Monday, July 23, 2012

And H!P Throws Another Curveball at Me

Wha... Mano Erina's graduating from Hello! Project? And just when I thought no other graduation could surprise me! I was hoping pegging Reina to be the next one to go but nope! I come home after a long 5 weeks in the city with limited Internet access and what's the first thing I find out? Mano Erina's graduating! The only soloist in H!P. Currently. Well, this was originally going to be just a (very late) PV review for Song for the Date but it looks like I get to double up and talk about the news and my thoughts on Mano's growth as an artist using Song for the Date as an example! Yippee! I get to talk about Mano! The only thing is... I'm not sure where to start.

So. Mano. I tend to refer to Mano Erina as Mano despite knowing that Erina's her first name and her nickname is Manoeri. Now what do I think of when I think of Mano? I guess a blank sheet of paper; she can be boring and bland but when used in a creative way, she can be pretty interesting. That last part sounded dirty. Anyways, what would my history and thoughts on Mano be? I honestly didn't start getting interested in her until she released My Days For You, the first song I found genuinely compelling from her discography. I found out about Mano the same time I started digging into H!P beyond just Buono! so around the time Seishun no Serenade was released. And I thought that song was okay and a little catchy so I looked into her past singles. And listening to her old songs, I felt pretty much the same way about all of them. They weren't bad but they definitely weren't amazing. Most of her singles I found to be pretty bland with the piano concept being used in a rather boring way. It could have been cool but overall I think it was more of a burden to her than something she could play with and work off of. I did enjoy Lucky Aura and Onegai Dakara but other than that... I honestly don't remember most of her older songs despite listening to them more than once. So I dismissed Mano just as quickly as I'd found out about her and moved on to other solo artists both in and outside of H!P.

Suddenly I found myself taking interest in her new-at-the-time single, My Days for You. It wasn't necessarily an entirely new and innovative genre of music that would revolutionize the Japanese music industry but it was a complete 180 for Mano. I'd call it a very, very high-energy ballad because it's not totally upbeat but it's not slow and dragging like her past ballads. That's actually what I enjoyed about it: a mix of two levels of energy. The song was memorable, mature and I still enjoy listening to it. And then it just got better: the PV came out. Gone were the backup dancers and gratuitous piano shots. Admittedly, the budget for this PV probably wasn't much better than her past music videos so what makes this one so special? The way it shows Mano. Most of the shots are mostly beauty shots of Mano wandering around the city but it worked. It worked so well. I didn't feel like I was watching an idol but an artist. So overall, I think My Days for You was Mano's turning point. But would it last? I wasn't sure at the time, especially when I watched the music video for Doki Doki Baby, the first A-side of her follow-up single. It wasn't terrible but I got the same feeling I did from her older stuff. I didn't enjoy enough to remember it and found it cliche, portraying Mano in that cutesy "Mano-desu" image. But once again, I was surprisingly impressed when I heard Tasogare no Kousaten. The mature Mano I'd taken so much interest in had returned! Although the song was similar to My Days for You I didn't really mind. I did find the chorus in this song very beautiful for some reason I can't put my finger on; seriously, it gives me chill bumps. From this point, I found Mano to be increasingly interesting even somewhat enjoying parts of her album. Then Song for the Date came out and I was hooked. I wanted more, I couldn't wait to hear what she released next.

But now she's graduating. And at the best, we'll only get to hear one song or two more from her, maybe an album. Why!? Why does this have to happen!? Why does it have to be at the peak when I'm so intrigued and want her to go on expanding this new image until she dominates H!P!? It's just... AGH! I read the explanations from Tsunku and Mano and it's the regular "I wanna do other stuff" fare that we've all heard a thousand times before. I guess if she wants to do something else than be an idol then I'm okay with that but she was getting so good. Maybe she's also a good actress and I really don't know but it's so frustrating! It's like I understand her reasons but I'm still throwing them aside and throwing a temper tantrum! I get it, I really do. Just because she's gotten so good with her music style doesn't mean she has to keep doing it forever. It's like... me and massages! I'm really good at giving massages but it's not like I want to pursue that as a living! But I still give massages! So maybe, maybe she'll branch out as a full-on artist instead of being tied down as an idol under and idol company. But if she enjoys acting then I understand. I don't want her to graduate just yet but I do understand. I just didn't think I'd get so emotional about an idol I used to care less about! I guess it goes to show how much Mano grew as a singer. And if Song for the Date is going to be her last single... then I think I'll be okay with that. Do I want at least one more parting song? Of course I do, but then again, I think Song for the Date is the most fitting way for Mano to end her time with H!P

Speaking of that song, I was going to review that. Then I got distracted by the whole graduation thing but dammit, I told myself I'd review this even if was like a month late! Or later. Anyways, I'm finally able to review and now I can look at it with the knowledge of Mano's graduation! All those other reviewers who were on time and didn't get distracted and lazy can't do that! So... HA! One of my immediate favorite things about Song for the Date is the overwhelming amount of energy from it and you know my philosophy. More energy = better song. And I can hear so much of it behind Mano's voice and the instrumentals which only pulls me in even more. There's effort and I can hear it. The next thing I adore about this song is (surprise, surprise) the electro sounds! As a fan of Perfume and Kyarypamyupamyu I'm always up for a little electro mixed into songs when done the right way and for Mano the electro music is mixed in very smoothly unlike One Two Three. Though there are a few parts where Mano's voice gets a little too vocally enhanced, mostly her voice is untouched and still very clear. The electro-ness and the huge amounts of energy are what makes this song top her past two singles in my opinion! And now with Mano graduating, I find myself listening to the song even more knowing this might be the last (or next to last) thing we ever hear from her. Like I said, I'm keeping my hopes up she'll keep a music career in her life but I get the feeling she's going to focus mostly on acting. Still, I can hope for more songs like this, right? Overall, I really love Song for the Date from the energy, to the vocals, to just... everything about it!

And yes, I'm am totally looking at this PV because in my opinion it's one of the bests PVs I've seen from H!P lately.

HIPSTER FONT! Do I get a prize for noticing that? No? Oh well...

And so our symbolic video begins with Mano tied up in a web spun by:

A) A really big spider
B) Her innocent evil counterpart

You know, the spider idea actually sounds like a pretty freaky awesome PV. 

Yeah Mano, I think I'd be pretty pissed off if I were tied up too.

Especially by my annoying evil counterpart. I think I'll call this doppelganger Mano-desu. It fits the persona!

Oh no! Mano-desu can do childish party tricks of DEATH!

Lucky for her, fabric is very easy to get out of. Wow! Who would have thought?

Mano really is quite pretty. Especially with the really pretty lighting and natural scenery.

The good news: now that Mano's free, she can start tearing down the posters depicting her old, idol-y persona!

The bad news: Mano-desu put up a shitload of posters.

Who cares? Let's throw them in rage anyways!

Mano-desu LAUGHS at your poor poster removal! Mwahahahaha!!!!

Seriously, why does she keep doing that?

Hmmm... I wonder how this would sound with the Chariots of Fire music in the background...

Mano-desu watches on probably giggling maniacally like an idol gone mad.

But what's this? Could she be... remorseful?

Either way, she'd better run before Mano catches up!

This probably has something to do with the song (lyrics maybe?) but figuring out what the hell that says is way too much effort on my part.

Mano-desu likes playing hide and seek! I do too!

But judging by the looks on her face, Mano sure as hell doesn't.

Back to tearing down posters! Yay!

And a kinda-sorta confrontation because the director can't afford actually getting Mano face to face with herself. The effects would be far too expensive!

I do feel kinda sorry for Mano-desu.

Especially since she gets a very symbolic off-screen death.

Well at least Mano finally managed to burn all those pesky posters!

I hope you liked these shots! They're pretty much the only thing the last 45 seconds of the PV consists of!

Not that I'm mad about that.

And so Mano goes into Mano heaven. I'm sure there are lots of kittens there.

Symbolism? In an H!P PV? Who would have thought it would ever be possible? My mind was seriously blown by the time I finished watching this. It had a story! It had symbolism! It was tasteful! It was about as close to a perfect PV as H!P's ever gotten. I later found out this PV was directed by someone different from the usual director. Apparently this guy did a movie Abe Natsumi was in so he/she must know what they're doing. Or at least they did in Mano's PV. What I love about this PV is that it has such a distinct and easy to follow storyline. As a foreign fan, most Japanese gets lost on me so conversations and such tend to have little to effect on my impression of a Japanese music video. But I could tell from start to finish what happened there, what happened at that point, etc. because it was so well done. It wasn't just some random plot either but very connected with Mano's history as an idol. To sum up the PV, the darker, fully mature Mano in black is being  suppressed by her old persona, the sweet, innocent Mano in white. That's the basic plot but the way it was handled was what gave it such an impact. And now with the news of the graduation, the PV almost seems like an omen of the inevitable: the day Mano leaves behind that idol image we've all seen her as and move on. I'm sure the director didn't exactly have that in mind when he thought up this PV but it definitely seems a lot more eerie this should be released, like some kind of glimpse into the future we didn't even know about. And honestly, that only makes me like the PV even better. So good job, H!P. You got me to care about Mano Erina. And I will miss her. I really. But as Perfume would say Everyone has to die graduate someday.

Oh yeah, since Mano's graduating that means there will be no more soloists in H!P. Does this mean you'll finally give Karin a solo career, Tsunku?

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