Don’t you dare. I’ve been listening to music too long for you to give me problems about writing about an AKB48 release. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably had an inkling that I take a fancy to Watanabe Mayu. I wouldn’t say I was crushed by her placement in the 2015 Sousenkyo (she placed third), but I did hope she could reclaim her top spot. And, while many are off-put by her “so perfect she’s a cyborg” idol routine, this perfection is a good part of her appeal. Remember: when things look too perfect, the breakdown of this character becomes even more interesting.
The particulars of Watanabe Mayu’s fifth solo single tell a lot about the product. The song “Deai no Tsuzuki” provides the opening theme of the drama “Tatakau! Shoten Girl”, where Mayuyu plays an entitled yet well-meaning bookstore employee caught up in the in-store dramas of her workplace. If you happen to be a fan of Mayu, you should probably give it a watch.
As a theme song, “Deai no Tsuzuki” only needs to supply about 1.5 minutes of memorable music. In other words, don’t bore us get to the chorus. And, they give us the chorus right from the beginning. The memorable (read: catchy) melody ascends and descends the scale pleasingly. Except for a couple of places, Mayu doesn’t need to show us much range with her voice, which allows her to maintain her image of perfection.
When we arrive at the verses, Mayu sings a melody that plunges low to contrast the choruses. She’s contemplated by a coterie of strings and piano that imparts a royal, princely air. In keeping with her image, “Deai no Tsuzuki” sounds pure with a touch of sophistication. When the drum machine is switched off in the second verse, I don’t even miss it. The arrangement doesn’t need the artificial pulse because the song is truly propelled by the acoustic instruments and Mayu’s vocal performance.
The major fault with the arrangement of “Deai no Tsuzuki” lies with the lack of an effective percussion track. The standard “AKB drum machine #4” (as I like to call it), adds nothing of value to the song. I would have killed for some acoustic drums and some dramatic timpani! The arrangement is so ineffectual that when the moments of real drama need accents, the drum accents provide nothing. “Deai no Tsuzuki” may be classified as safe, soft rock, but even soft rock songs need an incisor or a canine tooth. I know Watanabe Mayu is the safe, middle-of-the-road idol choice, but she still needs to chew her meat like the rest of us.
The promotional video for “Deai no Tsuzuki” provides viewers with their rewards. We get lots and lots of Mayu. Nothing else really matters. The performance shots present Mayuyu in close up and wide shots at a busy pedestrian intersection. Dressed in nearly pure white, Mayu lips the song while her hair gently floats with an unseen breeze. The wide shots imagine Mayu calmly singing amid a chaotic bustle of traffic, while the close ups focus solely on our talent.
The solo shots intercut with a plot driven PV involving Mayu and mysterious, gift-wrapped packages. She appears either running toward something or away from a group of “Men in Black” dressed pursuers. Clad in a sleeveless, collared gingham check one-piece and slick black sneakers, she appears nervous. Mayu turns to check her pursuers and increases her pace in panic. At one point, a rat of a pedestrian bumps into Mayuyu, sending her packages concrete bound. This first reveal shows us strings of pearls and precious jewelry strewn across the sidewalk- prized packages, indeed. Unrealistically, NO ONE helps her recompose her cargo.
One could argue the plot of “Deai no Tsuzuki” adds nothing to the PV, and I wouldn’t have a counter. These shots present an opportunity to film slow motion frames of Mayu running complete ascetically pleasing hair choreography. No really, watch that hairography. It’s breathtaking.
As it turns out, Watanabe Mayu is not exactly who she appears to be in “Deai no Tsuzuki”. As I type that out, the words read like the slick press release of a manipulative publicity agent. The song and video go the extra mile to establish Mayu as the cyborg we all recognize, only to reveal a mischievous idol we are meant to love. Yes, manipulative is the correct word. Strangely though I am OK with this acknowledgement of a more complex character beneath the sheen. Mayuyu is smart enough to know her fans would not buy a 180 degree change of character, but the gentle role-playing in “Deai no Tsuzuki” is palatable for even the most hardcore of her fan base. Besides, is there anything inherently wrong with playing with one’s identity? I don’t think so. Watanabe Mayu, aside from being a popular idol, is a 21 year-old girl. What kind of 21 year-old does not play with her image?
You can buy Watanabe Mayu’s “Deai no Tsuzuki” at CD Japan