Many music videos are released every month in Japan to promote the latest single or album coming out. Though we often talk about the music videos that accompany the music we review, some PVs slip through the cracks. This week we task our lovely writer with the difficult job of reviewing some of the recent vids to make their way all the way from Japan to our computer screens in the US.
A good way to start the PV Play: a decent PV! We open with shots of corporate drones going about daily life in the Machine: wearing identical clothes, carrying briefcases, typing. For some reason, Corporate Machine LLC has a display on their ground floor of the fashions of “Corrupted Young People,” played by AAA. As the video goes on, alternating between shots of the drones and the group, we see that the group members are among the drones. Each in turn walks past the display, looks up at their corrupted young mannequin clones, displays a mix of surprise and confusion, and then walks away. Then night falls and all the corrupted young people suddenly jump off the display and start dancing and having a great time! I suppose there's a specific way we're supposed to understand to take this: AAA expresses their happiness at not being corporate slaves and invites current slaves to rise up and follow their dreams. I prefer either: AAA would like to give a big “Screw you!” to the clones they created to take their places in Japanese society; or, AAA would like to give a big “Screw you!” to those who were cloned for highly scientific super-group-forming experiments. Seriously, though, I like this video. The group has a lot of energy, as does the song (think DDR), and they’re surprisingly good at those “WTF” expressions I mentioned. I only have two problems. 1) “Corrupted young people?” Really? So what should we call the 13 year-old girls who sleep with 60 year-old men just to get their hands on a Louis Vuitton bag? Or the Center Guys who sleep on the street? Or the freaking Yanki? For AAA, who are as wholesome as Sazae-san in comparison, to even suggest a connection to these low-lives is a little much. 2) Misako needs to take some dance lessons. All the other members dance with competence, if a little cheese. Meanwhile, Misako dances the Potty Dance. But other than these two nit-picky flaws, both the music and video are enjoyable. It’s certainly not high art, but I didn’t feel like I wasted 5 minutes of my life on it.
Instead, those 5 minutes were wasted by moumoon. But before I get to the PV, I can’t resist waxing rhapsodic on living in the future. Isn’t it amazing how far technology has come? Time was you had to wait half an hour just to download a song. Now, bands don’t even have to record their own PVs! Busy recording schedule? On tour? Too lazy? It’s okay, get an android to do it! Sure, androids can’t quite express believable emotion that would make your PV memorable and sweet, but they do have the market cornered on “gaze blankly into the distance,” which is technically 50% of everything that really needs to happen in a PV anyway. The other 50% (singing and dancing) are easily programmable. There are still some minor bugs to work out so both are still a little jerky, but if you dress up the music so that it sounds mechanical on purpose and program in the “Slightly Off-Beat Sway” for your dance, no one will notice! Go on, Japanese performers, keep using androids! They’re close to human! And close counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and music videos. Honestly, though, it’s a shame that moumoon felt the need to go android route – their previous PVs are pretty and simple, and Yuka is cute and sweet to watch. In contrast, there’s precisely one thing memorable about “moonlight:” Android Yuka’s cold, dead, soulless eyes. Even the song is bland: Android Yuka has to tell you that “this is a love song,” in case you weren’t aware… And then she has to remind you again towards the end, because the lackluster delivery either made you doubt her sincerity or rendered you comatose. But I guess making it to Number 12 with “Sunshine Girl” and “Spark” really did a number on moumoon’s schedule. In short, don’t waste your time on this PV. (Although I guess it won’t matter even if you do. It’s not like you’ll remember it anyway.)
This is the inevitable “watch the band play the song” PV. Ugh. Compounding the issue, the band members aren’t even cute. What possessed them to go for this boring style? Only eye candy makes this PV genre even close to worth it, and Gilgamesh is the opposite of eye candy. (Sorry, Gilgamesh fans, but deep down you know I’m right.) Thankfully there’s a little more to the video than just them playing the song. Not that it improves it. Oddly utilized animation meets cheesy special effects to dress up this otherwise unremarkable PV. Highlights include an animated “Tree of Life” with pickable apples (That turn your eyes red! Ooh, awesome and edgy! Not.), an animated polar bear that doesn’t seem able to leave the wall like the apples can, and animated birds that are someplace between the apples and the polar bear on the “animated versus real scale:” they can fly around the room rather than being projected on the walls, but are still animated anyway. I think Gilgamesh is trying to tell me something with this PV… I just don’t know what. And I don’t think I care. There’s nothing about this PV that’s interesting and fun, and hardly even anything to make fun of. Which means it gets the worst trash can: the one labeled “GLAY PVs.” This PV is actually somewhat similar to “Precious” in terms of special effects… Yeah. See, now you know why I’m not too keen on it. Unlike “Precious,” the music is pretty good and, significantly, lacks cheesy tenor sax. I guess that means it can be further filed into “Best of the Worst.” Gilgamesh really would have won some points with me by trying to make it less “meaningful” and more “interesting.” For example, if everything else can leave the wall, why not the polar bear? I think that would have really spiced things up – GTFO, Gilgamesh! Your lives are at stake! Nope. Nothing shockingly bad + nothing shockingly good = don’t bother.
Lesbians! That’s right, you heard me. LESBIANS! Nishino Kana and her girl!friend wander around some city together, taking pictures, eating ice cream, and cuddling in the back seats of convertibles. Ooh, we can only image what they’re doing when they get back to the hotel! At the end of the PV, Kana writes a cute little (love?!) note, complete with heart-shaped sticker to seal, and gives it to the girl. Okay, okay, so there’s a lot of plausible deniability (no kissing or boob touching – sorry girl-on-girl fans!) and the lesbian angle isn’t obvious right from the first frame, but if you watch the video yourself, you’ll know. And just listen to the song! You don’t need to know a word of Japanese to know that this is a love song. (See, Yuka? If you do it right, there’s no need to explain it.) And before you try to argue “Well, maybe it’s just a song about friends!” take note that there is a third (wheel) girl in this video, who Kana ignores to lavish all her attention on girlfriend. They even abandon Third Girl to go out by themselves several times. Yeah, this isn’t friends any more than it’s a threesome. But other than the lesbian! component, there’s nothing special about this video. Kana and her “friend” hang out in Grainy Hand-Cam City doing couple stuff, Kana sings a little from the Soft Focus Forest and a little more from the historic Lens Flare Hotel, and that’s about it. It’s actually kind of boring. The song is pleasant, but unremarkable: it’s so generic that at first I thought I recognized it, even though I’ve never heard it before. It sounds like every drama opening ever made: as I listened, I found I could cue the various instruments myself. “Piano – now! Strings – now! Chimes! Drum machine! Vocals!” Boring. At least Kana’s easy on the eyes, unlike Gilgamesh, and seems expressive and alive, unlike moumoon, but it’s not actively fun to watch unless except to be fake-scandalized by how gay-in-a-factual-way it is. Take it or leave it; one viewing should be plenty.
When I first heard the music, I immediately thought “OH MY GOD, SAILOR MOON?!” And the opening shots of boots running in the rain…I wasn’t holding out much hope. But it gets better, I promise. This PV takes a lot of overdone tropes and freshens them up. “My man left me,” “Christmas,” “band playing in severe weather,” and “leaving behind your memories” all have a place in this PV, and with that kind of mix you’d expect this to be easily the cheesiest piece of crap that’s ever crossed your screen. But it’s not. All the tropes are either done so subtly that you can’t dislike them, and the PV itself is skillfully stitched together to highlight Yui’s pain and conflict while refusing to fall into the same old “lost love PV” ruts. The directing is great, striking a good balance between shots of the band and shots conveying the plot. The director doesn’t hit you over the head with the story: you can see that Yuka had someone and lost him, but there’s no gratuitous “we’re a happy couple!” scenes or “we’re fighting and hate each other!” scenes; instead, there are a few carefully chosen, very short vignettes that are just enough to give the viewer a sense of Yui’s easy happiness with her lover. These are intermixed with short scenes of Yui in the rain that are just enough to give you an idea of her sadness. There’s a tension between the scenes that makes them poignant without being forced. The photography is also good – you have no trouble feeling Yui’s sadness, but there’s not a blue filter in sight. The rain is carefully placed in the “background” so that you hardly notice it during plot scenes; the rain and snow both work as pathetic fallacies without bashing you with the “ISN’T THIS SAD?” mallet. And best of all, Yui is a great actress in this PV – from whispering lyrics to herself to the single, perfectly timed and almost hidden tear masked by the rain, you just hurt for her. (Take some freaking lessons, Yuka.) Nothing about this PV is overdone or makes you want to stop watching. Even the song is great! I probably listened to it about a hundred times while writing this review, and never got tired of it: it’s an up-tempo song in a not-quite-minor chord that, just like the PV, is obviously sad…just not in a cliché way. This PV is certainly worth a watch – easily one of the best in this review.