20 highlights from 66th Kohaku Uta Gassen

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From anime to Disney, to Star Wars and Vocaloid, this year was a definitely a year of surprises… not only for viewers but also the performers, as proven in one medley.

1. Sekai no Owari

Sekai no Owari’s Saori introduces the band’s chosen song for the night, “Present,” with a touching backstory about how the song was written with the difficulties of life in mind back when she was in middle school, leading into a beautiful performance with the whole band and a choir.

2. Anime Kohaku

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Anime Kohaku started out well with a cover of Sailor Moon’s “Moonlight Densetsu” by AKB48 cosplaying as Sailor Moon, Sailor Venus, Sailor Jupiter, Sailor Mars, and Sailor Mercury. Following, Golden Bomber sang the original Pokemon opening “Mezase Pokemon Master” with Pikachu and other guest Pokemon on stage. TOKIO continued with “Tobe! Gundam” from Mobile Suit Gundam, Sayuri Ishikawa and miwa with “Zankoku na Tenshi no Teze” from Evangelion, and E-Girls and Sakurako Ohara with “Odoru Ponpokorin” from Chibi Maruko-chan.

Then King Cream Soda and Yo-Kai performed “Geragerapo no Uta” from Yo-Kai Watch with what definitely looked like majority of all the performers from this section on stage, along with a couple of yokai. Everyone finished with “Tetsuwan Atom” from Astro Boy, with V6 at the center. I can definitely see the reasons for each of these song selections. However, other than the initial Sailor Moon segment, the other sections were perhaps cut a little too short? Much of the time, it was merely the chorus, not even the bridge or a lead in. This was especially jolting for me for “Mezase Pokemon Master,” as I actually grew up listening to that opening. They did the same with the Gundam and Evangelion songs, too. By cutting each song so short, it felt as if they were rushing through the program and trying to get it over with ASAP. Quite awkward, to be honest.

3. Love Live

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Though not part of the actual anime segment, Love Live performed “Sore wa Bokutachi no Kiseki” with a new animated introduction as a lead-in.

4. AAA

AAA definitely chose a good song with the catchy pop ballad, “Koi Oto to Amazora.” It showcased everyone’s talents and worked perfect with their choreography and the aurora lights in the background.

5. Kanjani8

Kanjani8 turned the stage into almost a festival of sorts with their colorful summer-like attire and enthusiastic singing on “Maemuki Scream.” There was certainly a crowd celebrating and having fun on stage, that’s for sure.

6. Sandaime J Soul Brothers

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Sandaime J Soul Brothers proved their roots with amazing dance and vocal skills on “Summer Madness,” as expected of a group created by EXILE leader Hiro. With the perfect blend of pop and EDM, and great choreography, it’s no wonder this song has won awards and stayed at the top of the Oricon charts for 4 weeks upon its initial release.

7. Ikimonogakari

Ikimonogakari returned with an encore of their song “Arigatou,” as a dedication to Shigeru Mizuki, who recently passed November 2015. This song was originally released five years ago as the opening song for morning drama Gegege no Nyoubou, an adaptation of the autobiography written by Mizuki’s wife about their struggles before his success.

8. Disney

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Although not part of the competition, it was a pleasant surprise to see Disney’s Mickey Mouse on stage! Mickey decided to show up with his band of friends for one of the half-time specials: a performance of Disney’s classic “Wish Upon a Star” by Yoshihiko Inohara, Haruka Ayase, V6, and Perfume.

9. Darth Vader

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And then later, Darth Vader shows up! What!? No seriously, Darth Vader walked through the crowds to the stage and then exits stage left. R2D2, C3PO, and BB8 follow behind, though these three do stick around for the next segment, revealed to be….Arashi as a Jedi, wielding lightsabers and entering the stage to a remix of the Star Wars theme song. They continued with an engaging performance of “Sakura” and “Ai wo Sakebe,” as expected of the best selling artist in Japan, and second highest selling boyband in Asia.

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10. AKB48

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AKB48 integrates a magic trick into their performance this year, making everyone appear out of nowhere in a giant spinning box. They gave a great medley performance with the famous track “Aitakatta,” followed by “Flying Get,” during which surprise! Former member Atsuko Maeda joins in on the fun, moving lead Minami Takahashi to tears of happiness. Then, former member Yuko Oshima joins in on the fun with a surprise appearance as she starts off the third song, “Heavy Rotation.” Finishing off with “Koisuru Fortune Cookie,” you could tell these girls were definitely having fun.

11. EXILE

Performing two songs this year, “24karats Gold Soul” and “Rising Sun,” EXILE wowed the crowds with their brilliant dancing like every year.

12. Superfly

The focus was definitely on Shiho Ochi and her powerful solo vocals on Superfly’s “Beautiful.” Definitely one of the best performances of the night showcasing her overwhelming talent. The audience certainly received it positively.

13. Golden Bomber

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Golden Bomber promised a very entertaining comedy skit in addition to their return performance of “Memeshikute” that the crowd loved.

14. Nishino Kana

Since her rise to popularity 5-6 years ago, Nishino Kana has consistently performed to great standards, managing to hit the top charts repeatedly and receiving multiple awards for her work. She returns this year with another lovely performance of “Torisetsu.”

15. Bump of Chicken

Unfortunately the channel was unable to obtain the rights to broadcast the footage of BUMP OF CHICKEN’s segment, which is not surprising as they’ve turned down multiple invites to perform at Kohaku Uta Gassen in past years, resulting in this year being their very first appearance. However, audio-wise, this band is still performing just as great as ever. Do check out their song “ray” if you have time.

16. Sachiko Kobayashi’s Vocaloid cover

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In another unexpected performance, famous enka singer Sachiko Kobayashi sings a cover of popular Vocaloid song “Senbonzakura” in a beautiful and elaborate dress. Sachiko Kobayashi also provides the voice bank for vocaloid Sachiko for the VOCALOID4 engine, recently released July 2015.

17. X Japan

X Japan returns this year with the famous ballad “Forever Love,” which was just as touching heart-jerking as ever, and rock song “Born to be Free.” Even if you don’t normally enjoy rock, you might want to give this one a chance.

18. Miki Imai

Miki Imai gives gorgeous performance on “Piece of My Wish” with beautiful vocals on the ballad.

19. SMAP

Is it even possible for SMAP to not give a perfect performance anymore? Rounding out the night with the last medley, they performed “Triangle” and “Other side.”Best highlight of the night:

20. Red Team

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Best highlight of the night: Red Team won. (Last win was 2011)

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Keira Truong
Keira Truong 143 posts

A Los Angeles based writer, she has been a long time fan of anime and manga, film, and music.