Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Playing with Fire and Fate

You like Tokyo Girls' Style?

Their early work was a little too generic for my tastes but when Kodou no Himitsu came out in 2011, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole single has a clear, crisp sound and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. They've been compared to SweetS but I think TGS has a far more polished, sophisticated image. In 2013, they released this, Yakusoku, their most accomplished album. I think their undisputed masterpiece is Discord a song so entrancing, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should because it's not just about the grasp on calamity and the effects of impulse, it's also a personal statement about the group itself! Hey guys! How many of you are completely in the dark about this very long reference I've been making?

I think it's about time Tokyo Girls' Style graced us with another hot, funky single, don't you agree?

I mean come on, Yakusoku was released in flipping January! As much as I enjoyed that album, the time between that and the group's new single has been far too long in my opinion! But that might just be because TGS is one of those groups that has music that I really appreciate. What I've always liked about Tokyo Girls' Style is that they're very consistent when it comes to their music. Well, at least since Kodou no Himitsu I've found it to be very consistent. Fans will remember that about halfway through the group's tenure, their musical style and image took a 180 and went from typical and idol-y to mature and sophisticated. And since then, they haven't gone back. Personally, I've enjoyed Tokyo Girls' Style but I will say, I know that Tokyo Girls' Style is an idol group that isn't for everyone especially if you like your idols lighter and fluffier. They have a very distinct image and if that image doesn't appeal to you (which again, if you like your idols more idol-y, it probably won't), then you're probably not gonna be a huge fan of TGS. That being said, since 2011, TGS has been one of the first idol groups outside of H!P and AKB48 that I've actively followed and appreciated. Of course, I've started considering if Tokyo Girls' Style is really an idol group or if they're just a performance group like Speed. I mean, there's a lot more emphasis on the song and dance aspects of Tokyo Girls' Style and their aren't a lot of idol elements in the way the group is presented in their PVs. So the question remains: is Tokyo Girls' Style a performance group or a very nontraditional idol group? I think the answer can be open to many interpretation but hey, as long as they're still around and still performing, I don't care what kind of label you want to slap on them! I've been a fan of TGS mainly for their music and while they have a few duds every now and then, musically they're one of my favorite idol groups on my review list!

So what's the latest release for this lovely SweetS-eque group? A double A-side! The main A-side (aka the one that's promoted) is Unmei and the other is a duet between Arai Hitomi and television character Matsushima Wanko called Wonderful Smile. Personally, I'm not too hyped about the duet since I listened to it already and the song is pretty meh and Hitomi isn't my favorite singer in TGS either. However, nonetheless I'm always excited to hear a new TGS single! Besides, this single is being released on my birthday! How cool is that!? Anyways, I've been much more interested about what Unmei was going to sound like; I thought the song might have been a ballad since... I don't know, it just seemed like it would be a ballad-y song. Luckily for me, Unmei is far from a ballad! It's a hot, funky jam from a hot, funky group! Honestly, Unmei is your pretty typical TGS song with strong vocals, groovy instrumentals, a that signature 90s Avex sound. It doesn't bring much new to the table but it's nonetheless, I like it a lot! But look, if you're not a fan of Tokyo Girls' Style's... well... style then Unmei isn't going to be the song that reels you in. Unmei is a continuation of that more mature style of music that TGS excels in partially because the girls pull off the songs so well. A big part of Unmei's appeal for me are the vocals which are top-notch as usual. What did surprise about this song though was that Hitomi didn't get any solos; she usually tends to lead the songs alongside Ayano. Instead Ayano and Yuri were leads (which I have no problem with). I guess it's because Hitomi gets a duet on the other A-side. I have to say, Unmei actually sounds a lot like Limited Addiction to me, only... funkier. Both songs have that long, entrancing riff in the opening instrumentals and they're even structured the same in terms of vocals. Coincidence? Or something more? I don't know, but I enjoyed Unmei, especially since it stands out from all the other bright and perky songs about summer that are thriving right now in the idolsphere!

Now judging by the cover art of this single, I'll bet the PV for Unmei is most definitely very light and cheery and summer-y! After all, this single is a summer release so wouldn't it be completely natural for this completely conventional idol group to release a normal summer PV? Absolutely; we'll leave the edgy PVs for Super Girls! They're such a different and innovative idol group after all!

Ooh! A shiny chandelier!

Wow, I can just feel the summer vibes projecting from the opening shot of this PV.

Man alive, those outfits look awesome.

Hot damn, I don't know how they did it but somehow they made pumpkin orange look hot.

Annnnd who are you, Mr. Sketchy Stranger whose face is conveniently blacked out?

Wow. I can't get over how beautiful these shots and scenery are.

And wow, the dance is really sensual. I think it even might top the Limited addiction dance...

Konishi Ayano making chess look hotter than you ever could.

Whoa, I didn't know this PV was going in the foot fetish direction of fanservice!

Then again, if I was wearing heels that ridiculously high, I'd probably leave them off too.

Where on earth did they shoot this PV? This scenery is breathtaking!

And Miyu looks gorgeous! Too bad she's getting stalked by some guy in the background...

In fact, is this whole house just filled with stalkers?

Yuri looks beautiful in this PV... hell, everyone does.

But then in this shot she looks kind of haggard... I guess it's the lighting?

Hey-o! If this is going to get violent, I'm gonna beat that mysterious guy with a high heel!

Unless... oh my. I guess Yuri's... eh... how old is that guy?

Yay! Back to the dance where there are no suggestive images! All right!

Okay, do Tokyo Girls' Style's PV directors just ship Mei and Miyu?

'Cause this is the second time. Seriously.

This dance is really good but a little awkward when you consider the ages of the girls...

Watchu lookin' at? Age is just a number, Nia.

You know what would be better than some perfume, Hitomi? Listening to Perfume!

Yes, Miyu, you have a very nice back.

I thought these outfits wouldn't look that good but they actually look really nice. Very classy!

So if I want to attract guys, do I just have to show them my upper back? All right!

I swear these scenes are a strange combination of sensual, creepy, and awkward.

Remind me to show this video to any idol fan who thinks that idols under the age of 18 aren't capable of being sexy.

I guess Ayano's following the "What you see won't hurt you," style of love.

Seriously, what is up with these mysterious guys? What are their motivations? Hello? Can I get an answer?

So not only does the power of friendship destroy boulders, it creates fiery infernos from hell!

I swear this dance keeps getting sexier and sexier...

Mei now holds the power of HELL! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Uh, someone wanna clue me in one why petals are now falling around Yuri?

I guess I'll never know now that the fire's been snuffed and the PV is done...

Can I just say that the single covers for Unmei have got to be the most misleading single covers I've seen this year? If you picture the PV based solely on those covers, you'd probably think of some girls roaming on the beach doing some friendship-related summer activities under a natural light filter with lots of bright and sunny outdoors imagery. And then cruel reality would come strutting around the corner! Luckily for me, I saw the PV for Unmei long before the covers were released so my mood whiplash was in the opposite direction. Well, whilst all the other idol groups are probably prancing around in bikinis and frolicking on beaches for their summer singles, TGS has continued to do their own thing and have a PV that looks about as summery as a snowstorm. Then again, I didn't exactly expect a group like Tokyo Girls' Style to do a summer PV... Besides, what's always worked with TGS is that their PVs are darker and more mature, just like the group's music. So in the vein of their old PVs such as Liar, Kodou no Himitsu and Limited Addiction, Unmei is a dark PV with shadowy scenes and a very dark color palette used in the costumes and the imagery. If you're a fan of TGS, then you kind of know what to expect when it comes to the PV for Unmei. Whilst there's no story or plot to be found in this PV (save for a very, very vague and ambiguous one), Unmei is a collection of sensual visuals and striking images and shots that don't really look like something you'd see from an idol group. I really mean that; the visuals used in Unmei look like something you'd see more in a PV from a solo artist instead of a girl group. In the past, TGS has always gone for more artistic visuals in their PVs but Unmei is probably the most artistic and mature-looking PV I've seen from them. The visuals of this PV are very striking and the house (I'm assuming it's a house) looks so expansive, like I could just wander around in it all day.

Unmei is a beautifully shot PV with a ton of different close-ups and shots of the girls in a bunch of different areas. Some of the girls are outside, other are walking through hallways, and then some of the girls are lounging on couches. Something I praised about Perfume's Magic of Love PV was that there was always something new being shown throughout the PV and there was never a moment where I got bored watching the video. That's kind of the same reaction I got from watching Unmei. It's just one of those PVs that looks so pretty and has so many different scenes and shots that all look equally pretty that I loved watching this PV. I always love a PV that's elaborate (maybe because that's a rarity in the idol industry) and Unmei is extremely elaborate in terms of visuals. I will say though, there isn't much in terms of a storyline. I don't think the director of the PV was even going to for a storyline but some of the visuals shown in the PV indicated of some kind of theme that slipped over my head. Particularly the random guys that kept popping up in the PV. Surely there was a reason they were included, right? It can't just be because the director wanted to induce some shock when the girls started embracing these shadowed guys, right? Yeah, I'll further elaborate my opinions on that little aspect of the PV in the next paragraph. Anyways, not only is the scenery in Unmei extremely elegant and pretty, the girls themselves look amazing. I think it helps that they're really starting to grow up now and mature from the preteens they used to be when they debuted. I love the outfits the girls got to wear in this PV, both the black outfits and the more colorful ones. I'm actually surprised the colorful outfits worked so well since they looked a bit awkward in the promo shots. Anyways, the camerawork used to film the girls just showed them in the most appealing and beautiful light. I was actually astonished at just how pretty the girls looked in this PV.

Unfortunately, the way the girls are presented now leaves me to address the elephant in the room: the sensuality of this PV.

Yes, as you might have gathered from the screencap, Unmei is a rather... sensual PV. And that's pretty much the only politically correct way I can put it. By no means does Unmei reach the levels of sexiness that say, Heavy Rotation or Sexy All Sisters do but there are definitely a lot of suggestive shots in the PV. I counted several shots of Mei's legs and shots showing the girls embracing and lying on top of each other. And don't even get me started on the shots that featured the mysterious guys. I can't imagine the girls embracing and caressing those guys would bode very well with some of the more hardcore wotas out there. But honestly... I don't really have a problem with the sensual nature of the PV. The shots aren't outright sexual and let's be honest, the girls aren't that young. They're around my age and believe me, teenagers my age have done much more inappropriate stuff. I think what prevents Unmei from getting into creepy or awkward levels of sensuality is the fact that the girls of TGS pull off these sensual shots disturbingly well. Watching the PV, I just see confidence radiating from them in their expressions, their movements, there was never a moment that they looked uncomfortable or awkward. As a result, I didn't feel that uncomfortable watching them either. If a PV like this was handled by say, S/mileage or Sakura Gakuin, I don't think either group could pull this concept off as well as TGS did. And I think that's what saves the PV from being completely awkward; the girls are working their angles and working their shots so well. None of the shots in the PV are outright sexual; it mostly just shows the girls looking really, really hot, especially during the dance shots. Yeah, this is a pretty sexual dance but again, the girls work it. Really overall, the concept of Unmei's PV may seem awkward but because TGS brought it to life so well, it's a very well-done and very visually appealing PV.

I was torn between giving Unmei's song and PV four apples or four and half apples but I'm in a good mood, so I'm giving it four and half apples! The song is nothing new from TGS but if you're a fan of their style, then I think you'll enjoy this song. It's basically the funk equivalent of Limited Addiction. The PV is extremely well done and the girls looks gorgeous in this PV alongside the dark scenery and strange imagery. Although it is a little awkward when you think about their ages, for the most part, Unmei's PV is definitely one of the better summer PVs I've reviewed this year.


  1. TGS should definately go to this direction, of course still cute but at the same time capable of SO MUCH MORE <3

    Talented girls. Let's hope Avex Trax gives them more budget and bigger promotions. Business wise it would be wise for Avex to launch these girls to superstardom, all of their big earners are now in their 30's. That's good for TGS.

    1. I love the direction TGS has been going in, and their next single looks very promising too.

      It's a shame that Avex doesn't promote them very much. I think with the proper push, they could be a really popular and long-lasting group, like Speed or Perfume. I'd hate for all their talent to go to waste.