When I was a young homunculus, I remember that my school had an official song. Something about hard work or togetherness or something like that. Now I was not exactly full of pep or school spirit in my youth so I don't recall any of the words or even the melody. But I do remember tuning out once a week at the assembly as the mass of students droned on and on, mainly mumbling and muddling through the motivational verses.
Well, as it turns out, these kinds of anthems were also all the rage in Japanese corporations for a while, including that of my most beloved childhood video games company, #Sega.
Whether they were huge national electronics firms or small local businesses, various enterprises all over Japan sang songs designed to express company spirit, strengthen the bond between employer and employee, and raise morale. At some of the more passionate corporations, these songs would be sung every day, sometimes by hundreds of salarymen and -women in unison. These company songs have passed in and out of fashion over the years but always stuck around in some form or another.
Not gonna lie, I loved that triumphant 'SEGA' intro on my Genesis titles. I could definitely get more motivated about the new Sonic and Knuckles than speeches at school. Can Sega's company song fill me with similar excitement?
Listen for yourself
That's Sega's company anthem, called 'Young Force'. It's kind of rousing, with a bombastic, triumphant SEGA! SEGA! SEGA! chorus juxtaposed with some gentle harp.
It's probably a little easier to swallow for my individualistic western mind because I can't understand the lyrics. Translations confirm, however, that the lyrics are as cheesy as all hell, including such poetic magic as: 'Advance society with intellectual property' and 'work together to achieve our objectives'.
When You're Big In Japan
Sega was founded in the 1940s by American businessmen in Hawaii as an arcade operator and didn't actually become a Japanese company until the 1980s. In the 1990s, with the launch of its own home console titles, Sega started expanding rapidly and, since most large Japanese companies had a company song, it was time for Sega to write their own corporate banger.
According to Mike Fischer, a game industry veteran who got his start working at SEGA in the 1990, Sega had great success with crowdsourcing from employees. Their famous mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, had been submitted by an employee, Naoto Ohshima, in a company-wide competition. This model was repeated for the company song and the winner was Eiichi Takahashi of the parts procurement dept., with 'Young Force'.
The song became a staple of Sega company culture. Every employee received a CD with the track and the song was played every Monday morning at the start of the workday.
Fischer describes this annual group karaoke, which happened annually at an offsite venue. Nowadays in Japan, company songs are out of fashion, but they might be ripe for a retro-revival. As recently as 2014, the Sega company song was covered on Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girls, an anime which re-imagines various Sega video game consoles as anthropomorphized goddesses in modern Japan.
Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girls version for a cuter company song experience (and weird feelings about your Mega Drive)