Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Your Smile Is Bright Like this Green Screen

Nope. Still not calling them Morning Musume '14. You can't make me.

What's this? Nia's reviewing a Morning Musume PV? After all her complaining about the excessive double A-sides and how they're such a pain to review? Well, yes. I am. The best solution to a problem is usually the easiest one. And I'll be honest, reviewing these double/triple A-sides is hard. Luckily, I've finally come up with a solution to my little dilemma about the excess A-side's Tsunku's been cranking out lately. Really, I should have done this awhile ago, but I was distracted by other more interesting idol PVs. What I'm going to do is review the song and PV that I can talk about the most. Not necessarily the best one, just the one that has the most material for me to write on. I may mention the other A-side once or twice, but unless I have the spare time (which I probably won't), I'm just reviewing the one A-side song and PV. Which of the Morning Musume PVs from their latest A-side interested me the most then?Was it the electropop song? Or the other electropop song? Or the other electropop song? It's... the electropop song!!! To be more specific, it's Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa. But in case you're wondering where the other two A-sides stand in my eyes, here are nutshell reviews of the two:
  • For an Olympics song, Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai sure doesn't have much to do with Japan. Neither does the PV. But I think that's more laziness on UFP's part.
  • What is Love? remains a good song. There is literally nothing I have to say about the PV.
We good? Good! Now let's talk about Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa! This is the main A-side of Morning Musume's first single of 2014. Yes... the triple A-side single of 2014. Ugh. Anyways, Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa/Kimi no Kawari wa Iyashinai/What is Love? follows in the vein of Momusu's recent singles with all three A-sides being electropop. As you might have suspected, this has not gone over well with the fans. Okay, nothing goes over well with all the fans but still. As I predicted, the ever-fickle fanbase of Hello! Project has started growing tired of Morning Musume's electropop songs churned out one after another, complaining that the songs all sound like rehashes of one another, the genre's overdone, etc. etc. What I find ironic about a lot of these complaints is that a lot of people have started waxing poetic about the Platinum Era, an era I thought mostly everyone was sick of in the Momusu fanbase. Oh well, a pair of rose-tinted shades does wonders for looking back on the past.

To be fair, I do think there are some legitimate criticisms somewhere in the wave of complaints. Tsunku has been relying on electropop for Momusu's recent singles, and yes, there are a few songs that sound suspiciously similar when you play them back to back. Seriously, do that with Wakuteka Take a chance and Brainstorming. I think what Morning Musume needed was a song that relied a little less on the Autotune and bleeps and bloops dominating their recent A-sides. I'm not saying a re-reinvention of their image and musical style, just a breath of fresh air maybe. Like a happier song would be nice! The songs of this era haven't been depressing, but they've mostly been intense-sounding dance tracks. I'm talking about a more happier song along the lines of something old S/mileage would release. And perhaps a song that simply featured more natural vocals and less vocal editing. It would be really nice to hear the girls sounding less robotic. And while we're at it, how about a song with less solos? Yes, I think that's the kind of song that could truly show off Morning Musume as a whole.

The good news: that song is Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa! The bad news: that song is Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa.

Hoo boy. There's a reason I've taken so long to review this song and not just because the subtitles-less music video was leaked so recently. I'm serious, this song has been out for over a month, and I still have no idea what to make of it. Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa is a song that is both refreshing and annoying, sometimes at different times. However, I will say that it is different for the current Morning Musume. Noticed how I just said current Morning Musume though. Because Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa isn't some groundbreaking genre-busting song... well, it does kind of branch across two genres. In a way. When I first played Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, the opening bit with the pounding We Will Rock You drumbeat over the usual dance-electropop instrumentals made me think this was going to be another energetic dance song with a little bit of a twist to it. And then... the rest of the song happened.

Do you guys remember Tokyo Girls' Style's Rock you? Well, probably not, since I'm one of five people who cares about TGS, but my point is, Rock you! did the same thing that Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa does. Both songs open with a loud, thumping beat that make an awkward, abrupt transition into a lighter, happier sound. I was not a fan of the transition in Rock you! and I'm very fond of the one in Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa either. It feels like mood whiplash. In fact, I think that's the term I can use to describe this song overall. I don't know what Tsunku was on when writing this song, but Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa feels like it wants to be two different things. During the instrumental breaks, the song defaults to Morning Musume's current electropop sound, but then the vocal arrangement sounds like a bubblegum pop song devoid of any electropop. This could work if you combine the two styles together (in fact, there are plenty of great songs like this!), but with Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, they feel like separate parts crudely sewed together with the skill of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

And yet I don't want to completely bash Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, because it is a little different from all the electropop songs Morning Musume's been releasing lately. However, different does not always mean good. Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa reminds me of Seishun Collection not only in sound but in the time it was released. Both Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa and Seishun Collection are happy songs, but happy in a laid-back kind of way. You wouldn't jump up and down to either song. Despite the fact that the PV for Seishun Collection featured the girls jumping on trampolines. But anyways, Seishun Collection was also released during Morning Musume's Platinum Era, a time when they were releasing so many moody, emotionally dark songs that even Robert Smith would probably say, "Lighten up!" So when Seishun Collection came along as this happy-go-lucky, if slightly generic song, it was simultaneously a breath of fresh air and mood whiplash.

While Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa doesn't fall quite as hard to this as Seishun Collection did, there's something that's still so... off about it. In theory, I should like this song. It's happy, trying something a little different from Momusu's current song formula, and there's a lot of even vocal distribution to boot! But the execution of Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa I found to be lackluster. Dare I say even bland? Yep, I think I have to bring about the dreaded B-word for Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, because honestly, it's kind of a boring song. The verses drag out way too long, and every time I think the chorus is going to come in, there's just another verse. Maybe if half of each verse section had been cut, the song would have had a better pace. And maybe if the instrumental and vocals matched in tone better. See, things like that make me think that somewhere in Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa is a good song. In its current state though, I don't think this is a very interesting song, and definitely my least favorite A-side off the single. But hey, I guess every Morning Musume era has to have their own Seishun Collection.

Besides, just because Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa is a lackluster song doesn't mean the PV has to be the same way! Or does it? With UFP, it could probably go either way. So I ask you all to lower your standards and brace yourselves because we're screencapping a Morning Musume PV! Let me guess: it features a really basic set and some green screens?

The PV starts with all of them in cat pose! Does the rest of the PV have them doing yoga poses?

The outfits are decent, although very, very white.

They're like sparklier versions of the ones from Atarashii Watashi ni Nare!

And then we're transported to Green Screen Land where nothing is real and everything is green!

Admittedly, these effects are actually kind of cool.

The way they interact with the choreography just looks really nice.

Which is good because when you take those effects away, this dance shot is about as generic as it gets.

The close-ups fortunately look decent, and everyone looks very nice.

Here they are rising up to feed some of their life force to Sayu so that she may maintain her youthfulness!

They all look like they're about to yank each other's heads in this dance move.

I think these shots are cute. And it's nice seeing the girls in clothes that aren't so costume-y.

The Ai no Gundan kicks make a comeback!

So is there any reason Eripon and Haruna are the only ones wearing pants?


You know, I'd actually be down with Ayumin being center more constantly.

If you watch this PV and pause it each second, you actually do see some pretty neat effects.

No, it's not Rhizomatics technology, but for a Momusu PV, this is about as close to effort as their PVs get.

By the power of GREEN SCREEN!

You know what's refreshing? Everyone looks really nice and cheerful in this PV!

Normally they all look so serious and never get a real chance to interact with each other in a more friendly and natural manner.

Even if the song is weird, seeing everyone so happy is nice!

It's a good thing Riho knows how to work the camera, because her voice is still... eh.

Everyone actually looks really pretty in this PV. No awkward hairstyles or costumes, it's quite a relief!

Again, these close-ups aren't exactly groundbreaking, but they're still visually appealing!

Aw, look at them getting all chummy with each other!

But enough of that! Time for an edgy dance break!

Again, Ayumin center! Look at that. Doesn't that seem like a good idea?

Formations, formations, so many formations.

The shining sun from Kono Chikyuu yo Heiwa wo Honki de Negatterun da yo! makes a return to show the new dawn of Morning Musume!

And now it's time for the Idol Smackdown nobody asked for! Messiah!Riho...

...versus Messiah!Paruru!!! Which Messiah will reign supreme? It's up to YOU to decide!

As for now, I've got a PV to review!

Is this... effort I see? Honest-to-god effort!? Stop the presses, alert the neighborhood, effort has been put into a Morning Musume PV!!! Well... kind of. It always amazes me how good Hello! Project PVs look when I lower my standards. I should start doing that with regular PVs... I actually do like the PV for Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, and I feel like of the three PVs on the single, it's the only one that has any real effort put into it. Now keep in mind this is not some artistic work of art with an elaborate plotline and a variety of shots and locations. This is still your standard Hello! Project PV with a dance shot, close-ups, and one other miscellaneous shot to keep the PV from being completely formulaic. But it's the styling that makes Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa such a nice PV to look at. Unlike last year, this PV kicks off 2014 with some decent outfits and a set that isn't overblown by a tacky looking green screen. Of course, there is still a green screen, but what they did with it is pretty cool. Remember the green screen techniques in C-ute's PV for Tokai no Hitorigurashi? That's pretty much the same thing utilized in Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, except the visuals aren't as bright and cute and are a little more sleek and polished.

I noticed there are a lot of images of the earth/forest incorporated into the patterns in the green screen. I'm not sure why, just something I noticed. Maybe something in the lyrics indicates toward that. The visual effects may not relate at all to the lyrics of Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, but that doesn't mean they aren't cool! I think what helps with the green screen is that everything else about the PV is so white, making the background essentially a blank slate. I think the vastness of the dance area also helps, so there are a lot of shots from farther away alongside closer ones. While the green screen technology in Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa isn't that mind-blowing, it is still very engaging. Having the girls "interact" with the green screen effects just keeps my attention. Sure, the the technique's been done better and to a larger scope, but for what they are, the effects in Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa entertained me at least and looked sleek and smooth while doing that!

If you are looking for a Morning Musume PV that defies the formula H!P's stuck to like glue, then Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa is not that. Sure, it may look like it on the surface, but when you take away all those slick special effects, this is still a standard H!P PV. But it's a standard H!P PV with a little bit more taste. If you know what you're in for when watching Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, then you might be pleasantly surprised. I was at least! Sure, this will by no means be my favorite PV ever, but I don't really mind that it's so minimalistic. Because it still looks very clean and polished. And the girls all look great! The costumes in the dance shot aren't that original, but hey, Momusu's gotten a lot worse. In fact, I feel like ever since Reina left, she took all the tackiness with her, and Morning Musume's recent costumes have been pretty tasteful. And the styling's gotten better! Everyone in this PV, even fashion victims Eripon, Haruka and Zukki, get really nice hairstyles and lighting and makeup! They all look very natural, and I think having a PV where they can be happy and cheerful is nice.

That's another reason why even though Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa isn't that great of a song, I'm glad it exists so we can see the girls actually smile and act happy in PV instead of trying to be tough and badass dance queens. Okay, that's not a terrible thing either, but it's nice having both, you know? That's why I love the group shots of everyone together! It's the first Colorful Era PV where we get to see some real interaction between the girls beyond just dancing. And honestly, that's really refreshing. I love powerful dances as much as any idol fan, but I also love seeing the more natural side of idols. I think that shows in the PV for Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa. And it helps with the song, or at least it makes the song sound just a teensy bit better. Still not a great song, but better than listening to the song alone. So yes, maybe there isn't much that's different about this PV when you stack it up against all of Morning Musume's other recent PVs, but there are just enough quirks and trimmings to make this PV stand out.

Collectively, I'll give Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa three apples. It's not the strongest song to kick off 2014 for Morning Musume, but it's tolerable. The song is a little too cheerfully hollow for my tastes, and the arrangement could be tightened up. The PV for Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa is entertaining, and compared to some of Momusu's recent PVs, it's actually quite good. Just know what you're in for when watching any H!P PV, and I think you can find some enjoyment in it!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

When Is it Time to Pull the Plug?

For the record, I'm talking about the disbandment of idol groups, not... well, the other kind of plug being pulled. But neither one is particularly cheerful.

This month K-pop idol Nicole Jung left Kara after her contract with DSP expired. Shortly after, Kang Jiyoung announced that she too would be leaving Kara once her contract expired in April. Despite the loss of two members of a very stable idol group, DSP announced that Kara would continue on as a three-member unit. Now as much as three is my favorite number of idols to have in a group, I'm not so sure if this is the best move for Kara. They're not exactly as famous as they used to be in South Korea, and even in Japan their relevance has been slowly fading away. Honestly, keeping Kara around as a trio feels like a very desperate move from DSP to keep juicing some kind of profit from the group. I don't know how successful DSP is as an agency, but I can't think they're quite as well-known as the big K-pop agencies like SM and JYP and YG. Those are the agencies that generate the most profit, right? Anyways, those are the three agencies I always hear about the most, and DSP is not among them.

So is Kara one of their biggest moneymakers? I've got to think they are, especially in their earlier days of releasing Lupin and Step and Pandora. Now, I know they released Damaged Lady, but I also heard that single pretty much flopped, along with the album it came from. And now with the departure of Nicole and soon-to-be departure of Jiyoung, I honestly don't see why DSP just doesn't disband Kara and allow the girls to pursue solo activities. That way they still have a (somewhat) profitable career outlet. Besides, wasn't Kara one of the K-pop groups known for its stability? So much for that. I can't think that they'll have that much success as a trio. It's sad, really, but it just makes me think that DSP really needs to disband Kara while they're still somewhat relevant and before they're barely scraping by trying to maintain momentum only to have it slowly keep slipping away. But nope, from the looks of it, that is exactly what is going to happen.

So why do I bring all this up? Well, it's not because I'm a die-hard fan of Kara, though I do find some of their Japanese songs enjoyable (and even a few of their K-pop songs). But the lineup changes to Kara did get me thinking: when is the best time to disband an idol group anyways? Should it be at their peak, when they have the most fans and most successful numbers? Or when their fame has dwindled, and not many people are left supporting them? Or somewhere in-between those two? I know no one wants to talk about the disbandment of a group, and I especially don't. Disbandment is the only thing worse than a graduation to happen to an idol group. At least with a member graduating, the group can still release music and remain on the market. But a disbandment is the end. Finito. No more music, no more group, just a bunch of memories and archives to browse through.

However, I still think that the disbandment of a group is a necessary evil. Because you know what the alternative is? A group sticking around forever and none of the members getting to move on and pursue something else. I'd think that after awhile, that would get very monotonous. Of course, there are always exceptions like Smap and Arashi. Between you and me, I think those two groups are never going to disband. Actually, I've noticed male idol groups tend to have better longevity than female idol groups. Is it because the demographic for male idol groups tends to be wider? I don't know; that's another subject for another article. Back to what I was saying, I think there is an appropriate time for an idol group to disband. The question is figuring out what that time is. Is there a certain point where an idol group reaches their peak and there's nothing left for them? And can that point be applied to every idol group? I don't think a general time can be figured out because of all the differing variables, but I still think there are certain factors that indicate when an idol group is slipping past their prime.

One of those I already mentioned, and that is lineup changes! Now this doesn't apply to all idol groups, mainly the groups known for frequently changing lineups like AKB48, Morning Musume, and even BiS. Although I'm not sure if the member changes for BiS are intentional. I'm referring to idol groups that maintain a stable lineup for a very long time, particularly the time in which they are successful. Like with Perfume, they're about as stable as group gets despite the loss of Kawayuka a very, very long time ago. Like they weren't even signed onto a label with Kawayuka. A lot of the stable groups I'm thinking of are the ones with small numbers like Tokyo Girls' Style and Scandal. This can also refer to groups that lost a member before achieving a larger amount of recognition like Momoiro Clover Z, C-ute, and 9nine. As of April, Kara, a group known for its lack of a frequently changing lineup, will become a trio.

Now this isn't the first time Kara has a lost a member, but their last change in lineup was in 2008, when Kim Sung Hee departed. And even then, she left before the group really started to pick up attention. For six years Kara has maintained its five-member lineup, and those five members are the faces the public recognizes. And I think once a group has established itself, there's a certain image their casual fanbase associates with them. Sort of a... chemical compound composed of elements that perfectly balance each other out into an equation. And one member graduating is kind of like removing one element from that equation; all the other chemicals are still there, but with the equation out of balance, the chemical compound is gone. Like if Perfume were to lose a member now, they would basically be screwed. Everyone knows them as A-chan, Nocchi, and Kashiyuka. With such a small number too, they can't afford to lose anyone. Look at S/mileage. After losing two popular members then adding four more, it took them two years to finally stabilize again and start getting better sales. Zone also starting dropping in sales after original member Takayo's departure.

But lineup changes aren't the end-all be-all for a group's disbandment. There are too many exceptions to that rule, and plenty of idol groups are still able to maintain a fanbase despite the loss of a member. A more deciding factor is financial gain, especially for major label idol groups. Look, everything about the idol industry exists to make money. That may not be the sole reason for its existence, but that is the main reason. Hell, that can honestly apply to most forms of mainstream entertainment. Now there are also indie idol groups, but that's veering into a different topic. Major label idol groups exist to make money. And usually, there's a time when every idol group has their "peak" in success. Take Morning Musume. As of now they've reached another peak of sorts (but nowhere near as high as their first peak). AKB48 is still riding on their peak that started way back in 2009. And Momoiro Clover Z is also right in their peak right now.

So what happens when a group starts to fall off that peak? Well, there are two options and agency can take: roll with it and just cater to a smaller audience or disband the group while they're still riding high on the waves of money and success. I feel like most idol agencies go with the latter option for their groups, especially smaller idol groups that aren't juggernauts like AKB48. Speaking of said juggernaut, I think when AKB48 stops making money, Aki-P will disband the group. They're just that kind of group, and I honestly don't think Aki-P cares about anything other than keeping that million streak going for as long as he can and milking as much out of the girls of AKB48 as possible. Look, I could write all the livelong day about the multiple bones I have to pick with AKS and Aki-P so I'll stop right there. Even though money is a big factor in how an idol group is produced, I still don't think that is the ultimate decider to disband a group. After all, there are many idol groups that don't make much money but still deliver consistent songs and music videos. In fact, there are many idol groups that I actually like better than the more popular ones!

So what then? If lineups and finances aren't sole determining factors to disband an idol group, what is?

In my opinion, I think the one of the best times to disband an idol group is when the quality starts declining. The reason I bring this reason up last is because sometimes a group's decline in quality correlates with member losses or a decline in sales and overall relevance. For example, S/mileage's songs were crap after Yuuka and Saki left, along with their overall image. Luckily, they're finally starting to sound decent again, but the chemistry of original S/mileage is long gone. Whether that's for better or worse is up to you. But I honestly don't care how much an idol group makes as long as the music remains good. And really all an idol group has to do for that is not bore me. This is again, why I wouldn't give a shit if AKB48 disbanded right now. Their music has been sucking for the past two years and doesn't show any signs of stopping as long as AKS makes the moneys. If Perfume starts to decline in sales, I'll be bummed, but as long as their music is still good, I'll keep wanting to see them around.

However, there is one more time I think is a good time for disbandment: longevity. When an idol group is around for a long time, I think they've earned the right to disband if they want to. The girls of Perfume have talked about disbanding in the next five years or so, and that makes perfect sense. Sure, I will probably cry when that happens, but if that's what the girls want, then who am I to interfere with their wishes solely on the basis that I like their music? Honestly, I'm amazed that Perfume's manage to remain relevant for so long in the industry, and they keep coming up with new ideas and new goals to aim toward. I'd like to think that when Perfume disbands, they'll leave with an impact. So overall, I wouldn't want an idol group to disband like SweetS did, with such little time together as a group and nowhere near their prime. But I also wouldn't want them to disband the way Kara's heading, with a chunk of the members gone and well past their prime either. Like many things in idol music, there needs to be a balance that correlates to the best time for disbandment.

And that brings me back to Kara. I think Kara should disband for a number of reasons: lineup changes, loss of relevance, decline in musical quality, and longevity. The group has had a seven year run, which is a lot in idol years. I think the members of Kara have earned the right to move on to greater things, if they want to. I'm 95% certain that won't happen though; DSP will probably milk three-member Kara dry until they've squeezed absolutely every penny out of them. I feel like that's what happens with a lot of idol groups, and I'm not even talking about J-pop. I think no one wants to let go of their idol groups, and for perfectly good reasons. But every group has to disband someday, and I don't think a group should disband in the state I feel Kara's going to. It just isn't... honorable. I know honorable's not a word you'd use to describe the idol industry, but I think a group's disbandment should be handled with honor and dignity for the girls who worked so hard in it. As for now, let us gaze upon Kara as a five-member group one last time. Personally, I probably won't blog much of Kara anymore after Jiyoung's left. Already their current Japanese releases aren't grabbing me, and I have a few other idols that are. I wish all the best of luck to Kara as a trio though. Lord knows they're going to need it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Maltine Girls' Wave Idol Smackdown!!!

You know what I haven't done in awhile? Write a blog post! Gosh darn that dastardly school. But do you what I also haven't done in awhile? I haven't hosted an Idol Smackdown! And lately I've felt the need to compare alike things so let's talk about Maltine Girls' Wave!

Maltine Girls' Wave is a collaboration between Avex's Tokyo Girls' Style and Maltine Records. Under this collaboration, the members of Tokyo Girls' Style each perform with another artist from Maltine Records. They also get their own solo PVs as well. As a fan of Tokyo Girls' Style, I was excited for this project! I'm a fan of all the members in TGS (some girls more than others), and I really wanted to see how each of them would turn out with their own song and PV. But I did have a little dilemma: how on earth was I going to review five different PVs? I had other things to do, and I can barely review double A-side PVs without pulling my hair out! And then I realized there was one other thing I could do: I could pit the girls of Tokyo Girls' Style against each other. And they would all gather on top of a mountain and fight it out for three days and three nights, with whoever's left standing on the final night becoming the winner! Well, okay, that didn't happen, but I still wanted to compare each member's song and PV! And what a better way to do that than with an Idol Smackdown? So grab your popcorn and place your bets, because that's what's happening today! The same rules apply as always: three rounds, three chances for each song to prove it's the best in each round. I decide the winners, because it's my blog, and I decide the final winner! But if there's anyone else you would have picked, feel free to tell me! I always love reading alternate opinions! But until, then let us start the Idol Smackdown! Pity I don't have a bell... I could ring it like that thing they do in boxing rings!

Round 1 - The Songs

I decided to forego my original Round 1 that was styling for two reasons. One is that there are no individual jacket covers for Maltine Girls' Wave, just the one album cover. Not to mention no individual outfits for each member of Tokyo Girls' Style. Two is because there's not much to talk about with styling without getting redundant. So now Round 1 is going straight to the meat of things: the song. Which Maltine Girls' Wave song will reign victorious? Let's find out!

Arai Hitomi

Starting off the smackdown is Hitomi's song, Maji Ben Now! produced by dancinthruthenights. Of all the songs on Maltine Girls' Wave, Maji Ben Now! is the one that I think sounds the most similar to Tokyo Girls' Style default song style. Or... I thought it was going to. For the first two minutes, Maji Ben Now! sounds like it would fit right into a TGS album. Hitomi's singing, the 90s Avex sound is blasting at full force, and everyone was having a good time. And then... the rapping started. I need to make one thing clear: I am not a huge rap fan in general. I have a few exceptions, but for the most part, it's a genre of music I can only take in small concentrated doses. So how did I take to the rapping part in Maji Ben Now? Well... eh? The guys rapping, Tofubeats and Okadada aka dancinthruthenights sound... all right I guess. I could have done without their parts and continued on my merry way. Hitomi's rapping is... not all right. Look, she's a fifteen-year old girl, very few fifteen-year old girls can rap decently. There's also the part where she and the other guy have a brief conversation of sorts about something I'd need a translation to understand. It was just about as well-handled as the rapping bit. 

Then the very end of the song has some more chanting, and yeah, there's a surprising amount of talking in this song, the more I think about it. Overall, I am very, very split on Maji Ben Now! I think Hitomi has a voice that has greatly improved from her early days in Tokyo Girls' Style, and Maji Ben Now! is a song that does show how much she's improved. Sure, she's still got some squeak, but her control and pitch are much better than what they used to be. But I think she's had better solos in TGS songs than in the entirety of Maji Ben Now! Not to mention rapping is not a strong suit of hers, and I would have preferred the song without it. The rest of Maji Ben Now! borders on your generic TGS song, and how much you like that generic song mold will determine how much you like Maji Ben Now! If you can tolerate the rapping, Maji Ben Now! is a decent song. I'm sure Hitomi fans will enjoy it! For me though, I think Hitomi could have gotten a song utilizing her stronger talents.

Konishi Ayano

All right, maybe Ayano can pick up the momentum with her song! Ayano is one of my favorite members of TGS, partially because of her wonderful voice. Unfortunately, in the past year or so, that wonderful voice has been sounding a little strained. Maybe it's the songs? But that doesn't matter, because finally I get to hear a solo song from Ayano! Except... it's not a solo song. Spica, produced by fazerock, is actually a duet between Ayano and an artist named Seikatsu Hitsuju-hin! I had no idea who this guy was, but after a quick look on Google, I found... nothing about him. For all I know he could be a dancing panda. But I do know that he raps! Yay! Look, I don't mean to diss a genre of music I'm certain is perfectly fine, but I really am not a huge fan of rap. And the rapping in Spica feels so very, very, very gratuitous. I wish it had just been an Ayano solo, but here comes this guy rapping and... ugh, I don't like it. I can't bring myself to like it. 

Spica already isn't a very strong song. It's got an slight R&B sound to it, another genre of music I don't pay a lot of attention to. Ayano's vocals were very underwhelming in this. She doesn't do a lot of belting (but that might be better for her voice), and through Spica, she sounds very soft and weak. There's not a lot going for the instrumental, and overall, I'm really disappointed with this song. I was hoping to hear a standout song for Ayano, but instead I got a generic R&B song. And I don't like the inclusion of the Seikatsu Hitsuju-hin guy at all; every time he started rapping, it felt like he was interrupting the song. I mean, if you're going to add a gratuitous rapper into the song, at least make their parts sound interesting. I can't think of a single thing that stood out to me with Spica. I almost wish the song had been worse; at least I'd have something of substance to make fun of! But Spica is the song on Maltine Girls' Wave that firmly stands on the grounds of mediocrity. It isn't an assault on your ears like one of the songs on this, but there is a very high chance you won't remember how it sounds after ten minutes or so. 

Yamabe Miyu

Well, maybe Miyu's song will bring something interesting to the table! Okay, honestly, I was not that hyped for Miyu's song. She's not really my favorite member of TGS, and her voice isn't my favorite in the group either, and... you get what I'm talking about. But to my surprise, Umbrella, produced by Banvox, turned out to be a pretty good song. Umbrella is about as close to technopop as Maltine Girls' Wave gets, and even then it's just the instrumental. Miyu's vocals are, for the most part, free of vocal manipulation. And listening to Umbrella, I've found that Miyu is capable of having a deceptively nice voice. In Tokyo Girls' Style, her voice has always struck me as the weakest, due to mainly not a lot of vocal attention and the few solos she does have always sounding strained and/or squeaky. But in Umbrella, she sounds great. I wish I could hear her sing more like this in Tokyo Girls' Style. Like I had no idea she was capable of having such nice control! She transitions so smoothly from chest to head voice in the chorus, and her squeak is nowhere near as annoying in Umbrella as it is in other TGS songs. Am I even listening to the same person? No one snuck into the studio and edited Miyu's vocals out with some other idol's, right? 

Miyu's vocals aren't the only strong part of Umbrella; the pacing of the song is nice too. With the first two songs, both sound very slow, and that isn't helped by the length of both songs. I like that Umbrella's shorter; the tempo of the song pretty much insures that it's not going to be any longer than four minutes. And I like that. I love my long songs, but faster, energetic songs like Umbrella typically work better when they're short. As someone fond of technopop, Umbrella having a lot of technopop vibes is another aspect of the song that is right up my alley. So yeah, overall, Umbrella's proved to be quite the curveball for me. It went from being to the most unassuming song I was going to review to probably one of the strongest solos on Maltine Girls' Wave. The vocals are great, the arrangement is deliciously energetic, props to Umbrella!

Shouji Mei

Something that I like about Maltine Girls' Wave is that it gives me a chance to really hear each member's voice, more so than in the Tokyo Girls' Style's songs. Sure, I already hear Hitomi and Ayano a lot, but for Miyu, Mei, and Yuri, they don't get quite as much of a chance to sing. So a solo song is a great chance to hear those three! And I'm especially glad I finally got a chance to listen to Mei sing, because it taught me something very important: Mei is not a very strong singer.  That or Kawaii Rave was not composed to fit her range. Or both! I don't know what it is about this song, but it just doesn't sound nice to my ears. The instrumental's more-or-less your generic Kyary-wannabe electropop, which could work given the proper vocal arrangement. However, Mei's vocals sound awful. I don't know why, because she's sounded fine in several TGS songs. In Kawaii Rave though, it sounds like she's forcing every single note. You guys remember my lecture on the dangers of belting? No? Well, here's a refresher! Belting is hitting high notes with your chest voice, to get a more resonant and richer sound in lieu of using your head voice. For the record, either one is fine, but if you're gonna belt, then do it safely. 

Mei does a lot of belting in Kawaii Rave. Only problem is she does it poorly. Or maybe it's her voice. Either one, she sounds really strained when hitting the high notes in Kawaii Rave. And beyond the vocals, this song is really repetitive. There's not really a verse-chorus structure, just Mei constantly repeating the lyrics from Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Yes, the nursery rhyme. The instrumental is dull and just as repetitive as the lyrics too. After a minute or so, the song starts to sound like it's on a loop, and frankly, I grew bored with Kawaii Rave pretty quickly. Maybe if Mei had more to work with the song would sound better? Or maybe if the instrumental had more variety? I don't know, but of the Maltine Girls' Wave songs, Kawaii Rave is my least favorite. It's a shame; I like Mei, and I was looking forward to hearing her solo. Oh well, so much for that.

Nakae Yuri

Ending Round 1 of the idol smackdown is Yuri's song, Day by Day! produced by Avec Avec! And no, it does not sound like the T-ara song. Unlike the catchy K-pop song, this Day by Day has a much more lounge-y and smooth sound; it reminds me a lot of house music. It's almost as slow as house music, clocking in at nearly five and half minutes, but thankfully, Day by Day doesn't drag. Of course, the last fifty seconds of the song were more or less a "closing instrumental." Yuri doesn't sing in this part, and I thought the song was over until that instrumental started up. I'm a little split on those last fifty seconds; they didn't really add anything to Day by Day. Had it not been included, I probably wouldn't have even noticed. But it wasn't like an abrupt change in mood either, and I guess it added to the house feel of Day by Day. I think this was one of the songs on Maltine Girls' Wave that took a bit of time to grow on me. On my first listen, I thought it was all right, but it didn't really stand out to me. 

But like many slow lounge songs, Day by Day did slowly start growing on me. I think Yuri's vocals helped; she sounds nice in this song. And unlike some of the other solos, she actually has a chance to work with some decent lyrics. There's a very clear verse-chorus structure along with a lot less repetition than some songs that start with "Kawaii" and end with "Rave." Hearing Yuri's solo also makes me realize why Avex has been giving her a little more of a vocal push than in the past. I did feel like the instrumental overpowered her in some parts of Day by Day though; it would have helped if Avec Avec had toned it down a little bit. I also think that the instrumental got a tad too repetitive; I can only take so much of that groovy synthesizer before I feel like I'm tripping in an episode of The Mod Squad. But even if Day by Day isn't a song without flaws, it's still one of the stronger songs on Day by Day. I think dynamic between the producer and the singer is much stronger than some of the other songs on Maltine Girls' Wave. And I guess the more I think about it, I like Day by Day a lot more than I thought I did when I started typing this up. Could it even be my favorite of the five solo songs?

And the Winner of Round 1 Is...

Picking my favorite of the five Maltine Girls' Wave songs was both easy and hard. Easy because Maji Ben Now!, Spica, and Kawaii Rave range from mediocre to terrible. But then Umbrella and Day by Day were both decent songs. I did end up going with Umbrella though just because it didn't have that anticlimactic ending instrumental Day by Day had. Umbrella left the strongest impression on me, and hearing Miyu sing so well was a very pleasant surprise!

Round 2 - The PVs

Reviewing a PV is even more fun than reviewing a song! And comparing PVs is especially fun. Since Tokyo Girls' Style is a group that already gets some pretty artsy PVs, I was definitely looking forward to seeing the Maltine Girls' Wave PVs. Did they deliver more than some of the songs? Let's hope so! Otherwise some of our fighters don't stand a chance of winning out in the final round!

Arai Hitomi

All right, let's start again with Maji Ben Now! So I forgot to mention that the song is about studying. I mention that because perhaps the PV might have something to do with teaching! Like Hitomi studying for some kind of math test or something along those lines! From the looks of it though, Maji Ben Now! is a PV that has no classrooms in site instead opening with a location that looks very similar to the location used in Mano Erina's Song for the Date PV.

Whereas Mano's PV featured color, Maji Ben Now! is initially shot in black and white. It also has Hitomi being led on horseback by another man concealing his appearance. I don't think riding a horse has anything to do with studying. But still, this is an interesting location to start off with, and as someone with a soft spot for abandoned areas, I was intrigued when I started watching Maji Ben Now!

I also thought at first that the PV would have some kind of plotline of Hitomi being an outlaw, thus explaining the Wanted posters at the beginning of the PV. However, this plotline went nowhere, and I think the creator of this PV was just looking for a way to drop the title in a creative/artistic way. 

For me, I was disappointed. They could have gone somewhere with the outlaw on the run storyline! Maybe Hitomi's a schoolteacher who fell in love with someone not excepted by society and upon finding out about their love, people wanted to lynch the guy so she became an outlaw and... oh wait, I just described the subplot from Holes. Well, that still would have been an interesting idea! In fact, why don't idols just reenact Holes?

My biggest problem with the PV for Maji Ben Now! is that nothing happens. Nothing of substance. I didn't mind so much with the first half of the PV, because the location was very atmospheric. There's a lot to look at as Hitomi and the other guy are wandering around this very massive collection of what look like abandoned buildings. The black-and-white aesthetic was also pretty neat. But there's no real explanation as to how they got there, why she's on a horse, why she's riding a horse in high heels, I know it's an idol PV, but does it have to be this vague?

Hitomi does look very grown up in this PV. Sometimes I forget she's only fifteen! The way she's made up in this PV looks very... professional. So why on earth is such a professional-looking person riding through a ghost town on a horse like some kind of business cowboy? Actually... holy crap, a business cowboy sounds awesome! So long space cowboys and hello business cowboys!

Oh look, here's a brief glimpse of the guy! I presume he's Tofubeats or Okadada? I found a picture of him, but I can't enough of the guy's face in this PV to tell. I would think that is one of those two though, otherwise this mysterious guy leading Hitomi around on a horse doesn't make much sense. But then again, I don't think this a PV trying very hard to make sense.

The PV for Maji Ben Now! goes downhill right around this part. Hitomi dismounts, the guy and the horse leave, and she sits down at a desk. And from that point on, absolutely nothing happens. Up until this point, Maji Ben Now! had been a dull but watchable PV. From here on, it's painfully dull.

I'm serious, there is nothing that happens. Hitomi's at a desk doing what else? Studying! So that's the buildup this entire PV was going toward! Studying! From here, the camera pans from different angles of Hitomi studying. Look, studying itself is a boring enough activity; watching somebody else study is abysmally dull. It's a good thing I can't sleep during the day, otherwise I would have fallen asleep screencapping this part of the PV.

The one remotely interesting thing in this part of Maji Ben Now! is that it slowly transitions from black-and-white to color a la The Wizard of Oz. However, I think this transformation would have worked better if there was more color in this PV. A lot of the shades in this area are neutral and dull, and Hitomi's wearing very dark clothing.

The transition to color is nowhere near what this PV needs to be interesting anyways. I can't really emphasize how boring this PV is; screencaps don't do it justice. You need to watch this five minutes and thirty-three seconds PV to get a true grasp of utter pointlessness this PV has for existing.

So yeah, this PV's boring, only watch it if you have nothing else to do, and of the Maltine Girls' Wave PVs, Maji Ben Now! was probably my least favorite. There's just nothing going on with it. I think the creator was trying to get an artistic feel with the black-and-white and continuous shooting, but that's not enough to make an engaging PV. With the Maji Ben Now! PV, things just happen. Not for any particular reason, just so Hitomi wouldn't be left standing around having no idea what to do.

Konishi Ayano

Spica is one of those music videos that tricks you into thinking it's not going to be weird as fuck. The PV opens with a beautiful, starry sky and Ayano stargazing. It's very pretty, and pretty normal. You'd think the rest of the PV would consist of Ayano looking through her little telescope, maybe some other ethereal images. But do not be deceived, my Wonderlings. For the rest of the PV for Spica is a succession of shots that make about as much sense as the shots in Maji Ben Now!

Although at least Spica has a lot more to look at than Maji Ben Now! There's this recurring blue butterfly that flutters in and out of the PV, sometimes with Ayano in the shot and sometimes not. I'm not sure what this has to do with the song, if anything at all.

As I said, the PV for Spica has a number of different shots and locations and even outfits for Ayano! I always find that to be nice, especially since a lot of idol PVs I review usually stick to only one or two outfits and locations. Some locations are more simplistic (like this shot of Ayano in an all-white room with only a few props), but each scene does have a very distinct look. It makes talking about Spica easier than the last PV.

I also noticed that Spica has some... suggestive shots in it. Oh, there's nothing outwardly sensual (nothing serious anyways), just a few shots that linger on Ayano's legs or show her biting into a succulent strawberry, you know, the kind of shots you see on one of those pandering idol DVD advertisements in a clear attempt to draw in buyers.

And then there are shots like this! There are just a lot of pervy shots in this PV and... I mean, I'm not trying to be a prude, but it's a little awkward watching such blatant pandering. I'm not exactly in the intended demographic for stuff like this. Then again, the girls of TGS are no stranger to sensual PVs. I don't know, I guess what's so uncomfortable about Spica is that Ayano doesn't look very confident. I think that doe-eyed, innocent little flower style of fanservice is more creepy than titillating.

Girl-on-girl action? Well, I'm sure Ayano's used to that! Seriously, how many TGS PVs have featured the girls in embracing each other in some way? I can count two off the top of my head... and I guess this PV makes three! But I did wonder whose arms were wrapped around Ayano. It's clearly not any of the member of TGS so who is it?

You know, it's weird how this PV goes back and forth from being pretty to... downright strange. Ayano looks cute as a button in all the scenes, but there's still something very off about Spica. Like the outdoor shots are all pretty normal, but the black and white scenes are each just... odd.

Well, most of the outdoor shots are norma. This part has Ayano donned in a flower crown wielding a machine gun! Okay, I'm pretty sure it's fake, but still, what the hell is this? What creator in their right mind decided that yes, this would be a good image to put in the PV? At this point I was legitimately starting to wonder what mind was behind this PV only to find out that the creator for Spica was... Shiina Pikarin!?

For those of you who don't know, Shiina Pikarin is a J-pop singer and model who may or may not be a hobgoblin. She's kind of like a squeakier, more terrifying Kyarypamyupamyu with equally strange and unintentionally frightening music videos to boot. Personally, I'm hardly a fan of her music; it's too... squeaky for my tastes. But yes, apparently she created this music video. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

But seriously, what was her creative process behind making this music video? I'd really like to know. I think maybe what Pikarin was trying to do was what Mizuki Nana did in several of her PVs. That is create two alter egos for Ayano: a lighter, innocent white ego and a darker, more suggestive black ego. And I do have to admit Spica makes about as much sense as Mizuki Nana's PVs!

I mean, look at the contrast between these two scenes back-to-back. Parts like this are what make me think of the light/dark ego concept. Maybe that wasn't what Pikarin was going for, but it helps me form some kind of explanation for this PV.

Spica was... definitely more interesting than Maji Ben Now! Of course, it was also a lot stranger and a kind of sensual in a really awkward way. I like some parts of this PV like the outdoor shots and the set dressing was overall really nice, but there's a lot in this PV that needs an explanation. But I don't think I ever will get an explanation, so I'll just settle with my own inane little theories. So I guess Spica's PVs gets a... mixed-to-positive verdict from me?

Yamabe Miyu

If any of you made it through my year-end megapost for 2013, you might recall seeing the PV for Umbrella under my "Weirdest PVs" category. Although this PV is technically part of a 2014 release, I couldn't not put Umbrella under this category. Because trust me, this PV is weird. I mean, just look at the first shot of Miyu's head rotating around in some weird version of space! That's like... something out of a BiS PV. In fact, did I screencap Ash instead of Umbrella?

Tokyo Girls' Style isn't exactly the most normal idol group on the block, but even for them, this is a strange PV. BiS I could expect this from, but TGS? It's more than a little bit surreal. TGS typically gets PVs that are strange in a glamorous, stylish (and sometimes sensual) way. Usually, they're never flat-out weird. Umbrella on the other hand is so weird it makes Momoiro Clover Z's PVs look bland.

Speaking of Momoiro Clover Z, I don't know why but there are several images in the PV for Umbrella that remind me of Gounn... or the Dharmacakra in Gounn. I think it's the parts where Miyu's head is surrounded by a halo of sorts. I don't know, something about it just reminds me of the dharmacakra.

Everything else though I have no idea what to make of. Umbrella is a clusterfuck of a PV, crammed top to bottom with strange imagery, odd editing, and little to no cohesive plot. Maybe it's one of those PVs that makes sense when you read the lyrics. Or maybe it's art that just too complicated for my little pea brain to comprehend! Maybe the Rocky Horror Picture Show lips, Miyu's floating head, and the multitude of hands all mean something poetic and profound. Maybe I just really need to get into this PV, go beyond the realms of cohesion to understand it!

Uh yeah...SYMBOLISM! Or... um... yeah, I've got nothing. If one of you lovely, intellectual readers has any sort of explanation for the PV for Umbrella, please please please enlighten me. I'd really truly love to hear it.

I mean surely these hands are supposed to represent something? Like I said before, parts like this are where I got reminded of the Dharmacakra, but even then, the Dharmacakra only has eight points, whereas the number of hands in each of these shots is clearly more than eight. And I don't think there's a pair of lips in the center of the Dharmacakra either. 

I'm not sure if Umbrella is supposed to be a though-provoking PV with some legit symbolism or an eye-grabbing (literally in this case) that's just trying to get attention. There are parts when I'm watching this PV where I think, yes, there is something more this, but those parts of overshadowed by the strange editing, trippy special effects, and images that just don't make sense. Maybe this is one of those PVs where you have to be on drugs to "get" it. Whoa, imagine watching this PV while tripping on acid! I'm sure that would be one hell of a journey!

I will say of the Maltine Girls' Wave PVs, Umbrella is the one that leaves the most lasting impression. That doesn't necessarily mean it leaves the best impression, but when I first watched all these PVs, Umbrella was the first one I remembered the easiest. It's kind of like a BiS PV in that it stays in your mind whether you want it to or not. And like a BiS PV, I'm not sure if I'm okay with that.

I do have to at least give props to the creator of this PV for trying to be as weird as possible. That takes effort! I think anyone who does stumble upon this PV will at the least remember it! Sure, they might be totally weirded out and slightly terrified, but you know! There's no such thing as bad publicity, right?

I think in the end, how much you like Umbrella depends on how much nonsensical weirdness you can take. There's no rhyme or reason to this PV; I wouldn't be surprised if all the motifs presented in this PV end up meaning nothing. I will admit pointless weirdness doesn't appeal to me the same way weirdness with an explanation does. That's part of why Kyarypamyupamyu's PVs are often so hit-or-miss for me. With Umbrella, I simply don't get the PV, and not being able to is kind of frustrating. It just feels like a rapid succession of sights and sounds that exist for no reason other than to shock and tantalize.

If I had to pick between a pointlessly weird PV and a painfully dull PV, I would go with the former. Sure, Umbrella makes zero sense, but it's the kind of PV you can show to your friends and weird out over it together! Maybe you can come up with some explanation as to the why behind what happens in this PV. Get back to me when you do!

Overall, I'd be lying if I didn't say I enjoyed screencapping this PV just a little bit. Umbrella's so weird I can't help but get wrapped up in all its weirdness. Still, I do think it's trying a little to hard to be strange, and the first time I watched it was a completely and utterly insane experience. With its red lips, random splashes of color, and Miyu's disembodied head, Umbrella definitely isn't a boring PV! Now if I could just figure out what the hell it is supposed to be...

Shouji Mei

Now I'm sure you're all thinking, "Surely the next PVs can't get any weirder than Umbrella, right!?" And... you're right. Umbrella is the most bizarre PV from Maltine Girls' Wave. But the one other PV that comes close to brushing the scope of weirdness in Umbrella is Kawaii Rave. But the weirdness prevalent in Kawaii Rave is quite different than Umbrella. It is much... cuter. Maybe not to Kyarypamyupamyu levels of cute (but then again, what is?) but still very cute.

For starters, the beginning of the PV is like Mei's very brief descent into a world of adorably terrifying little animals and pastel colors galore. Mei enters Alice in Wonderland style into a variety of different rooms ranging from cute to weirdly cute. She even gets an outfit change when she goes through that bright pink door!

See what I mean? I think that bow came straight out of the 80s! Kawaii Rave lives up to its name by being kawaii as hell, showcasing a variety of kawaii sets and mascots and even outfits. I guess you could say it's... Fifty Shades of Kawaii. Or pastel. Yeah, Fifty Shades of Pastel. Either way, there are a ton of different colors in this PV, which I love.

And the PV isn't without its fair share of weird moments, like when Mei's wandering through some kind of haunted house attraction and stumbles across an animatronic bear! Why? Because whoever created this PV really must have wanted Mei to stumble across an animatronic bear! Whatever, we never see the bear again. In fact, there are a lot of things in this PV that never seen or mentioned again.

This is the part where the PV gets... pastel. Very, very pastel. I feel like I'm gazing into a Hello Kitty store every time these shots come up. But you know, if adorable sugary sweetness is a medium you like, then I'm certain you'll love these parts! Even I, a blogger rather indifferent to such cuteness, do think these parts are pretty cool. Again, they don't make a lot of sense, but Mei looks like she's having a lot of fun, and the color contrasts show up nicely on screen.

And Mei looks so gosh-darn happy in these parts. Tokyo Girls' Style doesn't exactly have an abundance of PVs where the girls get to be lively and cheerful. But in Kawaii Rave, that's what Mei does! She looks like she's having a lot of fun in this PV; I don't know if it's genuine, but it's still nice!

And I really do like all the different scenery in this PV, even if certain parts (like what's up with that little stuffed goat in the corner?) do come off as unintentionally creepy. Kawaii Rave is kind of like a blend of Mano Erina's Doki Doki Baby and... well, any Kyarypamyupamyu PV. But Kawaii Rave never reaches that state of absolute trippiness Kyary's PVs do.

I did feel like more of Kawaii Rave placed focus on the childish, adorable sets displayed above. Which isn't a bad thing, but I would have liked to see a little more of the other places Mei was wandering around! But you know, budget stuff I guess. You know what else Kawaii Rave just reminded me of? One of those PVs Kusumi Koharu did for her Kirarin Revolution! You know, like Hapi Hapi Sunday or Chance! Funny enough, Koharu and Mei's singing abilities are about at the same level too!

Oh yeah, and then towards the end of Kawaii Rave show up, these two guys show up! I guess you could call them the "mascots" of Kawaii Rave since their only real purpose is to serve as backup dancers for Mei. Still, there's something that's very off about them. Or that might be my own personal fear of people wearing overly adorable mascot costumes.

This dance shot is the only cheap-looking part in this PV, but I'm debating internally as to whether that was intentional or not. Not much screentime is given to this dance shot until the end of Kawaii Rave anyways. Also for some reason it features Mei in what has to be one of the strangest costumes I've ever screencapped. And don't even get me started on that hair. She looks like one of those Troll Dolls from the 90s! Except with clothes.

There's not much else I can really say about Kawaii Rave's PV... oh yeah, it's eons better than the song! Seriously, this PV actually made the song listenable! I mean, sure, it's still not a great song, but the pretty colors and vivid sets make for a nice distraction! And Mei is very engaging in this music video; she looks happy but not creepily happy! A very nice balance if I do say so myself!

My final verdict for Kawaii Rave's PV is that it's very eye-grabbing although the prevalent cuteness in it may not appeal to everyone. For me though, I actually liked this PV! It was fun to screencap and sure, there are several parts of this PV that make zero sense, but I feel like this is the only Maltine Girls' Wave PV that actually tries to have a little fun. This is just a fun, sweet little PV with some weird elements sprinkled into it!

Nakae Yuri

So the past four PVs I looked at ranged from boring to awkward to insane to adorable. Where will Day by Day fall? Well... this PV is artsy. Very, very artsy. I mean, look at that first shot. It's practically screaming, "Put me in a modern art museum! Interpret meeeee!!!" Oh yeah, and I hope you're not Oshima Yuko. Because there are a lot of balloons in this PV.

But I'll touch on the balloons in a moment. Right now there's so much other stuff in this PV that I can talk about anyways! Or I can at least try. Frankly, I have no idea what was going on in the mind of whoever created this PV. But I have an inkling that whoever it was had a fondness for sheep and balloons. Why? Because they're everywhere in this PV. I think they're supposed to be motifs but for what? If you're gonna have a motif, at least have it make sense!

Like this little wooden sheep. Over the course of Day by Day, the body of the toy disappears, leaving only the little wheel legs. Why? Is it some kind of profound symbolism or was the creator of this PV just trying to find something mind-boggling to film?

See? balloons! There are about as many balloons in Day by Day as there are roses and Revolutionary Girl Utena. Unlike Utena though, I'm not sure what the hell all these balloons are supposed to represent. Maybe the frailty of life? The inevitable realization that everyone you know will leave you at some point in your life or you'll drift away from them? Or are they just there to make this PV look cool? I think it may be the latter option.

But look! A sheep! Now I could take this moment to try and figure out why there are so many sheep in this PV... OR I could make sheep puns! Wow, this PV sure does a baaaaaaad job of trying to convey symbolism, huh guys? I mean, I wish I haaaaaaad known what I was getting myself into upon playing this saaaaaaad PV and... okay, I'll stop.

But seriously, this PV gets so weird. Yuri's walking around hidden in this mass of balloons, and she goes over to this flock of sheep as though she's trying to blend in with them. As you can see, that doesn't go very well for her. But the sheep don't seem to mind! Then again, they aren't exactly the smartest animals... But seriously, look at how ridiculous this image is. I mean, it's practically cartoonish!

Yuri does a bit of dancing in her toe shoes (again, what?) before releasing the balloons revealing that she's turned into a beautiful butterfly or something like that! And from this point on, she doesn't try to assimilate into sheep culture; she just dances around and... does stuff. Not sure why. It's not like there's any sort of explanation for me to go off!

Even though Day by Day borders on pretentious at times with its gratuitous motifs and bloated metaphors, I do still like the PV. I don't know, I listen to some pretty pretentious artists and I've seen some pretty pretentious music videos, so I guess I have this weird kind of soft spot for them? And stuff like this is very cool to look at if I don't think about it too hard. I guess Day by Day is kind of my guilty pleasure PV among the Maltine Girls' Wave PVs. As a reviewer, I can't say it's amazing, but as a fan, I enjoyed it!

And Yuri does a pretty decent job of rolling with all the nonsense in Day by Day. I wonder, can she actually dance en pointe or were the ballet shoes just used for style? I think it may be the latter but who knows? Maybe Yuri's a longtime ballet dancer who happens to be an idol!

The part when I knew that I couldn't take Day by Day seriously came when Yuri let go of the balloons in her hand, and the sheep started floating. I kid you not, floating. And not even in a natural way; it's like someone just took some sheep, pasted them into the PV, and played around with Windows Movie Maker! It is completely and absolutely ridiculous. But it's ridiculous in a very charming way.

Just when the PV can't get any more ridiculous, the PVs ends with a still shot of more balloons (but of course) and some swans on a lake. Or... you'd think that's where Day by Day would end. But like the song, the PV for Day by Day isn't over just yet. After this lovely little shot fades out, the PV starts fading back in to one more scene...

SHEEP! Dozens and dozens of sheep! Glorious, fluffy, bleeting SHEEP! Gaze upon them! Gaze upon their lovely fleece! And that is the image that Day by Day leaves the viewer with: a flock of sheep. Definitely a first I've seen in an idol PV! This is more or less the last forty-five seconds of the PV, and... in strange way, it's kind of entertaining. Actually, I think I can say that about the entire PV for Day by Day. It doesn't make much sense, but it is entertaining!

And the Winner of Round 2 Is...

I guess my favorite PV would have to be Kawaii Rave, but that's mainly because I feel like it was the PV that was trying the least to be artsy and edgy. It's just a cute little PV with some cute little set pieces that ventures into slightly weird territories sometimes. I do have to at least give Day by Day and Umbrella honorable mentions, because both of those PVs are interesting to look at. Still, they make no sense. In fact, why didn't any of these PVs make sense!? Oh well, moving on to the final round!

Round 3 - Final Verdict

Final verdict is where I just give my overall opinion of each song and PV and do what I do best and give each one some apples. This feels like a much more final round to me, and it's easier for me to declare the winner of the smackdown this way! And just because two different songs won each round doesn't mean either one is automatically guaranteed to win the smackdown. Or will they?

Arai Hitomi

Compared to the four other Maltine Girls' Wave songs, Maji Ben Now is definitely the safest. The disco pop sound isn't anything new for TGS, and Hitomi can practically do these songs with her eyes closed while swimming across the English Channel. A little bit of variety does come in with Tofubeats and Okadada's featured vocals, but neither one of them exactly "makes" the song. Maji Ben Now! is also just a little too long, maybe not annoyingly so but still noticeably. I don't think this is a horrible song, and Hitomi's voice sound good, but there's nothing I can really talk about with this song. And the same goes for the PV. I think whoever created the PV for Maji Ben Now! was trying really hard to be artsy, but the final result turned out to be a meandering, dull mess of a PV in which nothing of significance really happens. Shooting the PV in one entire take is a cool idea, but there have been much more fun and interesting idol PVs that have explored that same concept and done it ten times better. The atmosphere was also cool, but I feel like the PV for Maji Ben Now! still has a lot of wasted potential. It's by no means a terrible PV, but even worse, it's a boring PV.

Maji Ben Now! gets two and half apples from me. A little harsh of a rating, maybe, but nothing about this song impressed me. Combined with an equally dull and uneventful PV, it's probably my overall least favorite of the Maltine Girls' Wave songs. So definitely not the winner of the smackdown.

Konishi Ayano

Like with Maji Ben Now!, I was not very impressed by Spica. I was excited to hear Ayano's song, because I love her voice and thought she could have gotten something really powerful to work with alone. But Spica is way too soft, and I don't like the fact that it's a duet with a rapper. Rap and idol music are two genres I just like being separate. With the exception of Rhymeberry. But that's off topic. As an R&B song, Spica is pretty boring, and I think Ayano's voice was high under-utilized for this song. Ayano and Seikatsu Hitsuju-hin didn't have a very good dynamic, making for a mediocre song. Unlike the song though, the PV for Spica was far from mediocre. I'm not saying it's good but it was more interesting to look at than Maji Ben Now! Then again, every other PV on Maltine Girls' Wave was more interesting than Maji Ben Now! Created by Shiina Pikarin, Spica is a strange PV that tried to balance cute and sexy with different scenes. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it was awkward. Well... most of the time it was awkward. But I do have to at least give Pikarin props for trying to make something interesting, even if the final result was kind of awkward.

Even so, I can't bring to give Spica any more than three apples. The song is especially underwhelming, and the PV tries to make up for it, but a boring song is still boring. The PV may be trying to say more than I think it is, but all it does it come off as awkward. But hey, it has a plastic machine gun in it!

Shouji Mei

Oh Kawaii Rave... where do I stand with this song? Actually, giving a final verdict for Kawaii Rave is easy: it's the worst song. Or it's my least favorite song. If it were just because of Mei's really poor vocals, then I might be able to get behind Kawaii Rave. But this song is so repetitive. Kawaii Rave isn't even a very long song, but for three-and-half minutes, it feels more like five minutes. There's not much to Kawaii Rave other than some pounding beats that sound like they were pulled from a Nintendo game and/or a Kyarypamyupamyu song. Speaking of Kyarypamyupamyu, the PV for Kawaii Rave has some Kyary elements in it, like the over-the-top cuteness, unintentionally frightening moments, giant mascots that also serve as backup dancers, and strange costumes for Mei! Seriously, that rainbow star-shaped wig was insane. The insanity of Kawaii Rave's PV was very entertaining though, and Mei was very charming and happy in this PV! The levels of quality of the song and PV for Kawaii Rave are probably the farthest apart. So what to do then? Well, I'd say watch the PV for Kawaii Rave on mute! And just play another cute, better-sounding song over it!

And I'll give Kawaii Rave three and a half apples! Again, the song is not good at all, and Mei's vocals are terrible. But if you're into a Kyary-type PV with a bunch of weird cuteness and quirky imagery, then I'd check out the PV for Kawaii Rave! It's much better than the song!

Yamabe Miyu

Of the five Maltine Girls' Wave PVs, I think Umbrella came off as the biggest surprise to me. Miyu's never stood out to me in TGS, but I found her song to be pretty good. Sure, it isn't a perfect song, but it's better than the last three songs on Maltine Girls' Wave. Her voice sounds surprisingly good, and I still have a hard time believing how much stronger she sounds in Umbrella than she sounds in Tokyo Girls' Style's songs. The fact that Umbrella is about as close to technopop as any of the songs on Maltine Girls' Wave get (well, so does Kawaii Rave but let us not speak of that song) appeals to me also. And then there's the PV for Umbrella. The strange, trippy PV that looks like it belongs in an episode of the Twilight Zone. I really don't know what the creator of this PV was trying to achieve, but Umbrella's PV was at least very eye-catching. But it's eye-catching in the same kind of way a 19th century freakshow would have been eye-catching. I honestly have no idea what's going on in Umbrella, but I feel like it's just a little too needlessly weird. But if you're bored and just looking for something to trip out over, then hey, watch the PV for Umbrella!

So I think I'll give Umbrella four apples. Even if the PV is attention-grabbing, it was at least entertaining, and I like the song! Notice how each apple rating is going up by half and apple as I'm making my way down! Will the trend continue with Yuri's song and PV getting four and half apples?

Nakae Yuri

So here we are with Yuri's song. Day by Day was another surprise of a song, since I wasn't paying much attention to how Yuri's song would turn out. It's a long song, but I think for the most part, the lengthiness of Day by Day works. It adds to the lounge/house sound Day by Day is going for. And Yuri's vocals are utilized perfectly. The songwriter doesn't dominate the singer and vice-versa. You just hear both strong points of each person. Day by Day does lose a few brownie points thanks to that fake out and then the song slowly fading back in for a pointless forty-five seconds before ending for real. But it didn't bother me so much that I hated the song. Far from that! I enjoyed Day by Day! Like with all the other PVs on Maltine Girls' Wave, Day by Day has a bunch of pointless symbolism and weird motifs that may-or-may not mean something more. But with Day by Day, it's kind of amusing. I mean, when am I ever going to see an idol PV with floating sheep in it again!? And I guess the colors and contrasts were nice in Day by Day too. Again, I have no idea what sheep and balloons have in common, but together in this PV, they were both... interesting. Weird, but interesting.

As fun as that would be to continue the trend of increasing the apple rating by half an apple for each song, I still have to give Day by Day a collective four apples. It's good, but like Umbrella, it isn't without its flaws. Still, of the five songs, Day by Day is one of the stronger ones!

And the Winner of the Idol Smackdown Is...

What!? Yuri won!? Well, weighing each of the pros and cons for each Maltine Girls' Wave PV, Day by Day was the most balanced. Kawaii Rave had a good PV, but the song was my least favorite. Umbrella was a good song, but the PV was trying too hard to be weird. Day by Day isn't the best song nor does it have the best PV, but weighed together, overall, it's my favorite. Does that make sense? Think of it mathematically! If Kawaii Rave had two scores of one and four, an overall score would be six. And Umbrella would have a score of four and three-and-half, and Yuri has two scores of four and four. So Yuri's overall score is the highest! I will say I also liked Miyu's song a lot, and I almost thought about declaring that one the winner. But the music video is just too pointlessly weird. In fact, I think the problem with all these music videos is that they're trying to be pointlessly artsy and make some big, grandiose statement that is actually very empty. 

I am all for artistic music videos as long as there's at least a bit of an explanation behind them. Otherwise I'm just looking at a random assortment of shots and things that add nothing to the PV. That's what these PVs all were. The levels of seriousness were what determined my enjoyment for each PV. And Yuri's and Mei's PV just happened to be the least seriousness and the most enjoyable! Having listened to all the Maltine Girls' Wave songs and watched the PVs, I still think this was an interesting idea. And it was great seeing each member of Tokyo Girls' Style get her own solo song and PV. But for certain girls, I feel like they could have been utilized further. Some of the songs, like Kawaii Rave and Maji Ben Now! and Spica, felt like they were placing more emphasis on the producer than the singer. Which... actually makes sense, considering all the members of TGS are just featured on these songs. But I listened to Maltine Girls' Wave for the girls, not the songwriters. While I think the idea is great, the final results range from underwhelming to decent. Nothing truly amazing though. I'll just keep an eye out for Partition Love.