“Ai no Gundan”. In English it sounds like “I ain’t no GUNDAN”. To the anime obsessors it sounds like “Ai no Gundam”. Morning Musume’s 54th single is the double-A side “Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke” and this song, “Ai no Gundan”. So this single is “Joke’s of Love” and “Army of Love”. The main outfit for this PV is appropriate enough: red a black military inspired outfits topped by berets (and no caps). But they aren’t a stern military. My mind wants to believe that the girls are fighting somewhere near France or Basque while eating fine cheeses and cured meats. This might be because I’m writing in a forest or because I just watched “Los Amantes del Circular Polar“. But, this isn’t the 1990’s foreign film blog; this is “Ai no Gundan”.
The song starts with some creamy vocal samples of Sayumi keyed to sound like an instrument. Imagine being able to play Sayu on your piano at home. An 80’s drum machine beat briefly accompanies Sayu and then the song really begins. The instrumental melodic line played (what sounds like) a sampled saxophone recalls the Sayu samples and reappears between the songs structural components. Tsunku is playing a trick on us here because EVERYONE recognizes the vocal sample (and will use it to evidence Morning Musume’s devolution into “Robo Musume”), but the saxophone is just as artificial and will draw far less criticism. What you hear is not always what you are hearing. I think the Sayu samples are far more pleasant sounding than the “saxophone“. I digress.
Even the set plays with the ideas of real and unreal! Fake plastic trees? Camouflage, the ultimate in real/unreal, patterned flooring? CG and/or real bubbles?
“Ai no Gundan” drives along with a mean sound. The verses descend over a static chord ending with the octave pop-up “Honto? Honto?”. The part that really gets me excited is the chromatic descent over the driving beat that follows the “Honto?”s. The girls march around like a pinwheel coverThis is the meanest part of the song; I love it, and I can’t help scowling a bit when I think about it.
Tsunku provides us with a chorus that seems similar to the verse, but this similarity is deception as well. While Morning Musume sang over a static chord in the verse of “Ai no Gundan”, layers the vocal melody on top of quickly changes chords. The chords change so quickly that the changes sound melodic. These are changes similar to those you hear in Pachelbel’s Canon or, Oasis’s “Don’t Look in Anger” or even Younha’s “Yubikiri“. Like a good fugue, Tsunku also puts a string counter melody on top of all of this. You think Morning Musume is “dipping from the same well” for all their recent singles? I think this opinion doesn’t look beyond the obvious.
And then this choreography … is amazing. The tightly timed choreography is back with a vengeance. The center dance solo is back, as well. Morning Musume keep to the gundan theme by spending a good amount of time marching in an unnatural manner for much of the song. They say that soldiers marched in such an unnatural manner so that generals could plainly see when their men are drunk. I don’t think anyone is drunk here.
Yes, Huraka. Really.
The showy hand movements during their marches are just the beginning. During the chorus Morning Musume execute one of the greatest arm dances I have seen in J-Pop. The arms swirl and cascade hypnotically. They jab and point organically; this takes TEAMWORK! No screen capture will accurately convey what happens in this choreography.
Just as in “Wagamama …“, the girls get a secondary outfit in the PV. If the dance shot outfits are shot to look like nighttime, then the white dresses are shot in the day time. These shots don’t really amount to much more than a break from the darkness.
Back to black and red. Ayumi gives off a moment of pure joy. Kanon gives us a rare glimpse of her midsection.
This is a nice capture because it has both Maa and Du!
There is no reason for Mizuki to ever be lonely….
Since the choreography of the chorus has little athleticism, other parts of the dance show off the better dancers. In little instrumental breaks Riho, Ayumi and the other girls twirl along gracefully.
Then the dance break happens. The four center dancers from “Brainstorming“, Riho, Ayumi, Mizuki, and Sakura, share the spotlight again for “Ai no Gundan”. While the other girls arc around and jab at the sky, the spotlight girls twirl and crossover acrobatically.
If you didn’t guess by now, I love “Ai no Gundan” much more than “Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke”. I haven’t even mentioned the cascading synthesizers, the woodblock percussions, or the bubbles! Anyone who characterizes this song as “more of the same from Tsunku” needs to have their ears examined! Even though the PV is clearly low budget, the elements or song and dance come together beautifully. Give it a listen, give it a buy or a download!
You can buy “Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke / Ai no Gundan” at CDJapan