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.


  1. Actually this song gave me Chiisana Koi no Uta vibes from Mongol800 in the beginning....
    And funny enough Yuko's grad song reminds me in the chorus of Omoide no Hotondo.... Has the same beat O_O

    Back on the PV there is a subbed video

    And love your comments on Pan's Labyrinth and 3/4 of Not Yet!!! couldn't stop laughing ^^

    1. Oh my god... I just listened to Chiisana Koi no Uta and you are totally right. It's almost eerie how that and Mae Shika Mukanee sound alike! Same with Omoide no Hotondo...

      Thank you for the subs! Now the music video makes a little more sense! And it makes me like the drama PV even more!

      Thank you, I try to be humorous on occasion. With varying success but I put forth an effort!



    Well that PV was misleading.