Watched a few episodes of The TETSUWAN Dash!!

The TETSUWAN Dash!! (ザ!鉄腕!DASH!!) is a Japanese TV variety program that airs on Nihon TV and stars the members of Japanese boyband Tokio getting up to various hijinks. I say “boyband” but the member of Tokio are all past 40 by now and one episode even had two of them figuring out ways to burn fat and stay trim even in their late 30s.

How did I discover this program? Mostly by chance. I was browsing around some Japanese media fansites and saw a comment somewhere mentioning how much Japanese fans hate Taichi Kokubun, one of the members of Tokio. I browsed about a bit more and found a thread translated from 2channel about how much they hated him. TBH 2channel is just a bunch of trolls who shouldn’t be taken seriously and AFAIK Kokubun is actually one of the most popular members of the group. But long story short, someone in that thread mentioned The Tetsuwan Dash, I started googling around and quickly found this:

Lots and lots and lots of old The Tetsuwan Dash episodes! Yay! The video quality isn’t the best so some stuff can be a little hard to see sometimes, but it’s more than good enough for keeping up my Japanese while watching stuff that isn’t completely inane (i.e. doesn’t involve AKB48 or the likes).

As a bonus it’s actually a very educational show. Parts of it are a little boring and just have two members driving around Japan in a solar car ooh-ing and aah-ing over the local sights, but the Dash Village (Dash Mura) sections teach me a lot about small-scale farming. The first episode I watched taught me about cross-pollination as the team attempted to crossbreed two varieties of rice. It was a tremendous amount of effort, especially since one breed was growing faster than the other so they had to rig a hothouse over the slower one and transplant the faster one to somehow regulate the speeds, then they had to manually pollinate some of the rice and in the end a lot of the crop was still lost to disease, and on and on. Lots of very interesting, very educational drama.

In another episode I learned about how corn is pollinated – I always wanted what those long silky fibers on the end were for. Turns out each fiber is connected to a potential grain on the cob. The fiber absorbs the pollen, passes it down to the cob and then a grain grows on that spot on the cob. Fascinating stuff, I had no idea. Furthermore, the point of growing all that corn on the farm was to create silage. I know the term “silage” and I’ve seen silos on farms and stuff but I had no idea what was actually inside. They cut up the corn, put it in rubber bags, buried it and let it ferment, and then dug it up later and fed it to the goats. I learned so much from that episode alone.

Unfortunately it turns out that Dash Village was located in Fukushima Prefecture. It became heavily irradiated after the TEPCO incident in March 2011 and has been evacuated. Even worse, the knowledgeable old farmer who does all the teaching passed away in 2014 at the ripe old age of 84. That means no more Dash Village episodes anymore, awww :-< But I haven’t gotten that far yet. The episodes I’m watching date back to 2008 or so, so I still have a while left to get there.

The other variety parts of The Tetsuwan Dash can be hit or miss. The driving around in the solar car bits are usually quite meh. The reactions of the guys in the car are so fake, it’s pretty obvious that everything’s been set up in advance and they aren’t just randomly happening upon random fishermen who randomly take them out for fishing. How young do you think we are. But other segments can be fun, especially when the guys get involved in doing something physical like the exercise segments I mentioned at the top.

Overall it’s a very enjoyable program with likable hosts (even Kokubun!) and a high educational factor for both Japan/Japanese and general knowledge. And Kokubun isn’t as bad as the trolls make him out to be, even though he does seem to do less work and eat more than the others, haha. Give it a try if you’re looking for a (relatively) intelligent Japanese TV show to practice your Japanese listening skills, especially at the advanced level. If you’re a fan of Tokio, all the better!

58th Kohaku Utagassen rundown (2007 edition)

It’s been a year and a half since I did my rundown of the 57th edition. I really didn’t mean to let such a long gap elapse between posts, but that just shows how far my interest in Kohaku has dropped. The show has been losing ratings in Japan for a while, and there’s good reason for it – it’s gotten boring. It’s trying too hard to stay relevant and “entertain” with silly skits and interludes instead of letting good music (when they bother to have good musicians and not merely popular ones on) speak for itself. I still haven’t watched any of the recent ones or even downloaded the 2015 version, but maybe I’ll get round to it when I have time.

The 58th Kohaku Utagassen (2007) aired back when I still liked the show and was still quite crazy about Japanese music. I even did a quick post on it back in 2009, which you can use as a handy tl;dr because this is going to be quite a long post as usual. Expect a lot of gushing over beautiful kimonos and grumbling about dumb skits and very little else in between. Let us commence!

Introductory skit with Tsurube being his vulgar self and Nakai already showing signs of exasperation with him. Shortly before this show aired, Tsurube was in the news for an incident involving indecent exposure, so if you hear Nakai making any “porori” comments (like the sign on his fan), that’s what it’s all about.

Everyone’s lined up on the stage for the start of the show, the usual stuff. Introduction of the hosts and guests and stuff. Looks like Tsurube made a mistake in the introduction, though he could have done it on purpose. Annoying scene. Let’s start already.

1. Hello! Project 10th Kōhaku Anniversary Special Group – Morning Musume (10) Berryz Kobo (debut) Cute (°C-ute) (debut) – “Special LOVE Mix ~Shiawase no Heisei 20 Shunen Ver.~”

ハロー!プロジェクト10周年記念紅白スペシャル隊 – モーニング娘。(10)Berryz工房(初)℃-ute(初)-  Special LOVE Mix 〜幸せの平成20周年 Ver.〜

The last year Momusu appeared on Kohaku, if I’m not mistaken. Certainly the last year they were relevant in any meaningful way. I like Love Machine, so that’s good enough. So many girls on the stage I don’t even know which one to focus on. Are they lip-synching? Wait, of course they are. Haha, great scene of the judges looking bored. I sympathize, honest.

Berryz Koubou and Cute are definitely lipsynching. Hurry up and end already.

2. Kenichi Mikawa (24) “Sasoriza no Onna 2007”
美川憲一(24) さそり座の女 2007

Aghhhh, another rendition of Sasoriza no Onna from Mikawa Kenichi. A technopop version kind of thing? What a waste of a great voice. He of all people didn’t need to resort to playing dress-up to be relevant. Apparently the catch phrase of the year was “dondake” so he has some gay/transgender buddies show up to do some sort of dance or something. Mercifully short segment. Dondake!!!

3. Ichirō Toba (20) “Kyoudai Bune”

鳥羽一郎(20) 兄弟船

Last year’s Kyoudai Bune went down well, I suppose, so he’s repeating it again. I’m really happy. At least something I can sink my teeth into. I like this song. Akiko Wada is singing along, the rest are just clapping along politely. Ugh, my DVD is scratched ;____;  I like to burn episodes to DVD so I can watch and type at the same time. *sigh* Guess we’ll have to do this the hard way.

4. Miyuki Kawanaka (20) “Kanazawa no Ame”
川中美幸(20) 金沢の雨

A song about a married couple, which is why Nakai dedicates it to Jinnai & Noriko Fujiwara (before their subsequent messy divorce). More polite clapping except Akiko Wada again. I love her hair decorations. The kimono design is interesting, though for some reason the weave makes it look like a bathrobe ^.^;; I don’t think I’m going to get my usual kimono fix this year. Sweet but typical enka song.

Introduction of the guest judges. Ho hum. Jinnai and Fujiwara are there not for any achievement they made that year but because they got married and everyone made a fuss about it. Famous for being famous. Though I later discovered that Jinnai is actually a pretty funny comedian.

5. w-inds. (6) “Beautiful Life”

Aww w-inds, my Kohaku won’t be same now that you guys have disbanded. This is fun to watch, actually. The little kids are cute. And the song isn’t too terrible. In fact I rather like it. This the nil se bonum principle applied to a boyband, isn’t it?

6. Mitsuko Nakamura (12) “Danjiri”
中村美律子(12) だんじり

My first time seeing Mitsuko Nakamura perform, at the time. Very taut neck skin, alias facelift. It looks pretty uncomfortable, tbh. Interesting hairdo and outfit. It’s a bit hard to know what to focus on with all the gymnastics going on in the background. Nothing special about the song.

7. Takeshi Kitayama (3) “Oga Hantou” 北山たけし(3) 男鹿半島

More gymnastics. Nice sparkly tie, I want. Another song that doesn’t make much use of his quality voice. Hmm, just an okay song. Rawr, you have to be man, rawr, but watch these people teeter unsteadily on each others’ shoulders first. The gymnastic people are known as “Muscle Musical” or something like that. Brief, pointless performance.

8. Yōko Nagayama (14) “Jonkara Onna Bushi”
長山洋子(14) じょんから女節

I like this song and the vivid purple accents on her outfit. Go on Yoko, show that shamisen who’s boss! The backup players look a bit stagestruck. Powerful, passionate belting out of the tune, that’s what is needed to lift these standard enka songs above the ordinary. Full points to Yoko Nagayama, especially for that flourish at the end.

9. Exile (3) “Lovers Again ~Kōhaku Version~”

I’ve never seen the point of Exile, sorry. I guess they’re better singers and dancers than SMAP (even the frogs in my pond are better singers than Nakai). Apart from that. …Umm… They look kind of old to be prancing around like ballerinas like that. Umm… yeah.

10. Mihimaru GT (2) “Gazen Yeah!” (俄然Yeah!)

Mihimaru GT again! Don’t forget to “crap” your hands!! It’s a catchy song actually. Not as catchy as the dancers are trying to make it out to be, but a job is a job. Who’s that on the side with the flag… oh, she gave it to the singer. Ah so.

11. WaT (3) “WaT Kōhaku Selection”

Everyone keeps hurrying Tsurube along when he starts to talk. Even Wentz wants him to shut up so he can go stand by. Medley of WaT songs for those who like that sort of thing. Nothing in this for me.

Stupid, stupid skit backstage, but it’s interesting to see what things are like back there. Would have been better without Tsurube – I can only imagine the bashing he must have received from viewers that year.

12. Angela Aki (2) “Sakura Iro”
アンジェラ・アキ(2) サクラ色

Angela Aki has a few songs I like, like “Home” but this one is very forgettable. I have watched this Kohaku a few times, but I can’t remember this song for the life of me. Sit down and play your piano, girl. Then again I’m the one who advocated passionate performances and this is certainly one. Just wish I liked the song better.

13. Akira Fuse (23) “Kimi wa Bara yori Utsukushii”
布施明(23) 君は薔薇より美しい

Akira Fuse can really do a number on this song (in a good way) given the chance, but I’m guessing he’s performed it so many times on Japanese TV that they felt the need to spice it up with a jazzier instrumental and some “sexy” rather similar-looking ex-Takarazuka actresses. Both additions ruin the song, IMO. Also his boring black suit clashes with the fancy red evening gowns the ladies are wearing. Wear something more Vegas if you want to go that route. These are hardly love song lyrics, either. “You were really boring before but now you’re sexy so I want you.” Get lost, creep!

14. Kaori Kōzai (15) “Mugon Zaka”
香西かおり(15) 無言坂

Hold on, I have to mentally psych myself for the screechy “zakaaaa” at the end. Phew, okay, ready. The kimono and hair decs are both disappointing. And the girls in the background aren’t adding a single thing. Oh, the “zakaaaa” wasn’t as horrible as I was expecting. She must have taken singing lessons after last year.

Some interim voting for One-Seg etc.

15. Kiyoshi Maekawa & Cool Five (17) “Soshite, Kobe”
前川清(&クール・ファイブ)(17) そして、神戸

Moody Katsuyama must be one of those flash-in-the-pan celebrities who come and go in every showbiz in the world. I love this song though, so it’s cool. Nakai making fun of Tsurube for the 10th time isn’t though. Ooh, love this song. Koobeeee~ Not even Maekawa bursting into laughter at the end could spoil the performance. The subtle sparkles in his suit make everything better.

16. Kaori Mizumori (5) “Hitori Satsumaji”
水森かおり(5) ひとり薩摩路

Another long dress to hide the platform shoes. Very fancy stage with the dancers and wispy things. I like it. Typical heartbreak enka song though. Ooh, more wispy things in different colors. Nice and colorful!

Oshirikajirimushi Special Stage

Sekine and daughter + Taka and Toshi introduce the skit. Oshirikajirmushiiii. So cute! Kajitte kajiite kajitte nanbo! The kids are even cuter. Awwwwwwww~ Even Tsurube got in on the act. He seems to be having fun.

Results of the early voting. White team is ahead. Won’t these things influence the final score? Not sure it’s the best idea. Then some random conversation introducing the next performances.

17. AKB48 (debut), Leah Dizon (debut), Shoko Nakagawa (debut) “Nihon ga Hokoru Saisentan! Special Medley”
AKB48(初)リア・ディゾン(初)中川翔子(初) 日本が誇る最先端! スペシャルメドレー[12] (会いたかった(AKB48)、恋しよう♪(リア・ディゾン)、空色デイズ(中川翔子)、なんてったってアイドル)

New and hot on the scene, AKB48 make their first appearance. Little did anyone know what horrors had just been unleashed on the world, brr! Haha, actually I don’t care anything about them. Aitakatta, aaa itakatta, no! They’re just there to prance and look pretty while the song plays in the background.

Leah Dizon has yet to make a proper comeback. She’s not lip syncing, at least, I can tell because she sounds horrible. It’s hard for those body-promoting “singers” to last long because there’s always someone younger or cuter or willing to show more flesh. That probably why Shokotan decided to go after the loyal otakus instead. Okay enough already, next segment please. Haha, funny shot of Yui Aragaki looking totally baffled during the performance of Nante tatte Idol. Then again she always looks baffled.

18. Kome Kome Club (5) “AiKimi Roman”
米米CLUB(5) 愛君浪漫

Yay, Kome Kome Club! YEAAAH! Welcome back! I always like the ultra-exaggerated, clear way Ishii enunciates his words. It’s very good for learning Japanese if you’re working on that now. I love their music too. I like this new Aa Roman Hikou song too. Highly enjoyable stuff, almost makes up for the “idols” that came before.

More conversation between Ishii and Tsurube then interrupted by Nakai. No fun.

19. Ayaka (2) “Peace Loving People ~Special Piano Version~”
Rather pedestrian song. Then she’s joined by Kobukuro for a rendition of “Winding Road.” Dunno, don’t care. I should find something more to say… But I got nothing so let’s keep going. Okay, nice Steinway piano, I want one.

20. Porno Graffiti (6) “Link”

Tsurube has a bit of trouble pronouncing their name, but they don’t have any problem singing. This song didn’t make it into my top 5 of Porno Graffiti songs, but it’s not bad. Just seems a little generic. It sounds like something anyone could sing, if that makes sense. It’s a nice song though. The NHK Hall and the audience is surprisingly small for such a prestigious show.

Mogi Kenichiro released a game about brains or something and mutters about music massaging the brain or something. Some songs massage my brain but others molest it. Let’s see if I feel any smarter after this.

21. Sukima Switch (3) “Kanade”
スキマスイッチ(3) 奏(かなで)

Hmm, not really. Pretty standard song about parting and saying goodbye and stuff. Rather lukewarm reception from the audience as well, maybe because the song seems to come to an abrupt end.

22. Natsuko Godai (14) “Fune”
伍代夏子(14) 舟

At first glance her kimono seemed rather plain, but once she gets up on the stage you realize it helps he stand out from the girls in the background, so that’s good. Shokotan trying to steal some attention from behind is kinda cringeworthy, though. Tsurube even has a go at her. Forgettable song and performance.

23. Masato Sugimoto (debut) “Waremokō”
すぎもとまさと(初) 吾亦紅

One of the hit songs of the year, in the vein of an apology to a late mother from her faithless, neglectful son. Masato Sugimoto had been a singer for decades before Waremoko finally put him on the map. Nice, moving song, though it didn’t turn out to be the massive seller Tsurube predicted in his pre-performance spiel. Maybe a little too sappy even for sentimental Japanese listeners.

24. Amin (2) “Matsuwa’07”
あみん(2) 待つわ’07

15 years after they broke up they reunited for this performance. The lady on the left looks like an ex-coworker of mine so I like Amin a lot (lol). This song makes me break out in goosebumps, honestly. Even though I hate the “I’ll wait for you lyrics,” the harmony is just so perfect and simple, I love it. That “Matsu wa” with the echo is just too perfect.

25. Akira Terao (2) “Ruby no Yubiwa”
寺尾聰(2) ルビーの指環

Hasn’t been on Kohaku for 26 years. Ruby no Yubiwa was the No. 1 song for 12 weeks when it was first released. I myself have heard it several times, though not this funkified version which I quite like. This is the first time I’ve bothered to read the lyrics. Apparently his backing instrumentalists are all famous pro studio/session musicians, not that an amateur like me would know them. They all seem to be having a blast up there. My kind of show! *clap clap clap*

26. Ayaka Hirahara (平原綾香) (4) “Jupiter”

The song was a support song for a village/town that was destroyed a few years ago but has now recovered. I prefer the version of this same “Jupiter” tune by Gustav Holst that is set to I Vow to Thee My Country by Sir Cecil Spring Rice. Try to find a version sung by a mass choir at a funeral, I guarantee chills will run down your spine. As for Ayaka Hirahara’s version, it’s decent. Her performances usually come across as a bit lifeless  but she’s putting her all in this one, and that counts for something.

27. BoA (6) “BoA Winter Ballad Special”

They’re really rushing their introductions now, it makes me uncomfortable. I tend to like these simpler songs and performances so it’s nice that BoA was given a chance to shine. The song doesn’t do anything for me, though, and I think she’s screeching a bit on some of the notes.

28. Toshihide Baba (debut) “Start Line~Atarashii Kaze”
馬場俊英(初) スタートライン〜新しい風

Naito Daisuke invited to give some comments about perserverance because Baba started his singing career after being fired from his day job at 40. Naito says he tried twice to get the championship and succeeded the third time. Nice song. The teeth are his ‘charm point’ as they say in Japan, and I like his voice. He has a lineup of star backing instrumentalists from Kobukuro and kiroro and someone else, I think?

29. Masashi Sada (さだまさし)(19) “Birthday”

The theme song for a show by Tsurube and he talks on and on about his show and how 13 years ago he and Sada worked together to start the show until the producer comes and shoos Sada onto the stage. Nakai looks on pins and needles until Sada finally starts singing. It’s not that different from the “Kakashi” song he sang two years ago. Some scenes from their road trip or something. Hmm, not really necessary, the song is good enough on its own.

30. Fuyumi Sakamoto (19) “Yozakura Oshichi ~Ōmisoka Special~”
坂本冬美(19) 夜桜お七 〜大晦日スペシャル〜

Nakai forces the conversation to move on before Tsurube can start warbling and introduces Fuyumi along with a popular Noh actor of some sort. Saotome something. Yozakura Oshichi is my favorite Fuyumi Sakamoto song. She looks good in the delicately colored yukata, despite my preference for more dramatic outfits. An enjoyable performance despite the pointlessness of the crossdresser dancing in the background. Whoa, where did all the other background dancers come from? That’s cool. The sudden appearance, I mean, not those creepy hooded outfits. Nice flourish at the end. Sakamoto is no slouch herself.

More mid-way voting going on, something which doesn’t mean much in the long-term as far s I know.

Izumi Sakai Tsuitō Kikaku, Zard Film Concert Live stream, “Yureru Omoi” “Glorious Mind” “Makenaide”
坂井泉水追悼企画 ZARDフィルムコンサート中継「揺れる想い」「グロリアス マインド」「負けないで」

This was the year Izumi Sakai died after a bad fall suffered while undergoing cancer treatment. I was reasonably familiar with her music. She never performed at Kohaku so this is her way to show up, featuring never before released footage. Glorious Mind is the last song she wrong before she died, though she had about 300 other unreleased songs. Her producers are going to be rich! Someone reads a letter from her? …? Someone pretending to be her. It’s hard to die and have people write whatever they want to about you. Not that you care anyway since you’re kinda dead.

Okay, results of halfway voting appears. White team is winning. There’s a news break, but I don’t have that.

31. Sachiko Kobayashi (29) “Koizakura”
小林幸子(29) 恋桜

And now for my favorite Sachiko Kobayashi song. Preceded by young(er) SMAP all teasing Tsurube about wearing clothes this time. Quick shot of Gackt preparing for his stage, then some samurai is sent scurrying off… oh man, now I remember why I stopped watching Kohaku Utagassen.

But yay, Sachiko “Last Boss” Kobayashi singing Koizakura! I love this song. Love her shiny cherry blossom outfit too. I think I’m enjoying myself for the first time since I started this edition. “Anata ni chiritai~!” I wish she would sing the whole song, I like it so much. Whoa, that kaleidoscope behind her is truly blinding. Love it! Last Boss forever!

And then Tsurube and Nakai do something truly dreadful by going forward to try and study the outfit in more detail. That’s just not done, and they really shouldn’t be showing the stage going down and all that. It detracts quite a bit from the magic, which is just not right. I’m sorry, Ms Kobayashi.

32. Gackt (5) “Returner ~Yami no Shūen~Kieyuku Samurai e no Requiem~”
RETURNER 〜闇の終焉〜消え逝く武士(サムライ)への鎮魂歌(レクイエム)〜

Gackt as Uesugi Kenshin. He’s such a drama queen. A bad drama queen, but he seems to be having fun, so good for him. Man… what a drama queen… did I say that already? Whatever, this is fun bad drama. The whole thing is just a  long advert for that year’s NHK drama Furin Kazan. And I love Returner, easily my favorite Gackt song. I hope all these samurai extras got paid plenty of money. The double bass player seems to be having a little too much fun, lol. Lip synch away, Gakuto-kun!

33. Ai Otsuka (大塚愛) (4) “Chu-Lip”

Nakai quickly moving the conversation along before Tsurube can start rambling. Uh-oh, doushiyou, I like this song too! I like the part near the end where they go Nazo, Idenshi, Nazo, Idenshi. The crazy outfits just fit the crazy song and mood. Nazo, Idenshi, Nazo, Idenshi.

34. Tokio (14) “SEISYuN” (青春 SEISYuN)

This song was written by Nagabuchi Tsuyoshi, whose music I love. I remember liking this song, but let’s see if my memory was correct. Haha, they pulled out the Tokio leader’s picture from last year, I love that joke. ^_^ Oh yeah, I do like this song. It’s very Nagabuchi-like. The firey background makes it seem even more Nagabuchi. The only catch is, I really want to see Nagabuchi himself sing it. This guy’s voice is too nice (just like Nagabuchi’s used to be before he deliberately ruined it with cigarettes and alcohol, but that’s a story for another day). Anyway, fun song. Shinjiru no sa, towa to mirai to ashita wooooo! Wao, LOVE the flames in the back!

35. Noriyuki Makihara (槇原敬之) (2) “Green Days”

Aragaki Yui, whatever happened to her? Guess she’s still around somewhere. But she says she’s a fan of Noriyuki Makihara. So am I! And I’m a big fan of this song too. Wish they wouldn’t make it so obvious that they’re reading off the teleprompter. I really, really like this tune and his voice and the serious grey suit and the green background and everything. Looks like looking up at a forest ceiling. Very passionate, engaging performance Massugu ni, massugu ni nobiru~

Wahaha, Tomonori Jinnai and Norika Fujiwara back when they were still married. Lovely golden dress on Norika and nice hair and hair accessories.

36. Ayumi Hamasaki (9) (浜崎あゆみ) “Together When…”

“Together when” you stop divorcing them, Ayumi-chan! Simple dress and performance. Boring song and bad voice are the downsides. Aaaaagh, she can’t hold a tune. That’s one person who should really lipsynch. Honest, I don’t mind, please. She broke the chain of great songs I had going on. Boo, hiss. Let’s see if the next one can help get me back in the mood.

37. Kiyoshi Hikawa (8) “Kiyoshi no Sōran Bushi, YOSAKOI no Sōran Kōhaku Special”
氷川きよし(8) きよしのソーラン節 YOSAKOIソーラン紅白スペシャル

Okajima Hideki gives Kiyoshi some advice about working hard at age 30 and stuff. Pointless, I keep saying. Fun song, he seems to be enjoying himself as well. Dokkoisho! Dokkoisho! Whoa, talk about an energetic performance. I would break my back if I tried to dance like that! They do make Yosakoi look fun, don’t they?

38. aiko (6) “Shiawase” (シアワセ)

Oh, aiko. She seems so nice, but her songs are always so boring. I don’t think I have heard a single one I like. A delay in the setup means Nakai and Tsurube has to fill the gap with random chatter. Being a host isn’t easy. Shiawase is the Aiko song that comes closest to something I would listen to again, since it has a catchy beat. I like her hair too.

Some set up going on in the background that we probably shouldn’t be seeing. Tsurube and aiko reminiscing about Tsurube’s birthday party where aiko sang or something like that. They chat so long that Nakai has to interrupt Tsurube yet again.

39. Kumi Koda (3) “Ai no Uta”
倖田來未(3) 愛のうた

Kumi-chaaan in an unusually modest and understated outfit – by her standards, anyway. And I quite like this song too. What’s going on? The world is coming to an end, surely! But I’m happy I’m finally enjoying this show so it’s all good. Brilliant smile as always. I think there were rumors about Koda and Nakai dating that year, which is why Tsurube slyly comments about how cute she is afterwards.

40. Hideaki Tokunaga (2) “Koi ni Ochite -Fall in Love-“
徳永英明(2) 恋におちて -Fall in love-

Hideaki Tokunaga’s cover of Koi ni Ochite by Kobayashi Akiko, IIRC. I prefer the original especially since she doesn’t have to strain to hit the “te wo tometa” notes. She has longer, sweeter notes too, compared to Tokunaga’s shorter, breathier ones on the last notes of each line. Plus you’re not “just a woman,” Hideaki-kun! Look down! :-p Good song I listen to quite often.

41. Ataru Nakamura (debut) “Tomodachi no Uta”
中村中(初) 友達の詩

A man who had a sex change in the mistaken thought that this would make him a “woman.” Tsurube reads a letter from his mother in a very dull, bland way. At least find someone who can put some emotion into the letter reading. According to wiki, his singing career was going nowhere until hecame out about the sex change, then he got some brief attention and then went back to nothingness again. A shame, because criticism of his confused life aside, it must be said that Ataru has a beautiful voice and this is a great song. The final “sore sura ayaui” line actually made me break out in goosebumps.

42. Ken Hirai (5) “Elegy”
平井堅(5) 哀歌 (エレジー)

Ooh, another song I like. As long as I don’t listen to the dark lyrics, that is. How long until Tsurube gets interrupted…? He really talks too much. He didn’t get interrupted, but he should have. It was funny at the beginning of the show when he said Hirai Ken would sing a song entitled “I am Japanese” though. He really does look Middle Eastern, maji de. Very enjoyable performance and great song. I normally watch it two or three times, tbh, but this time I have to move on. Uuu, zannen.

Special performance: Misora Hibari x Ogura Kei “Ai San San” 特別企画 美空ひばり×小椋佳「愛燦燦」

Misora Hibari would have been 70 years old in 2007. Tsurube talks about how when he interviewed other stars they would always gush over Misora, then as usual Nakai cuts him short. Ogura Kei wrote the song Ai San San so he appears together with images of Misora in a sort of pseudo-duet. What a mess alcohol made of her life. Strong drink is a mocker, indeed. I love Ogura Kei’s soothing, steady, nasal delivery too. Beautiful, beautiful show.

The guest has hosted Kohaku before, I believe he said. More comments. Yakushimaru Hiroko is at Tokyo Tower. Very robotic recital of how special Tokyo Tower is to everyone or whatever. At the end of it, the tower will be lit in the colors of whichever side won, IIRC.

43. Saburō Kitajima (44) “Kaero Kana”
北島三郎(44) 帰ろかな

I like this version of Kaero Kana. The choir in the background adds some depth to the show, so to speak. Why does Leah Dizon look so tearful? Does she somehow know she will fade completely from the public eye within three years of this show? Masaka. Sabu-chan! I’m a little surprised to see him this early in the show. Great rendition of a very moving song.

44. Yoshimi Tendō (12) “Chindo Monogatari ~Kizuna~”
天童よしみ(12) 珍島物語 〜絆〜

Hmm, a spiced up version of Chindo Monogatari? What’s with the “Kizuna”? Letter from her mom, She looks like her mother so much, lol. I see, “kizuna” means she lets everyone see her range by singing without backing before the standard instruments kick in. I’m impressed, I didn’t know she could sing like this. But I don’t know about this “exploding butterflies” dress…

45. Kobukuro (3) “Tsubomi”
コブクロ(3) 蕾

Blah blah, Tsurube says he wanted his old mom to see him on Kohaku, that’swhy he accepted this job. Aw, Tsubrube, you sohuldn’t have. No really, you shouldn’t have. He says he’s having fun, and so am I, when all’s said and done.

Tsubomi is the one Kobukuro song I almost like. Overwrought and melodramatic like all the others, but not bad, and hopeful in its own way. They wrote it to remember the mother of one of them, if I understood Tsurube’s spiel correctly. So I won’t be too hard on them.

46. Mika Nakashima (中島美嘉) (6) “Life”

Tired of of standing already? The hosts are sitting down. Even more talking from Tsurube about why he chose to host the show. He’s really boring. He wants to make people in poor areas happy by seeing him on Kohaku. Nakai looks bored out of his balding little skull. Talk about a lack of chemistry.

Mika Nakashima standing straight up for a change. Nope, I was wrong, she’s stooping again. Very simple outift, okay song.  Meh. But I like the jewelry, the way the flashiness contrasts with the plain white shirt and sheer makeup. Me gusta. Ooh, the camera just wobbled! Someone must have bumped into the camera man.

47. Yo Hitoto (4) “Hanamizuki” 一青窈(4) ハナミズキ

Nakama Yukie! Wasn’t there a rumor of a relationship between the two of them? Or something else? Yo Hitoto was in New York during 9/11 and was inspired by the attack to write the lyrics of “Hanamizuki.” Japanese sign language signers interpreting her song in the background. I wonder how it differs from American Sign Language? I’m not really playing attention to the song because that’s the only song Yo Hitoto ever sings so I’ve heard it hundred of times before. Signing the last few lines doesn’t change that, I’m afraid.

48. Masafumi Akikawa (2) “Sen no Kaze ni Natte”
秋川雅史(2) 千の風になって

His breakout hit from last year. I already gave my thoughts on it last time, so you can refer to the previous post for that. It’s even sadder that someone has written a letter in about how much they miss their husband but are comforted because he’s now turned into wind… I’m sorry for your loss ma’am, but your husband hasn’t turned into anything, least of all wind. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Anyway, we’ll leave it at that this time. Akikawa sounds a little dull and muted this time. Or maybe he’s tired from singing that song 300 times since the last time. Is that door in the back supposed to signify the door of hope opening or something?

49. Dreams Come True (12) “A-I-SHI-TE-RU no Sign ~Watashitachi no Mirai Yosōzu~” (ア・イ・シ・テ・ルのサイン 〜わたしたちの未来予想図〜)

Miyazaki Aoi, stop staring so blatantly at the teleprompter. Brief introduction to all the concerts Dreams Come True held that year. Whoa, that’s a lot of people! I’m relieved they’re not singing Nandodemo this year… That is fun, though I don’t particularly like or dislike this song. S’aight.

50. SMAP (15) “Dangan Fighter Kōhaku SP” (弾丸ファイター 紅白SP)

I haven’t been waiting for this. Even if you say I have, I haven’t. They’re running out of time so again the announcer prods them to get ready for their performance. Well, whatever. Let’s get this over with. What are they wearing, vinyl sheets? No wonder they’re quitting being a boyband, lol. They start out lipsynching “Dear Woman” before moving on to Dangan Fighter… with extra vinyl sheets. And my DVD is skipping again. Oh, it’s fixed. Just when I’d found the perfect excuse to skip this performance ::_:: Boring, boring, song, boring choreography. The plastic makes me want to go on a picnic, that’s about it. Yo gotta power through this performance so you can get to the finale.

Yū Aku Memorial Corner
阿久悠追悼コーナー

Aku Yuu was a famous lyricist who wrote the lyrics of many classics of Japanese pop music in the 70s and 80s. I watched a documentary about him shortly after he passed away, which I thought I mentioned on this blog but I guess I didn’t. They did a good job of making Aku Yuu look good, but also made Yamaguchi Momoe look like a cold witch, to put it politely. Such a good job, in fact, that it took a while for me to warm up to her.

For our last performances, we have 4 songs written by Aku Yuu, though honestly you could fill the whole show with songs by him, with very good results. Let’s enjoy these last few songs.

51. Akiko Wada (31) “Ano Kane wo Narasu no wa Anata”
和田アキ子(31) あの鐘を鳴らすのはあなた

She’s performed this song many times in many different renditions. I like this particular one, and the stark white dress and simple backing vocals that don’t drown her out – though you would have to wake up really early to drown Akiko Wada out. Those are the girls from Berryz Kobo and C-ute, aren’t they? No wonder they can’t make an impact.

52. Shinichi Mori (40) “Kita no Hotaru”
森進一 (40) 北の螢

Wooot! A song from Mori Shinichi that’s not Ofukurosan. An excellent song that features regularly on my playlist despite the dire but poignant lyrics. Hooo hooo hotaru, tonde yuke, koishii otoko no mune e ike. Pure and classic, no frills attached, none needed.

53. Sayuri Ishikawa (30) “Tsugaru Kaikyō-Fuyu Geshiki”
石川さゆり(30) 津軽海峡・冬景色

Aku Yuu really was the master of the “meikyoku,” and his lyrics were perfectly set to song by songwriter Miki Takashi. And then Ishikawa Sayuri interprets the finished song perfectly as usual. There’s no time for a real introduction, but she needs none. Interesting kimono, though I’m annoyed they rushed the start of the song. How many trees and how much paper was sacrificed to make that fake snow?

54. Hiroshi Itsuki (37) “Chigiri” (Promise)
五木ひろし(37) 契り

One of my favorite Japanese songs of all time. I heard it once many, many years ago and it haunted my dreams for ages until I finally found it again and could listen to it often enough to blunt the edge of the effect… or so I’d hoped, but it’s still as powerful as ever no matter how many times I hear it. Great song. Ai suru hito yo, sukoyaka ni. Makes me want to cry. Snf. Beautiful, beautiful.

55. Sekai ni Hitotsu dake no Hana (世界に一つだけの花) → Hotaru no Hikari (蛍の光)

Tch. The show should have ended with Chigiri. SMAP is such a comedown from that. At least they shouldn’t have let Nakai sing. The white team wins and Tokyo Tower is lit… blue?? to celebrate. That final performance by Hiroshi Itsuki alone should have won them the night. But the red team had some good, powerful performances too. And the DVD is skipping again so… That’s enough then. Good show, everyone!

Thoughts on finishing Log Horizon Season 2

In the end the same “spotty quality” issue that brought Season 1 down plagued Log Horizon Season 2 all the way through as well. Maybe it’s not an issue of “spotty quality” and more a case of “this is the only way the author knows how to write.” He likes to sandwich important revelations and developments between lots of unfunny comedy, boring fights and unnecessary character development. You either like that, or you don’t. Personally, I think I’m done with Log Horizon for now. When the author finally gets round to finishing the light novels I’ll read a summary of the ending or something and call it a day.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy Season 2, because I did. Or rather some portions of it. I liked the super-tough raid into the money dungeon. I wished the final battle against the moth genius could have been longer, but it was still a good final battle, all things considered. Also I thought I would hate Kanami when I eventually met her, but she’s fairly amusing. And they set up some good mysteries for the eventual next season: what’s on the moon, how did the scythe warp Crusty to where he ended up, what are all the things Kanami has discovered, what exactly are empathions and why are they being collected, etc etc.

isaac-kun-log-horizonCompared to that, all that fake “heartwarming” stuff involving Isaac and Iselus (like, who?) and pretty much every scene involving Roe 2 and the Whining Whelps was just torture to sit through. Log Horizon has too many characters, that’s one of its problems. Some series cope with that by keeping the focus firmly on the mains and only focusing on others as it pertains to them. Others try to get everyone equal time and end up leaving everyone unhappy. Guess which category Log Horizon falls into.

Anyway, there’s no need to write too much about Log Horizon Season 2 since its highlights and lowlights are pretty much the same as for the first season. They did address the issue I mentioned last time of people being a little too happy to be in the Elder Tale world. We find that there are some people who left family behind and who are dying to get back there, which makes lots of sense. Shiroe & Co. come up with the obvious remedy: send them back home, but the season ends before they even take the first real step towards making that happen. Bummer.

Furthermore I’m still a bit disappointed because all the interesting things I was hoping would happen didn’t really happen. For example I thought the Round Table would finally clash with Plant Hwyaden this time, but they barely acknowledged each other. I thought the show would finally explain Plant Hwyaden’s structure and plans, but instead it just introduced a bunch of new characters, gave them a few speaking lines and a pointless aborted plan and then shuffled them off to the side for the rest of the show.

eye-glasses-villain-log-horizonPlus the implications of the buying/return of all facilities to the Yamato server aren’t really explained. We were told in the previous season that Plant Hwyaden is holding its adventurers hostage by owning the cathedral. Now that the cathedral is free for all, shouldn’t there be a major upheaval in their power dynamic? Or is that not how it works? The whole thing went completely unexplained. The show keeps throwing up new mysteries and characters and factions and clearing them all up very poorly, if at all.

And that’s the reason why I won’t bother with Season 3 or 4 or 5 or whatever until/unless the light novels are complete. It’s just going to be another frustrating 25 episodes of watching unimportant characters do unimportant things while the whole world with all its mysteries is sitting there waiting to be explored – and I don’t mean by Kanami and her ad hoc team. If you’re a huge fan of Log Horizon you’re going to watch Season 2 even without me tell you to. If you’re in the “Eh, it’s okay” camp like me, I won’t tell you not to watch it, just don’t expect too much from it and you’ll be fine.

One Punch Man anime review

I’d heard a lot about One Punch Man before watching the show. I figured it was just the usual internet hype about any slightly good show and basically ignored it for a while, but eventually the title sounded intriguing enough that I eventually tried an episode. And then another episode. And then another. I was kinda busy so it took me several sessions to get through the first 6 or so episodes, then I marathoned the last few in a night. Verdict: One Punch Man is actually really good!

Story summaryOn an Earth-like supercontinent planet, strange monsters have been mysteriously appearing and causing disasters resulting in the world’s superheroes rising to combat them. Saitama, the protagonist of the series, is the strongest hero alive who easily defeats the monsters or other villains with a single punch. However, due to his immeasurable strength, Saitama has become bored with his power and is constantly trying to find stronger opponents who can present a challenge to him.

one-punch-man-saitamaThe show is exactly what it says on the tin: superhero beats villains and monsters alike with a single punch. You might expect a show like that to get boring pretty quickly, seeing as you know the end of each monster even before it shows up, but they managed to keep it fresh at least for 12 episodes. Much of that “freshness” comes from sub-protagonist Genos and other superheroes who act as cannon fodder to show how strong the villain-of-the-week is before Saitama smashes it to show how much stronger he is. If you’ve watched Dragonball Z you know the whole mechanic.

Part of the fun of the show comes from the variety of monsters and superheroes. What kind of bad guy is going to show up this week and what ridiculous powers is s/he going to have? A Godzilla clone, a skyscraper-tall bodybuilder, a giant beetle, a gang of lazy slackers in power suits, and on and on. Of course their doom is assured, but it’s fun watching them have their little day in the limelight before they’re polished off. As a bonus they often get to voiceover the next episode’s trailer for some final lolz.

As an action show, One Punch Man doesn’t pull out any big surprises and doesn’t contain much tension due to the aforementioned foregone conclusion. What little excitement comes is from watching the supporting cast attempt and (usually) fail to deal with the problem. Then Saitama comes in and ends things with a single punch. The viewers who will get the most out of this show are those who enjoy destruction on an absolutely massive scale – cars overturned, buildings sliced in two, half the city blown up every episode and, of course, the giant blood splatters and ludicrous gibs that come with the territory when you exterminate a giant monster with a single punch. There is some good choreography on some of the fights, but really it’s usually people jumping around and somersaulting and getting smacked to the curb repeatedly, not much more than that.

Rather it is as a comedy and a parody of superhero shows that One Punch Man comes into its own. After all, genre savvy viewers know that no matter how many blows the hero takes, he’s always going to vanquish evil in the end. So why not cut to the chase once all the messing around with minor lackeys is done? As a result, the viewer ends up watching the ridiculous hijinks of the villains with a kind of spiteful glee. Oh boy, you’re really gonna get it now, just wait till Saitama gets here!

one-punch-man-mangaAs a result I’m a little on the fence about the show’s occasional attempts to humanize Saitama and the rest of the cast instead of just letting them be delightful caricatures. Things like the weaker heroes trying to stand up to the bad guy didn’t really add anything because of the foregone conclusion. Though I was a little touched by the unlikely camaraderie between Mumen Rider and Saitama, it was offset by Saitama’s unusual… niceness, shall we say, when it came to taking the blame and making the other heroes look good. Like, was it established already that he’s the kind of guy to care about such things? His character is a little hard to pin down, and the excess focus on Genos’ point of view of things doesn’t really help.

But anyway, I’m not here to analyze One Punch Man, just to wax on and on about how much and I enjoyed it and how you should totally watch it or read the manga. I think the anime is more fun, but the manga covers way more ground and the show will only leave you wanting more (Season 2 can’t come quickly enough) so go for both if you can. It’s a great show, memorable characters, funny premise, lots of actions, good ending, the works.

 

Log Horizon Season 2 – Thoughts on episodes 1-12

I jumped straight into the next season because, why not? It turns out season 2 of Log Horizon has many of the same issues that stopped season 1 from being a top-tier show. Mainly a tendency to focus on side characters doing things the viewer doesn’t care about and which are only marginally important to the rest of the show as a whole. All the while when something far more interesting is going on with Shiroe and his main party.

This time the problem was a long arc focusing on Akatsuki’s crisis of confidence and her attempts to deal with a “serial killer” on the loose in Akihabara. This would have been okay if it lasted for only an episode or two, but episode after episode after episode of Akatsuki angsting about her own inabilities and her (forced, unconvincing) feelings for Shiroe grew tiresome very quickly. The resulting “girl power!” showdown that was supposed to give the female eye candy of the show something to do might have been interesting if the guys weren’t also having a far more epic and monumental showdown right around the same time. If you want to give characters a day in the limelight, make sure the spotlight is on them, don’t make them a sideshow distraction from ‘the real thing.’

log-horizon-season-2-imageSo anyway, that was pretty boring. The whole first half of season 2 has been pretty boring, actually. The best part was the revelation of how much it cost to maintain all those buildings and the resulting plan to find the source of the gold. I enjoy Log Horizon best when it’s focusing on things like basic economics and less when it’s doing generic MMORPG battles, though the battles against the raid monsters were pretty intense. The shock resolution of the whole gold arc is also interesting and unusual and I look forward to finding out the implications.

First, though, it appears I’m going to have to sit through a Valentine’s Day episode… ugh… I’ve been watching anime for almost 20 years at this point and I have never, I repeat never seen a good Valentine’s Day episode. In fact, I’m very tempted to just skip episode 13 and go straight to 14. Why are they doing lovey-dovey hijinks when Rusty has gone missing, his aide has lost an arm and the West is up to shady shenanigans that need attention pronto? It’s this tendency to wander and insert fanservice and slice of life elements at the most inappropriate times that keeps Log Horizon from being the 5-star show it could have been.

Still I just have to suffer through episode 13 and then I’ll be treated to all the action and intrigue and world-building I could ever ask for, riiiiight? Don’t worry, I’m not holding my breath, but the rest of the show should at least be decent. I’ll get round to finishing it one day.

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