Friday, September 28, 2012

Take a Chance and Stop Using Sparkly Effects, UFA!

I'd be lying if I said I haven't been excited to see how this PV was going to turn out.

I kept reminding myself "Nia, it's UFA, they'll probably just do a dance shot and hold some sock puppets or something cheap and unimaginative like that." I felt like because the song was so good, something had to pay the price for it; what if that happened to be the PV? It turns out said price came in the form of those atrocious outfits the girls are wearing for the single. They look like something I'd find in those cheap Halloween costume magazines I leafed through when I was a kid. But I digress; I'll trash those later (though I wish I could literally throw them in the trash). Even before the song came out, I was very intrigued to see if we'd hear from the Robo-Musume we saw in the One Two Three PV and if anyone else besides Reina and RiDOS would be getting to sing anytime soon. After all, One Two Three has been their best selling single in almost a decade so the obvious solution is to copy the formula and promote the hell out of it. Naturally, UFA isn't going to be doing the latter anytime soon again (unless Momusu's still around for their 100th single...). I almost wanted another electropop song because while I felt that although One Two Three was decent, it could have been so much more polished; maybe Wakuteka Take a Chance could hone that style of music further. Because right now, I think it works very nicely for Momusu. Electropop is a genre that doesn't necessarily requires the vocal talent of Utada Hikaru, Hamasaki Ayumi, and Mizuki Nana combined. Considering the good singers in MM either still need improvement or get shafted to the back, it's a safe genre. Not only that, there are so many directions you could go with electropop! You have an entire array of sound effects, vocal processors, everything right in front of a computer screen and sound board. Hell, look at Perfume's diverse discography and you'll see what I mean (though I admit they're more techno than electro...).

Lo and behold, Wakuteka Take a Chance did turn out to be another electropop song for the new and improved/degraded Robo-Musume. And you know what? I like the song! I really do! In fact, I think I like it even more than I do when I first heard it; I guess it sort of grew on me. It might be due to the fact that I listen to a lot of electropop as it is so Robo-Musume is right up my alley. Like the instrumental; I really love the instrumental and wish it didn't cut off so suddenly at the end of the song. I'll definitely listen to that once it leaks onto Youtube! Like their previous single, Wakuteka Take a Chance is almost as catchy as One Two Three and I often find myself humming it these days. It's just a very well done combination of memorable verses and an amazing chorus. And I like this song so much better than One Two Three! What makes Wakuteka Take a Chance better for me than One Two Three is simply how much more smoothly the song flows. There aren't poorly Autotuned weak vocals and the electropop sound doesn't seem chaotic and cluttered; the music is very deliberate and the instrumentals and the girls radiate confidence in this song. And I know a lot of people have problem with this new Auto-tuned Robo-Musume but I really don't think the Autotune is quite as profound as it was in One Two Three. No one sounds too robotic and RiDOS doesn't sound like GLaDOS! If anything, it only adds to the robotic, electropop feel the song has. And the song isn't layered with so much Autotune it could blend in with something from Perfume's ⊿ album. What I'm trying to say is the Autotune feels less desperate this time around and although it could still use a little more polishing, it sounds loads better from the onslaught One Two Three brought upon my poor eardrums. Wakuteka Take a Chance isn't for everyone but if you take a chance (pun intended there...) and give it a listen you might find yourself enjoying it. It's tight, smooth and probably one of the strongest songs Momusu has cranked out this year!

And finally we get to see what the hell UFA did (or didn't do) with the PV! Now apparently this is only the "temporary" version of the PV as they're re-shooting the dance shot so Ayumi can be in it. Regardless, I decided to go ahead and review it and I'll review it again if the official version is drastically different. As for now, let's take a chance and see if this is worth watching!

This has got to be one of the most barren museums I've ever seen!

So it looks like the creators have upgraded from sparkles to sparkles that remind me of a screen saver!

Can it be!? A shot that looks surprisingly cool and expensive! Hold me while I faint!

BEHOLD! This is one of seven solo shots Zukki is granted! Seriously, I counted.

Oh god, this dance is so perfect. It'll be even more perfect when everyone's in it!

Those cat ears, however, are not. They're almost as bad as Momoko's pigtails.

Oh Haruna, thank god there's so much screen time for your beautiful face in this PV!

See, this is what happens when you use too much Autotune! They throw you in Autotune Jail!

For once Creeper 2.0 doesn't look like she's going to kill me!

I'm happy they found a way to get Ayumi in the group shots since she couldn't dance!

Eripon, I don't care how messy it looks, I still love your hair!

Surprisingly, Sayu and Fuku actually sound pretty good when they're rapping!

And okay, yes RiDOS doesn't sound as bad to me in this song as she did in One Two Three.

When you use Autotune in Autotune Jail then you're deported to Autotune Hell!

I'm happy Zukki at least gets to be in the front during the main dance.

When in doubt, jazz hands!

So are Sayumi and RiDOS the only ones in Autotune Hell because they overuse it so much?

Everyone else looks really sexy on these light-beds but Masaki still looks absolutely adorable.

Even Haruka looks much older and hotter than Masaki! And she's twelve!

I think the RiDOS circle looked less awkward in the rehearsal dance shot...

Haruna looks the best in these close-up shots. Just look at her incredibly beautiful and sexy eyes!

And yeah, Fuku looks pretty good too and I am happy she's getting some lines/duets.

What's that? You're actually giving me five seconds of screen time instead of two? Oh, happy day!

Somehow Eripon makes this pumpkin-orange Party City Halloween costume look good.

Seriously, look at these outfits. At least the PyokoPyoko outfits had a consistent theme and didn't look so messy!

So I really hope Morning Musume's future PVs don't consist of a shitload of sparkles and Photoshop editing effects. I can tolerate it somewhat at the moment but if this is going to be a long-term thing I don't know how long I'll be able to stand it. Kind of like how I love Perfume's PV for Chocolate Disco but I wouldn't want all their PVs to have the same amount of lighting effects Chocolate Disco has. In Wakuteka Take a Chance, the sparkly effects aren't quite as heavy as they were in One Two Three but it's still enough that I get kind of bored with them. That being said... it's not the worst PV I've ever come across, far from it actually! I really had no idea what they were going to do for this PV and I had this horrible feeling that the PV would either be really cool or really, really suck. The good news is, the PV doesn't suck! The bad news is there's a lot of ways in which the PV could have been improved that make me want to bang my head against my keyboard. But I'm in a good mood, so let's start with the things I liked about this PV! For instance, I really enjoyed the close-up shots of the girls lying on a light-up platform (there's probably a term for this and I don't know what it is) and the scenes where they're singing in Autotune Jail! The close-ups are really where everyone shines and I mean they literally shine thanks to the light coming from the platforms they're laying on and the luminescent bars in Autotune Jail. The light illuminates each member and draws my focus to them and for a teensy second I can tolerate those awful Halloween costumes. The PV is also well shot, with the various scenes it has divided up pretty evenly and the setting isn't terrible either.

Now the PV isn't perfect. In fact, the only two changes I would make if I were bestowed with the honor of directing a Momusu PV would be to 1. Change those horrendous outfits and 2. Nix all the gratuitous effects UFA felt inclined to layer on top of this PV. Seriously, just try to picture it without those two elements; doesn't it seem much better and more tasteful? Well, I think it does, I have no idea what you think. A good direction for this PV would have been something more minimal and simplistic. I'm hoping in the official version they focus more on the dance (and I'm very certain they will) because the dance really is one of the strongest and most fluid Momusu has come out with lately. Since that's one of the strong points of the song, why not show more of it in the PV? And I know this is only the temporary version but I think it gives you a good idea of what the final PV's going to be like hence I have no plans of reviewing that. Most likely they'll just show more of the re-shot dance so that Ayumi's in it.  I think UFA would be too stingy to use their money to add anything else to the PV. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the dance in motion but I would like it ten times better if they had different outfits. I really can't emphasize how much I want to throw those neon-colored, concert-worthy outfits (and I mean bad concert outfits) into my local Bargain Box just so I can never see them again. I wish the outfits could have matched with the set, like maybe something simple and neutral colored that would be easy to dance in. It could still be stylish but subtlety is not a bad thing, UFA. You could still do a dance scene with a simple set and toned-down costumes because the dance you have already is strong enough that it doesn't need sparkles to distract us. I admit, the fire shots are neat but they don't mix with the rest of the PV and seem like more of UFA saying "Look at this pretty little effect we just bought, tee hee!!" If the PV was more toned down and minimalistic then I might like it more but alas it is not. So here's how I rank it:

I've decided that my Apple Rating System is not only useful for single reviews but also for my PV reviews too hence I have decided to give Wakuteka Take a Chance four out of five apples. Is it a good PV? Yes. Is it a step-up from One Two Three? Absolutely. Could it be better? Definitely, there's a lot of room for improvement. The song is quite good though and if you're a fan of Robo-Musume or Morning Musume in general, then I think you'll enjoy this! The PV has a strong dance that we'll hopefully see more of in the official version and I can do my best to ignore those hideous outfits. Although the line distribution's not the best, it's nice to hear more than two people singing for a change. I'm not sure how much the official PV is going to be different from this one but I'm not going to get my hopes up considering how many times UFA has disappointed me with PVs. Still, I'll be looking out with open eyes and ears for when it's finally released!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A World of Fashion Monsters

First of all, yes, I know it's still September. But when the Halloween PVs start coming out, I feel inclined to change my wallpaper and background! So let's review the first lovely Halloween PV!

There are many words you can use describe Kyarypamyupamyu depending on how much you like or hate her. Personally, I find her to be a compelling person with a standout fashion sense with questionable vocal ability working with the same guy who composes music for the group that bedecks this very blog. But before I even begin get into this single, I feel inclined to point something out about Kyarypamyupamyu's music. There will never be another PonPonPon. I am getting so sick of every time she releases something new and everyone else is complaining about how it's nowhere near as good as PonPonPon. Do you want to know why her follow-ups aren't as good as PonPonPon? Because that song was one of a kind! It was such a unique and perfect blend of quirkiness and cuteness that I think it would be a miracle if Nakata were able to duplicate the perfection of it. But he hasn't and he most likely never will so you can either pine for PonPonPon Version 2.0 or move on and accept the cold, hard truth. Like I did. Not that it took me several months or anything crazy like that! And I don't even want another PonPonPon; I want another song that reaches the same level of quality that song had, but I don't want a solid replica of that song. So the big question is: does Fashion Monster match up to the amazingness of PonPonPon?

Well... kinda? I like it better than Tsukema Tsukeru but not as much as I liked Candy Candy. The biggest problem I have with the song is the vocals. You'd think that wouldn't be a problem since this is a Kyary song and her songs are always filled with vocoders and Autotune to mask her weak voice. And just like Perfume, I don't mind; the vocoders are used for musical purposes, not an attempt to conceal a bad voice. One of the things I noticed in the beginning was how much more raw her voice sounded than in her past songs (less voice editing seems to be a thing Nakata's enjoying lately...). And I'm not sure I like that so much. The chorus is really high, especially for someone with a weak voice, and at times Kyary almost sounds like a Vocaloid. I can't take much of Vocaloid and hearing that chorus over and over is a little jarring. It's too weird to be a Perfume song but it's too normal to sound like a Kyary song. Does that even make sense? Don't get me wrong, it has that same quirky weirdness of Kyary's past songs but for some reason it feels much more normal. That isn't exactly a bad thing but it's like... say I know this guy who wears a banana suit every day. On my way to school, I look out the window and see this guy proudly walking down the street in his glorious banana suit and over time, I grow used to the oddness of the scenario. Then one day he walks down the street wearing a t-shirt and jeans. It's an odd whiplash from the constant weirdness I'd grow accustomed to over time.

But it's really not a bad song despite the fact that it sounds like I dislike it based on that last paragraph. I like it a lot because the strong points of the song thankfully overshadows the small amount of flaws. Is it PonPonPon? No, and that's what I love about it. Fashion Monster has the same quirkiness Kyary's singles always bring to the table while still standing out as its own song. I'd actually really like to hear the instrumental to this song because what I can hear of it sounds compelling and Nakata's instrumentals always impress me, sometimes even moreso than the song. Fashion Monster is much darker (and I say that very loosely) for a Kyary song; it's a little bit harder than Candy Candy or PonPonPon but it still maintains the cute quirkiness her music has. I can easily rock out to this song and I'll probably be blasting it from my iPod on Halloween. Overall, it has the Kyary style I know and love but still stands as a unique song apart from her previous singles. It has a few minor flaws but it's fun song and a great song to be released in October!

But the best part about Kyarypamyupamyu is the incredibly weird, trippy PVs that accompany her songs. So is the Fashion Monster PV as fashionably monstrous as it sounds?

A long time ago in a castle far, far away...

...there lived the world's most horrifying Smiley Face.

love this hairstyle. It makes me envy the hair styling talent some people have.

Oh hi, kanji! There's a lot of it in this video and this is pretty much the only kanji I can interpret. Mainly because it's the title.

I can't decide if this red-eyed ram is adorable or from hell. Probably both.

Just another day in the life of Kyarypamyupamyu!

Cousin It? Aren't you supposed to be hanging out with the Addams family or something?

What is are these, Halloween Christmas presents... that float? What's in there? Birds?

Cool costume but I'm more interested in the kickass, steampunk instrument!

This is why I like Kyary; she always looks like she's having so much fun in her PVs!

Hey, hey, why did the skeleton skip the prom? Because he had nobody to- okay, I'll spare you the corny Halloween jokes.

I want all those instruments and I can't even play them.

There you are, backup dancers! They're not really that present in this PV since I'm too distracted by the instruments but I still like them!

So I guess Lurch quit working for the Addams family to join Kyary's monster posse as Frankendrummer!

This screencap is priceless. Utterly priceless.

And this screencap is... confusing. I shouldn't be surprised but what the what?

Nice Engrish. It's good to keep it simple when you're unfamiliar with the language you're using!

I don't know why, but I loved this pose, something about her fingers made it look so neat!

I actually found out through Youtube comments extensive research that the kanji comment's this guy's cutting down are things Kyary presumably dislikes.

And I guess this kanji's... explicit?

How ya like me now, Perfume? I got a monster posse while no one wants to be in your PVs!

You don't say. Well, Kyary, who still has light-up dresses? WE DO!

Everyone do the Kyary thriller!

Another cool scene with just the dancers; I like the dark lighting in this part!

Kyary really has a thing for throwing objects doesn't she?


Excuse me while I go hide scared shitless under my couch.

I just love how this guy's sitting there completely oblivious/apathetic to the monster posse around him.

Cool veil. I'd wear that!

Why are you smiling!? The Eldritch Abomination just threw up on you!

Actually, it looks like really liquid-y bubblegum.

I feel like I should be seeing this guy in one of the Lord of the Rings movies...

What a waste of a perfectly awesome guitar that probably doesn't work in real life but still!

I was actually really interested to see what direction they were going to take this PV in since it's centered around Halloween. I was thinking it would be a rather silly but fun video with humorous references to Halloween. But it turns out it's more of a Gothic PV, Kyarypamyupamyu style! The best thing about this PV is the sheer imagery of everything. There's only one set (well... two if you count the castle) but there so much  detail put into it. Like the stuff adorning the walls (like that creepy red-eyed ram) and the floating objects such as the presents and the lamps. The whole room is exactly like an old house you'd see in one of those creepy haunted house movies from the 30s or 40s (think The Haunting or even Psycho if you want to stretch it). With all the special effects added on top of that, there's always something new I catch every time I watch this PV. And that's just the set; the people that occupy the space only add to the elaborate nature of the video. It's like every monster stereotype has been mashed (or should I say monster-mashed?) into the PV to make up this monster posse that doubles as a band. Normally that concept would be ridiculously stupid but in this video it's a lot of fun to watch. The makeup and costuming are just as well-done as the set and each person stands out, not just Kyary herself. By the way, I really love her costume in this PV mainly because of that bat-shit crazy hair! And the steampunk/Gothic instruments are really neat; if I only I were artistic enough to replicate them... Not only is the PV great to look at it but there's also a scene where this samurai guy with an oddly shaped cranium cuts down these kanji phrases with a sword. That interested me not just because it was odd but I was certain there was some sort of meaning behind it. So I did some digging around and I found what I hope is an accurate translation of said phrases:

"If you can't say it's fun when it you feel so, it gets boring, doesn't it?"
"I hate to be ruled by others."
"I want to stay selfish and excited."
"I want to take off my iron necklace to be free."
"I wanna destroy the small cage in my mind to be free."

I really hope those are correct and Youtube isn't lying to me because when has it ever? Even so, I'm pretty sure the kanji is still somewhere along the lines of freely thinking and not being afraid of what others think of you. I like that message, I like it a lot! Sure, she tends to convey that message a lot but you know what? It's a good message! I like that there's a popular idol out there who isn't singing about love or doing your best but being yourself! And I like the way it's taken in the PV, as if she's releasing her mind from the constraints of how people want her to act in real life. And maybe that's what this is: maybe it's a look inside the mind of Kyarypamyupamyu! That just so happens to be Halloween-themed. I might need to rework this theory... As for Kyary herself, she's just as charming as she is in all her other PVs. But this time it feels like there's less focus on her and more on the entire scene that she just so happens to be a part of. I love her facials as always and she only adds to the interest of the PV. Overall, the PV is what really makes the song shine; it has so much going on yet it all harmonizes together and isn't messily done. The set and costumes are amazing and effects are good too (save for that scary-as-hell CGI monster... smiley face... blob...thing...). If you like Halloween as much as I do, then you'll dig this PV and naturally if you're a Kyary fan, then I think you'll enjoy this too! It's a fun PV that can even be a little creepy at times and I think it's the perfect way to kick off the start of the month of Halloween!