This is a second reminder: you can see Cheeky Parade live in the LA Area this weekend October 16-18. Details here, tickets here. This is the (not so) hidden agenda for all of these Cheeky Parade articles in the past few weeks. Real talk: we’re not going to get many idol events outside of Japan, let alone the Los Angeles area. $15 for an idol event is worth a look if you know nothing about Cheeky Parade or are even lukewarm on Cheeky Parade. I hope I see you there.
As the girls gather from all directions into the ring, the tension heightens. Their outlandish getups instantly conjures images of futuristic warriors and tokusatsu films while their bright, almost neon embellishments plant Cheeky Parade firmly in the idol arena. The camera swirls around the group mimicking the point and counterpoint string melodies. Could it be that Cheeky Parade got serious between the last two releases?
“Mugendai Shoujo ∀ (無限大少女∀)” released in September 2013 was the third major release from Cheeky Parade. The song became their best selling single to date with a respectable 28, 340 units sold in its first week. Chances are, if you’ve seen any press photography of the girls performing live, you’ve seen a bit of the choreography of “Mugendai Shoujo ∀”. For me, the song seems to indicate a dividing line in the group’s history.
I don’t know if we can call the song serious, but “Mugendai Shoujo ∀” (or “Infinity Girl ∀”) moves beyond much of the playfulness of the group’s previous releases. The song’s intro signals this change clearly. This new gravity is probably felt best with the Cheeky’s impassioned delivery of the verse’s B melody. For a non-speaker like myself, the impression of the girls yearning for a better future comes across very strongly. Then, in an instant, the song switches tone from emotional sobbing to cheer and hope with the chorus melody. The set even changes from a dusk shoot to a daylight shoot. This lighting change will hit you over the head if nothing I’ve written here ever does.
It should be noted that “Mugendai Shoujo ∀” translates to “Infinity Girl ∀”. Now, that’s a right proper superhero name, isn’t it? Using that thought, Cheeky Parade’s third release starts to look like a meditation on the girl’s relationship with this Infinity Girl. Who is this Infinity Girl? The name implies some sort of time travel or alternate dimension. The musical tone shift accompanies every mention of her, so Infinity Girl (from the future) brings a relief and escape from pain and struggle. But, do you think the joy arises from her actual arrival, or does it come simply from the expectation of Infinity Girl?
The promotional video features some quality cinematic camera movements. The dolly track literally encircles the girls in their dance shots. Usually, exposing the machinery behind the scenes smacks of unprofessional production, but in this case the circle adds some interesting perspective to the video. The ring evokes images of a Mexican shootout (see For a Few Dollars More“) or a sumo dohyo.
This is a good place to talk more about the set. The location appears to be a burned out ruin. What happened here in the continuum of “Mugendai Shoujo ∀”? Is this the aftermath of the struggle, or just the beginning?
All of this struggle, this futuristic theme, this jump heavy choreography leads me to think about time leaps à la The Girl Who Leapt Through Time“. The fight against time, against aging, and against one’s hormonal self is very real. The desire to skip through all of those struggles weighs heavy on a young person- I know it did for me. Yet, skipping through the angst filled teen years also means skipping through the innocent joy of youth: the carefree moments and the moments of timeless joy. Cheeky Parade, as they stood in 2013, were still a young group. As we see them yearn and live the struggle as idols and young girls, we remember that the struggle is just as integral to youth as the joy.