Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Surprisingly Sad Story of a Dandelion

Deeming Nogizaka46's string of good singles not a fluke is a concept that scares me.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I love that Nogizaka46 has finally gotten some decent music and some really good music videos. They're pretty much the only '48 group that I've found interesting lately. But I keep wondering, "Will it last?" Is Nogizaka46 going to reach the same point that AKB48 has and stagnate? Or did they already go through their phase of god-awful songs? Have the producers of Nogizaka46 just finally gotten their shit together and figured out what sound and image works best for Nogizaka46? Around the time of Seifuku no Mannequin, I wasn't sure. At the time, I was half-convinced that song was just a fluke, along with the music video. Kimi no Na wa Kibou was a very pretty, albeit simple song. Then Girl's Rule came along, and that was a fun summer song with a surprisingly pretty, nostalgic music video. And then Barrette broke into a men's club carrying machine guns and became the best '48 release of 2013. Barrette set a pretty high bar for Nogizaka46's next single, musically and visually. I wasn't sure if Nogizaka46 would be able to top that. Now here we are. Kizuitara Kataomoi is, crazily enough, Nogizaka46's eighth single and their first of the chunk of '48 singles we can expect this year. Now how does Kizuitara Kataomoi hold up against AKB, SKE, NMB, and HKT's spring singles?

My verdict? It's the best one so far.

My hope is that Nogizaka46 will release an eve better song this year than Kizuitara Kataomoi, but you know, baby steps. I've found that the easiest thing to do when expecting idol releases is... not to expect them. I'm not saying keep expectations low, just don't hold any. Be prepared for anything to happen, good or bad. That being said... Kizuitara Kataomoi is beautiful. Good god, I could listen to this song all day. Actually, I kind of have. It's one of the idol songs this year I've been playing the most. And it's one of the first singles this year to stick in my head easily. What to say about this song, what to say... well, other than the fact that it's wonderful. I wouldn't say Kizuitara is a ballad, it's too upbeat for that, but there is still a very wistful tone to the song. I actually like that the song isn't a ballad, and you'll see why when I talk about the PV. And there's something about the song structure that's very... different from what I thought it was going to sound like. I mean different in a good way! Like the way the verses are sung very quickly and then the chorus slows down is a strange vocal choice, but it surprisingly works well. In fact, I think that distinct vocal structure (that doesn't sound like every other '48 song) just made Kizuitara Kataomoi stand out even more.

You know what song Kizuitara Kataomoi reminds me most of? Connect by ClariS. Connect is definitely more orchestral but the general sound of both songs is very similar. They're both uplifting songs with pretty piano, light, delicate vocals, and a gorgeous key change at some point. God, I am such a sucker for key changes. Even in terrible songs, I still like the key changes. And the one in Kizuitara Kataomoi is gorgeous. Connect is one of my favorite idol songs, so its similarities to Kizuitara Kataomoi are completely okay with me. I'd rather it be similar to Connect than to other '48 songs. As I said before, this is a very pretty song. The strings in particular struck me as pretty, along with the subtle piano played throughout the song. I just love the entire arrangement of Kizuitara Kataomoi, and it keeps growing on me the more I listen to the song. I mean, I already liked Kizuitara Kataomoi on my first listen, but I feel like each time I replay it, the song sounds better. I guess the song is just like wine and gets better with time.

Something else that I like about Kizuitara Kataomoi are the lyrics. The only time I really pay attention to idol lyrics is when they're good lyrics. A majority of Aki-P's lyrics aren't really worth talking about, but I find Kizuitara Kataomoi's to be surprisingly touching. I guess because I find unrequited love to be a more interesting topic to sing about than the other kind? And there's just something about Kizuitara Kataomoi's lyrics that sounds very, very sad. Reading the translation, I can just hear the desperation and conflicted frustration and bitter acceptance in the lyrics of the song. The lyrics being well-written just make Kizuitara Kataomoi an even better song! I'm serious, this is probably so far my favorite '48 release this year, and considering most groups' outputs, it will probably end up being my favorite overall. Unless another group decides to blow me away again. Which I don't expect happening any time soon. After all, it's not like me using reverse psychology would work, right? Back to Kizuitara Kataomoi, I really do love this song. The song has such a beautiful and memorable tone to it. Kizuitara Kataomoi may even be my favorite Nogizaka46 song. It at least tops Barrette!

But that's just songs. Barrette was an all right song, and there are many '48 songs that are better. The real question is this: can Kizuitara Kataomoi's PV top Barrette? I mean the PV for Barrette was freaking awesome. It would be damn hard for Nogizaka46 to come up with an even better PV than Barrette. So did they? Only one way to find out!

How does Kizuitara Kataomoi begin? With a dandelion, a single little dandelion that will prove very important to this story.

And also there's Nanase, member of Nogizaka46 who will also prove very important to this story!

Mainly because she's dying of an unspecified illness.

It's probably the same one that Matsui Jurina died of in Sakura no Ki ni Narou.

Now since there are captions in this music video, I'm just going to repost the English translations from this subbed video. This one says, "Am I dead?"

"God... I beg you for some more time..."

Well, everything's blurred, there's a bright light, this can only mean one thing...

This is a pretty shot, very ethereal. Which makes sense given the context of the PV.

There is nothing worse than that gut-drop feeling when you're told a loved one has died.

I'm not completely sure what happens in this scene, but Mai's involvement is important.

"The time I can stay on this world, maybe as long as the dandelion still has seeds."

Here's Nanase, looking very much alive!

And even better, she's center of Nogizaka46's next single!

What could possibly go wrong now, am I right?

Let's just hope that little dandelion left in the middle of a field doesn't lose its seeds!

"In this case, time is running out."

Mai obviously understands the gravity of the situation.

"Nanase, you push yourself too much."

Ah, a rooftop, the best place to hold insightful conversations and confess things!

"For me, there is not enough time."

Another attempt by Nanase to lessen awkwardness between herself and Mai...

...unfortunately does not go as well as planned.

Rina properly calls out Mai for her prickly behavior towards Nanase.

"You behave so cold because of jealousy, don't you?"

I actually really like Mai's character in this PV. Usually, that rival/antagonist character is very trite, but Mai's emotions feel very justified.

I mean, she's only acting so cold to distance herself from the knowledge that Nanase can't stick around forever.

"It's not true! It's only because Mai is worried about my health..."

And then... the inevitable happens.

The dandelion starts to wear down and so does Nanase.

But that doesn't stop Mai from rushing out to protect the little dandelion.

How long can she protect before the elements blow it away though?

"I will protect Nanase's life."

I actually feel really sorry for Mai in this PV, you can tell how much Nanase's immutable death is affecting her.

And it makes her hug with Nanase afterward all the more heartwarming.

Actually, this entire part is very, very heartwarming.

"Everybody... Sorry I've kept it as a secret."

Another insightful rooftop conversation with Nanami.

This time Nanase's reflecting on how grateful she is to be able to perform.

And now the members give their all into preparing for the performance!

Despite the dandelions seeds slowly blowing away...

Even though Nanase coughs up seeds (What?), she still perseveres!

Of course they take a picture for memory!

The night of the performance arrives, with Nanase not doing so well.

Nonetheless, she gets on stage and they all dance the night away!

Meanwhile, the dandelion grows smaller and smaller...

...until finally there are no seeds left.

And so Nanase gives one last look to her team members and friends.

Then, with no ties left to this earth, she disappears into a puff of dandelion seeds.

And in my opinion, that makes for a perfect ending to this little story.

I do wonder how the girls explained that to the audience though...

The final shot lingers on the last picture of Nanase, with a dandelion seed (very subtly) fallen over her head, thus concluding our story.

Wow... just... wow. I'm not being facetious, that really was my first reaction when I watched the PV for Kizuitara Kataomoi. And that was before I even knew what the music video was really about! The story for Kizuitara Kataomoi is simple, but I was completely invested watching the entire music video for the first time. Because while Kizuitara Kataomoi story's is simple, it's a good story. To really know what the music video was about though, I did need some more context, which is my way of saying I needed subtitles. Unlike some music videos that have unnecessary subtitles, I highly recommend watching Kizuitara Kataomoi with subtitles if you do not speak Japanese. You can still follow the story without subtitles, but many of the little gaps are filled when you know understand the writing and the dialogue. In fact, here's a video with the subtitles. There, you don't even have to actively search for one now! So what are you waiting for!? Watch it! Love it! Build a shrine to- okay, not that last one. But do enjoy the music video for Kizuitara Kataomoi, because it is a good one. Maybe even better than Barrette...

As you can deduce, I am completely enthralled with Kizuitara Kataomoi. I love the story, the connection to the song, the ending, everything. It actually reminds me very much of a fairy tale told in a contemporary setting. A girl almost dies but is given one more chance to live so long as this one little dandelion keeps its seeds. But nature marches on and the dandelion can only keeps its seeds for so long, and the girl is able to give one final performance as center of Nogizaka46 before dissolving into a bunch of little dandelion seeds. I mean, couldn't you see that as a Hans Christian Anderson story!? Well, maybe without all the religious morals, but still! I like how the story of Kizuitara Kataomoi is simple and doesn't try to explain how a weed is keeping a girl alive or why said girl dissolves into dandelions at the end. It just presents a story and expects the viewer to go along with the strange circumstances the same way the characters in the story do. Just like a fairy tale! And I also love how the story is interwoven with elements of real life and Nogizaka46 itself. That realism combined with fantasy gives the story much more poignancy. It even adds sadness to the PV because you just know how much stress all these girls go through striving for a center position.

To me, Kizuitara Kataomoi is as sad as, maybe even sadder than, Sakura no Ki ni Narou. But it's hard to compare since both are so similar and so good. Both music videos involve the death of a friend along with flowers and- hold on. Is Kizuitara to Nogizaka46 what Sakura no Ki ni Narou was to AKB48? Two beautiful PVs with slight otherworldly themes that involve passing on? I guess if I wanted to explore the rivalry aspect of Nogizaka46 (lord knows I'd do it better than AKS does), I could easily make several comparisons between Kizuitara Kataomoi and Sakura no Ki ni Narou. And they're both spring singles! Wait a minute... does that also make Barrette for Nogizaka46 the same to what Beginner was for AKB48? Of course, not in terms of songs; Barrette as a song can't even compare to Beginner. But as for the music videos... both Beginner and Barrette's PVs were dark and surprisingly violent for their respective idol groups. Is Nogizaka46 turning into a better version of AKB48!? Is their summer single going to feature nods to their previous music videos a la Everyday Kachuusha!? But then they'd have to make a nod to Oide Shampoo... eugh.

Back on subject, Kizuitara Kataomoi's PV is definitely up there with the sad idol music videos I've watched. The PV doesn't have me crying buckets or anything, but when I was watching it, I still felt sad. It was a... bittersweet kind of sad. You know, the kind when you know something's going to happen and you know you can't prevent it, so you just try your best to come to terms with it until it happens. That kind of sad... it kind of sucks. The more I think about it, I don't really see a lot of truly sad idol PVs. Lots of happy ones, serious ones, bright ones, edgy ones, cheap ones, but never any that make me feel sad while watching them. I can maybe count on one hand the number of sad idol PVs that I've watched. Kizuitara Kataomoi invoked a lot of the same emotions from me that Sakura no Ki ni Narou did. There was just the right amount of story and emotion that the PV didn't come as melodramatic or phony. I like also that the PV is only around 10 minutes long as opposed to a full-blown drama PV; I think lengthening the story would just kill the emotional levels of the PV. That's why so many of AKB48's "drama PVs" fail for me. They don't properly raise the stakes, and spend too much time meandering and not doing anything interesting. With Kizuitara Kataomoi, they don't waste much time in telling the story and showing how it effects the girls in the PV.

I think the only thing I may have liked to see more of in Kizuitara Kataomoi is the more magical side of the story. The idea is great and The outdoors shots showing the dandelion are beautiful, and it would have been nice to explore more nature scenes like that. But other than that, I don't really have any other criticisms for this PV. I will admit, initially I didn't really get any connection between the meaning of the song and the PV. The song is about unrequited love between a girl and a boy, and the music video is obviously not. But the more I thought about it, I realized that maybe the unrequited love in the PV is between Nanase and her desire to perform in Nogizaka46. It kind of fits with the story, and I think gives even more poignance to the PV. Even if that's not what the music video is supposed to mean, I still felt like there was a lot of good emotion in this PV. Acting in idol PVs ranges from decent to Z-movie material, and the acting in Kizuitara Kataomoi thankfully falls closer to the former. Again, it's a simple storyline that only requires simple emotions, and I think the girls handled those emotions well.

Overall, I'm impressed with Kizuitara Kataomoi more than I ever thought I would be. After Barrette, I kind of figured that whatever Nogizaka46 released next probably wouldn't be as good, but Kizuitara Kataomoi is amazing. I think at this point I can say that Nogizaka46's string of good singles isn't a fluke anymore. I don't know how, but at some point management got their shit together and started developing a better image and better songs for Nogizaka46. Now I think I finally understand what Nogizaka46's management is going for with them. What I get from watching their music videos is a cleaner, simpler, and more classic image than any of their sister groups. Even the way they dress is very reminiscent of older idol groups such as Onyanko Club. I think Nogizaka46 works better as the "updated" version of an 80s idol group more than they do as "rivals" of AKB48. Although considering the sales of Kizuitara Kataomoi have been their highest yet, Nogizaka46 might be more formidable rivals to AKB48 now than they've ever been in the past. I think Kizuitara Kataomoi is my favorite music video from them. This one or Barrette. The PV for Kizuitara has a wonderful story and a wonderful way of exploring that story, making for a music video that is both enchanting and melancholic.

Yeah, this is a five apples kind of release. I think Kizuitara Kataomoi is Nogizaka46's strongest release yet, and I can only hope that their next single is even stronger. Kizuitara Kataomoi is a beautiful song with a really distinct melody that's refreshing to hear from a '48 group. The music video matches perfectly to video, delivering a wonderfully sweet and even sad story that had me invested the entire time. Whether Nogizaka46's follow-up to this will be good or bad, I can't say, but I'm (tentatively) anticipating it.


  1. Thanks a lot for the review... this song is like a drug for me... I keep going back for more.... loved the concept, everything...

    and usually the lyrics and PVs does not go hand in hand, specially in japan...
    and if i were match the lyrics with the PV I'd say they were in Mai's point of view, specially how cold she is in the beginning trying to not get hurt by inevitable death of her friend that she knows is coming... but she couldn't help herself and gets involved anyway....

    as for this being the best I see no reason to say otherwise.... specially now that I've seen Labrador Retriever PV.... I can't find words to express how awful it is....

    you could make a ranking of the worst 48 group PVs ever...

    1. You're welcome! Yeah, Kizuitara Kataomoi just gets better and better over time.

      I figured the lyrics don't have much to do with the PV, it's just something I always like to speculate on for fun! I get what you're saying about Mai though, the song being from her point of view makes a lot of sense! And only makes that storyline even sadder...

      Labrador Retriever... I don't even know where to start with that pile of dog poop.

      You know, I just might. Or maybe worst '48 songs ever. Or both!

    2. do you want to know something that made me shocked O_O?????

      is finding people that actually liked the song and the pv for labrador in stage48.... i was just like... REALLY?!?! i hoped for more dissatisfaction....

      but that just shows me that people's tastes are different...

      that pv is weird and awful no matter how many times i see it... i'll concede this though: takamina's part was funny... that's it....

    3. WHAT!? The one thing that everyone in Stage48 can agree on is that Labrador Retriever is GOOD!?

      I don't get forums.

      The PV isn't the worst I've seen (but I've seen lots of bad PVs), but it is really, really weird. And not in the fun Kyarypamyupamyu way.

  2. This single is such a solid and good single, all the pv's and songs in it were all so good! (Romance no Start's PV was really fun to watch)

    This is probably my favorite single from them and It'll be hard to top this, but hey, feel free to surprise everyone again Nogizaka46, I'll be waiting.

    1. I know, it is a really solid single, especially from Nogizaka46. I liked the B-side PVs too, they were all super fun and cool!

      I am hoping that Nogizaka46 can surprise us all again! They've done it consecutively several times now, I'd hate for them to break their streak...

  3. You know, some Nogi fans don't like when Nogizaka46 is being compared (or worse, considered similar with) 48 family. Every time you mentioned '48 releases' to refer to Nogi singles, it feels kinda sad ;A;

    Well it's not like I can do anything about it because too many people did the same thing lol. But now that you are into some of their singles, I'm hoping in the future that you could compare Nogi more to the general idols, not just with 48 family.

    But again, that's just my two cents. At least I provided you with some kinda different point of view.

    Anyway, I love your writings about Nogizaka46! Especially after they 180-ed you :)

    1. Oh really? I did not know that... The only reason I refer to Nogizaka46's release as '48 releases, is because AKB48 is the reason they were established and ultimately is run by many of the same minds behind the '48 groups.

      I compare Nogizaka46's songs to other '48 release (mainly AKB48), because technically, they're still "rivals." It's just my way of measuring up how Nogizaka46's releases stand against their "rival group" AKB48.

      I do understand where you're coming from though, and I'll try and keep that in mind when I'm reviewing Nogizaka46's future singles!