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.


  1. Nia, I freakin' LOVE your reviews

    Just needed you to know that <3

    1. Wow! Thanks!


      For the record, you're one of the three blogs I actively stalk- I mean follow! Eh heh ^^

  2. Wow, you don't know how much this review has increased my appreciation for the PV! Thank you!

    I'd just like to add a little bit of my own interpretation to yours if I may...I think this PV also serves as a warning to the newer gen that going after the path carved by their senpais as their destination will lead to infection, then death by mysterious blue smoke/blood thingy. That they must carry on their own path if they want to live on (and for AKB to keep going). That they have to be themselves.

    Thanks again!

  3. It's interesting... I wonder if 2012-13 was meant to be the year in which mayuyu became the new atsuko? Certainly pairing her with atsuko and helping her up the hill suggests that. The 2 centers mayuyu had this post 2012 senbatsu year(should have been 3 counting uza but that got changed) also suggests aki-p had picked her as the one to overtake yuko and start a new era. However, placing 3rd this year might affect this as it would show that everyone's not ready to accept her yet. They might still push her (heck, paruru got an enormous push considering she only placed 23rd last year) but I wonder if mayuyu's era is over before it really began?

    1. I feel like AKS was pushing Mayuyu heavily to be the next "Acchan" of AKB48. Now that she's placed 3rd in this year's election though, I also wonder if her excessive push is going to continue. I get the feeling that Aki-P might starting pushing Sashihara Rino instead. But it's all just guessing really. The Senbatsu ranking might not effect Mayuyu at all; we'll just have to wait and see!

  4. Hi, I would like to know if you have some links to download j-pop music, because all my favorite japanese artists aren't available on the canadian iTunes. Thanks ! :)

    1. The best website for downloads is Jpopsuki, but you do need an invite to access the website. Your second best bet is They're good for more recent releases, but older releases are more hit-or-miss. Good luck!