Last spring, when I was a contestant on "TV Champion," a TV Tokyo crew filmed a segment on me at home and at karaoke. I figured that would be my one and only appearance on Japanese TV...so was stunned to get a call from the production staff early last month, asking if I was still interested in anime songs.
They explained that they were doing an episode on foreigners for the show "Hi! Hey! Say!"; would I be interested? I said I'd love to do it, but that I was worried because my Japanese-speaking ability is still pretty poor. They assured me it would be fine.
On Feb. 10 staffer N-san interviewed me in Shibuya for more background, and a week later, a camera crew made the trip up to Tatebayashi for a few-hour shoot.
We started at 9am at the house--first in the toy room, where director T-san picked out various items (the Bandai 1/350 Yamato kit, the Fewture 90cm Great Mazinger, the Aoshima die-cast TV version Arcadia, Nomura inflatable punching Baldios, God Mars kiddie ballcap with flip-down sunglasses, and pair of 1/6 Joe Yabuki dolls from Medicom and Hong Kong Comics Festival 2002), had me show them off, and asked a slew of questions about the anime series they're from and what I liked about them. Then we talked about cels and genga, and hauled out a stack and spread them around.
Then it was on to the book room. Much of what's in there is doujinshi--most of which is 'way not for public consumption--so I grabbed one of circle Ryuuseigun's excellent Yamato data books as an example. That turned the topic to Yamato, and the chance to show off "Space Fanzine Yamato" and describe what it was like to be a fan in the U.S. in the early '80s.
After that, we went in a two-van procession (one full of camera equipment) to Tatebayashi Station, where they filmed me walking out of a nearby udon shop and inviting them to my place to show them proof that I'm this town's American who loves heroes of justice (verbatim from the script that director T-san had along--kind of startling to see lines already prepared for you...!).
Then it was on to my karaoke hangout of choice, Karaoke-kan Manekineko Tatebayashi. Having shot there before for the "TV Champion" segment, they received permission pronto and set up the room with three cameras and a boom mike. I took up my customary position, standing at the back wall--and the rest is a blur of fielding everything they threw at me. Someone would name a show from the '70s or '80s and ask if I could sing its theme song; I'd say yes, it would get punched into the karaoke system, and off we'd go!
For "Mazinger Z" I did the Aniki choreography too (four years of Super Robot Spirits concerts have made sketching a big Z in the air second nature...), which prompted more Ichirou Mizuki robot tune requests in "Ore wa Great Mazinger" and "ComBattler V no Theme," with the choreography too...and lemme tell you, there's a world of difference between doing it with 4,000 other people in a crowd all following Aniki, and doing it all by yourself in front of cameras... Oh well, doofy foreigner or not, if you're going to sing a robot song, sing it like you mean it!
The end result aired last Saturday. One of a slew of segments on foreigners doing un-foreigner-rashii things, mine was a couple minutes long, with quick glimpses of the toys and books, a look at U.S. anime fandom 25 years ago through photos of the Yamato cosplay at the '83 Worldcon in Baltimore, a mention of my 400-anime-song repertoire, and snatches of me singing "Mazinger Z" and "ComBattler V no Theme." All in all, thankfully short, and mercifully not as embarrassing as they had the makings for...!
It was a little uncanny that they focused on Mizuki songs, because in the time between the footage being shot and finished segment being aired, I got the thrill of meeting Aniki in person! That'll be coming up next.