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.
I feel like I could write an essay on this PV and it still wouldn’t be enough (though some bloggers have certainly tried). AKB48 pulls out some of the violence that we remember from “Beginner,” showing the bloody deaths and dead bodies of all but two of the 36 members on screen, but contrast this with a light and peppy bikini beach dance and the upbeat song, indefatigable in its cheeriness and determination that we are going to have fun. There are those who have argued that this is meant to represent the dichotomy of Hell and Heaven, and some who believe that the girls are literally representing their deaths in a hell on earth, after which they are resurrected in heaven. Some have suggested that perhaps this video is a way for the senior members to “pass the torch” to the younger members, noting that the older members are all dead or close to death in the opening scene, and that all the older members wear off-white bikinis in the beach dance scene rather than the true-white that the younger members sport. There seems to be some credence to this last one, as in the opening sequence Mayu asks Acchan if they (the older members) came with a message, to which Acchan replies “No...We came here to be transformed...” Still, I’d rather not throw my money down on any particular interpretation. The director, Higuchi Shinji, was also responsible for writing and storyboards on “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” so I don’t think I could presume to imagine what was going through his head with this one.
I didn’t know it was possible but.... This PV is pretty damn good, you guys. There’s everything that you expect from a PV by a Korean group: the boys are hawt, the dancing is great, the choreography is interesting, the set is cool. And yet it’s like no Halyu Wave video I’ve ever seen. The choreography isn’t just good, it’s really creative. There are some weird moves that should look stupid (a hop-stomp, a faux Russian kick dance) but are in inexplicably cool. Rather than mirror-polished floors and laser beams, the set is an old-timey museum. Rather than bright colors, the shots are purposefuly overexposed and deastuared for a false black-and-white effect. There’s a relatively developed plot, in which the boys are hired as detectives to find missing jewelry, tracking down clues and having encounters with a ghost girl. It's genuinely fun to watch! All I could come up with to make fun of is Taemin’s long hair (you’re hot, but not that hot), Key’s star-spangled shorts (Miss J would be thrilled), and the “I am curious” line (*snerk* yeah, guys, I bet you are). But most damning for me is the song. I watched the PV about ten times, and I never once wished my ears would spontaneously combust. To the contrary: I was singing along. “Sherlock” is a really cool combination of the Korean pop, a little rap, and some surprisingly awesome throwbacks to 90s pop in the chorus. It’s a great video if you’ve been on the fence about the influx of Korean music in Japan. Kis-my-Ft2 could use a little of what Shinee has.
Ironically, AAA appears to go a little more in the Korean direction with this video. It’s very simply set, very brightly lit, with an even heavier focus on the dancing than in their previous PVs and much more complex camera work. The camera work actually toes the line between “really cool” and “barf-tastic,” moving around so much that you get both an artificial 3D effect and some bonus nausea. If you can get past the headaches, though, it’s a really interesting way to keep up visual interest, and (praise the J-Pop gods) not once does the camera tilt off horizontal. Later in the video they switch to dark closeups of individual members singing, with bright images of other members dancing flashing over top. It sounds like a bad episode of “Pokemon,” but it’s surprisingly effective at keeping up visual interest, highlighting the beat, and ensuring that all the members get ample screentime. The dancing seems even more tight than usual, though most of the time the choreography is kept simple so that the combination of dance and jarring camera work doesn’t take the PV completely beyond the point of no return for your lunch. There is some interesting choreography in the middle with Nishijima trapped in a circle of the other members while the camera is a little less hyper. However, despite some great work by the other members, it looks a little like Misako just phoned this performance in, which was somehwat distracting. The song is fun and poppy with a bit of a Eurobeat flavor and a touch of sadness. Overall, it’s surprisingly interesting and fresh despite being the very definition of a performance PV.
In the past I’ve made it perfectly clear what I think about moumoon and their PVs, but this video bucks their usual trend. Rather than a sappy ballad or a sappy love song or a sappy anything, the song is an upbeat and bouncy pop bit with a touch of rock around the edges. The PV is a very basic performance PV with a static set with a slightly faded filter on (as usual) to make things feel ever so slightly overexposed. There are some interesting elements in the dice-headed band members in the back, and Yuka is cute and bright as always, but what really makes this PV stand out from its predecessors is the use of slow-motion, cropping up all over the place at least once every few seconds. Although I usually hate slow-mo, in this instance it serves to highlight and enhance the buoyancy of the song, giving your eyes the opportunity to witness the lightness and bubbliness that your ears are already experiencing as Yuka and the band float freely and slowly through space. Clever wardrobe choices for Yuka - a flowy dress that does pretty things in the air and a colorful necklace that seems almost to fly in some places - underline the concept the slow motion is conveying. The whole effect is of lightness approaching weightlessness. Although it won’t win any awards for excitement or drama and has nothing to speak of in terms of choreography or dancing, it still pulls off a happy, fun experience and shows what you can do if you want the sense to seem an echo of the sound.
Let’s hear it for PVs that try to be complex only to come out confusing. Although a majority of the video focuses on Tomomi and her boyfriend (a sexy architect, who has a lot of building models and blueprints for Tomomi to look at - how stimulating!), there are plenty of scenes of Tomomi in a club, continually spurning the DJ and even getting physical with him in a bitch-slappy way. There’s also an odd focus on a music box that her boyfriend gives her, and toward the end there’s the implication that maybe she dreamed the whole thing... Look, the plot is hard to follow. It’s a rare day where I’ll take the time and trouble to read the lyrics to figure out what should be obvious from the video, but I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, they don’t make it much more clear. Tomomi’s singing about how she’ll wait for the man she loves for 10 years if she has to, no matter how many others he “detours” with. Trouble is, we don’t see the boyfriend with anyone else; he just disappears, leaving behind a smashed model church (which is later miraculously reconstructed). It’s almost as if Tomomi is singing from the DJ’s perspective, since he’s the one that’s been trying to hook up with Tomomi through the whole PV, despite that she instead goes after Mr. Blueprints. Also odd: the shots of Tomomi singing take place in the church that boyfriend built a model of. Dafuq? The song is pretty with a bit of a Spanish flair, but nothing really spectacular. Watch and see if you can decode Tomomi’s meaning.