A Debut Without Smiles, and more [2/2]

In part 1, it was all about Silent Majority. This time, it’ll be a look at the rest of Keyakizaka46’s *good* music from 2016, their debut year.

There isn’t much to talk about second single in terms of Keyaki’s rise. The sales didn’t increase beyond expected amounts. The third single is where it gets interesting. The first week sales had an unexpectedly bigger increase compared to the second single. The total CD sales will definitely reach 600,000 in the coming months.

The third single period also saw a bigger bump to Silent Majority’s youtube views compared to the second single’s time. The third single’s music video would also overtake the second single MV viewcount in no time.

With the force of the third single still evident, the effect of their Kouhaku participation would make Keyakizaka singles climb up the charts again in sales rankings. Silent Majority’s daily views would reach levels near their debut rate again. Let’s hope the fourth single will be as successful as the third.

I hope the growth doesn’t stagnate soon. You never know what will happen, but considering how much they’re being marketed right now and how the potential market has seemingly responded, I don’t think they will be stagnating soon. Wouldn’t it be fun if both 46 groups reach 1,000,000 sales? Of course, that’s assuming Nogizaka continues its streak of increasing sales every subsequent single since debut for at least two more releases.

But that’s enough about numbers. It’s the music that matters, at least for this entry.

So, what single comes after the first single?

The second one! Continue reading

A Debut Without Smiles, and more [1/2]

On 4/6 last year, Keyakizaka46 released their debut single, Silent Majority.

They debuted with an incredibly strong song that may have reached the non-idol crowd in ways their Nogizaka sisters haven’t done yet, as it is the most downloaded Sakamichi Series song to date. This is noteworthy because digital download count is a better gauge of song popularity with the general public, since CD sales of idol groups with a handshake system or something similar are bloated compared to other artists. Silent Majority was glued to the top downloaded songs of major digital stores in Japan for about a month or two. Don’t ignore the CD sales though. Their 260,000+ first week sales set a record for female debut single sales. It was an impressive debut even among the handshake idol groups.

They even got to participate in Kouhaku the year of their debut. While Nogizaka’s current success definitely played a role in this, Silent Majority generating major buzz for them is most likely also an important factor.

Youtube views for Silent Majority on Keyaki’s region locked channel (Sony why???) is just a few days away from 50 million views (update: already 50M). Stats show that instead of accumulating most of its views in its first few months and gradually slowing down and down, it has about the same views in it’s first six months and these last six months. The periods in which the daily views have increased and how big these increases are may also be indicating that there is remarkable organic growth happening after the exposure made possible by the marketing, rather than just the marketing directly gathering the bulk of the views.

For a quick comparison of scale, only five out of the many AKB48 MVs have more views than Silent Majority right now, and that will go down to four later this month, and likely to three later this year. AKB’s videos can even be viewed outside Japan (AKB is with King Records, not Sony), but there are still some region restrictions. I cannot say this for sure, but it seems like Silent Majority has really become something huge especially for a debut song.

So before their 4th single, and first for 2017, gets released, it’s only fitting to focus on Keyaki’s music on their explosive debut year. Let’s save variety and the personalities for later.

If we just give up from the start,
what’s the point of being born in the first place?

Talking strongly about thinking for oneself and following one’s convictions without worrying about conformity (or in simpler terms: being yourself), Keyakizaka46’s compelling debut song, Silent Majority, set the tone for the group’s image.

“Idols who don’t smile.”

It does somewhat capture the feeling their singles give off, but I think it is not the lack of smiles that is most important in this cool image they have. They smile in many of their songs. It’s this feeling of declaration rather than expression in their A-side songs which make them cool (and maybe the military style uniforms?). They feel so dramatic without being overtly emotional or grand.

The music videos only elevate this effect more, and without the usual high contrast color grading of music videos that try to be cool. The colors on their MVs always stay on the natural side, but they still manage to be cool. The singles after SaiMajo aren’t even as cool-sounding, but Keyaki makes them. There are other cool idol songs out there,that’s why I try to understand why this coolness of theirs feels unique to me, but in the end I still feel like I don’t know. It just captivates me.

Keyaki kakkoii~!

SaiMajo is special. The rebellious atmosphere and the feeling of unity it creates when those guitar chords and piano notes start playing (ahh seishun), especially if you already know and like the song — there is nothing like it (fanboy exaggeration). I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this song (as long as I don’t play it on repeat 24/7). You can just feel how elated the audience were when it was time for SaiMajo during their first solo concert. Even a cover on a random school event gets students cheering.

Silent Majority is a timeless song, at least for me.

And now, to take a look at the rest of the music they’ve released in their debut year — or not.

That will be on the next part because this became much much longer than what I first intended, which I’m guessing will always happen whenever I write about Keyakizaka. I will also be too busy to write regularly for the next month or so. It’s a good way to pad content lol.

Part 2 here~!

*If there are factual inaccuracies, please correct me. Some things stated here are just recalled from memory so I may be remembering wrong. 

Thank You, Nanamin!

Hashimoto Nanami. The intelligent and level-headed pillar of Nogizaka46. The only one besides the super popular Maiyan to have been a fukujin or front member in every single since debut.

Graduating from Nogizaka46, and sadly retiring from show business as well — on her 24th birthday, and on the group’s 5th birthday live. For a popular idol to just disappear after graduating is incredible. But it feels just like Nanamin.

With her financial situation now fine, when her best friend in the group has already graduated, and her mother even telling her to “take it easy” — why continue this job that has always taken a toll on her weak body? Even without knowing the actual reason, it’s still a logical choice viewed from outside.

She decided that she wanted to do something else, away from the public eye. We may not see her anymore after this, her calculating and private but ultimately honest self. But the moments she has given will be a reminder that there was a time when such a person was around. Those moments will be remembered, as she herself wished.

Why did they have to release her graduation song’s MV just days before her graduation? The song was already available since November! T_T

Never forget, when she cried hard when they were pranked about Bananaman’s MC duties for their weekly show coming to an end. Nanamin, who almost never gets emotional on film, but can’t help it when it’s about people she loves. “Bananaman-san suki nan da mon!”

Never forget, the Nanamin who was almost too honest in answering kids’ questions when she wasn’t being weird. While she probably exaggerated her tone for comedic effect, it was the same honest Nanamin who doesn’t just throw around words lightly. Even the members get really happy when she praises them, because she only does so when she truly means it.

Never forget, when Maimai “confessed” to her on the 2014 Nogizaka Valentine episodes but her prepared gift wasn’t for Maimai because she felt that it’d be too embarassing to give one to Maimai for the event —  the Nanamin who regretted that and went all out with her present for Maimai in the following year’s Nogizaka Valentine.

Of course, never forget her kangaroo masterpiece, and her hand dryer monomane, and this cool picture.

When they were still a new (but heavily promoted) group, she said that the power of media is scary after hearing that their live sold out. I think having that reaction in that moment shows an awareness that’s really admirable for me. Like when she told the ponkotsu Captain Reika that even if she was disappointed, she laughed when she wasn’t called in the temporary senbatsu during the time when their 1st single senbatsu hadn’t been decided yet. It was because she thought about how the cameras will be focusing on them to get their reactions, to use their pain and sadness for business. She knew precisely what was wanted of them at that moment, and what that meant. Maybe I admire it because self-awareness or really, just awareness in general, is something that I think is one of the most important things to have. But I feel like it’s often overlooked because it doesn’t directly relate to morality and justice.

There many more moments like the twirling actress and the Nanamin Beam. For those I actually forgot, other fans will surely remember them lol. Her solid but never overwhelming presence will be missed, and is actually already being missed since she has hasn’t appeared much on their weekly show leading to her graduation (except for the latest one/her last one).

Finally, like Nanamin’s time in Nogizaka46 and show business, it is time to end this entry in which I tried and failed to be sentimental about a person I don’t actually know.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It started with Nogizaka,

and ended with Nogizaka.

Thank you, Nanamin!

Sotsugyou omedetou~!



Shinkai Makoto, Endings and Universality

Being universal is a requirement to produce big hits. How else would you reach the people around the world, with their vastly different cultures and experiences? If you get too specific and detailed, you narrow your audience. That’s why being generic is being universal. That’s why big hits like Kimi no Na wa are always somewhat generic to an extent. It’s like how the Myers–Briggs Personality Types are always true.

The trick is always balance. Put in enough details just to have enough depth. Be generic enough without actually feeling generic. Compare Kimi no Na Wa‘s characters to Kotonoha no Niwa‘s. Look at how they speak, what they think and talk about, their situations. Isn’t it easier to summarize Kimi no Nawa‘s? Their defining qualities are more pronounced because you omit details that would make them too complicated, all while still maintaining a lifelike quality to them.

Look at their stories. Kimi no Na Wa (Your Name.) is the fantasy one with the twists but ultimately, isn’t it a simple romance just sprinkled with lots of entertaining fantasy? Kotonoha no Niwa (The Garden of Words) on the other hand is riddled with real life’s complexity beyond its seemingly simple premise. Remove the detailed human complexities of the two, and it would just be an uninspired “taboo” romance between teacher and student. But I guess that’s already how people who didn’t like it or didn’t connect with it see it. It is their story, rather than a story about them — if that makes sense.

I think I’m failing at articulating my points well lol. The difference I’m stating may sound like the difference between a plot-driven and a character-driven narrative, but I believe it’s different. I’ll try using a badly thought out analogy. Being universal would be cooking an unfamiliar dish in front of people using ingredients that most people know, and talking about those ingredients. The other side would be cooking an unfamiliar dish using ingredients fewer people know. Some people may like the latter more, but more people would probably gravitate toward the former. I’m not sure that helped.

There’s nothing inherently right or wrong with both approaches in my opinion. It always depends on what the film’s goal is. I liked both films very much. But I happen to be on the side which prefers the The Garden of Words Shinkai over Your Name Shinkai. The Garden of Words is my favorite Shinkai film. 5 Centimeters Per Second would’ve owned that title if it wasn’t so clumsy in its second act, because no other Shinkai film made me feel the Shinkai feels as strongly as 5cm/s has.

Moving on to the second point I wanted to cover. On people saying that Shinkai’s sad endings, partiularly on 5cm/s and Garden of Words are forced, this is one of the things I’ve heard/read that I strongly disagree with. First, I wouldn’t even classify both as sad endings because the people accepted their situations and are moving on. They aren’t trapped in their sadness anymore. In fact, both end in a sort of breaking free stage.

Yes, the “sad” ends could’ve been avoided had the characters acted differently. But failing to do what they “should’ve done” is being human. People have always willingly chosen not to do what they could. Shinkai chose to portray characters who made those decisions. That is not forced. Forced is having a wife and child resurrect thanks to light orbs just so we could have a happy ending. Not hating, just saying.

There are people who dislike his films and they have different reasons. I absolutely don’t have a problem with that. Promoting and wanting homogeneous views is harmful. Surrounding yourself with that and just dismissing “bad” opinions is when you start to lose perspective. Diversity in viewpoint exposure is important, no matter how much it clashes with yours. I’m just expressing my disagreement with the notion that it’s forced, not with the dislike. I feel strongly about it because I like his films, but it’s important to accept and think about how and why people think differently — and not in a condescending way. You try to understand them as equals, not to explain how they are inferior.

To end on a positive note, I saw someone retweet this last November and I still play it occasionally.

Happy Birthday Shinkai!