PV VS Round 7: AKB48 vs Chase
Two videos go head-to-head in shorts reviews, but only one emerges as the winner. This time we’ve got would-be contenders for the girlpop crown: the Hello! Project styled AKB48 and the Avex Trax Girls Box styled Chase. Who’s more pedolicious? Who’s more musically gifted? Who’s less likely to stir up an FBI raid on my hard drive?
AKB48 - “Aitakatta”
You would think that these two girlpop groups would have me all excited and gleeful and giddy as… well, a teenage pop idol. Instead, I feel like a bitter old queen at the local gay bar, making snarky comments at the chicken because they’re not nearly as desirable as the hunky bears at the leather bar three towns away.
So where was I? Oh, yeah, AKB48 annoys me but I want to keep trying them out because there’s too many idols and I’m determined to separate wheat from chaff, wota-wise, no matter how long it takes.
That said, it took me a couple of years to get a hang of Hello! Project, and almost three years to be able to name everyone in the current collective. (The H!P Kids being the very last, though now I’m quite comfortable naming all of them, even little Mai and Chisato.) It took time and effort and giving a damn about individual units before the larger beauty of the Tsunku army became apparent. In contrast, being able to name all the members of AKB48 - or even singling out the top talents and prettiest girls - seems daunting and yet also lacking in the same kind of inner reward that H!P offers.
“Aitakatta” is a passable song. The chorus grows annoying after a while - “Aitakatta! Aitakatta! Aitakatta! Yes!” However, the rest of the singing sounds sweet, and the goofy juvenile rock music isn’t offensive. It’s not inspiring, either, but that feels like asking too much.
I love the schoolgirl outfits, especially the ties and the short skirts. The bicycling sequences makes me wonder if there’s a snarfing faction in the fan base. And the choreography is cute enough, though comparisons to H!P All-Stars pop to mind time and again. I also noticed one of the girls pumping her thighs during one of their stances, and appreciated that a great deal.
The plot to this PV is negligible. Apparently, schoolgirls have to meet other schoolgirls, and get together to laugh and be schoolgirl-like, and um, schoolgirl schoolgirl schoolgirl. Schoolgirl schoolgirl? Schoolgirl.
There are many cute girls here - but I get the strange feeling that if I find a favorite in this video, I won’t be able to figure out who she is in another video. I could be wrong, but the fact that I haven’t made the effort - that I’m not spurred to find out more about this beauty, or that one - speaks volumes to how effective AKB48 is.
As far as this kind of girlpop goes, it’s all about being attached to the idol, about finding something special in the girl and having that attachment enrich and define the music, the video, the marketing. I guess there are people out there who’ve been able to find that among the crush of feminine wiles and charms that is AKB48, but for me they’re still an undifferentiated mass.
Solo lines may have helped. After all, Arashiro Beni quickly distinguished herself in that other Massively Multiplayer Roricon Pop Geinou monstrosity, Bishoujo Club 21 / 31 / infinity. That said, the sweetness of the choral sound, pointed out in Meganekko so astutely, is a big plus musically. Maybe some sub groups or splinter cells would help? But is the talent pool deep enough to support that? I have no idea. In the case of this video, maybe a Pop-Up video feature where the girls names are placed on every single shot of them would help keep track of them in a productive way.
I want to like AKB48, but there’s a whole lot of other idols that I can actually name and fool myself into believing I know. AKB48 started out looking like a gimmick, has developed some credibility as a girlpop collective - but still suffers from the weight of its gimmick, from the sheer number that seeks to outdo other, more established collectives.
I’ll be rooting for them. Not very vigorously, but it’d be nice to see AKB48 turn into something truly exciting, music-wise and idol-wise. At least I know they’re on the right track…
Chase - “Chase Me!”
I will never make fun of Hinoi Team again.
Okay, I probably will and quite often, but after listening to and watching Chase’s debut PV, I realized just how difficult it is to pull off that whole lolicon girlgroup U15 dance divas jailbait groove thing and make it look and sound… you know… good. (Even with a “comedian” wrestler providing wota cockblock through several singles.)
The song “Chase Me!” is execrable. As in shitty. As in, a cheesey generic dance track of questionable instrumentation, layered with limp girlgroup singing that has neither the professional veneer one expects of mass-marketed pop music nor the energy and excitement one expects from U15 geinou. It’s like the last days of disco, when the excitement and energy of the latest musical fad has been boiled down to a basic formula and gets used for used car commercials and retirement home skits and Catholic school talent nights.
The comparisons to Asuka’s angels are impossible to ignore, and yet it points out something that should be obvious to U15 watchers of all stripes: Hinoi Asuka had two very good rock singles under her belt when she decided to sell her soul to para para, and she’s a polished musical performer with a very good voice. Irie Saaya has large breasts for her age and that was the main recommendation for whatever projects she’s pursued in the limelight. Which isn’t to say that she’s been coasting on her genetic boon - from what I gather, she’s been trying hard to be taken seriously and is succeeding. But she simply doesn’t have the chops that Asuka has, nor does she apparently have the same quality producers to make her sound better.
Beyond that, the choreography is stiff and the girls obviously needed more rehearsal time. They know how to strike sekshi poses - one part come-on, two parts girlish reticence - but I’m willing to bet they learned that in front of Garo Aida’s camera, way back in their pre-teen years. That is, in 2005.
Oh, and CGI is pretty freakin’ cheesey too. Can’t let that get away without a good kick in the teeth.
All that said, the girls of Chase are, as far as U15 hotties go, quite pedolicious and scrumptious. We may thank heaven for little girls, but I think it’s Uncle Garo who’s in the details in this particular case.
And unlike AKB48, I can tell you who’s who without breaking into a sweat. Or maybe while breaking into a sweat, but only if nobody’s looking.
Saaya has grown up some, and I’m glad her career is doing well. I always thought Runa was prettier than Saaya, and while at first she looked like a mini-Reina (who was mini enough to begin with, admittedly), she looks more distinct now. I can see her going Yankee some, but not here.
In the video all three Chase girls are dressed up in Hinochi style teen disco chic, with the jackets and the flashy T-shirts in some sequences, and in others the bared midriffs and the… um… bared midriffs…
The replacement for poor little Jessica, Rio, is also quite pretty, though she doesn’t stand out yet the way Runa and Saaya do. That said, anyone who can share a scanned copy of her photobook with me will become my best friend forever, or at least until I find some other U15 idol to obsess over (i.e., five minutes). Whichever comes first.
Runa’s rap towards the end of the song, by the way, isn’t all that great. It was better than the singing, though that’s like saying a mild case of the runs is better than a case of explosive diarrhea. The decision to go with that rap segment, though, only reinforces for me how soullessly generic this project is.
There’s some cleverness in this neatly packaged loli-fest. The fact that the song openly panders to its audience with the title “Chase Me!”. The T-shirt with the questionable slogan, which I still can’t tell is an invitation or rebuke. (Okay, I don’t particularly care.) There’s one part right before the milk sequence where they seem to be doing a jerk-off gesture, but I’m truly hoping that wasn’t intended. (Checking again, I think it’s supposed to be a move indicating rapid heartbeat.)
And yes, that whole thing with the milk. Sure, milk is necessary to make a young girl grow up strong and healthy… but you know that Saaya’s breasts are part of the subtext here as well. (I was going to call them funbags, but that seemed wrong for somebody so young.) I don’t know if I find that clever or just plain offensive; certainly, I don’t find it titillating.
In that scene’s favor, when Saaya wipes her mouth off and lets out a small laugh, that’s the only genuine-seeming moment in the whole video. However, it just makes the rest of the video seem shadier by comparison.
These knowing winks make me wonder if Chase is being positioned to be the new SweetS: loli and proud of it, but in a pomo complicit fashion. However, there’s a lack of sophistication in the presentation of these ironic aspects: SweetS and their handlers were semiotic geniuses, and there’s nothing genius about “Chase Me!”. It feels less intellectually driven and more like an admission of guilt passing itself off as a smirk. If SweetS at their prime early days had the sublime wit of Monty Python, Chase feels more like Benny Hill on a bad day.
I want Chase photobooks and DVDs, both solo and as a group. I will watch this video many many times over, most likely with the volume turned off and Hinochi’s “Ike Ike” playing on my headset. I will pray that Bounceback is hired - and paid lots and lots of money - to maybe make these girls a worthwhile music act and not just easy on the eyes.
So like AKB48, I’ll be giving Chase as many chances as they need to win me over. Unlike AKB48, I’m not holding out for the music to get any better, just for the eyecandy portion of the entertainment to remain on par with what it is now… and for puberty to kick in without being merciless to the poor dears.
AKB48 has a slightly better - or at least, slightly less annoying - song. That said, I can’t tell the girls apart and they’re not nearly as sexed up as the easily-distinguishable members of Chase. So it’s Chase’s “Chase Me!” for the win, God help my depraved and hell-bent soul.