Monday, November 02, 2015

The Nostalgia Series - Old drama theme songs: "Hitoribocchi no Haburashi" by Sakuraba Yuichiro

2001 must be an unforgettable year for fans of TOKIO and especially Nagase Tomoya. In that year alone, many memorable milestones were achieved. For TOKIO, they switched record companies from Sony Music to Universal Music and got the Oricon No.1 singles' ranking for the first time in 7 years since their CD debut. This was especially significant because they are the only band in Johnny's Jimusho and had long been labelled as "not as profitable" in the music arena as compared to their seniors like SMAP or juniors like V6, KinKi Kids or even Arashi which was still pretty new at that time. At least to me, I didn't think that their music was that bad compared to the other groups but I do think that they were not the usual type of Johnny's music and probably not so attractive in the commercial sense. In addition, it felt as if that Sony Music had pretty much given up on them because promotional efforts to promote the band seemed rather half-hearted as if they wanted to cut losses. I can understand that resources would be given to more profitable artistes but still as a fan, you would want to see more attention given to your idol. The turning point came when they signed on to Universal Music which I thought was a great move. The four singles released within 2001 turned out to do much better than the older releases and the quality of the CDs and premium items included obviously were designed with greater thought put into them. And of course, besides success in the music arena, Nagase's high-profile relationship with Hamasaki Ayumi was also exposed in the same year thus creating a lot of attention on him and TOKIO as a result. To be perfectly honest, I cannot say that the Oricon No.1 single title was entirely attributed to the song "Message" because the popularity of the coupling song "Hitoribocchi no Haburashi" by Sakura Yuichiro, the screen persona of Nagase in the drama "Mukodono" did help to boost sales to a large extent.

"Mukodono" wasn't really that novel in terms of its plot where a man marries into his wife's family but the twist of making this man a superstar with a totally different character from his screen persona was probably what made the drama and interesting popular in the end. To a certain extent, Sakuraba Yuichiro is somewhat similar to Nagase where there is a gap between their cool screen persona and how they behave off-camera. As such, it seemed like this role was specially tailored for Nagase and he was rather at ease with this character. His interaction with Takeuchi Yuko was so good that it made the sequel two years later with Sakai Noriko pale in comparison. Of course, the sequel was also weak in other ways so it's not entirely to do with who his female lead was. With a strong and eye-catching supporting cast made up of Arashi's Aiba Masaki, Shinohara Ryoko, Suzuki Anju, Nomura Hironobu, Tsunku, Danta Yasunori, Akiyoshi Kumiko, Usui Ken and the very young Kamiki Ryunosuke, the drama did relatively well with an average of 15.3% which would be an achievement by today's standards.

As Sakuraba Yuichiro was an orphan in the story and aspired to have a family, the song "Hitoribocchi no Haburashi" (A toothbrush on its own) resonates with his loneliness after he misses the chance to tell someone he loves about his feelings. It uses the analogy of a single toothbrush in the bathroom to illustrate his loneliness and depicts his wish to see two toothbrushes side by side again in time to come.

If you are interested to hear this song, please view the PV here.

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