This song, held down by two six-year-old kids and a talking dog, sold more singles than a few AKB48 and Girls’ Generation songs…and neither of those groups had a quiet 2011. This tune went double platinum in ringtone sales, introduced the world to a Macarena-aping dance and now holds the record for longest charting single…released by someone under the age of 10. A friend of mine once saw a toddler sing this song at karaoke four times in one night, and I’ve heard it blasting out of stores and all over my TV this year. This easily stands as the biggest surprise in J-Pop circa 2011, and might even be the biggest song of the year.
The surprise part shouldn’t really shock anyway – though the “wacky Japan” angle reeks of media laziness in this day and age, this is a nation that loves cute things and dear God did “Maru Maru Mori Mori oooooooze cute. Hell, the world loves cute kids armed with annoyingly catchy songs about food, especially ones serving as the theme song to surprisingly popular J-dramas about dead people inhabiting the bodies of pups. Well, that might just be Japan.
Just listen to that…how can that not get stuck in your head, unless you have some really powerful drugs on hand? “Maru Maru Mori Mori” is obvious boardroom science come to life – somebody labored over this for way too long so this stupidly simple song would appeal to kids, housewives and old people, guaranteeing big sales from people who don’t know what a .ZIP file is. Fittingly, this song should drive most people up the walls, especially if they have small children…”Maru Maru” is catchy music for people who think eating Play-Doh is a good idea (I see ya, five-year-old me) and people who like aggressively cute things. I mean…this song features a talking dog. Most people would laugh this song off as stupid, the Mommy-And-Me version of “Friday” for Japan.
Yet, as much as “Maru Maru” places a throbbing ache in my ears, I can’t bring myself to hate it. Honestly…I kind of like it in the same way one gets used to their kidnappers after a while. Fact of the matter is, I’m a sucker for slick marketing moves like this, the actual music making up “Maru Maru Mori Mori” a complete secondary behind the three major players of this song, three players one just can’t hate despite all the sonic evidence to the contrary. Shoot, this trio tricked me into watching the drama they appeared on, despite it being a typical slice of melodramatic pie dashed with a magic talking dog. Let’s break “Maru Maru’s” key players down.
Man, this poor urchin. I can already see him shilling for some pachinko parlor or providing the voice for some future Disneyland 3-D experience. Simply put, this kid ends up the third wheel of “Maru Maru.” He’s plenty cute and on the drama he can act…but he lacks that extra spice separating the child stars bound to be assistants to J-Pop stars from the ones bound to get their own two-hour block selling gem stones on QVC. Give poor little Fuku his time in the sun before he…gasp…has to go back to school and be a regular kid again.
The clear winner coming out of the year of “Maru Maru.” Though she had already established herself as a cute-as-a-button child actor prior to this song and the related drama, Ashida’s stock soared following the crazy success of this song. Whereas poor Fuku just follows her around to various variety shows and mugs for the camera, she has been given a second single and gets to teach the likes of Perfume and SMAP the “Maru Maru” dance. She even released an album that sold decently. Ashida seems poised to only build off of a huge 2011.
HE’S SO CUTE.