Saturday, 8 March 2014

PV Analysis: llll-ligro - "Higanbana"

llll-Ligro is a visual kei band formed in Tokyo in 2010, most recently comprised of Hinata (vocal), Kazari (guitar), Anki (guitar), Hiro (drums) and Nao (support bass). Their band concept of ‘gloomy salvation through emptiness’ on the ‘mayhem of emotions’ seems to have marked their relatively short career, as 2011 saw member changes following a demo single release as anki and Nao joined the group. Kazari was added as second guitar in early 2012, however the end of 2013 saw more members leave. Anki quit due to 'severe opposing views', following his post of a controversial YouTube video, and Hiro’s decision to quit was apparently led by an increased focus on promotion over music. This has led the band to hiatus. However a month prior to these departures they released their 5th single ‘Higanbana’, accompanied by a visceral PV.

The clip opens with the band’s logo, superimposed on an image of a bloodied woman wearing a white slip, or nightie. She holds a bunch of the titular flower, also known as the red spider lily. As the song starts, the interference and static from the intro continue as a slow sonic build and we see the band playing in a dark setting, surrounded by more blooms. The higanbana originated in China, apparently brought to Japan along with the cultivation of rice. They bloom in late summer or early autumn, often on account of heavy rainfall. The poisonous nature of their bulbs sees them often planted surrounding homes or paddies as an agent of pest control. They're also planted on the graves of the dead as a tribute to the passed. This association with memorializing the dead rules out the blooms as being used in bouquets, calling the woman’s clutching several into question; legend surrounding the plant does have some association with romance as I’ll explore later.

The woman is seen sitting, then lying on a bed, shot from the foot. Another shot of her in bed is from the vantage point of the nightstand, giving the view a voyeuristic aspect. The depiction of her in the room employs a distressed film effect that gives the place a nostalgic quality, however as we cut back to the band performing harder than before we see her from the intro of the clip with an effect of distorted videotape. This juxtaposition of multiple imperfections of the moving image from mediums of the past furthers an air of decay surrounding the piece as a whole. Also, that she's seen alone with filmic and tape effect and the band is depicted rather 'cleanly' seems to set them in different planes of existence.

Close to a minute and a half in, we see a tight closeup of Hinata’s mouth singing, and the girl is seen at the window of the room. She appears to be beckoned to the outside by the words, and the wound across Hinata’s face is seen more fully. In trying to determine what sort of damage has been inflicted on him, possibilities of simple burn or laceration don’t seem to fit the severity fully. There’s a zombie-like aspect to it, though the band doesn't seem to be behaving in that fashion - necrotizing fasciitis appears to be at play, however. 

As the band plays on, we see the woman has entered their space as she’s shown from the back positioned in front of them, as though an entranced spectator. The track gets more intense and we’re shown that facial wounds have appeared on the rest of the band and started to bleed, as Kazari spews and we see the rest of the band with similar injuries in rapid succession. Hinata is seen most prominently spitting blood, and his face is further stained as the tear across it weeps scarlet.

The woman is shown clothed and lying in a bathtub, in the setting we first see her. While she has no visible wounds, I see an implication of suicide in her rest here. If we surmise that she’s taken her life, the band appears as a force of death in their wounded aspects. She’s seen once again with the band, this time among them rather than spectating from the front, facing them.  We don't get a clear picture of her face until the next portion of the PV. 

Near the four minute mark, Hinata is seen tenderly touching the woman’s face, leaving traces of blood behind. This loving gesture calls to mind the legend surrounding the flower, regarding elves named Mañju and Saka that guarded the bloom and the leaves of the plant respectively. The story goes that they defied fate and met to fall in love at first sight, but were cursed by Amaterasu to never meet. In the afterlife they promise to come together in resurrection, but this is not to be. This myth is derived from the life cycle of the bloom and the leaves, where one thrives while the other wilts. Another legend indicates that if you see someone you may not meet again, the flower would bloom in the path. They’re reputed to grow in Diyu (hell) and guide the dead to resurrection; perhaps they’ve brought the band from the dead to this realm.

Hinata grabs the woman’s head, singing directly to her and his grasp verges on violent as it intensifies. There are more rapid cuts of the bleeding band playing on, and the woman is seen close to the performers again, this time off to the side, as though passing them by. The clip ends with the performance space lacking performers or flowers, with a sparse array of long white candles, leaving the viewer with imagery calling to mind a memorial of sorts.

Overall, the clip appears to be a take on the legend concerning the star-crossed lovers, as the woman’s detached state keeps her from directly interacting with Hinata, even as he sings to her and eventually ‘assaults’ her with his agitation. The band’s decaying wounds seem to symbolize a wilting of sorts; as the bleeding intensifies with the woman’s proximity to them they appear damned to never fully ‘meet’ as in Mañju and Saka’s tragic tale. 

The remaining members of the band are apparently continuing despite the loss of half their ranks, so we’ll see what 2014 brings for the band as it regroups in the wake of 2013. Their sound may shift, but surely the overcoming the adversity of regrouping will strengthen the whole of the group. Keep your eyes on their official site for announcements to come regarding the future of the band.

By Josh Campbell

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04. (エンハンスド)彼岸花 (PV)