Archive for the Aya Matsuura Category

Obligatory H!P Best of 2008 – Pex’s oPinion

Posted in Ai Takahashi, Aya Matsuura, Berryz Koubou, C-ute, Hello!Project, Koharu Kusumi, Morning Musume, Risa Niigaki, Yuko Nakazawa on January 9, 2009 by Pex

Okay, so I saw this on Morningtime, and he saw it on Hello!Blog, who saw it on Merry Go Round, it’s basically an opinion poll on the Best of 2008 from the world of H!P.

What does the Pexmeister think about last year? Well…

Best Group Single – Cinderella Complex (High-King)

I did have this entry written already (with Resonant Blue getting the win), but then I remembered Cinderella Complex. I’m honestly shocked that I decided to change my decision, but as good as RB and its previous contenders (Pepper Keibu, Edo no Temari Uta II, and Dschinghis Khan) are, they can’t compare to this slice of aural excellence.

Best Soloist Single – Papancake (Koharu Kusumi) & Kizuna (Aya Matsuura) TIE

I used to want to smack people who gave “TIE” awards. I used to feel it was cheating. I still do, I guess, but I honestly can’t choose between the two. They both perfectly capture the twin sides of H!P for me. Papancake is sheer cracktastic Koharu at her best representing the sugary-kiddie-pop side of H!P which, let’s face it, has been around at least since the time of Minimoni. You can’t honestly tell me that you like the “Ai-n” songs but find Papancake silly. Well, you can tell me that, but I’ll laugh at you, because you’re being silly. On the other end of the spectrum, Kizuna represents the soulful introspective ballads the H!P soloists are usually best known for. In short, they are both the best there is at what they do, and I cannot choose between them. Nor do I wish to.

Best Group Album – Cover You (Morning Musume)

Although I got both 5(Five) and 3rd Love Escalation for Christmas, I have yet to listen to them. Even if I had, there’s just no way that those two albums would beat Cover You. Yes, none of the songs on the album are actually “Morning Musume Songs” as such, but that doesn’t matter. The girls take those songs and make them their ow…no, actually, I can’t really make that judgement. The only one I’d heard prior to the album’s release was Pepper Keibu, and even that one was “tainted” by MM from the very first time I heard it, because my first time hearing the song is via a clip from the docu-drama about the songwriter, and Ai-chan and Risa were singing it. So in my mind, all these songs are Morning Musume songs. With that in mind, Cover You stands out as their most…cohesive album to date. It’s currently tied with Sexy 8 Beat as my favorite MM album of all time.

Best Soloist Album – Legend (Yuko Nakazawa)

No, I don’t have it yet (I plan on getting it for my birthday), but I’ve seen some of the PVs, and though Nacchi has some good songs (and I plan on getting hers for my birthday as well), I’m looking forward to this one more. The Elder Stateswoman of H!P deserves no less than the Best, and so, I give her the award for Best Soloist Album.

Best PV – Resonant Blue (The Version that combines all the other versions into a proper PV)

I remember when music videos (as the non-JPop crowd – as well as myself – like to call PVs) used to tell a story. They would have different scenes, cutting back and forth and weaving a story, setting a mood, and entertaining us. I miss videos like that. Ai-chan on her exercise bike, Risa in the cab, Reina walking through the streets at night…these scenes all say “Resonant Blue” to me. I would choose the version containing only those elements, but there’s something inviting about watching the girls warm up and practicing their dance routines. It’s one of the most normal things I’ve ever seen them do, and I quite like that scene because of it. As a result, I could not separate the versions. I feel I must give an honorary mention to Edo no Temari Uta II because of Chisato’s outfit as well as the outstanding minimalist background silhouettes set design. It totally rocks. Just not enough to win.

Group With Best Overall Releases – Morning Musume

Yes, C-ute and Berryz both released more, but I don’t feel MM should be penalized because of the quantity of releases. They all did very well, but MM’s two singles are two of my favorites by them ever, so in the end, they just had to win.

Best New Group Debuted in 2008 – High-King

It’s funny that, even though I like all three members of Buono, I’ve only listened to maybe one or two of their songs. I don’t know why I can’t get into them. Laziness, I imagine. Either way, High-King refused to let me be lazy. You pretty much had to notice these girls, even if they only released one single and are unlikely to ever release any more. It was just that unforgettable.

Best New Soloist Debuted in 2008 – Erina Mano

Erm…isn’t she the only soloist to debut this year? I can’t remember. Anyway, I haven’t heard anything of hers yet, but since she supposedly plays her own piano music, I’ll give her props for that. I can’t even play Guitar Hero and talk at the same time.

Best Established Group Did Not Debut in 2008 – Morning Musume

C’mon, did you really think I was going to pick anyone else? They’re the flagship, and rightly so. They may not have had as many releases as the other groups (well, more than Melon Kinenbi, but you know what I mean), but the two they had were among the best the group has ever released, so I have to give them props. I will say that Berryz and C-ute both had very strong releases throughout the year.

Best Established Soloist Did Not Debut in 2008 – Koharu Kusumi

I like Koharu’s Kirarin singing voice. I said it, and I’m not ashamed. Her songs have always been fun, ever since Balalaika, and this year’s single, Papancake was no exception. I like her voice so much that I even consider the Milky Way songs and Pinponpan Taisou to be Kusumi solo songs, since she tends to feature so heavily on them. Normally I would feel silly saying that she “roxxors my soxxors”, but she does. Stop all the Koha-hating. It just makes you all seem like old fuddy-duddys.

Best Photobook – Happy Girl (Risa Niigaki)

Let me put it to you this way, Happy Girl and Maple (Eri Kamei) were the two photobooks whose scans wanted to make me start collecting photobooks, and although it was a surprise Christmas gift from my brother, Happy Girl would have been the first one I would have bought myself. Risa just looks absolutely frelling gorgeous, and has the most interesting variety of outfits, but I have to say that the outfit with the old baseball cap and old blue jeans and jacket is my favorite. That’s similar to how my dad (who is a farmer) tends to dress, and whenever I look at that picture, I can smell my dad coming home late at night with the fresh scent of night air on his coat, and it is just so familiar and inviting. I’d like to imagine Risa coming home to me smelling like that and wearing that outfit. It’d be like she had become a part of my family. A picture like that is worth way more than a thousand words, and that’s why this photobook, no matter what, will always be my favorite.

Hottest Idol 0f 2008 – Ai Takahashi

If you haven’t seen Ai-chan’s Pimp Hat and face-caressing skills, go watch High-King’s Cinderella Complex PV right now. She’s sweet, but the girl knows how to make you quiver in all the right ways. The way she puts her hand to her cheek with most of her fingers curled shyly away in that PV, the way her booty goes into turbo-boost overdrive in the Resonant Blue PV, those intense eyes that just reach into yours and say, “C’mere, Sexy!”, those long, luscious legs of hers…to quote Jayne from Firefly/Serenity, I’ll be in my bunk.

Worst Soloist Single/ PV/ Group Single / Vocalist – N/A

Sorry, Pexie don’t play that. I focus on positives in my blog. The most I could give you for any of these would be “Least Best”, and since I haven’t heard everything, I might accidentally give a “Bad” Award to something I will later consider to be good, and I just ain’t gonna do that, sorry.

Least Attractive Girl of 2008 – N/A

Weren’t you listening? Pexie don’t play that. They’re all good in my eyes.

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Okay, I’d actually like to add a category, if I may, and since it’s my blog, I’m gonna do it anyway.

Most Improved Girl of 2008 – Risa Niigaki

I’ve always liked Risa, but her voice never really stood out before, in my mind. All that changed at the MM All Singles concert. She has really upped her game! Listen to her belting out the lyrics in Shabondama or The Manpower, and then go listen to her (almost) solo song from Cover You, Johnny e no Dengon. She really has a lot more range than I ever previously thought. I still think she’d have problems with Koi no Hana (like she did the previous time she sang it on Hello Pro Hour), but overall, she has improved muchly over the course of this past year. At least, I like to think she has. If she was always that good, I’m ashamed of myself for not noticing it any sooner.

* * *

Well, that’s it. That’s yer lot. Take it for what it’s worth, one man’s opinion. Your mileage may vary, etc., etc.

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Yo-Yo Girl Cop (Sukeban Deka) Movie Review

Posted in Aya Matsuura, Hello!Project, V-u-den on August 3, 2008 by Pex

I have a bad habit. Several, really, but the one I’m talking about at the moment is my habit of buying movies and/or tv shows and then not watching them for months after I buy them. This is not good. Most stores have a return policy, but it’s usually a limited time deal, and by the time I try to watch what I’ve bought, it’s too late to take back if it should prove to be defective. Thankfully, that’s not a concern with Yo-Yo Girl Cop, which I’ve just watched tonight after having bought it…erm…well, I know it’s been quite a while now.

The first thing I should say is that this is a real movie. When Charmy first told me about this movie, I was slightly intrigued, but figured I might not actually get the movie. This was in my early stages of H!P fandom, before I was “bitten” by the collecting bug that influences one to buy as much merchandise of their chosen fandom as possible. It comes in many forms, this bug, but the H!P strain of the bug had yet to infect me. So after showing me a couple of interesting pics from the movie (including, yes, that shot of Rika’s confrontation with Aya), I mumbled something about I might have to get it someday. Well, Rika in fishnets has that effect on a person.

Before I watched it, I expected a so-so plot and a little bit of action. In other words, a half-hearted attempt at something serious, with a little bit of eyecandy. I could not have been more wrong.

The plot to me, is not about the main villain, “Romeo”, at all. Instead, to me the film is about loneliness and finding your place in the world. It’s odd that a film from Japan can zero in so effectively on the “school shooting” phenomenon that all too often plagues the US, but it does so quite effectively, through the plot device of “suicide bombing”. It’s very easy to understand the loneliness these people feel, even if we don’t understand quite how it leads them to take the actions they take. The film doesn’t dwell on the wrongness of such actions, because it’s obvious that such actions are wrong. Instead, it focuses on a popular cause of these events, bullies and loneliness.

Through Yui, we see such a person, pushed to the edge and beyond by her relentless tormentors. Through Aya’s character, we see how one friend can make all the difference in a person’s life. It’s more than a little moving, and I don’t think I’ll soon forget their characters.

But it’s not all drama, there’s quite a bit of action also. The action sequences are tense and very expertly performed, with all the professional power of a Hollywood action film. Saki and her “mentor” have an amusing partnership that really works well.

I would like to commend Aya, Yui, Erika and Rika on their performances in this movie. Rika can play a villainess with ease despite what she says on the “Making Of” to the contrary. Yui…I know V-u-den is disbanded now, and I never thought I’d say this, but I hope Yui becomes an actress. She’s very good at it, and I expect I would probably make an effort to find and watch more things with her in it. Erika has some very difficult scenes in this, and she’s captivating in her performance. As for Aya…she’s very feral in this, and I wish she too would make more films. Preferably more Sukeban Deka films. And I don’t know how many of my readers read X-Men comics, but Aya would be the perfect X-23. I’d pay darn good money to see that.

Overall, this is a great movie that really draws you into its fictional world, and I really enjoyed it, even without Rika in fishnets. I give it 8/10.

Oh, and from what I understand, there were three previous girls to play Sukeban Deka. After seeing this film, I’d very much like to see the others in action someday. I thought it was nice that they got the original actress to come back and film a cameo role. I love ties to the past, and that was a great touch.

PS, don’t watch this movie unless you have a yo-yo handy. I can’t find my old yo-yo, and it’s about to drive me crazy!