Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Satoumi Idol Smackdown!!!

WELCOME BACK TO THE IDOL SMACKDOWN WHERE IDOLS GO HEAD TO HEAD AND I PRETEND TO TYPE LIKE I'M HOSTING A WRESTLING MATCH! YEAH!!!!!!!!!

IN THE FIRST CORNER WE HAVE... HI-FIN! YEAH!!!

IN THE SECOND CORNER WE HAVE... DIA LADY! YEAH!!!

IN THE THIRD CORNER WE HAVE... MELLOWQUAD! YEAH!!!

AND IN THE FOURTH CORNER WE HAVE... Nia trying to imitate a wrestling announcer's voice through text... YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Ah, that was fun. I should type more posts like that! Except I shouldn't because that'd get really annoying really fast.

Welcome back, boys and girls and wotas to the Idol Smackdown, where I pit groups and songs against one another and see who comes out on top! You might be thinking "Nia, what are you on? You've never done an Idol Smackdown before!" And you would be right; I haven't ever done a post like this before! Not officially anyways. But there's no tradition like a new tradition, right? You could argue my double PV review of Brainstorming and Kimi Sae Ireba Nani mo Iranai was an Idol Smackdown of sorts. Basically, the concept of an Idol Smackdown is to compare two similar releases to one other and see which one worked better than the other. For this reason, I'll probably never have an Idol Smackdown with say Perfume against Momoiro Clover Z.

Different genres, different styles, different groups. But if three different groups under one unit release three different songs under one single... that's when I can consider doing an Idol Smackdown. For this reason, I've decided to have the lucky challengers of today's first official Idol Smackdown be the Satoumi groups! Not Satoyama (although that would have been a great Idol Smackdown), but the three groups that make up the Satoumi units, groups under Satoyama life that were created to spread awareness of preserving the ocean and all that nature-y jazz! Instead of doing a separate review for each group's song, I decided it would much more productive (and hopefully more entertaining) to review them all in one post! That and my backlog has been piling up, so... yay for efficiency! But enough of this introduction! We have a Smackdown to get to! And these Satoumi groups will be thrown into three rounds in which I will judge the styling, the song, and the PV for each Satoumi song. Who will come on top? We'll have to wait and see...

LET US COMMENCE THE IDOL SMACKDOWN!

Round 1 - The Styling:

That's just my abbreviated way of saying how did everyone look? Now styling just doesn't apply to the outfits used for each single. It also involves group dynamic; after all, these groups are practically shuffle units, with idols from separate H!P groups being mashed together for certain groups. I will admit, this is probably the least important of the three rounds, but I still feel it's worth talking about. Which grouping feels the most natural? Which group got the best of the styling? Let's find out!

Dia Lady


The first challenger to approach is Dia Lady, the duo of the Satoumi groups! I will admit, when I first heard about this duo, I was 50% excited and 50% apprehensive. Why? Because half of this duo consists of Suzuki Airi and the other half consists of Sugaya Risako. Airi's one of my favorite H!P members while Risako is... not. I've never been a huge fan of her as a front girl of Berryz Koubou; her voice is as unpredictable as an earthquake, along with her performance level. On the other hand, Airi is one of the most consistent performer in Hello! Project, and has a great voice and personality to boot. With two idols on opposite ends of my bias spectrum, I was nervously interested in seeing if they meshed well together. Especially since Risako's hair color has been changing like a kaleidoscope since 2012. Would her hair be dyed blue to support the ocean for Dia Lady? When the promotion pictures for the duo came out though, I was actually very pleased.

I thought Airi and Risako looked good together, different but good. I actually kind of like that Risako has blonde hair for Dia Lady, because it makes her stand out apart from Airi. Besides, they're both wearing little black dresses. I will admit, that is a pretty safe choice when you're trying to find outfits for singles. You can rarely go wrong with a little black dress! I think Airi's dress looks very form fitting and flattering on her; same goes for Risako's! I like the bow in her hair too. I'm also glad that they weren't styled wearing the exact same clothes; that might have worked but I think the different outfits set Airi and Risako apart from each other without looking completely different either. So overall... I think Dia Lady looks pretty classy! Airi and Risako look very put together and mesh well surprisingly better than I thought they would! Does the duo work as well together as W or GAM? No, but Dia Lady could have gone a lot worse in terms of styling. For what we got, I think Dia Lady was styled very nicely!

Hi-Fin


All right, so rising up to the challenging of taking Dia Lady down is... HI-FIN!!! Formerly known as Plumeria!!! Seriously, why did they change the name of this group? The original name was so pretty... Well, Hi-Fin isn't a horrible group name either, and the name does have some kind of meaning. It takes the first letter of each member's surname which is kind of clever. Unlike Dia Lady, the duo, Hi-Fin is the largest of the three Satoumi groups in today's Idol Smackdown, and it consists of Hagiwara Mai and Nakajima Saki from C-ute, Ikuta Erina and Ishida Ayumi from Morning Musume, and Fukuda Kanon from S/mileage. I actually think this is a very well-done mix of different girls, but it would have been nice to see some members who haven't been included in the Satoyama units in a group like this. Three of the five members of Hi-Fin have already done Satoyama material...

Still, that's only a minimal gripe, and I think Hi-Fin has a pretty diverse lineup of girls from different groups that all form a pretty cohesive lineup! I also like that there are five members; I think five is the perfect number of members to have in an idol group. I think because that number isn't too small but it's not too big either. With five, you can do a lot with the lineup, but it's not like anyone's really getting overshadowed by the sheer number of girls in the group over, say, 10 members of 100+ unlike some idol groups that end in 48. So yeah, the lineup is good, but is the styling of said lineup good? Eh., it's decent. None of the girls look terrible. But the outfits used for Hi-Fin's single aren't very standout either. They're not striking like the little black dresses Dia Lady wore or... whatever Mellowquad's were. These look like the kind of clothes that the girls themselves could have pulled from their own closets. In that respect, they all look very stylish, but for a single, I would have preferred something that stood out a little bit more. These outfits are just a little too plain.

Mellowquad


And the finally challenger for this round is Mellowquad! What the hell is a mellowquad anyways? It kind of sounds like a fruit but then it also kind of sounds like something you'd see on the menu for a Mellow Mushroom restaurant... It says on the Generasia wiki the group name came from "idea of a rich prosperous ocean and the attributes of fairy mermaids" but I think knowing that doesn't help much. Well anyways, this four member unit consists of two C-ute members and two Berryz Koubou members. Not too much of a mix, but I think it's nice to put members from two groups that have known each other for a long time together. Yajima Maimi and Okai Chisato from C-ute and Tokunaga Chinami and Natsuyaki Miyabi make up the entire unit. Notice how three out of four of these members were also in DIY. For the most part, I think this lineup is okay. It is kind of weird seeing three brunettes and black-haired Maimi lined up together.

There's also the fact that Chinami, Miyabi, and Maimi are all very tall and leggy, while Chissa is... not. She's short enough as it is and lined up with those three doesn't help her height very much. I mean, it doesn't really matter that much, but this still is a rather funny-looking lineup. And I haven't even talked about the outfits. Yeah, the outfits Mellowquad got are... interesting. You can't deny that they stand out with all those bright colors and floral patterns... I mean, they look like modernized versions of the type of clothing you'd see a Japanese person wear in an older time period. Granted, I don't think they'd wear short shorts but you get what I'm trying to refer to. I don't know, I'm very unsure about what to make of these outfits. I do like that they have a very clear theme to them but PyokoPyoko Ultra's outfits also had a very clear them, and look how well they were received. I do like the floral bras worn under those robes, but that's just because they look stylish and I'd totally buy one if I could find one. I guess Mellowquad's outfits are all right, but they're probably my least favorite of the three Satoumi groups.

And the Winner Is...


I have to go with Dia Lady for the winner of Round 1. Airi and Risako fit well together as a duo, and I really like the styling used for them. You can argue that it's a bit too simplistic, but the little black dresses are very classy! But there's still hope for Hi-Fin Mellowquad to swoop in and steal the title of winner! This Idol Smackdown is far from over with two more rounds to go...

Round 2 - The Songs:

I personally think Round 2 is pretty self-explanatory. How did each song from each Satoumi group sound? Were they as bland as Green Hills' Girls Be Ambitious! and Peaberry's Cabbage Hakusho? Catchy as Fore Fore ~Forest for Rest~? Cutesy as Harvest's Forest Time? I personally find this round to be the most important of the three Idol Smackdown rounds, and where the true meat of each Satoumi lies. After all, you can give a group the best styling possible and the most high-budget, lavish PV ever, but that's worth nothing if the song is crap.

Dia Lady



First song up is winner of Round 1, Dia Lady's, titled Lady Mermaid. Not sure why there had to be a "lady" before "mermaid" in the title considering by default mermaids tend to be women but... Okay, okay, I'm getting nitpicky! Much like the unit itself, I was intrigued to see how Dia Lady's song turned out. Lady Mermaid was described a rockabilly type of song, which did leave me curious. A duo consisting of Suzuki Airi, one of the most consistent singers in Hello! Project, and Sugaya Risako, one of the most inconsistent singers in Hello! Project, singing a rockabilly song together? It was either going to be surprisingly good or hilariously disastrous. I think my biggest fear for Lady Mermaid was really the vocals. Airi, like I said, is a very strong and consistent performer with a very smooth, naturally talented voice. It's the right combination of power and control. On the other hand, Risako's voice is... all over the place. She constantly uses her vibrato and tries to belt, which sometimes works, but when it doesn't, it's... obvious.

If Airi's voice is the equivalent of a ballerina delicately dancing out a highly specified routine, Risako's voice is the equivalent of a crazed lumberjack swinging his axe wildly at anything that looks like wood. Luckily, Lady Mermaid is, for the most, pretty safe in terms of vocals. Airi sounds great as usual, and Risako holds her own pretty well alongside Airi. I think it was a safe decision to have Airi sing the melody when the two were harmonizing; Risako's voice always works well when she just has to hit lower notes. And to my surprise, these two idols actually blend a lot better than I thought they would. One voice doesn't overpower the other, and neither voice contrasts much from the other. There are a few shaky notes in the song, but for the most part, Lady Mermaid works well vocally. The song itself is also pretty good too! I don't necessarily hear a lot of rockabilly in Lady Mermaid, but there's a lot of nice brass going on in the song! With a smooth beat and pretty good vocals, Lady Mermaid turned out to be a much better song than I was anticipating!

Hi-Fin - Kaigan Seisou Danshi



But hark! A challenger approaches in the form of five subpar vocalists! Seriously, the best singer in Hi-Fin is Kanon. None of the other girls in this Satoumi unit are exactly known for their vocal talent... Still, that doesn't mean that their song is automatically terrible. In fact, Kaigan Seisou Danshi, is a pretty nice song to listen to. Is it vocally challenging? Hell no (but you can say that for nearly any idol song). But there is a lot going on in this song with the vocals. There's a lot of layering in this song, where a few of the girls sing, then the rest of the girls sing over or behind them. It's a simple but very cool effect, and it adds to the laid-back nature of Kaigan Seisou Danshi. This is one of those songs that actually works because it's energy level isn't high. This song doesn't drag, but the song isn't hyperactive either. The energy still picks up in the chorus and whatnot. I actually think of the three Satoumi songs, this one sounds the most... summery. This does count as a summer single, right? I mean, the Satoumi groups were made with the purpose of reminding people to keep beaches and other bodies of water clean.

This single was released in the summer so I just kind of assumed that all the songs were summer songs. But now that I'm looking at the three Satoumi songs collectively, I think Hi-Fin has the most summery sound. It's not an energetic summer song that gets you pumped for summer but more of a nostalgic summer song, the kind where you look back on summers past by. Think Secret Base ~Kimi ga Kureta Mono~ only not quite as tear-jerking. The song Kaigan Seisou Danshi reminds me most of Urahara by Buono! I think both songs have that same laid-back feel to them, and both songs flow very well. I almost want to say that Kaigan Seisou Danshi could pass for a theme to an anime ending too. It sounds like one of those you'd hear during the credits of something, whether it be a movie or a television show. I think overall, Kaigan Seisou Danshi is a very nice song to listen to, with a sound that breezes through and vocal structure that works well for the members of Hi-Fin.

Mellowquad



Will Mellowquad be able to pick themselves up in Round 2? Mellowquad got Eiya-sa! Brother, a song about brothers and how gosh-darn amazing they are. Eiya-sa! Brother was described as a reggae song, which left me... nervous. Don't get me wrong, I love a little Bob Marley every now and then, but reggae as a whole is not a genre of music that I gravitate to very well. And considering Hello! Project's last attempt at a reggae-themed song was atrociously awful, I think I had every right to be nervous for Mellowquad. Nonetheless, I like to keep an open mind, and I was going to keep an open mind for Eiya-sa! Brother until I'd actually heard the song. Now that I have heard the song... I think it's pretty good. Thank god it sounds nothing like reggae; it does have a very tropical sound to it, but not so much reggae. There's actually quite a lot of stuff going on in Eiya-sa! Brother, vocally at least. You've got the deep backing vocals, the repetitive bits in the instrumental, a third verse (which is always a landmark for any H!P song), and definitely the most differently structured of the three Satoumi songs.

I also think Eiya-sa! Brother is the most fun H!P song. It's very catchy thanks to the use of repetition in the chorus and after the chorus. There are a lot of parts that stood out to me with this song, and the peppiness of Eiya-sa! Brother rubbed off on me very quickly. The one aspect of Eiya-sa! Brother that didn't work for me so well were the vocals. And they weren't even that bad; there were just certain parts of the song where I thought "Eh... that could have been sung better." I guess it's because I'm a singer that I notice stuff like that so quickly. The parts of Eiya-sa! Brother where the girls sang from their head voices were very poorly done. The main problem is that the girls' head voices are all too soft and contrast too much from their chest voices. The backing vocals also didn't help, along with how loud the instrumental was. Singing with your head and providing enough volume and power to not sound faded out is a skill that you can't master in a day. In that respect, Mellowquad could have done better with its vocals; beyond that though, I liked Eiya-sa! Brother as a song.

And the Winner Is...


It was between Lady Mermaid and Kaigan Seisou Danshi for winner of Round 2, but I decided to go with Hi-Fin's song. Collectively, I feel like all the Satoumi songs were stronger than the Satoyama songs. Even Eiya-sa! Brother, the weakest song, still holds up better than Boys be ambitious! or Cabbage Hakusho. Kaigan Seisou no Danshi just happened to be the strongest of a trio of already strong songs. I think it's a great summer song with a nice melody and lulling rhythm.

Round 3 - The PVs:

Of course, this Idol Smackdown isn't done yet! We still have one more round to go! With Dia Lady winning Round 1 and Hi-Fin winning Round 2, will Mellowquad come through with its PV? Now of course I have to lower my expectations a few notches when it comes to judging H!P PVs since their in their own league of unoriginality and cheapness. However, the Satoyama groups fared a little better when it came to their PVs; hopefully, the Satoumi groups will get that same treatment. Let's dive in and find out!

Dia Lady



I will go ahead and say that of the three Satoumi PVs, Lady Mermaid's bores me the most. It's about the closest H!P-looking PV we get. You have your close-ups, your dance shot, and one extra shot to make it look like some effort was put into the PV. Sound familiar?





See that? Those four scenes are pretty much the only shots we get throughout this entire PV. For the first minute or so, that's all right. I actually like the set for the diner, because it looks very retro, like something out of the fifties. Anything from the fifties always seems to appeal to me. Well... apart from the inherent sexism and racism of that decade but that is a topic not for a blog about Japanese pop music. Anyways, back to the PV. After the beginning of the PV though, Lady Mermaid starts to get boring. The problem is the only scene where Airi and Risako are doing anything is any scene that takes place in the diner. That's where they're dancing and singing. All they do in those other three scenes is stare off into the distance until finally realizing that they're lazy bums to get up and meet each other at some random bridge. No explanation as to why or how, just for kicks, I suppose. Still, because the plot of this PV is so very basic, I couldn't help but do what I do best and try and come up with a bigger plot to explain it.

See, in my version of Lady Mermaid's PV, Airi and Risako are two friends both waiting for their lovers to elope with them. Little do they know that they're the same person and the guy, realizing he could keep up the ruse any longer, decided to skip down and leave both waiting for him. As they wait, they realize they've been duped, so they come to the bridge to console with each other. They talk a bit, find out they've both been with the same guy, realize that there's no point in trying to find guys, and finally realize that they're both in lesbians with each other so they ride off into the sunset. The end! Okay... my plot isn't as complex as Memento but at least I tried harder to think up something than whatever the person who directed this PV did! I don't care how pretty they look, watching people do nothing is a bore for me. Lady Mermaid is too formulaic, even for H!P, for me to really like it that much. Airi and Risako do a fine job dancing and performing in this PV, but as a whole, the PV for Lady Mermaid is lacking in... anything interesting. Well okay, that motorcycle was pretty cool. Next!

Hi-Fin



Well, Kaigan Seisou Danshi was a pretty great song; can the PV match its greatness? I'll go ahead and answer that: not really. The good news is that the PV for Kaigan Seisou Danshi isn't as boring as Lady Mermaid's. The bad news is that it still isn't exactly a thrill either...





What immediately caught my eye about Kaigan Seisou Danshi's PV was the editing. As I was first watching the PV, I thought "Wow, this is actually kind of neat." And the editing for Kaigan Seisou Danshi's PV is very neat; showing the girls through little squares and rectangles and the transitions into them is a very smooth effect to look at. But watching the PV another time and another time, I realize that the editing for Kaigan Seisou Danshi is pretty much the only aspect this PV has going for it. If you'd taken that out, this would have been a completely dull PV to look at. This comes back to again, the idea that hey, showing a group of girls just sitting around not doing anything is... BORING! I'm serious! Why one earth can they not have the girls do something in this PV beyond sitting around and looking at the camera. The only girls that are really given anything to do are Maimai and Nakky. At least Maimai gets to attempt to clean a surfboard and Nakky gets a magazine to leaf through. The other three girls just stare at the camera, sing a few lines, and finally walk out of the PV because they probably realized how dull it was too.

I will admit, Kanon does a decent job at looking like she's interested and Ayumi puts forth an effort. But then Eripon just keeps giving the camera this dead-eyed stare that doesn't match with the happy tone of the song at all. Everyone else tries to smile and look happy; I don't think Eripon even smiles once in this PV. And each girl is confined to just one set, and not a very big one either. They're not even given the opportunity to do much. Oh sure, there's a beach in this PV, but those shots are completely separate and never feature any of the girls. Here's a thought: why not... show the girls walking on the beach!? I mean come on, can it be that hard to find a public beach that'd grant you access to shoot a music video? The song is about cleaning the beach so could we not have gotten the girls of Hi-Fin cleaning a beach instead of lingering around doing nothing. The visual presentation of Kaigan Seisou Danshi lured me in like a fish but in the end, there was nothing substantial for this PV.

Mellowquad



Ending Round 3 is Mellowquad's PV for Eiya-sa! Brother. I really didn't know what to expect for this PV (let alone the song), even after I saw the costumes for their song. After seeing the PV, I think I can firmly say that I am... pleasantly surprised that this turned out to be a pretty fun PV.





I mean, wow. A PV that actually has effort put into it? A PV that has the girls doing stuff? This is revolutionary! You'd think UFP would be doing more PVs like this! What I like about Eiya-sa! Brother's PV is that it probably had the same budget as Lady Mermaid and Kaigan Seisou Danshi, yet it did a better job. Hell, I don't even think the PV has more than one set but the set is utilized to its best potential. The dance shot was behind all the booths where the girls did little activities so... props to whoever designed the set for this PV! I like that the set has so many colors too; it's bright and cheerful, like a burst of sunshine! Even though the PV has nothing to do with the song, I think the PV for Eiya-sa! Brother is really cute and fun. What I really like are all the individual shots showing Chissa, Maimi, Chinami, and Miyabi doing different stuff around the set. Like Chinami's cooking food, Miyabi's catching goldfish, Maimi's eating shaved ice, and Chissa's playing a shooter-type carnival.

This PV's kind of like a carnival if it were a lot more barren and had hardly anyone in it! What also adds to the PV is the inclusion of these two mascots, a fish and an octopus. It is an octopus, right? It was a little hard to tell from the shots in this PV. But yeah, I thought those two mascots were adorable, and they added a lot of charm to the PV. I like that the girls interacted with them too, and they weren't just standing around creepily in the background. Despite the fact that Eiya-sa! Brother is a PV that took place completely within a closed set, I actually think this is the Satoumi PV that reminded me the most of summer .And I think that's because there was a sense of lively happiness radiating from all the girls in this PV. Whether it was faked or not, they all looked like they were having fun, and the variety of shots kept this PV from getting too dull. Is it the next Ponytail to Shushu? Of course not, but for Hello! Project, this is actually a pretty decent PV. What it lacks in budget it makes up for in personality and entertainment.

And the Winner Is...


Yeah, winner of Round 3 is Mellowquad, hands down. It's the only PV that actually puts some effort into being entertaining. While Lady Mermaid and Kaigan Seisou Danshi may have looked good visually, there was nothing to them. Eiya-sa! Brother's PV had a lot more character to it. The girls all looked like they were having fun, and there was enough to look at that the PV never got too boring.

My, my, isn't this quite the quandary? You all might have noticed something by now: there were three separate winners for each round. I guess I shouldn't have reviewed three separate groups, huh? Well, the only thing I can really do is just decide a winner. Normally, I'd pick whoever won the most rounds, but look how well that went for this Idol Smackdown. So after much debate within myself, I think I've decided who I wanted to win.


And the Winner of the Idol Smackdown Is...

It was a tough decision really. I know a lot of people say that whenever they're making a final call on something, but I really do mean it. Overall, I think the Satoumi groups got much stronger songs than the Satoyama groups. None of the songs were bland, and they all managed to stand out from one another. Each song played to each group's strengths, like Hi-Fin having a vocally easy song and Dia Lady having a song with some nice harmonies. Even the PVs were a step-up from what Hello! Project groups normally get, even if Lady Mermaid and Kaigan Seisou Danshi still had some pretty unoriginal PVs. Eiya-sa! Brother's PV is worth noting though; I think that might even be one of my favorite summer PVs from this year. In the end though, I had to go with Hi-Fin as winner of the Idol Smackdown because they won the round that I consider the strongest: the song.

Kaigan Seisou Danshi is a very nice song, the kind of song that I can see myself listening to after I'm done typing this review. I think it was arranged very well, the instrumentals sounded great, and it truly sounded like a song you'd play in the summer. Lady Mermaid and Eiya-sa! Brother are good songs as well, but if I had to pick my favorite Saotumi song, it'd still be Kaigan Seisou Danshi. So props to Hi-Fin for winning my first official Idol Smackdown! Their prize is... the glory of winning? The power of friendship? A million dollars? I'll think of something. But hey, what'd you guys think of this Idol Smackdown? Was it totally freaking awesome? Or do you want me to throw it into the ocean and never do something like this again? Look on the bright side, I probably won't do many Idol Smackdowns; this took forever to do, and frankly, I'm exhausted. Before I go out though, I just want to ask one more thing: what was your favorite Satoumi group? Or did you just hate all of them? Feel free to comment!

5 comments:

  1. Finally, someone else who thinks that octopus and fish are cute! People think they're creepy for some reason. :S

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    1. What!? They're not creepy, they're adorable! There are MUCH creepier animal mascots I've seen in idol PVs (like the pig from Koi ni Booing Buu!).

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    2. Ugh, DON'T remind me of that pig... *shudders*

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  2. I know this is late but it seems to me that the Mellowquad outfits are based on the clothes worn by the shrine carriers during various matsuri's.

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    1. Thank you! I was trying to remember what outfits Mellowquad was based on but I didn't want to say it out loud for fear of sounding ignorant! Thanks for the clarification!

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