The Science of Hello! Project: W’s Cosmic Treadmill

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

In Hello Project’s future…a cosmic treadmill will create chaos across all time and space!

As it’s Kago’s eighteenth – *sigh* remember her Ayaka Surprise English lesson when she said she was thirty, then corrected it to thirteen? – I figure this will make a humble gift to one of my favorite idols. “Aa Ii Na!” is a very good song – not as good as “Robokiss” but one of their better singles. And the PV shows us how far W can go… and how all of us must bow before our new idol overlords.

As I’ve written time and again, the Tsujikago team have a reputation for bringing chaos – to other members of Morning Musume, to Minimoni, to musicians getting on the Melodix elevator.

But what if they were loosed upon the world – on the very universe? What if they were given the tool to reshape the cosmos as they see fit?

The power of W is made clear from the start of the PV – as is the unity of the Tsujikago team – as they chant the name of their unit repeatedly before striking a militaristic salute!

And what is this creature? Could it be their secret alien minion? Their lackey of evil? A character from Doraemon, since “Aa Ii Na!” was the closing song for that anime? We can only guess…

Here we see the command base by which W will conquer the universe: a spaceship held together by… um… large, large flat-head screws. And powered by two treadmills.

Outside, we see a cityscape as the two young women march on their treadmills. They are hovering over Earth, preparing their assault.

Now, let me go a different kind of geeky on you folks – specifically, comic book fanboy geeky. The DC hero The Flash had a Cosmic Treadmill – what looked like a running machine that helped the Flash cross over into other dimensions and travel through time.

Somehow… somehow… W seem to have obtained their own cosmic treadmills and made it the heart of their spaceship.

Now, we had seen earlier what havoc Tsujijkago wreaked with android copies of themselves (Though the single is actually the one right after “Aa Ii Na!”, as most of you already know.) Imagine if they had all of time and space under their control…

They materialize outside of their spaceship in a flash of light, but the power of the cosmic treadmill is still with them. It has come to the point where they can simply walk unimpeded and the cosmos changes around them.

Again, they strike a threatening militaristic pose…

… and then look cute as all get-out, to lull us into a false sense of security.

Now we see how powerful their cosmic treadmill is, as time and space begins to warp around them…

And they arrive in what’s apparently an African jungle.

Ah, Kago!

Ah, Tsuji! I actually miss her fangs – she’d look even sexier now with them.

And as they travel, I must ask myself: why these outfits? Bright yellow blouses and jean shorts? Is that the ideal outfit for destroyers of worlds and dimensions? It looks so casual for them, like they’re about to go to the beach or something.

And as usual, giving them the exact same outfit without considering body types means Kago looks a little frumpy… though admittedly, not as bad as some other identical outfits they’ve worn. It doesn’t matter, though, since Kago looks beautiful no matter what she wears, no matter if her hair is in a granny bun or pig tails or whatever. Kago is Kago and Kago is love. (Well, Ai is love, but you know what I mean.)

At the very least, these outfits seem to be able to handle any kind of weather. Maybe it’s made out of unstable molecules, a la the Fantastic Four? Maybe I should lay off the fanboy comic book references?

The effect of their cosmic tread – if not the treadmill itself – starts to turn the world as we know it upside-down. Monuments begin to appear together…

… and as they arrive in some ruined temple, something stranger happens.

They pass themselves! Could this be the explanation for all those PVs where they play multiple versions of themselves? That it’s all a clever manipulation of time and space?

At any rate, this Tsujikago is better dressed than the other Tsujikago. The dresses look realnice on them, and Kago doesn’t look even mildly frumpy in hers.

Even better, this Tsujikago have young acolytes backing them up for their dances. Young, beautiful, enchantingly luscious acolytes…

Meanwhile, the main Tsujikago continue on their walk through all time and space, as various landmarks begin to dogpile each other.

While the temple ruins Tsujikago stand back-to-back, with the luscious acolytes striking fetching poses behind them.

That one. Yeah, the third acolyte from the left. She’s quite a looker, isn’t she?

The girls not only flaunt time and space, but also social convention by dancing together!

God, Chinami looks real nice back there, doesn’t she? Right in front of Maasa… yeah, over there. The acolytes are well trained, ready to move in synch with their senpai master overlords.

Meanwhile, the main Tsujijkago prove that their cosmic treadmill not only defies time and space, it can also function as an elevator!

Traffic veers around them as they exit the Empire State Building.

And from reality,they take a detour through worlds based on the imagination, such as this drawing of medieval Japan…

And this sorta-psychedelic collection of images.

They also infiltrate the home of the typical Japanese family, walking right by while the family has breakfast. Though now that I think of it, isn’t this kind of what they did during all their Oha Star appearances, making their way into the Japanese home at breakfast time?

The W ladies then start having fun at the expense of NASA. Such a primitive way to travel through space! And it can’t even go back in time!

W and Berryz dance dance dance, and wow it’s so weird to watch now. When I first saw this video, I was annoyed by the presence of the kiddie H!P contingent. Now I watch them and almost forget the two idols at the center.

Now, what’s this about striking a fighting pose? What’s the well-heeded advice on such matters…?

Poor Maiha looks less than thrilled. But Saki! Ah… Saki has that smile on her face.

Man, that Saki knows how to strike a sexy pose, doesn’t she? I don’t know, ever since I saw her do that twisty move on Kouhaku, she’s been creeping up as a favorite. It may only be a matter of time before all of Berryz are my favorites, though Miyabi’s dragging the pack.

Is it worth noting that the girls are in their “Piriri to Yukou” outfits? Does this mean anything? My God, does that mean the innocent schoolbus in the Berryz PV may actually be something more – able to hurtle through space and time on its own, to deliver the girls in the middleof Angkor Wat (or wherever this is) with some help from the W senpai?

However, the cosmic Tsujikago aren’t invulnerable,it turns out. They continue their travels but run into some problems. As they sneak across an African veldt, Kago sneezes.

Afraid of the lion and its Gene Simmons-esque tongue, the girls make a run for it.

They then try to balance themselves on a tightrope over some waterfalls…

And moonwalk on the moon.

The girls finally return to their spaceship… first they appear two-dimensional.

A flash of light as they cross the window into the ship, a warping of the space-time continuum. And in doing so, they become three-dimensional again.

As goofy and as fun as this PV is, there is a bit of a message with all this SF wackiness – one dealing with the crossroads where pop music and postmodernism meet. While not acknowledged as being intellectually challenging in any way, pop music by its very nature has become a strongly postmodern form.

After all, familiarity with pop music now often involves familiarity with the history of pop music. Pop not only borrows from its own history, but often draws from all kinds of music to add a sheen of novelty to an experience that is meant to be comforting and familiar.

Modern pop music is distinctly postmodern in the sense that it is both schizophrenic – that is, fractured and lacking a coherent sense of identity – and a distinctly surface experience – that is, it may gesture towards depth but does not achieve it in the traditional classical sense. In a world where references are the very basis for cultural experience, pop music becomes a mise en abyme of references encoded in other references.

Certainly, Hello! Project has a long history of this. Think of Golden Age Morning Musume with its frequent nods to Arabic music and other non-traditioonal motifs. Think of Tsunku’s extended experiments in trying different musical styles for Morning Musume singles, such as the Big Band sound of “Mr. Moonlight” and the ska of “Koko ni Iruzee!” and the Ramones-esque punk of Otome Gumi’s”Yuujou”.

And consider the girls themselves: molded by the public they serve and who serve them, their images both an honest expression of who they are (or so we like to believe) and an attempt to market themselves to a dedicated audience.

Young idols always astound me on that level, the way they have to deal with a sense of identity both personally and commercially. It’s one thing to deal with it as an adult, it’s another to deal with it as one grows up and tries to assert a mature identity of one’s own. How does one separate the commercial Kago from the personal Kago? How important is that distinction ultimately?

As I pointed out last month, W themselves have a history that points to a self-conscious molding of identity as they moved from their younger selves to more mature idol personae. Is it easier or more difficult to do this together? Where does the friendship end and the business partnership begin – and again, is that distinction all that important, or can we just accept the surface for what it is?

The girls have often played different personae with great ease – the Kago of Tanpopo was not the sameas the Kago of Minimoni or the Kago of Morning Musume. And when they became W, the girls did indeed travel back in time – as the “Koi no Vacance” PV offers – when they did cover songs of other girl pop duos from Japanese music history.

The girls skate through their transformations effortlessly, and they do so with a kind of gleeful recklessness that comes with the joys of youth. Just as all teenagers try different images and personalities to find out what suits them best, so did Tsuji and Kago – except they did so in the public eye, in front of adoring fans and television audiences.

The girls have succeeded as idols because they’re such outsize personae – they’re not meant to be the girls next door, but an exaggeration of the girls next door. Extra crazy, extra cute, extra talented.

In some ways they’re like cartoon figures, able to walk past a cliff and stand in mid-air before realizing what they’d done.

And like cartoon figures, their escapades are the source of constant amusement and fascination for dedicated viewers. As with the other fourth gen geniuses – Rika and Yossi – Tsuji and Kago know that being extra great in some ways is boring unless their flaws are also outsized as well. For Rika, it was charm balanced by vanity; for Yossi, it was strength balanced by a goofy masculinity; and for Tsuji Kago, it was cuteness balanced by a capacity to cause trouble and annoy.

So Tsujikago at their most endearing is when Tsujikago are out of control: when they’ve stolen food in Minimoni videos, when they’re terrorizing musicians in elevators, when Kago’s personally terrorizing Gackt on their so-called date, when their robot androids run amok.

And so, the idol duo of W continue on their path to greatness. Tsuji, who has blossomed from an ugly little no-talent to the sexiest thing in current H!P…

And Kago, the enfant terrible with talent and a vicious wit, now playing the role of nurturer of young kickball hopefuls.

Having crossed through space, W have landed on an alien world. They are greeted by the weird alien thingies…

… and as it turns out, there’s a whole army of them available! Which reminds me, Doraemon is also about traveling space and time, if I remember correctly, so it’s probably ripe for critiques on postmodernism vis-a-vis manga and anime as part of an emergent world culture. But I won’t go into it any further here.

The W overlords have returned to their spaceship, with another more conventional looking spaceship hovering in the background. Having twisted up time and space on earth,they now continue to the rest of the universe, to the cosmos. They will spread their chaos as well as their pop music, much the same way radio and television transmissions spread across the universe waiting for some alien to catch the frequency and watch their MTV.

An alien flies by, unimpeded by the vacuum… And Tsujikago continue to march. That in itself is worth noting, the fact that the girls keep walking and walking. Is it a metaphor for the pace of their lives since they became idols? The race of life itself? The inevitable march of progress, be it cosmic treadmills or commercial world culture in the form of marketable Jpop? Yet another mild jab at how Kago needs to lose weight? (And she doesn’t, she’s fine just as she is.)

Whatever the case, Tsuji and Kago continue their march. This is what they know what to do, and they do it well. Whether as metaphoric bringers of postmodern pop music chaos or as plain ol’ idols of the first caliber, I wish W all the best luck on this very special day for them. And again, Happy Birthday, Kago-chan!


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10 Responses to “The Science of Hello! Project: W’s Cosmic Treadmill”
  1. CJ Marsicano says:

    “Young, beautiful, enchantingly luscious acolytes…”

    Down, boy, down! Keep your Berryz fantasiez away from my Aibon-worship! XD

  2. acetonic says:

    I think you put a lot more thought into these PV’s than their creators did.

  3. niji says:

    I think you put a lot more thought into these PV’s than their creators did.

    I think that’s the point of the Science Directive series. Obviously, Jpop PVs are more commercial than anything. The Science Directive articles are basically numerology articles; we know there’s nothing there but’s it’s intellectually satisfying to look for something and believe that there is. Or something like that… 🙂

    Would anyone believe that I still don’t know which is Kago and which is Nono? Heheh… Back when I was a Jpop newbie, I got the idea from somewhere that one was Kago and the other was Nono. Later on, I “found out” that I had the identities of the two reversed and that it was actually the other who was Kago and the first one Nono. Now, I’m just eternally confused and can’t tell who is who no matter how many pics come with names. Pathetic… 🙁

  4. Tsuji_Eriku says:

    Aibon is the kawaii one & Nono is the super duper kawaii one. See Niji ….that wasn’t so hard ne!

  5. Chuck says:

    Kago is the one who some misled souls believe needs to lose weight and Nono is the one who needs to eat a sandwich. Also, these days, Kago tends to dress heavily while Nono looks like she’s ready to go to the beach (presumably for the aforementioned reasons).

    Also, for whatever reason. usually Nono is on the right and Kago is on the left.

  6. S says:

    Kago is the one no longer in H!P.

    What do I win?

  7. CJ Marsicano says:

    The jumping the gun award. She’s not fired.

  8. Chuck says:

    And judging by UFA’s statement, it doesn’t sound like she’s going to be fired.

  9. acetonic says:

    She’s just suspended, much like Nacci a few years back. Hopefully she will make a public apology, get some nicotine gum, and be back soon. Poor Nono though, getting W shut down through no fault of her own.

  10. CJ Marsicano says:

    I sure hope not.

    Lousy timing on her part, though – right after her 18th birthday and before a new W single and album drop. Grrrr!