In the world of Vocaloid, promotional videos can be a big deal, more so than in other kinds of music. Producers collaborate with animators and artists or use their own talent in order to help their song tell a story, convey a feeling, or maybe just look really cool. Regardless of the motivation, I am one who loves a good PV. Music is such a flexible media because it only demands you listen to it, and the rest of your body is free to do what you want. I take full advantage of that flexibility, but when the extra visual dimension is done right, I believe it can add a new level of appreciation for whatever an artist wants to convey through their music. This is why I want to start writing a bit about artists and songs that I think capture the value of the audio-visual experience in their PVs.
I’m starting with Kikuo, one of my favorite producers. His music is not easy for me to define genre-wise, but there is a trend of songs with dark themes that are commonly hidden by the whimsical, sometimes creepy, sounds of the instrumentation and vocals. I love this dichotomy, and I think it can be used to consider broader questions and themes than those that the songs themselves bring up. The PVs for Kikuo’s songs add that extra visual element to the musical-lyrical interplay, and I find that it enhances the experience of his songs. These are some of my favorite of his PVs.
Tengoku e Ikou
Tengoku e Ikuo,” or “Let’s Go to Heaven,” a happy-sounding song that, in simplest form, is about a couple of lovers who are going to heaven. Reading more into the lyrics, there seem to be some strange hints around the circumstances of their deaths. “Let’s go to heaven” is a suggestion, perhaps an invitation to die. Calling it a “fun farewell” makes it sound voluntary, and the line “without being bothered by anyone anymore” suggests that they may have had problems with others in life. You can draw your own conclusions, but I get the impression that the couple in the song probably committed suicide together. I may be wrong about that, but nonetheless, the song is a remarkably cheery view of death, which later gets into a bunch of strange ontological confusion about selfhood, which I won’t try to interpret here.
As for the PV, the art style is rather simple, but some of the drawings don’t seem to fit together and the scenes don’t completely flow into one another, giving the whole thing an abstract feel. While it does feel abstract, the animation basically follows exactly what the lyrics say, which makes the story of the song more concrete, showing you what you’d expect to see. The PV plays off of the upbeat aspect of the song with the happy looks on the couple’s faces and colorful imagery, while also giving off a slightly unsettling vibe. Seeing the lyrics visualized doesn’t exactly clear up what is happening or what it means, but I don’t think it needs to. The PV captures the mood and the main theme of this song: happiness in death (and maybe the eventual loss of ego) and leaves the interpretation of that idea to the listener.
Boku wo sonname de minaide
Next is “Boku wo sonname de minaide,” or “Don’t Look At Me in That Way,” a song that does not leave very much up for interpretation. The lyrics show that the song is narrated by a child who died, possibly as a casualty of war, and is recounting his death and its aftermath. He tells his parents not to look at him in mourning because he’s embarrassed, it’s their fault, and it felt good to die. The music is not really happy, like “Let’s Go to Heaven”, but it has a light and whimsical sound to it at times, and without knowing the words you might not suspect it of being about death.
The lyrics to this song make it feel very heavy and sad, but the PV serves to reinforce the childish whimsy of the song, while still being sad. The art style is the same as the previous PV, and it has some of the same colorful and abstract elements, only this time they paint a picture of death through the eyes of a child. The child dies, but instead of being blown apart by weapons of war, he is pulled apart through a music box. He does not fly off into chunks of gore, but falls into little hearts and becomes the stars. “And the music keeps going”, pulling apart more people, and never stops. This is how this young child sees the constant inevitability of death and copes with his own death. Although the lyrics describe this, they do not show childish censorship that we see in the animation nor the skipping and smiling child, who is happy to be dead. I think this PV does a good job of bringing focus to the childish aspect of the song, that might otherwise be overshadowed by the heavy themes of the lyrics.
There are a few more Kikuo PVs I want to share, but I’ll have to continue that in another post. I also hope to do other songs and artists with this series, so that I can do more than album reviews. I don’t plan to be reviewing PVs in this, but plans can change, and I still welcome you to recommend anything to me. I’ll have Part 2 up soon. Until then, thank you for reading!
Edit: Part 2 is now available here on MikuDB