Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What the Hell Is Happening to BiS?

Brand-New Idol Society is an enigma to me.

I've known about them for awhile. Like a majority of other Internet wotas, I came upon them with their highly-controversial PV My Ixxx. In case you've decided not to watch the video (or you were dumb enough to put you Youtube age as under 18) then it's basically three girls running around in the forest slashing paint on each other. Naked. Crazy and audacious as that sounds, the song is decent and I actually thought the camerawork was done very tastefully and in a way that wasn't merely exploiting the girl's bodies. But after that I just kinda forgot about them. Sure, I subscribed to their channel and occasionally I looked at something done by them but overall I'd pretty much dismissed them as something that popped up on the Internet and quickly faded into the other indie idol groups barely treading water. I probably shouldn't have done that. Once again, BiS has shown back up after losing a member, gaining two, and just a little something called a major label. This is a huge step for them because at least it gives them solid ground and they're threatened by the threat of forced disbandment.

So far I've created three theories about BiS:

A. The entire group is based on the gimmick of being "non-conformist idols" in an attempt to sell well.
B. They literally have no idea where they've going with their image so they draw themes out of a hat and just go with it.
C. Someone went crazy.

Do you know what the sad part is? At this point, I'm not sure which one explains the most. When I first looked into the group that's what I had originally dismissed them as. Because seriously, some of the stuff they've done (like primal) is pretty much designated to be shock value and/or a way to do something creative with little to no budget. Hell, they've even stated in the past that their goal is to do music and other stunts that no idol groups want to do and their name is Brand-New Idol Society. But I wonder... how much of that is genuine and how much of it is for show? Did these girls just go in wanting to be idols but realized the only way they'd be able to keep the group afloat was if they tried new and shocking images/videos to get attention and revenue to keep making music? Or did they all get tired of groups like AKB48 dominating the idol world with a boatload of idol cliches and create the group as some kind of defiance against the natural order of the idol world? If it's the latter, then I do find that kind of awesome. I will say real or fake, you never really see idol groups like this rise into prominence and it is kind of neat to see something on the opposite end of the idol spectrum. But I honestly feel like this is more a gimmick than an actual desire to do something rarely done with idol groups. It's kind of like hipsters non-conformists!

The latter two theories are probably a little more far-fetched but the things this group does are far-fetched. Some of their latest PVs have left me with my mouth hanging opening trying to figure out what the hell I just watched and the why the hell I even bothered watching it. Because that's what this group is to me: an enigma. I'm not sure what they're trying to pull in the idol world because every time I think I've finally figured them out they throw another curve ball at me. I think they're going to do soft rock songs and music videos with earthy undertones and simple settings. They release a hard pop song with a gross-out PV. I think they're reverting to something more sane. They only get more insane. I think they have a stable lineup. They add more members. See what I mean? It's frustrating to be nearly wrong about everything a group does! And I should probably mention their most recent stunt.

About a month ago, the group that made a PV looking like this:


The PV was about 3 minutes and was probably the cheapest looking piece of drek to come from BiS. The picture pretty much sums up the entire feel of the PV but I admit I was rather surprised initially when I first saw it. I thought to myself "They finally succumbed to the mainstream gimmicks, huh?" After thinking about it more I realized how out of line this was and thought maybe, maybe it was a stealth parody. But either way I pretty much forgot about them and moved on to other groups I was interested in. But then the real PV came out and BiS revealed the first PV was all a joke and changed their image to this:

Yeah. They also released a rather hardcore PV that was very obviously meant to be a stark contrast to the cutesy-cutesy-kawaii desu song. I do enjoy parts of the real song like the chorus but overall it's just a little to screamo-metal for me; I'll stick with my beloved techno trio who I need to stop bringing up in posts. Anyways, I was originally just going to screen cap the PV and talk about the song and have it all happy and done with but I'm not satisfied with doing that. I can't even emphasize how much this group confuses me and   their many career choices including their most recent one. So I've decided to dig a little deeper into some of their possible motivations and try to figure out why the hell Avex has decided to pick them up. It's not that they're a bad idol group because they have a concept (of what I'm not entirely sure) but in other areas they're just... not as polished. Their dances are weird and their vocals definitely need some work; two major things Avex prides in their idol groups. And I admit the girls' personalities definitely stand out but not exactly in the way I'd see Avex approving of ("Sometimes I use dirty words to excite the audience!")

But apparently they did something right! Because now they have gotten signed on to Avex Trax to start making singles and albums that actually have a budget and production values! But here's the thing with Avex and idols... aren't they known for making the cutesiest, most idol-y, disgustingly sweet, and marketable idol groups? Okay, to be fair TGS and Fairies aren't terribly idol-ish but one look at each group and it's pretty obvious that they're still idols. So why would this group who's so hell-bent on making sure they play against the sterotype of idols signing on with the record company that produces some of the most cliche (but still awesome) idol groups? My theory? Money. Isn't that why idols are made in the first place? Because no matter what as long as you have yourself some cute teenage girls with decent voices there will be a fandom for them no matter how big or small it is. A fandom that will eagerly lap up anything said idols produce and spend buckets of cash on this group. So with what I call "the Avex treatment" will BiS succeed in making money for themselves at the cost of what made them known? Maybe. Maybe not. And maybe BiS really did want to be the idol group that stood out from all the other idols in the very large market for them. But it obviously didn't work out. Their album and singles failed to chart on the Oricon and it was said there was a lot of tension building up in the group and disagreements with the management and between the members. So the obvious solution is to sign with a company that will make sure the group sells at least a few thousand singles even if it's possibly at the cost of the group's individuality. Now with two new members and getting some shiny new Avex outfits shown at the top of this post what does this mean for the indie group who tried to hard to stand out? 

And there's my textual block of musings. Can you see why they fascinate me so much now? I literally have no idea what they're going to pull next. All I know it's probably going to be audacious and it's probably meant to grab my attention but at least that works. Following BiS is like taking home the fluffy dog you found at the animal shelter that keeps spazzing out every few minutes. So who knows? Maybe Avex will acknowledge what put made them get a little bit of fame and use that. Maybe they'll turn them into just another failed idol group to add to the ever growing pile. Only one thing is for sure: these girls are definitely on my radar. It just depends on how long they'll stay there...

Perfume's Spring of Life and Death

Warning: Copious amounts of fangirling are in this review.

I've been waiting for this.

I mean... isn't it obvious? My wallpaper is the Spring of Life promo. For the past few months (actually... pretty much ever since I started this blog) I've been stating over and over again that I think Perfume is in a rut. As much as I adore the group, their music hasn't exactly been... so mind-blowingly super that I've felt the urge to swim across the pacific ocean and buy their music myself. Or something like that. Don't me wrong, their music's still been pretty awesome! Fake It, Fushizen na Girl, and 575 are some of my favorite Perfume songs! But it just feels like there isn't nearly as much... quirkiness in their music nowadays. It's still fun and very techno but it's also much more marketable, something that I think is bringing down their creativity. I don't want to say everything sounds the same because it totally doesn't but there's nothing that really stand out to me. Gone are the days of 8 minute songs of hardcore techno like edge and closest thing we've gotten to a "different" song is Toki no Hari from JPN but that's not the kind of different I had in mind... It just doesn't have the same kind of "life" it used to have back in the GAME era. Something about the overall energy and feel behind the music just seems tired out and almost... lifeless. Anyways, with the release of JPN I really did enjoy the album but Triangle and GAME still trump that and by this point I was getting a little ready for something with a little more energy to it.

Then Perfume switched labels. And from then on I think things have started to get progressively better! Not only did Perfume get a global website (in English!!) they also released JPN in over 50 countries on iTunes (including the USA!!) and there's even been a few hints at performing somewhere outside of Japan! How cool would that be? I'm not really getting my hopes up for that last one but I've definitely felt like there's been a general change in Perfume's promotion! With Tokuma they felt more cut-off; I couldn't buy their songs on iTunes and it was pretty accepted that they'd pretty much stay in Japan. But with talks of doing something more global it makes me excited! I think the move to Universal Music Japan has been a smart move in their career and I'm hoping their new music will have a little more life in it, if you know what I mean... which brings me to their first single under UMJ: Spring of Life. And dammit, the title fits perfectly for this song; I think this is the most energy I've heard in a Perfume song in a long time. Even when the opening starts I can just feel a lot more effort behind it! That's what makes this song such a strong debut for Perfume under UMJ: it's like it symbolizes the "rebirth" of Perfume (which explains the Spring of Life title) and matches the feelings most of Perfume's fans had when the group switched labels: joy. The most prominent emotion in this song is the sheer joy behind the instrumentals and the vocals. The bridge is my favorite part of the song because of how we get a brief taste of edgy-Perfume then transition right back into the joyful tone of the song! The chorus is amazing, the verses provide a nice contrasts, and overall the song left me feeling fantastic that would hear more awesome music from Perfume under UMJ!

But the best part about Perfume other than their music, personalities, and outfits is their music videos. So let's gush over the 40+ screencaps I did of the PV!!

Start us off futuristic robot thingy!

I swear they're like little dolls of perfection!!

In the making of, it's really neat how these were hooked on and made their clothes light up!

Oh cool! A shout-out to their new global website!

How To Make A Nocchi-Bot 101!

And a K-1000!

The more I look at these shots, they look very... painful.

Nocchi Stare!

She did that in Secret Secret too!!

These light-up clothes are awesome. I can't begin to describe how much I love these outfits!

And I love the dance too because it has all the signature Perfume moves but still distinguishes itself from the others!

This a fun move to watch in motion... I'd be lying if I said I didn't do it with them...

Wouldn't it be great if all idol groups danced like Perfume? Actually the more I think about it no. Perfume is Perfume. Only they can pull this off.

And only they could pull off light up dresses without it coming off as tacky or annoying!

With no sheep to imitate all Nocchi can do is stare off into space...

Basic Table Etiquette with A-chan!

I love this set; it's like a distopia and the brightness of Kashiyuka contrasts with it!

I get it! It's a "life in a bubble" concept! By the way those light-up nails are really awesome. I want those too.

What happened to the light up nails?

Aww, don't be sad Nocchi! You have lots of international fans!

I wonder if Target would ever sell light-up dresses. Pretty please?

A-chan discovers the mysterious thing called love...

I wish my computer pulled up error messages like that! How awesome would that be!?

All you need is love! All you need is love, love!

Weird edits... but cool!

Remember: Kashiyuka is watching you. 

Love the lighting in this shot, I wished they used it more!

One day the Perfume Robot Dance is going to catch on! I just know it!

I think I just found a new background for my desktop...

Perfume supports teamwork and light-up dresses? Aren't they amazing?

The things I'd do for a phone call from Perfume...

Kashiyuka! You don't need lipstick! You look pretty already!

"YES! We finally escaped from Tokuma!"

Could I get one of these to do my right so it doesn't look like a kindergarten art project?

Nocchi's such a boss she has robots do nails for her!

Off they go to take over the world with laser beams and light-up dresses! I'm all for it!

Classic Perfume dance move.

A-chan seems a little nervous to what exactly Nocchi's doing behind her...

Nocchi unplugged the power!? Bad Nocchi!

No power!?


Did they just... die!?

I'll talk about the symbolic death later because we have much more symbolic symbolism to tackle first! My favorite part about this PV is that it matches the song well and still manages to be a lot of fun! You can definitely see a prominent "life/death" or "humanity/artificiality" theme throughout the PV especially in the way Perfume moves throughout the shots. The beginning shots are very stiff and robotic, portraying the group like little robots/androids. They're connected to what I assume is giving them power through a series of wires hooked up to their backs. The wires are also what make their clothes light up with "energy" which by the way is the coolest effect I have ever seen from Perfume and makes the dance shot one of the best moments in the PV. So Perfume dances around slowly learning to perform the functions of everyday humans. But as they do that a change comes over them. They start to discover what humans feel like love (the hearts that frequently appear throughout the PV), sadness (the single tear down Nocchi's cheek), happiness (A-chan animatedly talking on the phone), beauty (Kashiyuka applying makeup) etc. As this happens, there movements become more fluid and human-like to the point that these Perfume androids have almost become real people. But the wires connecting them to power are a cruel reminder that everything is only ruse for them to hide behind. However, they don't realize that and as they skip happily through the place of their creation, Nocchi unplugs A-chan resulting in their formerly luminescent clothes going dark and the girls going still. The screen shuts off and the viewer is left with nothing but the emptiness that although the little Perfume-bots tried to embrace humanity their efforts only lead to their deaths.

Well. That's a little morbid.

But that's what makes this PV so amazing!! After a lot of thinking (and reading a lot of interpretations on Perfume City) I think this is meant to symbolize Perfume's role in the music industry and their restriction on creativity because of how much fame they've achieved. A common thing you see in the music industry is when an artist starts to get famous, they usually try to keep the public appeal but in doing so, fans complain "they've gone too mainstream" or "their new music is nothing compared to when they weren't so famous". In my opinion, I think Perfume's music is still pretty amazing but I have come across fans who've lamented what they call their "commercial decline." I think the PV captures perfectly their position as a techno group and what their management expects from them: to make money. By keeping with their old style represented by them as robots, it shows how Perfume is stuck in the rut I frequently mention. But when they become increasingly human and break out of the system they were trained to keep up with, it shows their transition to dabble a little in something more creative. However, in the end their attempts at being individual with their music lead to nothing when they lose power which brings up a question: is this all Perfume can ever be? These beautiful singers restricted to the robotic patterns that sell so well? And would trying something a bit riskier only lead in them "shutting down?" Who knows? But I love this PV. Some more technical elements I enjoy are the light-up outfits and I always look forward to the Perfume dances and their simple yet complicated choreography. The lighting is also nice and there's some great acting from A-chan, Nocchi, and Kashiyuka!

Seriously. Watch it. Or Polyrhythm. Or Electro World. Or leave right now before I get too fan-girly...

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Dark Side of Bikini PVs: AKB48


I think Aki-P might be watching me.

As I begin this series of summer posts, I've stated that I have low expectations for nearly every summer single being released during this time. With the exception of Perfume because they could sing about cats wearing fuzzy socks playing ping pong and I'd probably eat it up. But being the open-minded person I was, I decided to look at each PV with a critical eye but not completely shut it out. When I heard the radio preview of Manatsu no Sounds Good it was pretty much everything I'd expected from and AKB48 summer song: pretty but still upbeat and overall a pretty good song. I like it better than Everyday, Katyusha. I wrote in an earlier post that I was hoping Aki-P would do something more different than just having the group prance around in bikinis but I dismissed that hope when the covers came out. Just a bunch of white bikinis, cheap fonts, and the same-old, same-old I'd seen in their other summer songs. I had low expectations for the PV and had pretty much deduced that most of the PV would be AKB taking their time to make a party or surprise or something to send a cutesy summer farewell to Acchan then do something fanservice-y and kawaii-desu. The end.

I don't think I've ever been so wrong.

Just look at this setting! Dark clouds, a torn and beaten Acchan, this isn't the summer PV I was expecting!

And no Creeper Smile from Mayuyu O_O

"I was just attacked by a horde of H!P fans... Be afraid. Be very afraid."

Are those the Senbatsu outfits from last year? Clever...

And this is why you should never have fan wars!

A sky full of falling debris can only mean trouble.

Poor Mayuyu. She doesn't have her army of Warota 7 chipmunks members!

Nothing like a fun day of laughing, dancing, and finding a bunch brutally mauled idol singers for the less popular front girls!

There's that Creeper Smile I know and love!

This tattoo reminds me a clock. Maybe time's running out for the group...

I really love the effects in this part; they remind of Kokoro no Hane for some reason!

And of course Acchan's the only survivor. Why not? She's survived sword fights, virtual killing games, demon earth spirits, and a crappy acting career; she's practically invincible by now!

Not-as-popular front girls to the rescue!

Acchan tells them she's not worth it. I can't say I disagree.

But the new girls are far too nice to do that. Or they're too stupid. Take your pick!

NO! Live Miichan! If Sayaka can't survive then you WILL make it!

Holy shit! The sky is killing them!

LIVE YUKO! You're our only hope to keep this group alive!!!

I never thought I'd say this but AKB is reaching Beginner-levels of violence in this PV!

I watch horror movies and even I find this shot kind of disgusting...

The blue blood's also kind of creepy. I think it's meant to represent some kind of infection taking over the new girls.

This shot's really unsettling. Mainly because I'm afraid this might happen in real life if Jurina isn't given a proper break.

Poor Mayuyu... I'm sure she'd much rather be rescuing a double of herself and fighting little rays of light.

Okay. I know this symbolizes something... but I'll have to think about that.

What if the bike starts flying like it did in E.T.?

With a cover of her eyes, Mayuyu is taken into a different world. A world of fanservice. Lots of fanservice.

Can it be? Is it finally happening? It did didn't it?

I knew it O_O Mayuyu has finally taken over as front girl of AKB48.

And what better way for her to front the group with a bunch of cliche dance moves you'd see in Warota 7?

Hello frequently pushed but unwanted front girl Sasshi!

Seriously? First NMB48 and et tu, AKB? How much fanservice do you guys need!?

What is this? Idol Cliche #283? I'm seriously considering going through with that drinking game idea...

Oh, Takamina, why you no get more screen time? :(

I really love this scene; it's very touching and a nice transition from the violence and chaos earlier.

Seriously, the sheer joyfulness in everyone is so heartwarming!

Just a heads up Aki-P, if Mayuyu's going to be the new center for AKB I'm all for it!

Just a thought here but... wouldn't it be easier for you to walk without heels on, Acchan?

That's right! Nothing like teamwork and unity in the 48 family except during Senbatsu elections.

The return of Mayuyu's creeper smile can only mean one thing!

A symbolic ascension to AKB Heaven!

I don't think I truly emphasized how completely and totally mindblown and I am with this PV. Here I was expecting some happy fun-fun summery send off to Acchan but hell no. I'm serious, this a complete 180 of what I had in mind for AKB's summer PV. It's dark, brutal, and has enough symbolism to match up Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou. When it was finally over I just sort of sat there for a moment taking everything in. Every shot, every transition had some kind of symbolism behind it and without that gratuitous bikini dance, I would have called this PV perfect. But I'm willing to let that slide for the moment to look at the bigger symbolism behind this video. Ever since it was released, fans have been analyzing it and speculating its meaning. Most have said it's a "heaven and hell concept" and I agree very much with that. You can definitely tell with the contrasts in lighting and general atmosphere. But here's my personal take on the meaning behind this PV: I think it's about the death of AKB48. Or the disbandment. I know it's been theorized that it's about the dawn of a new era but I think the PV has a more melancholic meaning behind it. My three main points are this: the death of the older members in the tattered Senbatsu clothing, the death of the younger members in the t-shirts after trying to save them, and the whole group standing in the sun in white dresses.

So my first point: the older members. The PV opens with Maeda Atsuko, the face of AKB48 who's graduating very soon, limp and to the point of near-death. It then cuts to other prominent members like Yuko, Takamina, Tomochin, Miichan, Mariko, etc. all laying on the ground in the rain just as bedraggled as Acchan. The atmosphere is meant to be rough and brutal like a battleground after the battle's been lost. The sky is dotted with falling stars/meteors and dark clouds. Obviously this first setting is meant to symbolize hell, the latter half symbolizing the "heaven" part of the PV. But I think the image goes a little deeper than that. I think this first part symbolizes the slow deterioration of AKB48. This is the part in their career when their sales have gone down, they've lost interest with the general public, and the older members have either left or been to burnt out to continue. This is also why they're wearing torn and ripped versions their 2011 Senbatsu outfits; it was a time of prosperity that's now been corrupted by the passing of time and the next big idol group has taken over while they've been left in the dirt to die out one by one. I think this part was meant to be an acknowledgement to the fact that the front girls we know and love so much in AKB can't stay in there forever and eventually only when they're on their last legs will they finally burn out.

My second point: the younger members. One important thing to note about this single's Senbatsu is that number of new members; nearly half of these girls had never been in an AKB single until now. Hell, there are more Team 4 members in this song than Team B and K combined. In the PV, these are the girls dressed in shorts and T-shirts, the young fresh faces playing in the rain and laughing innocently. Among them is Watanabe Mayu because even though she has a boatload of seniority she also has her Creeper Smile and I'm certain that carries dark forces behind it. She's pretty much the unofficial "leader" of these new girls and they come across the "hell" of seeing all the older, more famous front girls dying out one by one. They run to them and try their best to save them but in the end find themselves being killed very likely by the same things that killed the older members. When I say that I'm referring to the bigger, more successful idol groups that will sure rise in the future. In the end, only one member Iwata Karen is left amongst the mix of young and old bodies staring up at the clouded sky with little to no hope left for the return of the once-great idol group. I think this symbolizes Aki-P's attempt to revive the group with little to no success as the fame they once had is long gone and too far out of their reach. Because of this the group collapses and is left to join the other idol groups that once had their day in the sun.

My third and final point: the ending. After going through their slow and painful deaths, the scenery and general feel of the PV changes. Together the young and old members run up a hill, bright smiles on the faces and a look of sheer joy about them. Meanwhile, Acchan and Mayuyu limp along up a hill and slowly the clouds start to go away and the sun peeks out from the sky. Finally they reach their destination: everyone they'd lost in the fight to stay alive. Lined up on a hill with white dresses, the members smile and wave happily at the late arrival of their two beloved front girls. Obviously, this is meant to symbolize the transition into "heaven" for the group and I think this is meant to symbolize the point in their career in which after a long, hard fight to keep the group alive they've finally fallen apart and despite the pain and suffering they had to endure in their last years, the group still ascended to a higher plain finally at peace and the acceptance of their position of a once-great idol group that could last forever. I think it's AKB's way of acknowledging that even though they know they're fame is going to dwindle out eventually, they're still grateful for the chance they had to shine on stage and make millions of people happy. And now that they've done that they can be remembered as the bright, smiling girls from Akibahara who dreamed of fame and success.

And this is why I really love this PV. It manages to capture and convey everything that could come after Acchan's graduation from a new girl leading the group (Mayuyu), the older members slowly dropping out, and finally the end. I'm amazed to see out how well the pulled off this concept and what a great send-off it is for the front girl of AKB48. I don't think I've ever come across a PV I had such low expectations for and come out so impressed. Here I was thinking Kataomoi Finally would be the best PV I review this year, but Manatsu is getting better and better each time I watch it! I will say my only real criticism is the bikini shots but even then they don't really bother me because the rest of the PV was so amazing. The song is also good but it's best highlighted in the PV itself and that 's what made me like the song even more. So congrats, Aki-P. You got me to care about a summer single. And Acchan. And the future of AKB48. *clap clap*

Ganbare, Acchan. I look forward to the next era.