Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Holly Jolly PV Week: AKB48

Ohohoho, of course I haven't forgotten about all the AKB48 Christmas songs! Even if I'm displeased with their current music that would never stop me from reviewing their older songs and PVs! But which of the three Christmas AKB48 PVs could this be, hrm? The first? The second? The third?

It's the first, and in my opinion the best: Yoyaku Shita Christmas!

There actually isn't a cover for Yoyaku Shita Christmas, so I had to use an advertisement featuring the Senbatsu for the song. Look, I don't care if I have to use a penguin, I am not putting that ugly Janken cover at the top of this review! Speaking of penguins, technically I could have used Hashire! Penguin for Holly Jolly PV Week.  Or Noel no Yoru. Or Totteoki Christmas. Yeah, AKB48 has a lot of Christmas PVs. And that's not even getting into their stage songs without PVs! Honestly, trying to figure out which of these Christmas PVs I wanted to pick was a little overwhelming. I knew I didn't want to do Noel no Yoru (besides, if you want to see a review of that PV the lovely Chiima already reviewed it here). I wanted to do an older AKB48 PV, so that's kind of why I ended up going with Yoyaku Shita Christmas. Another reason why I went with Yoyaku Shita Christmas is because it was the first Janken single Christmas B-side. As many of you know, AKB48 has a tradition where every Janken single has better B-sides than the actual Janken song.

I'm just kidding! But no really the Janken songs suck and WHY aren't the B-sides singles they're so much better ugh it's almost Christmas I refuse to rant about this again. But for the first three Janken singles, the main B-side was a Christmas song, accompanied by a Christmas PV. I don't know why Suzukake Nanchara broke the tradition with a normal song, but Mosh&Dive is a decent song so I'm not complaining that much. I will admit I never really got into the Christmas B-sides on the Janken singles. I remember thinking Noel no Yoru was okay but sounded like every other Christmas song I'd heard. In fact, that's the really hard thing about original Christmas songs: trying not to let them fall into the tired song styles and tropes that have become practically a standard set by all the popular Christmas songs from the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. Or just sounding like a rehash of Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas Is You. Idol Christmas songs don't fall plague to this quite as badly as American Christmas songs, but there are still a lot of these songs that sound the same if you play them back to back. They're just kind of bland.

And yet... I am surprisingly okay with this.

No, your computer didn't just glitch, warping the text in this post to display something I clearly would never say. I know that from nearly the start of my time as a blogger, I've written endlessly about my disinterest in bland idol music. There are many times I've downright ranted about bland music. It drives me berserk, I can't stand it, and I've probably hammered that into my readers' heads more than they would have liked me to. Despite this grudge, the one time where I more-or-less let it go is with idol Christmas songs. Yes, a lot of them are bland. Sure, there are still some really good ones that have been featured in Holly Jolly PV Week, but for the most part, idol Christmas songs don't exist to be original. They exist to cash in on Christmas. But when you think about it, everything idols do is an attempt to cash in. Because you know what idol Christmas songs also do that regular idol songs don't? They try to spread the joy of Christmas. And sure, maybe sometimes an idol group's concept of Christmas can be kind of cheesy and cliched, but in my opinion, it's the thought that counts.

In fact, I think it's the thought that counts with anything Christmas-related. I mean, when someone gives me a bad gift, even if I can't bring myself to like it, I can appreciate the fact that someone took the time to wrap this gift and give it to me in their best attempt to spread some Christmas kindness to me. And that's kind of how I see these idol Christmas songs. For me, trying to hate these songs is like trying to hate a puppy that tracked mud all over your floor. For that reason, AKB48's bland Christmas songs are their only bland songs that get a free pass from me. Maybe because it's Christmas, and my cold, bland song-hating heart, can't bring itself to devote any hatred to these songs the same way it does with all of AKB48's other songs. I bring all this up because Yoyaku Shita Christmas technically started the tradition of bland AKB48 Christmas songs. Unlike the other AKB48 Christmas songs though, Yoyaku Shita Christmas isn't quite as bland. Hence my reasons for reviewing it for Holly Jolly PV Week.

I'd actually just started find out about AKB48 around the time of Yoyaku Shita Christmas and Chance no Juban, but I wasn't into them that much yet. So I guess you could say I was kind of in the idolsphere when Chance no Juban was released, I just didn't know it yet. But upon listening to Yoyaku Shita Christmas after... over two years ago, I actually found that I liked this song a lot. More than I remember liking AKB48's other Christmas songs. And okay, it's not the best song out there. If you're looking for something with innovation or a different sound for AKB48, Yoyaku Shita Christmas is not that. However, I found it to be a surprisingly heartfelt song. And it's kind of a Christmas rock song. Or... as rock as AKB48 can get. I don't know, there's just something so joyful about Yoyaku Shita Christmas. I don't know if it's because of the jubilant tone of the instrumental, the vocals, or what, but when listen to Yoyaku Shita Christmas, I just get so excited for Christmas. And I think, sitting here typing in the dark and counting the hours until midnight, Yoyaku Shita Christmas is one of my favorite songs to listen to on Christmas Eve!

It's kind of funny, because the lyrics are just about a Christmas love story. You know, a girl's with a guy, and she wanted to meet him again on Christmas Eve. So she's standing at the meeting spot waiting for him to come. Unlike Aitai Lonely Christmas, which as a more pessimistic take on a meeting someone story, Yoyaku Shita Christmas is extremely positive. The girls spends the song gushing about the happiness she feels with this guy and their enchanting day on Christmas Eve. Sure, I think the lyrics are kind of corny with all the Christmas puns thrown around in them, but I can see how other people could relate to it. I can relate to that feeling of... togetherness the girl feels in the lyrics. But that togetherness stems more from being with my family on Christmas! Overall, I think for a bland Christmas song, Yoyaku Shita Christmas is still really sweet, and it very slowly grew on me, eventually becoming one of my favorite idol Christmas songs!

Note: this is the last Christmas-y shot of the whole PV. Prepare yourselves.

Now we're going off to AKB Magical Christmas Land!!!

Look! A Christmas wreath! A CGI Christmas wreath!

So I guess Santa's chilling and letting the Senbatsu do his work for him?

Then again, I wouldn't mind AKB48 coming to my house and delivering presents...

ACCHAN! Why oh why did I never appreciate her while she was in AKB48?

Idols conjuring wreaths out of nowhere!? It must be WITCHCRA- oh wait, it's just CGI.

Look, another member of AKB48 no longer in the group.

And another member. Gosh, how many former members are in this PV again?

All the conjuring in this PV could give a Harry Potter Christmas a run for its money!

So uh, who's holding those floating glasses? The Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present?

Like seriously, did The Haunted Mansion cater this Christmas party?

That's the face of someone who has no idea their career's going to shit in two years!

Long hair or short hair, Miichan is ADORABLE!

Oh Mayuyu, how I've missed your Creeper Smile! So creepy. So awkward.

Now which of these four girls went on to become #1? Hint: it's not Maeda Ami.

Seriously, why do Newton's laws of gravity not apply to this PV!?

Wait a minute, this effect kind of looks similar to... to...

...oh my god, to Gounn! So AKB48 did a cool effect before Momoiro Clover Z? WHAT!?

I wonder if AKS ever thought to cash in on AKB48 Christmas ornaments.

Holy crap, now the PV's even doing the same spiral-out effect that Gounn did!

What surreal world do we live in!?

Wow, an object that isn't CGI! We can touch it!!

Oh hai, outfit change... did S/mileage swipe those antennas for Samui ne?

This PV really likes dropping AKB48's name for some reason. Is is subliminal messaging?

The whole group looks so festive in their cute little Santa outfits!

Man, those snowflakes look more like snowfakes. Get it? 'Cause they look so fake! HA!

Aw, the fade-out with the wreath is cute!

Wheeee more spiraling! It's like I'm watching Gounn all over again! Except with less Buddhism..

And the PV ends with a sprinkle of cute little stars! How sweet!

This is a Christmas PV. There's no denying it. You don't even have to know the title of the song to know that this is supposed to be a Christmas PV. Hell, the very first shot after the title drop establishes the Christmas mood of the PV! Yoyaku Shita Christmas is the next-to-last PV on Holly Jolly PV Week for a reason. Only one PV I've found is more Christmas-y than Yoyaku Shita Christmas is. But we'll get to that one tomorrow. I think it's pretty easy to figure out why I picked this one for Holly Jolly PV Week. Yoyaku Shita Christmas is one of those PVs that is a straight-up Christmas PV. There's no subplot, no symbolism, no alternate messages, it is a series of Christmas imagery all dedicated to celebrating Christmas. Literally. Yoyaku Shita Christmas plays out like one long, magical Christmas party. It's kind of like what The Polar Express did. You know, the story of kids boarding a magical train and going to the North Pole to meet Santa? Yoyaku Shita Christmas has that same kind of magical idea. The girls of AKB48 are celebrating Christmas in their magical house that defies the laws of gravity.

Yeah, you do have to apply a willing suspension of disbelief with this PV. There's not much of a plot, it's just a PV that relies on a variety of common Christmas themes and ideas strung together. You've got the Santa outfits, the yummy Christmas food, the wreaths, the floating Christmas presents, all the common things associated with Christmas. Or the modern version of it. I won't get into an editorial about the commercialization of Christmas, but the PV for Yoyaku Shita Christmas does sort of exemplify the idea of a "commercial" Christmas. Not that that's a bad thing. Well... depending on who you ask, it may be, but personally, I did not have a problem with this. I don't want a reenactment of the nativity scene from AKB48. Yoyaku Shita Christmas works as a Christmas PV because it showcases a vibrant, almost idealistic depiction of Christmas. No, of course my presents don't float around my house. But what makes Yoyaku Shita Christmas work so well is effects like that.

Yoyaku Shita Christmas is a very special effects-heavy PV though. Again, that's not a bad thing, as most of the effects hold up pretty well. I didn't notice much until now, but a lot of this PV is green screen. Thankfully though, it's a case in which the green screen actually looks decent. I swear, all these shitty green screens in the past year have made me so jaded. I will admit there are a few effects (like the floating glasses) that do look a tad bit gratuitous. I mean, those snowflakes at the end of the PV look so fake. I'm not expecting Frozen levels of snowflake detail, but come on, they could have at least tried to make them look a little more real. Even so, the lower quality effects in this PV didn't bother me. Actually, I think the green screens in Yoyaku Shita Christmas set up a very nice atmosphere. They gave the PV this very storybook-like quality. Obviously, the settings weren't meant to be real, so you could kind of picture them as scenes from a picture book. Like with the hanging clouds (you can clearly see the string), the transitions, and the pop-up nature of the special effects, the PV for Yoyaku Shita Christmas felt very much like a story being told either as a play or as a book. Like... a children's book. 

Ah, I can see it now! A children's Christmas book about AKB48 and how they had to save Christmas when something happened to Santa and... uh... yeah, I don't write children's books for a reason. Still, the PV for Yoyaku Shita Christmas felt like a view of Christmas the same way I viewed it as a kid. A bright and cheerful holiday full of delicious food and presents and Santa hats! Of course, it means more than that to me now, but Yoyaku Shita Christmas is a simpler depiction of Christmas. It's fun and lighthearted with just enough magic in it to be a delight to watch. It's one of my favorite Christmas PVs. I think the colors are beautiful, the girls look so sweet, and part of me gets so nostalgic for older AKB48 PVs. Okay, maybe this PV isn't super old, but compared to the AKB48 of today, it looks old. For me, Yoyaku Shita Christmas will always exist as this storybook-like Christmas PV. And that's just the way I like it!

Yoyaku Shita Christmas is probably the quintessential idol Christmas PV that a lot of idol fans think of and for a good reason. The PV is Christmas in a wonderfully whimsical and happy way, and the song isn't too bad either. So I can generously give Yoyaku Shita Christmas an overall rating of four and half fruitcakes! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to bed. After all, Santa can't get here if I'm still up!

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