ANGERME come roaring out of the gate for the next round of Hello! Project releases with their effort “Nanakorobi Yaoki (Ups and Downs)”. When ANGERME was still S/mileage and the group cut their hair on the moon (Short Cut), a song like this would have been unthinkable fo the group. The powerful song quickly roars in your face with a quickly paced driving beat and aggressive guitars. Providing contrast to these elements, “Nanakorobi Yaoki” buffets itself with whirling strings and choral background vocals. The song adorns itself with contrasts so completely that it becomes a fight best described as the brutish vs. the elegant.
Brutish and elegant forces battle each other throughout the musical arrangement of “Nanakorobi Yaoki”. From the ground, the song pushes with an insistent 12/8 beat (see! those music lessons in “MUSIC+ really help). A thumping bass and distorted guitars pulse along with the drums. Melodically, a solo guitar riffs and electronic whirs duel against a string section that (appropriately) plays up and down the scales. Background vocals on the side of the strings peal like bells before ringing with “Ups and Downs!” Similar to many Hello! Project songs, “Nanakorobi Yaoki” furnishes a thick arrangement that threatens to clutter around every corner.
Sets and lighting play with the central concept in the same way as the music. Set design reinforces brutish against elegant by emphasizing two opposing backgrounds. For most dance shots, the girls twirl around backed by a heavy brick wall. The uneven bricks and masonry work tell you this set sides with the brutish forces. On the opposite side, solo shots back themselves with white, wood paneled walls- obviously elegant. “Nanakorobi Yaoki” approaches a strictly black and white video while salvaging a trace of color. Differing levels of desaturation drain the color from the shots coming from the camera. To further drive the point, distant spotlights force long shadows beneath ANGERME and brilliantly emphasize the texture of the brickwork.
For all the platitudes heaped on the song and promotional video, I remind you that “Nanakorobi Yaoki” contains all the characteristic of the “cheap Hello! Project” PV. Even though we see a variety of backgrounds- the brick, the paneling, the windows, our director probably used a single location (three walls, three treatments: you can figure that out). For all the dynamics of the choreography and the time bending effects of the video, “Nanakorobi Yaoki” maintains the “solo close-up/group dance shot” aesthetic of most Hello! Project promotional videos.
No doubt, “Nanakorobi Yaoki” will draw many in with its dramatic heightened reality. The song’s monochromatic look, theatric staging, and pulsating beat call to mind the group’s 2014 release “A Mystery Night“. While puzzled looks greeted that release (and its “buffet of shoulders“), the new look ANGERME plays the dramatics with ease. I have to ask: Is this ANGERME with its sepia dance shots and its histrionic aspirations the ANGERME that we want? And, if ANGERME drops the honeyed idol act, who will pick up the pixie-dust filled baton?