Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Morning Musume... IN SPACE!

Everything sounds better in space. Perfume in Space. Idols in Space. Nia's Wonderland in Space. I'm not surprised that Morning Musume's used space for so many of their PVs!

Think about it. The music videos for Renai Revolution 21, The Manpower, Mikan, Kono Chikyuu Heiwa wo Honki de Negatterun da yo! and now Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe all feature space concepts.  I think Tsunku must have quite a thing for space. Although I think Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe definitely goes the farthest with the whole space schtick! Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe is the most recent A-side of the Colorful Era of Morning Musume and- oh, what's that? You're wondering what I think about Password is 0? Well... I only have one thing I really need to say about Password is 0:

  • Tie-in! Tie-in! Tie-in! This song's a tie-in! Tie-in! Tie-in! Tie-in! This song's a tie-in! And there you go, now let's talk about Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe.

Let's talk about Platinum Era Morning Musume for a moment. You guys all remember the Platinum Era, right? Well, guess what? I don't! I wasn't a fan during the Platinum Era! Technically, that isn't true. I was a fan of Platinum Era Momusu for about a month, around the release of Onna to Otoko no Lullaby Game. Then Kamei Eri, Junjun, and Linlin graduated before I could get a chance to know them, and then four new girls that we all know and love (or hate) today were added to the group. Either way, Platinum Era was over. While I wasn't a fan around the time all the Platinum Era songs were released, I did become a fan of Morning Musume when they were in that in-between period between the triple graduation and the 9th generation. They weren't releasing any new material due to auditions and being a 5-member group, so I had to immerse myself in all their recent singles. This meant listening to all their Platinum Era songs and before and then getting complete and total whiplash when they released Maji Desu ka Ska! Then they went back to Platinum Era sound with Only You. Morning Musume was quite confusing before Tsunku turned them into an electropop unit.

What I remember most prominently about the Platinum Era was that everyone was sick of it by the time Eri, Junjun, and Linlin graduated. I remember reading several lengthy editorials about how Momusu's sound had gotten monotonous and depressing and the hope that adding the 9th Generation would give some life to the stagnancy period that had been dubbed, "Emo Musume." This was all before the Colorful Era really started, in that in-between period where we got such memorable songs like PyokoPyoko Ultra and Only You. Yes, what classic gems those were, so much that one of them is even Momusu's lowest-selling single! By the time One Two Three rolled around, people were praising it for being a refreshing change of sound into electropop. And there were also just as many people complaining about this new sound. With any idol group or music artist in general, the complaints did not go away. As each new Morning Musume single rolled around with no signs of switching from the electropop dance sound of One Two Three, more and more fans started complaining about how all the songs sounded the same, and that Morning Musume needed a change and you know where I'm going with this.

And then something weird happened. People started... liking the Platinum Era.

Now obviously this is the Nostalgia Principle coming into play, a term that I absolutely didn't just make up five seconds ago. The Nostalgia Principle simply states that if a piece of media ends, and you give it a certain period of time, then regardless of its quality, people will come to appreciate it in a new light. When I read people waxing poetic about the Platinum Era, it's usually for the lineup or the level of talent that is not present in the current Morning Musume. And sometimes it's even for the more mature, serious music.  Point is, I don't see anywhere near as many people complaining about the Platinum Era as I used to. But hey, Nostalgia Principle! So why do I bring all this up then? Well, it was only a matter of time before Tsunku decided to revisit the more serious, melancholic sound of Platinum Era songs. As fun as some of Colorful Era Momusu's songs have been, none of them have really been that serious or depressing. They've all been fun, upbeat, catchy dance numbers except The Matenrou Show. But nobody remembers that A-side anyways. Well, finally here to satisfy fans craving the Platinum sound of Morning Musume with the current lineup is Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe. It's moody, it's serious, it's Platinum Era Morning Musume with a little more Autotune. And honestly? It works really well.

I think Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe is one of my favorite A-sides that I've reviewed from Morning Musume. Even more than Brainstorming. I love catchy electropop dance songs as much as the next person, but do you know what I also love? Space. I love dark, dreamy songs singing about the cosmos and fate. To put things in perspective, I love One Room Disco, but give me Seventh Heaven and I will be entranced. Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe translates to Beyond Time and Space, and it totally lives up to that title. What I like most about Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe though is that it isn't just a rehash of something you'd hear from the Platinum Era. Sure, that opening violin and piano are very Platinum-esque, but then the electropop sound effects come in and the song becomes this really nice mesh between the sounds of the Platinum Era and Colorful Era. Even then, it nowhere near as Autotuned as some of the earlier Colorful Era music. And I really like the lyrics of Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe as well. They're not profoundly deep or anything, but compared to the odd lyrics of some Morning Musume songs, Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe's lyrics are very refined. The girls are just singing about the boundaries of space and time preventing two people from being together until they ascend to a higher plane of existence. Always a fun concept!

And do you know what else I like about Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe? Unlike Platinum Era songs, Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe doesn't rely on four girls to sing the entire song. In fact, most of this song is just duets and trios, with maybe one or two solos from Riho and Sayumi. The pitch of this song is a bit higher than some of the group's past A-sides, but no one sounds like they're trying to force out all these high notes. Even Riho's ad-libbing in the last chorus works so much better than when she ad-libbed in One Two Three. That's because she's not trying to belt out notes she can't hit, but instead just letting the notes go straight to her head voice. So she sounds a lot better, and her voice fits with the tone of the song. And everyone else in Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe sounds nice as well. This is just a nice song in general. Now I wouldn't want Morning Musume to go down the same road they went in Platinum Era and continue releasing serious songs like this one. I don't think they will either. But part of me does wonder what would happen if Momusu stuck with this style of music. I'm certain everyone would get tired of it as they have with their current music. Either way, Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe was nice diversion into something that isn't just upbeat electronic music. So yeah, I like it. I like it a lot.

So is the PV for Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe worth watching? Admittedly, Morning Musume's PVs lately haven't been anywhere near as cheap as UFP could be making them (just look at S/mileage to see what I mean). But is Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe's PV as journey through space and time, warping us into space, the final frontier? I don't know, but I'm gonna see how many space puns I can make!

Aw yes, look at that. Stars. Space. This PV is gonna be awesome.

Look! They're playing an imaginary piano! And quite poorly I might add. Their fingering is horrendous!

And Sayu's playing an invisible violin! But do you hold them that high? I mean-

Oooooooh... space...

It's so... colorful... and sparkly... and cosmic... wow...

Right! Focus! Um... the girls outfits look nice? Very flowy and celestial.

Actually, all the girls look really pretty in this music video. The styling is great!

And the little orbs are nice too! Are they meant to be planets?

Haruna's a spacebender! I knew it!

Dayum. Okay, Sayumi may not be the cutest idol in Morning Musume, but man alive, she is the hottest.

Wow, I just realized they're dancing barefoot. I don't think they've done that since Onna ni Sachi Are!

You know what these outfits need? Capes. I mean, the girls are already striking Superman poses, you may as well add the capes!

It's like they're dancing on the moon surrounded by the 8 planets! And Pluto. Can't forget Pluto!

Yay, more pretty close-ups!

Seriously, these are beautiful. They're all so starry and ethereal!

Oh wait, changed my mind, these are even prettier.

I don't care if it's all green screen, it's gorgeous.

For all the intensive, formation-heavy dances, Momusu's been doing lately, this one's pretty chill.

Ooh, the sky turned red! Like the Red Rectangle Nebula!

I have no idea why, but this dance break reminds me of the firebending ritual from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Only in space.

Oh yes, more space. Give me all the space.

God, I love space. I love that this PV has space. So much space.

I mean, look at that. How can anyone not find that enthralling!?

Yes, it's all special effects, but it's idols. IN SPACE.

I think I'm supposed to be adding witty commentary on this screencap...

...but honestly, I just wanna screencap all these pictures and stare at them.

So yeah... um... insert commentary here.

Insert another comment about how pretty everyone looks.

They're like one big giant star of idols and sparkles.

Gosh darn it... you win this round, UFP... you win...

Space. The final frontier. And the one concept that never ever ever gets old with me. I don't now what it is about space that makes it so fascinating to me. I think it's the idea that there are all these different galaxies and nebulas and planets that we haven't even visited. But we know that somewhere out there in this solar system and beyond are places that sound like they can't even exist. The incredible thing is that they do. I think what sucks me into space is the knowing it's infinite. There are worlds and places that we haven't even discovered yet. And there's also something about not being able to access most of space, that in my lifetime it will very likely always be a distant but real concept. That is what I really love about space. So a music video that's space-themed? I am all for that. Even cheap music videos that are space-themed, I'm still all over them. I just love seeing various concepts of space, because the ways in which it can be presented are so infinite. You can go into the science fiction aspect like in Star Trek or Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica, or you can just present the sheer aesthetic of space. All those stars and moons and unexplored planets. Space is both intimidating and engrossing.

And that is what makes me love the PV for Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe so much.

I will go ahead and say that it is not the most groundbreaking or elaborate or innovative music video I have ever reviewed. It isn't. There is no story to Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe. There barely ever are in Hello! Project PVs. In fact, when you boil down to it, the PV for Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe is just the usual dance shot and close-up with a few other miscellaneous shots to give the PV variety. But it's the presentation that makes Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe work so well. Because this PV has space in it. So much space. I mean, the title of the song translates to Beyond Space and Time so of course there's space in this. But I really love the way UFP handled the visuals of this PV. Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe isn't the first time that Morning Musume has used space in one of their PVs. But in all the other times they've used, the final product has always been kind of... tacky? I feel like that's the wrong word for it; I guess what I'm trying to say is the space themes in those PVs always felt kind of hokey. Not that that's a bad thing, it worked very well in some of the PVs. But in Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe, the concept of space is utilized in a much more serious, sophisticated way. The girls dance against a gorgeous backdrop of stars, the close-ups are dark and moody, and everyone looks absolutely stunning.

And in the end, that's pretty much the only reason why I like the music video for Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe: it's pretty. No, Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe is beautiful. And when it comes down to everything, sometimes that's the only thing I really need to appreciate a music video. The pitfall of so many Momusu videos is that they look cheap or tacky. Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe obviously didn't get a huge budget for its music video, but the way in which the music video is presented just gives it an elegance lacking in a lot of H!P music videos. And besides, I don't always need to see some profound, eloquent storyline in an idol PV. I mean, it's idols, not Stanley Kubrick. I think the dance, the visuals effects, and the styling for Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe come together to make one of the best Morning Musume PVs that I've had the pleasure of reviewing. I don't have much else to say about this music video, because what else can I say? It's a music video about space and it handles that concept extremely well (especially considering this is UPF we're talking about). Obviously, not everyone's going to think this music video is as beautiful as I'm building it up to be, but personally, I loved watching it. I think it was mesmerizing, and the images of stars and the sky were beautifully ethereal.

I should probably take this moment to mention that the PV I screencapped technically isn't the actual music video. It's the "Promotion Edit" aka the Edit So You Have to Buy the DVD. There aren't a ton of differences between the Promotion Edit and the actual music video, but just enough I think I should point out. There are added shots that show the girls lying down in the beginning that aren't present at all in the Promotion Edit. There are also a few different close-ups and edits, along with an entirely new series of close-ups at the end (that also look gorgeous I might add). Which one is better? Well, if you want more space stuff, then I'd got with the actual music video. It's a little less of the standard close-up/dance shot affair that the Promotion Edit is. If you feel the need to buy the single to see the full music video, that's up to you. But in the end, either PV is great. Both PVs have a bunch of extremely flattering shots of everyone in the group. It's so nice that Momusu's styling team has finally got their shit together and figured out what works best on each girl. Overall, the music video(s) for Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe is a visual spectacle showing just how awesome space can be.

I'm in a good mood, and Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe is a good song that gets a good PV. So I think that calls for five apples! What? I love the song, and I love the music video. If more idol music videos could be about space, then my reviews would get much more monotonous! Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe is a return to the Platinum Era sound mixed with the Colorful Era sound, which makes for one of the more memorable A-sides of Morning Musume's recent discography. The music video is your standard H!P-fare, but it has enough style and flair to be just as memorable as the song. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'm gonna go watch Firefly.

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