Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Answer is Flower

I must have some Flower fans on this blog. At least enough to get two different requests to review two of their music videos. And then someone else asked me about E-girls... I think I underestimate how many E-girls/Flower/Happiness/Dream fans exist.

I never hear as much news about E-girls as I do Hello! Project or AKS. I suppose because that entire cluster of groups aren't technically idol groups. I could simply be looking in the wrong places for my news. Regardless, another reader asked me to review Flower's next single, Akikaze no Answer, and since I enjoyed Nettaigyo no Namida so much, I thought why not? I am all for reviewing another high-budget music video with amazing choreography.

But first, the song.

Flower's Nettaigyo no Namida was my first acquaintance with the E-girls franchise, and both the song and music video left me impressed. The music video was high budget, the dancing was phenomenal, the vocals were polished and smooth, and Flower as a whole seemed to be compromised of highly trained, skilled members. It's a stark, but refreshing, contrast to groups like AKB48 which emphasize imperfection and the growth of an idol. My favorite thing about Flower was their dancing. The group dynamic of having only three girls sing and everyone else dancing seemed a little strange, but the music video for Nettaigyo no Namida really showcased the dancers of Flower. I hadn't been so blown away by dancing since Perfume.

Ironically, the most unimpressive aspect of Nettaigyo no Namida was the song itself. Reviewing the song at the time, I liked Nettaigyo no Namida quite a bit. Since then though, I've barely listened to it. I still think it's a good song, but Nettaigyo no Namida was a little... whiny. Not enough to be an annoying song overall, but enough that listening to it again, I noticed. Luckily, a good 90% of Nettaigyo no Namida sounds beautiful, but there's a handful of notes that hit a little wrong. I think Washio Reina, who sings most of Nettaigyo no Namida, might be why. While she has a really pretty voice, and most of the time she sounds fine, on a few of the higher notes, Reina sounds like she's singing through her nose. She doesn't sing that way enough for it to annoy me but enough to be noticeable.

As much as I hate to admit, Akikaze no Answer sounds a little whiny too. In fact, Akikaze no Answer sounds a bit whinier than Nettaigyo no Namida. Luckily, not enough to ruin the song, but enough that I can tell. Again, Reina sings a good chunk of Akikaze no Answer, and at parts like the chorus, she sounds like she's forcing the notes out. That's a more of a vocal nitpick, and by no means does it make Akikaze no Answer a bad song. However, Akikaze no Answer is the last single with one of the singers, Muto Chiharu, before she leaves Flower and E-girls to study abroad. So with only two vocalists left in Flower, I'm wondering just how that's going to effect their future songs...

Other than that fraction of the vocals though, I love Akikaze no Answer. It's a beautiful song. What's weird about Flower is that they seem to generally stick to the same sound, but their individual songs vary enough that none of the songs I've heard so far sound like repeats of others. Akikaze no Answer is another mature fast-paced ballad, but the song still has its own memorable sound. I love the piano in the beginning; I wish it came up more in the rest of the song. I also wish I heard the three vocalists sing together more; they sound like they'd blend well together.

I can only give so much mind toward lyrics of Japanese songs, but the lyrics to Akikaze no Answer are just as beautiful as the song. I don't hear a lot of autumn songs in J-pop, so Akikaze no Answer stands out in that regard. The lyrics are very emotional; the song is about falling in love and wanting to be close to the person the singer's fallen in love with. However, the singer herself is too nervous to approach the person of interest. Knowing what the lyrics mean, they match up to the build up the song has into the chorus. Actually, Akikaze no Answer is kind of a sad song... A sad song with a beautiful arrangement and instrumental though. Overall, I am just as impressed with Akikaze no Answer as I was Nettaigyo no Namida. The song has its imperfections, but for the most part, Akikaze no Answer is a well-made ballad.

But that's just the song. I'm more interested to see what the music video for Akikaze no Answer has to offer. Nettaigyo no Namida was summer-themed. Will Akikaze no Answer be autumn-themed? Can you even make an autumn-themed music video? Hold on to your hats, because we're foraying into the land of high-budget music videos and top-level choreography!

Someone made the Nice List this year!

Nia, please don't make the A-chan On the Phone Joke again.

Too late! This joke will never die!

That's not a flower! That's a heart! Get your labels right!

Ah, that's better. A heart made of flowers. Clever!

That... is a lot of flowers. Are you sure this is an autumn PV?

Nevermind, this is an autumn PV. An autumn PV with a gorgeous dance shot.

I take that back. This dance shot is gorgeous.

Nononono wait, this one! This one! All of these dance shots are so pretty!

Oh my god, they're all dancing and connected by a giant ribbon. And dancing.

I wish all the music videos I reviewed has styling this on point.

I'm still not over this. They're all connected and somehow not in a tangled mess. How!?

Can I be in Flower?

I can't contribute anything to the group. I just want to wear pretty dresses and be in glamorous music videos.

I didn't have much appreciation for dance until I watched this video.

Seriously, this dance is so entrancing. I love the lighting effects too.

And I love how the dancers are so flexible they make my joints cringe.

I am equal parts impressed and pained.

So I found out this Ichiki Kyoka girl sings and dances in Flower. That's some mad skills.

I'm not sure which member this is, but she's really pretty. And photogenic!

Reach for the stars! Lucky for you, they're hanging off strings a few feet about you!

More pretty shots. What else is new?

Watching this PV makes me want more autumn-themed PVs. Why don't we have more of those?

Jewels! Still, this PV has lots of flowers, so this isn't a diamond only music video.

Oh right, I found out this girl's graduating from Flower. Pity. She has a nice voice!

Maybe I should just post the screencaps with no commentary... the pictures speak for themselves...

Oh! This member's photogenic too! I really should learn the names of the Flower members...

I just noticed they're all wearing ballet shoes. Does this mean they're all proficient in ballet as well?

Holy shit, they are. At least enough to impress me.

They're doing the thing! The... an arabesque! That's an arabesque, right?

Over already? I guess nice music videos can't last forever...

Oh, that was pretty. That was really really really pretty. I didn't think Flower could top Nettaigyo no Namida... but that was really pretty. I'm kind of curious to what goes into the design process for Flower's promotional material. Because looking at their past videos, these nice, high-budget music videos are a constant. I'm not questioning good quality too much, but I've got to think that Flower must generate some sort of profit, either from E-girls or maybe endorsements. Wherever the money's coming from... that was really pretty.

That's honestly all I can really say about Akikaze no Answer. Well, that's not necessarily true. I can say many things about this music video. I can talk about the gorgeous costumes, the variety of locations, and the amazing choreography. Or I can sum it up in one word: pretty. Flower seems like a group that relies on visuals over storytelling, and luckily, their music videos have some stunning videos to make up for the lack of a story. Even then, I don't think Akikaze no Answer needs a story. I just love looking at the many different visuals put into this video. And believe me, there are many things to look at in Akikaze no Answer.

First and foremost though, the dance. Like with Nettaigyo no Namida, Akikaze no Answer has a huge emphasis on the choreography. And why not? The choreography for Akikaze no Answer blows my mind. First of all, the fact that they used a giant ribbon in the central dance shot and somehow didn't end up tying themselves in knots has me more then impressed. The choreography itself look so delicate and graceful, almost like ballet. Actually, do they dance ballet-style in the choreography? I'm not the expert, so if someone could me in, that would be great. I also love all the different dance sets. My favorite is the one with leaves and the giant quilt hanging overhead. That one and the stage area with the dazzling light effects. What works with Flower's dance shots is that it's never just a dance shot. There's some kind of trick, something outside the dancing that adds to it. Those lighting effects for example. Without them, the dance is still beautiful, but adding them in, they enhance that part of the dance.

The non-dancing shots look just as beautiful. I love how Akikaze no Answer looks like an autumn themed PV through the colors and the set decorations. The color scheme in particular looks very autumn. And all the individual shots look wonderful; I love all the detail put into the sets. I mean, think about many flowers they had to get for this music video. They're everywhere! Not to mention all those presents and wall decorations... I wonder what happens to all the set decorations once they're done shooting. The girls themselves look just as stylish as they did in Nettaigyo no Namida. Whoever styles Flower has really good taste.

Overall, Akikaze no Answer is an amazing music video. There's not a single thing I can nitpick about it. Except maybe that I didn't get to screencap the last few seconds. What amazes me about the music video is the sheer number of different sets. It's like just when I think they've reached the limit, another scene comes in and blows me away. The dancing is just as marvelously showcased as Nettaigyo no Namida, and I love the little effects they used for Akikaze no Answer. Choreography's good, costumes are great, the sets are exquisite... I have nothing else. Oh right, Muto Chiharu. I don't really know much about her, but I think if I were going to leave a group, Akikaze no Answer would be a great music video to go out on. There aren't enough autumn. music videos for me to compare Akikaze no Answer to, but if there were, Akikaze no Answer would be one of my favorite autumn music videos.

Should I just go ahead and start reviewing Flower regularly? They seem like they have consistently beautiful music videos, and their music seems pretty decent too. I also know there are at least a few Flower fans on this blog. They're technically not an idol group, but half the groups I review technically aren't idol groups. I'm still not completely sold on Flower's music, but everything I've heard from them is at least listenable. Besides, when they're playing over those gorgeous music videos, they actually sound a teensy bit better. I'm curious now to see what Flower's going to do for their next music video. Something seasonal? I think they're next single's being released in early 2015 so maybe something wintery? I don't know, but I look forward to whatever it is!

For the moment, I'll give Akikaze no Answer four and half apples. I like most of the song, and I think it's a very pretty ballad. The music video is even prettier. Akikaze no Answer is one of my favorite music video I've reviewed this year, and I can't thank the reader who recommend it to me enough! I only wish that the other idol groups I reviewed got this much budget to make music videos...

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