Monday, March 31, 2014

Let's Talk about Who Killed Idol?

Tomorrow is April Fool's Day. And you know what I was thinking? Wouldn't it be simultaneously the best and worst thing if BiS got to the day of their disbandment and revealed that it was just a joke? And that they were still continuing on as a group? Yeah. I could totally see them doing that. But I can also see them disbanding. Sigh.

Why is BiS disbanding? Actually, I know why they're disbanding; that's just a question I'm asking more to the cosmic forces of the future. I knew for awhile that BiS's days were numbered, but I kept thinking they'd put disbandment off. They're on of my favorite idol groups. I loved Idol is Dead. To this day, it's one of my favorite idol albums! So I was obviously going to review their third album, Who Killed Idol? Funny how those two sound like follow-up sentences at a crime scene investigation... Anyways, I freaking loved Idol is Dead. So Who Killed Idol? had quite the standard to live up to. Not only that, but this is BiS's last album. Their swan song. Their last complete album before they disappear forever and I have to find a new group that's just as interesting and not-bland as they are. BiS had an interesting mix of A-side leading up to Who Killed Idol? and the artists who contributed to the album is pretty impressive. So is the bar set high? Hell yes. Can BiS reach up to it? Hell maybe. Let's dive in and see if we can figure out who did kill idol, all right?

1. Primal.2

Opening the album is a sequel song to Primal., one of BiS's best songs. Okay, I'm a little biased, but I really love that song. So Primal.2 has quite the bar to reach if it wants to strive as the sequel to Primal. And in some ways, it succeeds. Unlike Primal., which was a loud, raw song crammed with emotion, Primal.2 is a ballad that sounds like the calm aftermath of Primal. I do like that Primal.2 isn't just a rehash of Primal. but... it's just a ballad. Part of what made Primal. such a great song was that it went to these uncomfortably levels of energy and music and emotion. Primal.2 is much more tame and restrained, except for maybe at the end when the key change happens. I think maybe the song could have been a little bit... louder? It's missing something. However, Primal.2 is still a very pretty song, and by no means is it a dull ballad. The chorus is beautiful and the guitar player, Hisashi, does a great job. As a continuation to Primal. though, Primal.2 falls short.

My Rating:

2. DiE

After the slow ballad, Who Killed Idol? kicks into high gear with DiE! I really like this song, and I like the music video that went along with it. Even if it was a little bit unnerving. What's always struck me about DiE is how similar in style it sounds to Primal. Both sound very post-rock and both are loud with a bunch of emotion pouring from the vocals. The vocals are both my favorite and least favorite part of DiE. Structurally and lyrically, they're great. Notes-wise? Not so much. The weakest aspect of DiE is the vocal range. There are some high notes in DiE and not every member of the group hits them... gracefully. I'm not expecting vocal perfection though, so it doesn't really bother me. But it was quite jarring the first time I listened to DiE! Now it doesn't really deter my enjoyment of listening to DiE, and the song is still one of my favorite singles of this era. That and the amazing B-side which we will get to in a few tracks...

My Rating:

3. StupiG

To the left here we have the most recent A-side! And their next-to-last A-side. Sigh. Well, I'm a little glad BiS isn't going out with StupiG, because this song is weird. And I listen to some pretty effing weird music, so I mean that. The song starts out so abrasively, with screaming and a headphones-breaking instrumental. But then the chorus comes in, and it's so melodic. Then more electronic-cyberpunk grunge madness! It takes a few listens to enjoy StupiG, and even then I have problems with the song. The biggest being how disjointed it is. Nothing flows well, the chorus and verses sound like different songs. Each has its own merits (the harmonizing in the verses being one of them), but StupiG sounds like such a scattered, insane song, and not enjoyably insane. It strikes me as a song that probably works better in concerts. But if I want to listen to electro-grunge (is that even a genre) than I'll just stick with Ash from Idol is Dead.

My Rating:

4. No regret

So No regret kind of sounds like merry-go-round music. Deranged, BiS merry-go-round music. It's kind of cool starting out in the beginning. Reminds me of a Shiina Ringo song. And the verses all sound very lilting and weird; again, it's kind of cool. After the loud, energetic DiE and StupiG, No regret serves as a nice cool-down song. Or... it does until the chorus. No regret suffers to a lesser degree what StupiG does in that the chorus and verse do not fit well together. It's like jamming two puzzle pieces from different puzzles together. But the transitions in No regret are a teensy bit better. But when the loud, abrasive chorus comes back in, it's still jarring. I guess I got used to it after awhile, but I wish No regret could have kept with the more relaxed, carnival-esque sound. Overall, I enjoyed the song. The riff in the instrumental is insanely catchy (just like carnival music!). No regret isn't my favorite album song but... I don't regret it being on there. HA!

My Rating:

5. Magumato

Nerve 2.0? That's pretty much what you could call Magumato. Although it doesn't have that catchy opening that makes Nerve so memorable... Still, I like Magumato (more than I liked No regret). It's one of the calmer songs on Who Killed Idol? or as calm as BiS can get. Honestly, I get major 80s vibes from Magumato. I blame the synthesizer. There's a synthesizer melody prevalent throughout the entire song. It makes me feel like I should be watching a cheesy music video with Magumato playing in the background! I'm a fan of 80s music (or at least the good 80s music) so hey, Magumato's cool with me. I guess you could call the Magumato new wave? It sounds like new wave to my ears, which again, I am totally 100% cool with. I just like how chill Magumato sounds. No one's sing-screaming, and it's nowhere near as packed with instrumentals as the previous three songs. Magumato's not my favorite new song, but it's still pretty neat.

My Rating:

6. Get You

You know, I'm really bummed that neither one of the B-sides from Get You made it to the album. I mean, Sayonara Demo would have fit perfectly! At least Get You did, the oddest of collaborations BiS dabbled in. The song resulted from a collaboration with Dorothy Little Happy, the idol group trying to usurp Super Girls from its position as blandest idol group on the block. The results were... interesting. In a good way! Part of the fun of this collaboration was having literally no idea what it would sound like, and Get You turned out to be one of the lighter BiS songs. But it still fits nicely into Who Killed Idol? without sounding out of place. The song is untouched and keeps the Dorothy Little Happy vocals in (along with Wacky, Yufu, and Mitchel's). Get You is actually a pretty cool song, and it's nice hearing BiS veer into straight-up pop every once in awhile. There are a few parts that are a little iffy (that talking) but for the most part, I think Get You is great!

My Rating:

7. Mura-Mura

Skaaaaaaaa!!! Not Maji Desu ka Ska, skaaaaaaaa!!! I will never understand why ska declined after the 90s. It's such a happy genre of music, how could people just dump it so easily!? I particularly love all the brass instrumentals in ska music and they are wonderfully present in BiS's take on ska, Mura-Mura. Songs like Mura-Mura are when I really appreciate BiS going across multiple genres of music and not sticking into one that's "unconventional" compared to idol pop like metal or rock. Mura-Mura is such a perky song, as many ska songs are. So if you don't like ska, then you're out of luck. But I like ska, so I like Mura-Mura. Actually, Mura-Mura is one of my favorite BiS B-sides in general. Maybe I love the fact that BiS experimented in a genre like ska. I don't know how as a ska song Mura-Mura holds up, but as a BiS song, I think Mura-Mura has all the energy and fun that I like about BiS. I mean I love when they're being menacing, but them being perky is just fun!

My Rating:


What does MMGK even stand for? Is it like PPCC and that initials make perfect sense in Japanese? Whatever MMGK stands for, the song is awesome. Even the opening is awesome; it's this explosion of electronica that perfectly sets the tone of MMGK. I really like the vocals of this song, and I have no idea why. Vocals are never exactly the strongest part of BiS (not compared to the instrumentation), but I really like what the producer did with the vocals in MMGK. I almost want to say MMGK is electronic, but it's very loosely electronic. It's like... electro-rock? Not Fruits Clipper electro-rock, more like rock with some synthesizer and other electronic effects mixed into the song. The end result is one of the most memorable songs on Who Killed Idol? There's just such a great amount of energy in the song; it leaves quite the punch. MMGK left the strongest impression with me when I first listened to the album, and it's one of my favorite songs on Who Killed Idol?

My Rating:

9. BiSimulation

Another one of the many A-sides featured on Who Killed Idol? and also Wacky's last. Nice to see that they kept her vocals in the track and didn't re-record the song! Unfortunately, I am not a huge fan of BiSimulation. Oh, it isn't a horrible song. BiSimulation is... kind of just there. It's a shorter song that suffers from lack of a clear structure. Well, on the first listen it's hard to pick out the song structure. On further listens, it gets easier. But BiSimulation still feels very unstructured. Like all the vocals were just strung together one after the other without any discernible break between either the verses or the chorus. It's kind of cool, but not super-cool. BiSimulation is also about as close to the hard rock sound BiS embraced in Idol is Dead and Idol. I'm glad it doesn't go into full-out metal, but for such a loud song, BiSimulation still underwhelms me. I can't fault the energy of the song, but compared to the other A-sides on Who Killed Idol? BiSimulation isn't one of my favorites.

My Rating:

10. Error

So after the very loud BiSimulation is the very loud Error. But at least Error is more cohesive than BiSimulation. Error is another song that's more heavy on the electronica. In fact... there's a Dubstep break in the bridge of Error. Why do I keep running into those in idol songs I review!? Sweet Refrain, Invader Invader, why does it keep showing up like an uninvited guest in my house!? It's weird because other than that, Error remains relatively rock-ish. Or electronic rock-ish. But then it's like, bam! Random Dubstep breakdown! I don't understand it one bit. Then again, maybe I'm not supposed to. Admittedly, the Dubstep break is the thing that sticks out most with Error. Everything else is pretty much your typical BiS sound, very loud and abrasive. I mean, I enjoyed the song, but it wasn't like I was screaming for joy at the wonders in the song. Error is by no means an error! And honestly, I just really wanted to make that pun.

My Rating:

11. Nasty face

Nasty face? Isn't that what angry elementary-school kids call each other? Oh well, how does the song hold up? Nasty face starts out with such a sinister sound; I thought it was going to be similar to BiSimulation. But Nasty face turned out to be... I don't want to say happier, but more upbeat. Actually, Nasty face is one of my favorite album songs. I think there's such an awesome amount of energy in the song, and all the different parts work surprisingly well together! Nasty face sounds like something BiS might have released in their later indie era or maybe even their Idol Is Dead era to me. There's so much going on in this song, but it doesn't sound overcrowded the way StupiG did. All the instruments in this song end up sounding like this giant hodgepodge of noise that still somehow has a melody in it somewhere. Nasty face is scattered in a good way, and it has all the bite that makes BiS such an enjoyable idol group to listen to.

My Rating:

12. Fly

It just dawned on me how many A-side BiS had to cram into Who Killed Idol? I mean, I guess they had to, but damn, it makes the album long. Well, at least Fly is an awesome song! And it was also Mitchel's farewell song, so she gets a nice little solo between the second and last chorus. But what else sticks out with Fly? I said it in my single review and I'll say it again: Fly sounds so much like a Paramore song. Early Paramore, not the current Paramore; I have no idea what the hell current Paramore is doing with their music. As a middle-school fan of Paramore, I am 100% okay with BiS sounding like Paramore! Ah, it takes me back. Even though I enjoy Fly a lot, I always feel like I can never say much about the song. I think it's structured nicely, and the chorus serves as a great high note along with Mitchel's (surprisingly poignant) solo. It's just generic BiS, but since it's generic BiS, I am totally okay with that.

My Rating:

13. Hi

Back to back with Fly is the other A-side from that single and admittedly my least favorite. Well, it's between that and BiSimulation. I don't think either song is terrible, and Hi does have its strong points. It's a pretty energetic electro-rock song. But there are parts where Hi gets very annoying. Mainly just the chorus which consists of repeated background vocals over the main vocals. It's not the most annoying thing I've ever heard in idol music. I guess Hi just weirds me out as a song. Hi isn't something abnormal for BiS, but it sounds so... peppy. But not normal-idol peppy. Like being-on-drugs peppy. Whatever that feels like. And Hi is so short, the shortest song on the album! It starts and ends so quickly that every time it pops up on my shuffle, I'm not sure what I just listened to. I don't know, Hi is a fun song, but it doesn't grab me the way some of BiS's other A-sides have. So yeah. My opinion hasn't changed much from when I reviewed the single, huh?

My Rating:

14. Hide out cut (Who Killed Idol Ver.)

I am so happy Hide out cut made it to Who Killed Idol? Well... a version of Hide out cut made it to the album. Hide out cut (Who Killed Idol Ver.) is the same song with vocals from the new members. They basically did to Hide out cut what they did to Primal, My Ixxx, Idol, and Nerve on Idol is Dead. And I'm not completely sure I'm okay with that. Look, I love Hide out cut. Even with its really poorly written English lyrics, I still think it's a wonderful song. The piano is gorgeous, the chorus has the right level of emotion, and even the English lyrics grew endearing after awhile. And I listened to the original version so much that Hide out cut (Who Killed Idol Ver.) is a little jarring. The original B-side is better, but this album version of Hide out cut isn't horrid. There still are parts where I think I should be hearing Wacky or Yufu's voice and instead hear Uika's or Tenten's. The new vocals don't destroy the song, but if I had final say, I would have stuck with the original version.

My Rating:

15. Primal

No, don't confuse this with the Primal. from Idol is Dead! Or Primal.2. This Primal is actually a cover of The Yellow Monkey's song. I hadn't listened to the original version until after I'd listened to the BiS cover. My initial reactions before listening to the original was that BiS's Primal is a pretty cool rock song that sounds like a very appropriate sendoff for Who Killed Idol? My impressions after listening to the original? The original song is pretty great! I like The Yellow Monkey; I may listen to more of their stuff. Okay, okay, back to the BiS cover. Honestly, both songs are pretty much the same; the only difference is who's singing. And I think BiS's vocals fit with Primal. The song sounds like a farewell single, and it was for The Yellow Monkey. I guess it fits then for BiS to have Primal be their last song on their last album before disbanding and leaving us forever. Sigh. I think Primal may have tugged more at my heartstrings than the other Primal...

My Rating:

The Verdict

Listening to Idol is Dead was an experience for me that I don't think I properly emphasized. I was listening to previews on iTunes Japan for nearly a month because I couldn't find the album anywhere else. That was how pumped the album got me. And then when I listened to the full album? It blew my freaking mind! Keep in mind this was 2012 and I still had a long way to go in discovering idols. Idol is Dead was such a superb collection of sounds that, save for two songs I didn't care for, was quality on every single track. So Who Killed Idol? had a very high standard to reach. I didn't anticipate Who Killed Idol? with the same zeal I did Idol is Dead. I acknowledged the album was coming and was excited, but I wasn't clamoring to listen to the album. And after listening to Who Killed Idol? the first time, I didn't get the same feelings of euphoric bliss that I got from Idol is Dead. Is it because I'm used to BiS's music now? Part of me thinks that's what happened. And I also think that's also because this album was long. Fifteen total tracks, eight new is a lot of songs to pack into one album, and I think a few of them like Hi and BiSimulation could have been cut. Despite being A-sides. I love BiS, but Who Killed Idol? didn't leave as much of an impact with me as Idol is Dead did.

But what about as a stand-alone album? I always feel like a bit of a cheat when I go solely to the ol' "Compared to X, Y isn't as good!" complaint. Can Who Killed Idol? be a good album at least? Fortunately, yes. It just took me a few listens to get to that point. Who Killed Idol? is an album that you will either not care for or tolerate for the first few listens then reach a point of enjoyment. I think BiS tried their hardest to get as many different artists and sounds into the album, but there are parts where Who Killed Idol? sounds like an absolute clusterfuck. A train running onto a broken off track, if you get what I mean. The album still has some great songs on it though like MMGK, Nasty face and Primal. And even the weaker songs on Who Killed Idol? are still listenable. I can't fault BiS for trying, and Who Killed Idol? sounds so ambitious. Like BiS really wanted to go out on their last album with a huge, grand farewell. A lot of the songs on the album sounded like farewell songs, and overall, the album has this aura of... saying goodbye. Maybe that's just me thinking about their upcoming disbandment again. The last song on the album was the perfect track to close it out. Who Killed Idol? has its high points, its slightly-lower points, but overall, it still maintains all the weirdness that makes BiS such an interesting group to follow.

For those reasons, I give Who Killed Idol? four apples. BiS may not have killed idols, but they tried to, just like they tried to make Who Killed Idol? their ultimate farewell. While they may have tried a little too hard on some songs, the album overall still has an interesting mix of odd sounds and styles you don't find in many current idol groups. If you like BiS, then I'm sure you'll like this album. I did, even if I don't find it quite as good as Idol is Dead. Either way, I'm definitely going to miss BiS.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Last of AKB48

Uh... um... so... AKB48's songs have been really bland... how about that... yeah... eh... there's no way their latest A-side could be good... not at all... no way...


There. I said it. And I don't regret it. After two years, two years of absolutely forgettable A-sides, AKB48 has finally crawled out of its snake pit of mediocrity and released a decent A-side. No, it isn't amazing, no it's isn't their best song ever, but praise the almighty glowstick, it is a good song. That is all I've been asking from AKB48. Not a great song, not the rebirth of The Magic Flute, just a song that sounds like the producers were trying when they created it. And maybe they were! After all, Mae Shika Mukanee is Oshima Yuko's final single before graduating AKB48. I know, I know, Yuko gets her own graduation song, but Mae Shika Mukanee is still the last A-side with her in Senbatsu. And I was hoping that AKS would get their shit together for once and send Yuko out on a high note. Well... not a literal high note, because the vocal ranges of the AKB girls suck. But just a song that didn't sound as half-assed as everything they've been producing since 2012. I mean, Yuko's a top member of AKB48, so surely AKS could muster together something of quality for her last single, right? And by some convoluted miracle that probably involved a pact with Lord Kyary Goddess of the Underworld they did it! I don't know whether to be surprised or relieved or both.

Because it could have absolutely gone the other way into abysmal blandness. It's always been kind of a mixed bag with Yuko-centered songs. Heavy Rotation, the first song she centered was generic, but generic with enough energy and spirit (and catchiness!) to be a fun, memorable song. Kaze wa Fuiteiru, a double center with AKB48's previous ace Maeda Atsuko, was divisive with fans, but I personally thought that song was very pretty. And then Yuko solo-centered Gingham Check, a song I ripped to shreds because of how bland it was (fortunately, it was saved by one of my favorite idol PVs to ever have the pleasure of reviewing). After that was UZA, also a dull song saved by a glorious PV. She also kinda-sorta-not-really centered Sayonara Crawl, but let's not dwell on that styrofoam disguised as music. She's also centered several coupling songs and Team K songs that have ranged from really awesome to really boring. Yuko centering Mae Shika Mukanee didn't really matter. I've pretty much been expecting the worst when it comes to AKB48's music lately, so believe me, I had the bar set to zero regarding Mae Shika Mukanee.

But it's not! It's really not! Mae Shika Mukanee is... an alright song!!!

I may be making too much of a ruckus over such an alright song, but I shall continue to make a ruckus anyways! I'm an optimistic pessimist at heart and believe that even the smallest joys deserve celebration when overshadowed by terrible things. Also, their summer song is probably going to suck, so I have every right to enjoy this while it lasts! However, I can't emphasize enough that Mae Shika Mukanee is far from a great song. It's not going to win you over to AKB48 if you can't get into their music already, it's just a vaguely generic song that has enough going on to prevent it from sounding completely forgettable. The weirdest thing I found about Mae Shika Mukanee were the backing vocals. Did Aki-P pull a Tsunku and insert his vocals into the song? Some clearly male voices are chanting the "Wow wows" between the chorus and verses, kind of like how every AKB48 concert must sound. In fact, I got a very call-and-response vibe from Mae Shika Mukanee. Like it was written solely to be a crowd-pleasing song. You get one what I'm saying? It's probably one of those songs that gets the crowd pumped during performances. That doesn't mean the producers had to make it obvious by adding the vocals the audience is supposed to echo into the song though... The male vocals are the weirdest thing about Mae Shika Mukanee; everything else is pretty standard for AKB48.

But standard does not always mean bad. Okay, most of the time when I use the word it correlates with the term but not with Mae Shika Mukanee! While the song doesn't offer anything new for AKB48, it embraces its generic-ness and actually sounds like effort was put into making the song. Mae Shika Mukanee reminds me most of a Buono! song, maybe from the more pop-rock side of Buono!'s discography. Actually, you know what Mae Shika Mukanee sounds like the most? Hatsukoi Cider! It even starts with one sole person singing the chorus! Of course, those two people singing have vastly different levels of vocal talent... It makes sense to have Yuko open Mae Shika Mukanee alone, and throughout the song she has one or two small solos. I'm normally not a huge fan of solos in AKB48 songs (it kind of takes away from the whole "group singing" vibe), but I'm strangely okay with it. Maybe because I enjoy the song! Mae Shika Mukanee is such a happy song, but doesn't fall into the pitfall of sounding boringly happy! The energy levels in the song are great, especially (again) for a live concert. Mae Shika Mukanee won't win any awards for song production, but it's a song that's at least slightly less bland than AKB48's recent songs, so I'll take it.

You win this round, AKB48. But I'll be watching. And listening. And waiting for Aki-P to slip up and give you another bland song. Well, I'd prefer that not to happen, but you know! Always gotta keep my expectations lowered lest I want them crushed! Speaking of crushed expectations, let's check out the PV for Mae Shika Mukanee!

Yep. There's a set. And it kind of looks like a landfill...

Oh look, they're even dancing in outfits that looked like recycled juice boxes.

Actually, that's pretty much all they do in this PV. Sing and dance.

...are you guys bored? Because I'm bored.

Mmkay, I don't think there's anything else worth screencapping so... eh... fin!

Well, wasn't that pleasant and quality. Mae Shika Mukanee's PV might be a great contender for my favorite AKB48 music video ever made ever. Maybe even my favorite music video in general. It was truly that groundbreaking a PV. I feel as though I've been enlightened- oh forget it, even I cant try maintaining my sarcasm. That PV was boring. I have sat through some boring PVs, but Mae Shika Mukanee has got to be the most boring AKB48 PV I've reviewed. I mean, what a pile of nothingness. Is there anything worth of note in this PV!? It's basically a glorified dance shot! Hell, I've seen PVs from Hello! Project that had more effort put into them. And at least in some of H!P's more recent PVs, the dances have been cool to watch. I could do the dance for Mae Shika Mukanee. All the girls do is wave their arms up and down to engage the audience that we don't even see clearly. I know AKB48's PVs haven't been exactly stellar these past two years, but come on. Is this really the best that AKS could muster up, with all their loads of money and people from their creativity department? I have nothing else to say about this music video. It's boring and a complete waste of my time. Okay, I'll just average out the apple ratings and get this over with-

What's that? There's a drama version? Oh, you mean a two-hour long melodrama with bad acting and the same generic plot AKB48 uses for all of their drama PVs? Yeah, I'm sure that'll really bring some life into Mae Shika Mukanee. I'm not going to bother reviewing a 22-minute PV involving some mundane, everyday situation-

Oh my. Is that... Mayuyu carrying a gun?

Well, Paruru doesn't give a shit either way.

So is this like... the apocalypse? Did zombies kill all the other Senbatsu members?

Holy shit. Am I watching the right video?

I mean, are you sure this isn't... an episode of the Japanese Walking Dead?

And in the back you will see Paruru demonstrating a fine example of acting!

Seriously though, what happened!? Was it zombies!? Aliens!? The flying spaghetti monster!?

Oh god, that's disgusting.

Jurina, people are dead. No need to get that excited about scavenging through their stuff.

I keep feeling like something's gonna jump out at me.

So I think they're deciding on whether or not to pull a Scooby-Doo and split up.

What a pretty shot this is! The colors are so vibrant.

And the role of antagonist-required-in-every-drama-PV is... JURINA! What a surprise.

The Walking AKB48... it has a nice ring to it!

Now they're splitting up because- actually, why are they doing that? What about safety in numbers!?

I guess they changed it to safety in firearms.

Oh look, three-quarters of Not yet are in the group!

Are we in Spooky Idol Hell?

I'm not seeing any zombies yet... maybe this was a natural disaster?

More walking. It's like the PV for Aruiteiru if it were the apocalypse!

All right, they finally found shelter! And I'm sure nothing sketchy at all lies beyond that padlocked gate!

A shelter filled with food and provisions? Awesome! Except for one thing...

...who left all these supplies, hrm? HRM?

We'll just assume whoever left that goldmine of supplies is... not home. If you know what I mean.

Trouble arises when a static-filled distress call comes from the other group.

Good news! They're still alive.

Bad news! Jurina and Mayuyu are missing! (I'll bet they stole her sassy bandana and ran away!)

You know, it may be a little more poignant to show what happened to Jurina and Mayuyu.

Poor Yuko. I do enjoy her acting though.

Uh... did Yuko stumble into a deleted scene from Pan's Labyrinth?

The tree of keys is kind pretty. Kind of creepy, but pretty.

Note how the key Yuko picks up says 35 in Roman numerals (that's important!).

Is this place like a hotel? War bunker? Brothel? Theatre?

A-ha! A match! But should some doors stay locked?

What lays beyond the door of Room 35?

A... gateway to heaven? I'm getting serious heaven vibes from this shot.

OH. So that's how the junky dance set ties in to the PV!!!

And the entire song is just Yuko's imagination, isn't it!?

Along with the audience! I like this! I really, really like this!!!

It all makes sense now.

Oh, and Jurina and Mayuyu made it to Yuko's imaginary concert! Yay!

So yeah, you know what happens from here. They sing, they dance, watch the short PV.

And we finally see the rest of the Senbatsu!

While Yuko's ascending to a higher plane of existence, Yui and Paruru find the tree of keys!

And yes, that key says 36. As in 36th single. You do the math.

Damn. And I thought the song was surprising. The full PV for Mae Shika Mukanee was... wow. Definitely didn't expect that. I mean I was honestly expecting a generic drama PV with a really cliche story that somehow ties in with performing the song. You know, every other drama PV AKB48 has released. But Mae Shika Mukanee's drama PV is dark. Hell, it's post-apocalyptic! Is this going to be a trend from now on that popular members graduating go out with apocalyptic music videos? First Acchan graduated with Manatsu no Sounds good! a cheerful song with a dark PV and now Yuko's doing the same with Mae Shika Mukanee! Of course, Mae Shika Mukanee's drama PV isn't anywhere near as violent as the PV for Manatsu no Sounds good! On the plus side, there are no gratuitous bikini shots in Mae Shika Mukanee! Actually, I was really surprised at how well the tone was kept in this PV. I thought there was going to be an awkward segway into the song part, but everything transitioned very well! And now the recycled outfits and dump of a dance set make sense! Because it was all in Yuko's imagination! The cheering crowd, all the other Senbatsu members, all of it was just a daydream created to get away from the brutality of surviving in an post-apocalyptic wasteland with only a few friends left. Very cheerful, I know.

Let's talk a little more about the Senbatsu in Mae Shika Mukanee. In the drama PV, only half the girls are in it; the rest are just in the song portion. Even then, the main focus of the drama PV is Yuko. It's also focused a bit on Jurina and Mayuyu (and Paruru and Yui at the end), but still, mostly Yuko. At first, I was kind of miffed that only half the Senbatsu appeared in the drama PV, but on rewatch, it makes sense. Having only a small number of girls in this PV adds to that feeling of emptiness as they wander through the environment. Having all the Senbatsu appear would just take away from that isolation. And I like the decision to center the PV on Yuko, and not just because it's her last A-side in AKB48. I think a story like this one needs to be carried by someone who can show a decent emotional range, and of all the members present, I think Yuko's the most capable. I've always thought Yuko to be a pretty decent actress by idol standards, and she's very captivating to watch, especially when she's alone. You can see exactly what emotions she's feeling by just looking at her face and body language. I think if someone like Paruru had been given the role Yuko played, the story of the drama PV wouldn't have as much of an impact.

Speaking of Paruru, I wouldn't be surprised if she centered AKB48's next single. Why? Not counting indie singles, Mae Shika Mukanee is AKB48's 35th single. This is why the key Yuko grabbed said 35 in Roman numerals. She then centered the song in her little fantasy that I'll get into in a moment. Paruru on the other hand grabbed the key that had 36 on it, which would be the number of AKB48's summer single. Thus it implies that Paruru is centering AKB48's next single. I mean, you don't really need a symbolic music video to deduce that, but I still thought it was a nice little touch! AKS adores Paruru (despite numerous protests from everyone else), and I think she'll do fine centering AKB48's next single. I do wonder why they also included Yui in that scene though. She's also shown picking up a key, but I couldn't see the number. Is she centering the fall single maybe? I think Yui and Paruru were meant to represent the next generation that AKS is trying to push as all the older members graduate. Kind of like what they did in Manatsu no Sounds good! only with less fanservice. I liked the way they showed that shift with the mystical tree and all the keys dangling from it. It was very... ethereal!

In general, I got a very ethereal feeling from the drama PV the moment Yuko found that tree. With the glowing lights, the fact that a tree full of keys on it exists, and then Yuko entering that stage area. What I took away from this part was Yuko essentially dying in the PV's storyline. Why else would there be so much light? The entire hallway was dimly lit, so why such a bright light in that doorway? Because it symbolizes Yuko leaving AKB48 in the hands of a younger generation (aka Yui and Paruru and all those other whipper-snappers) and ascending to whatever awaits her beyond AKB48. In the drama PV alone, I still see it as her dying. I also think that Jurina and Mayuyu joining her in the end also implied that they died in whatever happened outside (it's times like these I regret the language barrier). And together they're all going to a place where they can sing and dance to their heart's content without having to struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. That also explains why in the dance part of the PV all three of them dance individually without the rest of the Senbatsu. Again, I love the way that ties into the dance PV. It's so much fun having all those pieces click into place, and it makes me appreciate the original PV much more now!

The one thing that I'm unclear on is what exactly happened. I know that the world this PV takes place in is post-apocalyptic, but how did it come to be that way? Was it a pandemic? A natural disaster? Aliens? I don't think the context really applies to the story, but there are parts when I wish the drama PV expanded on what happened. Especially when Yuko gets that distress call. Until that point, I could pretty easily follow the PV despite the language barrier. But from there, it was difficult piecing together the story, and I'm still not sure I have the correct narrative. And apocalyptic stories are interesting. Much more interesting than a one-hour drama about a ballerina school and a cassette tape. I think this is one of the few drama PVs where I wish it had been longer. I loved seeing the girls explore around both rural and urban areas devoid of human life. They could have just been doing that for an hour, and I probably would have watched the whole thing. Unlike all these mundane stories reliant on dialogue, this drama PV is carried by its environment. I just wish that they had taken a little bit more time to delve further into that environment. Then again, with a PV like Mae Shika Mukanee, you can always fill in the pieces yourself as to what happened to the world. My theory is zombies.

Overall, I am very, very, very, very happy I didn't pass up on the drama version of Mae Shika Mukanee. In fact, you shouldn't pass up on it either, so here. Watch it. The drama PV is exponentially better than the original PV, adding depth and drama to what was originally a generic dance shot. The PV gives these wonderful layers and creates an interesting story about ascension and passing the torch on to the next generation. The nice thing about the drama PV for Mae Shika Mukanee is that it relies on a storyline that isn't dialogue-heavy, so if you're foreign like me, it's (for the most part) easy to follow. And it's a compelling story. The environments used in this PV range from grainy and dim to bright and colorful. One possible drawback is if you like seeing all the Senbatsu members, you don't in this PV, but I personally didn't mind. I think this PV delivered a good story with a good background and a satisfying conclusion. And best of all, it was a creative, even poignant way of saying farewell to Yuko. It's like taking all the best ideas of Manatsu no Sounds good! and ditching the bikini shots! The final result? My favorite AKB48 I've reviewed since UZA. But the question is... do I rate the original PV or the drama PV? I mean, technically this isn't the official PV so...

Oh what the hell, I'll use the drama PV! So collectively, I give Mae Shika Mukanee four apples! The song is a pleasant listen from AKB48 and so much better than their recent A-sides. It's still not amazing, but good is a level of quality I'll take from AKB48 right now. Watch the drama PV for Mae Shika Mukanee; it's got a more complex story than the original PV and serves as a great sendoff for Yuko.