Sympathy for the O21 Idols: hiro’s “Hero”

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

Never mind the U15 for a moment. What about the… um… O21?

There’s more to life than barely pubescent idols who act cute and dance cute and sing cute. No, really. There is more to life than that. I spend so much time talking about Berryz and SweetS and Hinochi – and if not them, then the marginally older Morning Musume or W. If I’m not careful, people may assume that my main criteria for listening to Jpop is whether or not they can drink (or smoke) – and if they can do both legally, then they’re too old for me…

Well, I decided to look at some recent PVs from adult idols – as opposed to AV idols – whose work I’ve admired but perhaps don’t pay enough attention to. As opposed to a year or even six months ago, I find myself much more open to what I’m hearing and seeing than before. There are some differences between these older idols and their younger counterparts, but that was interesting as well.

So I’m actually enjoying these adult idols, even though the question of what they’ll look like when they grow up has already been settled by time and biology.

First off, I found a hiro solo song which I actually like! The song is called “Hero” – which I’m guessing is a purposeful take on hiro’s name, though to what effect is unclear. The PV is kind of dodgy… but at least it makes an effort to be interesting.

The PV begins with bubbles… which turns out to be on a high definition television…

…which in turn is placed between two young women, one in white and one in black… both of whom are hiro…

… and these two hiros are playing chess.

This is what’s technically called a “semiotic wet dream”… okay, I just made that up, but whoever thought of this scenario seems to be trying way hard to appear deep without really working for it. The bubbles into the HDTV make me think of Baudrillard and the issue of simulation and simulacrum, with a mise-en-abyme motif for viewers: the bubbles on my screen are actually the bubbles on another screen that’s on my screen.

The chess plays off the symmetry and dualism of the game, writ larger and thus more conceptual by the chess players being reflections of their pieces. For some reason I’m also reminded of The Seventh Seal since that’s perhaps the most archetypal chess game in popular culture. Which I guess makes black hiro Death…

Anyway, the PV then cuts to white hiro and two male dancers.

hiro looks absolutely luscious – very ice queen in this costume and hairstyle, but I think that’s part of the point. I like how the bun on the top is titled to the left and balances the hairflowing to the right.

What surprises me is that I really, really like this song… it’s the first hiro song that’s caught my attention and that I want to hear over and over again.

I’ve said before that I love looking at hiro but her songs and PVs were so boring that the eyecandy just wasn’t worth it. This isn’t the case here: the song is slightly generic, but the guitar on it is a nice touch, and the beat is very catchy, skittish but danceable. And hiro’s singing – nasally, passionate,distinct – and the background vocal samples (sometimes chopped up to the rhythm) work well off each other.

If anything, I’d say the song saves the PV for me this time – something which doesn’t happen often, given my rather shallow criteria for enjoying Jpop.

Here’s Black hiro in a different – but equally sparse setting: black and red, with bubbles. There’s an interesting motif in these sequences as Black hiro’s shadow takes a life of its own, dancing as frenetically as White hiro while Black hiro’s physical body remains non-dancing. Black hiro eventually notices her shadow but doesn’t seem surprised by it.

I never got the hang of chess – I don’t have the patience or foresight for it. I’m more of a Monopoly person myself – or really, an Advance Wars / Fire Emblem person. But there’s not nearly as much cultural cachet in depicting people playing those games.

White hiro looks less than pleased…

While Black hiro looks – well, not happy more than pleasant. So if White hiro is the regal ice queen and Black hiro may or may not be death, should her more welcoming demeanor in the chess game mean anything? Death as a welcoming presence, someone we can find solace in – like Neil Gamain’s version of the concept, or Brad Pitt’s?

Check out the boots on both hiros, though! Wow, not that I have a thing for feet – not anymore – but there’s a nice BDSM vibe off those kicky heels, aren’t there?

And not that I have a thing for ears – in most cases – but hiros’ grown into her ears apparently. Which is a shame, because she looked really hot when they were like Dumbo huge and sticking out in Andromedia. Or maybe it was because she was younger that made her hotter and her ears larger.

Black hiro looks real hot, doesn’t she? Since most of the hiro pictures I look at are from back in her Speed days, I’m not sure if this is a typical look for her but I’m guessing not.

Another thing this reminds me of is The Patt Duke Show. Man, I used to have such a crush on Cathy Duke, she was just so hot in a repressed Scottish way. Too bad there’s no scenes where the two hiros hug and so a body double in a wig is called in.

I kind of wish we saw more of the backup dancers, if only to add more variation to the video. I found my eye following them more than hiro at times, wondering what they were up to.

hiro’s dance moves are okay. If anything, the outfit she wears makes it more interesting, not necessarily because it flashes much flesh – except around the underarms – but because the rufflesmove nicely.

I’m not sure why, but hiro stirs a strong reaction in me – love or hate her material. This one I love, despite all its straight-faced frou frou silliness.

The only other solo hiro I really like is Coco d’Or – and again, I like that a whole lot. If anything, that album is the opposite of “Hero”: warm, playful, easygoing, traditional. She doesn’t add anything extra to the standards she sings, but she does make them alive again, makes them feel modern without actually modernizing them.

Part of it may be because her singing voice is so distinct and nasal, with a whole lot of personality brought into the delivery. If she nails it with the right song, it’s undeniably hiro and that’s a virtue. When it doesn’t work for me, it’s still undeniably hiro but it doesn’t click on any level. Go figure.

Here white hiro uses the dancers for a chair. It’s a nice move, kind of Broadway elegant, and it would’ve been nice to’ve used the dancers more like that.

I’m still not sure what to make of the bubbles. A nod to Willie Wonka? Perhaps they’re soap bubbles and love is like a soap bubble…

The two hiros shake hands over the chess board. Did one of them win? Or was it a draw? Is it a symbolic gesture, reflecting on the way life and death are in a constant struggle and that we must accept the struggle as such?

Who cares? Let’s watch hiro shake her thang some more!

Wait a minute… isn’t that a costume Speed wore many years ago? Are they recycling Hitoe and Takako’s old outfits?

If anything, this is an oddly… self-absorbed video. One doesn’t get a sense of hiro flirting with the viewer, which is much more evident in H!P videos at least, and certainly with the U15 acts in Avex. There’s a distance here, reinforced in no small part by the stark conceptual framework of the PV.

And yet, I like that distance in this case. It suits the PV and certainly suits the song. It also makes me think beyond Jpop and towards European comics, of all things.

To me, White hiro looks a whole lot like an Enki Bilal drawing. Especially here: the hawkish nose, the elaborate sci-fi elegance of the hairstyle and collar, the scowl on her face… hiro could be a Japanese Jill Bioskop!

So wait – if this is supposed to be Bilal, then maybe this is really chess boxing? Wouldn’t it have been cool to see white hiro boxing with black hiro? Or maybe wrestling each other in Jello?

Ah, a cute shot of hiro. Still very reserved, but here’s a hint of the teenage girl that rocked Japan a decade ago. She’s certainly grown up quite nicely, though. And hey, I wouldn’t mind seeing the return of Coco d’Or sometime soon!

Certainly, this is an O21 PV in the overall fee. The conceptual framework is much muchness, the kind of symbol-mongering that symbol-mongers like me try to over-read with a certain sick glee. That doesn’t quite set it apart fromt U15 PVs – after all, the early SweetS PVs were also conceptually dense. But they were also inviting on some level, there was a level of empathy and identification that “Hero” and hiro actively resist.

Which may be partof what O21 idol-dom is about: being cool and distant, playing the idol persona much more seriously. After a certain age, a performer has to take herself seriously or risk not being taken seriously by those around her. When you’re a child running around with a mike, a good deal more can be forgiven than if you’re an adult. Which doesn’t exclude humor of any sort – not by any means, given my two favorite PVs of 2005 – but does demand a different relationship between performer and persona.

Anyway, here’s hoping there’s more hiro songs and PVs like this one. What the hell, I may even be open enough to look back and try some of her other solo work again. I’m sure there’s some more treasure there somewhere…