Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Symphogear BD 6 released along with Carol's "Green Green"

We're only a few days away from the Symphogear live concert and the timing was definitely intentional as the final blu-ray volume of GX was just released along with the full versions of: While Singing Our Thanks (Maria / Kirika / Shirabe), G-Beat IGNITED and Green Green (Carol). Green Green was only announced a few weeks ago and caught many people by surprise. However, what's even more surprising is that it's not actually a Symphogear song, but Carol covering a song that's been around since 1963.

"Green Green" originally started as a song by The New Christy Minstrels that was co-created by the group's founder, Randy Sparks, and singer Barry McGuire. The group was known for performing folk music, and if you're anything like me you've probably never heard of them. However, if you grew up in the states then you might recognize one of their hit covers: This Land Is Your Land. The group was originally formed in 1961 and won a Grammy with the release of their debut album in 1962. They followed that up with a release of "Green Green" as part of a single in 1963.

The lyrics of the original song:

Green, green, it's green they say, on the far side of the hill.
Green, green, I'm going away to where the grass is greener still.

A-well, I told my mama on the day I was born, don't you cry when you see I'm gone.
You know there ain't no woman gonna settle me down, I just gotta be traveling on 
A-singing... (Repeat Chorus)

Nah, there ain't nobody in this whole wide world gonna tell me how to spend my time.
I'm just a good loving rambling man, say, buddy, can you spare me a dime?
Hear me crying, it's a... (Repeat Chorus)

Yeah, I don't care when the sun goes down where I lay my weary head.
Green, green valley or rocky road, it's there I'm gonna make my bed.
Easy, now... (Repeat Chorus)

Everybody, I wanna hear it now...

The song was a hit and peaked at #3 of the music charts in the states at the time. The group went on to keep performing (albeit with their members frequently changing) up until 1978.

However, the story of Green Green doesn't end there.

Later in the 1960s the song caught the attention of poet and children's literature author, Hikaru Kataoka. Around this time he had been working for the Japanese public broadcasting station, NHK, where he was in charge of production, song writing and translation. In May of 1967 a Japanese version of "Green Green" was broadcast on NHK during a program called "Songs for Everyone."

This song is quite a contrast to it's English counterpart not only in regards to the style of singing, but to the lyrics as well. Whereas the English version featured lyrics describing the interactions between a mother and son, the Japanese version tells the story of a father and his child instead.

Japanese version lyrics: 

One day I was talking with my Papa 
About the joys and sorrows of living in this world

Green Green, little birds sing amidst the azure sky
Green Green, up on the hill (la la) the greens are blooming

Holding me close, that was when my Papa told me
Not to cry (la la la) even in sad and painful times

Green Green, a gentle breeze flows through the azure sky
Green Green, up on the hill (la la) the greens are swaying 

One day I woke up and understood
That there is pain and sadness in this world

Green Green, clouds run across the azure sky
Green Green, up on the hill (la la) the greens are rustling

I kept the promise I made with Papa 
I clenched my fists and held my head high (la la la)
I stood firm

Green Green, tears stream from under the eyelids
Green Green, up on the hill (la la) the greens are wet

That morning, Papa left on a journey far away
I knew that (la la la) he'd never come back again

Green Green, a rainbow hangs in the azure sky
Green Green, up on the hill (la la) the greens are growing

As the days turn into years, surely I'll come to understand
The true meaning (la la la) of what my Papa told me that day

Green Green, the sun smiles in the azure sky
Green Green, up on the hill (la la) the greens are glistening 

Someday I will also talk with my child
About the joys and sorrows of living in this world

Green Green, mist lingers in the azure sky
Green Green, up on the hill (la la) the greens are spreading
Green Green, mist lingers in the azure sky
Green Green, up on the hill (la la) the greens are spreading
The greens are spreading
The greens are spreading
The greens are spreading 

The song went on to be used in children's education in Japan and was featured in many elementary school textbooks. However this was only true for the first 3 verses, as the later 4 were often dropped because of their heavy emotional content. As you may have realized, the Japanese version of the song was not translated from the English one, and aside from "Green Green" the rest of the Japanese lyrics were written from scratch by Hikaru Kataoka.

In an interview he described the reason for this: "At that time it suddenly occurred to me that in Japanese songs, lyrics that described the bond of parent and child, particularly those of a father and their child, were very rare. So the song isn't a translation, but rather my original creation."

For many kids of Japan it was a surprise to them that the content of the song was so sad and deep, because it wasn't until they became adults that they discovered the full version. Thus it has become a bit of a popular topic regarding the father's disappearance. What exactly happened? There are many theories.

The most popular theory has to do with the time period that the song was created in. Back in the 1960s the US was going through the hippie era and anti-war protests because of the Vietnam War. In fact, one of the original writers of the song, Barry McGuire, when on to write a famous protest song after he departed The New Christy Minstrels in 1964. Japanese fans of the song have noted that Hikaru Kataoka, who grew up in China, was also exposed to the horrors of war during his youth as well. Taking all that into account it seems evident that the father was sent off to be a soldier in war where he died and never returned.

Another popular theory takes into account the American civil rights movement. Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech was actually given in 1963 - the same year the song debuted. So the theory goes that the father was a black man who was arrested or taken away due to racism.

Other theories include: the father died from a disease, the father chose to disappear, and the father got a divorce from the mother and left the home. In the end, Hikaru Kataoka has not provided a definitive answer and instead says that it's best left to be decided by the listener.

Now I'm sure the question you're all asking is: how does this all relate to Symphogear? Well, while the English version of the song has pretty much been forgotten by time, the Japanese version of the song remains very much alive. It has been used in various commercials, games and TV productions over the decades since its release. So it's not unlikely that this song was a contributing factor to the development of GX.

Beyond the fact that the song parallels the story of Carol and Issac (right down to the fact of Carol coming to understand the meaning of her father's words), there are other details that make it evident that the song was in the minds of the creators. For example, you may notice that the "la la" lines from Green Green make an appearance in Carol's character songs "Slaughtering Harp Dur da Blá" and "tomorrow." Furthermore, this song offers some insight into the nature of Carol and Elfnein's relationship through its use of pronouns. Carol usually refers to herself using the masculine "ore" whereas Elfnein uses the more boyish "boku." In this song, which is sung in a voice similar to the young Carol of the past, she uses the pronoun "boku" instead of "ore." While this may be just attributed to the fact that the song's original Japanese lyrics use "boku," I think it's a more calculated move on the creator's part.

Of course this all begs one question: Why was this a surprise song on the last BD volume? I don't have an answer for that beyond speculation, which is simply that: they intended to announce the song earlier but could not secure the rights for it. Or they simply didn't have the budget for her to cover the song until Carol's character CD went on to sell so well (which perhaps subsequently influenced the announcement of the actresses solo singing career soon afterwards).

In any case, it was a nice addition to the Symphogear song family. Not only for it's catchy tune, but also for its emotional impact.

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