Thursday, February 28, 2013

Time Capsule Reviews: Spice

Well, now that I've reviewed Mirai no Museum's PV and the entire single, finally I can get to my monthly Time Capsule Review! Just to refresh you guys on just what a Time Capsule Review is, it's when I review an old Perfume PV that I drew out of my magic hat! I delayed my Time Capsule Review of last month to review a song Chiima dared me to review. In fact... I've delayed this PV not only once but twice; back in December, I wanted to review a wintery Perfume PV so I selected Twinkle Snow Powdery Snow and saved the PV I'd drawn out of my magic hat for January. Then the dare came along and... it looked I was never going to get to review this song! Luckily, two months later, I can finally take a look at this elusive Perfume PV! Oh, which one am I talking about? None other than Spice!


Unlike the other two older Perfume PVs I've reviewed, Spice is... fairly new! Okay, it's not as recent as Spring of Life or Spending all my time, but Spice was the single to conclude the JPN Era! And the single is a little over a year old so it's really quite new in comparison to the 2004 Monochrome Effect PV and 2007 Twinkle Snow Powdery Snow PV. In contrast, Spice was released in late 2011; in fact, it came out just a few months before I opened the Wonderland! I almost even thought about reviewing it but I opted to review JPN instead. Still, it is nice being able to come back to Spice and take a closer look at it since I didn't talk about it terribly much on my album review. And it's also nice to be able to review something not related to Mirai no Museum since I have such a lukewarm feeling towards that single as a whole. That's right, I like Spice! I like Spice a lot actually! In fact, I think the entire single, Glitter included, is one of the better overall singles by Perfume. Maybe not as a good as say, Love the world or Electro World, but still a pretty strong single! 

I will say about the Spice single that I think the A-side itself actually gets a little more overlooked than its B-side, Glitter. Then again, when you're talking about Glitter, the best freaking Perfume song of 2011, that's probably going to get looked at more than Spice. Glitter was not only used as another promotional song for Kirin but it was also featured in a contest where fans could choreograph part of the dance. Sure, Spice was used as the theme song for a J-drama Sengyoshu Tantei but come on. Which is gonna grab you more, a drama or a fan contest? Glitter was also previewed sooner and generally there was a just a lot more hype for this B-side than the single's A-side. I feel like I hear a lot more praise for Glitter than Spice from other bloggers too; generally, a lot of people seem to like and have either fairly positive or lukewarm opinions of Spice. Even I love Glitter a lot; it's an awesome B-side with a beautiful instrumental and really well-choreographed dance. So which song outshines the other more? The youthful, energetic Glitter or the calmer and flowy-er Spice?

Here's a little bit of advice that I try to remember about these two songs: SPICE IS NOT GLITTER.

Spice doesn't even have the same style as Glitter. The song is much slower-paced, with echoing vocals and a rather low-energy feel to it. And I think that lower energy level is what makes the song forgettable to so many other people. Unlike Glitter, which is a pretty standout song with the opening notes and engaging chorus, Spice just kind of flows along and takes its time, if that makes sense. It doesn't really grab you in the same way Glitter does. But does that mean it's a bad song? Well, when I first heard a preview of the song via the snippet aired on that J-drama, I was unimpressed. I thought the bit I'd heard (which turned out to be the main chorus) was too slow and subdued. The song didn't sound that memorable either; I almost want to say Spice sounded bland but compared to Mirai no Museum, it's Bohemian fucking Rhapsody. Even when the full song came out, I still didn't really know what to make of Spice, especially compared to the much more musically appealing Glitter. Even when the PV came out, I still wasn't sure how I felt about Spice. 

So then I kind of forgot about Spice until JPN came out and I proceeded to download the whole album and repeat it on shuffle for several weeks (you have no idea how crazy I go when a Perfume album comes out). And in the process of repeating the album, Spice started to grow on me. Spice grew on me a lot and now I really love the sound of Spice. I think it's one of those few songs where the lack of energy actually works. Weird, huh? Usually when it comes to energy I'm the one screaming "MORE! MORE! MORE!" but with Spice, the slow and downbeat nature of the musical arrangement works really well. And upon listening to the song more, the song doesn't sound quite as plodding as I originally thought it sounded and even has a nice, consistent beat! What I love most about Spice is that it's a pretty song; I can't say that about a lot of Perfume songs but god, this song sounds so pretty. I think it's how flowy the instrumentals and vocals are; Spice is one of those songs that helps me relax when I'm stressed out.

So here's my advice when it comes to Spice: don't dismiss it immediately. Listen to it a few times in different scenarios, like when you're about to fall asleep or you're reading a book. You might find yourself liking it... or not. But I'm trying to be optimistic here! Spice is a great song if you want to just wind down and relax. It almost reminds me of one of the songs you'd hear in a nail salon commercial, even though the song's lyrics have nothing to do with fingers! Not that they would or anything... Speaking of the lyrics, I think the lyrics to Spice are really well-done too! The song is basically about the curiosity and desire for something "spice" up the atmosphere, hence the title. Something I've always liked about Perfume is that their lyrics cover a range of different topics from the obsessive love heard in edge edge to the concept of being alone in One Room Disco to the dystopian theme of Electro World. I like that Nakata doesn't just write a variety of songs about one topic and the idea of spicing up your life is new for Perfume. 

I also really love the arrangement of the vocals and I think they match perfectly with the song. My favorite parts are when the vocals echo back and forth; I think it adds to the flowiness of the song. Overall, I think Spice presented a more mature and laid-back style of music that Perfume hadn't really tackled. The song does take awhile to grow on you but when it does, I promise it's worth it. I love Spice and I think it's one of the many great songs of the JPN Era. So back to this whole debate about whether Spice of Glitter is the better song of the single... I think both songs are equally good in their own ways. Each song has its own distinct sound and they excel in that sound. Glitter is an amazingly upbeat and vibrant song and Spice is an amazingly downbeat and beautiful song. I do think that Spice gets overlooked though in favor of Glitter though and I think a lot of people would say they prefer Glitter over Spice. But personally, I enjoy Spice a lot. Besides, what if Spice had sounded like 23:30? Now that's a slow song... but I digress.

Ah, it feels good to be reviewing a Perfume PV, even if it is one of their slightly older ones. Something else that drew me into Spice was the PV and I'd love to go back and take a look at it! So let's spice up this review and look at Spice's PV!


Well, I sure hope you guys like pink because there is a boatload of pink in this PV...


FOOD! Glorious food! Just look at all that pink-tinted food!


...actually, is that expired food? Is that what happens when you leave a bunch of food out on a Perfume set?


Oh, who cares? A-chan looks beautiful! I love it when she wears her hair down!


Kashiyuka too! She's sporting some flippy bangs! I haven't seen those since Baby Cruising Love and Macaroni!


...I have nothing to say about Nocchi's hair. Cool dance though! I like the way one member moves and then the next moves after that! It's kind of like a machine!


Kashiyuka stares at the ceiling trying to comprehend the meaning of life...


... meanwhile Nocchi mentally struggles with the idea of eating an entire whale.


Oooh, pancakes! There's nothing more delectable than pink pancakes!


Time to call Kyary and tell her to get the hell off our Nakata!


...not sure where this is going but the colors are nice!


Oh hai, fishy! My first pet I ever had was a fish... then it died three weeks later.


God, I love this dance so much...


I don't think that turkey would meet EPA standards of health... unless it was cafeteria food! Anything goes with cafeteria food!


Cool dance shot! But how are they dancing without stepping on the-


Nevermind, there goes all the food! You just couldn't dance on the floor like normal idols could you, Perfume?


Noooo!!! Not the cake! What a waste of a perfectly good cake...


After a long night of hardcore partying with Kyarypamyupamyu, it's nap time for A-chan!


Only Kashiyuka has the ability to lye on a table with a book on her head and look that cool and collected.


Nocchi listens to the sounds of bleating alpacas to put her in a calm mood!


Look, a tiny door! Does it lead into Wonderland?


Nocchi's about to find out!


Or maybe the tiny door leads into Nia's Wonderland! Because yeah, I access the Wonderland through a tiny door.


Yeah, good luck getting into that door, girls. I think you fit one hand in there at the most.


Now doesn't that fancy-schmancy candy look delectable! More so than all that other food in the other set!


So do the candy balls grow or shrink the girls?


...or they bring bright colors to their costumes. Sweet!


Nice! They got new hairstyles too! Kashiyuka's hair is pulled to the side, A-chan gets a bun and Nocchi... did Nocchi's hair even change?


Perfume finally gets to live their lifelong dream of swimming with the fishes!


It's weird, despite the colorful outfits, they still look kind of muted against the faded pink backdrop.


I love the colors in these shots and I like the minimalistic scenery!


The girls peek one last time at the old set, too big to get back now.


Yeah, I don't think they're gonna miss all the expired food that much.


And I wouldn't eat those candies anymore either!

Wow, surely all that stuff in the PV doesn't symbolize anything, right? Of course not! The PV director just included that stuff because he thought it looked cool! Yep, Spice is more than just an artsy PV like Fushizen na Girl or Nee. This PV has SYMBOLISM! Glorious symbolism! I always love it when Perfume does PV that present visual content that allows the viewer to really think. So you know what that means don't you? It's time for Nia to put on her intelligent glasses and act like she knows how to interpret this PV! Yeah, you can interpret the symbolism of Spice in any way you want but personally I think the theme ties to the song's lyrics. Spice's lyrics talk about reaching out and adding "spice" to your life. Some of those lyrics include, "If the door opens, everything is seen," and, "I want the excitement that comes with the unexpected." The PV only magnifies the theme of the lyrics. The basic of the PV is the girls of Perfume go from one setting to another and live happily ever after! 

The specifics of what is in each setting add to the theme of the PV. The initial setting the girls are in is very faded and dreary. The decadent food covering the table looks stale, the girls listlessly lie around toying with dated machinery, and time seems to go by slowly. The only time the girls get really active is when they dance on the table and step on a lot of the food and other dishes. But that changes when Nocchi happens upon a teeny tiny door a la Alice in Wonderland. The girls open the door and find a room containing a martini glass filled with colored candy. The girls each take one and doing so gives their neutral and faded clothing bright and vibrant colors. They now enter the door and find themselves in a world much different from the place they were previously inhabiting. This world is simple but colorful, with fish swimming by and blurred imagery. The girls begin to dance in this new world and the PV ends with them peering back into the old world they left behind. In place of the once-colorful candy and martini glass is a glass filled with candy that's just as pink and muted as the girls were before they entered the new world. 

Now I love the idea of this PV and I think that idea was executed incredibly well. I especially love the first set and not just because it's so elaborately done. The table is the centerpiece of the main set, along with the many objects and food stopped above it. It's practically a feast yet the girls don't look happy; in fact, they look incredibly bored and dull despite being surrounded by so much stuff. They try to stimulate themselves with music and the telephone and little hand gestures but they still give off a very weary and tired vibe. They have so much stuff in this little pink room but not matter how hard they try, the girls can't get happy. However, in the more colorful world beyond the door, the girls are much more energetic and curious, almost lively. Yet that world is simpler and has none of the physical objects that the old world did. Yeah, you've got some fish swimming around but Perfume can't really touch those. 

So maybe the contrast between the large amount of stuff in the first setting and the minimal amount of stuff in the second setting is trying to convey that you don't need a lot of material possessions to be happy. Except colored magical gumballs of course! Speaking of that candy, maybe it was meant to be a visual symbol of the "spice" mentioned in the song itself. The object was presented as a change in the girls' lives. Their clothes changed color along with their hairstyles and they entered a new world. The only reason any of that happened was because the girls weren't afraid to take a chance and eat that candy despite not knowing what would happen. I think what the PV was trying to get across was that you can't live in a bubble all your life. You can't be afraid to take chances and accept the "spices" of life. If you refuse to accept them, you can't move forward in life but only stay in one position, never changing and growing restless with dullness. Only when you can live a life unburdened by fear and monotony can you be truly happy.

Whether my interpretation of the PV matches with the director's, I love Spice's PV. I think it's beautiful both visually and figuratively. The symbolism is rich along with both the subtle and more prominent motifs. Like most Perfume PVs, the video has nice production values too which is a blessing for someone who reviews some pretty damn cheap PVs. I love how elaborate the first set is since it gives the viewer a lot to look at. The girls look pretty too, but they always do! I'm happy that Kashiyuka nixed her straight bangs for this PV too! I swear, I don't think she's changed her bangs since 2008 and it was refreshing to see her go back to the flippy style again, even if she went right back to the straight bangs for JPN. Still, I loved seeing her forehead visible again; it makes her look much younger! A-chan looked lovely too, especially with her hair down; the bun was okay but I think her hair looked pretty just hanging. And Nocchi looked... fine! I feel so bad, I never really comment much on Nocchi's appearance! But she looks awesome, as always! 

They all look great in the costumes for Spice; I love the way the belts/corsets look and the brightly colored outfits featured on the single! What I really liked about the PV was that those costumes were colored different for each scene: faded and more neutral for the first half and brighter and more colorful in the second half! The bright outfits looked especially good but what was weird was that despite the brighter colors, the outfits still looked kind of muted in the first set. Then again, that might just be the filtering for the PV. The dance is nice and fluid, looking both effortless and intricate at once! That's what I always love about Perfume's dances. Spice's dance has a nice flow to it and matches with the slowness of the song. Overall, Spice is one of my favorite PVs because of its visuals and the way they relate to the song. It's one of my favorite PVs of the JPN era and I highly recommend checking it out if you haven't done so yet!


I would totally give Spice five out of five apples! I think it's a stellar (if not somewhat overlooked) Perfume song for its soothing flow and downbeat energy. The PV is fun to look at and interpret and definitely one of my favorite Perfume PVs. So, do you guys have any of your own interpretations of Spice's PV? I'm really curious since you really cant interpret the PV in so many different ways!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Doraemon + Perfume = Mirai no Museum


You know, Perfumania is kind of like Christmas in that it's totally awesome but can't last forever. And now Perfumania is yet again coming to an end as I review Mirai no Museum in its entirety. You know the drill by now and today not only do I get to take another look at Mirai no Museum as a song but I also finally get to review the elusive B-side, Daijobanai! Something Perfume always does a really good job at is keeping their B-sides hidden, especially the ones not used in tie-ins. I haven't heard a single bit of Daijobanai and the only thing I know about it is that it's apparently supposed to showcase Perfume's "cool" side. But we'll talk about that song in a few paragraphs! I'm just happy that Perfume has come out with another single especially since Spending all my time was released six months ago. I know Perfume was busy being Perfume and all, but that's still a long time to go between singles! My hope is that we won't have to wait quite as long for whatever they release next! Who knows? Maybe an album is in Perfume's future... after, all they've released three singles now. It's a pretty appropriate time for an album. Oh well, we'll talk about that when the time comes. For now let's take a look at the highly divisive Mirai no Museum!

Covers/Outfits

I think the outfits for Mirai no Museum are absolutely adorable! There's nothing more fun than detective style outfits and like everything else they wear, Perfume makes it look awesome! The outfits relate to Doraemon but still look flattering and show off Perfume glorious legs. The Regular Edition of this single just shows Perfume posing in those outfits surrounded by comic-style speech bubbles. It's a cute cover and everything, but I've seen better from Perfume. Now as for the Limited Edition... I'm kind of split down the middle about it. You can see the Limited Edition in my PV review of Mirai no Museum, but it's basically the same pose as Regular only the girls are animated Doraemon-style. In fact, the Limited Edition is set up to look more like a manga cover, with a serial number and a highly cartoonish font and design. And since in the PV, the cover of the Limited is presented as a manga... maybe that's what that edition consists of! I'd kind of thought that Limited would be a slipcase and have the shot from the Regular Edition beneath the cartoon-styled cover but who knows? Maybe it's a booklet that shows that story from the PV! I'm not going to be ordering the physical copy of this single any time soon but that would be pretty cool! 

Now regardless of physical content, how does the art itself of the cover hold up? Well, you can't deny that it is a creative variant to the typical Perfume single cover considering they've never had an cartoon-y image for a cover! But just because it's creative doesn't mean that I have to like it. I think how much you like the art on Limited Edition depends on how much you like the animation art of Doraemon. Personally, from what I've seen of Doraemon art, it looks okay, very childishly styled and simple. It's not the worst animation I've ever seen but definitely not my favorite either and I don't really like seeing cartoon-ified Perfume, at least not like this. Oh don't get me wrong, there are some effing good drawings of Perfume; just look at these. I'm not a huge fan of the overly simplistic style of art for Perfume because it looks incredibly childish and immature for them. If it were for another group, I might like it but for a group like Perfume, Limited Edition's art does not work for them.

Mirai no Museum

Ah, here it is, the Perfume song that split the fandom right down the middle... again. No, I'm not talking about Spending all my time for this review but Mirai no Museum. You might as well call it the Doraemon Song because that's pretty much the only reason this song was made. I'm not even exaggerating; this song is literally a product of Perfume's tie-in to the upcoming Doraemon movie. For those of you who are unclear about what I'm talking about, back in November, Perfume announced they were providing a song for popular children's icon Doraemon and the song would be used not only in his upcoming movie but also as the temporary ending of his show. Now I think I can speak for most fans in saying that this really caught me off guard; Perfume was going from promoting adult drinks to promoting a kid's mascot? It just seemed like a weird move from management but since Doraemon is apparently a pretty big deal in Japan (and Asia as well) I guess turning down the offer would be foolish. But how did the tie-in affect the song? After all, Perfume's had some pretty kickass tie-in songs; just look at Hurly Burly, Natural ni Koishite, Laser Beam and Polyrhythm. Maybe Mirai no Museum would be a tie-in song that would not only work with the Doraemon film but stand on its own as a good and interesting Perfume song! Right? Right!? Ahahaha, no. A lot of fans don't like this song and call it a brainless sellout that bends to the childish nature of the Doraemon franchise. And I do agree with them in saying that this is a childish song that fits with Doraemon and it's definitely not Perfume's best. But I don't think it's their worst either. Mirai no Museum is a song that I kind of like, despite its blandness. It's not my favorite but I've found myself humming it on several occasions. I like the instrumental the most in this song, particularly the brief bridge when the song sounds less idol-y and actually starts sounding like more of a technopop song. Then it just goes back to cutesy idol music. I think the best way to describe Mirai no Museum is that it's a harmless song. Not excellent but not terrible either.

Now what about the PV? I reviewed the entire PV separately so I won't go into too much detail about what I liked and disliked about it. I think the best way for me to sum up the PV is that it is a perfect music video for Doraemon. It incorporates a lot of different Doraemon references such as the time travel plot, a museum, even the animation style is the same as Doraemon. You heard me, the Mirai no Museum PV is animated... well, parts of it are. The beginning part is completely and totally animated but then Perfume and the P-ta character are live-action, just incorporated into a cartoon set. And how much you like the Doraemon animation will greatly factor how much you like the PV. Personally, I think it's okay. The PV reminds me of Vitamin Drop, the only other Perfume PV that's animated (and again, that was partly animated). The use of black and white also gives me a lot of Love the world vibes but Mirai no Museum is a lot less artsy than that PV. I guess it is a nice combination of monochrome and cartoonish imagery but even then, this isn't really my favorite Perfume PV in the world. It does have a very clear storyline that kids can easily follow and even a cute little message at the end (face your fears or your future is going to suck). But even then, I feel like this PV was geared more toward kids like the song. The art is very kid-friendly along with the story. Speaking of the story, it's pretty much the same as Back to the Future. Character lives a crapsack life, other characters go back in time and intervene in that character's past, and then the character's future is changed into a better one. Sure, the more details you add to the film and this PV, the more they sound different but at its core, Mirai no Museum is Back to the Future with Perfume. Then again, time travel isn't a new concept in music videos and the plot was handled well. Once I knew what the speech bubbles said, I was able to follow the PV easily and I think kids will too. Mirai no Museum's PV isn't the best of one of Perfume's most creative but as far as PVs go, it's pretty decent.


Overall, I'd give Mirai no Museum three out of five apples. I don't think it's anywhere near as bad as most fans think it is but it'll never be my favorite song either. It's just a nice-sounding, somewhat bland song that was made for a kid's movie. The minute I heard this song was being made for Doraemon, I kind of knew it wouldn't turn out to be the greatest Perfume song I'd ever heard.

Daijobanai

Here it is! The B-side that is going to redeem all the blandness of the A-side, right? Right!? Well, that's what all the Perfume fans were hoping for, myself included. I'd really hoped that Daijobanai would be a song that would be a contrast from Mirai no Museum, something cooler and edgier. After all, Perfume said it was supposed to show off the "cool" side of their music. Well, after listening to the full B-side, I can say that this song is about as cool as a habaƱero pepper. I mean... I'm not sure what to make of Daijobanai. Part of me wants to join in with the rest of the Perfume fans and proclaim that this B-side is totally flipping awesome and makes up for all the problems Mirai no Museum has. But in my opinion... Daijobanai's got problems of its own, enough problems to prevent me from really going crazy with this song.I didn't have the same reaction to Daijobanai that I did to Hurly Burly or Point but on the plus side, it's not as bad as Communication. I will say, the song does kind of have a Communication feel to it, if Communication injected a shot of heroine and inhale a box of cocaine. The song is really fast and I think that's the biggest flaw Daijobanai has: it's too fast. I was kind of dismayed when I found out this song would only be 3 minutes long but I decided to keep an open mind because short songs aren't always bad songs! But I think what would have helped Daijobanai is if the song was longer and the tempo was slowed down just a bit. I can't believe I'm saying this but Daijobanai is too energetic, to the point where it sounds like the song is going crazy. In fact, Daijobanai feels like the musical equivalent of a mental breakdown. The lyrics are basically the constant repetition of "Are you okay? I'm not okay." and the song feels very frantic and rushed. The song is very different from Perfume's discography and it does have a slightly harder sound but the musical choices made in Daijobanai are very hit-or-miss. It sounds like a bunch of different Perfume songs crammed into a song that's way too short.



I'm not okay with doing this (see what I did there?) but I have to give Daijobanai 3.5 apples out of 5. While it is a very different Perfume song, different doesn't always mean better. I feel like the song has a chance to grow on me if a longer remix is made (because this song is screaming to be remixed). As for now, I do like parts of it but overall, Daijobanai's just a little too fast and a little too neurotic for me to really get into it.

The Verdict

Wow, talk about a bummer single. I know I ranted and raged about Spending all my time but I at least enjoyed the B-sides on that single. With this single in terms of music, Mirai no Museum is underwhelming and Daijobanai is overwhelming. The A-side is a pretty safe and childish song, which fits the nature of the Doraemon franchise. But overall, the song feels less like a product of Perfume and more like a product of Doraemon. I'm know, it's a highly prestigious franchise and they'd be fools to turn down an offer but musically, Mirai no Museum is a pretty generic song. If you're a kid, I think you'll like it but if you're an older Perfume fan, you probably won't enjoy it that much. Personally, I think it's a decent song but even I can acknowledge it's one of the weaker A-sides of Perfume's discography. The much-anticipated Daijobanai fell flat in terms of execution for me although I do acknowledge that it's more interesting than Mirai no Museum.



So as much as I hate to do this, I can only give Mirai no Museum three out of five apples. It's not a terrible single, but Perfume's done better and I want to hear better. For now, I'm crossing my fingers that an album announcement is near, especially so we won't get another JPN-style album with single overload.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

So Long to Musical Creativity for AKB48

All right, I know I said that I haven't had the heart to review AKB48's latest single, So Long. Well, that's changed. Mainly because I am in a rant-y mood and there's nothing I love more to rant about than bland, uninspired pieces of shit songs. So let's rip into the bland, uninspired piece of shit that is So Long!


I don't think I really realized how much I despise this song until I started typing this review. It's kind of like having a giant thorn stuck in your abdomen and not realizing how much pain it's been causing you until you finally draw it out. I mean... I can't stand this song. I can't stand how whiny it is, how slow it is, how lifeless it is, this Sakura song is awful. Okay... I need to explain something about my expectations for AKB48 songs pertaining to their song formula. I always expect their Janken songs to be shit; that's practically a default by now. I also keep low expectations for their summer song because let's be honest, when you shoot a PV full of young girls prancing around in bikinis, the last thing a majority of your viewers will be focusing on is the song. I can even lower my expectations for the Senbatsu song, mainly thanks to the vortex of blandness that is Gingham Check. I almost always expect the group's fall song to be good, with UZA being the most mediocre of the fall songs. And even then, I'd take that song over Ue Kara Mariko, Gingham Check, Eien Pressure, and So Long! 

Now when it comes to Sakura songs... I'm pretty 50/50. On one hand, Sakura no Ki ni Narou was practically the song that convinced me to give AKB48 a second chance but on the other hand, Sakura no Shiori is one of my least favorite AKB48 songs. I think what I'm trying to say is the less energetic Sakura songs are the ones I don't gravitate towards. I think I'm in the minority of AKB48 fans that does not like Sakura no Hanabiratachi; yeah yeah, I know it's the group's debut song and everything but it's not an interesting song. It's got a nice-sounding melody but other than that, the vocals lack energy, the composition is bland, and the song puts me to sleep. I think I just prefer Sakura songs that are more energetic. What I liked about songs like 10nen Zakura and Give Me Five! was that they approached graduation with a more upbeat and cheerful outlook, seeing the future in a positive way. Even Sakura no Ki ni Narou was an emotionally nostalgic song but what made that song work so well was that it wasn't some half-assed ballad. It was a full-blown ballad that had a buildup of emotion you could hear as the song progressed.

Perhaps that's why I hate So Long! so much.

So Long! has nothing that I like about a Sakura-themed song. It's not energetic, it's not emotional, it's not creative, it sounds tired and cliched. In other words... this is yet another a bland song to add to the growing pile of bland AKB48 songs. And as you all know, I fucking hate bland songs. Sometimes, I even think bland songs are worse than bad songs, but then again, it's not like those two categories are mutually exclusive. Often, most songs I dislike because they are bland. Okay, maybe I need to elaborate on just what I think qualifies as a "bland" song for AKB48. A bland AKB48 song is a song that sounds like a bunch of their other songs, lacks energy and creativity, and is often a happy song but not too happy-sounding. Just enough to make it sound vaguely pleasant but not enough for it to stand out as an ecstatically cheerful song.

 A bland AKB48 song lacks energy in both the vocals and the instrumental itself; often the instrumental sounds like a boatload of other AKB48 instrumentals. The vocals don't take chances; in fact, something I like to do when listening to bland songs is a little game called "Guess the Note" It's where you predict how the next verse/chorus is going to sound. Playing Guess the Note with a bland song is astoundingly easy because the melody and vocals are so predictable because hey, the style's been done a bajillion times in other AKB48 songs! So Long! is an incredibly bland song, but unlike Eien Pressure which had at least a teensy bit of energy, this song has zero energy. You now how Sakura na Hanabiratachi sounds? So Long! sounds like Sakura na Hanabiratachi on Valium. And as I said in my last paragraph, I don't even like Sakura no Hanabiratachi that much and the fact that So Long! is in the same style as that song only with little to no energy makes my blood boil with hatred. What I hate the most about So Long! is that it is a slow song and not in a good way. So Long! really drags both vocally and instrumentally; if the tempo were upped a little bit, this song might even sound a bit better. But no, we're left with a bland, dragging Sakura song that frankly makes me want to bang my head against the wall.

I mean seriously, this is the fourth song in a row that I haven't liked from AKB48. And you know what those four songs have in common? They're all bland. I don't know what's going on; did Acchan's graduation just suck all the creativity out you, Aki-P? Is this what I'm supposed to expect from AKB48 from now? A collection of generic, uninspired songs that all sound the same? Because songs like this aren't what got me into AKB48. 10nen Zakura, Oogoe Diamond, Beginner, Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou, Iiwake Maybe, those are the songs that got me into AKB48, those are the types of songs that I want to hear more of. Not these bland songs that sound so very half-assed. Look, I don't expect Dark Side of the Moon level creativity from AKB48; I get that they're an idol group and that music isn't their strongest factor. But I at least expect a little bit of creativity and a little bit of energy. I'm not asking you to re-write Bohemian Rhapsody, I'm just sick of these bland songs! I'm sick of playing the radio rip from AKB48's latest single and hoping for a decent level of quality and songs like Gingham Check and So Long! come cranking out. 

I mean, what are you smoking, Aki-P? Do you really think that these are good songs? Okay, I'll bet there are fans who like those songs but for me, I'm unimpressed. Over the past few months I have been increasingly unimpressed with AKB48's musical output which is a shame because in the past, they've done some really good songs. But now it just sounds like Aki-P's half-assing all the songs and doesn't really care about the musical quality just that it sells well. Why should he put effort into a single when he's already got hundreds of thousands of fans who will buy it regardless of quality? I'm very disappointed with So Long! and furthermore, I'm worried that this is the level of quality I'm supposed to expect from future AKB48 singles. So Long! is a tired-sounding song that lacks energy or creativity, another bland and uninspired song Aki-P can add to his library. Because I'm sure he has a Bland Songs library next to his giant swimming pool of money. I'd say that I'll cross my fingers and hope that the summer single is good but let's be honest: we all know how that song's going to turn out.

Well, let's see if the PV has anything remotely creative going for it. And no, I'm not reviewing and screencapping the 64-minute PV; I'm not going to waste my time on looking at movie that I can't even follow. So I'm screencapping the short version... yeah, let's just get this over with.


Oh joy, the PV starts with the girls crouched in tornado-drill positions.


Because this might be the last time I ever get to screencap my beloved Miichan in an AKB48 PV, expect to see lots of beautiful, glorious Miichan!


Wow, so far the dance is so simple that I could do it.


I hope you like halved scenes, because this PV really likes to use those for -gasp- dramatic effect!


Oh yeah, that rain looks so real. You can tell by just how dry everyone looks it's really pouring down in that incredibly realistic set!


I swear to god that's the same set used in Eien Pressure.


But Eien Pressure would have been better with more Miichan!


I'm not sure which to look at: Mayuyu trying to look serious or Tomochin holding what looks like a gyroid from Animal Crossing.


What a dreary looking classroom... it's almost like... a real classroom!


Yeah, I think I liked Jurina better in the school-related PV where she played a philandering douchebag.


Isn't that transition effect from Windows Movie Maker?


Okay, this scene feels a little forced but hey, it's got Miichan in it!


You know, I actually think Paruru looks kind of adorable in this PV!


I'm guessing the black-and-white shots relate to the 64-minute film...


WHAT!? Why the fuck does this PV need a green-screen!?


And why the fuck are those green-screened!? Can't you just get pink fabric? This looks really out of place!


Wheeee!! They're skipping their hearts out and headed off to... I don't know, Narnia? Gosh, this PV would be so much more interesting if they went to Narnia...


Order your Mayuyu now for only $49.95! Plus shipping and handling.


And if your order in the next 15 minutes, we'll DOUBLE your offer with a free Jurina and Takamina!


A group of idols walk into a bar. And then... I got nothing.


You know, if that were an alpaca, Nocchi would be all over it!


D'aw look at Paruru.


I guess it's time for musical chairs!


How much you guys wanna bet that's Aki-P in 30 years?


Off Jurina goes to SKE48 because frankly, she'd much rather be kissing Rena than be in this boring PV.


So YOU'RE the people who thought the crappy green screens were a good idea!


Yech, these crappy green-screened pink shades makes me think of Pepto Bismal.


You lazy bums! You aren't even painting those cherry blossoms! They're just popping up and you're taking credit for them!


Okay, really? Really? You had to use a green screen for this? You couldn't just go out to one of the many public locations you clearly have access to and shoot it there?


Dammit, AKB48! I thought you had a money!


Wow! Objects in this PV that actually look colorful!


Eh... isn't a little early to be whipping out the bikini shots? This is the Sakura single I'm reviewing, right?


SYMBOLISM!


Yeah, I think if I were Jurina I'd be leaving too. This PV is drearier than taking a math test on a rainy day!


Wow, I guess I can see why those cherry blossoms were shopped into the PV.


Um... can someone please explain to me how the fuck we got to a marriage scene?


...no explanation then? Well FINE THEN. I didn't care about that scene anyways!


The PV ends the way it began: with AKB48 preparing for a tornado drill that will never happen!

Well that was underwhelming. I don't know which I find blander: the song or the PV. Of course, when put together, the end result is twice as bland and twice as boring than either thing alone. All right, I get that AKB48's Sakura-themed PVs are supposed to be deep and emotional and somewhat mature/realistic looking. The recent trend with their Sakura PVs is to turn them into short films and have the promotional videos be the condensed version of the film. Give Me Five! had the 34-minute drama and just cut out clips from that and pasted them into the PV. Sakura no Ki ni Narou wasn't terribly long (only about 9 or 10 minutes from what I remember) and both Sakura no Shiori and 10nen Zakura didn't have long, sweeping PVs either. And honestly? I kind of just wish they'd go back to the 10nen Zakura and Sakura no Ki ni Narou format of Sakura PVs. Both those PVs had small but poignant storylines that could fit into a PV that was under 10 minutes! 

I don't see why the Sakura PVs have to be turned into these long dramas; granted, you get your money's worth if you buy the single but still. Screencapping and review these condensed version of the movie-style PVs is a pain because half the time, I don't know half of what's going on in said PVs. This was especially a problem for Give Me Five! in which the miscellaneous drama shots were confusing to me because I had yet to watch the 34-minute film version. So I guess one of the positive aspects of So Long! is that for the most part, the PV is pretty easy to follow. It looks like just a series of shots of girls being girls and living their lives but you could go without watching the long-ass film and not miss anything. But that doesn't mean there weren't a few confusing shots and images thrown around the PV. For instance... why the hell was Jurina getting married? And for that matter, who was she getting married to? The old guy next to her? Mariko? Was the old guy her dad? And why in the hell were those bikini shots thrown in? What, were the directors so excited to get the summer single, they couldn't wait to film the girls in bathing suits? I understand that those elements are most likely elaborated on in the full version, but I don't have an hour to waste watching a movie in which half the time I probably won't know what's going on.

Beyond the more confusing elements of the So Long! PV... this PV just looks depressing. Mainly because of the lighting; any time the girls are outdoors, it looks like it's going to rain. And even when they're inside, the lighting is still very dreary and gray. I think maybe the director was trying to go for a more vintage/classic feel but the end result is more overcast and sad. It's not a pleasant PV to look at simply because of the lighting. I know that sounds like I'm exaggerating the effect of lights but no, the lighting can really effect how I view a PV. And the way the lighting and tones are done in this PV make me either want to A) Go to sleep or B) Stare out the window and cry. There's something about gray that just puts me in a very downcast and sombre mood and every time I watch the PV, that's how I feel. That is the effect of a PV's lighting. Now gray lighting can work for a PV if the emotions trying to be conveyed in the PV match up with the lighting. Sakura no Ki ni Narou is a perfect example using more muted lighting because that PV was meant to be sad and make the viewer cry.

 But So Long! isn't supposed to make the viewer feel depressed; the song is upbeat and the girls are smiling and laughing throughout the PV but damn, it still feels depressing. And maybe that's because no one really looks invested in the PV. I wouldn't say the girls are doing a bad job acting but they didn't capture my attention. They didn't feel very energetic not even during the dance shot or when they were supposed to be cheerful. The movements and acting in this PV felt incredibly forced and scripted, like the directors were just trying to find nostalgic things for the girls to do. And do I even have to express how much I abhor the use of green screens in this PV? I mean, with H!P, I can see them using green screens since I think they have the budget of a student film project but a group like AKB48 is making tons right now. Were green screens really necessary in this PV? They just took away from the realism of the PV, particularly the green-screen pink fabrics the girls ran around with. Overall, I don't know what to make of this PV. I think it could have looked better and the shots are filmed nicely but it captures my attention just as much as the song does.


I'd give So Long! one apple and its PV three apples but together, they average two apples. I mean, damn, what a lackluster Sakura single. At least Eien Pressure tried to have a goofy storyline; this PV is just depressing. The song is bland too and as someone who loathes bland songs, I absolutely can't stand it. Aki-P, get your shit together and actually start trying to write stuff that doesn't sound like every other bland song you've written in the past. You're doing well with the Mayuyu center but give her a song that doesn't make me want to slit my wrists.