Friday, 23 May 2014

PV Analysis: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - 'Yume no Hajima Ring Ring' / 'Family Party (+ 'Kira Kira Killer')

Over the course of the last few years, Japan's music scene has seen global exposure through an unstoppable solo artist - Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Whether you're into her sugary brand of pop or not, the attention she draws to J-pop is an undeniable force on the worldwide stage. After catching her live in Toronto at the Sound Academy in March, I couldn't help but notice that KPP put out 2 more singles as she wrapped up her Nanda Collection world tour. The graduation-themed 'Yume no Hajima Ring Ring' and movie soundtrack single 'Family Party' offer more compelling PVs to ponder, and the previews of the upcoming 'Kira Kira Killer' show that the maturation and evolution of Kyary doesn't affect her sense of fun in the least.

The clip for 'Yume no Hajima Ring Ring' begins with a paternal polar bear, escorting Kyary on her knees with shoes attached, portraying herself as a young girl. Cartoon dust kicks up in her wake, and in short order she meets herself walking upright wearing mismatched shoes and a funky dress, they high-five and young Kyary sheds an animated tear. Clearly representing the teen-model time of her life, the older Kyary marches on, sheltered from a shower of petals and an animated downpour by her umbrella. The red and white striping on the umbrella foreshadows a future wardrobe shift in the piece, and the lyric 'walked this road every day / won't be able to
see you for a while' seems to speak to this timeframe specifically. She pauses at a video camera for a quick shot, calling to mind her appearance in street fashion magazines along the road she used to walk. The song is suitably uptempo, but the teary farewells give the clip a strong sensation of nostalgia when combined with the retro outfits.

Student Kyary encounters the globally recognised 'PonPonPon' Kyary, who presents her with a page of animated text. The student weeps, and as Kyary the idol continues onward the polar bear jams on guitar, dancers carry psychedelic imagery from the viral hit and she sits for a lyrical meal with a well-timed toast-clap. She marches on accompanied by imagery from all of her prior PVs carried through on animated cards by dancers, eventually taking a seat next to her Fashion Monster self. The Fashion Monster tells PonPonPon Kyary something directly andyounger Kyary weeps as the next one moves on. The patchwork Franken-instruments from
Fashion Monster's PV are somehow resurrected for another performance, and this time the transition to the next stage of Kyary is handled via television set. As a fan of these prior works, there's an odd fanboy thrill in seeing them brought back for a last hurrah. The polar bear once again jams out on the guitar but hard. 

The procession through her singles and teary farewells along the way accompany a track that's more solemn than much of her work. The clip ends as she dances and sings wearing a hakama, traditional graduation garb. Her past selves sing with and to her on the TV, as in the chorus lyric 'from my room my dreams are beginning'. The subject matter hews closely to Furisodeshon's 20th birthday celebration, but there's a touch of melancholy in the 'goodbyes' of the chorus. 

Released to coincide with Japan's graduation season, the video conveys the themes of maturing and advancing. It ends on a tone of sadness as she bids farewell to the fatherly polar bear that's been with her the whole time and he sheds a tear. Around the release of this single Kyary was interviewed by Vice, and remarked that she'd like to express some 'adult sexiness' in her work to come.  Her next release couldn't be further from that sentiment, however.

Tying into the latest Crayon Shin-chan movie release, Crayon Shin-chan: Serious Battle! Robot Dad Strikes Back, 'Family Party' brushes any solemnity of the last release away with a frenetic end theme to the latest theatrical outing of the beloved long-running series. In a video game style match-up, complete with character and vs. screens, a boxy robot and KPP go head to head in a variety of competitions of athleticism, cunning and intellect.

Starting as a refereed match that seems to be two-handed tennis using hollow rackets, the overlays are fast and info-packed. Kyary seems to be dressed for tennis, but that's only a portion of the contest. The competition shifts to dominos for a moment, as Kyary pulls some crafty sabotage. The robot theme is a clear connection to the movie, and the videogame graphics keep the visual pacing in cartoonish overdrive. 

We zoom into the robot's eye, to find a multi-armed robo-Kyary inside its head, clad in a cardboard wig and controlling things with all available appendages. The ref rules on the action with cards bearing a number of icons such as cake and a diamond, and the game-style overlays target the players. The action is fast-paced and the cuts cover all sorts of angles, and Kyary plays hard to win, as in the lyric 'I protect my treasure / to keep everyone's smiles unbroken', playing to the familial theme of the cinematic tie-in. Her love of Crayon Shin-chan is apparent from her prior collaboration appearing in and providing a theme for the TV series.

There's a break in the action at halftime, as Kyary eats a fish, the robot eats a cassette tape and the ref sips a drink from a coconut. Like any good halftime, there's entertainment - a silver-dressed, blue-wigged Kyary performs the track with two dancers sporting hairdos like blond cousin Itts. We come back to the action and the opponents shift sides, then the twosome don bizarre helmets and play some mental strategy game, if the display behind the ref is deciphered correctly. 

We see the halftime show in a smaller frame as the action gets back to the racket game, and finally Kyary summons a 'spirit dog' of sorts to apparently win the match via special attack, from the confetti. Although everyone seems pleased by the outcome, from the dancing in celebration. As soundtrack tie-in videos go, 'Family Party' integrates the aesthetic of the anime well, and the song is a fun piece of pop that lyrically remains in the sentimentality of her previous single. 'Family Party Party alone / Can't see the things that are felt now' in the chorus rings of isolation, and solace in emotional comfort of the unit. 

These back to back releases don't stop, as the forthcoming June release of the limited (7777 copies) 'Kira Kira Killer' has had a preview via a commercial for mobile phone company au. While there are no lyrics or PV quite yet, I can't help but think of Death Note from the title. The adverts are a bizarre scenario casting Kyary as a fairy sorceress of some kind, riding through the skies and granting smart phones to citizens with a wave of her wand. From the interface on the phones, perhaps a chat application is being highlighted here? I'm hopeful there's a full PV to come with the release of the full single, as musically it's packed with energy and vigor.

While these newer singles point to a shift in direction, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's consistency is on the mark through all of the pieces. As always the imagery is suitably bizarre, the fashion is high-concept and the sound is joyous with a sentimental quality. Kyary remains an artist to watch in the pop landscape who defies convention and keeps the audience wanting more, even with a considerable output to follow over these last few months.

By Josh Campbell

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