Friday, June 3, 2016

GSploitation: THE TIGERS in HANAYAKA NARU SHOUTAI

In the two years since I wrote about the first Tigers film I’ve watched the second Tigers film 『ザ・タイガース 華やかなる招待』(The Tigers Hanayakanaru Shoutai; The Tigers Fabulous Invitation, December 1968; referenced as the title of a Pizzicato Five song apparently!) numerous times and enjoyed it more each time through. For those who don’t remember and don’t want to read the first piece again, the short version is the Tigers are Julie (vocals), Sally (bass), Taro (guitar/band leader), Toppo (lead guitar and sometimes lead vocals), and Pi (pronounced “Pee”, drums). The Tigers were high school friends from Kyoto and were massive music fans, kicking around the dance club scene in Kyoto and nearby Osaka. They were encouraged formed a band by the president of the official Beatles fanclub of Osaka who they met waiting to see a gig. She scoffed at them and said, “Y’all are men, ain’t you? Make your own band.” She later also became president of the Tigers fan club. The Tigers were very young when they got their break in 1967 and in 1968 when 『華やかなる招待』(Fabulous Invitation) was filmed and released, they were all about 21-22 years old.

(L-R: Sally, Pi, Julie, Toppo, Taro)


The first Tigers film, 『世界はボクらを待っている』 (The World is Waiting for us, April 1968) feels like a rush job to cash in on the Tigers’ teen idol popularity because that’s exactly what it was. Understandably reluctant to put the weight of a feature film on the slim, fashionable shoulders of a group of dopey boys from Kyoto, the heavy lifting acting-wise is given to the talented cast of character actors, with the Tigers left to pose and smile pleasantly for the camera. The first Tigers film also feels incredibly old-fashioned, with two feet planted firmly in the pre-A Hard Day’s Night era of teen idol filmmaking. 『世界はボクらを待っている』 (The World is Waiting for us) was like an Elvis movie, in which forcibly goofy stuff happens all around Elvis and he does whatever the director tells him to. 『華やかなる招待』(Fabulous Invitation), on the other hand, is like an episode of the The Monkees, looser, full of riffs and displaying the Tigers’ own charming personalities. The production was just as much of a rush job as the first film but the continued success of the group--and perhaps the demonstrated appeal of The Monkees television show in Japan, which only began airing in Japan towards the very end of 1967--allowed the group more freedom.

『華やかなる招待』opens with a delightful HELP-inspired opening credits sequence set to 「シーシーシー」(C, C, C; The song is an upbeat and nonsensical ditty about puppy love with the title taken from a line referencing the English alphabet, “ABC and ABC and C… C… C… C....” ), in which the boys get up and get ready for the day.

The Tigers are playing lightly fictionalized versions of themselves, high school students who have been dedicating their energies to playing rock music instead of attending classes, much to the chagrin of their parents and teachers. The Tigers are having rehearsal one day when their homeroom teacher, played by the late Nishimura Kou, stumbles up from the pub and begins berating them about their long haircuts. The boys are having none of it and run off, hiding in nearby freight train… that takes off to Tokyo with them in it!

Starving and with no money to their name, the guys try to get an audition with a production company to no avail, although they do treat us to 「君だけに愛を」 (Kimi Dake Ni Ai O, I love only you), a hard stomping rock number showcasing bass-player Sally’s ear for a hook.

Meanwhile their teacher has been sent to Tokyo to look for them and he does find them, although he spends quite a bit of time flirting with the buxom owner of teen club “Boku” (former cheesecake pinup Harukawa Masumi).

But the Tigers have decided that they like Tokyo and there is no way they are heading back to their provincial town. The boys end up hiding out in a super-fancy restaurant where they accidentally order a massive meal and are forced to duck out on the check, making a fool of the adorable pixie-cutted cashier, Kumiko (Kumi Kaori).

With no money and nowhere else to go, the Tigers end up dejectedly sitting around a park where they meet the friendly young art student Mary (singer Koyama Rumi) who invites them back to her apartment to stay. Guess who Mary’s roommate is? Kumiko from the restaurant!! The guys feel incredibly guilty about their dine-and-dash and offer to do some chores around the house to make up for it.

Kumiko is completely won over by their charms and (understandably) promptly develops a huge crush on Julie, writing his name on his cheek in lipstick while he’s sleeping and indulging in a gauzy, pastoral fantasy sequence set to the symphonic 「光ある世界」(Hikari Aru Seikai, A Light-filled World).

Love may be in the air but you can’t eat love. The Tigers still have no money. Kumiko gets them a soul-crushing job working as roadies for a fusty old Ventures-style band called The Shooting Stars.

Kumiko and Mary encourage the Tigers to “borrow” the Shooting Stars instruments to make a recording that they can shop around to some producers. The gang wires up an old barn and plays us 「リラの祭り」 (Flower Festival), which dissolves into a fantasy sequence featuring a colorful faux European village fete.

But the barn can’t handle the tunes and the electricity blows, starting a fire. The Tigers, who’d been separated from Kumiko and Mary while making an escape, are mistaken for a different group of 5 guys skulking around outside in the dark and picked up by the police and hauled off to jail where they meet the local 番長 or gang leader, played by the adorably goofy Ken Sanders, a young “ハーフ” actor whose father was an African American soldier stationed in Japan during the war.

The Tigers are scared of the gang leader at first but they soon come to like him. “It’s not so bad in here,” he says. “You get 3 square meals and can nap all you want.” It’s a convincing argument but the Tigers want to be musicians and they have no instruments in jail. “You can play without instruments,” says the gang leader. “Here let me show you.” He draws a trumpet on the wall of the cell and begins to play it. As the gang leader mimes blowing the horn, we hear a jazzy trumpet riff. The Tigers’ eyes light up and they draw their own instruments on the walls and floor and begin to play:「ジンジン・バンバン」, Jin Jin Ban Ban, a foot-stomping garage rock tune. The scene switches to a “Jailhouse Rock” inspired studio set and the Tigers, Ken, and some backup dancers do a groovy jailhouse rock themed dance.

The Tigers are bailed out by Julie’s family’s maid Hana (much beloved character actress Nomura Akiko), who also sets the boys up in a swanky apartment with brand new instruments.

Meanwhile Kumiko, unaware of all of this, had sent the recording she’d made off to a production company who want to sign the band immediately to make a debut--but she doesn’t know where they are! She races off to look for them while Julie wanders around looking for her. This is all set to 「廃墟の鳩」(Haikyo no Hato; The dove in the ruins), a mournful ballad sung by Toppo.

Kumiko is hit by a car trying to cross the road to tell the Tigers the good news about their debut.

Still unaware of Kumiko’s situation, the Tigers find their way back to the production company where the president plays them this hot new tape he’d gotten… it’s Kumiko’s recording! The Tigers are going to make their big debut… but where’s Kumiko? She’s in the hospital in need of surgery but where is she going to get the money?

Everything ends up boiling down to one big decision: Do the Tigers waste Kumiko’s sacrifice by missing their debut, selling their brand new instruments to pay for her surgery? Or do they make their debut like she wanted but leave her to suffer?

Obviously they sell the instruments.

Kumiko makes it through surgery and her first words are, “How did your performance go? I wish I could have seen it.”

They don’t have the heart to tell her they were fired.

Instead the Tigers use the power of imagination and play Kumiko a mini-concert on hospital grounds using bits of junk. The song they play is 「青い鳥」 (Aoi Tori, Bluebird) a bittersweet ballad about loss, written by the Tigers’ own Morimoto Taro. (Taro himself performs a memorable version of the song at the Tigers final concert in 1971, choking back tears at the line 行かないで or “don’t leave”.)

As the Tigers play, the homeroom teacher’s lady friend from the teen club arrives with… their instruments! The parents, Hana, the production company president... all the adults arrive to watch as they continue the concert using real instruments. The debut is back on! The parents are happy! Everybody is happy!

The film ends with a montage of the Tigers performing hit songs at real concerts.

『華やかなる招待』(Fabulous Invitation) is a delightful film and unexpectedly poignant. The film captures the Tigers at the very height of their youthful fame, just before Toppo grew frustrated with the teen idol garbage and quit, before Pi grew tired of the oppressive fame and quit, before Julie’s ego went supernova. The relaxed pacing of the film allows us to see just why the Tigers became such popular personalities: they were incredibly charismatic young men. With their goofy jokes and earnest smiles, it’s impossible not to like them.

And it’s not just the structure of the film itself. Musically, 『華やかなる招待』(Fabulous Invitation) is world’s apart from the light bubblegum of 『世界はボクらを待っている』 (The World is Waiting for us). These songs were taken from the Tigers’ second album 『ヒューマン・ルネッサンス』 (Human Renascence [sic]), which has a thoughtful, folk rock feel that was hugely influenced by Toppo and Taro, both of whom contributed songs. Instead of a peppy early British Invasion Dave Clark Five-ish vibe, 『ヒューマン・ルネッサンス』 (Human Renascence [sic]) bears the influence of acts like the Kinks and the Byrds.

It’s only a small part of the film but the image of the Tigers in jail playing music without instruments is a powerful one, an important reminder that art doesn’t need fancy equipment or expensive training. You can make music with what you have. It’s a wonderful message. Just eating and sleeping isn’t enough--make music!

(Note that these lovely ladies are reading a magazine with Julie on the cover.)

Throughout the film is an optimism, a feeling of possibility. The past is past. It’s time to face the future. Viva, the Tigers!

4 comments:

Danny Yatim said...

I googled "The Tigers" and I'm glad to find someone writing about them, besides Wikipedia. I was a young boy in the 1960s when my father came home from a business trip to Japan, and he gave me an album by this Japanese band: The World is Waiting for Us. I didnt understand Japanese obviously, but I loved their songs and in particular I like Romance in the Milky Way. I always sang it using my own version of Japanese (as I heard it ha ha) and imagined that the singer fell in love with an alien from outer space. The Tigers then became known in Indonesia a few years after that when they release their single "Smile for Me". Is there any website where I can find the lyrics of Romance in the Milky Way? Please let me know, if you know of one. I would be very grateful. Thanks.

Filmi Girl said...

Danny, your comment made my day!! I'm so happy you found my review. I forget how I came across the Tigers but I absolutely fell in love with them a couple of years ago.

As far as I know, there aren't any English translations of the lyrics anywhere but if you can read Japanese they're here: http://j-lyric.net/artist/a00174b/l001a90.html

The gist is something like: "A white ship floats in the milky way, it's dream I've visited with you. Shoobie, My love." And goes on from there. A lot of floating and water imagery because the word for "milky way" translates to something like "River of Silver".

Space Phantom said...

Hi, I know this is an old article but do you know where I could buy Hanayakanaru Shoutai (The Tigers Fabulous Invitation)? I'm a huge Tigers fan and its rather hard to find any of their stuff here in America. I don't mind whether or not the DVD has subtitles, I'm just dying to see this movie, especially after reading the awesome review you wrote for it. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Filmi Girl said...

Hi Space Phantom and welcome!!! I am so happy to get your comment!!

You have a couple of choices, none of which is going to involve subtitles I'm sorry to say.

If you don't mind bootlegs, The Video Beat (http://www.thevideobeat.com) has a couple of Tigers movies INCLUDING the final concert which I highly recommend. He also has a ton of old Group Sounds movies.

There's CDJapan: http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/product/TDV-17296D

And Amazon.co.jp: https://www.amazon.co.jp/ザ-タイガース-華やかなる招待-東宝DVDシネマファンクラブ/dp/B00DN21YAM/

They are a little pricy and the discs are Region 2. I was lucky enough to get all the Tigers films when they released them for the 50th anniversary in special $20 versions. But you can get Hi London from the bootleg guy, at least.

Let me know if you need any more help!

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl