Wednesday, 11 June 2014

PV Analysis: Inshouha - 'BEAM!'

Inshouha is a J-pop group comprised of Mica (keyboard/vocals) and Miu (guitar/vocals), in their own profile formed vaguely in 2010 in Osaka. After a break for a year, they increased activity in 2013 with their first mini-album and more releases. In analysis of their latest PV BEAM! I was unable to get translated lyrics, but the imagery tells a fairly clear story to interpret. In the vein of their first clip SWAP this PV is an animated tour de force, this time dropping the viewer into a story in progress as we open on the remains of a decimated city under the track title – BEAM! - rendered in a stylized logo.

Two shadowy figures walk towards each other from either side. The style of the animation is a strange paste-work collage, as we see militaristic command centres watching the action, populated by animal-men. The ladies mic-check on headsets as the tune starts funky, seen by an over-sized mustachioed Koala General on the black side and the white are commanded by a Bird being. The opponents are revealed as Mica dressed in white emitting purple energy beams and Miu in black wielding blue power. The two run through the ruined city and shoot beams from their heads at each other, we see them go head to head and the BEAM! title appears in the lower corner.
The title at the start is standard PV fare, but the reappearance in the screen corner coupled with the fight already underway are a clear homage to the commercial breaks of anime. The details of the conflict are unclear, but from the scope and speed of the action the intensity is clearly high.
Around 35 seconds in, following this 'break' in the action, the scene changes to a run-down looking establishment as more animal-men walk by – a wounded dog and a shirtless hippo. We see the girls in purple and blue, hooded and playing music in the street. The vocals have a sorrowful quality as the koala gets a shoeshine and dangles some cash, then strolls away with the bill out as a taunt of sorts. The scene shifts to the subway and the girls pick-pocket a tiger, and run joyfully through the streets with their ill-gotten gains. As they run, the shot pans up to see the city grow up, a smooth indication of the years going by. The girls are all grown up, and playing their music in a club now, Mica on keyboards and Miu on guitar, joined by support drum and bass. We see a headline that
war is on as a club-patron reads a newspaper, the crowd seemingly thins out from the conflict. There's a bombing, and we see an explosion as the title comes up again in the corner for an implied ad-break. From the interaction with the koala as children, the character takes on a sinister tone and his standing in the plot is well established. The state of the surroundings in both time-frames shows a world in perpetual turmoil, but things take an even more serious turn from here.

The girls trudge across a tundra, accompanied by more animal-men, through a snowy landscape as war continues around them. The group is stopped by General Koala and his men, who demands cash ($500 000? Perhaps they're entering America?) and the girls check their wallets to find themselves lacking the funds. They're split up, and taken to separate compounds, but subjected to the same experiments either way via bizarre “electro-helmets.” There's a training montage, and we see Mica training with the white-clad soldiers and Miu running through black-
dressed boot camp. We see them as rank and file soldiers, and the title flashes again as we see the earth spin in the background and the two girls saluting from either side. The twosome has been pulled directly into the conflict that's framed their lives pursuing music, now serving alongside the animal-men in a battle without clear reason – perhaps a symbol for the wars of mankind overall.
Near the 1:55 mark the action returns us to the opening battle, the reason less vague than before. The girls run and shoot beams at each other in a flurry of action, and then conjure instruments with their energy. The fight scene becomes a battle of synth versus guitar, calling to my mind conflict between punk and new wave. The title appears again, and the scene shifts us back to history-mode. We see Mica on the front lines saved from gunfire from a bird-man on her side, and the red thread of fate appears on her finger and extends to him as he's cut down by Miu's shots. Mica cries out and grabs a massive gun, firing on Miu, who wears what appears to be an officer's
uniform. She manages to wound her, and the standoff is cut short as both side retreat, Mica and the white team driving, and Miu with the black team in a rocket-ship headed for the moon. The space-flight arrives and we see the title again, as the conflict has taken on a cosmic aspect, at least on one side. The base on the moon could be reference to the loss of humanity on the part of combatants, though it also casts the black team as the 'evil' side, particularly alongside the sympathetic scene with Mica and her saviour on the white-team.

Serious augmentations are in store for the girls, as they're strapped into chairs and a sinister array of drills, claws and pokers slide into frame to perform some strange surgery. The music gets seriously dream-like; the command centres reveal animal-men as subjects to the treatment as well, and the squads are seen marching through the wrecked city in black and white short dresses. The scene breaks into the action as in the intro, accompanied by their cohorts on either side this time. General Koala watches and the BEAM! Title shows up again for a break in the action. The city battle shows the instrumental portion, Mica joined by bass and Miu with drums, and beams fly all
over, and the title shows again. The shorter 'action' ramps up the intensity as the scenes shrink towards the end, and we return to the compound. Mica's saviour bird shows up as a cyborg, collaborating with koala, and he presses a button marked BEAM PROJECT. The battlefield is disrupted as all the animal fighters are drawn into the air and merged into a terrible kaiju-hybrid, with a split koala/bird head. The girls look on as the beast destroys more surroundings, and the girls appear to team up, firing beams at the monster as the title shows one more time, the frame frozen on the duo working in unity.

The clip is an entertaining array of imagery that could be taken as allusion to cartoon conflict, as in popular anime, or perhaps a commentary on global conflict in general. The fact that either side subject their soldiers to the same bizarre treatments make it difficult to cast one as the 'bad guy', but the koala is a clear villainous influence here. The collaboration at the end between the sides implies that the war is a sham, concocted by both sides to further the agenda of control. The animated style calls to mind their prior PV while being highly dissimilar in theme. The sounds drive the action, and the end leaves the viewer anxious for what comes next in this show-within-a-PV. I think the frame after the last is a pile of over-sized animal-men parts and scraps of a dual-coloured dress the size of a skyscraper, but I doubt we'll ever see – making the vid highly satisfying despite the ultimate fulfillment – they're working together, and that's what counts most of all. Sign me up for season one!

By Josh Campbell

Purchase Inshouha "(not)NUCLEAR LOVE(or affection)" at YesAsia or CDJapan!