Saturday, December 9, 2017
Video Backlog: “Perfume Clips 2”
Format: Region Free Blu-ray, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue
Length: 63 mins
Production Date: 2012 - 2017
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes
In the last few years I’ve discovered a number of Japanese artists by accident that I’ve become massive fans of. They range from the noise/punk/psychedelia of eX-girl to the electronica of Suiyobi no Campanella (Wednesday Campanella). But Idol and J-Pop stuff are genres I generally have no interest in. However when I first saw Perfume on SBS Popasia a couple of years ago, I was intrigued. With songs written and produced by Yasutaka Nakata of the electronic dance group Capsule, who is also the writer and producer of all of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s songs, Perfume's music was much more in line with dance music than pop. Their image was also far more mature and sophisticated than their contemporaries.
However the group had very humble beginnings. Formed in 2001 in a talent school, the group consisted of three young girls; Ayaka Nishiwaki (better known as A-chan), Yuka Kashino (Kashiyuka) and finally Ayano Omoto (Nocchi), who replaced a member who left very early on. As one kanji in each of the girl’s name meant scent, the trio decided to call themselves Perfume. Releasing a series of independent singles starting in 2002, eventually the group had made a big enough impression to be signed to major Japanese label Tokuma Japan Communications in 2005. However success did not come easily. After a number of poorly performing singles, their management company gave them one last chance with “Polyrhythm” in 2007. Due to the fact it the song was chosen to promote a NHK recycling campaign, it got enough exposure to become a top 10 hit. Since then the group has hit the top five with every subsequent single and all five of their studio albums have hit number one on the Japanese charts.
Their music videos have for the most part been quite inventive or at the very least colourful and fun. If I was being honest, I think a lot of the group’s appeal to myself is the visual element including the music videos and rather elaborate live performances. Even though single and album sales in Japan have shrunk dramatically over the last decade (for example Perfume once sold almost 100,000 CDs for most of their single releases after 2007. Recent singles are now barely make it to 60,000 CDs shipped), the music videos for them are still fairly high concept and budgeted with innovative dance moves by their long time choreographer Mikiko Mizuno (PKA Mikiko) of the dance troupe Elevenplay (also the choreographer for Babymetal). In late 2014, their former label (Tokuma) released the compilation “Perfume Clips” which complied all 22 of their major videos they made from 2005 to 2012 plus a new video complied out live performances. As the group have only released two and a half albums worth of videos on their current label, I honestly thought they would not release a second compilation until after their sixth studio album was released. I suspect that with video sales also slumping, they decided to get this compilation out now. I’ve decided to review this blu-ray set in the same way as I do with my series on anime music video compilations, that is track by track;
Spring of Life
Spending all my time
Mirai no Museum (Museum of the Future)
Magic of Love
Hold Your Hand
The third video from the “Cling Cling” single. This is probably Perfume’s most simple and most likely their cheapest music video. After the single was released, the group put out a call for fans to take photographs of their hands with kanji or hiragana of the song’s lyrics. These photos were complied with additional photographs of A-chan, Kashiyuka and Nocchi doing the same thing to make a “lyric video”. It’s a really cute idea and it’s quite effective, even though I’m not exactly a huge fan of the song. Some of the painting and drawings on the hands are really well done, but due to the number of photos used, they flick by quite quickly. Flicking through the images one by one is quite interesting and brings up a number of surprises.This song also originally appeared on the “Cling Cling” CD single. The video clip did not appear on the bonus DVD of the limited edition CD/DVD sets of “Cling Cling”. Instead it was heavily promoted on Perfume's Youtube channel and later appeared on the bonus DVD and Blu-ray in the limited edition versions of “Cosmic Explorer” album.
Relax In The City
Pick Me Up
This video was created to promote their fifth studio album, “Cosmic Explorer” which was released in April 2016 in a multitude of physical formats. Originally released on the soundtrack for the live action film series of the “Chihayafuru” manga, this video is also a simplistic affair with the trio preforming martial arts-type dance moves on an empty studio stage. Some computer graphics have been added in post-production to make the action a bit more impressive and in the latter part of the video the girls use long florescent tubes in a kind of mock laser sabre battle/dance. It has been noted by fans that the dance moves in the video were similar to those used by Babymetal for their video “Karate” which was released around the same time. Both groups use the same choreographer, Mikiko, and are managed by the same production agency. The video was directed by Yusuke Tanaka.
If you wanna
The title track of the split single with “Everyday”. Unlike “Everyday” the video did not appear on the special edition CD and DVD set of the single. Instead it exclusively appeared in this video clip compilation. A throwback to their earlier material, this track features heavily processed stuttered vocals. The video has the trio hibernating in an expansive white room. From there each member is seen in from of large floating objects such as large ships, passenger planes and cars. The verses feature close ups of each member of perfume while the chorus cut to a different set filled with numerous flashing light boards. Clocking in at just over two minutes, it’s Perfume’s shortest single to date. If I was cynical this was in part to create a shorter and cheaper music video. The song was also used in a TV commercial for Kuchimoto Ora2 beauty products.
As per the original limited edition “Perfume Clips” set released by Tokuma in 2014, the packaging for this limited edition version is pretty much identical. The blu-rays come in a digipak with a lenticular image on the front featuring images from videos. This opens up to reveal a simple insert in a pocket with the credits for the videos and the packaging. Over the digipak fits a thin cardboard sleeve (also identical to the original limited edition version of “Perfume Clips”) which probably is meant to mimic the border around a TV set. There's also a 24 page booklet with comments from staff, selected storyboards, image boards, plus shots of Perfume catering for staff, in a video editing studio and with camera equipment. The second disc of extras includes commentary with Perfume themselves on all of the videos. This is not done in the usual way with just an audio track. Instead the trio are in a theatrette with the camera on them with video matted into background. They mostly talk about their experiences in making videos, however for “Mirai no Museum” amusingly they just end up dramatically reading the sound effects off the screen. Also included on the disc is an alternate short version of “Everyday” with the trio shot behind a green screen with added CG bubbles which is probably raw footage made for use in the Panasonic washing machine campaign, plus TV commercials for every single and album release for their current record label to date.
Overall it's a fantastic package that fans of the group will love. I love most of the videos here, however I think some of their earlier ones, especially those created for the singles from the “JPN” album are the best of the career. Still it amazes me that their production company and record label still pours a lot of money in the group and these videos despite the rapidly dwindling singles, album and home video sales. The group has lost their a lot of their edgier dance sound and are heading for a more dance pop sound, seemingly becoming influenced by whatever is trending in western markets, yet I still find them fascinating. Like the first set, I think I'll end up playing this over and over again for years to come. 8.5 out of 10.
Remaining Backlog: Five TV series, two OVAs and nine movies. In addition I am also waiting for additional parts of five TV series and two movies to be released before viewing them.