Time for a new end-of-the-year series! Just as the title suggests, I’ll be choosing the best single released by Hello! Project this year. Considering H!P is an umbrella, I’ll first be hand-selecting 5 top contenders and choosing the victor from those. Ready to begin?
Hatsukoi CIDER / DEEP MIND ~ Buono!
January 18th, 2012
PV Quality: Good
Replay Value: High
Tracklisting: 1) Hatsukoi CIDER 2) DEEP MIND 3) Hatsukoi CIDER (Instrumental) 4) DEEP MIND (Instrumental)
Comments: Hatsukoi CIDER / DEEP MIND was Buono!’s first activity of the year and I must say, I adored it. The Regular and Limited Editions of the covers showed off Buono!’s very cool and sassy side. The real settings were very refreshing to see, considering so much of Hello! Project covers are photoshopped. The Event V and Single V covers are much more playful yet simple. They feature Buono! tacked onto a solid color background in silly but cute poses. The costumes are the low point of the single. Even though the theme is prominent and it might be cute to some, the pink overbears Miyabi and Airi. The pink trousers are a bit odd and don’t flatter the girls very well. Not to mention, Miyabi’s hat is rather unnecessary. The DEEP MIND costumes are much more intriguing despite their lack of variation. Hatsukoi CIDER‘s PV is very happy, well-lit, and upbeat. The girls sing in front of a band at mic stands. The best part is when the camera faces up on the girls underneath plexiglass; it’s a very unique and fresh idea. Unfortunately, the scenes in which the shapes turn into a new screen are strangely put and will remind everyone of Perfume’s love the world. DEEP MIND’s PV is very dark and mature, entertaining an audience that might not be all for the hippy-happy. The after-effects of blurring and the bright light adds to the mysteria of the video. The downside of this video is the fact that there are only two shots, so it could get quite boring to watch. The reason this single has such high replay value is the fact that it entertains two different audiences: ones for the upbeat Buono! and those for the serious, mature Buono! In addition, everything else about the videos is very well done and thought out.
Chou HAPPY SONG ~ Berikyuu
June 20th, 2012
PV Quality: Great
Replay Value: High
Tracklisting: 1) Chou HAPPY SONG (Single Ver.) 2) Chou HAPPY SONG 3) Because happiness 4) Shiawase no Tochuu 5) Chou HAPPY SONG (Single Ver. Instrumental)
Comments: Chou HAPPY SONG was a great masterpiece Tsunku cooked up by combining two extremely different songs by both C-ute and Berryz Koubou. Despite the covers of this single using the very unimaginative costumes of the two groups’ latest albums, the covers are very creative and unique. The costumes used in the PV are much better than those on the covers. First, the two groups have their own costumes. Berryz wear cherry-colored dresses with varying designs and hair accessories. The bright red perfectly matches their counterpart of the song: upbeat and cheerful. C-ute’s dresses are white and don’t seem to vary from member to member. Although, their hair accessories are quite different–Nakky has her hair down and to the side with white daisies placed throughout, giving her a very sweet and heavenly look; meanwhile, Mai sports a high side-ponytail accompanied by a large bow, showing a cute and innocent look. Their pale dresses represents their ballad part of the song–a very pure and angelic ensemble. The second outfits used are exclusive to the song. All of them are dressed in pink with a certain letter stitched onto their costume. Like Berryz’ dresses, each outfit is varied for each member. The PV of this song is near perfect. I can’t seem to find not one flaw about it. The video starts out with a double screen of Momoko and Airi popping in the CD of their respective group’s latest album. The settings used are very refreshing and different than what we’ve seen with Hello! Project. The dance shot uses a large ballroom-looking area with long drapes behind the girls. The close-ups use the drapes as well, colored to match the girls’ dress colors. We are also treated with an altogether shot with every girl singing, joking, laughing, and smiling along to the song. The replay value of this single is high due to the imaginative idea created by Tsunku, the fantastic song, and the great results of the video. The song is a perfect definition of how united Berikyuu are.
Song for the DATE ~ Erina Mano
June 27th, 2012
PV Quality: Great
Replay Value: High
Tracklisting: 1) Song for the DATE 2) Aozora ga Watteru 3) Song for the DATE (Instrumental)
Comments: The very unexpected single of Song for the DATE is Erina Mano’s second of the year. The covers to the single are quite odd. Despite the grungy, deep feel of the song, the covers promote a much more innocent look of Mano’s. Limited A and B editions feature her in an unflattering outfit and position. The text of the title is not only oddly placed but not the right font or color for the style of the song. While those two covers are rather unappealing, the Normal edition seems to be the best one with Mano’s hair tousled, an intriguing angle, and a perfect font of text. The costumes used in the PV might look a bit plain or blah, but the fact of the matter is, they fit the image trying to be portrayed. The PV shows two sides of Mano: a preppy and happy side vs. a dark and angsty side. When one analyzes the PV further, it is clear that these are true pieces of Mano. The happy, white side is the idol version of Mano while the dark side is Mano’s hidden womanly version. Anyone who knows just a bit about idoldom will understand that what you see might not always be what is truly there. Idols put on a show, only to entertain the audience and accumulate sales. Throughout the video, the womanly Mano seems to be fighting with her idol counterpart. At first, Mano’s womanly version is tied up and might suggest to the watcher that she is the villain, but this is not the case. When the idol Mano waves her hand in front of her face, this shows how she in controlled. With just a flick of a switch, idols are supposed to turn their emotions off and on, exactly how this Mano promotes it. The womanly Mano continues to chase the idol counterpart, ripping down all her posters. The womanly Mano is trying to rid of the idol version of herself, so she can be the only Mano there is–so she can be herself. This is where the costumes come in; the white, frilly dress with hair perfectly detailed into a bun represents the pure and innocent idol, while the black, long, shapeless dress with hair tousled and imperfect promotes the normal, not-so-innocent woman Mano craves to be. While these outfits might not seem dazzling or superior, they describe the different halves effortlessly. This single is much more than a single, it’s a representation of the controlling nature of idoldom. It perfectly describes the need to break free and be yourself. All of this is why the replay value stands.
One.Two.Three / The Matenrou Show ~ Morning Musume
July 4th, 2012
PV Quality: Decent
Replay Value: Moderately High
Tracklisting: 1) One.Two.Three 2) The Matenrou Show 3) One.Two.Three (Instrumental) 4) The Matenrou Show (Instrumental)
Comments: Morning Musume’s 50th single was a step in a whole new direction for the group. Unfortunately, a major downside for the single was the poorly executed covers. A couple of the versions like Limited D, Limited E, and Limited F are very pretty and well-made. However, the other editions do nothing to promote the single’s style. The costumes of the single are very unique and give off a spunky vibe. Despite this, after examining the costumes further, they are a bit too revealing and oddly shaped on some members. When it comes to the PVs, the only thing that saves this single from being “Poor” is One.Two.Three. The Matenrou Show doesn’t even have a PV–it’s just a dance shot. Not to mention, they are in the same setting and costumes as the first A-side. One.Two.Three has a very fresh close-up setting with the mirrors creating very interesting illusions and angles. The dance shot setting is very underdone and out of place, making that part of the PV difficult to swallow. The CGI gets mixed opinions–some like it, some hate it. I, for one, really enjoy the CGI and I believe it really makes the girls stand out more. Without the effects, I think the PV would be rather boring and hard to watch. The replay value of this single is moderately high due to the quality of the songs themselves. One.Two.Three is a well done electro song–something that Morning Musume has never been able to accomplish(Renai Hunter is a good example of that). The Matenrou Show brings us back to the good old Golden Era days of MoMusu. It’s funky, upbeat, and fun.
cha cha SING ~ Berryz Koubou
July 25th, 2012
PV Quality: Great
Replay Value: Moderately High
Tracklisting: 1) cha cha SING 2) Loving you Too much 3) cha cha SING (Instrumental) 4) Loving you Too much (Instrumental)
Comments: Berryz Koubou surprised everyone with their fun cover single this summer. Although the songs were enjoyable, the covers were hard to look at. The Normal edition features the girls sitting on lotus flowers in the sky–a rather cheaply done job. The Limited A cover shows the girls glued on the cover quite messily with large sparkles surrounding them. Limited B and C seem to be the best ones–one with the girls standing with Thai-influenced colored drapes, while the other has the girls looking towards the camera over their shoulders with the same drapes in the background. Event V is quite similar to Limited C while Single V features the girls sitting on steps against a multicolored background. While some covers look well done, overall, they are rather messy and busy. The costumes of each song are very, very well done. Loving you Too much has very funky, fluorescent outfits that look like a real kick to wear. However, the makeup and hairstyles featured in the video aren’t very flattering to some of the girls. cha cha SING contains Thai-influenced costumes that really complement the girls’ figures. On top of that, the pieces of cloth hanging from their bangles are a sweet touch; it’s fun to watch them in movement. Despite this, the crimson color on some of the girls don’t flatter their skin tones. Each PV creates a very fun and pleasurable viewing experience. The girls have fun and smile and act goofy in both videos. It’s quite cute to watch. In addition, the settings to each of the videos are very interesting and lovable. The replay value could have been set to “High,” however, Momoko’s solo song brought down its value a bit.
Erina Mano’s Song for the DATE
This was rather difficult at first. There were a lot of really great releases this year. However, after analyzing the singles better, I’ve come to the conclusion that Erina Mano’s summer single was the greatest. Even though Morning Musume’s 50th single was quite unexpected, I think Mano’s Song for the DATE was even more unexpected. For one, I didn’t even like Mano in the first place. But after this single, I realized that Mano is human and she actually has talent. Not only did the song keep me hooked long enough to become my favorite J-pop song of 2012, but the amount of symbolism used in the PV is breath-taking. It makes sense. And it came at a time when Mano was ready to announce her departure from Hello! Project. This single defines a turning point in Mano’s career and life. She’s ready to move on and I’m glad she left us this single to marvel in.