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.
A typical Perfume concoction: cute, cute, cute. Just like the group, the PV is kindergarten-simple, garishly bright, and artificial. And just like the group, I love it – despite that everything in me believes that I should hate it. “VOICE” features Perfume on a diamond hunt, wandering in and out through sets that look like they were designed out of construction paper by a six year-old. This concept would be highly unappealing except that the set designer includes all kinds of fun optical illusions and creative storytelling devices to enhance the otherwise simple backdrops. (I particularly liked the Perfume paper dolls, and the clouds that rush up past the girls’ faces as they “fall” down the cliff.) Although it’s easy to see how the effects were achieved, that doesn’t lessen their visual appeal – if anything it makes it more interesting to watch by creating a tension between the static, almost cartoonish sets and the living girls; much like the “storybook world” in Wakeshima Kanon’s “Shojo Jikake no Libretto,” the contrast is what catches your interest at the beginning, then keeps you watching as the PV goes on. The story itself is a little underdeveloped, and although its presence isn’t in the least necessary to carry the PV, the interruptions in it make it hard to notice or follow on a first watch. As in all their PVs, there’s some fun dancing and plenty of shots of the band being so cute you want them to explode to see if they’ll rain sparkles and rainbows on everything. I’m not as fond of the dance moves in “VOICE” as I was in “Natural ni Koishite,” but they’re performed with practiced fluidity as always. Particularly wonderful is the way that the choreographer and set designer worked together to fit the moves into “human tetris” slides. The song itself is fun and upbeat electropop (would anything else really be Perfume?), and will get stuck in your head in a good way. If you have any love for things cute and wonderful, this PV is a must.
Ghosts haunt some poor girl in a hotel who just wants to sleep. There ya go: spoiled. There’s not much more I can say. … Oh, you want more? Well… The ghosts of the hotel wake the girl early on in the video, and despite all her attempts to get back to sleep, they won’t leave her alone. She’s forced to wander the hotel, possibly hoping that she’ll find the dick who’s been banging things around and flicking lights. She’s kidnapped by a ghost in another room, then she suddenly reappears in her own room. Did she somehow escape? Did the ghost let her go after she helped him fix the flickering lights? Maybe she’s dead herself? It doesn’t really matter, anyway, because she finally has a chance to watch AI on her laptop! Hooray! She’s so happy that she falls asleep. Finally we get a shot of her back in her bed. Look it was all a dream! Then again, the presence of a feather near her alarm clock seems to beg the question “Or was it?” The End. … I suppose that didn’t really give you much more than the first sentence, though, did it? I found this PV a huge bore. The effects are reasonably good, but the paranormal activity is run-of-the-mill: mysterious lights at the end of hallways, camera shots that go kind of fuzzy, objects moving with no apparent force driving them, blah blah blah. The story is linear, and even the most interesting part – the kidnapping – is glossed over as though the writer couldn’t think of anything cool to happen, and couldn’t even come up with some crappy Deus ex Machina to bring the girl back. (Just having her appear will be interesting and mysterious enough, right? Wrong.) Honestly, the only remarkable thing about the whole video is the lame ghost that kidnaps the girl, who looks like a kid in a really bad pajama suit that he got from his grandmother. Although the song is okay, it’s nothing phenomenal. I’d skip this PV altogether: you probably wouldn’t remember watching it anyway.
KEN has lied to us. There’s no strolling in this PV at all! Someone should beat him up… Hey, thanks, KEN’s PV girlfriend! Here we see KEN, the heartless ex-boyfriend that drove his woman away, and Girlfriend, the bi-polar girl he lives with who spends half the PV smiling, and the other half throwing stuff. We get to watch their relationship unravel, with all the slow-mo throwing of things that you could ask for. As far as I can tell, Girlfriend is upset because KEN is an emotionless hunk of ice who has a tendency to say stupid things: he only smiles once in the PV (while he’s teaching her to play guitar), and it’s quickly followed up by a wince (also while he’s teaching her to play guitar). Based on her record of throwing things, I’m surprised she doesn’t Hulk out on his guitars, but maybe she was tired from making a mess of their dinner, breaking a mirror with her camera, and tearing open pillows. At the beginning of the PV we see all of her things appear in the apartment from nowhere, and at the end (after the final blowout, caused by KEN treating Girlfriend like the paparazzi for trying to take a picture of him) they all disappear again, showing that she’s not part of his life anymore. I’m torn by this PV, because on the one hand it could potentially be read as a comment on abusive relationships (although Girlfriend appears to verge on physical abuse, KEN’s stoicism – and possible emotional neglect – appear to have driven her there), but on the other hand it’s hard to believe that was the message KEN was gunning for. The set and costumes are simple, so it’s easy to focus on the action, and there are some great (if simple) contrasts: the apartment is full and bright when Girlfriend is there, and empty and dark after she’s gone. Still, as much as I want this to be some kind of brutal critique on the relationships between men and women in Japan, it seems to have stumbled upon this depth by accident rather than travelling there on purpose. I have trouble giving it credit for that. The song is a rock ballad, but not something I’d listen to over and over; in the end, the PV is superior to it. It’s an interesting watch, even if it does appear to have greatness accidentally thrust upon it.
The most notable aspect of this PV is hands down the colors. Color spills out of it, and every pixel is filled with it – bright, strong, and deep, in every shade imaginable. The second most notable point is the textures: the PV opens with hundreds of bubbles welling up from some unknown deep, gurgling to an unseen surface, sparking a visual texture extravaganza, as though the director was aiming to teach your eyes what it means for objects to feel soft or smooth or bumpy. And the water everywhere – capturing color, enhancing texture: ripples on the surface of it, luxurious fabric wafting in it, sparks extinguished upon it, mist rising above it. They combine with the array of textures and gorgeous color to create images that almost seem plush. It’s undeniably beautiful. Unfortunately, all of this is nothing but a pretty face on a boring PV. I strongly feel that any PV which primarily features the artist simply singing or playing shouldn’t be produced: they’re boring and narcissistic, and even the good examples are still bad PVs. The worst part is that if Mika had left herself out of it, it would have been vastly better: the plush textures and beautiful colors could have stood on their own and been lovely without her, could have played on the swimmer and reflected off her skin without Mika being there at all. But by adding herself sitting and singing for a large part of the PV, the colors and textures take a back seat and leave us with a video that grows tiresome after less than a minute. Because Mika is there, the falling maple leaves and drifting sakura blossoms don’t add to the luscious atmosphere; instead, they seem like the trite symbols of sorrow that they are. The song is no better: sappy and forgettable. Watch this PV once for the eye candy; you won’t get anything more.
Abe Fuyumi knows better than to make Nakashima Mika’s mistake. She has her own artistic beauty to show off, and she’s not going to ruin it by sitting around and singing for over half the PV. No siree. She uses admirable restraint by showing herself singing only three times, and only for a handful of seconds at a time. She has bigger things to show the audience: namely, the art of the “sand animator” Kseniya Simonova. (For those who’ve never seen her work: do you live under a rock or something? Go to YouTube and look her up!) She “paints” lovely pictures in her medium, detailing a classic story but with a “twist:” instead of the tired old “boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl” scenario we all know so well, the story is “boy meets girl, boy gets girl, girl loses boy.” HA! Didn’t see that one coming, did you? All joking aside, this PV doesn’t offer much to recommend itself. Although there’s no denying that Simonova is talented and that she does a good job painting out the story she’s been given, these kinds of videos have been done so many times (seriously, do you live under a rock?) that they’re just tired and boring at this point. If you’re a big fan of Abe Fuyumi you might enjoy it, or if you’re a fan of Simonova, or if you’ve never seen Simonova’s work (a ROCK?!), but otherwise, trust me when I say you’ve already seen this PV, you just don’t realize it.