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.
Goddamn, a semi-normal Kyary video. It’s weird to think how weird it is that this video isn’t that weird. Or something like that. Kyary’s just jamming out in her “haunted” castle with her “scary” “monster” friends. Honestly, the craziest thing about the video is that there isn’t really anything all that crazy about it (until the end, but we’ll get to that). It could easily be a Milky Bunny video, just with much cuter music and a much larger budget. Where are the amorphous heads? The enormous octopus tentacles? Kyary’s brand of insanity-inducing post-cute aesthetic is pretty scarce in this video, and when I first watched it I was let down...and then confused and angry at myself for being let down that the thing I don’t like about Kyary videos was copiously missing. Another odd-because-it’s-not tidbit: the music isn’t so saccharine that it makes you want to barf bats; there’s a tiny bit of rock edge that differentiates the song from the rest of her discography, in much the same way that the minor chord in “Tsukema Tsukeru” differentiates it. It’s actually a pretty good song. Of course, just when you’re thinking that you got away from a Kyary video without using the eye bleach, she showers in a moon monster’s Pepto-pink vomit. So, there’s that. As with so many of Kyary’s videos, your mileage will vary with this one, but it might be worth checking out if for no other reason than the novelty factor of it being somewhat normal.
I love Kimura Kaela’s videos. Even if they aren’t what you’re looking for - even if they look like someone had to have intercepted Charlie Sheen’s shipment of blow to think it up - they’re always original. Except for “Sunshower.” Although the projector idea is interesting enough, I already saw this video when it was performed (better) by Shiina Ringo as “Jiyuu he Michizure.” White dress (the better to show the projected images with), jumping around doing crazy shit, umbrellas, massive projector wall... Okay, okay, okay, there are some differences. For starters, Kaela gives you some glances behind the scenes, which are confusing at first, and then seem childishly self-indulgent, like she’s trying to show off how clever she is. “Look guys! Here’s a peek at the inner workings of my utter genius!” Then I suppose that there’s the total lack of a cohesive narrative; as with “Winter Fairy,” it looks like Kaela threw whatever she could think of at the screen to see what would stick. Answer: some landscapes, some watercolors, and lots of drops of food coloring drops in water. Oh, and the song, which is smarmy, drowning in a pool of warm-and-fuzzies, a bit clunky, and much too long. Think the campiness of “Ring-a-Ding-Dong,” but sappier. It certainly isn’t the kind of tour-de-force you’d expect from the creator of “Kidoairaku Plus Ai” or “Mamireru.” I think you can see that I’m not going to recommend this one. As much as I love Kaela, this is far (very, very far) from her best work.
On the other end of the Erin Love Scale is Chara, whose baby voice has been the subject of ridicule plenty of times on the show, and in my own personal life. And as you’re probably expecting by now, this video was surprisingly awesome (possibly because fate just wants to fuck with me this week). The concept seems to revolve around the red string of fate, a Chinese and Japanese legend that says that two people who are destined to be lovers are tied together with an invisible red string. Chara goes through the video pulling the red string behind her, dragging along a caravan of heavy-looking bags. (Although they clearly represent the baggage that’s keeping her from being with her true love, the evil part of me can’t help but snicker at the thought that perhaps Chara’s true love is her wardrobe.) The concept is simple, pretty, and beautifully executed. The set is just as lovely, dark grey stylized hills and vines with bright spots of colored flowers here and there, seeming to fluoresce out from the darkness. The beautiful, avant-garde kimono-dress that Chara wears and the the addition of quirky props - an enormous pair of shoes, a tiny piano - give the the video the perfect final touch or surreality. Rarely has a video captured the essence of the song it promotes so perfectly; the song is just as lovely as the video, sad and quiet without being whiny or sappy. This is one of the most visually stunning videos I’ve ever seen, with a song that makes me want to reconsider my opinion of Chara. If you only watch one video from this PV Play, make it this one.
Poor Versailles. They can only wish that they had Kalafina’s budget. Maybe then they could do their rocking out in a real castle instead of one with papier-mache columns and paintings bought from the discount aisle at Wal-Mart. Maybe if they didn’t spend so much money on make-up, hair, and costumes... But who am I to tell a visual kei band not to spend their money on the thing that sets them apart from the crowd? I mean, sure, they’d have a castle, but they’d just look like a bunch of regular Japanese guys rocking out in a castle instead of Japanese guys posing as 18th century French nobility on the set of “Doctor Who.” At least we don’t have to look at that sad excuse for a set for the whole video; Versailles has been kind enough to rent out a small live house so that our eyes get a rest. They also spend a little time in a dining room, drinking tons of wine and eating chicken thighs with their hands. Of course, it occurs to me that if they hadn’t spent money on either of those things that they would have been that much closer to the castle budget. Maybe it still wouldn’t have been enough? After all, castles are expensive and one can in fact have too many epaulets. The song itself is perfectly serviceable visual kei, although nothing about it stands out or is particularly interesting. This video will probably be your thing if you like VK to begin with, but otherwise, it’s nothing special.
Ooh, ooh, ooh! Let me see if I can predict this video without even looking at it! Okay. Um... Stereotypically Japanese seasonal reference. At least one shot of the moon. Some kind of baroque or rococo prop. Fire and/or ice. Gackt’s usage of the “crazy face.” (You know the one, don’t pretend like you don’t.) *peeks at video* JEEZUS J-ROCKING CHRIST, I was right! It’s weird to think that the sex-idol of my teens has turned into a caricature of himself. (Thank the J-rocking gods that he’s embraced it, otherwise he’d be as sad a stripper with stretch marks.) But even as predictable as his videos inevitably are, it seems that Gackt still knows how to surprise me. Besides Gackt writhing around on a fancy chair and being very “Gackt,” the video features a man sitting beside a grave, presumably for his lost love. The body has been covered with rocks, a crude cross made of rough-hewn branches has been placed at the head... Wait, a cross? That’s a little odd, considering the samurai armour that the man wears. And then it hits you - this video is a memorial for all the Japanese Christians who were crucified by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the Tokugawa Shogunate during their time in power. The first major massacre, the crucifixion of the Twenty-Six Martyrs, happened in 1597, and having been 57 at the time, Gackt would have certainly been old enough to remember the event. It appears that even now, over 400 years later, the event still haunts him. Damn, Gackt, that is deep.