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).
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
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
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.