This Week’s Gets: Amazon Japan Goodies

Filed in American Wota 1.0

Why, what’s this? A box from Amazon Japan? But I only placed my order last Friday! Let’s open up the box and see what’s inside!

A flyer to subscribe to Time magazine… Well, I guess that could come in useful.

And here’s the actual goodies I ordered, wrapped up with the invoice on top.

First out of the box: Shihono Ryo’s “Sweet Sunday” CD single… two copies of it actually.

Next, a Shihono Ryo DVD, Ukulele.

Then a Koike Rina DVD, Rina Sagashitsua (Rina’s Tour)!

And finally, a Shihono Ryo photobook, Record! And there’s a DVD included here, as well!

Wow! What a treasure trove of idol goodness! What a whole lot of loli pedo U15 eyecandy sweetness! (Here’s a closer shot of the “Sweet Sunday”.) I’m all a-tingle, as you can well imagine.

“But wait!” you may ask. “Is that all you ordered? Surely you must have gotten an album from a real musical group instead of some vanity project from an underaged, underfed bikini model!

Well, to answer that question properly, let’s take a roundabout route rhetorically. Lately I’ve been listening to the Rolling Stones a lot – or rather, a handful of their early singles. (I always found it distressing that part in that Pulp Fiction out-take about Beatles type of people and Elvis type of people. For me, the Stones at their best were better than either of those other performers, and in their own way as powerfully iconic and influential. Just ask the members of Pussy Galore.)

To me, there is no finer song from this past century – or any century, since I’m biased to the modern world – than “Sympathy for the Devil”. (Speaking of which, here’s the back cover of the photobook. Love that center picture!) I could listen to that one song over and over again, perhaps even more so than the first SweetS mini-album. However, there were other revelations – or rather, re-introduced discoveries – in the other singles I had put on constant replay during my commute to work and back home.

For instance, the way that “Let’s Spend the Night Together” is mixed, on the right side of my headphone all I can hear is Charlie Watts playing the drums. And it’s fucking amazing! I mean, it should detract from the overall pleasure because it’s so loud and insistent and on only one side of the aural landscape – but that’s exactly what makes it so special, as it takes center stage when it shouldn’t, and becomes a virtuosic piece of musicianship on its own terms, as well as in the way it carries the beat of the song.

This evening as I was on the bus heading home, knowing this box of gravure goodies was waiting for me, I was listening to “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and tapping my hand to the beat and grinning quite widely to myself. In a bus where everyone looked tired and exhausted and beaten down – and I certainly felt that way, too – I was able to find a giddy thrill, a powerful jolt of good will and happiness that sustained me and made the ride go by much quicker. (Speaking of a powerful jolt, here’s a closer shot of the Ukulele DVD. Between you and me, I don’t think Ryo knows how to play it as well as, say, Jake Shimabakuro. But I could be wrong.)

The song itself is of course a wonderful pop song, earnest and straightforward and even a touch naive, even as it’s about a plea to have sex. While the Stones were often at their best when they gave voice to the darker sides of the human psyche, this song is as effervescent and joyous as Britpop could ever hope to be.

I could cite a couple of other examples of favorite moments from the Stones’ oeuvre – the sudden slashes of feedback in “Street Fighting Man”, or the still-jarring declaration of “just as every cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints” in “Sympathy”, or the sheer joyful fuck-you attitude in the chorus of “Get Off Of My Cloud”. (Here’s the back cover of the Ukulele DVD.) But the point is, right now I’m finding a thrill in listening to these songs, an uplift of spirit that comes, not from the novelty of the songs – they’re timeworn and familiar to me, as they probably are for most of you – but because there is something special about these songs, particular elements and flourishes and small details that send a shiver through me, that evoke a response in me that makes both the critic in me and the reactive fan deeply appreciative.

It hasn’t been the Stones alone, either. I’ve found similar thrills in past weeks with Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, SweetS’ first mini-album, and Tommy February6’s Tommy Airlines. In each case, there’s that thrill of having something so damn familiar constantly surprise and re-invigorate me, a sense of constant re-discovery that is based not on newness but on a combination of complexity and immediacy.

I think I’ve been more open to this – or more desirous of this – in recent months, since I feel an even stronger sense of the joy of the “newly discovered everyday” every time I hold my baby and play with her and make her smile. I practically live for Haruna – certainly, I wouldn’t work as hard as I do if it wasn’t for her. Every moment with her – whether she’s laughing or crawling or spitting up on my shirt – makes it inconceivable that I can do anything else but be her happy servant. She has me wrapped around her little fingers, she knows it and thinks it’s funny, and I think it’s the way the world should be.

And yet, I do know there’s more to the world than Haruna, and my love of popular culture seems to have sharpened somewhat, or taken a new direction. It’s not so much an epiphany as a sense that my priorities have shifted somewhat. The sustenance I gain from pop culture – Japanese or otherwise – has become more demanding, more exact in the reactions I need to evoke to enjoy it. Perhaps it’s because I can’t spend as much time watching DVDs and listening to music as I could before, but I think it’s also because the smile of one’s child is a hard act for some pop singer or bikini model to follow.

Lately, pop idols haven’t had as much effect on me as they had in the past. I realized a little while ago that of the four performers on my walls, half are effectively broken up (SweetS and W), one is appreciated primarily as a geinou and not a musician (Gackt), and the last one still delights but reminds me of its own losses (Berryz Koubo, and the departure of Megukami from H!P). I’m not as thrilled by Morning Musume’s tenth anniversary as I could be (though I’m thinking if Ayappe came back to sing and maybe do a bikini video, that’d change tout de suite). The new eighth gen girl doesn’t interest me, it stings a little too much to watch C-ute, Perfume’s new single is good but not great (same with Amuro Namie), there’s nothing new from Bennie K or Kishidan lately (though DJ Ozma has something coming soon), Halcali’s been mostly disappointing…

In a way, it feels like there’s suddenly too much baggage, too much to consider and to weigh, to simply enjoy Japanese pop music the way I had earlier. And I know it’s me, not them, that’s the reason. (Here’s a closer shot of the Koike Rina DVD. I love that huge sticker with the number 12 on it, making clear her age for prospective buyers.) I was afraid the bloom was off the rose, so to speak…

But then I found myself being thrilled in recent months by other kinds of idols, I was moving away from music and more towards… well, other things. There were U15 idols such as Shihono Ryo, Koike Rina, and Sari Kiri. There were also AV idols such as Naho Ozawa, Maria Ozawa, Risa Coda, and Yua Aida. I can’t quite articulate what’s going on, but I find that my appreciation and enjoyment of pop idols has broadened and redefined itself somewhat by more forcefully considering them in the context of Japanese idols in general. Not that they are all the same kind of idols, since they all do different things – Sora Aoi can’t sing for shit, and I don’t want to see any of the H!P girls do the things Maria Ozawa does.

However, I found myself enjoying the works of these other kinds of idols with a new energy and focus, and with a deeper appreciation for what they do in their respective fields. (Here’s the back cover to the Rina DVD! Isn’t she just adorable? And I didn’t even know she was in PGSM until after I was wowed by shots from her photobook!) I’ve written before that gravure idols have a difficult job that just seems easy because it’s posing in various states of undress, but my recent immersion in gravure has made painfully clear just how few of those models actually succeed beyond the most obvious stimuli that they offer their audiences, how few of them have an actual gift that projects from the camera to the audience. The same holds true for AV idols as well, though in that case the immediate reaction to viewing porn obscures even further the complexities of their performances.

As a result, gravure idols and AV idols have now become as important to me as singing idols, perhaps moreso based on my Amazon purchase. When I find myself thinking about idols in an abstract, conceptual manner, it often ends up encompassing these other kinds of idols as well. I’ve been trying to come up with an aesthetic criteria for AV idol performances that explains why I’ve grown to like some more intensely than others. An ongoing dialogue with myself about the possibility of an innate “idol-ness” has now expanded fruitfully to include the likes of Shihono Ryo and Tada Mizuho.

(And hey, let’s face it: just cause I’m now a daddy doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate beautiful young things prancing around in pretty little outfits. The new role of parenthood hasn’t made me any less of a lecherous, irresponsible bastard than before – at least, not when I want to be. I actually think I’d be more concerned if it did turn me into a person who couldn’t enjoy photobooks and bikini DVDs and hardcore porn the way I have in the past. So perhaps this sudden focus on Ryo and Rina – and Naho and Yua – has been an attempt to convince myself I haven’t changed all that much? Hmm…)

(That said, I doubt I’ll be buying much AV when it’s just too damn easy to download a too-heathy amount online. Shihono Ryo may be getting a big chunk of my discretionary income, but Naho Ozawa would have to call me up in person to get a few dollars out of me.)

And to close things off emphatically, a small surprise: here’s a Single V that may be more familiar to most of you, Viyuden’s “Aisucream to My Purin”. I bought it two weekends ago, on one of my regular visits to Hakubundo. As you can see, it was still in its wrapper when I photographed it tonight, complete with price tag and warning that it plays only on Region 2 DVD players.

Sadly, my purchase of this Single V was more of a distraction than a desire, and I’d been carrying it around in my laptop case waiting for the right mood to pop it open and watch. Somehow, ten or so days passed and that mood hasn’t seized me. I took it out of the wrapper finally tonight, but only after I tore through the plastic on all my newer goodies.

I’m not sure how showing off what arrived by special delivery today led to this rant about idols in general… maybe it’s the fact that I was myself surprised at how excited and giddy I felt about this shipment, and it made me realize I haven’t felt this thrilled about Jpop in general for some time now. (Though there’ve been isolated incidents in recent weeks, such as DJ Ozma’s Kouhaku performance and watching Pa Pa Pa Pa Pa Perfume episodes and Younha’s “Audition” PV.) I know I will rediscover the thrill of my favorite pop idols – even Yui and Erika dressed up as faux Playboy bunnies – but that i’m going through some strange transition that I’m still trying to figure out how to express, as a fan and as a writer.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some Shihono Ryo to watch before going to bed…

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3 Responses to “This Week’s Gets: Amazon Japan Goodies”
  1. CJ Marsicano says:

    Heh. Nice score. I’m waiting for the Reina Alo-Hello DVD myself, and I should be getting the MoMusu 10th EP in the post tomorrow.

  2. Craig says:

    I think someone will need to borrow Haruna’s bib to deal with all that drool 🙂

  3. jinryuichi says:

    gah!… show off! ^_^
    Seems like you’re enjoying your orders… Don’t mess up the plastic covers… Hehe~~~!

    I just scrolled all the way down to comment, will get back to reading your post after work. (stopped somewhere in the middle, when my boss is patrolling the area)