My Top 10 PVs of 2014

Last year I did 15 PVs, and this year I could barely think of 10 to fit this list. I think that says a lot. 2014 had some fantastic, great PVs, but overall it was an unimpressive year.

Honorable Mentions:

SKE48 – Mirai to wa?

This is on here for ambition alone. It was filmed and edited in reverse, so that you see the world moving in reverse behind SKE’s members (which meant that SKE48’s members moved and mouthed the lyrics in reverse). This is a cool idea, and one that fits the idea of the single (since Mirai means “future”). However, I don’t think it was executed as well as it could have been. There’s not enough moments that show off the initial idea, and most of the second half is a live concert that feels a bit disjointed. The idea’s cool, but the execution isn’t all the way there.

10. Especia – Kuru ka na

Choosing between Kuru ka na and No1 Sweeper was a difficult choice – both really show the Vaporwave aesthetic, showing the very worst of the 80s/early 90s aesthetic, in a good way. However, Kuru ka na goes a step further in being just awful (in a good way!). The PV is nonsensical and more often ugly, with 3D graphics and editing that looks like someone is creating their first PV with limited art assets. The green screen is even iffy, with some of the girls’ outfits matching the green screen, creating that weird floating effect.

It’s the type of PV that, if done slightly better or done by a group without Especia’s aesthetic goals, I would be pretty baffled by. However, as it is, Kuru ka na is very purposefully exploring the ugly aesthetics of the era, and almost a critique of the era. It’s easy to feel nostalgic, because nostalgia often blinds you to the negative aspects that were forgotten by time. Kuru ka na still feels nostalgic (I know I have seen videos that look like this before) but uncomfortably so.

This is probably the closest to an art piece that is on this list, and I am really looking forward to more from Especia.

9. Morning Musume- Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe

For real, Morning Musume, shoot a PV outside and not in the comfort of your own studio. It’s OK!
That said, Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe is my favorite of the “let’s shoot this completely in front of green screen” PV that MM has done in a while. The celestial background is beautiful, and looks like effort was put into it. The solo shots in front of this look just lovely, and the solo shots in front of the white background look good, as well. None of the effects look extraneous or out of place. The editing is paced well, and moves between shots at just the right pace. I might have made the lighting a bit more interesting in the solo shots with the white background, but ultimately this is a well put together PV.

Green screen and effects heavy PVs aren’t bad, but what you need more than anything is a solid visual style and effects that don’t look cheap. While Morning Musume hasn’t always excelled at this in the past (Help Me and Pyoko Pyoko Ultra are two notable ones), Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe looks gorgeous, and so a lot can be excused.

8. Michishige Sayumi – Shabadabadou

Speaking of PVs with limited resources and locations still having potential to be good, how about that Shabadabadou? It’s a PV that relies on very little – there are two outfits, a couple of props and a minimalist sets. The bulk of the work is done by Sayumi herself (who is at her most charismatic here) and the visual effects. What makes this a great PV is that there is a unified, clear style at play. The retro visual effects fit the song perfectly and are used perfectly – they are there to serve the song and to give attention to Sayumi. This should be the goal of PVs, so Shabadabadou does a lot of good.

This PV is a great example of taking a little and making it into a lot, and what having a good staff can do. The editing is just about perfect, the lighting looks great (especially in the scenes with the mic stand). Having these basic elements done well makes a lot of the other parts seem better, too.

Ultimately, though, Shabadabadou has a unique, interesting visual style which makes it a treat to watch. H!P, take notes, this is a PV you’ll want to emulate in the future.

7. E-Girls – Odoru Pon Pokorin

I have to admit, external forces were part of what made Odoru Pon Pokorin such a memorable PV. This PV came out just after I saw Snowpiercer, my favorite movie of 2014, which is notably set almost entirely on a train in a post-apocalyptic setting. So seeing this PV, joyfully taking place on a train, was a bit weird to say the least.
However, while that’s why the PV initially stood out to me, I can’t say that’s why the PV was good. While the whole group scenes are just fine, colorful amusement park scenes that are serviceable, and the external shots of the train are hit and miss (not the best CGI, E-Girls), the set decoration of the season-themed train cars is just wonderful. I especially like the gorgeous Autumn-themed car, but the rest are great, too. There is some subtle lighting changes with each car, too, and it just all looks great. This is excellence in set design.

Beyond that, though, there is just a sense of fun throughout this PV. Getting little kids to dance along was really cute, and it felt like a chance for E-Girls to let loose, especially since E-Girls is generally a very polished group. Odoru Pon Pokorin allows the members to have some fun, and they do it well.

Ultimately, though, this PV came to mind because of the fantastic set design. Design elements like this can make PVs stand out.

6. Takoyaki Rainbow – Naniwa no Haniwa

If you’re going to do an entirely green screen PV, Naniwa no Haniwa is not a bad one to emulate. What a lot of these PVs have in common is a sense of overall style; they don’t rely on a single idea or a collection of moments, but have a unique artistic vision.

Naniwa no Haniwa looks great, and is the type of PV that you can hardly complain about being almost entirely green screen. There is a lot of style to Naniwa no Haniwa; I particularly like how the backgrounds start out muted and then become brighter and more colorful as the PV goes on. It seems like the members are bringing color into the world. Throughout everything there’s a lot of interesting, colorful graphics, and it really feels like Takoyaki Rainbow’s members are in a storybook. There are also a lot of surprising, interesting moments – my particular favorite is when the background becomes sepia toned and there are the lyrics on the screen, becoming a karaoke video.

Beyond the impressive visual style, though, what I liked was the movement. There’s a lot of camera movement, movement of the graphics in the background, and of course the movement of the members. Nothing feels static or boring, and the combination of fantastic editing and the camera movements make for a visually interesting PV. The flow of this PV is just perfect, and everything is visually engaging.

Naniwa no Haniwa is, in essence, how to do a PV in front of a green screen and do it well.

5. – Sakura Appareshon

While I’ve be en extolling the virtues of good effects-driven PVs, I really have a lot of respect for PVs that go the opposite route, and have more minimalist PVs. While there are certainly visual effects in Sakura Appareshon (I’d actually be very interested to know just how many of the various visuals in this PV were real and how many were visual efects), it’s a fairly plain PV. There are some close up shots, but the bulk of the PV is done in very few takes, with the members of moving around to different rooms, using props, and dancing. That’s about it. It’s a credit to the girls of Dempa that they can make this so compelling, but it totally works. The minimal effects matched with the props looks great, and it’s fun to see a PV that chooses to do so few takes/cuts.

Honestly, the biggest disappointment of this PV is that it does cut away, there are takes, and that there are these added visual effects. I’d almost rather see a single-take version of Sakura Appareshon. It might be less polished, but it would be ambitious and fun.

Still, despite wondering what might have been, this is still a lot of fun, focusing on making the best use of small amounts of resources.

4. Babyraids – Koi wa Panic

This is one of the most fun, joyful PVs of the year that shows that doing a PV almost exclusively in a studio setting can still be a ton of fun.

The PV makes use of a lot of slow motion as Babyraids’s members do a lot of silly things. The slow motion is a big part of the fun of the PV, as it adds a lot of tension and allows for anticipation to build . This also allows for the editor to make control the speed to match the song perfectly.

The slow motion works really well with the what looks like stop motion filming of the other sequences in the PV, which are done over an orange background. This adds a great contrast to the rest of the PV, and breaks up the slower moments of Koi wa Panic.

This PV is just a lot of fun, watching the members of Babyraids goof around, and I enjoyed it immensely.

3. Team Syachihoko – Shampoo Hat

While I am very fond of Ii Kurashi’s PV, Shampoo Hat was simple, relatively understated, but at the same time incredibly well made. While this is the most restrained Syachihoko PV, it is probably the best made one.

Honestly, I might have to review this PV to show everything I love about it. It’s lit perfectly, it’s shot perfectly, and the editing is just about perfect. There are several moments that, when I first saw it, made me have to pause and look – this is a beautifully made PV.

But what stands out is the use of the shampoo hat as a visual metaphor – it not only adds a lot of color and visual interest to the PV, but adds a lot to the meaning of the PV, as well. Each member’s shampoo hat corresponds to their member color (and a color they’re wearing), and show up with the person they have feelings for. It’s really clever and relatively understated.

Honestly, the only thing I would change about Shampoo Hat is a bit of the acting direction – Syachi’s members do a good job acting here, but I think it could have been improved a bit. Still, that is a small complaint for what is otherwise a fantastic PV.

2. Cheeky Parade – Candy Pop Galaxy Bomb

Well, I didn’t think that Cheeky Parade would make me cry this year, but Candy Pop Galaxy Bomb gets to me. There is a very palpable joy in Candy Pop Galaxy Bomb, which comes from this being from Cheeky Parade’s New York concert.

I really like the variety of shots in this PV – there are shots from their concert, from their appearance at New York Comic Con, and various places all over the city. It really gives you a feel like you are seeing a condensed version of Cheeky Parade’s trip.

This is a very well put together travelogue, showcasing Cheeky Parade in New York. There’s a lot of real emotion here, and it’s fantastic.

1. – Bari 3 Kyowakoku

Honestly, just about every PV deserves to be on a top PV list – they are just in their own category for greatness. But Bari 3 Kyowakoku just about blew me away.

In addition to every basic element being very well made (framing, lighting, editing, visual design), the clear thing that sets this apart is how well animation is combined with live action The transition between animation and reality is pretty seamless, with a lot of the animation being done over the members. It makes the distinction between reality and animation blur just a bit. Which I believe the group is trying to achieve – animation blurs into the members, and the members’ faces meld into the background.

It wouldn’t work well unless the animation looked good, though, but it does. Just about everything looks absolutely fantastic. I also really appreciated the clear references to anime here, specifically referencing the mecha genre (there might be a specific series but I wouldn’t know it) and Sailor Moon.

The visual style is hectic and almost purposefully clashing, but it works. There are a lot of very strange elements to this PV visually, but it all feels purposeful.

This PV is really fantastic, and was the clear choice for #1.