That’s My Jam: Friday, April 8

Time for a new series of posts! I haven’t posted as much recently as I did in years past. I understand why – Happy Disco is one of the many writing venues that I’m interested in, and I have to do it in addition to my full-time job, classes, fiction writing, etc. However, I think the biggest thing I miss about writing on Happy Disco more often is promoting things. I loved doing review posts every Monday (and keeping up with my TIF posts) because that allowed me to share things in the idol world. Unfortunately, my reviews tend to be longwinded (still working on the MomoClo album reviews) and as such take me a lot of time to write.

That’s My Jam is ideally going to be a weekly installment of 2-3 idol songs I’m listening to most at the moment. It could be new stuff, old stuff, anything I want to give a quick write up about. I’m going to try and keep these brief so that I can get this out weekly. This won’t replace reviews – one of these songs I am most definitely reviewing later. However, it’ll allow me to talk about what I’m listening to on a weekly basis, and hopefully let me share more of my favorite idol music. Because, as I was lamenting on Twitter last night, there are too many good idol groups out there.

Up Up Girls (Kakko Kari) – Party People Alien

Up Up Girls have long been a group I’ve been wanting to hear more from. They certainly have had a high quantity of music, but not a lot of it grabbed me, aside from a few songs here or there. However, their recent move to make more electronic/club music has been a really great move and I think has done a lot to set the group apart. Last year’s Bijo no Yajuu was one of my favorite songs of the year, and their most recent single, Party People Alien, has certainly captured my attention. It’s infectious – the chorus (which, interesting enough, doesn’t even feature any vocals from Up Up Girls), continually gets stuck in my head. This song is very well crafted and could very well be Up Up Girls’ break into something big.

Niji no Conquistador – Alien Girl in New York


Looks like the theme of this week’s post is “alien!” Niji no Conquistador was my big discovery last year, and they have quickly established themselves as being a group with very solid music. Alien Girl in New York is a disco-themed song with a strong melody and a strong arrangement. It’s also got a very catchy chorus, and there are a few surprising choices in the production of the song (the big solo near the end is almost entirely whispered). It’s an interesting song and one of my faves.

Team Syachihoko- Cherie

And of course I’ve been listening to Team Syachihoko’s latest. I find it hilarious that whenever Syachi claims they’re doing something they’ve never done before, it’s a much more conventional single than they normally do. Cherie is just a great song – it’s very classic idol and very straightforward, but has a great melody, is performed well by the members, and has a great instrumentation (lots of strings and horns). It’s a very classic idol song, and I absolutely love that.

Review: Team Syachihoko – Ii Janai Ka

You knew this had to be coming, right?

Team Syachihoko put out two EPs this fall – Ii Janai Ka and Ee Janai Ka, which each had five new songs. The first one, Ii Janai Ka, was almost entirely written by Team Syachihoko’s normal songwriter (except for the cover song, JOINT). Ee Janai Ka, on the other hand, features collaborations with other artists and songwriters. As someone who enjoys both Syachi’s standard songwriting and the work they’ve done with other artists, all of this has been pretty exciting. So, what do I think of Ii Janai Ka?

1. Basyauma Rock

For being a Syachihoko song this is a fairly normal sounding one – it’s an upbeat, easily understood guitar-heavy rock song. It’s not doing anything terribly unusual and there isn’t really a trace of the weirdness that usually indicates Syachi songs. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – Shampoo Hat is fairly “normal” and it’s one of Team Syachihoko’s best songs and my personal favorite song of 2014. However, it works because it’s an extraordinarily good “normal” song. Basyauma Rock isn’t a bad song  by any means, but it’s just pretty average. It isn’t weird and it isn’t good in the way Shampoo Hat is good.

That said, Basyauma Rock has a lot of strengths. For one, all the members do a really great job of it. Nao’s vocals in particular have improved and sound great in Basyauma, but both of these EPs do a lot to show just how much Syachi’s members have become better performers. The section midway through the song, “atama sagete kao wo agete” where all the members gradually join in is very nice, too, and the highlight.

I feel like I’m being a little overcritical here. I really do like the song. I just have very high standards for Syachihoko’s music, so something that’s just “good but pretty normal” is a little disappointing. Still, it’s a fun song that’s easy to listen to and I’ve enjoyed a lot. 7/10

PV: 

So, hot off the heels of calling the track a tad disappointing comes me saying that this is one of the best shot idol PVs I’ve seen in a while. It’s not particularly unusual stuff, but man is it beautifully made.

The framing is just about perfect, done very artfully. Every single frame looks gorgeous, and the cinematographer did a great job of setting it up so no shot looks boring.

Basyauma 1

The camera is often moving and fluid, especially in the dance shots and closeups, which allows for a lot more dynamic shots.

Basyauma 2

However, the thing I was most impressed with when it comes to the framing is how well it works with the Rule of Thirds. Basically this is a design guideline that asserts that when thinking of a frame you should think of dividing it in nine equal parts, and have important subjects along those lines. So rather than having a subject be centered, that thinking of a frame in thirds/nine parts allows for more dynamic images. And while this is hard to do exactly while filming things (especially if you’re filming moving subjects), quite a bit of Basyauma Rock is filmed along those lines, creating some very visually stunning shots.

Basyauma 3

Basyauma 4

The lighting and color balance are also spectacular – colors pop earlier in the PV, and things become a bit more muted later on in the PV, but it works because the earlier half is supposed to take place in the morning/early afternoon and the second half is more of the late afternoon/evening. Everything is lit artfully and looks wonderful.

Another filming technique is the lighting “magic hour” – this is a short period during sunrise/sunset where everything is still lit but it’s a much redder light. It’s considered a very aesthetically pleasing light, and it’s not around for long so it’s trickier to shoot with. And oh look, Basyauma Rock uses it to great effect.

Basyauma 5

I also like that the lighting at the Syachi Summer concert also is reddish gold – it matches really well, and this connects the concert sections to the rest of the PV aesthetically.

Basyauma 6

 

Basyauma Rock is a gorgeous PV and well worth your time. 10/10

2. JOINT

Joint is a cover of the song by RIP SLYME – however, it works so well for Syachi that I would have not guessed that to be the case had I not known. The song is mostly rap with a sung chorus that works very well. Before this song Haruna had been mostly in charge of the few rap sections that Syachi has had in the past, however every single member works well in this song and has pretty solid flow. Haruna is the clear forerunner for rap ability, but Ando Yuzu’s verse is very good, too. It’s enough to make me wish that Syachi had more rap songs in their repertoire.

Despite being a cover, the lyrics were arranged very well. The lyrics have been changed to fit them more as a group and it works. Yuzu’s verse in particular has been changed to suit her very well, referring to herself as “Ponsama” and making some references to her unit song “Watashi ga Center.”

For being hip hop there is a real musicality to this song. The arrangement works very nicely to convert this to being an idol focused song. It’s also all over the place and a bit weird, which works perfectly for Team Syachihoko. For being a cover, this feels like it was almost written for Team Syachihoko. 9/10

3. NIGI2 WONDERLAND

This song is fantastic and weird. And very addicting – I just had to stop reviewing this because I was getting too into the song. It’s a very disco inspired song, which you know I like, but in addition there’s a big electronic feel to it. It’s almost hard to review this because, as normal Basyauma Rock is, that’s how unusual Nigi2Wonderland is. Which is excellent, as far as I’m concerned.

This is a really fun, funky track that is easy to listen to in its strangeness. It builds up nicely throughout the entire song and has a great pacing to it. It’s an effective electronic dance song. The entire group does a great job performing in it, but the real star is Honoka who repeats “nigi nigi nigi nigi” over and over at certain parts in the song and gets the rap section, which is unusual (usually Haruna gets this) but it works so well here.

This is a very well-produced funky song that I enjoy a lot. I don’t have a lot more to say than that. 8/10

4. Chiguhagu Runners’ High

Immediately the first thing you notice in this song is the heavy use of piano, which carries throughout the song, and adds a lot of character to this. The entire arrangement sounds great – Chighuhagu sounds beautiful.

This song has a lot of intensity to it – the piano/strings of the arrangement serve as punctuation between sections of the verses, and there is a lot going on between the vocals, the melody and the contrasting piano/instruments. However, what adds a lot of the intensity are the vocal performances. Syachi proves again that they’re improving vastly vocally. Nao’s solo near the end of the piece is just fantastic.

This is an absolute highlight of the EP. It has great intensity, a great melody, and the arrangement is one of my favorites of the year. This is just a fantastic song. 9/10

5. Yume no Tochuu

OK, ballads don’t do much for me. We all know this. However, as a ballad, Yume no Tochuu does a lot to make me like it. The melody is cute and pleasant to listen to. The arrangement is fantastic as well, constantly moving behind the melody – this adds a lot of vocal interest. There are some interesting sounds to Yume no Tochuu as well – the song starts off with what sounds a bit like a harpsichord, and there is an organ sound to the piece as well.

The biggest thing that makes me dislike ballads is that they can often be a bit boring and frankly lazy – however, Yume no Tochuu is neither of these things. It’s fast-paced and interesting enough to keep me interested, while pretty enough to be an effective ballad. It’s still not my favorite of the EP, but it’s still really nice. 7/10

Overall: While I don’t know if any of these songs would be one of my favorite Team Syachihoko songs, that is a very high bar. Instead, Ii Janai ka is a very solid EP that shows the growth of Team Syachihoko, in both the production of the songs as well as the vocal performance of the members. It is a very good effort, and one that you absolutely should check out.

 

Review: Team Syachihoko – Tensai Bakabon

As always, even though my life has been busy, I need to review Team Syachihoko’s latest effort, this time with their anime movie tie-in single, Tensai Bakabon.

Tensai Bakabon

Song:  Honestly, this happens to be my least favorite Team Syachihoko single song to date. Now, before you wonder if I’m jumping ship from my favorite group, I’m not. I actually think this song is pretty enjoyable, especially if you don’t compare it to other Syachi singles, and all the other single songs are so good that this isn’t a bad thing necessarily. This is just a lot weaker than the other single songs. The other thing to keep in mind, that I’m giving Syachi a lot of leeway for, is that this is a cover of a classic anime song that isn’t a very compelling song to begin with. They’re doing this as the theme song for the new Tensai Bakabon movie, so they’re making do with that song.

That being said, I think that the original song isn’t necessarily bad, just uninspiring. I’ve gotten multiple sections of this song stuck in my head (most notably the “bon bon bakabon bakabon bon”) and the melody is fine. The song is pretty repetitive though (each member has a short verse and in between all the verses is the same chorus), which makes the song feel like it should be over a lot sooner than it is.

I also think that the arrangement manages to fit both Syachi and the original song. I like how it starts off fairly normal sounding, but then quickly escalates in weirdness, speed and energy. This song is very Syachi-fied in that sense – any fans worried that Syachi lost weirdness with Shampoo Hat are going to see that with Tensai Bakabon their fears were unfounded.

Ultimately this is fine; Syachihoko did a fine job with what they had to work with. Due to what they had to work with this is the weakest Syachihoko single song of them all, but I’m not worried that this will be a trend, given the strength of Team Syachihoko’s music.

PV:

Well, bonkers Syachi is back.

I’m kind of conflicted about this PV, truth be told. I think a lot of the elements are there but that it could have done better.

The most notable aspect about this PV is the 5000 repeated Syachi members. While I in theory like the scenes featuring all of them, which oddly enough remind me about of the game Katamari Damacy (a Katamari Damacy featuring Syachi would be incredible), I think these scenes are overused. The first couple of uses feel innovative and interesting, but by the end these are the least interesting of the scenes.

Tensai Bakabon 1

This effect is really utilized better in the close up shots each member has, which are a lot of fun. I like the framing of the Syachi members running on the bottom with one Syachi member on top. They also bring in another member on the screen. This is really aesthetically pleasing framing, and is the best shot.

Tensai Bakabon 2

 

Really, the best aspect of this PV is the members themselves. They all completely give it their all and do a lot to ham it up, which is a ton of fun to watch. Even though this is kind of a so-so PV, Syachi fans should enjoy watching it for member antics.

While the effect of the 5000 members is technically pretty decent (I like the cartoonish look to it) occasionally the green screen looks a little bit off, which is surprising and disappointing given the rest of the PV. There’s occasionally an outline around the members that makes the production look cheaper. It’s kind of nitpicky, but is pretty disappointing.

Tensai Bakabon 3

 

The other notable aspect of this PV is that part of it was filmed in Harajuku outside. I actually really like these few short sections and I’d like more like this.

Tensai Bakabon 4

Ultimately though, while there are some elements I enjoy about this PV, I don’t think it was executed as well as it could have been, which is a bit of a disappointment.

Ike Ike Hollywood

Lately Team Syachihoko has been all about America and Hollywood, which makes me, as an American fan who adores Team Syachihoko, wonder a bit about them going to America. Which, you know, would make me ecstatic.

This song is also pretty fantastic, as a film fan, because of the occasional references in there. Yuzuki saying “I’ll be back” gives me the giggles every time I hear this song.

If Tensai Bakabon was a bit disappointing, Ike Ike Hollywood makes up for it in a big way by being endlessly entertaining and fun. At its core is a catchy melody and a really fun song.

The arrangement is fantastic, starting out with what sounds like a film reel. The instrumentation includes a lot of strings, but there’s also a lot of great guitar, brass and pizzicato piano. It all comes together to create a piece that works together but is often all-over the place.

This song is a lot of fun, and what I’ve come to expect from Syachi’s music.

Twilight

This is, in my opinion, the standout track of the album. From the dreamy vocals of Team Syachihoko to the electronic background vocals, every part of this song is a delight. The vocals are a main feature of this song, as there are vocals incorporated in almost every part of this song, as the main melody and as a part of the instrumentation. It’s incorporating a bit of what they learned about vocal-centric tracks through Akamiso Blood.

The back and forth of this song is fantastic,as is the fast pace. This song has a ton of energy, which is always fun to listen to. The way the vocals work together to give it all that energy works very well, as well. While being high energy, it also has an almost laidback, mellow feel to it – it’s really hard to explain but it totally works.

There aren’t many songs out there like Twilight, and it has quickly become a favorite song of mine for that.

Review: Team Syachihoko – Himatsubushi

You guys knew I had to review this, right? Seriously, this review has been a long time coming. I started reviewing this when it came out. It’s been months. What happened?

It’s no secret that Team Syachihoko’s first album, Himatsubushi, is my most highly anticipated release in quite a while. They are by far my favorite idol group out there; all of their members are really fun performers and the group does a lot of fun things that make them a really fun group to follow. However, what really cinches them as my favorite group is their music. Often unorthodox, very often catchy, Team Syachihoko is one of the most consistently great groups in the idol world for musical output. Since Himatsubushi was announced to have nine new songs, a rarity in the idol world where albums are often just a collection of single songs and b-sides, I have been waiting for this album. And, spoiler alert, it was well worth the wait.

1. Space Himatsubushi supported by ZEN-LA-ROCK

One of the things that continues to impress me about Team Syachihoko, musically, is the variety of talent they collaborate with. They work with a wide variety of artists and composers who are often not usual figures in the idol world. Space Himatsubushi is a collaboration of Team Syachihoko with Japanese hip hop MC ZEN-LA-ROCK, who also wrote the lyrics (the music was written by Anne Beats). It’s pretty remarkable how, in these songs, Team Syachihoko often takes a back seat to the featured artist; ZEN-LA-ROCK is very prominently featured.

Possibly the most notable thing about this song is the lyrics. While usually idol lyrics aren’t the focus of a lot of idol tracks, this song is basically a large collection of inside references to the group. The chorus is based off of the words from Syachihoko’s overture, “Ningen Gojuunen, Idol Gonen, Owari Nagoya ni Syachihoko ari” which, in my rough translation skills, means “Human 50 years, Idol 5 years, in conclusion, in Nagoya there are Syachihoko” (please let me know if you have a better translation). As a point of note, this actually refers to a famous Noh verse called The Atsumori, and the “Ningen gojuunen” is famously referring to the span of a life. So this is basically saying that, for what humans is fifty years, for idols it’s five years. (Syachi, please don’t disband in a couple of years).

Anyways, the rest of the lyrics are filled with references to other Team Syachihoko songs like Owari no Hana and OEOEO. It’s a fun song to listen to in that regard, as it rewards listeners who are familiar with Team Syachihoko’s discography.

The actual song itself is fast-paced but predominantly laidback. It seems like a bit of an odd choice to start out with, especially with such strong starter songs like Otome Juken Sensou and Dakishimete Anthem would be, but I actually really like how this starts. It feels like it’s winding up into the album instead of everything starting right away. It’s electronic and a little dreamy; it feels a bit like trance music. It’s actually kind of hard to describe; I’ve listened to the song several times in this review and I just can’t pin it down.

This isn’t a typical Team Syachihoko song, or a typical idol song. That said, it feels like a telling opener for this album. Many  idol albums choose to start out with a high energy song, to immediately hook the listeners. Team Syachihoko chooses a more unusual song to ease listeners in.

While this song isn’t the most exciting on its own, its referential lyrics and it’s dreamy feel make it an excellent start to the album. 8/10

2. Shuto Iten Keikaku

The first major single, and the first single to pop up on this album! This was written by hip hop artist Seamo, and remains one of my favorite Team Syachihoko songs.

I feel like this could be a separate post in itself, but it’s interesting to see what artists do as their first single and as their major debut single. These are singles that set the stage and show what the group is going to be doing. Koibito wa Sniper and Shuto Iten Keikaku are two interesting cases. On the one hand, Koibito wa Sniper is hyperactive and a bit crazy, which is what I think a lot of people expect from Team Syachihoko. But on the other hand there’s Shuto Iten Keikaku. I know I was surprised the second I heard Shuto Iten Keikaku, and it took me a while to get into it.

The thing is, it’s written by a legitimate hip hop artist, Seamo, and it kind of shows. While a lot of idol songs might have a rap verse here or there, Shuto Iten Keikaku is a bit darker, a bit heavier and feels more like an actual song written by a hip hop artist. The beat’s great, and the pacing is just perfect. The song never lets up in all its five minutes. That said, the Syachihoko members actually sell the song; I don’t know if every idol group could do with this song what Team Syachihoko managed.

Further, when talking about Team Syachihoko lyrics, Shuto Iten Keikaku is one of the best. Not satisfied with just having a song about their hometown, Shuto Iten Keikaku is Team Syachihoko singing about how the capitol of Japan should be moved to Nagoya. It’s a bit silly and the lyrics are pretty funny, almost reminding you that while they are performing this song that they are still Team Syachihoko.

This is one of the great Team Syachihoko songs. The lyrics make me laugh, but the song is what keeps me listening. 9/10

3. Dakishimete Anthem

Since this song was the first song released from Himatsubushi, via a dance practice video, I think this will be the song a lot of people take away from Himatsubushi. And really, it’s not a bad song to be the representative song. It was written, after all, by Asano Takashi, who writes a lot of Team Syachihoko songs. He wrote Koibito wa Sniper, The Stardust Bowling, Otome Juken Sensou and Katte ni Hybrid.

Katte ni Hybrid is what this song reminds me of most. Both of these songs combine the hyperactivity of a lot of Team Syachihoko’s work with the sound of something like Shuto Iten Keikaku, to create a hyperactive song with heavy beats that has a killer rap line by Haruna. These two songs might be the best example of Team Syachihoko’s style, actually. Upbeat and happy but with a good beat to them.

This song is quickly becoming a Syachihoko staple, and for good reason. It’s perfectly paced, has the high energy that has become a big part of Team Syachihoko, and is just generally well written and well arranged. Even though Team Syachihoko has never really been known for lyrics, they sell this song and sound great in the “woah woah woah” parts and the softer bridge.

This is generally a perfect Team Syachihoko song; energy with enough edge. 10/10

4. Ndatte!!

This song immediately surprised me the first time I heard the instrumentation at the beginning; it sounds like more of a rock song that Syachi has ever really done before. While the song veers more towards pop in the chorus and verses, there’s a rock sensibility that feels rare from idol songs.

Ndatte is one of the Syachi songs that kind of sneaks up on you. When I first listened to it I didn’t know if I liked it much. However, I found myself humming the chorus to myself later in the day, and then kept seeking out the song. It’s surprisingly catchy and fun.

This song was written by Tsutaya Koichi, who also notably wrote Dempagumi.inc’s great song VANDALISM. While NDatte isn’t quite as unhinged and wacky as VANDALISM got, it still has a bit of that same feel to it. It’s harder rock than Syachi’s used to, and still gets a little bit unhinged. Syachi manages to do the song justice, too.

While Ndatte took a while for me to get into, I ended up really liking this song. It’s not quite as interesting as some of the other songs on this album but it’s still great. 7/10

5. Ai no Chikyuusai

This is another song that took me a while to get into the first time I listened to it! It’s… weird.

Ai no Chikyuusai is relatively laidback (well, for the most part) song with an electronic arrangement that, again, takes a while. As I mentioned in my full review of this song and PV, it was written and arranged by Komorita Minoru who did some of songs from Matsuura Aya’s later albums, which had a similar feel in being laidback and mellow but still upbeat and idol-y.

Ai no Chikyuusai is one of those songs that I don’t think I’d ever put as one of the best Syachi single songs, but I still like it a lot for what it is. It’s a break from what Syachi was used to, for one. I also really like how, for the most part it’s laidback but in the chorus and at the end it just suddenly ramps up to being more unhinged and energetic in the way I expect Team Syachihoko to be.

Ai no Chikyuusai isn’t the song I would pick as a representative Team Syachihoko song, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead it’s a pleasant diversion for the group. 8/10

6. Ii Kurashi

Written by my twitter buddy Yoshida Tetsuto! My review of this actually got some feedback from Japanese Syachi fans and from Yoshida Tetsuto, who composed and arranged this song. This is probably the proudest moment I’ve had while writing Happy Disco.

One of the things that I mentioned in my first review that I have to say again is that this song does NOT feel like six and a half minutes. Instead, it totally justifies those minutes by being six and a half minutes of just about perfectly paced acid house music.

I also stand by the fact that, since Yoshida already writes acid house music, that the arrangement is better for it. While I tend to prefer instrumentation that includes, instruments, there’s no arguing that Ii Kurashi does it just about perfectly. The arrangement is full but not too busy.

This is a song I never expected to love, but I do. Everything about this song is pitch perfect. 10/10

7. I Don’t Care

I Don’t Care is the song on Himatsubushi that I can’t really put my finger on. It has a much darker feel than most Syachi songs (and a lot of idol songs), focusing on electronic sounds and is heavy on the bass. Even the sentiment, proclaimed by title and in the chorus, “I don’t care,” doesn’t feel quite like Team Syachihoko. This isn’t a bad thing; Syachihoko has been trying to branch out. However, it just feels kind of odd.

The song itself is solid. It’s catchy, and the beat is fantastic, especially as the song ramps up into choruses. Also, I know that I’ve been personally singing the “I don’t care” from the end of the chorus to myself a lot. The dubstep, EDM sound isn’t necessarily my favorite, but they do it well.

That said, this is one song that Team Syachihoko doesn’t quite fit. “I don’t care” as a sentiment doesn’t really work when you have six enthusiastic girls doing their best. As such, even though they are all trying to sell this song, they aren’t really completely successful at it. None of the girls really fit the song, except for the parts leading up to the chorus where things lighten up. There, Honoka and Chiyuri really shine.

This is a good song, and I like that Syachi tried it, but it doesn’t really work for me the way that the rest of this album does. 7/10

8. Akamiso Blood

I have been way too hyped over this song for a long time. The song and lyrics were written by Shihori, who wrote Momoiro Clover Z’s GOUNN. However, the main draw of this song is that it’s a collaboration with Daichi, a famous beatboxer. So, along with Daichi, Syachi’s vocals provide the backing track for the song, with Yuzuki and Nao as the main vocalists.

This is the type of song that I honestly don’t know if other idols have really done before. I mean, I know that idols have done acapella before. Berryz Koubou famously has done acapella arrangements of their tracks at concerts. However, this is an original song, and as such is written to suit the human beatbox that Daichi and Syachihoko provide. It has a fairly simple but pleasant melody, and while Syachihoko are hardly experts at this they do a fine job. The simple piano background suits the song well, too; rather than doing a song that’s fully acapella, it’s Daichi, the members of Team Syachihoko, and his keyboard. This creates an interesting, original sound, where all the elements play off one another very well.

I think the thing I love about Akamiso Blood is that it’s an experimental song, and a song I haven’t heard really by anyone else, but Syachi is doing a lot to elevate the song. Akamiso Blood isn’t just a little experiment they did, it’s an experiment that they are putting on an album.

And really, while it might be easy to look at an experiment and not think highly of it, Akamiso Blood shows that a little ingenuity can work. This song is fun, and it sounds superb. Every element is noticeable and so one element being off (such as the melody, or the backing vocals provided by Syachi) could make the whole thing fall flat. That said, every element is completely on point. This isn’t the most complex song of the year (by its very nature it’s not trying to do so), but it is by far one of the best songs of the year. 10/10

9. colors

Since I have taken so long to write this review, Team Syachihoko’s latest single, Shampoo Hat, has come out. A lot of people marveled at how relatively normal Shampoo Hat is, when being normal is an unusual thing in itself for Syachi. However, I’d say that “colors” is their most standard song yet. Written by one of the members of the band Base Ball Bear (who I knew from their single with Hyadain), this is Syachi’s take on a pop-rock song. While this might not be what everyone expected from this album, I know a lot of fans have grown attached to colors, and for good reason.

When a group focuses on having a weird image or doing unusual songs, it’s easy to assume that the group is doing that as a gimmick. I certainly don’t think that is true about Team Syachihoko, but it’s an easy assumption to make. What something like colors does is show off just how strong of a group Team Syachihoko is at its core, without the strangeness. The song has a very strong melody, and I really like the guitar heavy instrumentation. However, what I think works the best about colors is the basic arrangement. Behind everything is a faster, driving guitar and drums, but Syachi’s vocal line is often slow, with elongated notes. The melody could belong in a pretty basic ballad, but the arrangement keeps it moving forward. However, that slower melody that Syachihoko sings allows for members to show off their vocal prowess. Chiyuri, as expected, sounds fantastic, but Yuzuki really impressed me with that last vocal line. It’s these songs that can showcase a member’s talents and skills.

Beyond that, the rest of the song is great. It’s paced just about perfectly, the harmonies and the vocals are spot on almost everywhere. While I don’t hold this up with Dakishimete Anthem or Akamiso Blood as the real stars of this album, colors is a great song. It’s not just a great idol song, but it’s a well-produced, well-written song that any artist should be proud to have. While I know I initially found Syachihoko for their weirder songs, I’m glad that they are putting out songs like this. 8/10

10. Akeboshi

Akeboshi is not a track I expected from Team Syachihoko. At all. It’s a slow ballad sung completely in unison which ends up being very restrained. Restraint is not a word I would normally associate with Team Syachihoko. And really, neither is ballad. Team Syachihoko is a group that I know for its high energy, not for something like this.

Ballads are not my favorite type of song. At all. It takes a lot for me to really love a ballad; a memorable melody line or inspired instrumentation. Luckily for me, Akeboshi has both. The thing that immediately struck me with Akeboshi is that it reminds me of an Electric Light Orchestra ballad. ELO’s songs often combined rock music with orchestral instruments and synthesized electronic sounds. Akeboshi is very heavy on the strings, string instruments and a piano largely backing the piece, but it’s often intercut with electronic sound. This adds a really interesting element to the song, as the strings/piano feel old-fashioned but the electronic sounds add a newer sound to it. It’s odd, but it works.

The vocals are all restrained, but I actually like it that way. All the members sound incredibly pretty singing this. While some idols can belt vocally (I’m looking at you, Chiyuri), I’m actually not a huge fan of belting in songs, especially ballads. It’s more of an expression of raw power than finesse. The vocals in Akeboshi don’t show off much skill in particular, but they sound really soothing and pretty.

The song does a good job of building up towards the end, using more drums, but ultimately this is a beautiful, laid back ballad that does interesting things with its instrumentation. 9/10

11. Yoroshiku Jinrui

Man, I love the opening of this song. Nao and Chiyuri singing “Hello” at the start of Yoroshiku Jinrui might be my favorite individual couple of seconds. While the rest of Yoroshiku Jinrui is a fine song, the opening 20 seconds or so are just golden. And then the song breaks into the Ode of Joy, which is apparently an idol trend to use in idol music this year.

This song builds really nicely; the verses are good, but they really drive into the chorus. I would say the chorus is where the song shines, but that wouldn’t really be truthful. The verses do a great job of leading up into the chorus, but the verses are quite listenable, too. Driving forward is really what I would use to describe this song, oddly enough. It’s over five minutes long, but while not being as frantic or fast as something like Dakishimete Anthem, it still feels like those five minutes go by in an instant. The song doesn’t rush, but it still moves at just about a perfect pace. Even in the slow part near the end, it almost always feels like it’s moving forward.

Beyond that, it’s a lot of business as usual for Team Syachihoko. Upbeat, well produced pop music. However, it’s a pretty layered song, with a lot of different elements going on at once, without ever feeling cluttered or like too much. Yoroshiku Jinrui is, more than anything, a well-made pop song. It’s not quite the hyperactive, weird Syachihoko we know and love, but it’s a great example of idol pop. It has complex instrumentation that just sounds effortless, a catchy melody, and is easy to listen to. This is the type of song I have grown more and more fond of the more I listen. 9/10

12. Country Girl
So, for the penultimate song on Himatsubushi, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but country was NOT it. It feels like this entire album is comprised of surprises, which I am very fine with. Syachi excels at being unexpected, and Country Girl is certainly it.

This immediately gives me Country Musume vibes. However, the one thing that differs in this regard is the tone. It’s not just cheesy, banjo country music (though I do believe that is a banjo in this song), but it’s literally referring to the country. The song is upbeat and happy, but also wistful and nostalgic, as the members are singing about having only one hometown in their heart. Even if their hometown is a large metropolitan center like Nagoya, it feels appropriate, and almost necessary. As Syachihoko has grown, they have spread far beyond Nagoya. However, the group has always had strong roots in Nagoya, and this reinforces it. Really, this song feels appropriate for almost any local idol.

The instrumentation on this is excellent. The main sounds other than Syachi are guitar, banjo and horns, and while I wouldn’t necessarily peg horns as being a common element of country music, they work remarkably well here.

Even though I initially thought this song sounded a tad cheesy, I really like how it ends up sounding wistful. The song is well-made and, like always, catchy and a pleasure to listen to. This is a song I didn’t thought would be memorable and wonderful, but it is. 8/10

13. Otome Juken Sensou

If I had to pick one song that encapsulated Team Syachihoko, Otome Juken Sensou would be it. This is possibly THE Team Syachihoko song; it opened their first oneman live and ended it. It is always a hit at concert, and one of the songs I never tire of, even though it came out nearly two years ago (as a limited venue-only single).

This song is high energy, it’s weird, it’s Syachi at its best. It involves Nao shouting at the crowd, it involves Yuzuki shouting “sir! Yes sir!” Just every element of this song is high energy, and it’s just one of the most fun idol songs around. It’s fast-paced and builds to a fairly epic end. This is either the perfect start or end of an album, and I think it really fits well at the end. I don’t have much more to say, because every element of Otome Juken Sensou is perfect to me. It’s one of my favorite idol songs of all time. 10/10.

Overall: Himatsubushi is a joy from start to finish. Dedicated to surprising its listeners, Himatsubushi brings together various different genres, styles of music and sounds to form a surprisingly cohesive whole. There are so many songs in this album I didn’t imagine to hear from Team Syachihoko, but now that I’ve been listening to the album for several months I can’t imagine them not doing. While I would argue a few of the songs are less successful than others, this album is a triumph overall. It’s unique but polished and listenable. As a culmination of about a year and a half of Team Syachihoko (from Otome Juken Sensou onward), it does a great job combining the old and the new. This is my favorite album of 2014, and possibly my favorite idol album for quite some time.

Review: Team Syachihoko – Ii Kurashi

You didn’t think I wouldn’t review this, did you?

Song: This song is the spiritual successor of Shuto Iten Keikaku, in a good way. Doing a six and a half minute techno track is not what I thought Team Syachihoko would be doing when I first got into them, but this type of thing fits surprisingly well. I’m not a techno expert, so I can’t attest to how good or genuine this is on that vein. However, the songwriter is Yoshida Tetsuto, a Japanese techno artist who has done a few things with idol acts like Negicco, but not quite to the level of writing Ii Kurashi. However, as someone who has more experience with techno than pop, Ii Kurashi is yet another very appealing song by Team Syachihoko.

Ii Kurashi is a song that will grow on you. It’s the ultimate earworm; the first listen or two might not grab you, but the song will eventually grab hold and not let go. The thing I find remarkable about Ii Kurashi is that, for being six and a half minutes, it never outstays its welcome. One of my biggest complaints for a lot of idol music is when it drags out too long; there’s no need to overextend a pop song. Ii Kurashi is long, but it works while being long. Everything feels like a perfect length and, when I first heard the song, I almost couldn’t believe that it went on as long as it does.

The arrangement works very well, even though I’m not usually partial to completely electronic instrumentation. I think the big difference is that an actual techno artist wrote this song, so the rhythmic techno instrumentation works well.

Everything about this song works in a way I never really expected. It’s well-written, well-arranged, and well-performed. Even when the song changes things up (like in the rap section), things just work. While not being a very typical Team Syachihoko song, the group has taken a techno song and made it their own. I love it.

PV This PV again continues what Team Syachihoko started with Shuto Iten Keikaku. In fact, this is driven home by the fact that the PV references Shuto Iten Keikaku at the end of the PV.

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What I mostly mean by that is how the PV flows; whereas Shuto Iten Keikaku flows smoothly from transition to transition, Ii Kurashi does something similar, only on a smaller scale. While Ii Kurashi does have a fair number of obvious cuts in the editing (in contrast to Shuto’s smooth transitions), the scenes transition from one to another mostly by use of sets moved around by people in white. This gives an intentional low budget feel that works. This makes Ii Kurashi have a distinct, good looking visual style.

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The sets are simple and pleasant looking; they are never showy or ugly. This adds very well to the distinctive visual style that Ii Kurashi is going for.\

ii kurashi 3. There are occasionally some props used and, near the end, a section that allows the girls to wear different costumes. This is used sparingly, and always for emphasis. This adds a lot of visual intrigue to a relatively simple PV.

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Generally, this is a very well shot PV. The lighting is always fantastic, for example, which certainly helps the PV’s visual style.

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The only thing that I dislike about this PV is that there are occasionally some shots where the framing is a bit weird. I understand why; they’re trying to do stuff in one shot, they’re zooming out, and as such Nao gets cut off, but it still looks kind of weird to have shots where one of the members is almost (but not entirely) cut out.

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Other than that, Ii Kurashi’s PV is simple but well-produced, with a distinctive visual style that makes it a wonderful PV.

List Friday: Team Syachihoko Song Ranking

Today I was thinking about what to do for my List Friday, something to do with the Thanksgiving holiday. At first I thought about doing songs involving thanks, but I did a Thanksgiving themed list in 2011, and I don’t have much to new to add to that list. I thought about doing something Black Friday themed, but how many songs fit that? Then I thought about each holiday. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, as well as being indulgent with food. Black Friday is also about indulgence. So I’m indulging myself to do something JUST about my favorite group, Team Syachihoko, which is a group I’m thankful for. Yeah yeah, this is a BIG stretch, but I’ve been wanting to do this ranking for a while. So this is a rank of every original Team Syachihoko song.

19.Itadaki Nippon! Omisore Shimashita Nagoya Meshi:

For the longest time, when I first got into Syachi, I had NO idea what this song was. I’d hear it performed at concerts, and assumed that since it was about Nagoya it was a cover or something. But then I found out it was the Nagoya-exclusive B-Side on The Stardust Bowling.

The song isn’t bad, but it’s just not as interesting as the other songs. It’s the song I find myself thinking about skipping whenever I watch Team Syachihoko blu-rays. It’s cute, but it’s just not as fun as the rest of their songs are. And really, with the rest of the songs being as good as they are, it’s great that Syachi’s worst song in my opinion is just “boring.”

18.Piza Desu

Not Piza Desu! This is honestly one of the Syachi songs I want to see performed most. So why is it so low? Well, the main reason I want to see this performed is because of the modified MIX that’s shouted during performances. Just repeating the word “Pizza.” That makes it fun. However, beyond that it’s just not that memorable. It’s fun, catchy, and I listen to it pretty frequently, but when the biggest things that it has going for it are the MIX, you know it has to be low on the list.

17.Goburei Syachihoko Deluxe

Oh man here we go, hard decisions. Goburei Syachihoko Deluxe is a really good song. Just listening to it makes me want to put it higher. The biggest problem is that I don’t have much of an urge to listen to it. It’s not exciting and fast like some of their songs, and not moving, or interesting. I really love the arrangement and I want to put it higher, but I really can’t justify putting it at a higher spot, because of just how little I listen to it. Sorry.

16.777

Really, the biggest reason is that this is by far the least memorable single. That’s why this is lower than other fast-paced, guitar heavy songs like Soko Soko Premium. When it comes down to it, Syachi has SUCH good single songs and Triple Seven really just doesn’t do it for me as much as the other single songs. I certainly don’t dislike it, but I don’t think it’s quite as representative of Syachi as a lot of their music.

15.Owari no Hana

Holy Dubstep Batman! I actually quite like this B-Side from the Ai no Chikyuusai single; it’s just not quite AS memorable as the other songs, and I think it drags a bit too much near the end. Also some of the parts don’t fit together AS well; the dubstep sections REALLY caught me off guard the first time I listened! But this is an interesting song and very much worth your time.
That said, I love the opening instrumental bit and the first few lines. Those parts are wonderful and made me want to rank this higher.

14.Mochotto Hashire

Even though you guys know that I love high energy, fun songs, which is part of why Syachi is so hard for me to rank, I actually adore this sweeter, softer side of Team Syachihoko. This is a slightly mellower song, and while that might not be what I always (or often!) look for, I really do enjoy it.

13.Dera Disco

I love this song. I really do. But sometimes I don’t think the arrangement quite does it justice. It’s a nice, upbeat (but not frantic) song that is also relatively mellow (despite being upbeat and pretty fast-paced). However, the way it’s arranged is just a bit too electronic, just a bit too plain, and the melody during the instrumental bits isn’t quite what I would like. I think this is an excellent song, but there are just some personal gripes.

12.Katte ni Hybrid

This is one that took a bit of getting used to, personally, but it’s grown to being a favorite song. It’s a bit more intense and rock-focused than the usual Team Syachihoko song, which I really like. It’s eccentric and has a strange rap section in there, but you should know by now that I love that in my songs.

11.Summer Lover

I wonder how many other groups have songs where the bulk of the singing is done by someone who’s NOT in the group. The main vocalist is a male singer, and Syachi is basically the duet partner in this song. There are long sections where Syachi is on stage at the beginning where they just stand still. But this is just such a fun song. The whole thing is weird and I normally don’t listen to too many male singers, but I just have to love this song.

10.Onegai! Unborde!

The justification for giving this song a Spanish feel is because their label’s name is Spanish. OK, whatever you say, Syachi. I love when they shout words in Spanish, and I love the whole feel to this song. I wish they’d gone a little bit further and made it more of a Latin song, but I’m happy enough with what I’ve got!

9.Soko Soko Premium

Another song with shouted lyrics in another language, only this time it’s in French! This song is upbeat and fun, and while it’s not quite a top song I certainly think it’s a great song.

8.OEOEO

OK, I listened to this song A LOT when Syachi was trying to get the Lotte CM. So I have a really strong affection for it. It’s not particularly extraordinary or, again, a top level Syachihoko song, but it’s definitely an earworm and I rarely got sick of it. I don’t listen to it quite as much as I used to, given that the view contest is over, but it’s still a great song.

7.Ai no Chikyuusai

This song is just plain weird. I have to admit, the first time I saw it, I had no idea how to react. However, it’s just a really nice, unusual song. I can’t say I’ve heard many songs like this, which is a great thing. I especially love how the song changes tempo and intensity between the verses and the chorus. This song isn’t immediately catchy and it took me a while to get on board with it, but once I did I realized what a great song it is.

6.The Stardust Bowling

This song will always have a strong place in my heart for being the first Syachihoko song I really got into. While it’s not the top Syachi song, it’s certainly a great one, and one that I would consider a quintessential Stardust song. If you like Stardust groups, this should be a song you regularly listen to. I honestly have no complaints about this; while I like other songs better, this is still one of my favorites.

5.Shuto Iten Keikaku

I’m honestly still impressed that this song was written by a Nagoya hip hop artist, SEAMO. While other idol acts have often involved hip hop, this is definitely not your typical idol song. While there’s only one rap verse, the whole thing manages to sound intense and heavier than Syachi’s other songs. This is no cutesy idol pop.

4.Maji Kansha

This is probably THE most emotional song by Team Syachihoko, as they express their thanks. It’s sweet, beautiful, and I love the instrumentation (especially the strings). When everyone sings their last ‘arigatou’ I always feel really emotional towards Team Syachihoko. This song is just beautiful, and one of their best.

3.Matsu wa ~DD Daikangei~

I honestly have no idea why I love this song as much as I do. If I was voting on the BEST Syachihoko songs it probably wouldn’t be this high. However, in terms of favorites, this song just takes the cake. And I don’t know why.

2.Otome Juken Sensou

Story time: since this song came out, I finished college. While I was finishing college, I listened to this song before EVERY exam, test, or any other big academic thing. This song, while being the vague sequel of sorts to Momoiro Clover Z’s Otome Sensou, is everything I wanted Otome Sensou to me. It’s intense, upbeat, and a well-put together song. It’s also just a song that I want to listen to while doing something epic or something that needs my hard work. This song pumps me up like nothing else. This song just sounds epic in the best possible way.

1.Koibito wa Sniper

This song IS Team Syachihoko to me. This was my top song of 2012 and I stand by that. It’s just a perfect piece of idol music that really established Team Syachihoko as a group to listen to with their first single. The instrumentation with the brass sound is perfect, it’s one of the most fun songs in terms of chanting along, and I honestly have no complaints. This song is to Team Syachihoko what Ikuze Kaito Shoujo is to Momoiro Clover. This type of song is why I love idol pop, and helped me become a Team Syachihoko fan.

Review Monday: Ai no Chikyuu Sai

This week, I was unsure of what to review. So I asked my Facebook feed what I should do. (By the way, if you want to see me review something, leave a comment). There were a few good recommendations I’ll get to in the coming weeks, but Chiima of Okay! Musume Time asked for Team Syachihoko’s Ai no Chikyuu Sai. I’m a complete sucker for Team Syachihoko, so Syachi review it is!

Just a small note that I do adore Team Syachihoko, they’re my favorite idol group, so there is some bias there.

Song: This is certainly different. After last single’s loud and bold ‘Shuto Iten Keikaku,’ written by Japanese hip-hop artist SEAMO, in which Team Syachihoko declares their intent to change the Japanese capitol to Nagoya, this is tame and laidback in comparison. I’d imagine for most people it takes a couple of listens to get into this song. At first I didn’t know if I liked it, but after multiple listens/views of the PV, I adore it.

The thing is, this is definitely not as impactful as The Stardust Bowling, Koibito wa Sniper or Otome Juken Sensou. This is slower and laidback, even when the song speeds up for the chorus. But, in a way, I’m really happy this is the type of song Team Syachihoko chose to put out so relatively early in their careers. It shows that they aren’t just typecast into high energy songs like the ones I mentioned, but can do these easy-going songs.

This doesn’t mean that the song goes along at a snail’s pace; there’s a good tempo for it, and I really like the instrumentation (electronic/dubstep-influenced and all). It’s just not quite as energetic as Syachi’s other efforts.

One thing I find interesting is that this song was written by some pretty big names in the music industry. The song was written and arranged by Komorita Minoru who, in addition to a solo career, has written for a lot of artists. Notably for me he wrote a few songs for Matsuura Aya later in her career, Happy to Go and Blue Bird (from Double Rainbow, my favorite Hello!Project album ever), and Charisma Kirei for Melon Kinenbi. So, knowing these songs that he’s written, this type of mellow but upbeat song makes sense. The lyrics were written by Miyashita Kouji, who, amazingly, wrote everything to Maru Maru Mori Mori. Since this was such a huge song, I’m impressed that Syachi got him to write their lyrics.

All in all, I can see that people might not get this song. I didn’t get it at first. However, it really grows on you and becomes a song that you like despite not expecting it.

PV: If the song’s different, the PV is definitely different. The whole theme of the PV is television (which is in and of itself pretty weird, given that the rest of the song is about the Earth). To illustrate this PV, I think I’m going to have to illustrate with some screencaps (Sorry Chiima if this is too much of your territory XD)

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First off, we start with a girl who appears to be in some sort of drama, talking to a guy. I have no idea who she is, but we quickly switch to the main PV and never see her again. Uh, OK. I guess this is Syachi taking over the airwaves because soon we get…

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Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh

I’m guessing the justification is that this is now a Syachihoko centric world, where Syachi is at the base of everything. Which we’ll see later. But this image of a tree made of Syachi floating in space is just… strange.

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Basically all of Team Syachihoko are appearing on shows basically just featuring them.

chikyuusai11There’s an exercise program

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A cooking show

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And a show that’s basically them as frolicking monsters. A local concert venue I go to see bands at (mostly indie type bands) shows stuff on screens before the event, sometimes, and one time I went there was a Japanese show like this; basically people in monster suits running around a forest. So even if this seems strange, this does have precedent.

As for this so far, I really like it. It’s colorful, fun, but still seems simple. It’s not overbearing in its wackiness, it just seems to be perfectly content with being colorful and fun.

However, as soon as you think “oh this is pretty normal, Syachi starts throwing stuff at you.

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Yep, Yuzuki’s hanging out in a space fridge. A side note, but I wonder why Stardust groups tend to put my oshimen in the fridge?

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But this is just the start as things get progressively weirder and more and more copies of the Syachi members start appearing and they dance.

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chikyuusai18More copies come in near the end of the song when the song increases pace. And then none of it’s explained, but does it really need to be?

If you have an aversion to weird PVs, this is probably not your cup of tea.  But personally, I really like their take on the various TV genres, and I think it’s another really solid addition to the other two PVs that Syachi has. It may not have the initial weirdness of The Stardust Bowling or the cool factor of Shuto Iten Keikaku, but this is a fine PV and song and I’m one I’m glad Stardust chose to do.

My Top 15 Songs of 2013 (So Far)

It’s hard to believe 2013 is about halfway over! And so, it’s a good time to look back on the year in idol music, as well as pick some of my favorite songs of the year.

The idol boom has been going on since late 2009/early 2010, and I keep expecting idol groups to suddenly start disbanding or fade into obscurity. However, things are going better than ever, all things considered. AKB48 broke records and sold massive amounts with Sayonara Crawl, Momoiro Clover Z keeps climbing up, and even Hello!Project groups are doing very well. Indie groups are growing more popular, and gaining traction. Groups are becoming diverse, with alternative acts like BiS, Alice Project and Babymetal growing in popularity. Honestly, I can’t think of a better time to be an idol fan, based almost entirely on how many groups there are out there. There are a lot of groups I’m not even putting on this list but are really good groups.

And so, my top 15 songs of the first half of 2013. Note that this is just songs that have been on a release through the end of June; Koisuru Fortune Cookie’s going to end up pretty high on my full list of the year. Honorable mention goes to Oomori Seiko’s Mahou ga Tsukaenai; not quite sure I’d classify her as an idol, but I love this song to pieces.

15. Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya – Juice=Juice

Can I put a song on this list for one sentence? If so, that sentence is “just listen to that saxophone!” Because seriously, I love every second that a saxophone plays in this song.

In all honestly, I wasn’t sure about how I’d feel about Juice=Juice. I didn’t follow any of the Eggs/Kenshuusei that made the group, and I hadn’t seen the hype about Karin. I thought (and still do) the name was silly to a fault. The early pictures had all the girls in white and it looked kind of boring. And while I’m not quite sure if I’ll ever be a super fan of Juice=Juice, I am a huge fan of Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya.

While I was just being silly with what I was saying about the saxophone, that’s actually pretty close. The sound’s so unique, and I can’t think of another idol song like it. Underneath, Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenakya isn’t that unique of a song. It reminds me strangely of Melon Kinenbi’s Amai Anata no Aji but sped up. The structure feels kind of similar, as does the tune (though I definitely don’t mind H!P bringing back Melon Kinenbi songs). I don’t think Juice=Juice is anything like Melon Kinenbi, mind you, but the overall song isn’t completely new. However, the entire thing put together with the saxophone arrangement, it feels fresh and interesting.

So yes this song is pretty much on my list because of the sax.

14. Kawasaki Junjou Ondo – Kawasaki Junjou Komachi

As I’ll be writing a bit more about later, I love songs where there’s a lot of genre fusion. While I like standard idol pop songs, there’s something really interesting about putting together genres like that.

Kawasaki Junjou Komachi is a group you probably haven’t heard of, unless you follow Tokyo Idol Festival and/or read my TIF posts religiously. But I found them from doing my TIF research posts, and was initially unimpressed by their concept of promoting Kawasaki, mostly because another group I wrote about had a very similar concept. However, Kawasaki Junjou Komachi really shines with their music and performances, the music being a really excellent fusion of traditional sounds with a modern pop sensibility, complete with a rap section. I don’t know Japanese instruments enough to tell, but it sounds like they’re using a lot of traditional instruments in there. In addition, it’s really catchy and fun to listen to and the vocals are really mature and lovely.

I think another reason I’m so impressed by Kawasaki Junjou Ondo is just how good it is for a local indie group. Lots of great music comes from indie idols, and I don’t want to put down indie idols. However, this is the type of song I would be very impressed if I heard it from a big, major label act. If KJK is able to continue this really great mix of traditional and pop and have this general level of quality, I predict they could grow and grow in popularity.

13. Brainstorming – Morning Musume

Late last year and early this year was when I first started to like Morning Musume again. I became a fan of Ishida Ayumi, I started liking (but not necessarily loving) the music, the other new members grew on me. I didn’t like the Help Me! PV, and the song was good, but I didn’t quite love it. However, because of Ayumi, I decided to listen to and watch Brainstorming as soon as I could. And I couldn’t get enough of it.

I think the biggest strength of Brainstorming is how fired up it works to get you. The instrumental works together with the vocals very well to make sure that there’s always something going on. Even in the slower solos (i.e. the solos Sakura does), there’s stuff going in the background. While Morning Musume has used dubstep influenced sound in Renai Hunter, and I really enjoy that song a lot, here the sound feels really integrated.

While I’m one of those people that misses old school Morning Musume a lot, really one of the strengths is in the arrangement. One of the biggest thing that makes me dislike a song is when the instrumental falls flat, and feels empty. Here, that’s not a problem, with so much going on in the back. However, nothing feels extraneous. There’s a lot going on throughout the song, but it feels warranted.

It’s also a great song for the group; it features a lot of the members doing shorter solos and mixed group bits. I don’t want to be one of those foreign fans who always complains about the line distribution, but varied groups like Morning Musume work at their best when everyone gets at least a little to do. Brainstorming really utilizes the members in a really great way.

Ultimately, this song is what brought me back and got me really excited about Morning Musume again. I actually preordered the single, because this is just that good.

12. Haste to Waste – BKA48

When I first heard there was going to be a unit of the members who scored low on the Mechaike special, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would be something silly and not quite serious. And there are slightly silly parts. However, it’s a pretty standard mid-tempo song with a good deal of guitar and piano in there. A really good standard song, mind you.

Listening to the song and knowing the lyrics, though, it feels right that this is the BKA48 song; it’s silly, but it’s about being happy even if you aren’t necessarily smart. The thing that interests me is just how strangely epic the chorus feels. Perhaps it’s the lyrics mixed with the song, but it feels like it should be the theme song to the anime/drama about Kawaei Rina. Which I would definitely watch, by the way.

Honestly, this song isn’t necessarily the most interesting song on this list. But it’s solid, has a catchy melody, and I really love the lyrics. Especially the line that actually mentions Haste to Waste, taken word for word from the Mechaike special.

11.Sekaichuu ni I Love You – Rhymeberry

When most people got interested in the new Rhymeberry single, they really liked the song R.O.D.. Nothing wrong with that, it’s a great song. However, I was really taken by Sekaichuu ni I Love You, just because of how different it is. It’s 30s era swing/jazz (not sure if this is sampling or not) mixed with rap. I’ve never heard something like this before, and if you know of any other songs even remotely similar please tell me.

The instrumental is really entertaining; I love hearing all the instruments featured, especially the clarinet (which I play), but the piano is really what shines here. Miri, Hime, and Yuka all shine and they are really improving their skills. They really sell the song, too, putting a lot of energy into it, which is a marked improvement from their last single (where the live version is a lot better than what was recorded). There are also some fun lines in here; I appreciate the Han Solo reference, and I always giggle at “Dope the shit!”

I think I mostly like this because it’s such an experiment. It’s fresh, new, and something I personally have never heard before, which is really rare for music.

10. Walk my Way – Yokoyama Rurika


Yokoyama Rurika – Walk My Way by oshiruka

I think every time I talk about Idoling!!! I mention that I want to follow them more. Which still stands. I think they’re a really solid, interesting idol group with some great music, but I just don’t follow them. I heard about Yokoyama Rurika getting a solo single, but I didn’t need to read it. One thing changed my mind. Hyadain.

When I heard that this was a new Hyadain song and that it was good, I raced out to listen to it. And oh yes, it is good. The thing about this song is that it really works because of Rurika’s really strong vocals. From what I’ve heard Hyadain really wrote a song for her strong voice, and you can hear it. Hyadain, like always, writes a really strong melody, but here it fits Rurika perfectly, and her strong voice compliments the strong instrumental, or rather the instruments compliment her. This isn’t a very subtle song; this is something that’s meant to be belted out. That’s why Rurika’s voice fits it perfectly.

Steve from Selective Hearing wrote a very good analysis of Walk My Way here, and I suggest you all read it because I’m not going to write something this great about the song. One thing I can say is that, as a Hyadain fan, I love almost everything he does. His music really fits my tastes. However, since he writes almost exclusively for idol acts, I rarely get to hear music by him from an artist with a voice as strong as Rurika’s. So this song is really a treat for me, and I know it’s something I’ll listen to quite a bit.

9.Maji Kansha – Team Syachihoko

If you haven’t noticed, I really love Team Syachihoko. I wanted to put all four songs from their latest single on here, but I was able to narrow it down so that I’d have a more varied list (though another one of theirs is coming up).

One of the things I really like about Stardust groups is just how energetic their songs are, but that’s a bit of a curse as well; there aren’t many Stardust group songs I’ll break down crying while listening to, whereas I’ve cried at many AKB48 songs. And while I don’t think Syachi is going to move into serious ballads any time soon, I have to say I love their first song that seems a bit more serious, which is Maji Kansha.

I’m a sucker for strings and idol music; it’s actually something you could probably notice in this list. So when I first heard the swell of strings of Maji Kansha during a livestream of a Team Syachihoko event, I was hooked. The thing about Team Syachihoko is that if you’re looking for a polished performance with strong vocals, you’d best look elsewhere. However, the thing that I personally love about Syachihoko, that you can definitely hear in this song, is that they really work hard and push themselves. Their voices might not be strong enough to carry a song like this, but they give it their all.

It’s a really lovely song in general, and one I think could become a favorite to perform at Syachi concerts. It’s definitely the most normal Syachihoko song, but that, in itself, makes it the most usual. In a really good way.
8. Bokura no Eureka – NMB48

The easiest way to describe NMB’s summer singles is in comparison to other 48 groups. Whereas Nagiichi was much like songs like Ponytail to Shushu; happy and upbeat, Bokura no Eureka feels a lot more like Manatsu no Sounds Good. It’s a bit darker, more serious in tone, but still retaining a summer feel to it. Bokura no Eureka is a bit slower, very strings heavy (yes I do love that), and it just works.

NMB has had more mature sounding songs before (i.e. Virginity), but I didn’t really expect this song when I saw that it was an NMB48 summer song. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s so unexpected that makes me love it so much. It allows for something like their full PV, where the NMB girls are on a deserted island; even though it’s a summer song, and has fairly typical lyrics, it has a lot more emotion to it. It’s a bit darker, slower and more serious than I expected from this track, and I have to say I love it.

7.Megitsune – Babymetal

Babymetal keeps surprising me and taking themselves to new levels. Every time I hear a new Babymetal song it’s exciting, because I never know what it’s going to be like. Megitsune is a new direction for Babymetal, now incorporating traditional instruments and themes into their metal/idol pop hybrid. It completely works. It’s still one of the most ‘metal’ songs Babymetal has put out (though perhaps not as metal as Ijime Dame Zettai), utilizing Suzuka’s strong vocals and a lot of drums.

It’s kind of amazing, really, that all these elements work so well together. I’m constantly impressed by how innovative Babymetal’s music can be, in incorporating Suzuka’s voice, Yui and Moa’s shouting, the metal sound, while still being accessible to people who may not necessarily enjoy metal music. I know I never really listened to metal before Babymetal. And perhaps I wouldn’t be so fond of this if I was a metal afficionado. However, Babymetal does a really great job of creating accessible music for everyone that blurs the lines of genre in a really fantastic way.

6. Den Den Passion – Dempagumi.inc

2013 is shaping up to be the year of Dempa for me; I’ve known about them for a while, but I really got into them this year. Den Den Passion does one of the things I wish more idol groups did, and really plays off the fact that this is a group effort. Especially in the chorus, there’s a lot of vocal overlap, which fits really well. I really like what they did with the vocals in this single; the voices in the chorus often sound almost vocaloid-esque, or a high-pitched Perfume, but in a way that really fits Dempagumi.inc.

That’s the thing that I really love about this single. Everything about it fits dempa’s identity as a group, which, as a fan of the group, is something I love. The quick pace, the high pitched vocals, the focus on the group, the entire song feels very dempagumi. Even the rap section really fits the song (perhaps it’s the edited vocals in that section). Sometimes when writing reviews for this blog, as an exercise, I try to imagine another group tackling a song. This is a song that I can’t imagine anyone other than dempagumi doing.

It’s frenzied, energetic, and fun. While another song on this list convinced me to start following demmpagumi.inc (spoilers), Den Den Passion helped keep Dempagumi.inc as one of my favorite idol groups out there. It’s not one of their strangest offerings, but it’s a worthy addition to the dempagumi discography.

5. Te wo Tsunagou – Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku

Who else has spontaneously started crying during an idol song? Because uh, that’s the first thing I did when I listened to Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku’s latest, Te wo Tsunagou.

Ebichu is another one of the Stardust idol groups a long with MomoClo and Team Syachihoko. However, for whatever reason, Ebichu hasn’t quite clicked with me in the same way as these other two groups. However, I can’t deny how great their music can be (especially since they work closely with Hyadain a lot), and Te wo Tsunagou is just incredible. Instead of taking the usual energetic route that Stardust group often does, Ebichu does a really great job with a sweet, heartfelt song (though they have done some of this before, to be fair).

The song starts off on a great note with the strongest vocalist in the group, Kashiwagi Hinata, singing a capella. She sounds really lovely, and is a really great start to the rest of this song. This song has a really great pace, helped out by the strong percussion in the background, but ultimately it’s just how earnest this song feels, both with the song, the vocals and the lyrics, that makes me really love it.

This song isn’t quite as unique as the others on this list. It’s not even as unique as the other song on this single, Kindan no Karma, which is a much darker song. However, this song does pretty much everything right in being a really lovely, heartwarming song. As groups search for the next gimmick or style, this proves that what you need more than anything is a good melody, charismatic performers, and a strong arrangement.

4. Ijime Dame Zettai – Babymetal

I remember distinctly the first time I heard this song. This had been a very long awaited song for Babymetal fans, so I was very excited. I was doing a project for a class (auditioning people to be in a project I was managing), but I had to listen to this as soon as I saw the PV had been posted. It was completely worth the anticipation. I sat alone in the room I was holding auditions in, mouth open, completely in awe of what I was listening to.

I’d argue that Ijime Dame Zettai is the most metal of the Babymetal songs; you could potentially make a good case for the song Catch Me if You Can, but I’d argue the chorus gets too pop-y. IDZ, on the other hand, is pure metal, without the pop influence of other Babymetal songs, and it’s just good. One of the things that I love about IDZ are the slower sections; the piano-heavy section at the beginning, the slower section right at the beginning of the second verse, and the section before the big guitar solos. These do a really great job of pumping up the more intense sections, and making them exciting. All the guitar solos in this are incredible, as are the rest of the instruments; they do a really excellent job of pumping you up, and having a lot of energy.

Suzuka’s vocals, while they’ve since improved again for Megitsune, made a really big leap from Headbanger to Ijime Dame Zettai. She sounds amazing here, her strong voice really fitting the great instrumental. Yui and Moa take a bit of a backseat from their already limited roles, but their presence mainly serves to remind you that yes, this is actually Babymetal you’re listening to.

This isn’t metal-pop. I’d go so far as to say this is just metal, with pop performers. Suzuka sounds great, the instruments sound great, and everything about this track is phenomenal.
3. Shuto Iten Keikaku – Team Syachihoko

Figuring out which two Team Syachihoko songs made this list was a bit of a difficult decision, because the whole single is pretty amazing, but it came down to Maji Kansha and Shuto Iten Keikaku. Let’s just get it out of the way: I’m biased towards Team Syachihoko. They’ve quickly become my idol group of choice, and I can’t think of a song they’ve done that I haven’t liked. However, this is because they have really high quality music, and this has continued with their national major debut single.

This song was cowritten by Japanese hip hop artist SEAMO, and that’s pretty obvious. Even if there’s only one actual rap section (done wonderfully by Haruna), you can hear the hip hop influence throughout the whole song, which features a lot of spoken parts and a whole lot of attitude. According to wikipedia, one of SEAMO’s influences was MC Hammer, and I do get a bit of an 80s/90s hip hop vibe from this. This is honestly not a song I expected to hear from Team Syachihoko, but they really put a lot of effort into this song, with Chiyuri rolling her R’s and Nao putting in a lot of energy. All the girls really fit in this well.

The lyrics are one of the most fun parts of the song, featuring Syachi’s plea to make Nagoya the capitol of Japan. It’s a silly topic and the lyrics are silly, but Syachihoko actually sells it pretty well. There’s a pretty good translation on the PV on the official Syachihoko channel, so I recommend you check that out.

Otherwise, all the parts come together for a really fun and entertaining song.

2. W.W.D – Dempagumi.inc

W.W.D stands for “worldwide Dempagumi,” a very fitting title given Dempagumi.inc’s recent announcement of performing at Japan Expo USA this August.

W.W.D is weird. And this is coming from someone who loves weird music. Can you guess who wrote this song? If you guessed Hyadain, yep you’re right. However, while some people may criticize W.W.D for being kind of disjointed, in actuality it really fits the group. The song centers around the group of six girls, their individual stories and how they all came together to become one group. Therefore, the fact that the song has so many different styles in it actually makes a lot of sense, because it’s reinforcing this narrative found in the lyrics. I’m really glad they decided to work with Hyadain to write this deeply personal song for Dempagumi.inc; Hyadain is the master of writing very eccentric songs that somehow work, and W.W.D is one of those songs.

Because this song is based off the histories of the girls in dempagumi.inc, they perform it really well. The girls all have an interest in Akihabara culture, and as such really play up the shouted parts well. Groups in the past have called themselves ‘otaku groups,’ but you really believe it with dempagumi.inc. This song is so weird, but Dempagumi.inc manages to sell the slow/serious section as well as the energetic sections. They do well with a song that I imagine would be difficult for most idol singers to get.

If you don’t like your music weird, I doubt you’ll like W.W.D.. In fact, I have a feeling it’s the type of single that would be very polarizing. However, I really like Hyadain when he’s at his wackiest, which he is here. Combine that with the personal stories of dempagumi.inc, and you have a classic idol song on your hands.

1. Hai to Diamond – Momoiro Clover Z

If you read my review of Momoiro Clover Z’s album 5th Dimension, you’ll already know how much I love this song, so I’ll keep this brief. Hai to Diamond is incredible. It’s not necessarily the most idol-y song out there, but it’s a really beautiful song featuring orchestral instruments, many different sounds, and some really nice performances from Momoiro Clover. It’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, written very well and arranged even better. It’s gorgeous, epic, and has been an instant favorite ever since I heard it.

This is one of the most beautiful pop songs I’ve ever heard, and I know I’ll keep coming back to it again and again in the future.

What Makes an Indie Idol Indie?

Recently, Ray of Idolminded and now Pure Idol Heart posted THIS on Pure Idol Heart. As a fan of Pure Idol Heart in general (having named it my blog of the year at Idolminded) and as a fan of Ray’s writing (at Intl Wota and now Idolminded) I was really interested to hear what he had to say.

A big part of this is because indie idols are near and dear to my heart. While I got into idols (like many people) with Hello!Project, and I have favorite idols in the current Hello!Project (Ishida Ayumi, Tamura Meimi) and in the 48 groups (Watanabe Miyuki, Oota Aika, Natori Wakana) as well as in Momoiro Clover Z (Sasaki Ayaka), if I had to name my favorite idol groups, or the groups I support the most it would be:

Team Syachihoko  (Major)

rev.from DVL (indie)

Rhymeberry (Indie)

Dempagumi.inc (Major)

BABYMETAL (major)

and MMJ (indie)

Notice that next to each group I put their status and they’re fairly evenly split. Rhymeberry, rev.from DVL and MMJ are all technically indie and Babymetal, dempagumi.inc and Team Syachihoko are technically on major labels. However, for me it’s almost hard to differentiate. To me, all of these groups have an independent feel to them, regardless of their actual status as being major or independent. Both Babymetal and Rhymeberry are really interesting in regards to genre-bending. Team Syachihoko still performs primarily locally in Nagoya, and are really local idols like MMJ (Hiroshima) and rev.from DVL (Fukuoka). My most recent favorite, dempagumi.inc, is technically a local group (for Akihabara), and, in my opinion, have done their most interesting stuff recently, after a roster change and spending some time on a major label (including their genre-bending cover of the Beastie Boys classic ‘Sabotage’)

All these groups have a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of energy, and a lot of excitement, moreso than some of the major acts I’ve encountered. In my head I refer to all of them as indie idols, even though that’s not exactly the case. As Ray mentioned, things aren’t necessarily very cut and dry.

To me, this reminds me a lot about independent films, specifically the current Independent Spirit Awards. As you might imagine, the Independent Spirit Awards is an award that is given out to independent filmmakers. This is something I really appreciate, given the power that the major film studios have. However, last year Silver Linings Playbook got four awards including best film, best leading actress, best director and best screenplay. Now, let me just say that I absolutely adored Silver Linings Playbook; it ended up as one of my favorite films of the year (though Moonrise Kingdom ended up being what I considered to be the best of 2012). However, I would be hard pressed to call it an independent film. It had a budget of over 20 million dollars (which to many films is a very small budget) and was partially produced by and distributed by the Weinstein Company, a major force in awards season films, especially. They distributed The King’s Speech and The Artist, both which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Again, I liked both of these films as well, but it’s hard to define these as independent films. Likewise, there are many films that come out from major studios that are almost designed to have an indie feel and appeal to the audience that likes that sort of thing. Indie, rather than a category for finances, has become almost an aesthetic and stylistic choice more than anything.

I also found what Ray said about pushing boundaries quite interesting. Because out of the six groups I named, the “safest” or most traditional (I’d argue) are MMJ and rev.from DVL, the two indie acts, whereas the major label acts are pretty eccentric. Innovation is happening both in the indies and in the now majors, so it’s exciting stuff.

I don’t know if I have much more to add other than agreement; it’s a tough and somewhat nebulous distinction to make, even if it initially seems cut and dry.

Top Twelve PVs of 2012

One of the things that I’ve found completely interesting with my idol fandom is how interested in music videos as a form I’ve become. As a fan of indie/alternative rock, I’ve honestly not paid much attention to it. If you asked me what my favorite non-idol/JPop PV was before I became an idol fan, I’m not sure I could tell you; probably Myriad Harbour by The New Pornographers (If you think idol PVs are weird, this might beat them out). Still, that’s really because music videos aren’t really used that much in the US. Sure they’re viewed on YouTube and people rush to see the newest Lady Gaga music vid, but it’s not as heavily monetized and people just don’t care quite as much, as a whole. However, at least for idols PVs are part of the package that gets sold (on singles/albums), and are considerably more important, especially since idols focus a lot more on image than bands do. 2012 had some excellent PVs, which I’m ranking here (I’ll talk about some of the stinkers later).

Honorable mentions:

Manatsu no Sounds Good – AKB48:  I wanted to love this PV; the effects are great, it looks fantastic, and I like the tone. However, there was just too big of a disconnect between the dance shot and the main story. I don’t mind a tonal shift, or even that it didn’t make much sense, but I wish that it felt more cohesive; even editing some of the story among the dancing would have helped. The elements were there, but in my opinion it’s not as effective as it could have been.

UZA – AKB48: It looks incredible, but there wasn’t really enough to interest me in multiple viewings. It’s essentially a prettied up dance shot + close ups. And this isn’t a dig at it; it’s one of the best looking PVs of the year. But it’s not quite as ambitious as I would have liked. While I don’t need a story with my PVs, I do need something to keep my interest, and UZA didn’t have it.

Cha Cha Sing (flashmob version) – Berryz Koubou: It’s kind of sad when the best lit H!P PV of the year was done in a public area. This was a fun, interesting idea that I liked a lot, but can’t really justify to put on my top list.

Kimi wa Jitensha Watashi wa Densha de Kitaku (Maimi version) – C-ute: Similarly, I don’t feel I can really put a solo version of a PV on a list, and the normal one didn’t quite grab me. But I really liked the longer Maimi PV, where she’s basically dancing by herself after a breakup. It’s really sweet, and made me want more drama PVs from H!P.

12. Parade – Aso Natsuko

I know the “running on the street and people start following” PV was done by Mano Erina, and done very well there, but Parade did it earlier and IMO is a lot more fun. Nacchan is at her best here with a fun, well-made PV that spoofs karaoke videos and bad monster movies. There’s some visual effects, but they don’t get in the way of a really fun time. All the extras in the PV do great, and it really is Natsuko’s best PV of the year.

11. Guru Guru Curtain – Nogizaka46

Nogizaka46 Guru Guru Curtain PV from Japanverse on Vimeo.

OK yes I’m going there. This is my controversial choice of the list, and I’m sticking by it. Lots of people thought this was a boring PV, and it might not be the most interesting PV by any means (which is why it’s so low on here). However, it is a very well-made PV that is just beautifully shot. I really love the juxtaposition of the black and white classroom and the colorful dance shot. The contrast in the black and white scenes is really lovely and the close up shots look fantastic. It might not be the most interesting PV of the year, but it’s one of the most well made and is just beautiful, which is why I personally thought it was fantastic.

10. 20112012 – Hyadain

Hyadain’s one of the most charismatic figures in modern JPop; while he’s made a name for himself in writing a lot of fantastic JPop music, often I find myself liking his solo stuff more. 20112012 was one of my favorite songs of the year, and the PV is very well served by Hyadain’s natural charisma. Hyadain’s a lot of fun here, and his energy is contagious. Aided by the dancer TAKAHIRO, Hyadain goes through a busy schedule, what I assume is very loosely based off of its own. It primarily takes place in a fictionalized apartment, and it’s just a lot of fun, mostly because of Hyadain’s charisma and energy. He’s just fun to watch (and Hyadain waking up is way more adorable than it should be). I especially like the various places he dances with TAKAHIRO, and the changes in rooms to the house. It’s creative and fun.

9. Synchro Tokimeki – Watanabe Mayu

[vietsub+kara] Synchro tokimeki – Watanabe Mayu from jackybin01b on Vimeo.

Mayuyu kicked off her solo career with a bang this year. While I didn’t rank any of her songs on my top songs list (they just didn’t impress me that much, and Mayuyu’s voice isn’t my favorite), her PVs have been excellent. The thing that I loved about Synchro Tokimeki is that it combines something of Mayuyu’s (her manga drawing) to be personal to her. Adding some great costumes and the whole standard “warrior saving a beautiful woman” storyline is pretty cute. It’s a very beautiful PV, as well, and I especially like the color balance in the storylines, with somewhat muted colors and gold in contrast to Mayuyu as an artist with bright colors everywhere. This is a really well-made PV and is a lot fun to watch, even though I don’t follow Mayuyu very muuch.

8. Hanikami Lollipop – SKE48

I love this PV so much; I think that using “France” as a backdrop is a great idea, the set’s beautiful, and I love the cute concept of Jurina having to help the people turn from black and white to color (very similar to the plot of the underrated film Pleasantville). I really also like the choice of making the colors kind of muted instead of bright; it has a very unique aesthetic. It’s not perfect (I have an issue with some of the editing in the PV), but purely on the aesthetic choices of the costumes, the colors and the sets, it was one of my most memorable PVs of 2012.

7. The Stardust Bowling – Team Syachihoko

OK, I have to admit that there’s a bit of a bias in putting Team Syachihoko on any list, since they’re currently my favorite idol group. However, that favoritism’s for a reason, and this is what kicked it off. This is Team Syachihoko’s debut PV, and while it’s clearly made for not a lot of money and is kind of a cheaper PV, it’s just fun. The most notable and memorable parts are the grown men in sunglasses in bowling pins. It’s weird, but really what did you expect from Stardust (Momoiro Clover Z’s company) idols? Some found this a bit creepy, and it kind of is, but I liked the “story” of the girls fighting off the bowling pins; any other idol group would have had the girls go bowling for the PV, but this is a step up. In addition it’s edited well (Kind of interesting that they only add in dancing near the end), and the girls themselves are energetic and incredibly fun to watch (my bias is towards Yuzuki, the one in purple, but seriously all these girls are great). It just made me want to follow Team Syachihoko and anticipate their releases, which is a great thing for a debut PV.

6. Show Fight! -AKB48 Future Girls

This is just a great looking PV. I really like the dark look they have going on and the muted colors. However, where this PV shines is just how the girls look. Whoever made this PV wasn’t afraid to make the girls look dirty, bloody and absolutely ruthless in beating each other up. This PV wins because it’s probably the grittiest idol PV I’ve seen. The triangle set is pretty interesting (allowing for good fights between three members at a time as well as an interesting dance shot set up). This simultaneously has some of the best lighting in a PV I’ve seen (which is an issue for a lot of groups) as well as being really daring as a PV. It’s a very interesting PV and one of my most watched ones of the year.

5. Headbanger!!! – BABYMETAL

2012 was the year Babymetal really came into their own. While Doki Doki Morning was all fine and good, Ii ne and Headbanger really set Babymetal apart with their sound, and it’s looking like 2013 is off to a great start with Ijime Dame Zettai. Headbanger was a really excellent PV, though. The black, white and red aesthetic, while perhaps stereotypical, looks really great in the dance/close ups. Seeing the transformation of Suzuka from school girl to metal singer due to the magical neck brace (yes, a thing that happens in this PV) is very entertaining, and the rapid pace editing (especially at the point when Suzuka first starts her headbanging) is excellent. I especially like the lighting choices in the dance shot bits. It’s not the most elaborate PV in the world, but all the elements really came together to make an excellent PV for Babymetal, and Babymetal’s best PV yet (though Ijime, Dame, Zettai has since been a better PV).

4. Hikaru Monotachi – Watanabe Mayu

I admit, the first time I saw this PV I didn’t really see what all the fuss was about. I think the song’s alright, but it’s not my type of song. And I really wasn’t into the opening bits with seeing Mayuyu on Youtube/NicoNico and just performing. However, once you’re past the first chorus, you get a really well done PV with Mayu as a cyborg. This is when the YouTube/NicoNico comes into play well, as you see the fan backlash at Mayu being “fake.” This is kind of brilliant in how it plays off Mayu’s existing cyborg persona (I can’t see another idol pulling this off like Mayu did). There’s cool parts when Mayu is animated, and other parts where you see real Mayuyu with pieces of her missing (an error with Mayu’s CG). It also pretty brilliantly uses pieces from Mayu’s past two solo PVs, and the combination of animation, CG and Mayu mix together extremely well and feel cohesive despite having these various elements.

3.Moretsu Uchu Kokyokyoku Dai 7 Gakusho “Mugen no Ai” – Momoiro Clover Z

Momoiro Clover Z really had a great release this year with their first one, and while I ranked DNA Kyoushikyoku over Mugen no Ai in my song rankings, one of the initial things that really blew me away was the Mugen no Ai PV. While I usually am not a fan of PVs that rely too heavily on green screened graphics, Momoiro Clover Z did it perfectly here. The space setting works perfectly, and I love the very stylized graphics when Momoiro Clover Z are on their bikes. The lighting feels a bit too strong, but they really make it work here. The costumes are also some of the best of the year, with clear thought made to the quality of the garments. Momoiro Clover Z is also one of the most energetic and exciting idol groups out there right now, so the girls themselves do a lot to make the PV really click. Like I mentioned, I’m not usually the biggest fan of too much computer graphics in my PVs, but this really did a great job of proving that you can have a green screen heavy PV while maintaining great quality.

2. Kataomoi Finally – SKE48

It hurts to put this so low, and I wish I could put this at number one. The top two PVs of the year were completely obvious to me in their excellence, and Kataomoi Finally really was on another level. All the elements really came together to create a fantastic PV. The story components are really fantastic, and are one of the few times that a lesbian relationship in a PV was really done in a tasteful and classy way, not trying to appeal to the male gaze. I honestly really admired SKE48’s willingness to do this PV, as it’s possibly more daring than any other 48 group PV (with the exception of Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou and Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru). The choreography, which I named my top choreography of 2012, really plays well into the the song, and really works well with the editing. Honestly, every single element, from the lighting to the editing to the cinematography really works and is done perfectly. SKE48 has been putting out a lot of quality stuff, but man it’ll be hard to beat Kataomoi Finally.

1. Gingham Check – AKB48

Like I said, there was definitely a struggle between Kataomoi Finally and Gingham Check. However, Gingham Check won just because of the fact I like it so much. I love the clever look at film genres and their trailers, looking at cop movies, horror movies and giant monster movies and exploring romance within those boundaries. It also helps that Joseph Kahn had a really good visual style within the whole thing, almost exaggerated within their respective genres (lens flares and shining lights in the cop movie, a muted color tone that feels straight from the 50s-60s in the monster movie, and a dark feel with the horror movie). Various shots are vary reminiscent of certain movies (Godzilla and the Ring come to mind), but in addition to all this it’s just a lot of fun, it’s edited well, filmed well, and is done incredibly well, which made it my favorite PV of 2012.