Ayaya Live and Kicking Ass

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

One of the toughest things Matsuura Aya has faced in the past two years is the balance between her natural urge to grow creatively and to please the fans who want her to remain the wacky, fun girl of her early career. It seems that she’s striking a better balance now than she had earlier, as seen by two recent bits of Ayaya news.

Next week there’s a 3-song DVD release from Ayaya called Suna wo Kamuyoni… NAMIDA – STUDIO LIVE. It features live performances with an actual band for her most recent single, another ballad (I can’t remember which and can’t make myself care too much)… and “Love Namidairo”.

Of course, “Love Naimdairo” is what assures that I’ll be buying this DVD. It’s my absolute favorite Ayaya song and one that translates more easily to her new, more serious idol persona. And it’s a great pop song, period – just let Ayaya sing it and I start to cry, it’s as predictable a reaction for me as the last minute of Titanic.

It’s interesting to hear how the urgency of the original version has been toned down considerably, made more somber and reflective in this new studio version. Certainly, the younger Ayaya wouldn’t have been able to pull off this delivery – probably wouldn’t have even thought of singing the song in this way. That alone is worth watching Ayaya grow up before our eyes.

Ayaya looks great as usual, beauty that she is, though her idea of a boho get-up seems strikingly… old-fashioned. A cross between Stevie Nicks and… Stevie Nicks. That said, I should stress that her singing throughout is great – this whole live band thing is the direction she should take.

And who knows, maybe they’ll release the live band jazz performances she did last year on a DVD of its own? Maybe it was released as a fanclub-only special only, I’m not sure. But she does a wicked fun version of “Nee” in that set.

Meanwhile, Ayaya will also be playing the lead in a revamp of the Sukeban Deka franchise in all its ass-kicking, yoyo-flinging glory. For those unfamiliar with the series, it was a TV show about bad schoolgirls recruited as secret agents for the Japanese government. And yes, a yoyo was one of the weapons the agent would yield.

I first read about Sukeban Deka on the Encylcopedia Idollica site, when I first became curious about Onyanko Club a couple years ago. (It was also the first place I ever read about Wink, well before W did their cover.) My wife had watched the show growing up but didn’t have anything to say beyond that.

Viyuden will be in the movie as well, with Rika apparently being Ayaya’s rival – and perhaps being primed to becoming the next agent after Ayaya’s character retires or dies? These wild schoolgirl secret agents had pretty short career spans in the original, so it’d actually be ridiculously cool to see the Sukeban Deka title pass down from one H!P girl to another. Imagine a Yankee Reina as the agent! And then Maasa towering over her foes!

Also, Rika looks absolutely gorgeous in her shots. It’s the hairdo, which is kind of old-fashioned but ridiculously flattering to her face. And also, I think she wears the mantle of villainy well – like Melon Kinenbi’s Saito, she has the right personality to play it just right, to let the real-life claws come out enough in the make-believe of acting.

Here, Ayaya confronts Rika. To me, it’s a reminder of that old rumor of how Rika was adamant several years ago against Ayaya joining Morning Musume and agreed to Fujimoto Miki instead. If I was Ayaya and found out the rumors were true, I’d kiss Rika’s feet every day in gratitude.

And the odd kicker is, this role doesn’t infantilize Ayaya or make her seem more juvenile even though she’s playing a schoolgirl. There’s a few connected reasons for this: first, it’s a bit of a nostalgia trip, so that retro gloss has a way of making it seem a tad camp, a tad pomo; second, her character seems as distraught and tortured as past agents (at least, based on what I’ve read of them), so this isn’t exactly a light and frothy role she’s taken; third, there looks to be enough action that we’ll all be surprised at what Ayaya can do.

The shots of her plowing through a half-dozen policemen is ridiculous fun, with punches and kicks and knees-to-the-groin galore, and Ayaya seems to have the furious energy and anger that her character requires. It also bodes well for Ayaya reaching an overseas audience who’s interested in Asian action cinema who’ve barely heard of her. So along with Koharu, she may well be another ambassador of H!P good will outside of the established fan base.

Well, this is too good to pass up, and I hope it does lead to more Sukeban Deka movies for H!P, if not for Ayaya in particular. (No guarantee she’ll live to the end, after all.) Now if she can shake off the whole ballad thing for just one single this year, I’ll be a truly happy Ayaya fan…

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3 Responses to “Ayaya Live and Kicking Ass”
  1. Alice says:

    The other song on the DVD is Watarasebashi, the ballad she covered in 2004. I like it a lot more than the new single (which i can’t really stand) but I definitely like Ki Ga Tsukeba Anata more.

  2. Steve Harrison says:

    Gomen..I think Maki’s version is better still. IMO

  3. niji says:

    In the seventh snap, Rika looks a lot like Tsukushi’s traitor friend in that last TV incarnation of Hana Yori Dango.