Almost as soon as Tokyo was announced as the host city of the 2020 Olympics, there’s been speculation about what kind of music will be played at the opening ceremony. Guesses for the musical accompaniment have ranged from songs by idol groups and boy bands all the way to bona fide J-pop royalty like Hikaru Utada and Namie Amuro, and now some signs are pointing to the possibility songs that will be very familiar to video game and anime fans.
The opening ceremony will be held at the National Stadium, and with the start of the Games not far off, rehearsals are already being held. Since the stadium is an open-topped structure located in downtown Tokyo, some passersby have been able to pick out familiar melodies leaking from the building, as with the video here where the unmistakable main theme of role-playing video game series "Dragon Quest" can be heard.
Meanwhile, some other social media users have posted about hearing “Tsubasa wo Kudasai” while walking past the stadium during rehearsals. Originally written in 1970, “Tsubasa wo Kudasai” (which translates to “Please Give Me Wings”) has become one of Japan’s most enduring folk songs, but a cover of it, sung by voice actress Megumi Hayashibara, is heard during a pivotal moment of 2009’s "Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance" movie, forming a solid connection between the song and the anime franchise in the minds of many otaku.
That said, “Tsubasa wo Kudasai” has nearly 40 years’ worth of non-anime context as an uplifting song that’s easy for a crowd to sing along to, so it wouldn’t be an unusual selection for a non-anime event like the Olympics. The "Dragon Quest" theme, though, is a video game anthem through and through. Still, it’s a dramatic and rousing tune, and the Tokyo Olympics organizers have already shown a willingness to lean into the international popularity of Japanese pop culture, most dramatically when then-prime minister Shinzo Abe cosplayed as Super Mario at the closing ceremony of the 2016 Olympics. But on the other hand, "Dragon Quest" composer Koichi Sugiyama has arguably become as known overseas for his controversial political views as his music, which could make the piece a risky choice for an event that will draw global viewership.
There’s also the possibility that neither the "Dragon Quest" theme nor “Tsubasa wo Kudasai” will be part of the opening ceremony, and are simply being used for acoustics checks, seeing as how they’re both songs that the average Japanese person has heard many, many times and so has a pretty good mental image of how they’re supposed to sound. With no official announcement of the program yet made, it looks like we’ll have to wait until the ceremony actually takes place on July 23 to find out what music will be played, and also whether or not "Sailor Moon" will have anything more to say to the competing athletes.
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