, I certainly had fun writing it. I wouldn’t mind sprinkling a few more of these looks at past idols in between my future updates, so if that sounds like something you guys would like to see again let me know in the comments section!