Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Shugo Chara ED #5 on Weekly Chart -- Buono! Interview

Honto no Jibun, the Shugo Chara ED by Buono! sits in fifth place on the chart for its first week, with sales of 29,000 CDs.

Buono! is made up of two members of Berryz Koubou and one of ℃-ute, but Honto no Jibun ended up outselling a ℃-ute song that was released the same week. (Click photos to enlarge.)

In an interview with the Mainichi Shinbun newspaper, Miyabi, Airi, and Momoko talked about the song, about Shugo Chara, and about their own careers. Here is a very loose translation of part of it:

Question: What are your impressions of the song, Honto no Jibun?

Miyabi (pink shirt) -- It has a good tempo, and boils with courage and energy. We felt happy while we were recording it and seemed to convey that to people listening.

Airi (white shirt) -- I read the manga and then when we got the lyrics, they really seemed to fit the heroine Amu-chan's feelings. There's nothing from the script in the lyrics, but they seemed to express Amu-chan's feelings. Especially where we sing "you idiot."

Momoko (red shirt) -- It's a really easy song to sing. My first thought was that we could sing it with little children. It can be a song to support someone in expressing their true self. In hoping others will be happier, you become happier yourself.

Q: Do you express your true selves?

Miyabi -- The heroine Amu is a cool character at school, but inside she is cute and insecure, and that gap worries her. I really understand her feelings. People think I'm a cool character, but I think I have a cute and insecure side. I want to show my more girlish side.

Airi -- I think it's good to have another side. But it's really hard to think of how to break your shell and let it out.

Momoko -- The song's message of putting yourself out there makes me want to express honestly what I feel. That "you idiot" part is something you wouldn't normally say, but it's followed by very gentle feelings. That change of feeling is like a different self.

Q: What are your feelings about the manga.

Miyabi -- I think the drawing is really cute. Especially the clothes Amu-chan wears. I was thinking while I read the manga that I wanted to wear them, too. Besides the clothing, there are the transformation scenes. The story is full of dreams.

Airi -- In the story there are little angel-like beings who are born from eggs and can change you. I enjoyed thinking about what kind of "shugo chara" I would have.

Momoko -- My first thought was how much fun it was to read! I liked Amu's fashion, and envied her having characters that would help her. I liked Suu-chan, who made sweets and wore frilly clothing. She's so girly. I love her.

Q: Would you like to appear in an anime?

All together: Yes!

Q: So you like acting.

Miyabi -- I've done some acting, but the little secrets like how to breathe and how to follow on appropriately when someone misses a line are a lot of fun. I love acting.

Airi -- Hagiwara Mai from ℃-ute has appeared in another anime and said that voice-acting was really hard. It seems like it would be realy hard, but for my future, I'm going to have to try it sometime. [note: Mai, who is 12, appeared in Kirarin Revolution, which stars another idol from the Hello Project factory.]

Momoko -- Acting, pretending you're someone you're not, seems really hard. Just putting forth your natural self, on the other hand.... I've never played someone from the past, but I can imagine that it would be very tough. In anime, I'd like to try playing a fairy.

The group's name Buono! is Italian for "good." The girls and their publicity machine say it means "delicious." They use the Italian hand gesture of screwing your index finger into your cheek. They say it means "delicious," but as far as I know it means "pretty girl." Appropriate enough. Anyway, it seems that we don't just have Engrish now, but Itarian.

Besides the fact that the song and the performance are both good, the success of this song must be connected with the nature of the audience you see at the live event in August at which the photos were taken. There are two complete audiences for the group and the anime: little girls and otaku.

This whole world of the teen idol factory in Japan is amazing. Hirano Aya was a fringe part of it in her mid-teens. But she wasn't part of Hello Project, the biggest producer of idols, and the producer of Buono!, ℃-ute, Berryz Koubou, and of course Morning Musume. Airi has been an idol since she was 9 or so. And like Hirano Aya, these girls probably did commercials even as little children. How many such hothouse flowers must there be in Japan? What sort of half-relationship can they have with their regular classmates? What happens if their careers end before they're 18, and the thing that made them special evaporates overnight?

The way Buono's dance moves improve with each successive video of them makes me realize that these girls have to go to school, too, and don't have time to practice as much as would be needed for perfect performances. These teen idol groups do interesting choreography sometimes, but I've been struck by how not-quite some of the coordination is.

But in any case, these are actual people. Momoko is genki and energetic and moves a bit too much. Airi, at 13, is slightly less coordinated than the other two, who are 15, but seems a rather cocky person and clearly has a big future. And Miyabi is tall and elegant and both sings and dances best of the three, but even from her interview, you know she has an insecure side.

Check my previous post if you'd like more information.

Neophilia full PV (Hirano Aya's new single)

The CD went on sale Tuesday and the full PV showed up online at the same time. I think Aya's really found her voice. I'm not sure this is the kind of music that will be a popular success for her, but I think it's an artistic success. Does it even have a bit of Shiina Ringo about it? Aya co-wrote the lyrics (and wrote the lyrics for the enjoyable B-side, forget me nots...)

Another fascinating PV, bizarre as it is:

Here it is on the YouTube site.

I've always felt that at its best, Aya's seiyuu voice has a sharp, sinewy strength, a special bright edge. That's what gives her voice something special in this song, I think.

Two more pieces of news: Aya and Paku Romi will do the Japanese dub for two of the main characters in the French animated film Renaissance.

And Aya will do voices for a live-action show called Honjitsu no Neko Jijou, which is about a girl and the humorous lives of five cats. There isn't much information on the official site, but the star girl (Okuwa Maimi) is credited, and Aya is credited as "seiyuu," so I think she will be doing voices for all five cats. She will do the OP, too.

UPDATE: There's now a good divx version of the full PV on stage6.divx.com

UPDATE 2: Neophilia is at #15 for its first day on the charts, significantly lower than Love Gun's #4. The presence of a number of big new releases this week is part of the story; a comparatively lower level of publicity for this release is another. And maybe people who bought Love Gun didn't like it enough to buy Neophilia. We'll see which direction the song heads from here. I think it is an artistic success, but that doesn't mean it will be a commercial success. I have hopes that people who see the PV on TV or hear the song on the radio will start buying it now and it will rise, but we'll see.

UPDATE 3: Started at #15 on the chart, stayed there one more day, now is down to #19. Looks as if the Japanese buying public doesn't agree with me that this is a great song and an entertaining PV. j1m0ne called it "bog standard J-pop," whereas I think of it as inventive and jazzy -- too inventive and jazzy for the buying public. But he knows J-pop better than I.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Hirano Aya Live Events Last Weekend

With her next single, Neophilia, coming out this week, Aaya was at Nihon University College of Art's school festival last Friday for a talk and a mini-live of six songs.

I don't have photos from the Nihon U. event, but I do have some from an event on Saturday, a live recording in Akihabara for her radio program, Animelo Mix. It's a one-woman show, but she was joined for this event by ubiquitous radio host Washizaki Takeshi. As you can see further below, her performance was so energetic that she dropped the microphone at least once. Click photos to enlarge.

A report from a blogger who was at the Nihon U. event says the performances were good, especially LOVE★GUN, GLITTER, and Neophilia. The whole set was: LOVE★GUN, God knows..., Lost My Music, First Good-Bye, and Neophilia, with GLITTER as an encore (she forgot some of the words).

"Making of" videos were shown for both the LOVE★GUN and Neophilia PVs. The Neophilia PV is dark, strange, and sexy, with Aaya standing bright in the midst of darkness, walking through water (which she said was very cold), and bleeding black blood from the corner of her eye. A minute of the Neophilia PV is on YouTube.

In the college talk, she was asked how to become a seiyuu and answered that she wasn't the person to ask, since she never had real training, but that she did start by doing the voices as she read manga, and spoke the lines from subtitled foreign movies (shades of REC). She said she got the idea she could do deeper voices from hearing how her mother's voice changed when she answered the phone.

She was asked about playing piano and said she started in middle school, and even played organ in high school. I've read that she played for the church services in her Christian-connected high school. Asked if the guitar in the Love Gun PV was hers, she said that it wasn't, that they provided the rhinestone-studded guitar for the PV.

She mentioned Avril Lavigne as one of her favorite singers, but saved her reputation by also mentioning two others: Onitsuka Chihiro and Shiina Ringo. Onitsuka-san is my favorite female singer in the world, as it turns out. And Shiina Ringo is an avant-garde singer-songwriter who seems to me to be Japan's answer to Kate Bush.

Aaya did the voices for Haruhi, Konata, and Garnet, and when asked about Garnet (her role in Dragonaut) said she had never played such a big-breasted character. She said that fighting the dragon and attacking the protagonist were both really something for her.

Asked what had changed for her when she turned 20, she said that she could drink, but she found that it was a problem for her. She got loud and laughed too much, and then just fell asleep, at least from beer. Champagne was okay, though.

I'll just add a few pics from her blog today. They show some of the cast of Eyeshield 21 on Monday doing drawings of Aya "injured." I guess they got the idea from the Neophilia PV, and from her talking about losing a nail during the taping of the Love Gun PV. In any case, Nakagawa Shouko did a drawing of Aya having lost all her nails (which are often fairly gaudy, like Shouko-tan's). Miyano Mamoru did one of her with a nosebleed. Ise Mariya did one of her simply looking cute. And Maeda Takeshi did the fourth. In the photo of the group, it's Maeda, Miyano, Shouko-tan, and Ise-san, left to right.

The photo of the drawings is from Shouko-tan's blog. The blood will please anti-Aya elements on 2channel, who post things like "Aya and Shouko should both die."