PV VS Round 4: Maria vs Nagisa no All Stars

Filed in American Wota 1.0

Two videos go head-to-head in shorts reviews, but only one emerges as the winner. This round we have two offerings from former members of ZONE – Maiko and her band Maria’s second single “Tsubomi”, and Miyu, who participates in Nagisa no All Stars’ “Taiyo no Take Off”. Who wins? The bass player now heading her own band, or the rock diva now relegated to backup status? (*sigh* This is too obvious…)

Maria – “Tsubomi”

While I’ll probably be making ZONE comparisons for as long as Maria is around, that’s a testament to how important that group continues to be to me. “Tsubomi” proves that Maria are their own band, though, with their own unique sound, group dynamic, and overall aesthetic.

The song itself is a marked improvement from the first single. Not that the first single was bad, but it didn’t fire me up the way this one does. The singing is as good as before – actually, a little bit better, now that I think of it. And for all the talk about how cool it’d be to have two bass players in the group, the standout musical combo in this song is Reina’s violin and Tattsu’s drumming.

Tattsu is an absolute demon on this song, pounding her heart out – and looking like it in the video – which gives the whole song a powerful urgency that contrasts wonderfully against the mournful violin interludes from Reina. Here, the drums are all about passion, the violins about a slower, more melodramatic strain. Playing the two off each other shows a complexity that I don’t think ZONE worked too hard to achieve, and speaks well for Maria setting itself apart from its obvious lineage.

The video is about as interesting as “Chiisana Uta” – that is, you’d really have to give a damn about watching these girls and not worry about a plot. And like the first single, the dramatic moments of the girls looking wistful or pained or whatever isn’t all that gripping. I know we’re supposed to feel for them – and I feel very deeply for Tattsu, at least – but it’s like those hair metal songs showing how lonely life on the road is or whatever.

It’d be nice to see the group having fun off-stage…

… Especially since watching them onstage is so great. If you cut out all the dramatic, tortured artist scenes and just had the girls playing on stage, that’d make the video so much more compelling. They seem to work well together and are really into what they’re doing. It makes me want to see them perform live, to have a concert DVD out already.

Unfortunately, setting the video in a large stadium does make me wonder if Maria can actually fill a venue of that size this early in their career. (Though now that I think of it, the same question could have been asked of Berryz for “I Can’t Live Without You”…)

Much as I love Maiko, I find myself much more interested in the other members now. It’s kind of like Zone, actually, where Miyu being the frontwoman meant I focused my attention on the other girls. Maiko and Aika are the frontwomen of Maria, so I find myself more attracted to the ridiculously genki Reina for eyecandy.

Then there’s the more overlooked trio of Sacchin, Ayuka, and especially Tattsu. (Yeah, it’s all about Tattsu now.) I don’t know if Maria was intended to have an obvious split between the more glamorous (and generally younger) women of the group and the more tomboyish, slightly older women, but it’s hard to miss that distinction. Is it to balance the bandol expectation against rock credibility?

And setting aside whatever thoughts of zippered leather masks Reina provokes in me, in general I find myself more interested in watching the older women play. I like the fire-and-ice contrast of Ayuka and Sacchin’s respective posturings as they play. And Tattsu’s new look is definitely hot – the short blonde hair is a striking contrast to her previous look. That said, it’s how she plays drums – and the shorts she’s wearing – that are the main attraction here.

For some reason I was thinking it’d be interesting to see what’d happen if Maria decided to split into two power trios, like V6: Ayuka, Tattsu, and Sacchin on the one hand, Maiko, Reina, and Aika on the other. (Though that’d require some instrument-swapping.) I’m thinking the first group would sound a whole lot like the Runaways or even Bikini Kill, while the latter group would be doing ballads…

At any rate, it feels to me like Maria’s hitting their stride now. I’m hoping a more straightforward rocker is coming for the next single – something not as thoughtful or dramatic as the first two singles, but more balls-to-the-wall, knock-you-to-the-ground heavy. Maybe even a cover of “Teenage Riot”…

Nagisa no All Stars – “Taiyo no Take Off”

This is the one and only scene that saves the song and its video. A shot of Miyu – the only shot of Miyu, at that – in a waste-of-time PV for a waste-of-time song.

Nagisa no All Stars features TUBE, Miyu, Aiuchi Rina, and some other folks.

The song itself is prettier than TUBE’s “B B Q” but even blander and aggressively mawkish in sentiment. (My wife translated the lyrics for me as we watched the video until I told her to please, please, please stop.) It’s not the musical equivalent of eating vanilla or plain yogurt – it’s the musical equivalent of chewing on cardboard. You don’t just grow old listening to this music, you roll over in your sleep and die of boredom.

Just about the entirety of the video features a bunch of beautiful young people playing on the beach on what I assume is a summer holiday. The most interesting feature about this is that it’s an ethnically diverse group, very Benetton in its own way.

I don’t need to watch people frolic on a beach. I live in Hawaii and work mornings in Waikiki, this stuff is as common to me as clubbed baby seal sandwiches for Eskimos. And even if I didn’t live in Hawaii, I wouldn’t want to watch a bunch of people frolicking on a beach for four-plus minutes no matter how pretty or how much fun they’re having unless it leads to some boom-chicky-ow-ow action for at least three minutes.

Further, having a so-called all-star line-up do their first single and not even showing us these talented people in the video for more than a few seconds strikes me as willfully perverse. If they’re such fucking all-stars – and Miyu is, at least – then show them to us, they’re the main fucking assets being sold in the group’s name!

After the Music Station appearance and now this, I can’t help but feel like I’m being bitchy about something I should be grateful for. A little bit of Miyu is better than no Miyu at all, right? Well, not when it’s this little, not when fans are clamoring for more from her, not when we know what she’s capable of.

So yeah, it’s Maria’s “Tsubomi” by the widest margin imaginable in this face-off. And I’m disappointed actually. There better be a fair fight next time there’s an ex-ZONE-off. As in something that involves Miyu doing more than helping out TUBE. It’s great that she’s back in the public spotlight, but for God’s sake there are fans who really want to see Miyu, to hear her sing, to hear her play guitar.

Oh, and bring back Tomoka too. With a new band and a bikini photobook.

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3 Responses to “PV VS Round 4: Maria vs Nagisa no All Stars”
  1. Tiny says:

    I’m with you Ray…

    …all the way!

    There BETTER be a fair fight the next time there’s an ex-ZONE-off!

    (Where in the world IS Tomoka?)

  2. Kai says:

    well actually, to make u suprise…i have the performance version where miyu actually sing. want?

  3. Ray Mescallado says:

    I’d definitely want to see that! Thank you!