Sunday, May 18, 2008

Remain Calm: Tokyo Is Experiencing a Burst of Puffy-Mania!

What can cheer you up on a chilly, rainy May day in Tokyo, when your feet are wet and you have a cold? Spotting something like this in the Ikebukuro station:

It's a Sony ad campaign starring the unstoppable J-Pop/Rock duo Puffy (better known in the U.S. as Puffy AmiYumi). It's for a new line of Puffy-approved Walkman music players, perfect for listening to their new album:

Remember when the Walkman was a cassette player you clipped to your belt? Now it's a tiny little thing you can hold in the palm of your hand. Here's Ami:

And here's Yumi:

These were (as you can see) hanging from the rafters in Ikebukuro, but there were even larger versions at eye-level on the walls of Shibuya Station. I... er... forgot to take photos of them. But I did take a shot of this in Shibuya:

It's Yumi and Ami again, this time with tiny leafy stems sprouting from their heads as they drink Kagome vegetable juice. It's healthy stuff!

You know I'm a huge fan of avant garde sounds like Boredoms, OOIOO and Melt-Banana and the straight up rock of groups like Go!Go!7188 and Electric Eel Shock. More punk and noise than pop. Puffy have a more rock-based sound than most bigtime acts here, and their songs tend to be tasty and hook-laden, imminently listenable in the way only the best pop confections can be, from the Beach Boys, the Beatles, early Jackson 5, ABBA, Kristy MacColl, the GoGo's... There's just something joyful about a good guitar-based pop/rock (or, if you prefer, rock/pop) song.

All that aside, how exactly did a hardboiled noise-loving person like myself become a Puffy fan? Easy.

On a 6 month sabbatical while waiting for my new job to come through, I started watching the Hi Hi PuffyAmiYumi cartoon stateside. It didn't take long for me to hip to the fact that the live action bumpers starring Puffy themselves were infinitely more colorful, entertaining and energetic than the cartoon portions (cute designs and outstanding voice acting let down by weak scripts) of the show!

Ami and Yumi have an undeniable charisma. Whether mock-arguing over which is better, Tokyo or Osaka, giving karaoke instructions (it's ka-ra-oh-kay, not "carryoki") or dining on giant bowls of ramen with outrageous toppings, they were funnier, brighter and more charming than anything else on Cartoon Network or most American TV at the time, and were constantly reminding me of just how much I'd enjoyed the previous year and a half in Japan, and how much I was looking forward to returning.

And their songs are just so catchy!

The new CD single, "All Because of You," hits stores in Japan this week, and Ami herself recently started an official MySpace page to communicate directly with the fans. Puffy-madness is spreading nationwide... The song is in the air already and Ami and Yumi are popping up on TV. This is a good time to be a Puffy fan.

Okay, now you know a little bit about Puffy. The rest is up to you!


Anonymous said...

Nice post!
& I always thought it was pronounced ka-ra-oh-keh.
Thanks for clearing that up.

Joel Bryan said...

You're welcome, and thank you for the comment. And you're right- "ka-ra-oh-keh" is another good way to write karaoke phonetically.