Macross Frontier Star Megumi Nakajima’s New Album and the Importance of a Theme Song
In June, Megumi Nakajima will release her first album called I Love You. The album features twelve love songs for the twelve months of the year including a song composed by Nakajima herself called “Call Me.” While it’s the first work Nakajima has recorded under her own name, it’s hardly her first album.
Nakajima is better known to fans of a Japanese anime series Macross Frontier as the “Super Dimensional Cinderella” Ranka Lee. In the series, Ranka follows her dream of becoming a pop idol eventually usurping the wildly successful songstress Sheryl Nome (played by real life Japanese idol May’N); a story not so different from Nakajima’s own. Nakajima entered the Victor Vocal & Voice Audition in 2007 where she won her Macross Frontier role and started down a path of of musical success culminating her new album next month.
You may think the idea of landing a singing career by being on a cartoon sounds like a rare occurrence. It’s not…at least not in Japan.
If there is one marketing vehicle for music that Japan makes better use of than we here in the U.S., it’s the theme song. For decades, it has been commonplace for Japanese bands to promote singles or even full albums by lending one of their news songs to a flashy Japanese Anime opening or ending.
In the Bleach anime alone there have been 12 opening themes and 23 ending themes from artists including Asian Kung-Fu Generation, Orange Range, High and Mighty Color, Chatmonchy, Porno Graffiti and many, many more.
Yet when it comes to the magical combination of Anime and J-Pop, perhaps no series does it better than Macross. Since the release of the original Macross series Super Dimensional Fortress Macross in 1982, the franchise has seen two additional TV series, four movies and six OVAs (original video animation). In every single form of Macross, music performed by one of the lead protagonists is a central plot point. This began in the original series when it was discovered that not only could pop idol Lynn Minmay’s music confuse alien invaders bent on destroying the Earth, it could actually reform them by exposing them to “culture.”[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GP2hzhnhyvk&feature=related] Mari Iijima performing “Do You Remember Love?” the title them from 1984’s Macross: Do You Remember Love?
Minmay’s voice actress (seiyuu in Japanese) Mari Iijima also began the incidental tradition of rocketing to musical stardom after appearing in Macross. Iijima went on to record 21 albums after as a solo artist with more on the way. Her first full album free from the tethers of her Macross character, Rose, was even produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto of Yellow Magic Orchestra.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga_aTC1MCY0] Macross 7 opening theme “Seventh Moon” featuring Yoshiyuk Fukuyama.
But Iijima is just one of several musicians to take off from the launch pad of this giant robot anime and land in musical success. 1994’s Macross 7 spawned several albums by the fictional band Fire Bomber including 2009’s RE.FIRE 15 years after the show’s debut. Best known for his work with the band, Lead singer and guitarist Yoshiyuki Fukuyama is still recording music both as a solo artist and a member of the group JAM Project.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9EvHlu0ELs] A segment from Sharon Apple’s concert in Macross Plus featuring music composed by Yoko Kanno.
Critically-acclaimed composer Yoko Kanno had a hand to play in Macross’ musical history as well though she started her career composing music for commercials. Kanno wrote the soundtrack for Macross Plus, an OVA released in 1994. Since then she’s composed and performed for countless TV shows, video game soundtracks and anime series (Kanno is arguably best known in America for her work on Cowboy Bebop) including Macross Frontier.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qWnDqeXMhA&feature=related] Macross Frontier opening theme “Lion” featuring Megumi Nakajima as Ranka Lee and May’n as Sheryl Nome.
If history does indeed repeat itself there may be one hell of a career in store for Ms. Nakajima. For now, we’ve got one month to wait and see.