Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Girl's Rule (and Boys Drool)

What? Like you never heard that expression before? Please, every person born in the last twenty years used that comeback in elementary school to deal with asshat little boys taking over the jungle gym on the school playground!

Oh yeah, and uh... this is a Nogizaka46 review.

No, you have not been transported by mad scientists into an alternate dimension! Nia, that obstinate blogger who established very early on that she was unimpressed with that "rival" AKB48 group, is actually reviewing something by Nogizaka46! For those of you that hadn't fallen into the Wonderland when I was just starting out blogging back in 2012, I was very, very disappointed with Nogizaka46's debut. So much that I wrote an entire rant about it that you can find if you dig far enough into my archives. When the idea of a rival group first arose for AKB48, I was very interested. I mean, AKB48 was and still is, a very popular group, and it would be interesting to see how a self-proclaimed "rival group" could shake things up for such a renowned idol group. I mean, you could do so much with a rival group, like making them the antithesis of AKB48, giving them a completely different but awesome image, making said group a formidable opponent. I've always found the concept of rivalry to be very engaging when done well. And here's why Nogizaka46 flopped for me: they were just about the most un-rival-y rival group I'd ever laid eyes on. I knew that when I saw the PV for Guruguru Curtain, their debut song. To this day, I still think Guruguru Curtain is a bland, uninspired piece of drek on par with some of the A-sides that AKB48 has been cranking out recently. I think the PV is dull, the outfits god-awful, and the overall debut poorly handled.

To say I was underwhelmed was an understatement. I was downright flabbergasted at just how twee and bland their debut song was. You all know how I have a chip on my shoulder the size of Canada when it comes to generic and bland idol songs. And so for most of 2012, Nogizaka46 continued to get bland song after bland song, accompanied by even blander PVs, ranging from the god-awful Oide Shampoo to the strange-looking Hashire! Bicycle. But just when I had pretty much given up on Nogizaka46 ever being a competent rival group, Seifuku no Mannequin came out. Unlike the group's previous three A-sides, this one was actually, to my surprise, decent sounding. And then, lo and behold, their next A-side wasn't bad either! Don't get me wrong, neither A-side was spectacular but they actually sounded like effort was put into them! Could it be that Nogizaka46 was actually on the road to musical redemption?

And so that brings me to Girl's Rule. Despite the fact that July is close to ending and August, along with school for many people, is approaching, Girl's Rule is what Nogizaka46 brought to the table for the melting pot of AKB/SKE/NMB summer songs that always come around this time of year. Now personally the "summer era" of AKS singles has never been my favorite, just because musically I find most of the summer songs very boring. I mean, the selling point of these summer songs is never the music anyways. Well... okay, the selling point of AKB48 and all its sister groups isn't exactly the music in general, but that especially applies to the summer songs! Anyone who has an inkling of how the AKS groups function knows that the summer songs are means to put all the girls in bikinis and have them dance on a beach or some other summery location. They're the "fanservice" singles so to speak, the ones that'll sell because they're visually marketed to that more perverted demographic of fans.

Does that mean they're bad singles? Of course not. What I'm trying to get at is I never have particularly high expectations for the AKS summer singles, because I know the music isn't going to be the selling point of them. Most of the AKS summer songs are cheerful, upbeat and teetering on the thin line between annoyingly generic and tolerably generic. As a result, a lot of said summer songs tend to fade from my memory over time, and in the end I neither remember them as good songs or bad songs. The only AKS summer song that's managed to remain somewhat enjoyable in my mind is Everyday, Kachuusha, and even then, that's not my uber-favorite idol song ever made ever. Even though my outlook on Nogizaka46 had started to soften around the time Girl's Rule was released, I still wasn't exactly giving them much thought. When Chiima mentioned them in a conversation we were having and how she liked their newest song, I did end up deciding to watch the PV for Girl's Rule, just to see if it was remotely worth my attention.

To my surprise... it was.

But let me get one thing out of the way: Girl's Rule is not an amazing song. It's not even a great song. It isn't creative or innovative by idol standards and it fits into the mold of your typical summer song from an agency like AKS. You've got your brass-fueled opening, your verses building up to an upbeat and energetic chorus, a kinda-sorta catchy chorus, everything you'd expect to hear in a an AKB/SKE/NMB summer song. That being said... I still think Girl's Rule is a pretty decent song. I mean, it's a hell of a lot better song than Sayonara Crawl. Then again, a lot of other idol songs share that distinction, but I still think it's something worth noting. And Girl's Rule sounds a lot better than some of the group's first A-side. I think I even like Girl's Rule better than Bokura no Eureka! It might even be my favorite summer song from AKS this year, if Utsukushii Inazuma doesn't sweep in and claim that title. For some reason, Girl's Rule sounds a lot like Everyday, Kachuusha to my ears, which I think is one of the reasons why I can actually enjoying listening to the song. I feel like there's a lot more energy and effort put into this song than a lot of Nogizaka46's earlier A-sides and AKB48's current A-sides. The song isn't special but it's enjoyable to listen to and doesn't make me want to grab a spiked baseball bat and break something.

There is one thing I wonder about the title for Girl's Rule: was the apostrophe necessary? Pardon me for going Grammar Nazi here but the apostrophe gives the "rule" in the title possessive meaning. I looked up the English translation to the lyrics of the song, and I feel like the title could have worked with or without the apostrophe. With the apostrophe, the song comes off as talking about the secret "rules" that girls abide by such as telling and keeping secrets, pointing out each other's flaws, crying over guys they fall in love with. But without the apostrophe, the song sounds like an upbeat ode to how flipping awesome girls are for all those reasons. Yeah, that's a little nitpicky, but I still wanted to at least touch on it. Either way, the lyrics of the song are fine, pretty typical from Aki-P but still nothing atrocious.

Overall, there's not really too much I can say about Girl's Rule without getting repetitive, so I'll end with this. If you're in the mood for a light, happy, and pleasantly energetic song for the summer, I think this song works well. For me, Girl's Rule was a surprisingly fun song to listen to, especially from a group that's done little to impress me since they were formed. So wow. Three A-sides in a row that I've actually kind of liked from Nogizaka46. Am I going crazy and finally starting to bend to semi-generic songs now!? I kid, I kid. I know I vent all the time about my berserk-button hatred towards bland idol songs, but there are actually a few times where it's done well. Unfortunately, that just doesn't happen very often!

Anyways, I think from now on I'll keep a tentative eye on what Nogizaka46 does next. Three songs in a row that don't suck can't be a fluke. Who knows? Maybe the only way Nogizaka46 can get good songs is if AKB48 gets bad songs! Maybe there's some whole balance in the idol universe that Aki-P has to keep that involves those two groups and their musical outputs! Yeah, I'll bet AKS is just a front for some kind of cosmic horror! Totally makes sense, right guys? As for Nogizaka46, they've finally made it off my Review Blacklist (idol groups I have no plans of ever reviewing or talking about), but they're not quite in my good graces yet. If they can keep a streak of decent-sounding songs going for the rest of the year, then I just might develop a nicer opinion towards them. But we shall have to wait and see.

Now for the real test for Girl's Rule. Did the PV for it actually get decent looking outfits that don't look like potato sacks sewn during the Great Depression? Let's find out!

Wow, Nogizaka46 summed up summer in one screencap. Pretty impressive.

I love how ethereal this shot looks. The girls in it almost look like ghosts.

Ah, summer. A seasons filled with sunshine, joy, and late-night break-ins.

This has got to be the most non-fanservice-y pool scene I've ever seen in an idol PV...

Ooh, vintage camera!! I'm amazed she found one that functions. Most of them are too damaged to work properly.

Sparklers bring back quite the memories for me. Mostly of burnt fingers but still. Memories.

Did this baseball get thrown from Tokaikko Junjou???

No, this hair clip is not a MacGuffin. It will not show up again in this PV. I'm only screencapping it because it looks pretty. Obviously.

I hope you like Instagram filters, because hoo boy, this PV is full of them.

I've noticed idol PVs sure are fond of archery...

Like seriously. Of all sports to be featured in idol PVs...

Am I Katniss yet?

Ah, how whimsical! But in real life climbing a tree in a dress is a pain.

Wow, AKS finally got a hold of a guy for a summer PV who isn't Western!

Okay, the outfits for Girl's Rule aren't amazing...

...but they're a hell of a lot better than Oide Shampoo's. Eugh. Bad memories...

Gasp! A sign written in a language I can't speak! The horror!!!

I have a love/hate relationship with Instagram filters but the shots in this PV are so pretty.

So from what I can infer, the plot of this PV is basically the local pool is being shut down.

And now it's up to our plucky idols to keep it away from the evil CEO!

How will they do it? WITH A FUNDRAISER- I'm just kidding, this PV isn't that cliched.

Do companies always come in the middle of the night to take down local pools?

Damn, why couldn't the workers have been hot guys?

Ah, what could possibly go wrong with this very vague plan?


And then what ensues is a fight scene that was too blurry to be screencapped.

Just know that it ends with Mr. Businessman being pulled into the water by Flyer Girl.

And the song ends with Nogizaka46 posing the dance pose that every AKS group must be required to do at the end of their summer PVs.

A hose? Oh right, because clearly there isn't enough water at a pool.

And so the local pool is saved! Or at least I think it is...

I'm just going off this little screencap so... who knows? As far as I know, it got turned into a strip mall.

And even that hair clip I foreshadowed gets returned to its rightful owner, bringing this PV to a gosh-darn happy ending!

Wow. You guys are really going to think I've gone off the deep end when I say this but... I really love this PV. I know, I know, I'm saying that I love a PV from Nogizaka46. But I do! I mean, this is probably my favorite summer PV I've seen from AKS next to Bokura no Eureka. Much like with the accompanying song, I wasn't really going in expecting a lot for the PV to Girl's Rule. Yet I ended up surprisingly enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. So what to talk about first... what to talk about first... well, there's the plot of the PV. Honestly, the plot is probably the weakest aspect of the PV. I mean, it's not bad or anything but... it's pretty cliched. Or at least what I can gather of it is cliched. The main plot revolves around a pool, a local pool. Unfortunately, this local pool is going to be shut down and taken over by the evil corporate manager who's probably going to turn it into a freeway or whatever evil corporate managers do. But this pool isn't going down without a fight! Now it's up the plucky and determined young schoolgirls that make up the Nogizaka46 Senbatsu to fight back using any methods they can!

Lead by Pixie Cut (look, I don't know any of the names of the Nogizaka46 girls) the girls pass out flyers, make announcements, all kinds of protest-y defense stuff! And finally a dramatic confrontation pans out at the pool. Pixie Cut angrily berates the evil corporate manager about how the pool shouldn't be shut down. Mr. Manager reiterates by throwing Pixie Cut's flyers into the pool because he's a mature adult and Pixie Cut desperately jumps into the water to retrieve her sinking flyers. And then, Camera Girl leaps from her hiding places and utters a battle cry from that spurs all the other Nogizaka46 girls into action! From there, a glorious battle involving pool equipment begins! Splashing left and right, workers pitted against idols, it's utter mayhem! And finally the climax occurs when Mr. Manager springs from nowhere to try and get rid of Camera Girl's camera. But Pixie Cut steps in and he gets thrown into the pool which I guess solves everyone's problems because the next scene shows all the girls happily chilling outside of a general store.

So what's the moral to be learned from this story, kids? If you're local pool is being shut down, the only way to prevent it is staging a violent battle in the dead of night at said pool.

Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention there's this subplot in the PV around these two girls who are on an archery team together. One girl, Katniss, is a competent archer but she's constantly getting overshadowed by this other girl, Hawkeye. Well, they exchange this Macguffin- I mean, hair clip and then it gets returned to Katniss at the end of the PV. Look, the story isn't really important and I just glazed over it during my screencap. And then I forgot to bring up that other very, very minimal subplot involving the guy that Pixie Cut may or may not have had the hots for. But hey, that story isn't exactly important to the overarching plot of the PV either. In fact, I think it was just included to give Pixie Cut and some other girls a little extra screen time. Like I said, the storyline isn't what really carries this PV. What does carry the PV though? The sheer atmosphere of it.

Girl's Rule is a very nostalgic looking PV, almost like a series of moving snap shots recorded from a period of time long gone but still fondly remembered. It probably helps that Instagram-type filters frequently pop up in the PV. On the subject of that, Instagram filtering is constantly incorporated into this PV, but I actually think it works pretty well. Girl's Rule gives off a lot of waves of nostalgia. I really loved the shots that were filmed through the old camera; it's not a new technique but when done well and in the right environment, it looks really pretty. I love all the different shots and different locations used in the PV; they really add to the atmosphere of the PV. The setting reminded me very much of the podunk town I've live and grown up in, only my respective town isn't anywhere near as picturesque. Still, I love seeing shots of the girls walking down the road sitting outside of a store, etc. I said in an earlier summer PV review that what I looked for in a good summer single as a song and/or PV that could get me excited about summer. While Girl's Rule doesn't get me that excited about summer, it gets me nostalgic for summer. It's the kind of PV that makes me look back on my own summers and think about how amazing they were.

For that reason, I give the PV for Girl's Rule props. If there's one thing that can play to me even better than excitement, it's the nostalgia filter. Wow. I have to say, for a group I had little to no hope, Nogizaka46 has really risen up in my good graces. Whether this rise will continue... I hope it does! I feel like Nogizaka46 has the potential to be great; they just need good production values on their music and PVs. Videos like Girl's Rule and even Seifuku no Mannequin prove that they aren't a lost cause, along with the quality of their past three A-sides. The more I see from Nogizaka46, the more I want to like them. I want to believe that they have the potential to be a formidable sister group, maybe even a formidable rival to a group like AKB48. Only time will tell, but I really hope these high quality singles aren't just a convenient string of flukes. I suppose only time will tell but for now, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that whatever Nogizaka46 releases next will be good. Girl's Rule... well... it rules! The song is an enjoyable listen, especially during the summer, but the PV is where this song really shines. I can easily say that it's one of my favorite summer PVs of 2013 thanks to the variety of shots along with the atmosphere and the tone. Girl's Rule is a very sweet, very pretty PV that I would highly recommend checking out, especially during this time of the year when summer is coming to a close for many people.

I will give Girl's Rule four and half out of five apples! Not a terribly difficult decision I would say. The song, while by no means being a masterpiece, is still very fun-sounding and has a nice amount of energy. The PV is what's worth checking out. I loved it a lot more than I thought I would and I think anyone who's ever felt nostalgic for summers past will love it too!


  1. Another great review! Typically well-reasoned and well-illustrated too.
    I really like 'Girls Rule', song and pv. All the B-sides are pretty strong too (pvs included), and the making-of on Type C is excellent. That's three strong A-sides in a row from a group which, as you point out, had a bland start in life. While my favourite N46 song remains 'Kimi no na wa kibou', Girls Rule' has an attractive melody that can withstand repeat listening. I've high hopes for the 7th single...

    1. Thank you! I should probably listen to the B-sides for Girl's Rule now that you mention them... Nogizaka46 had a *fantastically* bland start; it still blows my mind that they've come this far. I'm really starting to like Kimi no Na wa Kibou too; it's a nice ballad! Like Girl's Rule, probably not my favorite song of the year, but nonetheless still very nice to listen to! Now all that's left to do is cross our fingers and pray the next single continues this level of quality.