Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Pressure is Nonexistent in Eien Pressure

All right, I've seen the PV, heard the song, sharpened my kitty claws and I am ready to rip into the full extent of how much I hate AKB48's annual Janken single... or do I?

Now I just wanted to say that before this song was even announced, I was already preparing myself to dislike it. I'd been way to generous with my expectations for last year's Janken single and this year I was determined not to have my hopes sadistically drowned in the swimming pool of Aki-P's money. I'm also a superstitious person (despite trying hard not to be) and I believe in rule of three. In case you're not familiar with that rule, it's essentially the belief that things happen in threes, both good and bad. In the past, AKB48 had two Janken singles that I loathed for being bland and this year they had two regular singles I also thought were rather bland. If Eien Pressure was everything I expected it to be, then it would complete not just one but two threes. I was ready. Now you might be thinking I was jumping to conclusions and preparing myself to hate the Janken song regardless of its actual quality when it did come out. Well... despite all my rationality and building myself up to dislike this song, a teeny, tiny part of me hoped. Oh my god, I hoped I was wrong. I wanted the Janken single to be good; any artist I follow I want good songs for them! For once I wanted to be proved wrong and blown out of the water because hey, the Janken single was actually good for once! I knew my hopes were most likely in vein but agh, that didn't stop me from believing! Then the title of the single itself came out and I casually thought to myself, "Eien Pressure? Meh, maybe it could be kinda awesome because that title does sound slightly cool but no way am I gonna get my hopes up!" Yeah, that resolution went right out the window no matter how hard I tried not to get excited about how this song would sound. I was hoping for a sound similar to Renai Higai Todoke but in the end I was hoping for anything different from an insufferably bland song that would basically be Ue Kara Mariko -2012 Edition-.

Well... in the end, when we finally did hear Eien Pressure, it was just as horribly bland as I predicted it would be. I'm not exaggerating either. This is literally everything I expected the Janken song to be. Only difference from Ue Kara Mariko is this year, I get to actually tear this one apart!

Right from the beginning, the song is weak. Look, when you open a song, what you want to do is pull your audience in so that their interest is peaked and they're compelled to listen to the rest of the song in question. Like Niigaki Risa's sweet cooing in the beginning of Mr. Moonlight ~Ai no Big Band~ transitioning into an awesomely over-the-top retro style orchestral fantasia! Or the hauntingly ethereal humming being the opening intro to Perfume's poetically upbeat yet melancholic song about dystopia known as Electro World! And how can you forget the energetic shouting of "1! 2! 3! 4!" from Oshima Yuko followed by an equally energetic guitar and chorus to open up Heavy Rotation? Yeah, you aren't going to find any of that in Eien Pressure. This song opens up with a Paruru solo and... here's a little secret guys: I don't think Paruru got into AKB48 for her angelic and mind-blowingly powerful voice rivaling the likes of Mizuki Nana. I mean wow, it's one thing to sound weak live but on the recording of the song? Now that takes effort! Or lack of effort considering Paruru sounds bored out of her mind in her opening solo. I mean seriously, of all the people in AKB48 to get solos in songs, Paruru has got to be one of the worst choices. She sounds completely and totally un-energetic. However, I think a problem I've always had with Janken singles is that no one sounds energetic; all the notes are sung in that some idol monotone that I can't really describe in words. Just believe me when I say it annoys the hell out of me. I always say that even the worst songs can a little bit of favor from me if they have some energy in them and since Eien Pressure has as much energy as a snail crossing the street does, my opinion of the song is low.

Of course, the lack of energy isn't the only thing I dislike about this song! Oh no, nononono, I'd give this song a lukewarm review if that was the case. The biggest problem I have with Eien Pressure is it's blander than the  expired vanilla ice cream languishing in my freezer. But honestly, if you read this blog, does that sound so surprising coming from me? Something I always tend to say is... I'm not fond of that "bland song" stereotype that AKB48 always seems to switch to when Aki-P can't think of any other creative or interesting songs. These bland songs often present little to nothing new in terms of music, are incredibly sugary sweet but not so sugary sweet that they sound interesting, and the worst part is they're really, really catchy. It's not just that they're bland; they stick in my head for days so that I can't even forget how bland they are. And usually it's not even the whole song, just parts of it that are on repeat for what seems like an endlessly annoying amount of time. Well, I suppose I should be grateful that I the chorus of Eien Pressure is stuck in my head; for Ue Kara Mariko all I could remember was "UE KARA~ MARIKO!" Seriously, that one line played over and over in my head for days last year. Eugh, I shudder just thinking about it! Another big problem that always seems to be the case with Janken singles it that no one sounds really into the song... It's hard to explain but it just sounds like everyone was half awake when they recorded this song, no energy to speak of! At least Gingham Check had a slightly larger amount of energy. That's right: I just said prefer Gingham Check, the song I ranted about on several different occasions, over Eien Pressure. At least that had Jurina and Mayuyu and my beloved Miichan in it! 

So I think the big question is... what kind of PV could they possibly come up with for such a forgetful song? Would it be just as bland? Or dare they put... effort into this one!? Let's find out!

Cute little title drop. Makes me think of a silent movie!

Paruru, I know you're trying but you just can't sing.

Oh hai, Ue Kara Mariko outfits! Fancy seeing you shamefully ripped off for next year's Janken single!

The close-ups are even identical!

Oh hey, it's Yui, that other member of AKB48 who was posed to be the next center... I guess that didn't work out.

Mariko! Thank god you're here! Save this PV with your Mariko-ness!

Pretty painting! Now what does it have to do with the PV?

Ugh, random kanji I will never understand.

Okay, this scene is weird enough but Mariko in a sari just makes it weirder...

Off Paruru goes to steal the center spot from Yuko!

Okay... I'm not sure why there's a random 80s transition effect. I'm not sure if it was meant to look endearingly cheap or just cheap either.

I know! You girls look so indecent! Cover yourselves up and put on some pants!

Just cal Paruru Little... Black Riding Hood! Now who's playing the Big Bad Wolf?

I swear I thought this girl was Takamina when I first saw her!

Wow, Paruru. You look really concerned and nervous about your journey into the mysterious jungle. You should get an Oscar for this performance.

Funny. Paruru strikes me more as the type to daydream about world domination...

Oh hey, you're adorable! You should have been center!

But you're also an evil witch!? Nooooooo!

Ha, it's funny because I can't even PLAY the guitar!

So Witchy has a crystal ball of horrible visual effects!

And now she flipped the direction arrow using the bad effects!? What a devious witch!

Hahaha, now I shall be the new supreme ruler of AKB48!

Oh no, she's being attacked by crappy visual effects! Save her, Mariko!!!

UMECHAN!! Yay, I finally got see Umechan in this PV!

I feel your pain, Paruru, but could someone please tell me what the fuck that thing in the background is.

No! Don't walk away from it! I need answers! ANSWERS!

See what happens when you don't acknowledge strange creatures, Paruru? You fall down a cliff!

Ouch. Well... I'm sure you can still continue your journey despite the many bones you must broken during that fall!

Don't worry, Mariko the Good Witch will save you from your embarrassing failure!

BWAH!!! EVIL WITCH! Now you're using crappy effects on Mariko? Hell no!

You're not gonna fall for this, right Paruru?

Of course not because scissors... beat... PAPER!!!

Take THAT, Witchy!

Whoa, glowing hand-scissors that brutally murder evil witches? That's hardcore O_o

Just throwing in a random Umechan shot because Umechan is awesome.

You know, I get the feeling that Paruru doesn't really give a shit about this long and perilous journey...

Dammit, she actually made it back!? Now I can't be center!

Eheheh, she does realize we weren't serious when we told her "If you go into the forest, we'll buy you a chocolate bar!" right?

What!? No chocolate!? Oh, I will MURDER you people in your sleep.

Tee hee hee, just kidding... look how sweet and demure I am! I couldn't hurt a fly!

Effort! Honest to god effort! Can it be!? Am I not just hallucinating!? All right, maybe it's because my standards have been fantastically lowered when approaching the Janken single but I can't believe they actually tried to make this more than just a cliche music video with a rock-paper-scissors subplot clumsily incorporated into it! I was most definitely surprised that there was a remotely interesting storyline in the PV that actually managed to put the rock-paper-scissors game to clever use! The thing is I never really feel like anything is at stake in this PV. I don't know why the hell Paruru has to go into the forest anyways or why I should care. Is she going to turn into a tree if she doesn't? Is she rescuing Acchan? Hello? Director? Wanna send me the answers via email? Because I have virtually no idea what is happening or why anything is happening, it's a little hard to get really excited or shocked when watching it. I've got that the basic storyline is Paruru has to go through the Enchanted Forest and battle this witch to get to her friends... the same friends that she left before going into the forest. So what, is she going in circles? Okay, maybe she was getting flowers for one of the girls who was sick or cursed by the witch! So... why didn't they all go then? Isn't there more safety in numbers? And more importantly, why the hell is Mariko wearing... agh, nevermind I give up! Well, at least the storyline is ten times more interesting than the dance shot but that's not saying much. Yeah, the dance shot is pretty much exactly like Ue Kara Mariko along with the close-ups. And with this PV the storyline isn't so interesting that I just forget about how much I hate the song like I did with Gingham Check. Yeah, the song is still there. I still hate it. And the sky is still blue! Shocking, right? And then there's Paruru.

Paruru is an... enigma to me. I don't want to say I dislike her but I don't like her either and I don't care about her. To be quite frank, I honestly have no idea how I feel about this girl. Half the time I'm watching this PV, I'm looking at her with this strange, confused expression on my face. Part of me wants to try and figure out what the hell is going through her head and the other part of me wants to run away from her creepy demon smirk! I don't know, creepy smiles always seem to endear themselves to me (just look at how much I love Mayuyu and Ishida Ayumi) and I can see myself getting to a point where I like Paruru in the future. However... I don't want her to be the next center for AKB48. To me, this was her make-it-or-break-it chance to try out being center and I think she failed at that. She just looks very, very awkward probably because she's rocking the same "I don't give a shit" look on her face that Acchan did. I mean, like in the forest scenes you would think that Paruru was just going for an evening stroll instead of a perilous journey from the apathetic and oblivious look on her face! Weird thing was, it worked for Acchan but it just doesn't work the same way for her. Or maybe I miss Acchan more than I thought I did...Well, for what Paruru lacks it is nice to see pretty much equal screen time for the Senbatsu. You pretty much get to see everyone pretty equally! My personal favorites were Mariko the Supreme Ruler of AKB48 when Takamina isn't there and all her Mariko awesomeness! Funny how she shined more in this PV than the one centered around her...  Then there was this other girl who played the devious witch/sorceress/whatever and I really liked her! I later found out this girl in question was Kimoto Kanon from SKE48. So it was nice having people like that balance out the awkwardness of Paruru.

I mean, honestly, I wish I could have seen more of the other members in these really quirky and offbeat roles too. Why not you know, go all the way with this journey concept? Like incorporating all the Senbatsu into various parts of Paruru's journey like friends, foes, etc. Oh my god, it could be like the Wizard of Oz only with less wizards and magic shoes! That could have been so much fun to watch; this PV could have had all the quirkiness that Gingham Check had only with a more clear storyline! Man, I get all excited just thinking about what this PV could have had in it. But at the end of the day, that doesn't change that the PV didn't have anything I thought of. I think if the producers had more thoroughly explored all the directions they could have taken with this PV then I think it could have been one my favorite PVs of 2012. However, instead the effort only goes halfway and there are a lot of really awkward moments in the PV. Mainly centered around Paruru but still. They're awkward either way. I think they should have just scrapped the dance shot and focused the whole PV around this odd journey Paruru has to go on to do something that was never really explained in the PV. On the upside, I do think that we'll get a PV like that since this is the short version and there's actually an extended version. What else did you expect? Every freaking PV by AKB48 always has to have an extended version these days! I look forward to seeing what the full version will be like but I probably won't review it. I got things to do and stuff to write about and I don't want to add something I've basically already reviewed to my agenda. I'll definitely watch it and who knows? Maybe. For now, I admire the effort gone into the Eien Pressure PV even if it only came halfway. The storyline gets a little lost at times but for what it is, it's a decent PV. So now I think the only thing left to do is give it some apples and... actually, you know what? I'm not gonna rank Eien Pressure on my typical Apple Rating System. Oh no, I have a much more... suitable ranking for this lackluster song and PV.

Eien Pressure gets a big shiny "you tried" sticker. I can tell that everyone is trying their best to keep the PV going but in the end the song is still just as forgetful and plodding without it. Paruru, I'm sure you're a nice person, but I'm ready to have Mayuyu become the new center of AKB48. Or Jurina. Or both of them!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I WANT! a Less Awkward PV

Okay, now that I'm done taking a trip down nostalgia lane with Monochrome Effect, it's time I bounced back to the present and review Berryz Koubou's Want! song and PV! And to think I was just wondering when this PV would be released...

So a preview for Want! has been floating around the web for a month or so now and from what I heard in the preview, the song was enjoyable! It definitely wasn't anything new in terms of sound but it's not like I expect groundbreaking music from idol groups! However, it is a pretty new style of music for the Berryz girls! From what I recall, I don't think they've tackled an electropop song... at least not on this level of electropop. Yep, we've got yet another electropop release from Hello! Project but this time Berryz Koubou has been hit with the electropop virus! And considering how much you like electropop that's either the best thing to happen to them this year or the worst... I don't know, I enjoy the song but I'm a little worried that UFP is convinced that every H!P song from now on should be electropop. Oh well, I'll have to wait a few more singles down the road before I can see if that observation turned out to be true! But as of now, I like this song! I like it a lot! Do I like Cha Cha Sing better? Yeah... but this still good! It's still a pretty catchy song too, like in the verses where there's this constant repetition of the word "kawaii." Why? I don't know, my Japanese is on skill with a sock puppet's! And the Autotune isn't terrible either, though I doubt the song would have sounded much different if it hadn't been used! I guess the song is sort of a mindless kind of fun for me; it doesn't really stand out much against all the other electropop songs this year but for a Berryz song it's very different! And you can't deny that it has a lot energy behind it, maybe not as much as Cha Cha Sing but still a nice amount! There's also really even line distribution; that's always been something I admired about Berryz. They have clear leads but no one really gets shafted in their songs with a few exceptions. So overall is it my favorite single from Berryz this year? No, but it's pretty fun and pretty catchy to listen to! As someone who likes electropop I can

But of course... I'm getting a little worried. This is the third electropop A-side from UFP this year and I don't think they have any intentions of stopping. As good as this song sounds, it's really similar in sound to Wakuteka Take a Chance; at least the instrumental is. The vocals are definitely different but they have that same tone of electropop, the catchy mindless dance music tone. I know that electropop is kind of the shiny new toy for Hello! Project now and a lot of people are really gung ho about this change in style but do you remember when Resonant Blue was released? You know, that single that started the trend of Emo Musume and the stagnant lineup and songs that everyone was frustrated with and the really poor line distribution? I don't know exactly what the reactions to Resonant Blue were at the time (I had just started my binge on Perfume in 2008) but that was also a huge change in musical style for Hello! Project. And I can bet you this change in style caused just as many different reactions as the electropop is causing right now and it was seen as a cool and new image for Morning Musume. Well, if UFP isn't careful, my theory is these electropop releases are going to get just as similar and stagnant as those Emo Musume songs did and soon everyone's going to get sick of it. Then again, electropop has a lot more experimentation opportunities than sadcore music so who knows? Maybe it'll turn out to be a great era of diverse musical releases from Hello! Project. But I'm sticking to my theory about this electropop style losing its luster for H!P fans after a few years and if I turn out to be wrong, I give you all permission to point and laugh at me! I hope it doesn't but I'm very uneasy about this new style of music for H!P; it's either going to be really awesome or I'm going to get really irritated with it after. Hopefully I'm wrong and this can be a theory we can laugh about a year or so later but I can help but feel like electropop is going to get really overused in the future. Well, for now I think I'll just enjoy Want! because it really is a fun and playful song to listen to!

Now do you have any idea how long I've WANT!ed to see the PV? I don't either, I just wanted to use that pun!

Now that's a really cute set! The rooms are done really cute and it's cool the way the set rotates!

The hell is that thing supposed to be in the background? It looks like a glowing decorated egg!

Okay, I can't see squat in this dance shot. Can someone turn the lights on?

Why does every electropop song have to have robot dance moves with it?

I can see! I can see! I can see... the outfits. They don't look so bad in this shot! Maybe the outfits can work for the-

What. The. Hell. Wha... what is this!? Some weird, rotating brothel!?

Oh well, at least Miya lost the odd hair extensions. What is this now, Hairstyle #62?

Risako, who does your hair? You look like Ariel from The Little freaking Mermaid!

Well... at least the dance shot is pretty cool so far!

The set... the outfits... they don't match up at all!

CHINAMI! I think over this year she's become my favorite member in Berryz!

Yeah, I know whenever I want to eat cute little pastries I always make sure I'm wearing my fishnets and heavy jewelry!

Can it be!? No more pigtails!? JOY! So much joy... but I admit, I think I saw that hairstyle in a Full House episode.

Stop glaring at me, Risako!

Despite the extreme awkwardness of these scenes, Miyabi is still a goddess.

I love how Momoko's not even trying to look sexy!

Agh, the rotating rooms, the colors, the overly sexy costumes, it feels like I'm watching the S&M version of Sekaichii Happy na Onna no Ko!


But even so Maasa is still a boss.

I think I always knew Miyabi and Risako had a thing for Momoko's boobs.

You know what these costumes remind me of?

Lili von Schtupp! Lili von fwiggin Shctupp!

And the Risako Pout strikes again!

Not so high and mighty now that you're not the only ones using electropop, huh?

Your argument is invalid. We could do this in our sleep, only ten times better than you ever could.

Wow, that sign in the back actually isn't Engrish! Nice!

Why are you shaking up and down? Is the floor electrocuting you guys or something?

Okay, I think this was supposed to look hot but to me it just looks awkward.

Weeeeee~ someone should make a GIF of the rotating room shot!

Can't think of anything to put in the bridge of the PV? Well, you can be like UFP and throw in some gratuitous leg shots!

I know, Yurina, those costumes are really awkward.

And so the PV ends the same way it began. Literally! I'm not sure why...

Okay... Berryz Koubou has never worked as a sexy group for me; I don't know why but they just haven't. For me, C-ute pulls off the concept of being sexy/sensual much better. I remember back in 2011 when the Ai no Dangan PV was released and it featured Berryz trying oh-so-hard to be sexy but it fell fantastically flat for me. I've always thought that the girls looked better doing cuter and more... innocent PVs where they relied on their personalities! This is why I loved the Cha Cha Sing and Loving you too much PVs so much because it was the perfect balance of fun and peppiness and the girls' personalities really shined! But this PV lacks any of the charm that those last two had and I'm not sure if it wants to be adorable or sexy. On one hand, the drunken costume designers put the Berryz girls in these costumes that were supposed to look sexy but in the end they don't thanks to the way this PV was made. They've got fishnets, garter belts, gratuitous lace and jewelry, it's just too much. And then the directors threw them into this set with a bunch of really cute and charming rooms all connected together so you would think they'd do some cute stuff in here but instead they're striking sexy poses and the effect is really, really weird. You have two extremes put into one shot and I don't know if the viewer is supposed to think these shots are hot or adorable. And even then if I experienced sexual attraction, I don't think I would be turned on by this PV. It's just to me, Berryz has always felt out of its element any time they try to be really sexy and this is just overdoing it to the point where it's laughable. Have you ever seen the movie Showgirls? If you haven't, don't waste your time (it's a horrible movie) but that movie also involves a lot of sexiness but there's so much of it that it eventually becomes more a joke. I think if the costume designers had toned down the sexiness of these costumes and maybe the set designers had redone the rooms to match, then this would have been a really cool PV. I will say it's not as blatantly sexy as say, the Ice Cream Lady's music video that everyone went berserk about (I can't remember the idol's name for the life of me but she released a controversial PV about ice cream that was accused of being tastelessly sexy). I'm sure a lot of people will like the Want! PV but for me, this type of sexiness is just not my thing.

And I'm not saying that I'm against Berryz doing a sexy concept; they're all pretty much grown women by now so it's not like it's illegal or anything for them. What I'm trying to say is that I don't think this image worked for them as well as an alternate image because of the contrast between the costumes and the set. Because at its core the PV is good but with the costumes and the set it looks awkward to me; the girls themselves look fine! Ugh, I'm not making sense, am I? It's like... cupcakes! If I receive a cupcake with just a nice little cake base and a little bit of tasty chocolate icing on top, then I think that's the perfect cupcake. But if I get a cupcake that is overloaded with icing and sprinkles and everything you can pile on a cupcake, I think that's way too much. The Want! PV is essentially an over-the-top cupcake for me! The funny thing is although the outfits don't work well at all for me in the rotating room shots, in the dance shots they look perfectly fine. Maybe because you can't exactly see them as well but still; the dance shot looks cool and it fits the vibe the costumes are going for. I actually think I'll like the dance shot of this song better than the actual PV when it comes out. It helps too that the dance is really good; the formations are nice and it has a lot of variety! So in the end, I'm very 50/50 on this PV because while there are parts that I like (i.e. the dance shot) there are also parts that just don't work for me.

I want to give Want! 3.5 out of 5 apples The PV gets really awkward at times and there were definitely things I would have changed about it (mainly the costuming) but the song is a really fun listen! It may be another electropop release but Want! is an enjoyable song and I want it to do well on the charts!