Thursday, June 27, 2013

How BiS DiEd

Yeah, I refuse to put those nightmare-inducing single covers on my PV review... promo pics, it is!

What's that Brand-new Idol Society group been up to lately? Dying of course! In a sense at least. As you can tell by the picture above, the BiS we know and love looks a tad bit different. They got new haircuts, didn't they? I knew it! All right, all right, it's old news by now, and many BiS fans know that the group has gone thorough yet another phase in which some of their members graduate and the group holds auditions to replace them. This time around, two girls said "Sayonara" to the BiS way of entertaining and three girls came in! In hindsight, I probably should have at least commented in a news post about all the pretty drastic lineup changes to BiS, but I guess I was preoccupied with other posts of more importance to me. Such as Perfume. I guess it just didn't dawn on me at the times of the graduations and auditions just how big this news was for BiS. I mean granted this isn't the first time the unconventionally fantastic idol group has lost/gained members. The member lineup for BiS has already changed seven times since the group was formed in 2011. Yeah. Pretty crazy, huh? In perspective, for an idol group with such a small amount of members and short tenure, BiS has gone through a boatload of lineup changes.Maybe not Morning Musume or (god forbid) AKB48 levels of change, but still quite a lot. Well, what's done is done and I can't change the fact that both Wacky and Yufu have long departed BiS now, even if Yufu was my favorite member of the group... As sad as their graduations were, I couldn't help but get interested to see who would be added to the group and how it would change the group dynamic. And so auditions passed (and Nia continued to be a lazy butt and not write about it) and three new members were added to BiS: Kamiya Saki, Tentenko (surname was not specified), and First Summer Uika. You think that last member is using a stage name? And for what is essentially a "rebirth" of BiS, what a better song to debut the new members with than a song about death?

Like any single that debuts new members of an idol group, I was excited and intrigued to find out what BiS' first single with the new members would sound like. Would it somehow be as awesome as PPCC? Hardcore as Idol? The possibilities always seem endless when it comes to a group like Brand-new Idol Society, simply because they're just one of those idol groups that never seems to stick to one genre. And you all know that's why I freaking love their music so much, hence my excitement to hear what their next single would sound like. When the single title was announced as DiE, I was... intrigued. Frankly, I had no idea what kind of direction a song with a title like that would take. Would the song sound melancholic? Gritty? Wistful? I mean, the song is called DiE. How cheerful can a song with that ray-of-sunshine of a title sound, you know? I really had no idea what to expect for DiE, which isn't surprising since I never really know what to expect for any of BiS' songs. I'd be pretty pleased with whatever genre the song took on, as long as it wasn't metal. Not that metal is a bad genre of music, I'm just not a metalhead. I wasn't a huge fan of Idol or Idol is Dead for that reason. When I first heard the song via the PV, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the DiE was thank god, not a metal song. It is, however, still a pretty dark-sounding song. The instrumentals are pretty hardcore (as hardcore as an idol group can get) and the song has a general feel of just... grittiness. You guys know the song Primal? Another BiS song, and one of their indies, it's one of my favorite BiS songs and one of my favorite idol songs in general. I feel like DiE and Primal sound very similar. Both songs have that very unpolished, almost grunge-y sound, and the idol vocals provide for a nice (but not stark contrast). Even the pitching in both songs is very similar. Despite the fact that DiE sounds a lot like Primal to my ears, that doesn't really subtract any of my enjoyment towards the song. If anything, it makes me like DiE even more! What? If a formula for a song works, I don't necessarily mind if that formula is replicated in another song by the same group...

That being said, DiE isn't by any means the best BiS song I've ever heard. It's still a very good song and a nice breather from all the pop music I review on this blog, but it's not perfect. I think DiE is better than BiSimulation but it's not quite as good as PPCC. What I like about DiE is the general sound of the instrumental, but I'm not so keen on the vocals for this song. Well... I'm not so keen on the key the vocals are sung in; it's a tad bit too high for the girls. It's a little nitpicky, but I feel like had the song been sung a key or two lower, it would have worked better. I also wish DiE was a little bit longer and a little more clearly structured. When I first listened to the song, it all kind of sounded like a giant mash of choruses and verses and instrumental breaks thrown into a giant melting pot. Now that I've listened to the song a lot more, I've thankfully gotten a hold on said structuring. And that was when I realized that I would have liked this song to be just a little bit longer. DiE is only about three and a half minutes long, and I think the song could have been a minute or so longer. Like the instrumental after the last chorus of the song is way too short, and abruptly ends before you can even register that the song is over. That's getting a little nitpick-y, but hey, I'm only nitpicking because I love BiS so much! The only other thing I can really talk about with this song are the lyrics... or I could if I could find a translation. I know the song is about living your life and not wasting it, but I would like to know what the song is specifically singing about. Unfortunately, I guess BiS is too obscure to get a lot of song translations. It's a shame because the Google Translate version of the lyrics sounded promising, or as promising as a shitty translation can get. Language barriers aside, I really did enjoy DiE as a song, even if it may not be my favorite BiS song ever. I think it has some nice guitar and it's a nice continuation of the alternative sound that keeps me coming back to BiS. It also introduced the new members nicely, and if I were going to debut in an idol group, I wouldn't mind doing it with DiE!

So this is the part of my typical PV review when I post some screencaps with my own commentary that ranges from witty to corny. Well... with the PV for DiE, I don't feel like I can really do that. I mean technically I could but I don't think it would make for a very substantial PV review. It's not like the PV broaches too sensitive of subjects that I can't make quips about them, but I'd rather just take a handful of shots from the PV and just... discuss them. In more than 1-2 sentences per picture, at least. The shots in this PV need to be talked about, and I feel like I can more easily talk about them during the screencap rather than when I'm reviewing the overall PV. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that my screencap for DiE is more... detailed? Analytical? Call it what you want, but let's dive into this attempted analysis of a rather strange idol PV from a rather strange idol group.

Already a tone for this PV is set with the opening shot. Pour Lui, lying topless on a bed, staring at the camera with a desolate expression on her face and the title scribbled onto the shot. It's not out-of-place for a BiS PV, considering the girls have dabbled in nudity on more than one occasion, but it's still a rather jarring shot, mainly thanks to how eerily still Pour Lui is.

After the opening shot, the PV immediately cuts to an upward shot of Pour Lui, this time with darker lighting. It almost looks like she's having sex in this shot, but since you only see it from her angle, you never find out. Whatever she's doing, it looks like she's just given up and resigned herself to whatever fate's entailed for her. She may not be happy about it, but at the same time, it feels like she doesn't feel like there's any point in trying to object to it either.

The PV then cuts to Tentenko, one of the new members, leaning against the wall in a red kimono and pigtails. She'd actually look rather adorable if not for the traumatized expression on her face. Now that I bring it up, you never do see any of the BiS girls smile in this PV, let alone look remotely happy. They all look sad or frightened or devastated, like they've all been crushed by something and they're too devoid of hope to try and get back up.

Something I noticed very quickly about this PV was the lighting. I know it's kind of a weird thing to point out in an idol PV, but I feel like it's important to what the PV's trying to convey. Almost every shot in the PV shows each girl sitting in the dark and either being illuminated by a ray of light or looking out towards light. They never make an attempt to go towards said light, only staring into the distance, thinking about god-knows-what. I'd like to think that the light represents something to be desired, or perhaps even a sense of idealism that can no longer be reached due to the events surrounding each girl.

The next close-up focuses on Saki, crouching in her closet, very clearly hiding in her clothes. But we never find out what she's hiding from. But it's like she's retreated into her own little world, trying to take solace in an environment that's familiar to her but not being able to do so because of something that's painful enough to effect her so profusely. I'd say her shots in the PV have the least amount of light, maybe because she has the least amount of hope?

I think what really drew me into this PV was that it felt like each different close-up in it felt like a different story. Or rather, it felt like a story had just ended and we were getting to see the after effects. It's like you catch the girls mid-reaction, at the moment when they're the most emotionally vulnerable, and it's rather poignant. You don't know what happened to them, all you know is that they went through something that led them to this point. I think that not showing the events before only makes these shots more powerful. It's up to the viewer's imagination to determine just what happened and try and put all the pieces back together.

A different shot of Pour Lui, wearing a towel in lieu of being topless. Like Mitchel, she's also sitting in a dimly lit area, but she has a mirror to her back/side. Part of me wonders if the mirrors in all the different shots are meant to be a motif similar to the lighting, but mirrors don't appear enough in the PV for me to be able to come to a definite conclusion.

And here we have Uika, another new member, staring off into the distance with only a little circle of light illuminating her closeup. In this shot, she's extremely still, with only her lips moving a lot. The numb stillness of the rest of her body is a bit unnerving. Like with Mitchel and Tentenko and Nozomi, it left me wondering just what had happened to Uika for her to reach such a state. Some traumatizing? Depressing? Painful? Who even knows?

The next shots in the PV are all images of the girls feet. I feel like this collection of shots symbolizes something... unfortunately, I'm not sure what. I think a key detail to notice is that all the feet give off distressed body language, as if the girls are all nervous or afraid of something. Saki's feet are shaking, Mitchel is drawing her feet away, Nozomi is shaving her legs... it's almost like they're all trying to get away from (or get rid of) something. What that is, I can't say. Of course, the alternative explanation is that the director really had a fetish for feet, but I'd like to think there's something symbolic behind the back-to-back series of feet shots!

Another shot of Tentenko, but this time her kimono's in disarray, as though she'd taken it off and hastily thrown it back on. I think the fact that absolutely no context was given for the change in her clothing is a little creepy, since it leaves the viewer to guess what might have happened. Was it sex? Assault? It could be anything... or nothing at all. The small space she's in also gives off a vibe of claustrophobia, as though she's trapped.

Here's another shot of Mitchel still staring off into the light. I like how in this shot the light's more focused around her head. I also like that this shot of her is further away than before; I think it gives off a vibes of isolation and loneliness.

I think Tentenko looks very doll-like in this PV, and her delicate nature only makes her close-ups more harrowing. You almost feel sorry for her because she just looks so... broken. Like she needs a hug! In fact, I think everyone in this PV needs a hug... and some clothes...

Saki came off as the most emotional in this PV to me. Unlike the other girls, who are all very passive and numb throughout the PV, every shot of her shows her doing more active things, both physically and emotionally. She's a lot more expressive, and you can very visibly see that she's going through something distressful. Saki provides a very nice contrast to the other emotional states depicted in this PV, and she does a pretty good job giving off that borderline-hysterical vibe. I mean, she won't win an Oscar or anything, but for an idol PV, her emotions feel very genuine!

Speaking of distinct emotions, around this part in the PV is when Uika starts getting more visibly emotional. Again, the contrast between her very numb, disconnected facial expression and her much more raw facial expression is what makes this shot work.

And now Uika is lying on the floor, with that very listless expression back on her face. Something I noticed is that she's almost in the same position Pour Lui was in at the beginning of the video, except with her towel still wrapped around her body, albeit a little more carelessly. I don't know if it means anything, but I still thought that was rather interesting.

The rest of these shots are pretty short and only last a few seconds, but a few of them stood out to me. Such as the one I screencapped above! Kind of obvious but still! Really I just noticed in this (very brief) shot that another mirror popped up. I wonder if maybe the mirrors are supposed to represent the each girl's own self-reflection, along with her inner contemplations. Just a crack theory, but I just wanted to throw it out there!

You know how I was previously talking about how Uika went from very passively emotional to very actively emotional and how that really worked? Well, Saki has the reverse transition, and it works just as well! It's almost like Saki finally got past one stage of trauma (an outwardly emotional stage) and entered another stage (a more inward but still visibly scared stage).

Another lighting shot, this time showing Mitchel standing behind an brightly lit window, but still somewhat in the dark. It's almost like she mustered up the courage to move closer to the light but couldn't bring herself to go completely into it.

I really liked this shot, even if it was a really fast, just because of the expression on Nozomi's face. Up until this point, she's had a very neutral facial expression, but under the shower, she's a lot more expressive. You can visibly tell she's in pain, and the imagery feels very raw.

And finally the PV ends the way it began. With Pour Lui, lying down and staring into the camera.

A word of advice to anyone watching the PV for DiE on Youtube: don't read the comments section. Unless you want to lose your faith in humanity and general respect of the human race. Okay, you've been warned. On to more important things! A lot of you already know that while I'm a huge fan of BiS' music, when it comes to their PVs, they're always very... hit-or-miss. Sometimes they get really well-done PVs such as My Ixxx and PPCC and then they get PVs like... Mura-Mura. In other words, their music is sometimes more appealing than the PVs that accompany them. Luckily, this time around the PV for DiE falls into the former category of BiS PVs! When I first saw this PV, I really wasn't sure what to make of it. Then again, that had been my same reaction to several other BiS PVs. But I also felt a little uncomfortable when watching DiE. Not because of the nudity (lord knows BiS has done that before) but just about the way it was shot and the stillness of each shot. I kind of felt the same way towards the PV for Primal when I first watched it, but for a few different reasons. What made me so uncomfortable about the Primal PV was how intimate the shots were; I mean, the girls were shoving cameras down their throats. The fact that the PV was shot on a cheap video camera only added to the sense of discomfort, and most of the shots were so jerky and shaky I could barely tell what was going on. DiE feels much like an inversion of Primal. There's still a very grainy, home-video type of atmosphere to the PV for DiE, much like Primal, and the shots are just as intimate and uncomfortable. However, these shots are also very long and very still, taking several seconds to focus on each girl before cutting away. Where Primal succeeded as a PV was the fact that it was so fast-paced you could never really grasp what you'd just seen. With DiE, that same effect is achieved because the shots are so drawn-out, and what the viewer is presented with are a series of odd images showing the girls in variously discomforting and emotional situations that aren't ever really explained.

On the subject of showing but not explaining, there's a lot of that going on in this PV. As I touched on in my screencap, what I got from this PV was that something had happened to each member of BiS and this PV was meant to show the after-effects of whatever event that was. Tentenko and Uika dealt with said events by retreating into a state of numbness and detachment. Saki was much more visibly emotional, spending much of the PV sobbing and burying her head into her knees. And then towards the end of the PV, all the girls start crying. Clearly something happened, even if that something is never shown. So what the viewer isn't allowed or doesn't see leaves them only to speculate and pick up the pieces to try and come up with an explanation. And the only hints available were the ones that could be found on the screen such as the setting, the atmosphere, and other various visuals. What worked with the PV for DiE is that it took very simplistic visuals and added just enough discomfort and unease to leave the viewer wanting to know more. I felt like the PV for DiE was trying to convey something... I just couldn't put my finger on exactly what. That's one of the reasons why I'd like to know what the translation of the song is about, to see if it has anything at all to do with the themes and visuals presented in this PV. I know the main theme of the song is not letting your life go to waste, but I'm still trying to figure out how that theme is presented in this PV, if it is at all. Then again, maybe the images in this PV were just meant to be shock value; BiS has done plenty of shock-value PVs before, Primal included, so it's not that implausible. But I don't want to dismiss this PV has a cleverly calculated ploy to generate shock from the audience, because I can't shake that nagging feeling that there's something more presented in this PV. If only I had the abilities to pick apart this PV more. I'm not exactly an expert at visual analysis in media; hell, I'm only seventeen.

Even if all these themes I'm speculating about are complete and total bullshit and the producers were just trying to find shocking visuals to draw in a certain demographic, I still think the PV for DiE is very well-done. What I liked about the PV was that it had a lot of atmosphere to it, and I think what contributes to said atmosphere is knowing that the PV was filmed in the house/apartment of each member of BiS. It gives the PV a more personal and intimate edge. Like most PVs, DiE had a pretty gritty feel to it, but not quite as gritty as the Primal PV. Still, I found both those PVs similar on a visual level. I touched on this aspect of the PV in my screencap as well, but I'm a huge fan of the lighting used in the PV, and the use of shadows. Again, it adds to the atmosphere and the general mood of the PV; keeping the girls mostly in dark and dimly lit areas builds a layer of despair and loneliness. What also adds to the sense of melancholy perpetuating throughout the PV are the girls themselves; they actually do a pretty decent job of showing emotions such as sadness in different ways. I mean, there were parts of the PV, where I actually felt genuinely sorry for the members of BiS, even though obviously the context of the PV didn't effect them in real life. I also like that this PV does a very nice job of showcasing the new members of the group, just like the song alone does! I don't know much about the new members yet, but they all seem to fit into BiS pretty well. I just hope that they'll all be able to stick around longer than Wacky and Yufu did, and that all the members can at least try to get along. In the end, how much you like this PV probably depends on how much you like BiS and how much you're willing to look beyond simply the images presented in a video. I found DiE to be a very thought-provoking PV, and it made me ponder about what this PV was supposed to mean, if anything. Still, I'd like to believe that there was a message trying to be conveyed in DiE, even if I don't have the analytical skill to quite figure out just what that message was meant to be.

If you're looking for a darker and grungier idol release amongst the wave of happy-go-lucky summer songs, I'd give DiE a listen. It's not the best BiS song I've ever heard but it's still nice. Like any other BiS PV, the PV for DiE one isn't for everyone, especially if you like your idols fluffy and adorable. I personally found the PV to be very thought-provoking and a nice shift from all the bikini PVs I've been screencapping lately!

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