This, ladies and gents, is what I’m talking about. Forgive me for being so damn late about it.
At the start of the year our new leaders, Fuku-hime and Sub-leader
Derp Iikubo appeared on a Fuji TV program called, ‘Big Chance’. Three directors used the song Wagamama ki no Mama Ai no Joke to create three separate and completely different pvs for an opportunity to direct a pv in the future. It’s a really cool idea, a great (aptly named) chance for the aspiring directors and another way for Momusu to remind people that they’re still making music.
The winner? Shibue Shuuhei, for this. I’d describe it as almost Momoiro Clover Z-level crack-tastic. There’s a sort of frenzied humour to it. There’s still the close-ups and dance-shots you’d expect, but you’re not sure where it’s going until it explodes and that made it a joy to watch.
There is also a refreshing blue version (Sugiyama Hiroki’s), in which everyone looks muted and beautiful in the cloudless sunshine; and there is my favourite, the rain-soaked, sexy, black-and-white awesome of this one (Konno Emi). I think the reason Shibue’s version won is not only because of the creativity involved, but because it wasn’t just relying on the dance or the girls being pretty. It let the girls do something; it allowed an H!P song to have a concept.
Also: Zukki is there. She lives!
That’s one of many reasons I consider this to be the real pv.
Let me side-track for a moment and talk about AKB48’s new one, Bokutachi wa Tatakuwanai: a nine minute epic story-pv with lots of CG, epic fight sequences and stunning visuals (I linked to the short version because that gives you the basic idea). I have no idea if the pv corresponds to the lyrics or if they just went insane, but it is quite the experience. AKB has almost always done these extended pvs, like the senbatsu are starring in their own mini movie, regardless of the quality of the song. I love that some of these take risks, but not all of them surround what I would consider good music. My point is, they don’t simply rely on the girls dancing and being pretty, which is something H!P has relied on for far too long.
I’m only using AKB as an example because they are the other major idol institution I follow and they do this all the damn time. There are drawbacks, I will admit. There are times when I have to watch seven minutes of story before I get to a song that just underwhelms me. So many of their singles have done this. AKB is a marketing juggernaut; they can afford to mask sub-par songs in epic pvs.
H!P cannot afford to do that.
Instead they seem to do the opposite and take great songs, or just could-be-great songs, and throw together uninspired shlock like the promotional version of Seishun.
A great deal of H!P fare nowadays relies on the fans looking at the girls. They just sit there and the camera pans around. Or they dance and the camera spins in and out. You don’t get a chance to see the girls do anything else. I know there is a market for that. Fine. But these girls are in a profession in which success depends on their looks coupled with their personality.
Most of their shows are thinly veiled promotional vehicles. I know we get some background stuff, which is fine, but it’s just not the same.
Here’s an idea: put the girls in some sort of situation. Very few props are needed. Then let them use their established or developing characters to react to it. Simple as that. Yes, include dance-shot and close-ups, but there is plenty you can do inbetween.
Enter director Shibue.
Breaking through the paper walls.
That right there is an incredibly simple idea: the girls rip through a paper door and sing the song. It’s a cool visual and it’s a nice way to get everybody onscreen even in they aren’t singing.
Then there is this: our tender little 12th Gen on the spinning wheel of idol-dom, forever in the shadow of a senpai.
Senpai who might be speeding ahead before you can notice she’s your rival.
Senpai who might teach you some idol truth that “shakes” your being and unsettles the wheel.
Or maybe a senpai that is behind you, helping you stand on firm ground.
Notice they are standing in the “evening” area between mornings, staring at their senpai. I love the train metaphor/setting because it seems so apt a description of Momusu life. I remember the 4th gen saying that they barely remember anything about their debut days because things just moved forward so fast. Before they knew it, they were senpai themselves.
Seeing the senpai must be like this: they’re close, but far away and shining.
“Is that what I’ll look like in a couple years?”
Let’s just take a moment to be happy that Momusu is using a train again (looking at you Joshi!), but in a completely different way. I like that the kouhai aren’t sitting, but staring awkwardly at the already established characters they are now, essentially, stuck on the idol-train with.
First we have The Zuk. Since apparently everyone in Japan is unable to separate her from this “chubby” thing, they have her eating what appears to be a sandwich. She isn’t ignoring the new kids exactly, but she’s absorbed in her own things. Someone smiling like that is approachable, right?
I think her adorable yummy-face kinda kicks the ass of anyone who is smirking at that image. She’d be the first to admit that she loves her food. And hey, she gets a sandwich!
Then there is the Class-President Ace. She’s doing something incredibly cool and impressive with her leg, for no apparent reason (other than her need to be looked-at). It suits her loner-but-cuddly-weirdo image, while still reminding us that she is willing to do painful things to keep her Ace title. I like that this is kinda cool, but it’s also incredibly weird and makes me go, “Riho, just what the hell are you doing?”
“I’m pwn-ing this train. That’s what.”
Um…ok. Let’s just move on…
To MEGA-DERP! Iikubo is so very impressed and excited by everything going on around her that she can’t help but open her mouth and clap. I’ve seen her make such faces at just about anything the others do and it’s endearing and baffling.
Let’s not forget our fearless Leader, Fuku-Hime, who is hula-hooping over there, because it’s fun. Fuku knows she needs to stand out as leader, but I’m not sure she knows exactly how to accomplish it yet, so why not have fun in the meantime?
Oda is too busy studying that music to look at the camera right now, thank you very much.
Then there is Ikuta in the background there, taking yet another selfie, because self-love was an important lesson Shige taught her before she became sub-leader.
Ikuta is the one who beckons the 12th Gen to sit down. She’s begun to seem like an Ishikawa Rika sort of senpai to me: rabidly ambitious and rather cut-throat about it, but dying to seem like a kind and guiding presence (as long as you never, ever, block her from camera).
“Come over here, kittens. I won’t hurt you.”
The chorus kicks in and our 12th gen are SUDDENLY OUTSIDE, ON TOP OF THE IDOL TRAIN, ALL ALONE, CONFUSED AND SCARED AND WHATTHEHELLDOWEDOOOOOooooo…
What do you do? You RUN! AGAINST THE WIND!! There is so much one must overcome to keep steady on the idol-train and I guess some times it can feel like everything is speeding in a direction one don’t necessarily want to go, but it’s either run, or fall.
Don’t worry though. Those senpai that seem so far away are actually cheering you on. Let’s meet some more, shall we?
This is Masaki-kins. She’s very young and likes to cuddle and giggle.
…You know, while poking Oda in the face here. Because Oda is so very serious about singing and likes to practice things until she gets them just so.
Until Masaki-kins takes away her music and she’s frozen mid-note.
Remember, Masaki-kins helps people by making sure things are always really, really funny.
You know, for her.
But look at that smile. Can you really stay angry?
Then there is Ayumin. There are things about the big city she just doesn’t get, like doing chin-ups on the train probably isn’t the best idea. But, like most things, it makes her super happy and it shows she wants to be noticed just as much as Ace.
Besides, everybody wants to impress BOSS, Kudo Harukins.
BOSS has been the ‘boy’ character for a while now, but I don’t think it was until ‘kabe-don‘ became a thing that she really started getting the Ikemen role. Because of that husky voice and her insistence that (despite how adorable she is) dresses are “impossible” for her, lots of her kouhai and even senpai have started girl-crushing on her.
She takes this in stride, of course. Pretty sure 12th gen are watching this and feeling very jealous.
“I hope you know you’re the only girl for me. I’m only doing this because Mr Shibue asked me to. I actually wasn’t that impressed with her chin-ups-“
A: “But I do chin-ups on the trains all the time!”
BOSS: “Honey, I’m sorry, but you aren’t even supposed to do that on a train-”
O: “Masakiiiiiii! Let go!”
Next cut outside, we have all the girls on the train, looking just as disoriented as the 12th gen had been. Slowly they all help each other up-
It seems they’re always running against the wind. I suppose, again, it’s quite an obvious metaphor, but it’s a powerful one all the same. Think about how that would feel: the wind pushing you down, the noise blocking any communication, no balance, no plan, no direction to go except forward. I like the image of the group grabbing each other for balance while they fight to stand. When they run, they’re moving separately, on their own idol journeys, but still one group. They’re heading in the same direction. Obviously they’re all rivals, but they have to keep moving and if any one of them “falls” the whole group could fall.
I also like that they look exhilarated, rather than terrified.
I really love this image too, jumping into a dark, smoky abyss all by ones self. I suppose all risks are like that in a way. It looks threatening and one can’t see what’s waiting in there, but there’s no going back after that leap.
I didn’t notice that in the background of this murky, slowed-down place, the other girls are still landing. That really struck me. I’m not sure what Shibue was going for with the image. Maybe it just matches with the way the music slows down during the dance-break.
Once the girl lands, she has to keep her feet and start dancing.
I still don’t like that Ayumin didn’t get a dance-solo here, but I guess it makes sense that Leader finishes off the solos and gets everyone moving in unison again. It’s her job to unite them, after all. Even during dark, slow times when Momusu wasn’t getting much work or wasn’t very visible in media, there has always been a leader and an Ace pulling everyone along, right?
I want to bring AKB back into this discussion for a moment, just to say that there are some pvs in which they’ve gone to darker places, or at least, the setting has been darker than you’d expect. H!P doesn’t do things like that. Even with Resonant Blue, or Shabondama, there really wasn’t a harsh feeling.
The image of ripping through something and yet still being trapped could represent a lot of things: an idol persona the girl didn’t want to have that now confines her, no matter how much she changes; idol life itself; Momusu’s lack of popularity despite their strong history; the “wall” of inexperience every idol must overcome, only to find that real-life experience is still something they need to gain, and so on and so on.
One cool, simple image and yet so much to gain.
I suppose once they dance their way out of the abyss it’s spring time. It’s that lovely time in which the new members feel they fit in. They’re dancing with their senpai, on the same level, and everything is exciting and full of colour and life.
JUMPING WITH SENPAAAAIIIIII!
And our new members are on solid footing, all on their own.
Now I’m not saying my analysis is correct, or even a good one, but I love that I could make an analysis. I had lot of cool imagery to work with. I got to see all the members, being their own characters and all the newbies being new. I got a concept, even if it’s a concept I interpreted incorrectly. Most importantly, it takes a song I was ambivalent about and give it life. When I watch this video, I like the song a lot more. Maybe it’s just that Zukki is there and so it feels like an actual Momusu pv and not some cross-promotion nonsense. Maybe it’s just the crazy imagery that doesn’t look as polished as usual, but is a hundred times more interesting than the polished version.
Whatever the reason, I love this pv and it makes me want to give this song another chance.
They need to hire this guy.
Big chance, awesome results.