Ex-superhero actors inspire fans in classic pop vocal groups

Members of Shinsei Toshi Ito to Happy & Blue

Singer-actor Masaru Shishido, known for portraying O-Red in the tokusatsu superhero TV show “Choriki Sentai O-Ranger,” has become the lead vocalist of the group Shinsei Toshi Ito to Happy & Blue.

The act, formerly known simply as Toshi Ito to Happy & Blue, debuted in 1971 with a different lead vocalist and boasted many hit songs, such as “Watashi Inotte-masu” (I’m praying) and “Hoshifuru Machikado” (The street corner where stars fall). Shishido was the lead singer from 2006 to 2009, before the group went into hiatus. In the summer of 2020, Eisaku Tamaru, a long-time member of the group, asked Shishido if he was interested in singing with the group again. It led to the rebirth of the act with the addition of shinsei (new star) to the name. Toshi Ito, the group’s founder, also welcomed the change.

The group sings mood-kayo, a genre of old-fashioned and easy-listening music in Japan. The lyrics of mood-kayo songs place the setting usually in a bar after dark and describe love games or the sorrow of an illicit love affair.

Three other members have also appeared in the Super Sentai series tokusatsu shows: Keiichi Wada (Ryuranger from “Gosei Sentai Dairenger”), Keisuke Tsuchiya (Kirinranger from the same show) and Kei Shindachiya (FiveBlue from “Chikyu Sentai Fiveman”). Impersonator Fuminori Sato completes the sextet as an extra member who also serves as an emcee.

The renamed group’s first single “Showa Paradise” was released in November last year. Shishido composed the music and designed the song’s structure. The lyrics of this innovative song are just title after title of major kayokyoku pop songs from the second half of the Showa era (1926-89) put together to form a story. The song also includes interjections characteristic to mood-kayo, such as “paya paya.”

“I hope this song will remind people of the Showa era when people were in high spirits and full of hope, and make them feel better during the pandemic,” an excited Shishido said.

When discussing mood-kayo music sung by those with a tokusatsu background, one cannot forget to mention the vocal group Junretsu, who have made four appearances in NHK’s Red and White Year-end Song Festival. Members of both groups are on good terms with each other through their superhero connection. When it comes to their superhero work, the members of Shinsei are the veterans.

What do tokusatsu superheroes and mood-kayo have in common? Shishido thinks the answer is teamwork.

“Superheroes from the Super Sentai series joined forces in battles. In mood-kayo, too, we have to join forces in making harmonies, or we would ruin the song,” he said.

That must be it. He is spot on. It seems to me they also share another common denominator in their roles to help people: Superheroes fight against evil to help people, whereas mood-kayo singers soothe and help adults who suffer from problems regarding relationships and love. In other words, they salvage people’s spirits.

Shinsei Toshi Ito to Happy & Blue are set to perform at a concert early this year and are also planning a meet-and-greet on March 27.

“We’d like to bring mood-kayo to the Reiwa era,” Shishido said.