Recently, my body has taken flight more often than I’d usually allow. I guess it comes with my self-affirmation to the wonders of Jpop recently. I’ve always enjoyed my time in Japanese popular music, but only now do I really –love it’. The sad thing is I can feel a bias breathing down my neck every time I write on the subject. However, I’m always proud to commit a line of thought which goes a little like this –To truly love something, you must first understand and accept its flaws’. Now, if I had a little more time on my hands (I have an appointment with my local pub very soon) and if I was a little more creative with my wording, I’m sure it would read a lot more romantically. But for now, that poorly constructed sentence of what-not will have to do. As long as you get the point I think we’ll be ok.
A week of self-observation has informed me of my fondness and appreciation for the art of dance. Sometimes the body wants to move, and more recently I’ve not been afraid to let it. Dancing in public is of course ill advised, I’d rather not be beaten up if we’re being honest. But I’ll give my body a good work out if the time is right, though it’s become increasingly difficult to find the –right time’ as every situation deserves a dance or –get down’ as I like to call it. I usually find the best chances to unleash my moves are when the sun goes down. When I exit from my café it can sometimes be as late as 7pm. By this time the streets of Northampton’s city centre are pretty bare which is inviting for me. It’s as if I’ve got the place to myself, and whilst I have something or other pumping through my headphones, I’m not afraid to jump onto this and that, dancing my way up and around telephone booths, lampposts, seating areas; you name it, I’ve probably danced with it. I know I know, it all sounds incredibly silly and dare I say camp? But it’s truly fun, wonderful even. One thing I take fondly from Jpop is its sense of –good will’, being able to uplift with a certain craftsmanship any other industry would struggle with. I’m not here to debate with you the quality of individual artists or their music, instead stating how well Jpop is (in general) at delivering the goods.
Whilst I’ve been dancing away in my student house with moves that are quite frankly scary and bizarre, sometimes not in a good way, I’ve come to realise the fate of one man. This is a man who took dancing by the throat, spat at it, realised how good it can be and hell, joined in on the fun to show us how it should be done. I’m talking about Taka-san of Utaban fame. Never have I applauded a man with so much passion or feeling, and sometimes disgust. I happily endorse his philosophy on dance.
Taka-san, my Idol
There are many moments I could and should pick out but we could be here for quite some time. All I can say at this point is; whatever reminds you of our man in full motion, I want you to stick with it and be happy. For me, I have one very vivid memory in mind.
I’m thinking of the Utaban Love episode. This included the then H!P shuffle units at the time, so we’re talking about the terror of all the –Nin Matsuri’ groups. When Taka-san was handed the controls to the –Champloo mix’ segment, you knew there were laughs to be had. I was never surprised at Ishibashi-kun’s actions; in fact I thought he restricted himself quite well. I mean, we’ve seen this guy do things where we’ve all thought “Just when he couldn’t get any crazier with famous people”. What I was most impressed with, as I always have been, is his dancing skills. Now, how he’s able to get his body in positions that just don’t seem possible for a man of his stature has always amazed me in one way or another. He obviously can’t dance and he knows it, but there’s always a tireless effort from him. Even when he tries to –act’ as if he really doesn’t care, or he suddenly realises how stupid he’s going to inevitably look and feel, when he’s called to the floor to dance he’s always enjoying himself.
Anyway, back to the Utaban episode and as always, Taka-san is a mighty bastard with his handling of the control deck. His job here is to mix up and randomise, in a fashion, the playing of H!P songs. Whatever track is put on, the members from the group in question must hurry out and dance for a period of time until the next song is up. Of course with the Utaban duo it’s never as simple as that. Taka-san begins to omit two of the shuffle units out of the equation. Following a running theme in the episode, 3 Nin Matsuri are chosen as Ishibashi-kun’s favourites. The first few plays represent this beautifully; they’re all –Chu! Natsu Party’. At first everything is standard fare. On Chu! Natsu Party’s second play however, the delights of Taka-san’s dancing career with H!P starts to take over. The camera sees 3 Nin Matsuri take the stage once again, as Ayaya looks to the left of our screen something is amiss. Give it a second or two and everything is explained, well, put into contextâ€¦of a sort. Watching our man unleash his own version of the song is awe-inspiring.
The whole situation is fundamentally ridiculous, a middle aged man placing himself with a host of Idols in this way, it’s more than unusual. However, this sort of thing is great to see on many levels of enjoyment. Not only does it represent the close and comfortable relationship H!P and Utaban undoubtedly had, it also helps to institutionalise a belief that being in the Jpop industry can and should be fun.
With the people Utaban get on with, there’s a sense that the proper way or appropriate –decorum’ a host should show to his or her guest is simply seen as void. There’s certainly a less formal appeal to it all. We not only see the hosts as real people, but also their guests. It breaks whatever fantasy or expectation we may have had on an Idol and grounds them and us into a more realistic approach on how we should view Idolism. Of course the fantasy still exists for us, if not for them, its half of the appeal right? it’s one reason why we hold them in such high regard. However, Utaban’s tactics allow their guests to feel a little more at home, even if it means scaring the shit out of them. Taka-san and Nakai-kun treat H!P as people, thats the fundimental factor. The return on this is clear for all to see. It may seem rude of our hosts but it really isn’t. I think it’s a higher level of respect than most shows would care to deliver.
Hosts who can’t cross that line, who can only ever gage their guests through impersonal, formal exchanges are not true hosts in my eyes. It’s the ones who can form friendships, or at the very least, closer bonds with their guests, these are the people doing their jobs right. It certainly feels less false or fictional when both our hosts are willing to point out and critise something that may seem a little off or stupid. These would usually be details dismissed by others. We therefore Trust Ishibashi-kun’s and Nakai-kun’s insight and judgement. Without going to far into it, as this is more about Taka-san’s dancing (and mine lol), lets just say it makes for a better show. At the end of the day any chance to see our Idols as people is surely a healthy thing for them and us.
Well, as the segment progresses Taka-san finally decides to include the other members of H!P. Truthfully, it takes the hindsight of Nakai-kun to take control of the situation. Although it should be noted, Nakai-kun detoured from his duty for a short while, getting himself involved with all the 3 Nin Matsuri action also. Just when you think our dancing guru has had enough –Summer Reggae! Rainbow’ gets its second play. Our hero begins to the floor and to this day, I’m still stunned by the syle of Taka-san’s moves. There’s so much emotion in his body, yet so little talent. The songs keep coming and Taka-san just keeps getting better and better. He’d certainly make an interesting alternative if he ever decided to become an Idol.
The Ishibashi-kun philosophy
When I’m dancing in my kitchen, waiting for my food to cook in the microwave, I can see how ridiculous I look in the window. But I really don’t care, I don’t take it seriously and it really is just a bit of fun. I hope I’m doing Taka-san proud because it’s not about how well you can dance, it’s about how much fun you’re having. I think if he had a philosophy on the subject it would go a little like that. Although I’m sure if I called him a bad dancer he’d never speak to me again.