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.
MiChi - MadNess
MiChi tries on a whole closet full of clothes! And they're all ugly! Just kidding - it's only three outfits, but they're all ugly in their way. Sadly, each has something good to offer (cute pink wig, vintage Motley Crew tee, super cute lace top) but then she goes and ruins the whole thing one way or another (mom jeans, gross hair, a dress I threw out in fifth grade). I like the photo shoot premise, but if MiChi's going to show off how cute her clothes are, why not actually pick out something that makes her look cute instead of looking like a hobo that knows where to find interesting accessories? The videography is better: although there's a lot of double exposure and negative exposure, it only happens often enough to keep up interest, and the double exposure in particular is used to highlight MiChi's gorgeous eyes and beautiful, pillowy, luscious lips. I wish that the lighting was softer for some segments, though, particularly during the "lace top" shots. I think they were going for natural, unfiltered beauty, but with her bangs in her face hiding her eyes, the light draws attention to the unconcealed circles under her eyes. The music is pretty good, although it's so short (less than three minutes) and so light on vocals that it feels like a glorified intermission track; I'm not sure how it would fit on an album, and certainly not a single. Still, it's got a great mix of pop and electronic with some pretty Indian touches. If nothing else, watch for the lips so kissable you'll want to make out with your screen.
Hamasaki Ayumi - Return Road
Following her totally fabulous gas station robbery in "Virgin Road," Ayu decides to do a totally fabulous liberation of a totalitarian dystopia. Ayu arrives on the scene in a huge black gauze dress with matching veil, emerging from a tank. She and her band sneak into the control center and begin to blast their music through the massive system of dials, buttons and meters to reach the loudspeakers, reaching out to the drones she's trying to save from their endless march into slavery. Sparks fly! Lights flash! The leaders of the dystopian world stumble back in awe, staring at their broken mechanisms of fear and control, unable to fathom that they've been beaten! Freedom will prevail! Justice will win! Slavery will die! But then it doesn't. Ayu runs out to the drones, grabbing each one in turn, trying to see that her music has saved them, that they've woken from the mental slumber that their masters used to control them, but nothing. Each one marches silently by to whatever end their masters have chosen, oblivious to Ayu's attempts to save them. Although I'm not an expert on Ayu's PVs by any stretch of the imagination, I seem to remember that the theme of music freeing slaves from totalitarian masters has come up before, but Ayu has always won. That she doesn't win in this PV is interesting. Is she losing confidence in mankind? Is she losing confidence in her music? Or has she realized that some battles cannot be won, and that sometimes evil will prevail? Or maybe Ayu decided to switch it up a little. Either way, I was happy with the PV, and happy with the song.
Kalafina - to the beginning
A purple moon shines down on Kalafina, and they celebrate this strange occurrence by wearing cute dresses, singing sorrowfully, and staring into space. Yep: not a lot going on in this PV. It's the worst kind of performance PV: they're not playing any instruments, and they're not even dancing. Instead, they move their arms in an endless circle, reaching out to nowhere, then touching their faces, then putting their hands at their sides, then reaching to nowhere again. Over and over. And over. For four and a half minutes. Well I guess Hikaru gets to run her hand along a wall, and Wakana gets to walk around a corner. Keiko doesn't do anything interesting, though. The one sweet thing about the video is their outfits, lolita dresses in red and black with puffy sleeves and obi-like belts. Although cute, they aren't terribly form-flattering, so if you're hoping to come into this video for the sexy you'll probably be disappointed (although maybe you'll like the short skirts). At the end of the video Wakana reaches into the water where the purple moon is reflected, and the moon suddenly turns silver again. She stares at the water in her hand for a few moments, then the video ends. I can only imagine that after the video cuts she turns and yells over her shoulder "Well there's your problem!!!" The song isn't bad, but there's a lot of crappy synth and a percussion line that's basically a really fast OON-tss OON-tss OON-tss. The strings are beautiful as usual, and the girls voices are lovely. If only the video wasn't so boring, it might have been fine.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - CANDY CANDY
It's always hard to describe a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu video without using the word "weird," but "CANDY CANDY" makes it easier on me than "PON PON PON." Basically Kyary dances on a stage with the little number-faced girls from her live and a really great pop-and-locker with a creepy anime mask on. Sure, there are some antics: Kyary goes Sacrface on an onion that has gone mad with CG power; Kyary kicks down her pop-and-lock imposter with an "anime intense" face drawn on. But other than that, you can't really call any of it "antics." At the beginning of the video she runs down the street with a piece of toast in her mouth. Towards the middle she lounges in a cotton candy cloud. The rest of the video is more or less dancing to the terrible hook. Where are the strings of eyeballs? The amorphous heads? Any of the shit that makes Kaela's "A Winter Fairy" PV look normal and boring? (Are they gone for good? I'm just asking because "PON PON PON" half-scared half-disgusted me.) "CANDY CANDY" is much more tame, but also less charming. The music is the same way. Although I like the sweetly childish "music box" quality of the opening, the rest of the song falls flat for me. It certainly doesn't have the fun energy of "PON PON PON," and the hook is just annoying. Also, why are we pretending to bite our thumbs while saying "chewing?" Is that a thing? Is self-cannibalism a thing? In the end, the song isn't what I was hoping for, and the neither is the video.
Amuro Namie - YEAH-OH
I don't care what you think about Namie, one way or another that woman always puts together a good PV. The set is simple, a shiny floor and an enormous projector behind the dancers. My favorite part is "black Namie" and a "white Namie." Far from there being a sense of "good" verses "evil" or "slutty" verses "virginal," Namie instead goes for more of a "night party" verses "day party" feeling. Her outfits are gorgeous in both, and she brings the sexy just as hard in both cases. The very minimalistic set and outfits, and the careful use of slow-motion help to underline some of these moments. Clever cinematography - flashing images of white Namie and black Namie over one another - cements the feeling that there's no rivalry or conflict between these two sides of Namie, because they aren't "sides." It's all Namie: all the sexy, all the great dancing, all the great singing, all the great outfits, all the confidence. Japanese artists talk a lot about how their work is meant to express the message "this is who I am," but this video does the best job that I've encountered so far. I don't know if that's what Namie meant to do with this video specifically; rather, I would say that all her videos express this, but that this video in particular was very successful in conveying the message. The song itself is effortlessly fun, has a great beat, and doesn't try to take the instrumentation over the top. Check this PV out; despite being essentially a performance PV, the song and the video are so good, and so good together, that you're bound to like it.