Category Archives: Sawada Seiko

Sawada Seiko

Kenji Sawada — Stripper (ス・ト・リ・ッ・パ・ー)

Yup, that album cover says it right there. This was no longer Kenji Sawada(沢田研二) of the old Group Sounds band, The Tigers….this was Julie The Sex Machine! As you’ll see from the video, he made himself available to just about everyone. Personally, I thought he probably would have made a better foil for David Bowie than Ryuichi Sakamoto(坂本龍一) in “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence”.

This NHK video from 1994 is pretty tame considering my first viewing of him when he came on the 1981 Kohaku Utagassen. Throughout the program, I saw frilly-dressed aidoru bouncing about, yukata-garbed enka veterans warbling away and other singers in between. Then, HE came out. My jaw was fully dropped. Kenji Sawada looked like a mixture of the late American comedienne Phyllis Diller and David Bowie during his Aladdin Insane phase. And then came this low and rumbling dangerous bass and a twangy electric guitar before Julie started bopping about singing these lyrics:

Take off the heels, take off the rouge,
When you’ve taken everything off, come here,
We can’t start until you’re naked,
Start of the show, baby,
Take off the past, take off the yesterday,
When you’ve taken everything off, come here,
It won’t do to hide your eyes to escape,
Morning, night, noon…passion is a stripper
Naked contact,
Summer, Fall, Winter….love is a stripper
I’ll show you but I win, baby,
I’ll show you everything I got,
I wanna see everything you got!

Yup, I think there was a reason for him being slotted into the 2nd half of the program. NHK probably didn’t want any more parents and senior citizens storming the gates with swords and pitchforks on New Year’s Eve. I would’ve loved to have been in the audience when Julie showed up and performed. A lot of those folks knew him as the nice vocalist from The Tigers….not anymore. I wouldn’t be surprised if the inspiration for Visual-kei came from him.

Sawada composed the song with Yoshiko Miura(三浦徳子) taking care of the lyrics. Released in September 1981, “Stripper” rose to No. 6 on the Oricon charts and won a Gold Prize at the Japan Record Awards. The single also managed to sell 350,000 records. The album, “S/T/R/I/P/P/E/R” had already come out in June 1981 and peaked at No. 13.

courtesy of Kenji Sawada
from Flickr

Game Review XIX: “Street Fighter The Movie”

If you’re like me, then you have heard about the live action movie of Street Fighter, the one with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia. It was brought to my attention a year ago that a game was made from this. Now I see this as a paradox, because we’re talking about a game that was made based off the movie, which was based off the game series. Let me explain in detail.

As you may know, the film has eye-catching differences, such as Guile being the lead character overall (which stands over the signature characters Ryu and Ken), and because it was live action, much things were changed, such as the absence of Guile’s staple mop-top hairstyle, a different take on the origin of Blanka, and the lack of much of the powers the game constantly feature. Even with it distributed by Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures, made in their studio, the movie is undoubtedly a Capcom product.

The same is somewhat true in regards to the games, but there was something different in regards to those as well. Even though they’re both named Street Fighter: The Movie, and feature similar, if not the exact same mechanics, they are 2 different games, much like how it is for Tekken 5 and Tekken 6 and their respective counterparts, and somewhat akin to how Mortal Kombat 4/Gold was treated. The first was a coin-op game, like the ones found in arcades (or places like Dave & Busters, if you couldn’t find the aforementioned place.) Now, these days, developers can just simply take the material data used for the arcades and fine tune it to be a home port game title. However, this perhaps the only time I recall that they didn’t do such a thing, and even though it was made with the same footage and mechanics, it was released as a standalone title instead of a port. Here’s a good rundown on what it has, but I’ll try not to keep you. Some have bashed this game, saying it’s almost as bad as the film. I can sympathies, but feel free to skim through if you don’t want to know. Nobody will blame you.

FEATURES:

Because it’s a movie based fighter, players take the roles of digitized sprites of the characters from the films. I honestly have no clue when game companies thought of this ideal, but for making game adaptions, the practice is somewhat common, given you have those in the games based off the Spider-Man trilogy with Tobey Maguire, and more of them in the game port of Dragonball Evolution

The character roster was among it’s key differences. Some characters were exclusinve to one version, while another was fulfilling different roles between the two. Characters Blade and Sawada were exclusive for the movie, and didn’t appear, nor were they mentioned, in any other game, since they aren’t part of the general storyline. Other characters, like Akuma, had no part in the film, but were protrayed by an actor much like the rest in both versions. But in his case, he was available in one, and somewhat unplayable in the other (save through means of a cheat.) Much like how it typically was for him in MOST of the Street Fighter games, Akuma was hidden in the home port, and unless you used a code, an NPC you had to fight when conditions were fulfilled, yet in the coin-op game, he is initially available as a full character on the roster. Coin-op characters Blade and the palette-swapped Bison Troopers aren’t seen in the console port, and are somewhat replaced by exclusives Dee Jay and Blanka. Sawada is featured on both, but with different specials exclusive to one another.


GAME MECHANICS (COIN-OP VERSION):

The mechanics for this game differed greatly from the others in the series as well. While almost absent in the film, each character retained their special movies, granted when saying them, some tend to sound kind of silly. In addition, those with close quarter specials, like Zangief, Balrog, and Sawada, could reflect projectiles. I don’t know if this was true for both versions, but I have seen that was possible, but still unbelievable (though ‘Gief using his 360 spin to bypass projectiles is believable and useful.) Each game bore different gameplay traits as well. The coin-op arcade version emphasized more on the juggling system. Baffled that the idea even existed, players can mix up basic fighting with specials, even cancelling a special to follow up with another, keeping the opponent in air. Now back then, this was a pretty huge deal, but nowadays, it’s a no-brainer for most fighters out there (that has yet to be considered for Virtua Fighter.)

The game also had a Super Meter, and as with Super Street Fighter II Turbo, allows the player to use a Super Combo on the opponent. Should the match end with it, the lifebar of the opponent breaks apart. One of the other traits included Interrupt Moves, a quick action performed after blocking an attack, and would later return in the Street Fighter Alpha series as Alpha Counter. The second action would be Comeback Moves, which features moves that could only be used when one’s health is in the danger level. While these moves did not have a meter of its own, this would later return in the Street Fighter IV series as Ultra Combos, which featured its own meter that builds upon receiving damage or absorbing them during Focus, and was changeable starting with Super Street Fighter IV. The last one is the Regeneration Move, which refills a portion of a players life, but sacrifices a whole Super Meter. I heard it was possible in the third game of Arika’s Street Fighter EX series, but a better example of this would be seen in Street Fighter III, with the game’s boss Gill, who revives himself after being knocked out when his super meter is full (though it’s proven you can stop how much he gains.) Aside from the 14-character Arcade Mode, a hidden Tag Mode was also in the game.

GAME MECHANICS (CONSOLE VERSION):

The Console version also has uniqueness from its coin-op counterpart, aside from the roster. While both retain a few instances from Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, the home console port is based from that. Featuring the Super Combos and Special Moves it already had, Super Specials was put in there as another means of attack. Using part of the Super Gauge and the input of a direction and TWO attack buttons would make the player use a powered up version of a Special Move. When the gauge is full, it’s use is unlimited until they use the Super Combo. This was seen as the ES Specials of Night Warriors (Darkstalkers series), and would later surface in Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact as EX Moves, a mechanic people thought the game gave birth to, but was actually a more toned down version of the system.

Adding to this, the game also featured different modes. Movie Battle is a Story Mode-like game mode where the player assumes the role of Guile, and branches off into different routes. Your choices in this mode is reflected to how many opponents you’ll face before reaching Bison. An arcade-style mode, Street Battle, is essentially the arcade version of the game, but unlike the Coin-Op version, has you facing 12 characters, with the spots of Zangief, Dee Jay, Sagat, and Bison set in that order as your last 4 opponents (which differs from Street Fighter II’s Balrog, Vega, Sagat, and Bison format.) There’s also a Versus Mode, and a Trial Mode, which you compete for a high score. These were released for Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, both CD-platform consoles.

VISUALS/SOUND

People would look at it, and right away, some would think about the first 2 Mortal Kombat games. In fact, some of the poses look clearly adapted from that series. Another way they would see that deals with the background in some of the stages. However, the team that did do that game, which was formerly Midway, had no part in its development, yet resembled their work somewhat. It was also weird the first time seeing this. That said, I couldn’t seen digitized versions of actors doing standstill shocker moves, launching fireballs or doing spin kicks and what not. While it’s a fighting game, and was least prominent in the earlier games, they have no defining personalities for each character as they do in the later games, and much like the older titles, has the player get into the fight almost immediately. With any game, it has a win counter, shown as a Shadoloo/Shadowlaw insignia beside the name, stating the rounds won. In the background, there lie some stages with cameos of characters in-game, and another stage that features a crowd. The stages were but so few, the music even fewer, so there was much to be desired, yet some stages also featured inaudible clips from the actual film.

The mantle was stepped up a bit when the console port came into play. They tried to make more similar to the namesake game series, with newer voice acting, more music, different stages and different visuals of the moves performed. The Psycho Crusher, which was a staple Bison move, was still absent from the game. In all, the game was improved, but not by much.

DEVELOPMENT

The development team differed between the two. For starters, the Coin-Op version was developed under Incredible Technologies, who was a coin-op game company much like Sega, Midway, and Williams, but wasn’t a threat to those 3. In fact, they had almost nothing under their belt in terms of fighting games, the only exceptions being this and Bloodstorm. I guess sometime after the coin-op release of the game, development was turned over, or said to be primarily Capcom’s doing, but under different publishing for the console ports. In Japan, publishing rights were still under Capcom, while in US, Europe, and Australia, publishing was done by Acclaim, the successor to the ridiculed LJN, and the company that first brought us Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, and early WWF titles. However, because some understand the origins, few have credited this as another LJN title, which has been mainly bashed by consumers in terms of gaming.

VERDICT

I know I have yakked on and on about this game already, but I’ll end it with these. The game in general is kinda bad, but it was a stepping stone mechanic wise to what we have today, so in general, both games get a 5.5 of 10. I wasn’t expecting the games to be successful, but much like the movie, it had hope, but that’s it. Until next time.

Kenji Sawada — Kiken na Futari (危険なふたり)

Kenji ‘Julie’ Sawada(沢田研二) has had one of the most interesting careers in the kayo kyoku era. He was one of the co-vocals of the most popular Group Sounds band, The Tigers, during the 1960s (there is one entry for them in the Labels). Then, once the GS era ended in 1970, he joined a supergroup, PYG, which consisted of members from other GS bands, and when that project disbanded, he launched his solo career as a cool long-haired singer/songwriter, and started a career in acting as well. As the 70s passed by, he started getting more avant-garde in his approach, culminating in a glam rock phase into the 80s. I wonder if Christopher Guest had researched Sawada when he was making “This Is Spinal Tap”.

“Kiken na Futari”(Two in the Face of Danger) was his 6th single as a solo artist, released in April 1973. The song is an uptempo pop/rock piece in which the male protagonist playfully teases his older, beautiful paramour when she wants to stop the affair. It was a possible case of art imitating life since the lyricist, Kazumi Yasui(安井かずみ), was having a romantic relationship with Sawada at the time until the ultimate breakup; Yasui was 9 years older than her lover who was 25.

But no matter the connection, “Kiken na Futari”earned a Japan Record Award and was the first song by Sawada as a solo artist to hit No. 1 on the Oricon charts and eventually became the 5th-ranked single for 1973.

Shortly after the breakup between Sawada and Yasui, the young singer married the late Emi Ito(伊藤エミ) of The Peanuts in 1975.

courtesy of Kenji Sawada (?)
from Flickr

sawada seiko澤田政広





















Seiko Miki/Yumi Arai — Machibuse (まちぶせ)

You might consider this a sequel to one of my very earliest entries in this blog. All the way back on January 31 of this year, I wrote about Hitomi Ishikawa’s(石川ひとみ) “Machibuse”(Ambush) and how it was one of the first aidoru tunes that I’d ever heard back in 1981. Only recently did I hear that there had been the very first version, some five years earlier.

Seiko Miki (三木聖子)was born in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture in 1956 (ironically, it is also the birthplace of another more famous Seiko). Debuting in a TV drama in 1975 with former Tigers vocalist, Kenji Sawada(沢田研二), she would record and release “Machibuse” in June 1976 as her first single. Written and composed by Yumi Arai(荒井由実), and arranged by Masataka Matsutoya(松任谷正隆), Miki’s version has a bit of the Ronnie Spector feel to it. It would get as high as No. 47 on the Oricon charts. The song was also included as one of the tracks on Miki’s first and only original album, “Seiko”, released in December of that year. Less than 6 months later, she would leave show business.

Currently, Miki has a family and lives in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture where she also runs her own shop called MuMu.

20 years after Miki’s recording of “Machibuse”, the songwriter herself decided to put her own spin on the song. In 1996, Yuming had long had the last name of Matsutoya but unearthed her maiden name of Arai one more time for this tune. Her approach was much more tongue-in-cheek, having the instrumental backup being all synthesized strings. In addition, in the music video, Matsutoya…sorry, I mean Arai…gussies herself up into a doll-like aidoru, complete with the weirdo body movements and finger gestures. She’d said that she would never write a song for an aidoru (although that is what she did for Seiko Matsuda in the form of “Akai Sweet Pea”, albeit under the pseudonym of Karuho Kureta); I guess the video summed up her feelings for the genre…whether they were affectionately satirical or not, I’ll leave it to you to decide. In fact, I’ll leave it up to you which one of the 3 versions you like. Unfortunately, the original music video has been taken down from YouTube, but I managed to find one of Yuming performing it at one of her glossy concerts.
Yuming’s version also one-upped Ishikawa’s 1981 “Machibuse” by peaking at No. 5 on Oricon, one rank higher than Ishikawa. It was included in her 28th album, “Cowgirl Dreamin” released in 1997.
courtesy of Paul Stuart Iddon
of Flickr