This year’s compilation of Hello! Project videos (PVs) of the past year is one of the best collections I’ve seen in years. Most of the PVs were new to me, since I prefer seeing them on Blu-ray rather than Youtube, so there was an element of discovery about them, especially since there were so many new girls who weren’t in last year’s Petit Best 15 collection. Morning Musume and Angerme (formerly S/mileage) both had new members, while two new groups made their first appearances in a Petit Best collection, Country Girls and Kobushi Factory. I count 20 new girls total, which must be something of a record. And this is the first Petit Best collection to have two new groups in it (as opposed to special units) in eleven years, since Petit Best 5 in 2004, which gave us three groups--W, Berryz Kobo and Viyuden--in one fell swoop (and still one of my favorite Petit Bests).
And one of the Kobushi Factory PVs here is easily the best in the collection. In fact, the biggest discovery of this collection for me is Kobushi Factory, whom I’d previously only seen in a couple of numbers in the Hello! Project Winter 2015 concert. They’re easily one of the most delightful acts to emerge full-blown from H!P in years and to me, at least, hit it out of the park from the start.
Each of the 22 PVs in the collection is by one of the seven main groups. There are no solos and no special units. Possibly the first Petit Best collection—ever!—to have that distinction. For me, I’m relieved that there are none of those back-to-nature units (Satoyama and the like) that cluttered up the two previous Petit Best collections. So we just get the girls putting themselves out there singing, harmonizing and dancing up a storm, with a higher percentage of upbeat songs than usual and the emphasis on group songs rather than solo lines. And, for once, there’s nothing overtly sexy about any of the PVs here; they’re all pretty innocent and wholesome, at least from the looks of the PVs. (I can’t comment on the lyrics.)
As usual, with one exception, the PVs don’t show a lot of production value or imagination and tend to be shot in a room or on a single set, with the chief draws being an unusually appealing set of songs enhanced by the girls’ exuberance and energy and an abundance of beautiful closeups of them all.
Most of the PVs offer some kind of epilogue after the song is over, like Momoko standing with the Country Girls like this in "Koi Dorobou":
The first PV on the disc, Berryz Kobo’s “Love Together,” is not a single, but appears only on the group’s multi-disc final album, “Kanjuku Berryz Kobo the Final Completion Box,” for which this PV was made. It’s designed as a farewell song and even has shots of the girls waving goodbye, with only one, Miyabi, shedding tears.
At the end of the song, the girls appear in the audience and stand up to applaud themselves and address their onstage selves with a special message, one at a time.
It’s a beautiful song and one of my four favorites in the collection.
The two C-ute songs are both nice and play up the girls’ glamorous qualities, especially as they’ve all either hit their 20s or, in Mai’s case, is about to. (She turns 20 on February 7th this year.)
"Tsugi no Kado wo Magare"
I like the opening credits:
This one has four back-up dancers taken from Hello! Pro Kenshuusei: Riko Yamagishi, Reina Ichioka, Kaede Kaga, and Kizuki Horie.
Morning Musume in “Yuugure wa Ameagari,” a sweet, gentle song with a sakura (cherry blossom) theme and lots of harmonizing, accompanied by balletic dance moves. Just a soft, graceful, beautiful piece.
I was thrown off by the absence of Kanon (sick during filming) and the inclusion of someone who looked enough like Haruka to make me wonder why Haruka looked so different in some shots:
Well, of course she looked different—it’s not Haruka but Karin Miyamoto from Juice=Juice substituting for Kanon Suzuki. I simply wasn’t expecting to see Karin here, so I didn’t process her as looking like Karin. This is the first time I’ve seen a girl from one group substituting for a girl from another group. But, hey, she DOES look like Haruka, right?
And for those of us who wondered what Morning Musume might look like if Karin had joined them instead of being put into Juice=Juice, now we get the chance to find out.
The PV opens with closeups of each of the four new girls: Haruna Ogata, Akane Haga, Miki Nonaka, Maria Makino.
The next MM PV, “Sukatto My Heart,” is much jazzier, with a funky backbeat, and spirited dancing by the 13 of them (with Kanon back on board) in a dance club setting, complete with disco ball. I like the opening credits:
I like the sailor suit costumes, too:
Angerme contributes my favorite song in the collection: “Taikibansei.” The PV basically resembles one of their concert performances of it, but since I love the dancing, why not?
I only wish there was a Dance Shot version included.
The second Angerme song, “Gashinshoutan,” is also a high-energy dance piece, this time shot in what looks like an oversized gym or convention hall. Unlike most songs in this collection, there are lots of solo lines in this one—for everybody.
Then we get three Juice=Juice PVs, the only group to get three in the main tracklist (and two in the extras). They’re all pretty simple PVs and the first two songs are quite upbeat.
“Choice & Chance”
The third song, “Tsuzuiteiku Story,” is much softer and given to harmonizing, with the PV consisting entirely of closeups.
The Country Girls, led by Berryz’ Momoko, perform “Koi Dorobou” in a western-style parlor filled with throw cushions, stuffed animals, floral print patterns and the like. There are six girls in the group here.
In “Wakatte Iru no ni Gomen ne,” Momoko tells a story to the girls, which they then find themselves acting out, in a school setting, with dancing on the astroturf lawn outside. Alas, there are only five girls here. One of them left the group in between the two PVs.
Momoko plays the “obaasan” (granny) herself:
Next we come to the other new group, Kobushi Factory, composed entirely of trainees from Hello! Pro Kenshuusei, which means they already had a significant amount of performance experience.
Their first PV is just a clip from a concert performance of “Nen ni wa Nen,” taken from the Berryz Matsuri event at Ariake Coliseum. But it’s a good number and a good performance. For some reason, there’s no audio of audience sounds, leading me to think they dubbed the studio recording over the concert footage.
Their next video, and the last one proper on the disc before the extras kick in, is “Dosukoi! Kenkyo ni Daitan,” easily the best PV in the bunch and the third of my four favorite songs in this collection. It has a festival/“matsuri” feel to it, the kind of rousing song that always brings out the best in J-pop performers, a theme hammered home by the inclusion of a taiko drum in the video. It also has the best production value of all the PVs, with extensive location shooting and a good deal of action as the girls chase each other around their school, intercut with a frenetic dance number filmed on the roof.
Plus there are numerous closeups of the girls showcasing some great faces:
There are eight videos included as extras on the Blu-ray. Three of them are different versions of PVs in the main group, the others are all different songs. Each of the seven groups is represented, but only Juice=Juice has two.
Berryz Kobo: “Love Together” Dance Shot Version:
C-ute: “The Middle Management” Close-up Ver.:
I would like to have seen the regular version of this.
Morning Musume: “Ima Sugu Tobikomu Yuuki” Close-up Ver.
This has great closeups of Kanon:
Angerme does a new version of an old anime song, “Mahotsukai Sally” (Sally the Magical Witch), which was first heard on Japanese TV in 1966. The three new girls take center stage in the PV, with Rikako seeming to take the role of Sally. This is the fourth of my four favorite songs in this collection.
And here’s a YouTube clip of the original theme song:
Juice=Juice: “Choice & Chance” Close-up Ver.
Juice=Juice: “Tsuzuiteiku Story” Close-up Ver.
This is redundant to the extreme since the main version of the PV is pretty much all closeups anyway.
I would much rather have had a Dance Shot Version of something else instead.
Country Girls: “Tamerai Summertime” Close-up Ver.
This has a flower girl motif and is all shot outdoors, veering dangerously into the back-to-nature theme H!P invested so heavily in a couple of years ago.
Kobushi Factory: “Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san no Uta” Dance Shot Ver.
This has a catchy refrain of “Ramen daisuki,” or “I love ramen.” Nice dancing, but I wish they'd have included the regular video, which features shots of the girls actually eating ramen! Yum-yum!
Until next year’s PB collection, which will give us more new girls, but will suffer from the absence of Riho Sayashi and Kanon Fukuda and less Meimi than we’d like. Hopefully, they'll cut down on Juice=Juice and give us more Angerme and Kobushi Factory.