11 February 2013

Kohaku Uta Gassen 2012 review

Finally I have reached one of the three New Year's programs I will be reviewing. So things should be wrapped up for this project near the end of the month.

Kohaku Uta Gassen is an annual program that is aired live on New Year's Eve. It puts two teams, a white (male) and a red (female) against each other with each side competing via the performances they put on. It airs on NHK and take place at NHK Hall, which for those familiar with Shounen Club is indeed the same venue. 2012 was the 63rd year of the program.

The host for the red team is Horikita Maki and for the white team the group Arashi. This will be the third time Arashi as a group has hosted the program for the white team.

The first act of the program is Hamasaki Ayumi, which is in par with the usual scheduling for the acts. This is because Ayu does her own New Year's Countdown concert so she basically performs on Kohaku then races over to the venue that her concert will be held at to get ready for that. Though I really wish she would take a break as she sounded bad here, her voice just sounds so weak and strained and I know she can do much better.

When they introduce the first act for the white team they have Kanjani8 out to do some MCing with Arashi. K8 bring up the fact that when it comes to Kohaku NYC is their senpai.

For the first act of the white team we have NYC. I do honestly think NYC needs to be replaced by another Johnny's group as they are hitting the point where they are adopting a more mature image which goes against having them on Kohaku to be one of the "young" groups to bring in younger viewers. But we shall see how long Johnny's can keep the trio on the program to sing Yuuki 100%.

That aside it is a decent medley that they do, but of course they end things with Yuuki 100% as the group cannot seem to get away from that song. What I do like from the performance is that they play with the stage graphics to do this effect that makes is look like they have limitless Juniors on stage even though it is really only a couple of rows of them and everything behind them is a delayed relay of themselves to give the illusion that it could actually be someone else. I know there is a better way to describe this but I just cannot think of it now, but have another screen cap to give a bit of a better view of what I mean.

While I only like a couple of songs from the group AAA, I think it is worth pointing them out as they one of the groups that has both male and female members but are placed on one of the teams, which in their case is the white team. Typically with these mixed gender groups it is determined by the gender of the lead singer but it seems that for AAA it was decided more because there are more male members as their lead vocals are one of the male and one of the female members IIRC.

Nakashima Mika follows them up, which gives a rather big shift in energy as AAA's song was full of energy and Nakashima sings a ballad. I do rather like her effects for her performance, while nothing fancy they seem like the perfect compliment to a soft ballad. I do wish her voice was better but I have heard her sound worse.

The first hour of the program tends to try to have some programming specifically for children to enjoy. This year the special performance for them is a special medley with Arashi, AKB48, Kanjani8, Perfume and Disney mascot characters.

I must give credit to whoever decided to pair K8 up with Goofy, as they seemed like such a natural fit.

When HY is up to perform they bring out the main actors of the drama the group does the theme song for, Jun to Ai. The lead male actor is Kazama Shunsuke from Johnny's and Matsumoto Jun ribs him about his clothes (which are for his drama character) not looking like something Johnny's would typically wear

While enka is rarely ever seen on the usual music programs it is a regular feature on Kohaku. Their performances tend to be the most memorable as they go for some impressive stage effects. But I guess if you are not going to appear on national television more than once a year making it count makes sense.

Honestly I was surprised that Koda Kumi did not do one of her ballads for her performance. But I am glad she did not as Kohaku does tend to be ballad heavy so it is nice to have acts like her break that up with something more lively. Though I do wonder if the more conservative viewers of the program were offended that she showed so much skin.

Of course Nishino Kana not singing a ballad surprised me even more as I thought they were what made her popular. But I will not complain as it was a nice change of pace and Go For It!! is a great song to make you feel energized.

Ayaka sounded great like she has for all these programs. And it is very fitting for her to be back on Kohaku seeing as this is where she performed last before going on hiatus for medical reasons.

This year was Kanjani8's first year appearing on Kohaku and it pretty much was one of the final events for their celebration of their 8th anniversary. They of course did a medley and kept it upbeat.

Overall the performance is such a fun one to watch because you can tell the guys are just really enjoying themselves and having a blast performing.

Next up for the white team is TOKIO. I know there are plenty of fans that wonder why they get to be one of the few Johnny's groups that keep getting invited to Kohaku and I think it is because one of the groups first performances was at Kohaku when they debuted so they are tied with the program with that. I think as long as TOKIO stays together as a group they will be on Kohaku for that reason.

Perfume are up next and watching them perform Spring of Life makes me think that all their earlier performances of the song were merely rehearsals for this performance. The girls were spot on like usual but with all the extra graphics and special effects really make this performance stand out compared to the rest.

AKB48 finally takes the stage. To bring something new to their performance this year they go with a quick change for the songs. It is a bit of a pity as they go from cool outfits for UZA...

... to typical idol fare for Gingham Check.

Then for Manatsu no Sounds Good we get a strange mix with a part of the Gingham Check skirt remaining to clash with bright colors that were under the skirts.

And of course what is an AKB48 Kohaku performance without them spelling out something at the end?

Following them is Go Hiromi, ex-Johnny's, and looking/sounding good for someone well in his 50s. I can see why Johnny Kitagawa thought him to be the perfect idol.

When we get to about the time for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu to perform Nakai Masahiro has taken over MC duties for Arashi and we meet Gorii Pamyu Pamyu (Katori Shingo). After some talk he mentions that he does not want to leave the stage because of how much time it took to put all the make up on, so he stays onstage to the side for Kyary's performance.

Kyary definitely found an outfit to fit the title of the first song that she performs, Fashion Monster.

When she moves onto the next song she gets it pulled off to reveal another outfit hidden underneath. So at least it had a practical purpose.

Arashi return to the stage but as performers for another special segment. Each member highlights a member of society that is considered outstanding in some way then perform a song called Furusato.

Even though they have already performed K8 return to be supporters of another Osakan singer for her performance. TOKIO also are there as they have always appeared to back dance for another act on Kohaku so this year of course is no different. Throughout the night there have been enka acts that have had some of the idols come out to support them like this, which I am assuming is a way to try to get younger people to watch them as enka is largely seen as something for old people from what I have gathered.

Eventually it is time for Arashi to take the stage for their performance as white team members. They of course do a medley which starts off not looking too far out of the norm for a performance from them.

For their final song they use a technology called Augmented Reality (AR), that places something digital into a real environment. So the digital effects seen would not just be on the TV screen but there on the stage with them. This is a good article to explain what AR is and can do.

Wada Akiko's performance was charged with emotion as it paid tribute to the Japanese celebrities that passed away in 2012.

We then move on and have MISIA's performance live from Nambia in Africa. It is a gorgeous location and is a fitting location to showcase a beautiful voice and a lovely song.

Unlike other performances I really did not feel like EXILE brought anything outstanding to their performance of Rising Sun. The rest of the artists that have done something to really make their Kohaku performance of the songs they had been singing everywhere else still stand out but there really was not that with EXILE. It really seemed like a performance they could have done on any other music program.

SMAP are the ootori for the white team, which basically means they are the final act for the team. This has been a position the have done before and do well at with making sure the program ends strongly. And you can tell that they make sure to bring their best for this performance as Nakai seems to be the most in tune he can be for it.

With the final performance done it is time to vote. The voting is done live and to give time for everyone to vote, as there are various ways viewers at home can vote for which team they want to win they go through the performances of the night to give time for that as well to calculate the numbers to be presented live.

Then it is time to announce the winner of the program for 2012. With the results in it is the white team as the winners of the 2012 Kohaku.

As the winners the hosts of the white team are given the flag for the program that has the banners of all the past winners on it. And as tradition the Tokyo Tower is lit up in the color of the winning team.

Being the traditional year end music program Kohaku leans towards the more conservative side of things. So the general atmosphere is more sedate than other special music programs and acts that may typically have been more unconventional will tone down to be a better fit for the program. That said it is also the program that artists tend to go the extra mile when it comes to bringing out a more memorable performance, or at least one that will stand out from the rest. This could definitely be seen when comparing the performances of the artists that were on most of the other music programs and performing the same song(s) but bringing things up a level for Kohaku.

But unless you are really interested in watching the show to see a greater range of artists from Japan you would be better off hunting down clips of the acts you are interested in. This is one of the longer programs as it clocks in around four and a half hours, so you also need to make sure you have a good amount of free time to watch the full things as well.

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