Monday, December 23, 2013

Holly Jolly PV Week: C-ute

Oh yes, you guys know which PV I'm talking about. That or a lot less Hello! Project fans read my blog than I think they do. For those of you still clueless, the fifth day of Holly Jolly PV Week is Aitai Lonely Christmas! Yay!!!

And let me wish you all a merry Christmas Eve eve. And I hope you are all also enjoying your final days before Christmas! And if you're not... then I hope you find some form of enjoyment or happiness on Christmas! I know Christmas Eve eve is not exactly much to celebrate but still! Just two days until Christmas!! And also two days until Holly Jolly PV Week is coming to an end. Oh well, the least I can do is enjoy them while they last! These last three reviews are the ones I've really been excited to get to! I mean, I also liked doing the first four days, but I just feel like there's more I can talk about with these last three songs and PVs. And the first of these three is actually a pretty well-known song in the blogsphere! I mean, you know, a majority of bloggers and readers at least know about Hello! Project, so I'm just going into this assuming you all know who C-ute is and what Aitai Lonely Christmas is. If you don't know, there are like ten wikis about it.

Okay, with that out of the way, let's talk about Aitai Lonely Christmas! I think it's pretty obvious why I chose this song; I mean the title has the word "Christmas" in it. Of course it's a Christmas song! However, Aitai Lonely Christmas is not a happy Christmas song. Don't worry, it's not as soul-crushingly sad as Shiroi Hana! I promise this is the last sad Christmas song I have on Holly Jolly PV Week! The last two are fun! The thing is, even though Aitai Lonely Christmas is a sad song, I don't want to call it a ballad. It's actually very upbeat; the tempo's fast, there's even some rocking electric guitar in the bridge! The sadness stems more from the vocals of the song. The vocal arrangement could be paired with a slower, piano-type of instrumental, and this song could very easily be a ballad. But I kind of like that Aitai Lonely Christmas is an upbeat sad song. I think so many sad songs always default to the slow, ballad-type format, which isn't bad thing, but hearing Aitai Lonely Christmas is still very refreshing. Besides, C-ute is a group that doesn't do well with ballads. See Kono Machi.

Anyways, so is Aitai Lonely Christmas about a lonely Christmas? The full title of the song roughly translates to I Want to Meet You on this Lonely Christmas. And... that's pretty much what the song is about! A girl has a boy (presumably it's a boy but with the no-dating rule... who knows?) and she wants to spend Christmas with him. However, her desire to be with him is inhibited by her own erratic behavior around him. Sometimes she yells at him on the telephone, other times she doesn't talk to him for days, their relationship is not in a good place. Yet despite reminding herself of all his bad traits, she can't bring herself to forget him completely. And so she spends most of the song wistfully saying how much she wants to be with him, the pinnacle of these emotions reaching on a Christmas day, a time when lovers spend Christmases together. I don't really pay a lot of attention to Tsunku's lyrics because most of them are just awkward love songs with random lyrics that either don't make sense or don't translate well.

However, I found Aitai Lonely Christmas to be a surprisingly poignant Christmas song. And not in the emotionally pandering way like some Christmas songs and I just mean The Christmas Shoes. I think the emotions behind the lyrics to Aitai Lonely Christmas are complex and muddled, but in a very intentional way. They're muddled in a way that's real, the same way a real human being probably feels when dealing with mixed emotions towards someone. Aitai Lonely Christmas works because not only is it a sad song, it's a genuine song. While I have not experienced the feeling of wanting to see a romantic other on Christmas, I'll bet a lot of other people have. And even though Aitai Lonely Christmas is a sad song, that level of relatability also makes it a really great song. As a Christmas song, Aitai Lonely Christmas is one of my favorite J-pop Christmas songs. I think it hits all the rights notes and the concept behind it is really wistful and melancholic but also very real. As an idol Christmas song, it's one of the best, and it's one of my favorite C-ute songs in general!

Oh yeah, and the line distribution in Aitai Lonely Christmas is great. I haven't really made a big deal of line distribution in any of the past PVs this week, but that's because none of them were Hello! Project groups. Everyone knows how fantastically bad H!P is at line distribution. The group that usually got the most disproportionate line distribution was C-ute. To be fair, when you have a powerhouse like Airi in your group, it's kind of hard not to get overshadowed. But for the longest time, Airi and Maimi always led the songs, with anyone else in the group lucky to get a solo syllable. And I mean syllable literally; in Shock! everyone except Airi literally sings only one syllable. You'd think one the group had gone down to five members, they'd be a little more even about line distribution but nope! Still Airi and Maimi featuring everyone else! Look, you all know how bad C-ute's line distribution was, and you don't need me to repeat it.

In 2010, C-ute was at that point where they were still adjusting to having only five members. That was also the year I got into idols, mainly Hello! Project. At the time, I was extremely hesitant to get into C-ute because I'd seen how awful their line distribution was in so many of their earlier PVs. With Dance de Bakoon! things looked a little bit better for the group, but they still were pretty heavy on Airi and Maimi. And then Aitai Lonely Christmas came out. It was like a gift from the heavens floating down. For the first time since Erika had left, C-ute had finally gotten an A-side that allowed each member to sing! And not just one flimsy little solo either! Every member of C-ute got glorious, lengthy solos! I mean, yes, Airi still lead the song with Maimi having her fair share too but still! It was a baby step for C-ute! And from there, we all know that things got better for C-ute. Sure, they still have lead singers, but they're nowhere near as bad as they used to be. All I'm trying to say is that the surprisingly decent line distribution is another thing that makes Aitai Lonely Christmas such a great song. But really, there are lot of things that make Aitai Lonely Christmas a great song.

So yeah, I love the song. But this is a Hello! Project single. And we know that sometimes not even the best songs can be saved from the Cheap H!P PV Plague. Does Aitai Lonely Christmas subvert the norms of typical H!P PVs and be a genuinely good Christmas PV? Or does it succumb to the formula? Only one way to find out!

Aw, what a cute little cardboard house!

Oh yeah, this is when Maimi still had short hair! I forgot about that...

And Chissa still had long hair! Oh, how the times have changed.

Wow, even in 2010, Nakky was radiant!!

Poor Airi, all alone on Christmas. At least she lives in a cute little house though!

Actually, I really like these window shots. It's a neat angle to film the close-ups from.

Maybe if I stare really hard at the picture, it'll come to life!

Right, this was when Maimai was still going through her awkward phase...

What's more adorable: the stuffed animal or Chissa?

I envy those who can knit. Or sew. Or make clothes in general.

Look at Nakky, being all adorable and sipping her tea like the classy idol she is!

I like this group shot of them on the sled. Nice and Christmas-y!

Even if this outdoor area is very clearly a set.

That is such a cool telephone!

How are their legs not freezing, you ask? Good question! I don't know!

Is C-ute planing on dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh any time soon?

Guys, I'm not sure this snow is real...

Shut up Airi!

Oh dear, I hope those lovely presents don't go to waste!

Poor Airi, still alone on Christmas...

But what's this Maimi sees? Is it Santa Claus!?

Nakky sees it too! But what is it!?

I'm not entirely sure how that house is stable. It looks like a crumbling gingerbread house!

I've deduced that the members of C-ute have cheerleader legs, which explains why their legs don't get cold!

I'll be Chissa's trying to write "Give me more lines!!!" into that fogged window!

Looks like Airi is still alone. As usual. Forever alone Airi.

You know, at least all the members of C-ute can be alone together!

Bed time for C-ute! Maybe Santa will bring them some company for Christmas!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this the most recent Christmas PV Hello! Project has released? I know they did Christmas songs with some of the earlier groups, but I can't think of any recent ones other than Aitai Lonely Christmas. I kind of wish they would do more Christmas PVs. They're perfect for getting into the spirit, and I'd love to see Suzuki Kanon bouncing around in a fun little Christmas PV! I suppose a Christmas song is too "dorky" for H!P's cool electropop image right now. I say screw cool electropop! Every idol group can do a Christmas PV! Of course, Tsunku would probably find some way to make a Christmas electropop song. Wouldn't that be something to hear? You know, on second though, when I think about UFP's way of producing H!P, it's probably for the better that H!P hasn't done any recent Christmas PVs... Besides, it would be difficult to top Aitai Lonely Christmas!

I love all the older H!P Christmas PVs, but Aitai Lonely Christmas has always been my favorite. I think it perfectly captures a Christmas/winter setting, and the girls all look so adorable! I love all their cute little winter hats and scarves and ponchos! Ha, remember when ponchos were still in style? Ah... those were the days. Anyways, I think Aitai Lonely Christmas was the first time when C-ute really began looking like a group. The departure of Erika and Kanna so recently had left C-ute kind of disjointed. Then there was the embarrassment that as Shock! and things were just rough for C-ute in 2010. But I think Aitai Lonely Christmas was the first time when 5nin C-ute looked like they had real chemistry! I don't know, maybe it's just because I have nostalgia goggles for Aitai Lonely Christmas, since it was the first C-ute PV that I was around to see released. Nonetheless, I love this PV. Yeah, it's still a little on the cheap side, but I still think it's adorable. It's kind of like a fairytale come to life! And compared to some of the other H!P PVs released in 2010, Aitai Lonely Christmas actually has some effort put into it. I mean, it's more than just the standard H!P dance shot/close-ups formula. And with Aitai Lonely Christmas not following that formula, it's actually a much better PV!

The thing that I attribute to Aitai Lonely Christmas being a PV with effort is one thing: there is no dance shot. UFP (or UFA as they were known at the time) has a bad habit of being way too reliant on dance shots to create a compelling PV. In most H!P PVs, half the PV is the dance shot. Sometimes if the dance is really good, like with Morning Musume's Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke, but most of the time, it feels very formulaic and dull. The lack of a dance shot for Aitai Lonely Christmas, forced the producers to fill that empty space with other shots and scenes that are actually interesting. In other words... through whatever circumstances, UFP put slightly more effort into this PV than normal H!P PVs. I can't remember what reason Aitai Lonely Christmas didn't get a dance shot though; I want to say one of the members of C-ute had an injury, but I can't remember nor can I find a source to verify that. Besides, a dance shot of Aitai Lonely Christmas did get released later, and you can see it on Youtube. It's actually a pretty good dance; at the time I saw Aitai Lonely Christmas, I couldn't figure out what kind of dance would work with the song since it was kind of slow. But then I saw the dance and it just... fit.

However, I am still glad that the dance shot wasn't incorporated into the PV, otherwise we might not have gotten a PV with such nice variety. Now I don't want to make it sound like UFP went all-out with this PV and gave C-ute the budget of a summer blockbuster for this PV. Because compared to some of the other PVs in Holly Jolly PV Week, it still is kind of a cheap PV. The house is obviously a model, the set is obviously fake, the snow is obviously edited over the PV. But I still think that they worked with what they had and delivered a pretty decent-looking PV. Cheap doesn't always coincide with bad. Okay... most of the time it does, but Aitai Lonely Christmas still has enough going for it that it's actually a good PV. I think that has to do with the variety of shots. Sure, everything is still kind of low-budget, but there's still so many different scenes and angles in this PV. There are outdoor shots in either the trees or the sleigh, indoor scenes, shots showing those indoor scenes through a window, and a few other different shots. It's what ultimately keeps the PV from looking too shoddy.

And what I also like about Aitai Lonely Christmas is that there is a very clear meaning behind it. The song is about a lonely Christmas, and that's exactly what the PV is about. The nice thing is though, the PV didn't have to be obvious for you to get the meaning. The way everything is set up already gives the viewer a sense of isolation. The house stands alone amongst a snow background, the girls stare longingly out the window as though waiting for someone, the way the outdoor shots are spaced out adds to the isolation. Even though in the back of my mind I know this is all a set, it still feels like the girls of C-ute are cut off from society in a place no one can find them. There are parts in the PV where they look so very small, such as the outdoor shots of the house. Just seeing them in the windows makes them look so tiny, almost like little dolls in a dollhouse. In fact, maybe that was the idea this PV was going for! Dolls in a dollhouse. That would explain why everything looks so much like a set.

Okay, that's getting into meta territory; that probably isn't what the PV is going for. But I still think it's interesting theory to ponder. My point is Aitai Lonely Christmas is a simple PV that still manages to convey an idea without a lot of obvious imagery pointing to it. A lot of the meaning behind Aitai Lonely Christmas is mainly thanks to the expressions and actions of the girls themselves. The girls of C-ute do a really good job at looking lonely, especially for an idol group. There are parts in this PV where I believe they feel lonely, and it's not all just an illusion. With a lot of H!P PVs, you can't exactly tell just what exactly they're about, especially the super-cheap ones with only a dance shot and some close-ups. Aitai Lonely Christmas is a good PV because it has enough imagery to get an idea across, even if it's still a low budget PV. The loneliness of the PV matches the loneliness the girls sing about in the song. On the surface, Aitai Lonely Christmas may be a PV that doesn't have a lot going for it; but I'd watch it. You just might be surprised.

This is one of my personal favorite C-ute singles overall. The song is both melancholic and hopeful, and a really wonderful Christmas ballad. And even though the PV is kind of cheap, I still think it has enough heart and imagery to be an entertaining PV. So I will give Aitai Lonely Christmas four and half fruitcakes!


  1. Well, my dear, back at the time Maimai dislocated her hip, so when the PV was shot, she couldn't dance yet. Actually, Aitai Lonely Christmas was released REALLY close to Christmas because of this.

    1. Ah, thank you! I had a feeling one of the C-ute members had some kind of injury around the shooting of Aitai Lonely Christmas! I just couldn't remember the specifics! I don't know why, but I thought it was Maimi who had like a leg injury or something... Oh well, thanks for the info!