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.
Insipid. Disjointed. Nonsensical. Poorly constructed. Denpagumi.inc’s new PV is frankly a new low for the medium. I would say that it’s fan-service city, but even a fan-service vid would understand that showing the girls do nothing but sleep for over half the video is a little excessive. Not this video! Halfway through the two-minute sleep scene we’re treated to a 10-second vignette of them throwing darts together for some kind of faux video game challenge, then we’re transported back to the sleeping girls who now hold balloons as they sleep. Not cuddle, mind you – cuddling the balloons would be cute and might constitute a semi-decent fan-service element. It would also obscure the editor’s use of the balloons as “screens” for the viewers at home to continue to watch the girls throw darts, although why he thought those tiny, badly-placed and worse-recorded shots would make us happy is beyond my comprehension. After half the PV has been wasted on sleep shots and poorly-edited bullshit, the PV decides to kick it up a notch by giving us wretched CG of them literally blasting off into the atmosphere. Once there, they grab balloons that are promptly popped by the Denpagumi.inc that’s playing darts in another universe. (Oddly, dart-throwing Denpagumi.inc cheer when they send their doppelgangers to their doom, but the “video game” tells them “No Complete.”) Bad CG for the fall, then yet another doppelganger throws them umbrellas to save them. Then there’s running and a final turn to the camera… Not only does this PV make no sense, it doesn’t even seem to have a purpose. It meanders along like stream-of-consciousness, with no goal in sight except to reach the four-minute mark. The song is fine for the idol group genre that it occupies – i.e., it’s no good but idol group fans will defend it – but the PV is indefensible. I couldn’t even be funny about ripping this one up, guys. I think that speaks for itself.
Kalafina moves away from their slightly EGA roots and go more shiro-lolita for this song. Everything about the song and video bend toward making Kalafina seem like (highly idealized) gypsies – the set made up of a wagon, a goat, strings of Christmas lights, and an endless collection of kitsch thrown about the base of the odd structure in the middle to give it that “authentic” touch. And for all they interact with the set, it’s almost as though Kalafina realize that all these objects are so cheap that they will literally crumble under a touch. Despite all the lyrics about “dancing” and “festivals,” they do very little merry-making, preferring instead to bob up and down or sway side to side, with their feet planted like they’re wearing concrete boots. (Naturally, though, they have no problem with their typical staring off into space – you don’t need your feet to look deep into the sky with an unfocused gaze, as though you’re too taken with the stars to be trapped in this world.) With all the space staring and bob dancing, it’s easy to call this PV boring. What’s slightly more difficult, but much more worth it, is to add your own subtext that explains everything: Kalafina were captured and reprogrammed by a giant who put them in his gypsy music box; Kalafina were reconstructed as androids for a future “natural history” exhibit about gypsies; Kalafina was captured by evil fairies, a holding spell placed on their feet, and made to sing for their freedom; Kalafina got tired of wearing black and hanging out in castles, and secretly can’t dance to save their lives. Wait. No, I think that last one is the truth. Sorry. Kalafina fans will probably like this one – it’s the same format as most of their videos, just shaken up a little – but for those of us who were never huge fans of their videos to begin with, “moonfesta” isn’t bringing anything new or special to the table.
Chatmonchy are superheroes, out to destroy the balloon monsters, knock down the cardboard walls, and brave the extreme rain with their super umbrellas. Okay, I’m not selling it very well, but this is a fun PV. Chatmonchy are like little girls playing a superhero game, using their imaginations to fight evil and save the day. Rather than using CG or fancy tricks to convey the imaginary world, however, they use overdone costumes and low-budget props to underline that childlike vibe. A few fireworks and a ton of slow motion for visual interest (and to highlight how AWESOME Chatmonchy are at being play superheroes), minimalist props that give them something impressive to fight against and break apart, and incredibly overblown superhero outfits that don’t leave the viewer guessing what the band is playing at. Even the Final Boss is awesome – someone in a huge, hairy monster costume who steals Eriko’s guitar – striking the perfect balance between something clearly meant to be evil, but well within the realm of what a child would create for play. It’s lovely to see such an incredibly simple video; there are only a few moments where you can see they pulled out some of the bigger video editing guns with a few seconds of effects that highlight that the Final Boss is super evil, and later a few seconds to show that Chatmonchy’s power has vanquished him. I do have a few nitpicky issues with some of the choices – Eriko’s tucked-in shirt makes it painfully obvious how small her chest is, and combined with the strong lines in her helmet she looks very manly; Akiko’s legs look horrible, short, and over-muscled as she runs in her skirt – but these are superficial concerns. The PV is so much fun that it’s easy to ignore the nitpicky details. The song is also very fun, fast, and energetic, with just a tiny touch of epic that makes the PV really work well with it. Watch it – watch it now!
I’m putting in my vote right now for this PV to at least be nominated for some kind of award next year. Ajikan attacks an interesting subject – the repetitiveness of everyday life and the undercurrent of the bizarre that flows beneath it – in such a fresh, interesting, and unexpected way that I feel like I should be shocked. (In reality I don’t think I can be. This kind of PV is Ajikan’s bread and butter. Still, it’s beautiful to see the tradition going strong.) Using a combination of clever editing and camera tricks, we see a series of barely noticeable repetition that soon grows into an increasingly obvious torrent of it: from a man throwing a ball over and over, to a maid wiping the same spot on a table, to a girl throwing the same bag into the back of her car over and over. It’s becomes obvious that Ajikan is trying to show us that so much of our lives are made up of performing the same action over and over – going to the same places, seeing the same people, performing the same habits. But just as you begin to get the sense that you can see the repetition everywhere, the PV starts to get trippy. A man drops something from his hands, and you see a tomato smash to the ground. Obviously he was holding the tomato, but something feels off about the scene. In another scene you see a person putting on lipstick over and over, then a few moments later we see a nearly identical scene with a slightly disturbing twist. The repetition begins to speed up and eventually we see the same people echoed over and over in the same screen, the repetition escaping from them, the unsettling images becoming more and more bizarre so that a sense of dread begins to peek up from your mind. The song is lovely, just the thing for the PV to play against, with tight, twitchy bass and percussion.
Let’s all get together and buy Girls’ Generation a dictionary. I’m sorry if you don’t like having your pictures taken, girls, but calling the press “paparazzi” is like me calling you a talentless idol group just because there are a million of you, but none play an instrument. Although, all things considered, it feels like you didn’t really try to prove me wrong this time. I can usually expect good music, good choreography, and good dancing from Girls’ Generation. “Paparazzi,” though, only hits one of those notes, and it’s not the dancing. While the choreography is just as good as you’d hope, the actual execution of the moves leaves something to be desired. That’s not to say that they’re as uncoordinated as some Japanese groups, but I’d really come to expect Korean groups to bring a higher quality product to market than this. Most disappointing, however, was the premise of the PV: that the girls are being hounded by paparazzi who have no respect for their privacy or feelings. Instead, they seem to equate a normal level of respectful press at an event with the invasive bush-crouchers that populate the ranks of the paparazzi. Instead of this letdown I’d have loved to see a more realistic take on their encounters with the paparazzi. Naturally Girls’ Generation will run into more issues with expressing this honestly than Western or Japanese artists, since their Korean fans will continue to expect a level of discretion from them that other audiences don’t expect. But I’m not asking for crotch shots or sex scandals; I’d have been happy to see the “paparazzi” being unfair by mislabeling lunch as an “eating disorder,” or highlighting a shot of one of the girls with no make-up to mock her “ugliness.” Something that would have given us a peak into their world, which I’m sure the real paparazzi makes a personal hell at least once in a while. Or maybe the South Korean paparazzi really does create such scathing headlines as “Girls’ Generation Seems A Bit Nervous.” … Yeah, I don’t believe it either.