Anison show brings intensity, comedic relief

Photo by Masatsugu Narita
The performers for “Hikoboshi no Hoko” gather for a grand finale.

I participated once again in the special anison (anime song) show “Hikoboshi no Hoko” (The roar of Hikoboshi) in Osaka on July 9. The annual event is led by veteran anison singer Takayuki Miyauchi and features two more anison stars, Shinichi Ishihara and Hideaki Takatori. These three took on the role of Hikoboshi, the male lead in the celestial Tanabata legend, and I joined them as Orihime, the princess in the legend.

The show consists two parts, with the first half filled by heady performances of song after song and the second half featuring a play written by Ishihara. The song lineup always proves to be a delectable course for the fans, as the three singers also accept some requests from the audience in advance.

This year’s song lineup was intense and energetic. Perhaps that means people get a craving for intense songs when the summer heat rolls around. Many of the songs were physically draining for the singers, such as “Fight! for the Earth!!” from “Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger” sung by Takatori, and “Shirokuji Muchu Shinkenger,” the ending theme song of “Samurai Sentai Shinkenger,” also by Takatori. This time, Takatori also had to sing the parts usually filled in by the audience as well since the crowd had to remain quiet during the performance. The singers looked as if they were having a tough time during rehearsals, too, having to repeatedly put on their masks and then take them off again.

One section of the event was devoted to songs by the great composer Chumei Watanabe, who recently passed away. The memorial section started with Takatori singing the video game theme song “Tatakae! Gotcha Force,” which was followed by several songs written by Watanabe, such as “Gekishin RX,” from “Kamen Rider Black RX,” sung by Miyauchi and “Shiawase wa Itsumo Okurete Kuru kara,” from “Juko Beetle Fighter,” sung by Ishihara. When that last song was released back in the 1990s, the record company had probably never imagined Ishihara would sing it on stage someday. So he and his staff took great pains in finding the proper backing music so he could sing it at the event. The song sounds almost like mood kayo, or pop songs with a mellow, romantic feel from middle years of the Showa era (1926-89). I guess it was an experimental piece not necessarily meant to be your typical soundtrack to a tokusatsu sci-fi superhero TV show.

Special mention should be made of the fact that Miyauchi’s singing was even more brilliant than in other years. He suffered a serious illness a while ago and has had to take things one step at a time. Now his singing, quickly approaching his singing before the illness, has more depth than before. Listening to him sing brought me so much joy, and I also felt the strength and potential that resides in everyone. I truly feel as though I learn so much from him through his singing every year.

The highlight of the day was the “Hikoboshi theater.” We put on a play titled “Kaseifu no Hikozono” (Mr. Housekeeper, Hikozono), which we previously streamed online but finally got to stage live this year. The play is a parody of the popular TV drama “Kaseifu no Mitazono.” Takatori, done up in a wig and makeup, enthusiastically played the protagonist, a peculiar male housekeeper. The audience loved to see this other side of the always cool Takatori. The play also featured nostalgic pop songs from the Showa era scattered throughout, and overall I found it a fun production. I also had my fill of performing in my role as the oddball princess.

This event by the four of us has become a fixture. It has become the norm for us to get together, recite our lines and rehearse the songs and dances once a year. It’s like a special school assignment for the summer holidays. We still couldn’t hold a party after the show because of the pandemic, so I had a hectic day going to Osaka on a Shinkansen bullet train in the early morning and returning to Tokyo on the final Shinkansen of the day. But I’d love for us four quirky individuals to keep this song and play business alive for years to come.