Saturday, May 31, 2014

Time Capsule Reviews: Laser Beam/Kasuka na Kaori

The most popular release on the Time Capsule Review poll turned out to be... something by Perfume! Good, that either means I have lots of Perfume fans reading this blog, or I'm slowly but surely converting all of you to Perfume fans. Either way, May's Time Capsule Review is Laser Beam/Kasuka na Kaori, originally released May 18, 2011! Wow, that was over three years ago... it's crazy to think how much time has gone by since then.

And just to clarify, yes, I will be reviewing both PVs off this single. I thought about reviewing just one or the other, but when it came down to it, I realized I could talk about a lot of stuff with both the A-sides off this single! But let's start with Laser Beam, the first of the two A-sides! Ah, I remember when Perfume announced this song like it was yesterday. I remember feeling so excited for it, as I do with every Perfume single, and the wait for it being particularly excruciating. Not as bad as the wait between ⊿ and Fushizen na Girl/Natural ni Koishite, but still longer than I would have liked it to be. The first glimpse of Laser Beam came when Perfume announced the song would be used to endorse Kirin, a brand of fruity, delicious adult drinks (if you know what I mean). The snippet was only about 15 seconds long from what I remember, but I was hooked. Then the full radio rip came out, and I was even more hooked. Laser Beam on the first listen was fast, tight, and very, very catchy. I remember jamming to it profusely when the song came out, and even more so when the PV came out. Laser Beam was just a super fun song, and in 2011, I was in dire need of a fun song.

In retrospect, even though I think Laser Beam is a strong A-side, it's not my favorite. It's not even in my top 20 Perfume songs. So what works about Laser Beam? Well, as a I said before, the hook is great. The opening instrumental to Laser Beam sounds like something out of a video game. A really fun video game where you get to blast giant polar bears with laser beams. And Laser Beam has such a distinct sound when you first hear it. In the era of commercial-friendly jingles that was JPN, Laser Beam, despite being a commercial jingle, is actually a pretty cool song. It sounds kind of like something you'd hear out of an action movie, not a drink commercial. But while Laser Beam is a very cool Perfume song, I think where it falls flat for me is that it's a little too fast. I mean, the song just kind of flies by before you even realize it's over. And the verses are a little bit lackluster compared to the really strong chorus that opens the song. But not so much that Laser Beam is a terrible song. I just think the song could have been a little longer and maybe not as frantic-sounding. But hey, at least it doesn't sound like Daijobanai. I'm still not okay with that B-side. It's probably one of the better songs of JPN era to check out if you're looking to get into Perfume.

I do want to go over the Album-mix of Laser Beam, because I don't feel I properly went over it when I reviewed JPN so many moons ago. Basically... the original Laser Beam is 10 times better than Laser Beam (Album-mix). Disregard anyone who says otherwise. They are lying. Actually, there are people who prefer the Album-mix, but I personally think it detracts some of the best parts from the original. Like that really neat opening! And the vocals in Laser Beam (Album-mix) are chopped up and distorted. There are a few cool additions, but not many and certainly not enough to make Laser Beam (Album-mix) better than the original. Overall, I just don't think the Album-mix works very well. It tries too hard to sound different, and the final result is something that sounds choppy and incomplete. My advice: stick with the original version which can be found on either the single or Perfume Global Compilation "Love the World." Other than that, I don't have much else to say about Laser Beam other than it's a really cool A-side with a very grabbing sound to it. I like Laser Beam a lot back when it came out, and looking back on it, I think it's still one of my favorite A-sides of the JPN era. It's not quite as good as Fushizen na Girl but better than Voice.

Admittedly, I don't have much to say about Laser Beam. However, I have lots to say about the PV. In fact, some of you probably remember I listed Laser Beam as one of my favorite Perfume PVs. Wonder why? Well, I will show you why and hopefully persuade you all to go watch it!

Well, the PV opens in a mysterious hallway with a mysterious man carrying a mysterious briefcase.

I'll bet that briefcase contains the data for Imitation World, Counter Attraction, Lovefool, and Juicy Fragrance.

There's the Perfume we know and love!

And they've got frickin' LASER BEAMS!!!

But will laser beams be enough to stop our fabulously-dressed antagonist?

Either way, Perfume's gonna try (and they're gonna look awesome while doing it!).

First they're gonna pull a Scooby-doo and split up!

Psst have you guys seen a sketchy guy with a briefcase?

Man alive, I forgot how good A-chan looked in this PV.

I mean dayum.

I forgot how spiffy Kashiyuka looked with side bangs too... can we bring those back?

But look, more frickin' laser beams!!! Gosh darn it, those look so cool.

Everything about this PV is cool. We haven't even gotten to the super-cool stuff yet.

But we're getting close. Sketchy Briefcase Man can't hide forever.

Until then, let's enjoy more glamorous shots of A-chan!

And Nocchi's rocking it pretty hard in this PV too.

Enough stalling! It's time for the penultimate confrontation! Perfume...

...versus Sketchy Briefcase Man. Who will prevail? Let's see!

A-chan, I don't think stern talking-to is going to make him hand over that briefcase.

See? Kashiyuka knows when there needs to be less words and more action!


> It's super effective!

But what's this!? HE LIVES!

And he's transformed into his true form! A... polar bear? A POLAR BEAR! OH NO!

How can our heroines defeat him now!?

An apple a day keeps the evil polar bears away. That's how the saying goes, right?

And now to finish this polar bear off once and for all!

That polar bear must be a vegetarian! Good thing too!

With their powers combined, the girls make...


The greatest thing ever in a Perfume PV leaves our antagonist as a sweet, benign stuffed polar bear. Adorable!

And so the day is saved and A-chan's found the 4th member of Perfume!

And we finally found out what was in that mysterious briefcase!

Another job well done for the Powerpuff- I mean Perfume! Perfume!

The dance ends with one kickass power pose and then Perfume leaves to go work on JPN. The end!

Now I don't know who remembers this, but the release date for Laser Beam/Kasuka na Kaori had to be pushed back. Because March 11, 2011 the Sendai earthquake and tsunami occurred. Originally, the single was going to be released April 20, 2011 but was pushed back to May 18. I bring this up because at the time of the earthquake, Perfume was midway through shooting the PV for Laser Beam. Hence the version that appeared on video domains like M-ON! and SSTV is an incomplete version that's around two and a half minutes long. Which is understandable, I'm sure the last thing anyone in Japan was worrying about was a full PV for Laser Beam. Still, I did wonder if there would ever be a full version of Laser Beam; the short version showed promise and a visually striking concept. Luckily, Laser Beam wasn't fated to have only a short PV. Perfume ended up filming the rest of the PV, and the full version was included on the DVD edition of their JPN album. This explains the contrast between the two sets of the PV: the white/neutral one, and the slightly more colorful, vibrant room where the girls confront the villain of the PV.

Honestly, I'm kind of glad that the producers didn't finish the original PV. I mean, I'm not happy with the circumstances that prevented it from being finished, but I like the later changes added to the PV. Because the short version, while it isn't by any means a terrible PV, it is kind of monotonous. The girls all look wonderful, and the dance is great, and there is some intrigue with the briefcase man. But most of the short PV for Laser Beam is either showing the girls walking around or making pretty poses or dancing. They do a great job at that, but two minutes and thirty-seven seconds of just that gets a little bit boring. If the PV had ended there, and a full version of Laser Beam was never completed, I'd have a much different opinion about the PV. The added scenes to Laser Beam transform the PV from just a nice-looking PV with good choreography to a fun, action-packed PV with a surprising amount of humor and silliness. As much as I love Perfume's PVs, the majority of them are always very refined and mature and sophisticated, especially as the girls have grown older. Coming after a string of artsy PVs at the time, the PV for Laser Beam is refreshingly nonsensical and fun. I mean, the girls fight a polar bear. That's ultimately defeated by an apple and the titular laser beams.

One of my favorite things about this PV is the concept: female spies. I've always been fascinated by espionage, and I love watching PVs that are a little more action-packed and aren't just posing and dancing. In Laser Beam, the girls still dance, but the climax between them and the villain is golden. From the moment they enter that room and confront the villain, it's just nonstop fun! And everything before that isn't too bad either. The girls are decked out in snazzy black getups with high heels walking around searching for a mysterious briefcase. And the mysterious villain is like something out of a Bond movie. I'd like to think of the first half of this PV as building up the tension between the villain and Perfume, increasing anticipation for the chase to end and the confrontation to begin. Laser Beam is one of Perfume's shorter songs, and surprisingly, I think the pacing for this PV is handled pretty well. I could have easily seen this PV being too hastily edited to cram everything together, but the sequence of events is actually handled pretty well. My favorite part of the PV though is definitely the ending fight scene. There's something very epic about watching the members of Perfume combine their "powers" into one giant laser beam and then taking down a polar bear.

So yes, in case you can't tell yet, I love this PV. I mean, if you read my top 10 Perfume music videos post, then you probably knew that already. But what I love most about Laser Beam is that it combines the sleek, polished image of Perfume with a fun and kind of silly storyline. Just that this PV has a storyline is cool; not many Perfume PVs do. And this PV has someone else who isn't a Perfume member in it, another rarity for a Perfume PV! The elements familiar to most Perfume PVs are done well too. I love the dance for Laser Beam, and I love that the PV incorporated actual laser beams (yes, I know they're light beams but it's more fun to think of them laser beams). The styling is perfect for this PV too, and the girls look great. Even the outfit the villain wears is very distinct, with that crazy mask and black-and-white suit. And having the villain transform into a polar bear is simultaneously the weirdest and most hilarious plot twist I've seen in a Perfume PV. But the great thing is the girls just go with it! It's almost like something out of a cartoon! Overall, Laser Beam has all the great visuals of a Perfume PV and an entertaining storyline to go with it. It's the best of both worlds, and the final product is one of my favorite Perfume music videos.

I'll give Laser Beam four and half apples. It's a strong Perfume A-side, with a very distinctive sound. The real fun comes from the PV, which as I've said as one of my favorites. Just make sure to watch the full version and not the short version. So with Laser Beam out of the way, how does Kasuka na Kaori hold up? Does Laser Beam shoot it down with a giant red laser beam? Let's find out before I come up with more Laser Beam puns.

At the time, I didn't have quite as much excitement for Kasuka na Kaori as I did Laser Beam. Oh sure, I was still excited for it (it was a Perfume song after all), but Laser Beam got a lot more promotion earlier than Kasuka na Kaori did. In fact, I don't think I heard all of Kasuka na Kaori until the music video was released on Tokuma Japan's Youtube channel. In contrast, a radio rip of Laser Beam came out months before the single was released. While Kasuka na Kaori didn't get as much promotion as Laser Beam, it wasn't a completely shafted A-side unlike some idol agencies that have a producer with Obsessive Double A-sides Disorder. Like Laser Beam, Kasuka na Kaori was used to advertise the Kirin drinks. However, the sound of Kasuka na Kaori is very different from Laser Beam. Whereas Laser Beam is fun and fast-paced Kasuka na Kaori is slower and softer. And unfortunately, Kasuka na Kaori wasn't as well-received by fans as Laser Beam. I'm sure there were fans who liked it, but I felt like everywhere I went, I kept reading about how Kasuka na Kaori was "too light" or "too idol-y" for Perfume, and even today, I never hear anyone say that Kasuka na Kaori is one of their favorite Perfume songs. It doesn't even make the top 20 of my own favorite Perfume songs.

But... I actually like Kasuka na Kaori.

I think I'm part of the 5% of fans that like Kasuka na Kaori. And okay, no, it isn't the best Perfume song. I can see where people are coming from when they say they don't like this song. Kasuka na Kaori is a lighter and softer song from Perfume's discography, kind of how Voice was. And Voice is one of my least favorite Perfume songs, so there's some perspective for you. While Kasuka na Kaori didn't cause a split with fans the same way Spending all my time did, there was a considerable amount of disappointment with how pop this song sounded over techno. And again, that's a fair point; Kasuka na Kaori is definitely lighter on techno and heavier on pop. But being a pop song doesn't automatically mean a song is bad. With Kasuka na Kaori, I think a lot of people were simply underwhelmed at how safe the song sounded. There's hardly anything experimental about it, and the JPN era in general was known for its lighter and more commercial friendly A-sides, such as Voice, Natural ni Koishite, and of course, Kasuka na Kaori. Despite all those criticisms though, I personally like Kasuka na Kaori. I can acknowledge that the song has problems, but those problems do not detain from my personal enjoyment of the song.

So what is it that makes me like Kasuka na Kaori? Well, I like how calm the song is. Kasuka na Kaori is such a soothing song. The vocals are light and airy, along with the instrumental. And I don't think it's completely uncharacteristic for Perfume to sing a song in the vein of Kasuka na Kaori. Sure, not all fans might be happy with that decision, but I don't think Kasuka na Kaori just completely obliterates their music style. Now if Perfume released say, a heavy metal song, then yes, I would say that was deviating completely from their music style. And that would also be completely ridiculous, please oh please don't ever do that, Nakata. But Kasuka na Kaori is just so... harmless. The song sounds so sweet and happy; it's the kind song I'd listen to in the morning, while reading a book or eating breakfast or something non-stressful and relaxing. Because really, the best time to listen to Kasuka na Kaori is either when you're not-stressed or need to lower your stress levels. When I listen to Kasuka na Kaori, I always feel so content, even when I'm under a lot of stress. In fact, I remember listening to this song a day before my AP exam, and it actually helped me to stop worrying about it.

Kasuka na Kaori is a Perfume song that is not for everyone, and if you like Perfume's edgier, less pop songs (example: everything off of ⊿), then you may not get into Kasuka na Kaori. And that's okay, but I'd still give it a chance. Maybe even check out the instrumental first, because the instrumental to Kasuka na Kaori is actually quite good. And then who knows? The song may grow on you! Even if it doesn't, consider this about Kasuka na Kaori: at least it isn't just copying the sound of Laser Beam. What I also like about Kasuka na Kaori is that it serves as a contrast to Laser Beam. The sounds of both songs are different, so neither A-side is just a cheap rehash of the other. Laser Beam is the fun, edgier techno A-side while Kasuka na Kaori is the sweeter and poppier A-side. Together, both make for a single that may be divisive but is still interesting. So which A-side do I like better? Well, I admit I'd have to go with Laser Beam, but I still like Kasuka na Kaori. You may find yourself liking on or the other better, or even both! But I'd definitely check this single out. Kasuka na Kaori is a pleasant song, and if you haven't listened to it yet, try not to let the negative opinions influence your own.

And if the song itself doesn't win you over, maybe the PV for Kasuka na Kaori will. After the action-packed spectacle that was Laser Beam's PV, all I can say about Kasuka na Kaori's PV is that like the song itself, it is also different from the PV for Laser Beam. How? I will show you! Through screencaps.

See? The PV even starts with a much lighter and sweeter title drop!

Well that's an odd place to stick your household furniture...

Take note of the Instagram-style frames. There are a lot of them in this PV.

I actually like the different frame sizes. It's a interesting creative choice.

And the girls look so natural and pretty too!

Oh hey, it's my theme picture! How nice!

Ooh, look! Bubbles! I love bubbles!

I always had a hunch that A-chan was Glinda the Good Witch.

And there goes Kashiyuka, wandering around a la Macaroni.

I really love Nocchi's hair in this PV, it looks so... fluffy!


Also cute.

Face it, mostly everything in this PV is cute.

Oh, black and white, that's a nice little change!

Gosh, Perfume is so photogenic. No wonder they do so many magazine shoots.

The different locations help too. They're all so quaint!

Suddenly I'm getting flashbacks to Morning Musume's Aruiteru...


I could see Kashiyuka reading really hipster-y books like Catcher in the Rye or Perks of Being a Wallflower.

How is it music videos always make trailers look so cute and whimsical?

Seriously, this looks like something out of an interior design magazine.

Vintage camera, now this PV can definitely be classified as Instagram-inspired.

A school bus!? I thought I was done with school things!

Eek, I'm getting flash backs to crowded school field trips...

Even with short hair, Nocchi still somehow manages a graceful hair flip.

And as usual, Kashiyuka's hair looks perfect.

There are so many pretty shots of the girls in this video, the PV practically screencaps itself.

Ooh, this shot's pretty too. It's so wide and open.

The furniture made a return! Really though, that's such an impractical location for a lamp.

Away they go to wear light-up dresses and eat strange candy! Farewell!

The concept for Kasuka na Kaori was envisioned as a "moving poster" or "moving photobook" and I can see that. You know, if idol photobooks didn't have all those pandering bikini/body shots. No, Kasuka na Kaori's PV is more innocent than that. It features the girls in simple white outfits wandering around a variety of locations almost as if it is indeed a moving photoshoot. The PV for Kasuka na Kaori could have gotten really boring really quickly, but luckily there are plenty of different locations that the producers shot the girls in from open fields to cute little trailers and everywhere else. The only connecting element of all these different areas is that they match the tone of the song. They're all very light and open, even the more enclosed spaces have this feeling of openness to them. I think it probably has to do, again, with the way the PV was shot. I really like seeing all the different locations, and I think they all look really pretty. Kasuka na Kaori is just a pretty PV in general, almost an effortlessly pretty PV. The girls look so natural and at ease in front of the camera too. I mean, they were seasoned performers by the time Kasuka na Kaori came out, but they carry themselves with such grace and poise in this PV. It really makes Kasuka na Kaori such a watchable PV.

But good editing also helps. The PV for Kasuka na Kaori has been compared to the style of photo-editing on Instagram. Now I don't have a Instagram account, but I have friends who have ones. And I'm pretty sure the site has editing options for pictures, so you can add filters, frames, etc. I remember a few years ago when Instagram had all those vintage-y photos on it that weren't really vintage. And I do admit Kasuka na Kaori does have a very timeless feel to it, like it's from no particular point in time. It just... exists. Yeesh, talking about Instagram is turning me into a hipster. I think it's the framing of Kasuka na Kaori that gives people Instagram-vibes. A lot of shots in this PV have white frames around them, again, adding to that "moving photobook" concept. And something else unusual about Kasuka na Kaori is that there are a lot of vertical shots that don't fit the typical ratio of most music videos that I review. In fact, this is the only Perfume music video to have so many different-sized shots. Their music videos tend to stick to one size and that's it. But all the different frame sizes in Kasuka na Kaori make you feel like you're look at moving pictures from someone's photo album. Probably someone who went to Hogwarts.

There's such a nostalgic vibe to Kasuka na Kaori, kind of what there was in Macaroni, only less grainy and raw. In fact, I think Macaroni and Kasuka na Kaori's PVs are very similar in concept; both don't have dance shots, both have entirely separate scenes featuring each individual member, and both are very natural-looking. It's just execution that separates them. Macaroni goes for a grittier and more unpolished look, and Kasuka na Kaori goes for a brighter and cleaner look. In both PVs though, the girls look so carefree and happy. I love Perfume doing complicated dances to elaborate music videos, but I also find it refreshing when they did PVs like Macaroni and Kasuka na Kaori. As the years go by and I re-watch Kasuka na Kaori, I can feel that nostalgia growing. The PV for Kasuka na Kaori perfectly captures that happy, carefree mood of the song. And that translates into a very laid-back PV with no dance shot, no elaborate costumes or concept. It's just Perfume posing and singing in a variety of different areas, and in my opinion, that's all this PV needs. And while some fans may find it a little dull, I think Kasuka na Kaori is a simplistic but captivating PV.

So yes, I love this PV too. In fact, I think I appreciate Kasuka na Kaori's PV more than I did when it first came out. I remember liking the PV, but not really finding much interest in it. Now though I think this PV is a gem. I mean, there's a reason I'm using a still from Kasuka na Kaori as my blog theme right now. It's such a perfect spring/summer PV to watch. And it doesn't even need a dance shot on the beach to be one! All the bright, sunny lighting, the open locations, the radiance the girls project make Kasuka na Kaori such a great PV around the spring and summer. Because isn't that what summer's about? Okay, if you work, then this won't apply to you, but for me, summer is the season where things let up for just a few months and my stress levels have a chance to go down. Kasuka na Kaori is such a low-key PV that accurately depicts that same calmness that I find in summer. And this is a beautiful PV. All the locations and set designs are perfect, and the styling on the girls is impeccable as well. Like the song, the PV for Kasuka na Kaori serves as a great contrast to the PV for Laser Beam. It's even connected to Laser Beam's PV through the object in the briefcase. That's the music box that starts up this PV. I just love little things like that, and I love the PV for Kasuka na Kaori. The PV may be a little long for some people but still check it out!

I'll give Kasuka na Kaori overall four apples. So not quite as good as Laser Beam, but still worth checking out in my opinion. The song is one of Perfume's more divisive A-sides, but I personally think it's nowhere near as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Besides, the PV is so simple and pretty and a nice contrast from the PV for Laser Beam. Overall, you should check both A-sides on this single out. But you know me, I say that about every Perfume single. Except Mirai no Museum. You're good on that one. And with that, May's Time Capsule Review is a wrap! What will be June's? It's up to you!