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.

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