Some songs exist for the purpose of straight sugary injection and making people feel good. The opening to the 1988 Patlabor OVA (original video animation) anime, “Miraiha Lovers” (“Future Lovers” in English) is likely the peppiest song of all time. After many years of navigating my personal J-pop journey, this is the happiest track I’ve had the sweet, sweet pleasure to hear (or have melt my ears away in a storm of molten gumdrops).
Nothing else has come close.
“Miraiha Lover’s” songwriter Kenji Kawai, a frequent anime and film composer, knows how to make a song sound cheery. Also, vocalist Hiroko Kasahara sounds thrilled to be singing, which strengthens the track’s authenticity.
Musically, there is a reason why this song is so peppy. The first word in each verse ends on a note higher than started.
“Miraiha Lovers” progresses as shown in the first two lines of the song, with all caps to emphasize the highest ending note:
“Ki-mi NI, ikarete metameta Mechmeka gurui
Ha-a-TO … ”
The musical contour for the beginning of each verse is A-D-F (“Ki-mi-ni” and “Ha-a-to”). After this sequence, there is a very brief rest, which producers a cliffhanger effect on our ears. When listening to that F note, we can’t help but immediately want to hear more. That anticipation is immediately fulfilled by the next few notes, which do not follow the A-D-F progression, but instead end the measure on an A-B-D-B, which sonically, fulfills the cliffhanger and provides closure.
This pattern is effectively employed throughout the entirety of the song. Despite its repetition, it creates a feeling of constant anticipation, stemming from the disappointment/fulfillment structure that keeps delivering. This arrangement is a little bit like watching a horror movie: the build up leads to the scare, and the scare itself fulfills the anticipation. Usually there are more than one of these moments in such films, which shows how effective this structure is. Similarly, this is why “Miraiha Lovers” works.
Lyrically, the song is quite motivational (from what I can understand of it). It ends in English, repeating “Nothing impossible” twice. Other English words/phrases on this inspiration fest include “imagination” and “I’m in love with you.” Who doesn’t want to hear that?
Hopefully, this explanation behind musical peppiness wasn’t too dull.