Wednesday, 8 October 2014

PV Analysis Plus: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - 'Kira Kira Killer' + How-to, Hosting and Hanging with Pikachu

If you're a regular visitor to Project: Lixx or looking around for the first time, you've surely noticed the focus on J-Rock and Visual Kei in the content here. While I enjoy heavier music, the pop fan in me finds the work of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu compelling on a number of levels. After seeing her live at Sound Academy in Toronto earlier this year (see my report here) I've kept up with her output as it never fails to lift my mood and heart. There's an evolution of the artist happening along the way, not only musically but through expansion to a number of arenas. Since my last look at her PV output she's released the album Pika Pika Fantajin and the video for single Kira Kira Killer provides more candy-flavoured visuals with a streak of darkness beneath.

The clip starts out with a heart-tipped arrow soaring through the air, eventually striking Kyary in the chest sending a stream of pink and purple animated viscera from the wound. Clad in a blue dress, she's struck dead and her spirit rises up in front of the title as her transition to the afterlife changes her outfit to a grey hero-costume, with black wig and mask. She walks a monochrome animated landscape with skeletons ominous in the sky and tadpoles circling her path.

Kyary eventually encounters a bizarre short guardian (shinigami?) with a head covered in pelts and assorted horns extruding from the head. The guardian motions for Kyary to look behind her and she sees he's also there, enormous and holding her in his hand. As we come back to Kyary, she pulls off her mask and appears to contemplate a yin-yang symbol surrounded by Xs and triangles in a sun-like formation.

We're clearly taking a journey into an afterlife of sorts, and the imagery could be taken as pan-theological with inclusion of icons from a number of faiths. As we come to the chorus the background takes more of a pastel-turn and the guardian dances along with Kyary, huge in the background, as she seems to split into 4 of herself. She's seen wearing glasses in front of a wall of amps, playing a guitar, then more Kyarys dance around the guardian.

A giant pale turtle carries three black elephants who carry a dome-globe, and Kyary walks the world atop the pile. A world-turtle appears in the mythologies of China, India and Native Americans, again invoking multiple faiths of the world. There is also precedent for world-carrying elephants in classical Hindu mythologies as well, though this may arise from some confusion in translation of the noun for serpent and elephant.

Kyary and the guardian watch a red apple fall from a tree, as it lands on the ground the shot pulls back to reveal an apple-shaped world, and then she rides a yellow snake's head as it streaks around the apple. The snake eats her and she slides down to the bottom, pooped out of the serpents coiled body. The globe/snake imagery calls to mind a couple of world-serpents, thought foremost in my comic-reading brain is Jörmungandr, the Norse Midgard serpent who grew so large as to encircle the world.

The guardian and Kyary comtemplate a ping-pong ball bouncing between two boards, passing the duo again and again, til Kyary's eyes spin with letters and numbers. She then appears to grow a gray mustache and is struck by a revelation of the theory of relativity, the moment rendered on a postage stamp. The allusions to multiple faith expand to draw scientific thought via Einstein into the mix here, keeping all schools of thought involved in this odyssey through the great beyond.

The guardian performs some manner of conjuring dance as energy swarms around him, and a hoverboard shows up in short order. Unlike Marty McFly's trek through Hill Valley 2015, Kyary rides through a gray warp-tunnel surrounded by all sorts of cartoon arrows, accompanied by the guardian flying like a missile beside her. Eventually encountering streaks of reddish light, she lands as the board disappears and is surrounded by guardians dancing.

Her outfit transforms again, now in a pinkish wig and wearing white trim around her neck. As there's an ornate piece at her brow I think she's become some princess or master of this place beyond life, as she dances and an army of Kyary dominates the landscape. Crosses float through the sky, and two guardians dance around her as the landscape appears mountainous at the edges and more animated on the ground.

She's dancing on a yellow-floor and the shot sweeps back and around to reveal that she's atop a giant flower as it grows taller and taller. She seems to reach the top, the flower growing at great speed, outpacing others around it, as her blue-dressed self from the beginning is rejoined by her spirit. Kyary opens her eyes, and then we see her pulling a bow notched with the arrow that struck her at the start.

The video itself is an Orobouros of sorts, much like the alluded-to Jörmungandr's fate in Norse tales. Perhaps less than calling that image to mind, there's an implication that life itself is cyclical. Whichever association, there are clearly headier themes at play here than in her earlier works and they're examined with the sense of colorful whimsy that she brings to all of her work. It's a strong lead single, as well.

In addition to the post-death journey she's taken us on with Kira Kira Killer, Kyary also released a 'How to dance' video for her first fully English track, “Ring A Bell.” As the clip is intended for instructional purposes so that fans may submit videos of their performances there's not really a narrative involved; it doesn't really stand to analysis. Kyary's accompanied by two child dancers and game-style graphics in the form of floating arrows and a progress meter, with messages superimposed from the top of the screen.

The track itself is rather simple from a lyrical standpoint, referring to recording a song – pop about the making of pop. It's catchy enough, though. My mind tends to replace the lyrics “Ring a bell” with “Stringer Bell,” as I find it fun to imagine my favourite idol paying tribute to Idris Elba's performance on The Wire.

Outside of the musical sphere Kyary's also been co-hosting Moshi Moshi Nippon, a fun educational series designed to promote Japanese tourism and culture around the world. The set looks like Kyary and co-host Rei Mastrogiovanni are shrunk down to meet in a toy-box in typical KPP style. A variety of segments inform the viewer on aspects of Japanese culture through profiles of unique professionals and interviews with foreigners living in Japan about their favourite aspects. Though it skews to a younger demographic and Kyary's role is rather limited, I find it an informative look at fascinating cultural aspects I'd had only a passing familiarity with.

I've also caught up with subtitled versions of her Nandacolle TV (WTF TV) program from Space Shower TV, where Kyary chats with a round table of artists about a specific theme, like 'happiness' or 'free'. Her co-host here is a puppet-rock who interjects only occasionally; I wish this personality could take the place of Rei on Moshi Moshi Nippon. Most episodes of this enlightening discussion with musical artists are available on YouTube, and I highly recommend it for fans of not only Kyary but artistic achievement overall. Though it's not subbed, my favorite is episode 6 though it diverts from the round table format and features Nao and Maximum the Ryo-kun of Maximum the Hormone.

I'd be remiss if I left out the most recent clip I'd seen featuring Kyary, a commercial for Nintendo's new iteration of the 3DS handheld console. Against a backdrop of Nintendo imagery rendered with a pastel pallette, Kyary wears a Famicom-inspired outfit as she tweaks Mario in the nose and his outfit turns striped and snazzy. Toon Link takes her hand and she curtsies, transforming his outfit as well as his pointed cap becomes a top hat. While on a run with Pikachu, the Pokemon is adorned with a crown, cape and shorts; Kirby inhales her look and ability and changes her outfit accordingly. She rides a giant pink striped Bullet Bill across the sky, and an array of Nintendo mascots from other games get make-overs in her wake (dig the glasses on Bowser) before jumping onto a 3DS as demonstration of the changeable face-plate feature of the new system. It may be my recent foray into Super Smash Bros. on 3DS, or the sound of her new track KISEKAE in the background but I quite enjoy this short slice of my fandom colliding.

Bolstered by such an array of output, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has more than proven herself as an artist that straddles the line of commercial work and self-expression with tremendous grace. From the viral novelty rush of Pon Pon Pon up to her work today, there's a sense of advancement while maintaining a pop sensibility that's original and delightful. I feel sorry for anyone who caught that initial wave of WTF from her introduction and wrote her off as a slice of 'weird Japan', as despite being part of the idol-pop machine her work reflects an original perspective that keeps me coming back for more, particularly at those times that I need a little brightness in my life.