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Tom Smith on One Piece’s Maki Otsuki

She’s once, twice, three times a lady – three times a One Piece lady! Japanese musician Maki Otsuki may have worked hard to establish herself as a female saxophonist and front-woman of J-pop group CASSIS, but to Japan’s anime fandom she will always be the One Piece songstress that began it all. Or perhaps that should be ‘finished it all’ as she had the first closing themes in three different franchise spinoffs.

One Piece’s very first ending song to was Maki’s chirpy debut solo single ‘Memories’, while her third, much rockier single, ‘RUN! RUN! RUN!’ became its upbeat second closer, casting her in to the heart of fans forever.  The tracks were also used respectively to conclude the first movie outing for Luffy and chums, as well as the 50-minute special ‘Adventures in the Ocean’s Naval’, resulting in Maki have her music in the anime, the movie and the series’ first special.

Actually, when I mentioned to my colleague Kazuha, one of the Japanese staff members that works with me at JPU Records, that I was writing an article on Maki Otsuki, she immediately cried “Ah! The lady from One Piece‘s ending!! Natsukashii!!” (Natsukashii being the Japanese word for that feeling of nostalgia)

To be fair, I wasn’t too familiar with Maki’s work before Manga UK brought One Piece to DVD. Thankfully Kazuha was there to fill me in, and being a massive anime fan too, she had a surprising amount to say about the impact just one song had on her and the anime watchers that were around her age in Japan.

“This song’s title is so perfect! I think it’s about childhood. There are a lot of One Piece fans that began watching the anime when they were just a kid. For example, I was nine years old at the time! So now when we hear this song, we think of our own childhood too – so the lyrical content is super effective at evoking nostalgic memories!

“I didn’t really understand what the lyrics meant at that time, but coming back to the song now adds a whole new level of connection and meaning, I’m sure many fans in Japan can link the lyrics with themselves. For me, it’s especially this part, which in English would go something like; ‘if the world ever changes, take me to myself that never knew a thing, making sure that memories won’t fade away’ – now the first generation of One Piece fans have grown up but when they hear and sing this song, we can mentally go back in time to a more innocent age – perhaps when we had time to sit and watch anime all day. Ah, memories…!”

One Piece Collection One and part of Two contain Maki Otsuki’s closing theme ‘Memories, while the rest of part Two and Three finish with her song ‘RUN! RUN! RUN’. All out now on UK DVD from Manga UK.

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