Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holly Jolly PV Week: Zone

I thought for the middle of Holly Jolly PV Week, I'd take on a slightly different PV. For the past three days, I've been reviewing some fairly happy songs, nothing outright depressing. But this day of Holly Jolly PV Week, we're diving into the sadder side of Christmas songs. I am, of course talking about Zone's Shiroi Hana.

And I know what you're thinking: "That's a Christmas PV!?"

Behold: a Christmasy single. Feel the holiday spirit.

And my answer to that is... kind of. But it's my blog, and if I consider Shiroi Hana a Christmas PV, then by god is going to be on Holly Jolly PV Week! Besides, I'm probably never going to get the chance to review something by Zone, so now's the perfect time! For those of you who aren't familiar with Zone, they were an idol band active in the early 2000s. Pretty much the way Scandal is now. Anyways, the band introduced the concept of a "bandol" into the idol industry, and became famous for the release of a rock ballad called Secret Base ~Kimi ga Kureta Mono~. You might recognize that as being one of my top 10 ballads, and you should all totally check it out because it's heart-wrenching song. After the massive success of Secret Base, the band went on to release several more singles, but lineup changes (including a graduation) led to the slow decline of Zone's popularity. So in 2005, after six years of activity, Zone disbanded, leaving in their legacy three albums and sixteen singles. Well... until 2012, when two members of the band, Nagase Miyu and Sakae Maiko reunited and released a comeback single. This revival however was short-live as Miyu was fired in February 2013, leaving Zone as quite literally a one-woman band. Then Maiko said Zone was over, so now they're basically kaput.

I do wish that I had been around when they were active though, because they're on of my favorite J-pop groups no longer active. I like their bandol concept a lot, and they have some pretty damn good music. But where I personally think Zone shines the most is their slow, soul-crushingly sad songs. You know, Secret Base, Yume no Kakera..., Boku no Tegami, all those tearjerkers that make you wanna curl up in a ball and cry! Sure, their sad music isn't for everyone, but in my opinion, Zone was a band that could do depressing songs without them dragging or making me want to slit my wrists. I've always seen them as kind of The Cure of idol music, although comparing a Japanese idol band to an English new wave band is a bit of a stretch. Still, I love Zone, and since they did release a single in November... here we are.

Shiroi Hana is another one of those songs on Holly Jolly PV Week that is debatable as a Christmas song. Gosh, I have a lot of those on here, don't I? Why couldn't I have just gone the easy route and picked some well known idol Christmas songs!? Oh well, like every song on Holly Jolly PV Week, I do have my reasons for picking Shiroi Hana. I'll get to those later though; right now, I want to take a look at the lyrics for Shiroi Hana to see just how Christmas-y they are! The name Shiroi Hana translates to "White Flower" so hey, white + snow = Christmas! That's totally how math works, right? The song mentions snow and winter and frost and... uh... yeah, this is more of a winter song. If you look up the lyrics, Shiroi Hana is very clearly meant to be a winter song. Of course, the focus of the song is not the season itself, but merely the setting behind the lyrics. Shiroi Hana is about lost love.

Whether the romantic other left the singer, died, or whatever unfortunate scenario, Shiroi Hana is a lament about not being with that person anymore. The singer compares her loneliness to the cold snow and frozen flowers. The lyrics to Shiroi Hana are actually very pretty, with a lot of nice imagery that can't even be tainted by the translation. But Shiroi Hana is equally pretty as it is depressing. This is not a happy song. If you go into Shiroi Hana thinking you're going to get an uplifting song about love and peace on Christmas, you will come out disappointed. And probably very sad. But sadness doesn't always equate to badness. I said before that what Zone excelled in was creating extremely sad songs that aren't completely devastating or melodramatic. Because what Zone had behind such sad songs was a lot of power in both the instrumentals and the vocals. The emotional levels in Shiroi Hana are high, extremely high, and they are what prevent the song from sounding dull. There are soft, delicate parts of the song and louder, more desperate parts too. The range of emotion in Shiroi Hana is lovely. So if you're up for listening to a sadder Christmas song, I'd recommend checking this one out!

And yes, I do consider Shiroi Hana a Christmas song. Even if the lyrics aren't that Christmas-y and the song has a more winter feel, I still like listening to it around Christmas. Also late at night when I want to lay in bed and contemplate life and death. Anyways, the reason why I wanted to put Shiroi Hana in Holly Jolly PV Week was because I wanted a sadder Christmas song on the list. Unfortunately, I could only find one and it wasn't quite as sad as I wanted it to be. So I turned the one idol group/band I followed that released some truly melancholic songs upon realizing that one of their singles was released around Christmas. (By the way that other sad Christmas song is coming tomorrow, so double sadness! Yay!!) Because as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes Christmas isn't as happy and wonderful as it should be. Out there are people spending their holidays alone, wanting some kind of company but having only themselves.

Of course, if you like spending Christmas alone, that's totally fine! But for the people who don't have anyone to spend it with, I can't help but feel sad. I wish Christmas could be the one day of the year when relatives and friends and even acquaintances could all put any differences aside for one day and just enjoy one day of peace for the year. I wish there was some way to insure not a single person felt lonely or sad on Christmas. But the best I and everyone else can do is try and be nice to everyone on and around Christmas. Because I believe that everyone, no matter how horrible they may be, deserves at least a bit of kindness around the holidays. Shiroi Hana is a song about loneliness, hence I thought it was rather fitting for Holly Jolly PV Week. Shiroi Hana is not only of my favorite "Christmas" songs but also one of my favorite Zone songs. Maybe because I'm a moody teenager and instantly gravitate to equally moody music. Shiroi Hana is a heartbreaking but beautiful song with wonderful lyrics and Zone playing at their saddest and most emotional. As always, listening to Shiroi Hana makes me yearn for the return of Zone, even if that will never happen...

For now, I can cherish the songs and PVs they have though! And I can screencap Shiroi Hana and do my best to show just how Christmas-y this PV is! Or how not Christmas-y... I'll let you be the judge! Onto the screencap!!!

See? There's snow in this! I told you it was a Christmas PV.

Yep. Look at all that snow. Can you feel the Christmas spirit yet?

Look! A snow globe! That's Christmas-y!

You gotta love the giant shopped snowflakes around Miyu. Truly a technical marvel!

Okay, this is a really pretty shot. The color contrast is beautiful.

I love how in music videos snow looks so soft and... not cold.

More snow! And a shot of the entire band!

I really love all these shots. They're so ethereal.

I have to admit, for an 11-year old PV, this has aged pretty well.

So this is where Bump.y got their stargazing idea! I love Bump.y but I prefer Zone's...

Ah, Mizuho is gazing into her crystal ball to see the future of Zone!

There are some parts of this PV where Mizuho looks a whole lot like Matsui Jurina... maybe it's just my eyes going bonkers.

I don't care if this PV is loosely Christmas-related, it's utterly beautiful.

I mean, come on, how can you not find this just at least a little bit enchanting?

Even in their own strange way, the giant, fake snowflakes are kind of beautiful.

Okay, maybe the band outfits are a little dated. But come on, it was 2002!

Besides, everything else looks fine!

Um, I only think you can see the future through a crystal ball... but you can try listening if you want!

I'm beginning to think these crystal balls mean something...

Wait a minute...

Is the snow world contained within the crystal ball?

And are they looking through that telescope to find a way out?

I'm overthinking this, aren't I? Nevermind guys, look at the pretty sparkly ball!

Oh hey, a reference to the song's lyrics! Nice!

Love this shot. Another beautiful contrast between the snow and the girls themselves.

You know what I love most about idols? Their immunity to cold!

Like seriously, Takayo's wearing short sleeves, her arms should be frozen by now!

Seeing the band like this really makes me wish Zone was still around.

Just seeing them all together... the only original member left is Maiko.

I think it's fitting to end this screencap with one of the prettiest shots in the PV!

Do you guys see where I'm coming from now in considering Shiroi Hana a Christmas PV? Unlike the last two PVs I reviewed for Holly Jolly PV Week, Shiroi Hana's Christmas theme is a little bit... darker. And I do mean that literally, the lighting in this PV is so much darker than it was for White Wishes and Winter Magic. Honestly though, I really love the lighting in this PV. The way it's projected on to the scenes makes it look like the moonlight, giving this very ethereal glow to the entire PV. My favorite parts are when the girls are posed in the scenery; there's this really nice contrast in their dark clothes and the white light shining down on them. It makes for some really gorgeous scenes. Which is good, because there isn't much to Shiroi Hana. I wouldn't say this was a tacky or blatantly cheap-looking PV, but I can tell the budget for Shiroi Hana wasn't exactly huge. But I think the producers made good use of the money they did have for this PV. The scenery in the PV for Shiroi Hana is very minimalistic, but the way it's set up along with the beautiful lighting makes it look sleeker and more expensive than it really is.

That doesn't mean there aren't a few scenes where the bare-bones, low-budget nature of the PV shows though. The individual shots in particular where the girls have these giant, obviously fake snowflakes edited around them are a little more on the cheap side than other parts. And yeah, this is pretty obviously a set this PV takes place in. And the falling snow is clearly edited over the PV as well. Either that or they did a really good job of making sure none of that snow falls on anything! It's like the snow skirted around the girls and the band instruments! In my opinion though, for every cheap-looking scene in this PV are two other really well-done scenes. The best parts of Shiroi Hana are when the girls are in the "observation room" as I like to call it. The lighting is just perfect there and the dark moodiness of the scene really matches with the song well. It's scenes like this that are so completely enchanting that I can't help but love this PV despite its faults.

But... how does it hold up as a Christmas PV? As a PV alone, I think it's great. Okay, maybe it's not my favorite PV, but it's still really beautiful. As a Christmas PV... it's good. Like with the song, if you go into the PV for Shiroi Hana expecting this really uplifting and colorful Christmas PV, you're coming out disappointed. Shiroi Hana is a PV that isn't specifically about Christmas. There are no presents or jingle bells or flying reindeer. There are however snow globes, falling snow, frozen flowers, and more snow. There's a lot of snow in this PV which gives it a very wintery feel. The giant telescope and other equipment in Shiroi Hana probably also mean something... I'm not quite sure what though. I do have my theories! I'd like to think the clock has to do with the singer looking for her romantic other to return... or if you want to put a Christmas spin on things, it's her looking for Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve! Think about it, the snow, the darkness of the PV... Shiroi no Hana is clearly about four bandols looking for Santa on Christmas Eve!

All right, so glad I could figure this PV out, my work here is done! Ha, obviously not. The great and terrible thing about Shiroi Hana is that it's vague enough that you can spin nearly any theory out of it that you want. Is it about four girls with snow powers kept in isolation away from society? I can argue that it is just as easily as I can argue that it's about four girls waiting for Santa to come and deliver them presents. Look, if your imagination's big enough, you can dream up just about any explanation behind Shiroi Hana. Even aliens. Then again, you can explain aliens as the theory behind many things... All I'm trying to say is that there isn't a specific theme to Shiroi Hana. If you read the lyrics, then there are several allusions to them, but not even the lyrics fully explain everything about this PV. What the PV for Shiroi Hana does is capture the feeling of loneliness depicted in the song. So as a Christmas PV, it's one of the sadder ones. However, Shiroi Hana is still a beautiful PV for an equally beautiful song.

Still, I can only give it four fruitcakes. Which is by no means a bad rating! Shiroi Hana is just a very different kind of Christmas song though. It's kind of a downer compared to most of the stuff on Holly Jolly PV Week. As a fan of Zone's sadder music though, Shiroi Hana is right up my alley! Even if you can't get into the song, the PV for Shiroi Hana is so breathtakingly ethereal you should at least take a look at it!

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