Sunday, March 31, 2013

Time Capsule Reviews: Vitamin Drop

Ah, there's no better way to end the month than with another Time Capsule Review, that one review of the month in which I review an old PV by Perfume! And when I say old PV, I mean an old Perfume PV! Unlike Spice, which was fairly young, the PV I'm reviewing this month is way back from 2004! You know what that means! We're hopping in the time-traveling fish and going back to indies Perfume! Sing it with me guys! Vi-ta-mi-n Do-ro-pu!!

All right, I'm just gonna flat-out say this before I get into my review: for a long time, I disliked Vitamin Drop. I don't want to say I hated it (honestly, there's not Perfume song that I really hate) but Vitamin Drop used to be one of the least played songs on my iPod. So what led to me having a more favorable opinion of it? We'll get to that in a moment. First, a little history lesson on Vitamin Drop! Back in 2003 when Perfume was much more obscure, they spent their early days as a group releasing indies songs before finally switching over to a major label in 2005. In their time as an independent group, Perfume released only three indie singles: Sweet Donuts, Monochrome Effect and finally, Vitamin Drop. Of course, there's also the Omajinai Perori and Kareshi Boshuuchuu singles but those were released before Perfume starting working with Nakata. Anyways, a little fun fact about Vitamin Drop was that the A-side was used for a Nintendo Game Boy Advance Game called Densetsu no Stafy 3. I have absolutely no idea what the game was about but apparently the song's tie-in to it didn't help the single sell any better!

Anyways, I said earlier that I used to not like Vitamin Drop very much. I think that was partially because of the time in which I got in to Perfume. They'd long passed the released of their indies singles and had just released Game when I started following the group. I remember when I was binging on their music, I was never a huge fan of any of their indie music. It wasn't like I outright dislike it but compared to some of their other songs I listened to (like Electro World and Secret Secret), songs like Monochrome Effect and Oishii Recipe didn't get a lot of plays. Even today, some of those songs still don't get a lot of plays. I even put Elevator, Oishii Recipe and Secret Message on my list of my least favorite Perfume songs! So amongst the pile of indie songs that I paid little to no attention to, Vitamin Drop kind of got caught in that mix. Indies Perfume is an era that I'm not terribly fond of so I pretty much had the same opinion of Vitamin Drop that I had of songs like Elevator and Secret Message: not worth my time. For several years, I barely ever listened to Vitamin Drop and rarely did I ever play the full song. I just never thought it was a song I needed to listen to!

Well, one day that changed. I don't know what I did or what catalyst made my opinion change, but one day I played Vitamin Drop in its entirety. I think I was re-downloading Perfume's Complete Best album and I always like to listen to the songs to make sure I didn't get any dud mp3's. Subsequently, that meant I had to listen to Vitamin Drop. And when I listened to that song in its entirety, it was like all the right gears clicked into place that made me like the song. I don't even know how to describe it. It was like at one point I was thinking "Dammit, I gotta listen to Vitamin Drop," and then "Oh my god, this song is AWESOME!" My change in opinion was so fast and such a 180 that I'm still not sure what triggered it or why. But my change in opinion towards the song made me realize that Vitamin Drop is the best song of Perfume's indie era. I'd always contemplated what song from Perfume's indie singles was the most enjoyable to listen to and I can safely say that Vitamin Drop blows all the other songs out of the water. Is it the best Perfume song overall? Hell no, there are like 30 songs ahead of Vitamin Drop. But for an indie release, a time when Perfume's music was much more idol-y and unpolished, it's a pretty solid song. Hell, I even think Vitamin Drop is even better than Mirai no Museum! But that's a completely different discussion.

What I really enjoy about Vitamin Drop is that it has this very... retro sound to it. I mean, it's still a techno song but it sounds like something you'd hear out of The Jetsons or an old advertisement from the 50s about technology of the future or something of that nature! The song has this very perky and bouncy rhythm to it and I always find myself bobbing my head when I listen to it! What I also like about Vitamin Drop that Monochrome Effect and Sweet Donuts lacked is that it has a more techno edge than those two songs did. The vocal editing is much smoother and the girls sound much more like the way they'll sound in later releases. It gets a tad bit monotone at times but I actually think that works for the song! I think the instrumental has this very... surreal sound to it, like something you'd hear out of a futuristic fantasy! And no, I am not talking about a Mirai no Museum like fantasy. Vitamin Drop just has this delightfully retro sound that I think is a lot of fun; I regret that I used to be so dismissive of this song! It really is the best of Perfume's indie discography and I highly recommend checking it out!

I made a reference to Vitamin Drop in my PV review of Mirai no Museum but I didn't elaborate much on it beyond saying that both PVs had similar animation styles. Well, I'm actually kind of excited that I get to show you more of the one other Perfume music video that was animated! Now let us go forth into the fantastical and animated world of Vitamin Drop!

I've always found it kind of sweet that Perfume's kept the same logo since their indie days!

As you can tell, this PV doesn't exactly have an amazing budget...

But the adorableness of indies!Perfume makes up for that!

But enough of crappy green-screens; we're going to Cartoon Perfume Land!

Can you tell why I drew parallels between Mirai no Museum and Vitamin Drop now?

Hello, future dance move that will be used in Electro World!

Oh no! A sinister looking castle! This can't be good!

I don't know why but I've always found that effect idol PVs use to project a shape onto the eyes to be really creepy...

Poor A-chan! Not only has she been trapped, she's been turned into a blonde!

And she was trapped by... a cow? Huh. I always knew I could never trust cows!

I really like the earrings the girls wear in this PV! They're cute and chunky!

What time is it? PERFUME TIME!

Remember when Perfume's dances were really easy to do?

Help me Nocchi and Kashiyuka! You're my only hope!

So that's what a Vitamin Drop looks like! Funny, it looks more like candy!

But hey, if it provides magical hair growth, I'll take a Vitamin Drop!

I'll bet that's how the real-life Kashiyuka got her hair to be so long!

Meanwhile, back at the Sinister Cave of Doom, our villain is... doing aerobics?

A-chan! YUM!

You know your green screen is cheap when the one from Help me!! looks sleeker than yours.

Funny how A-chan doesn't look too different today than from the way she did back in this PV...

But for the better, Nocchi's definitely grown up from the time this PV was shot!

Poor bear must have a bad case of Grammatical Error-itis!

Damn, that Vitamin Drop solves everything!

I just love how cute the girls look in this PV!

Okay, did the animator really have to include panty shots?

I think now's a great time to pull out one of those Vitamin Drops...

I hope that Vitamin Drop does something else besides make A-chan's hair grow! Otherwise, she's stuck in that cage!

Now a Vitamin Drop gives you superhuman strength? Gosh what's in those Vitamin Drops!?

What, can they cure procrastination too? If so, I'll take one!

I think I like the cartoon Perfume in this PV better than Mirai no Museum! They've got sparkles in this PV!

So the cow... was a guy... and he turned back... with the Vitamin Drops?

Who cares? They all lived happily ever after!

And then indies!Perfume went major label and everyone became a fan of them. The end!

See? Mirai no Museum wasn't the first cartoon PV Perfume had handled, not at all! I'm actually really happy that I got to screen cap Vitamin Drop's PV a month or so after I reviewed Mirai no Museum PV; it gives you good idea of just what I was talking about! Yeah, I always think of Vitamin Drop when I watch Mirai no Museum because in my opinion, I think both PVs have very similarly styled animation. I think Vitamin Drop has slightly less detailed and cartoonish animation; in comparison to Vitamin Drop, Mirai no Museum looks a lot more detailed and has a much more distinct style to it that matches Doraemon. I'm not sure what style of animation Vitamin Drop covers other than... Flash Animation! A big part of this PV is the animated shots and believe me, they're much more interesting than the live-action shots! Nothing against live-action Perfume but the green screen used in the dance shots is pretty obvious and cheap looking and the dance isn't very interesting either. Then again, this is indies Perfume and their dances weren't quite as advanced as the Perfume we know and love today! Still, it is kind of funny to look at this PV's dance and then look at one of their more recent PVs to see just how far they've come. Even the girlish dresses they wear in the PV show just how young and inexperienced Perfume was as a group and how far they've come since they started.

In that sense, Vitamin Drop is a pretty nostalgic PV but I really think all of the indie PVs are. They show an era in which Perfume was just starting out and only beginning to experiment with a techno sound. So if you're new to Perfume and want an idea of how they used to sound and look in their early days, Vitamin Drop is a pretty good PV to look at. It's definitely the most interesting of the four indies-era PVs Perfume released because unlike the other three it has a clear and defined plot. The visuals are also more interesting thanks to the contrast between live-action and the animation. Even if that green screen is hilariously outdated and Perfume looks so much younger and more inexperienced than they do today, Vitamin Drop's PV is like a nice little look into the past!

Now let's look at a huge aspect of this PV: the story. You heard me right, this PV has a storyline! I always find it to be such a pleasant surprise when Perfume PVs get storylines, especially in their older PVs! I feel like lately we fans have been getting spoiled with PVs like Spring of Life and Mirai no Museum with their obvious storylines! Vitamin Drop has a nice and fun little story that's really easy to follow, even for someone like me who doesn't speak Japanese! The basic plot of the story is that Kashiyuka and Nocchi are on a quest to save Princess A-chan from a giant cow monster living in a creepy castle. Along the way, they run into cute little animals with problems that need to be solved and with their trusty Vitamin Drops, are able to do so! They then get to the castle where they rescue Princess A-chan and turn the cow monster back into an ordinary guy and everyone lives happily ever after! See what I mean? You can summarize the story up in a few sentences!

So while the storyline in this PV isn't the most creative story I've ever seen and you can definitely predict where it's going and what's going to happen, it's still fun to watch in action! Again, I enjoy animated PVs when they're done well; while this isn't the best animated PV I've ever seen, it's not terrible either! At least it's not as bad as the god-awful CGI from Tokyo Girls' Style's Lolita Strawberry in Summer PV. And at least it's not as horrifying as The Wall! But that's a completely different topic! I think that because Vitamin Drop was being used as a tie-in to that Nintendo game, the producers wanted a PV that would reflect the cartoon-y and fun nature of the game! Actually, I wonder what Densetsu no Stafy 3 looks like and if the stories from that game and this PV are similar at all! Oh well, on its own Vitamin Drop is a pretty engaging PV that has a plot that moves forward smoothly for such a short span of time! I think kids would like this PV a lot since it has a nice combination of colorful animation and a bunch of action to keep them entertained! Vitamin Drop succeeds well in using animation to tell a story, even better than Mirai no Museum in my opinion! Although I don't watch this PV that much, when I do, I always find myself enjoying it!

So I'll give Vitamin Drop four out of five apples! The song is without a doubt my favorite from the indies era and a pretty fun and catchy song overall! The PV is also my favorite from the era also for its use of storytelling through animation and a storyline that both kids and adults can follow! I highly recommend checking out Vitamin Drop if you're interested in listening to some of the indies-era Perfume music!

Perfume's Releasing ANOTHER Single!?

Have I landed in some alternate universe where Perfume actually announces new singles at a reasonable time!? Someone hold me while I swoon!

What a pleasant surprise! I can't believe that Perfume has already announced a new single; it feels like they just released Mirai no Museum! Or maybe I've just forgotten what it's like for Perfume to release singles between short time gaps. After all, the waiting time between Spending all my time and Mirai no Museum was six months. Half a freaking year! It's no wonder I feel so shocked that another single announcement hit us so soon! But hey, I'm not complaining! I freaking love it when Perfume announces a new single! That means I can get ready for a whole different era of Perfumania! I get to be all excited over the single covers, the song itself, the PV, the B-sides... I just love Perfumania so much, even if it is a little hard to wait at times! What's exciting about this single is the hope that for once it won't be a song that splits the Perfume fandom down the middle so severely! I mean yeah, I know that the fans aren't going to have the same opinion on each song but it feels like so many fans were underwhelmed and disappointed by Mirai no Museum! I'm hoping that this single is a vast improvement so we can all pretend that Mirai no Museum never happened!

Anyways, the fabulous techno trio's next single will be released some time in the summer (the date hasn't been specified yet but I hope it's in June or July). I'm thinking the single will probably be released a few weeks after Perfume wraps up their collaboration tour between those other three artists whose names I'm too lazy to type out. The single is called Magic of Love (gee, have you ever heard that song title before?) and the A-side is being used as a tie-in for Kanro Gummi! Now last time Perfume did a tie-in for that company, the song was Communication and... let's just say not many people were too fond of that song. What I'm crossing my fingers for is that Magic of Love will be a song that has a general positive opinion towards it; Spending all my time and Mirai no Museum split the fandom down the middle and you had two extreme opinions on opposite sides. Now, I just want a Perfume song that sounds like... well, Perfume! Nothing like Spending all my time or Mirai no Museum which sounded too un-Perfume-y; just a good ol' typical Perfume song to balance out the strange mix of A-sides we've had this era!

So far the only preview we've gotten from this single is from the Kanro CM and you can hear 15 seconds of Magic of Love. It doesn't give you too much of an idea as to how the song is going to sound but it's nice to at least hear the tone of this new song! And personally, I like Magic of Love so far! The song definitely isn't as unique as Hurly Burly or Point but I like the sound of it! I like that it doesn't sound cute; I think Mirai no Museum was too cute, along with Communication. Actually, Magic of Love kind of reminds me of a song I'd hear by Meg, another artist that Nakata worked with for a period of time. Then again, that might just be because I've been listening to a lot of Meg's music lately... Overall, I think I'll have to wait until I hear the full song to give a proper verdict. For now, it's not the most amazing Perfume song I've heard but it's just a regular Perfume song in that Perfume style that I've heard several times in the past! Again, that's not a bad thing since I like that style a lot but some fans might be disheartened at the lack of experimentation. But personally, I think Perfume just needs to do a song that takes less musical chances just to balance out all the wonky-ness of the last three singles of this era!

Speaking of this era... I wonder if we're going to get an album after Magic of Love. I don't want another JPN scenario where there are way too many singles and B-sides crammed on an album and not enough new album songs. I was actually kind of hoping that Perfume would be doing an album after they released Mirai no Museum but I guess I can't complain too much about a new single! I'm still hoping that this year they'll release an album in like October or November though. All I can do now is wait... and honestly, that's the hardest part of Perfumania. I just hope that after hearing this Cm we'll get to hear more of the song in a proper period of time and not have to wait four months like we did with Point. In general, I don't want to wait too long for information on this new single. Still, summer's getting close and so is the new Perfume single and I can't wait!

Be both excited and terrified readers, because Perfumania is a-coming to the Wonderland! I don't know when but it'll be here soon and I can't wait to spend another month of this year gushing about the forever-awesome Perfume!

The Cash Cow Goes "Moo" (and Nia Goes "UGH")

Well Aki-P, I think this time around you have truly outdone yourself in making the most pointlessly complicated effort to milk more cash out of AKB48!

Akimoto Yasushi in duck form.

I mean, wow. I just... I am at a loss for words. Just when I thought that Aki-P and the rest of AKS wasn't desperate enough to cling to that goddamn million streak, this comes up. What am I talking about? Why, the Senbatsu Elections for the 32nd single, of course! Okay, I know the news about the Senbatsu Elections has been out for several days now but I wanted to cool off to a point where I could re-assess the announcement with a cool and rational mind. So a few days ago, an announcement was made that the 5th annual Senbatsu Elections this year would be different from the elections of the past four years. How so? Well, unlike the last four elections, in which every girl was automatically eligible for votes in the election regardless of her popularity in the group, now anyone who wants to participate in this year's elections has to apply to management be a candidate. From then on, management will decide the "candidates" for this year's elections and the fans will vote from the pool of candidates selected. The members eligible to apply for candidacy are anyone from AKB48, SKE48, NMB48 and HKT48. Members who transferred from one of these four groups into an overseas group (JKT48 or SNH48) are also allowed to apply for candidacy. 

And then there's one more little twist to this completely twisted Senbatsu Election. One more group of idols can apply for candidacy in this year's elections: any member of the group that has been in it for more than four years. Which means yes, graduated members can participate in this year's elections. I think my initial reaction to this news was... well, I may have grabbed a dictionary and banged my head against it, but my memory's a little fuzzy so who knows what the hell I did! Now, I have a combination of disbelief and disgust towards AKB48's management. I can't believe how blatant of an attempt this is to milk more money out of the fanbase and up the slowly dipping singles sales. I mean, it's so obvious why AKS is allowing graduated members a chance to participate in the elections. We all know that when they say members who've been in the group for more than four years, they're referring to one member in particular.

Maeda Atsuko, former ace of AKB48, now graduated and doing her own thing with acting and maintaining relevance despite being out of the group. We all know that Acchan's graduation was for better or worse, the end of an era and a huge turning point for AKB48. Ever since then, management's been floundering around and whipping out one gimmick after another to keep the post-Acchan singles sales afloat. Acchan's graduation had a huge affect on the group and has led to talks about AKB48 being on a decline. What a better way to keep AKB48 relevant than to bring back the ace that lead them through an era of prosperity and ridiculously high-selling singles? I think this aspect of the new election policy is what infuriates me the most; it's not that I don't like Acchan but come on, AKS. The girl graduated out of her own free will and she hasn't looked back since then! Trying to bring her back through some thinly veiled loophole you whipped up for this year's Senbatsu Elections is a desperate and pathetic grab for more money. Luckily Acchan, being the independent and amazing person she is, announced that she would not be applying for candidacy in the Senbatsu Elections. And you know what? Good for her! Good for her to unintentionally stick it to Aki-P and the rest of management and their pathetic attempt to lure her back into AKB48! 

Nito Moeno, Masuda Yuka, Nakaya Sayaka, Yonezawa Rumi, and Ono Erena and have also announced that they won't be applying for candidacy in this year's elections. In fact, the only two graduated members so far that have announced that they'll be participating are Urano Kazumi and Noro Kayo from SDN48. I guess I can kind of see why those two would want to since they got booted out of AKB48 into a group that only lasted for five singles. But I can't think they're going to rank very high if they even make it past the candidate selection. I'm hoping that most of the graduated members see past the bullshit of this new policy for Senbatsu Elections; the whole idea has just been leaving a bad taste in my mouth. I don't know, I feel like my disdain towards the new rules for the Senbatsu Elections partially stems from my own descent into the "disillusioned fan" phase of AKB48. I feel like everything they've been doing lately hasn't been boding well with me, from their music to their scandals to their graduations and now this.

I think another new aspect of the election that I'm 50/50 about is the new "candidacy" policy. When I first read about it, I didn't like it at all. But now I'm a little more split about it than before. On one hand, the idea that you have to apply for candidacy to be eligible for elections is a really good thing. Mainly because it sorts out the girls who don't want to participate in the elections, especially the more unpopular girls who know they're unpopular and don't want to sit through the humiliation or ranking low or not ranking at all. It makes the idea of running for Senbatsu optional so girls who don't want to take the time and effort into promoting themselves don't have to do so. But on the more negative side... a candidacy system basically allows AKS to do whatever the hell they want and stretch more control over the results of the elections. They can just reject the application of any girl they don't want ranking who applies for candidacy. They can hand-pick who they want to represent the Senbatsu and weed out anyone they don't think is going to rank well or anyone they just don't want to put the time and effort into promoting. The addition of the candidacy system makes the Senbatsu Elections rigged much more than it was before. 

I don't know how far AKS is going to stretch control over who gets to be a candidate and who doesn't for this year's Senbatsu, but I hope they let mostly everyone who wants to run in. I think it's just cruel to reject an application of a girl who's hoping and dreaming that maybe, just maybe she'll have the chance to rank in Senbatsu. All in all, the twists in this years Senbatsu Election feel like petty attempts to stir up drama and more attention for AKB48. I guess I can't complain too much since at least it isn't another overblown dating scandal... Still, if I had to pick between the new election policies and the old election policies, I'd just go with the latter. I already hate that the Senbatsu was trimmed down to 16... For now, the results of the actual Senbatsu Election are far away (not until June 8th to be exact) and until then all fans can do is theorize about who's in and who's out. So keeping in tradition with my predictions from last year, here's a looser and more ambiguous prediction of how I think the 2013 Senbatsu is going to turn out:

Girls Who I Think Are Going Up
- Shimazaki Haruka
- Matsui Jurina
- Yamamoto Sayaka
- Watanabe Miyuki
- Yokoyama Yui
- Oota Aika

Let me just say that Paruru going up in Senbatsu is inevitable, no matter how many fans hate her guts. She's had a major push in regular Senbatsu this year and a lot of hype and promotion in general is surrounding her. The question is how much will she go up. Don't forget that there was a time when Yokoyama Yui was getting just as much of a push as Paruru was but she only ranked #19 in the 2011 Senbatsu and #16 in the 2012 Senbatsu. Then again, I think Paruru's push is a bit more forceful than Yui's; Paruru's position in this year's Senbatsu Election is pretty ambiguous. Not to mention that to even make it into the Kami 7 Paruru would have to jump sixteen spots; I'm not saying it's impossible but it would be impressive! I also think that Matsui Jurina is probably going up this year but not by too much, maybe one to three spots up. She's been getting more-or-less the same attention in AKB48's Senbatsu that Paruru's gotten and she has a pretty popular fanbase as center of SKE48. Yamamoto Sayaka and Watanabe Miyuki are going to go up for the same reasons that Jurina's going up too: their NMB48 fanbase. The two of them are pretty much the double centers of that sister group; hell, even in last year's election they ranked right beside each other. 

Yokoyama Yui for more or less the same reasons will probably go up too but like Jurina, I don't think she'll got up by too much. For Lovetan, I do not think she's going to make it into Senbatsu but with a much better position in HKT48 than she ever had in AKB48, she has a pretty good chance of going up into Undergirls. Unlike her fellow AKB48 girls getting washed out in favor of a newer generation, I think Lovetan has a pretty good chance of at least ranking in some level of Senbatsu. Sasshi's position in HKT48 also could indicate her going up but when you also add that a scandal was the reason she ended up in the group, I think her position is probably gonna go down. Overall, I think the newer generations are going to go up in the election but not as much as some of the more pushed girls like Paruru and Jurina. Of course, that doesn't mean the older and popular girls are going down...

Girls Who I Think Will More or Less Stay in the Same Spots
- Oshima Yuko
- Watanabe Mayu
- Kashiwagi Yuki
- Shinoda Mariko
- Takahashi Minami
- Matsui Rena
- Kitahara Rie

...because a majority of the girls who I think are going to stay in the same spots are the older and popular girls! Notice how absolutely none of the girls in this list have been affected by scandals! I think it's pretty obvious that Yuko is going to be the one who takes #1 again in this year's Senbatsu. The votes between her and Mayuyu last year were in the tens of thousands and no matter how much Mayuyu's been pushed this year, that ain't changing. It's almost sad how easy it's going to be for Yuko to win without Acchan... it makes me miss Acchan again... Anyways! Of course, there's also the possibility that Yuko won't decide to run for Senbatsu. But I think even if she didn't want to, management would confront her in a darkly lit room and pressure her into running anyways, talking about "an offer you can't refuse." Funny how I've been picturing AKS as the mafia lately... I'd put Mayuyu in the list of girls who I think are going up but since she's already been at #2 it's kind of hard to go any further up unless Yuko pulls out of Senbatsu Elections. Should Yuko by some miraculous means decide not to run in the Senbatsu this year, I think Mayuyu has a pretty good chance of ranking first in the elections, especially with her push to a more center role lately. But since that's likely not going to happen, I say Mayuyu stays at #2. 

I also think that Yukirin has a pretty good chance of staying at #3, especially since I'm certain the release of her solo single probably helped gain a few fans. I've always kind of noticed that Yukirin never gets much of a push in AKB48 singles yet somehow she still has a pretty strong fanbase despite having the personality of a Trefoil Girl Scout cookie. I don't know, her popularity just bamboozles me. Takamina and Mariko are absolutely staying in the same spots for pretty much the reasons that they're older members and they both have pretty strong presences in AKB48. With Takamina as captain of the whole group and Mariko as captain of Team A and their long-standing popularity, I think this year's Senbatsu will keep them in pretty much the same spots as last year. Then again, Takamina's solo single might help her get a few more votes... Rena and Kitarie have always had pretty steady positions in Senbatsu so I don't think their positions will change too much either.

Girls Who I think Are Going Down
- Umeda Ayaka
- Akimoto Sayaka
- Itano Tomomi
- Kojima Haruka
- Kasai Tomomi
- Minegishi Minami
- Sashihara Rino
- Miyazawa Sae

And then there are the unlucky girls who I think are going down. It doesn't mean that they will go down in spots for this year's Senbatsu Elections, but if they did, I wouldn't be surprised. I just want to say that overall, I think that with this year's elections, a lot of the older and less popular members of AKB48 are going down or just flat-out not ranking at all in this year's elections. With many more sisters groups participating in the elections and the flooding of more popular girls from those groups, it's a lot harder to rank in the Senbatsu Elections than it used to be. In the place of the older generation, I think the younger generation is going to take up a lot more spots; even last year, Undergirls was dominated by SKE48 members! I guess I'm not as upset as I used to be about the merging of other group members into AKB48 activities but I kind of wish sometimes that AKB48's Senbatsu Elections were restricted to only AKB48 members, especially with the staggering numbers of girls in sister groups. Still, that's never happening as long as the inclusion of SKE48, NMB48, HKT48, JKT48, WTF48, and SNH48 make AKS money.

So yeah, I could make a much longer list of girls that I think are going down and/or out of the Elections but since I don't even know half the names/faces of the girls in AKB48, I'm just gonna stick to the girls who rank in the Senbatsu Elections more regularly. And as much as I hate to admit it, three of my favorite members are probably going down: Umechan, Sayaka, and Miichan. I kind of expected Akimoto Sayaka to go down since management doesn't give a shit about her anymore but I really don't want Umechan or Miichan to go down. My hope is that all three of them will at least get to stay in Undergirls and that Undergirls will get an awesome song that's completely and totally better than the Senbatsu song! But I can only dream. As for Miichan, I'm just hoping that she'll be able to participate this year after being demoted to Kenkyuusei. Speaking of scandal's I think Sasshi's is going to make her go down a little bit, but not by much. She'll probably at least stay in the top ten! Kasai Tomomi's probably going to plummet... just like her career! Tomochin, Harunyan and Sae are probably going down just because they haven't really been doing much; even Sae got booted out of the regular Senbatsu.

Now watch me be completely wrong about all these predictions! Well, the Senbatsu Elections are a long ways away and there's a whole lot more to go on in-between now and the time of the elections. There's a whole summer PV I'm gonna tear into review when it comes out! All I can hope is that this year's summer song will be at least half decent as Manatsu no Sounds good! And preferably not bland. But the boat's kind of sailed on my expectations for a not-bland AKB48 A-side lately...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Kara Says Bye Bye to Happy Days

I wonder if the "happy days" mentioned in the title is a metaphor for Kara's relevance in Japan? I kid, I kid but I do wonder how well this single is going to sell, especially after the rather lackluster sales of Electric Boy. Oh well, we'll find out in a few days!

What is this strange and random group I'm reviewing today!? It's Kara, guys! You remember them, right? They're that one K-pop group I actually pay some attention to! I don't think I've reviewed anything by Kara since Electric Boy back in October... I guess I could have taken some time to review Girls Forever but it slipped right past me! I know I don't really say too much about Kara on the Wonderland, but I really do like their music! Well, I like their Japanese music; I haven't listened to many of their Korean songs but what I have heard sounds pretty decent too! And they get brownie points for being fans of Perfume! I remember when I found out about Kara in late 2011 when the Hallyu wave was just starting to pick up; K-pop groups were debuting left and right with hit singles from Korea that were awkwardly re-written in Japanese! But amongst the wave, I kept hearing how the only group that seemed to fit into the J-pop market was Kara. So I looked them up, found songs like Mister and Jumping and actually found myself really liking this group!

What I've always liked about Kara is that they feel like a blend of K-pop and J-pop in that they have cute songs but they're like... a different kind of cute. I don't listen to a lot of K-pop but their definitions of a "cute" song are somewhat different from a J-pop's definition of cute. In J-pop, a "cute" PV is usually more innocent and sweet but in K-pop, I've noticed that the PVs looked a little less innocent and a bit more girlier and mature. It's really hard for me to explain but Kara's Japanese releases caught my eye at the time because their image was different from many of the groups I was following then. They were edgier, the members of the group looked older and the PVs looked more mature, and unlike many idol groups, their PVs actually looked like they were filmed with money! Their image felt sleeker and more polished and it was a nice contrast from groups like AKB48 and Morning Musume. Since late 2011, I've more-or-less tried to follow Kara since I really do like their image. The Taiwanese group Weather Girls actually reminds me a lot of Kara; both groups have that same kind of mature and polished image combined with cute and adorably peppy music! Speaking of adorably peppy music, Kara's 8th Japanese single, Bye Bye Happy Days, sure is happy sounding for a song with such a... sad title. I was kind of expecting something more melancholic but nope, this is a straight-up happy song!

Yeah, when I first hit play on a rip of the song, I was not expecting such a happy song mainly because the title talked about saying goodbye to happy days. I really was thinking the song would be like a ballad or a more serious song! But nope, it's a happy song, a really a happy song at that! The happiness of Bye Bye Happy Days makes me wonder what the lyrics translate to... So yeah, I've noticed that Kara mainly tends to do a lot of happier and more upbeat J-pop songs with the exception of Jumping and maybe Speed Up. Bye Bye Happy Days fits pretty seamlessly into their Japanese discography and has that familiar peppy sound that I've heard in other Kara singles! But honestly, the sound of Bye Bye Happy Days might be a little too familiar. The song sounds a lot like some other Kara songs I've listened to, particularly Go! Go! Summer; the verses in both songs sound very similar. The instrumental also reminds me a lot of Girl's Power. I remember when I first listened to the song I kept thinking at some parts like "Wow, that part sounds a lot like X song or Y song." Bye Bye Happy Days sounds like a bunch of other Kara songs combined into one and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

I mean, the songs it sounds like are good songs but I kind of wish that Bye Bye Happy Days had a more original sound to it. Like the song still could have been happy and cheerful but there were other directions that could have been explored that also would have been equally happy and cheerful! Take Weather Girls' two singles: both songs both have that same hyper-pop sound Kara excels in but both songs are also very different from each other. So while I don't think Bye Bye Happy Days is a bad song at all and is in fact pretty catchy and nice-sounding, I do think that it could have been a more original song. However, for what it is, it's a pretty enjoyable song! I doubt it'll ever be my favorite Kara song but it is enjoyable and has a very energetic and breezy sound to it! I like the instrumental too, even if it's been done in a ton of Kara songs! Bye Bye Happy Days brings Kara back from the electro-feel of Electric Boy and into safe territory for them. It's a safe song that I think fans of Kara's J-pop releases will enjoy! I know I think Bye Bye Happy Days is a cute and nice-sounding song!

Something else I always like about Kara is that they usually tend to have pretty nice and visually appealing PVs! Well... with the exception of Electric Boy... Yeah, I don't know who got fired over in H!P and got called into direct that PV but that was one of the cheaper Kara PVs I've seen. Does Bye Bye Happy Days offer a better PV? Only one way to find out: SCREENCAP TIME!

Well hey, the PV starts off with a nicely done set!

I absolutely love the outfits in this PV! They look so cute and flattering on the girls!

What's in the basket? Top secret information? A bomb? The code to a secret hideout?

Oh wait, it's just a bunch of random stuff... or is it?

Whoa, Hara shoves girls in lockers!? I didn't think she could be so sadistic!

Poor Seungyeon, first she got shoved in a locker, now she's being blindly pulled around by Hara... this just hasn't been her day!

Or maybe it is! Still, shoving someone in a locker to prepare their surprise birthday party is pretty sadistic.

So let me get this straight: a South Korean girl group is singing a Japanese song in a music video with cards written in English... totally makes sense!

Seungyeon's so adorable!

First Girl's Power, now Bye Bye Happy Days, Kara's weapon of choice seems to always be balloons!

Ooooh, even more cute outfits with poofy skirts! Nia likes poofy skirts!

Aw, how sweet! Jiyoung wrote a love letter!

Or maybe it was a hot and sexy fanfiction featuring Jiyoung and Mr. Crush in the PV!!!

No, I can't let him read it! He'll think I'm weird...


Now WE get to read your fanfiction, Jiyoung! MWAHAHA!!!

Uh... why is Gyuri wearing cat ears?

Ah, peer pressure: the ultimate weapon friends have!

Oh god. A person of the male species. I'll just stare at him until he goes away!

Nice job, Gyuri. First Jiyoung screwed her chances with a guy and now you too!

But what can key chains prove to be Gyuri's opportunity for love?

I guess so! But what kind of key chain is that?

Poor Nicole. She must have attempted to do the foot dance from Nee...

Man, that's one empty classroom...

A woman in peril!? Never fear! Mr. Generic Crush is here!

And he brought some fancy tennis shoes for Nicole!

Well, gee, it's a good thing those shoes just happen to fit Nicole! Seriously, finding shoes that fit right is a painful task.

Um, correct me if I'm wrong but isn't it kind of hard to gracefully dance in tennis shoes?

Poor Hara... she must be sad that she'll forever have to live in Amuro Namie's shadow.

So why are they taking pictures with flowers again? Is that just what people do in music videos?

Hara, the clocktower is not your boyfriend so quit hugging it!

Aw, how sweet!

So Nicole, Jiyoung and Seungyeong are chicken dancing...

...while Hara and Gyuri are playing patty cake. Okay then!

Did they just save all the weird dance moves for the last chorus?

I get it now! The basket was a time capsule for a certain memory each girl had!

That's a nice group shot to end the PV!

And that's an even nicer title drop!

Well, it's looks like they dumped whoever directed the Electric Boy PV since the Bye Bye Happy Days PV actually looks expensive! Well, as expensive as an idol PV's going to get... Still, I like the look of this PV a lot! Visually it's very bright and happy; it fits perfectly with the spring season! I've always been a big fan of the use of fake sets and while it is pretty obvious that the sets used in this PV are sets I'm glad that there's a lot of embellishments and decorations added to them! I think the variety gives the PV a certain level of... charm! I also think that the PV for Bye Bye Happy Days finally gives me a better idea of what the song was about and what the PV was trying to convey. The first time around when I watched this PV, I wasn't really expecting much of a storyline since the other Kara PVs I'd watched had none so when this PV did have a pretty obvious one, it kind of caught me off guard. Hence the first time I watched this PV, I wasn't really paying as much attention to detail as I did when I was screencapping and watching the video again. Hell, I didn't even notice that the guy used in the PV was the same guy in each scene!

Speaking of him, let's talk about Mr. Generic Guy; after all, he does play a prominent role in the plot of the PV. What stands out the most about each scene in the PV (outside of the dance shot and some of the close-ups) is that this same guy is being used. Now it could be just because the producers are lazy and didn't want to hire four different guys but I feel like there's a reason that the same guy was used. I just can't really put my finger on what. At first I thought hey, the girls of Kara just all had a crush on him! But the more I looked at the PV, the more it didn't really fit. The girls spend much of the PV encouraging (or in Gyuri's case forcing) each other to go for this one guy and do stuff together ranging from saying hi to him, dancing with him, giving him a card, and posing for a picture with him. Is he their good friend? Some guy they just like messing around with? A crush that they're all willing to share between the five of them? Well, knowing the bullshit teenage girls get into over guys, I doubt it's the last one. Like I said, I was little unclear about this guy's role during this entire PV.

The other big plot element of the PV is the box and luckily, I was able to pick up what it was upon my second viewing of Bye Bye Happy Days. It's very clearly meant to be a time capsule. At the beginning of the PV, we see the girls returning to an area of what's presumably a town (and probably a small town). In this box they open, there's one certain object that belongs to each girl of Kara and represents a memory to them involving this guy. Well... except for Seungyeon. Her object is just a headband she got for her surprise birthday! I actually really liked that scene and thought it was well done with the use of the classroom and the build-up to the scene of Seungyon's birthday celebration! Though I'm a little unsure about what the hell she was doing crammed up in a locker... Anyways! The PV cuts back to a flashback of a scene where the girls are all hanging out with each other and doing some sort of activity together (with the guy, of course). You can tell that they're all good friends and that they've been through a lot together, enough to make a little time capsule.

So I think the PV is mainly about nostalgia and good memories you have between friends. Knowing that I think I'm finally able to figure out the meaning of Bye Bye Happy Days. I don't think the song is supposed to be about a sad farewell to a happier time in life but a joyful look back on a fond memory! The PV pretty much revolves around coming back to happy times and memories and also moving towards a happy future. It's a simple theme that's not common in the spring (especially with all them Sakura songs) but it's a theme that I personally never get tired of, especially when it's done with a happy approach. Why else do you think I enjoy 10nen Zakura so much? The storyline of Kara's Bye Bye Happy Days is fairly simple but genuinely sweet and the girls look lovely as always on screen. I've always noticed that they're really good at interacting with each other and just being on camera. I don't know if they're trained to do that or what but it looks very nice! The outfits are cute the imagery of the PV is bright and cheerful, much like the story of the PV! Even though Bye Bye Happy Days isn't my favorite Kara song, the PV is what I think really brings it to life!

Overall, I'll give Bye Bye Happy Days four out of five apples! The song is enjoyable, albeit nothing too special, and is in the genre of energetic and happy music that Kara works so well with when it comes to their J-pop singles. The PV is just as cute as the song and provides a variety of different visuals that all look fantastic! If you're fan of Kara's Japanese music, I think you'll like Bye Bye Happy Days even if it doesn't offer anything new for the group!