GK PV Play: Stars and Sparkles Edition

J-pop PV reviews at Gaijin Kanpai! including Kuroki Meisa - 5-FIVE-Many music videos come out 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.

 

This installment’s featured  PVs:
Sayuri Sugawara - Sunao ni Naranakute
Diggy-MO' - STAY BEAUTIFUL
ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION - Maigo Ino to Ame no Beat
Sid - Rain
Kuroki Meisa - 5-FIVE

Written by Erin Grace

Sayuri Sugiwara - Sunao ni Narenakute

Sparkles. This PV starts out with sparkles.  You know, the cheesy CG kind that look kind of like the fakey bad-drama-style snow, except that they go up and down?  Sparkles.  It was hard for me to keep watching, because the opening sparkles did not set my expectations very high.  Unfortunately, the rest of the PV did nothing to improve my opinion.  It’s essentially high-speed shots of Tokyo mixed in with shots of Sayuri Sugiwara either singing and staring off into space or standing around in different locations while staring into space: outside a train station, on a train platform, in a forest, on a bed of rose petals.  It’s clear that the PV is meant to give the viewer a “world passing me by” feeling, but without a narrative to tie it all together it just seems disjointed.  It doesn’t help that as Sayuri sings (or stands) and stares into space, there is no emotion in her face whatsoever: is she missing her lover as the lyrics claim?  Is it sadness we see?  Boredom?  Existential ennui?  Has the real Sayrui Sugiwara replaced herself with an android for the recording of this PV?  No one knows.  What few “sad” expressions happen on her face are as convincing as those we saw on Michelle’s face on Full House: eyes down with no smile equals sad, right?  (I know she’s a singer, not an actress, but it’s also not unheard of to hire actors to play in PVs so that the viewing and listening experiences aren’t horrifically disjointed.)  Meanwhile the sparkles come and go, trying to give the images an emotional depth that just isn’t there.  The song itself is good, but nothing spectacular: it’s a pretty song and Sayuri’s voice sounds great, but any emotional impact the song would have is stolen by the lackluster visuals.  Unless you’re a big fan of Sayuri Sugiwara, I’d give this PV a pass. 

Diggy-MO' - STAY BEAUTIFUL

This PV has an interesting visual premise, and when I first saw it was intrigued and impressed.  Essentially, it looks as though Diggy-MO’ was recorded singing and dancing to the song three separate times over a plain white background.  There are some sections where you see a fourth recording come in, or one recording become suddenly opaque, but for most of PV they play over one another, transparent.  The result is a video of several similar but different performances playing at the same time, and the effect is of a cohesive performance made up of imperfectly matched elements – a sort of divided unity.  I liked it.  Until I realized about 45 seconds in that the entire PV – all 4 minutes and 50 seconds – would be nothing but this.  Like I said, I like the premise: it’s visually interesting and sort of trippy to watch.  But to watch the same man jumping around using roughly the same moves over and over for almost five minutes is no more interesting to watch when there are three of him than when there’s only one.  Oh, and did I mention that it’s in black and white?  I’m sure that the colors clashing around together would have been annoying, but at least it would have been stimulating for maybe an additional 15 seconds.  Although the director clearly tried to break up the monotony by adding in that fourth recording – which comes in and out randomly – and by occasionally choosing one recording to go opaque over the others for a second or two, it’s not enough to keep you watching unless you think Diggy-MO’ is extremely attractive.  And maybe not even then.  Just like “Sunao ni Narenakute,” the song is good but nothing to lose your mind over; it’s catchy, laid back, has a decent beat.  The only real downside to the song itself is that Diggy-MO’ occasionally sounds like he’s straining his voice, which isn’t pretty.  I wouldn’t say to give this video a pass entirely – the visuals are interesting enough to warrant a peek – but you shouldn’t feel the need to watch more than about a minute of it.  After that, you’ve as good as seen the entire thing. 

ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION - Maigo Inu to Ame no Beat

This PV fits Ajikan’s standard M.O.: we watch the band play in a weird location while bizarre shit happens around them.  But despite that it’s formulaic for them, it was the most interesting PV I watched for this review.  The PV opens with the band playing in a Western-style room, sitting on couches or leaning on walls, surrounding a stuffed dog.  Okaaaay.  Then we suddenly see a girl in a fox mask and school uniform running down the street.  Interesting.  As we continue to watch, the band keeps playing and we’re introduced to a man with the head of a chicken, a man with the head of a rabbit, a woman with the head of a polar bear, a woman with the head of a penguin, and a woman in a knight’s helmet (which threw me off more than any of the others).  Some of them appear to hear something, some of them see Fox Girl run by.  And the band plays on.  Eventually, all of the characters meet together in a room and Fox Girl gets them all to start dancing.  They all dance, the band plays; more dancing, more playing.  At the end of the PV, we see Fox Girl with her mask off, getting ready to eat a rice ball.  She scowls at the camera, takes a bite from her rice ball, then puts the mask back on.  And I kind of like this PV.  It’s not that it makes any sense at all – because it doesn’t – but rather because it’s intriguing.  Why are all these animal-headed people around?  Where are they going?  Why are they dancing?  In essence: WTF?  Unlike “Sunao ni Narenakute” and “STAY BEAUTIFUL,” I never felt the desire to turn it off or ignore it; instead, I watched with interest.  The story that’s implied behind the music keeps you watching.  The song itself isn’t my favorite – it’s a kind of big band infused rock that felt a little odd to me, and anyway, I’m a fan of Ajikan’s harder work like “Haruka Kanata” and “Rewrite” – but it’s not a bad song at all.  However, with this PV I found the video much more interesting and engaging than the music.  I’d recommend it, even if only for the “spuh?” factor. 

Sid - Rain

More sparkles.  I almost choked when I saw them.  After “Sunao ni Narenakute” I nearly turned the video off.  No more sparkles, for god’s sake!  But I stuck in there.  Turns out they aren’t sparkles, they’re raindrops.  Ohhh.  Considering the title of the song, I decided to let it pass.  This video is a classic “watch the band play the song” PV.  The band plays in a brightly-colored cloudscape, and as they play we’re treated to every fan-servicey shot known to man: close ups, slow-mo, close-ups on hands, hair flying.  They occur so frequently that you could turn the PV into a very effective drinking game, although you’d be long dead from alcohol poisoning before reaching the end of the video.  But despite this, it’s an okay PV.  Usually I hate PVs like this, but the difference here is that Sid manages to make themselves look hot and awesome, rather than totally ridiculous; there are no overly bizarre locations or overly bizarre outfits or overlly bizarre shots that are even less well-explained than the animal people from “Maigo Inu to Ame no Beat.”  Sid keeps it simple.  They’ve come to this cloudscape to create a fan-servicey video that will make girls swoon.  They don’t let anything distract them from that mission, and as a result they’re pretty effective.  The only part that I blatantly didn’t like were the blank expressions on vocalist Mao’s face – very Sayuri Sugiwara.  But he knows that he has enough make-up on to be pretty; adding emotion to the mix would be overload.  The song… wait, there was a song attached to this PV?  *wipes drool off chin*  Oh yes!  The song is pretty good – it’s a standard rock ballad that sounds like it could be attached to any random drama or anime without regard for content, and it doesn’t do anything to stand out from its peers, but it’s a decent song that I didn’t mind listening to.  “Rain” is a decent video that rabid j-music fangirls/boys should watch at least once if they want a little sugary eye candy.  But if you want something more than that, you’d best look elsewhere. 

Kuroki Meisa - 5-FIVE

Beautiful young people dancing in a club.  That pretty much sums it up.  Oh, and Kuroki Meisa occasionally singing in front of a fluorescent rainbow background.  Yep.  OH, and did I mention that Kuroki Meisa also has the power to take girls’ shirts off with her “magic fingers?”  On the surface, this video fits in the standard “everybody’s in the club having fun” genre, complete with tons of people laughing, dancing, and having fun.  On first watch it doesn’t have a lot to recommend it – it’s pretty plain and straightforward, even if it does contain some quirky surprises like Meisa’s “magic fingers” – but as you watch subsequent times, you begin to notice little things here and there that make it more interesting: a little girl-on-girl boob touching action, and Kuroki Meisa using her powers to do more than just take off girls’ tops.  She turns boys gay, blows up light bulbs, and soaks people on the dance floor.  Just as you begin to wonder what’s with all the magic powers, Meisa reveals herself to be an evil sorceress: she casts a fireball at the PV viewers, then black-clad Kuroki Meisa begins dancing on an all-black set while cheesy flames light up the scene and appear to almost devour those dancing around her.  Readers, I wish I was making this stuff up.  This unassuming dance club PV, which hadn’t been worth much at first glance, just gets weirder and weirder.  And although I can’t say that it’s the best PV out there, it’s certainly worth watching just to see what kind of insane crap Meisa inflicts on the people around her, who I can only assume are her poor, brainwashed minions.  (Really, why else would they even come near the cheesy flame set?)  The music is synthy pop with a little bit of a hip hop vibe and really strong bass that would make it good to listen to in a club, assuming some element of the song itself isn’t Kurkoi Meisa’s brainwashing agent.  Then again, maybe it’s the oft-repeated “One two three four five!” is the brainwashing element; like “The Song That Doesn’t End,” this line stirs in me the desire stab people, and the urge only gets stronger each time I hear it.  Watch the PV for the insane crap that goes on, and if you later find yourself in jail for stabbing people, at least you’ll have Kuroki Meisa’s brainwashing to blame.