Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Summer Secret (1982)

As we here in the Northern Hemisphere prepare for the approaching sunny summer months (well, some of us, at least; it hailed earlier today in San Francisco), I truly believe that nothing channels the spirit of the season quite like — brace yourself — a teen-themed suspense thriller! Remember I Know What You Did Last Summer? Yeah, I never watched it either. But I'm guessing the movie I'm about to describe isn't nearly as gory, nor are its teenage characters played by 20-somethings.

The 1982 film Natsu No Himitsu (夏の秘密, "Summer Secret"), adapted from prolific mystery writer Kyūzō Kobayashi's (小林久三) novel of the same name, features members of short-lived pop outfit Pansy (パンジー). Teenage idols Chiemi Manabe (真鍋ちえみ), Sawako Kitahara (北原佐和子) and Hisako Mitsui (三井比佐子) star as three friends on their high school's swim team. Suddenly one day, one of the group vanishes suspiciously, leaving the other two to solve the mystery of her disappearance.

In a commercial attempt to promote the girls' individual efforts, Shochiku Films produced a promotional video preceding the film's release (I guess?) entitled "Pansy Confidence". It featured each members' single of the day spliced over a bizarre montage of shots of the girls doing cute things like being chased down the street by a German shepherd, or harassing a man in a gorilla suit.

Only in the last 30 some-odd seconds do we actually catch a glimpse of Natsu No Himitsu, which, comparatively speaking, looks pretty deep. I mean come on, it can't be too soft if "Beat" Takeshi Kitano (北野武) is credited with a cameo (as a ramen vendor, no less).

With respect to the film's music, director Hiromichi Kawakami (川上裕通) couldn't have chosen a better man for the job. Y.M.O.'s Haruomi Hosono (細野晴臣) (get used to seeing these guys' names a lot on this site) completed the accompanying score in addition to writing music for the song "Night Train Bishōjo" (ナイトレイン・美少女, "Night Train Beauty"), sung by Pansy's Chiemi Manabe during the film's closing credits.

Manabe — only 17 at the time — was fortunate enough to work with Hosono on two of her three singles released the same year, enlisting the expertise of songwriter and producer Nobuyuki Shimizu (清水信之) for the other. The songs she recorded were all featured on a full-length album released a month before Natsu No Himitsu's opening, but Manabe's musical career seems to have ended there. However, her debut single "Nerawareta Shōjo" (ねらわれた少女, something like "Targeted Girl"), both written and produced by Hosono, stands out in my mind as one of the funkiest techno-pop (テクノ歌謡, techno-kayō) tracks I know.

Chiemi Manabe - Nerawareta Shōjo (1982)
真鍋ちえみ - ねらわれた少女

Natsu No Himitsu was eventually made into a weekday daytime T.V. drama, running from June to October of 2009. Unfortunately, having not seen the movie I'm unable to compare the depth of the original film to that of the show (which I haven't seen either). But simply based on the inclusion of both Haruomi Hosono and Takeshi Kitano in one film, regardless of how large or small their roles, I'm willing to bet the original packs more punch than the remake. Although that usually goes without saying, right?

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