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.
Written by Erin Grace
Word to the wise: if you’re ever trapped in a mirror world and happen to run across Superfly, just run. Run like there are zombie raptors with laser vision hunting you. This girl takes her mirror worlds seriously, and rules them with an iron fist. On the surface, this PV is simple and fun: Superfly imagines a mirror world where she controls what happens. Why go to the kitchen for breakfast if I have an apple tree in my room? Not feeling like apples? Let’s have a pig on a spit! For fun I’ll jump in my pink convertible and cruise around Hollywood! Woo! But deeper through the looking glass the world turns dark. Superfly starts to lose control of her world: the police pull her over in her pink convertible and start issuing tickets. So she does what anyone would do if their mirror world turned against them: she clears all the tickets and turns the cops into her backup-dancing puppets. And then kills them and runs the pig spit through their disembodied skulls to roast over the fire, wearing one of the police caps to mock their powerlessness. Wait, what? I see where Superfly’s going with this PV: don’t get down about your life; if things go wrong, you have the power change them! But maybe killing your hapless minions is going too far, even in a mirror world. Especially if you get the real world confused with the mirror world. That kind of thing could land you on death row where no amount of positive thinking will save you. Although freaking crazy, the PV is certainly interesting to watch, and the music is a catchy alt-rock with a slight country flavor.
Namie Amuro feat. After School - Make it Happen
Namie works with the Korean girl group After School, and I’ll bet that just seeing “Namie” and “Korean” you already know it’s a dance video. Very good - you’re right! But considering the two most important nouns in that sentence, I’m surprised that the dancing isn’t better. I mean, isn’t that why we watch Namie’s videos? Isn’t that why we watch Korean girl group videos? We want talented female performers dancing in skimpy outfits! Well, at least we have the skimpy outfits. The color palette and costumes in “Make It Happen” are gorgeous, and the sets are unique. I especially like the “big box” set, which looks like a much more exciting, and much more Asian, version of “Hollywood Squares.” But the dancing is what I came into this PV for, and that’s exactly what’s dragging the video down. After School can dance, but they dance like Japanese girls - which, by the way, is not a good thing. And Namie, one of the only Japanese girls who can dance well, doesn’t actually dance at all. Oh yeah, she does some arm work and some leg crossing, but actual on-her-feet dancing takes up maybe seven total seconds of the three-minute-long PV. Not acceptable. I like that Namie’s trying to be a good sempai and help out After School by giving them her huge name to lean on for their Japanese debut, but I’m going to need either better dancing from them or more dancing from her to be even somewhat interested. At least the music is good, and other than the dancing this PV has a lot going for it. Just don’t go in expecting what I know you’re expecting or you’re bound to be disappointed.
4Minute - WHY
If you want to know what a Korean girl group is supposed to look like, watch 4Minute: these girls are beautiful, they have great (if simple) outfits, they know how to connect to the viewer through the camera, and they can effing dance. Sadly, the PV itself suffers from typical Korean PV faults. There’s a lot of seizure-inducing flashing lights and gratuitous use of lens flare. There’s an interesting plot-looking element that’s never fully explained or exploited, which is a shame: I want to see 4Minute using their dance powers to seduce enemy agents or dance through a laser-alarmed room. And worst of all, the bizarre and repetitious camera work. How many times does the director expect us to sit through the “abrupt camera rotation” shot in a single video? (Answer: at least twenty-three.) At least he only uses the “earthquake” shot eight times. Pro tip: if you want your PV to be interesting, do something interesting with it; repetitious camera shots are not a substitute for action and tension. Some of the choreography could use some help, too. But for all the annoying elements, there’s a lot that’s well done. I was shocked by how good some of the shot transitions are, and each girl gets a roughly equal amount of time on camera. The song is infectious. And honestly, the girls keep the PV afloat: despite the yucky flaws, I could watch the video a hundred times just to see them dancing and making love to the camera. If they can get themselves a better director in the future, I expect they’ll have a great PV.
Akanishi Jin - Eternal
What a terribly boring PV. Static background, sepia-toned color scheme, mostly static camera shots, and Jin standing or sitting while wearing a white hoodie. This isn’t one to watch if you’re tired: it almost literally put me to sleep. There are exactly three interesting spots: 1) you see a pen hovering above a piece of paper, 2) three and a half minutes later that piece of paper has two words on it, 3) two minutes later it has a paragraph of words too blurry to read. And that’s as exciting as it gets. I do have to give props to the director, though, for the one and only brilliant artistic decision in the video. Notice how you can almost never see Jin’s eyes, and when you do it’s never for long. It’s because he has a perfectly blank expression on his face, because the man can’t act. The director, wisely recognizing that fact and realizing that it would combine with the other elements to make a freaking disaster, got the lighting and costume people to work together to shade his eyes as much as possible. Without his eyes, it’s possible to imagine that Jin is sunk deep in thought or emotion, that he’s so intensely focused on his song that he’s zenned out. Nothing could be further from the truth, but thanks to the power of shadow, that fact is much less noticeable. Good job, Mr. Director, if only for that. Really, though, you’re not missing much if you miss this one. The song is pretty, but don’t watch the video as a vehicle to listen to the song. Just listen to the song.
Tokyo Jihen - Sora ga Natteiru
The best way I can describe this video is “tactile.” Tokyo Jihen focus on the five senses in this video, particularly touch, and every frame stimulates the senses that you’re not even using when you watch it. Great use of close-ups, slight slow motion and tight framing make each shot interesting, balanced, and tensive; careful selection of sets and props makes each shot textured and tactile. I want to run my hands all over this video (including and especially the guitarist - yowzahs). I’m not gonna lie: I can’t pin down what this video is about, though I’m sure that it does have a deeper meaning - I can feel it. I even translated the lyrics in the hopes that they’d tell me something, fill in some part that I was missing from the images alone, but nothing. I suppose that’s what I get for expecting an easy resolution from anything that Ringo is involved in. Still, even if there isn’t a deeper meaning, this is such a beautiful video - from the way it looks to the way it makes you feel and gives you goosebumps, it would be a shame to miss it. The music is alt-rock that maintains an high level of tension and imbues the images with an extra shot of urgency, and Ringo’s voice is spot on as always, full of raw power and emotion. My only complaint is that the song feels too short: even at four minutes, I’d be happy for it to go another four. Definitely take a look: this PV is a great example of how a video can maintain interest even with a few basic camera shots. (Take note, director of “Why.”)