Impressions: Gingham Check

NSK’s latest review sees Anthony, Dae and community member Chase share their thoughts on AKB48’s “Gingham Check”. Find out what they think after the break and then be sure to let us know your thoughts on the PV in the comment section.

 

Anthony:

What I was worried about from seeing the preview for the “Gingham Check” PV came true. This PV is quite the clusterfuck. Four different movie concepts squeezed into 5+ minutes (the biker gang vs the car crew, the cop movie, the scary movie, and the monster movie). I give props to Joseph Kahn for his execution with trying to manage all four concepts being squeezed into a short amount of time. This PV is definitely a huge step up from the WTF that was “Manatsu no Sounds Good” and definitely has fantastic replay value. There’s so many things you can miss from just watching this PV once. I feel like a PV with so much going on generates replay value and you notice more details in the PV like Matsui Rena as a ghost. Which is perfect casting.

The production value is fantastic from the special effects to the props. The biggest issue for me is that each movie is split into seconds and made it hard for me to have a connection with each concept. If the movies were in blocks and were presented by parts of the song like the intro, verse, chorus, bridge, etc, it would have made it easier for me to really appreciate Joseph Kahn’s story telling. The “Gingham Check” PV is definitely the most interesting PV this year by far.

Something that I really like about the PV is the dance sequence featuring the biker gang and the car crew lead by Oshima Yuko and Watanabe Mayu, respectively.

I love the outfits for both sides and the choreography is fantastic. The one move that the sticks out to me is the simple and yet effective pointing that they do in the chorus.

Are Kashiwagi fans still breathing?

While the PV is well-done and has replay value, I’m not as high on the song. I know some people have the ability that helps them like a song more because of how good the PV is but I do not have that ability. My initial thoughts on the song still stand. The song is nowhere near as ambitious as the PV. The sound of the B-sides were infinitely more ambitious than “Gingham Check” which is understandable because they need to make the A-side and election song something that non-wota/common fans can enjoy. The song itself is still decent. The melody is not as strong as the previous AKB48 singles so that is a tad disappointing. Most AKB48 singles’ chorus would usually stick in my head but I am having a harder time getting “Gingham Check” stuck in my head. The instrumentals are pretty standard and once again not as ambitious and not up to par with what AKB48 has put out before.

Overall, the PV is definitely a step up from “Manatsu no Sounds Good” but I feel like “Manatsu no Sounds Good” is a far superior song that I would have given a 4 to 4.5 stars out of 5.

PV:

Song:

 

Dae:

Like the senbatsu election singles before it, Gingham Check is another curveball as one of the few real wildcards that AKB releases in a given year. While an early televised performance of the single left me with mixed impressions, it only took a couple more replays before I got a better grasp on the song and potential.

First thing to note is that Gingham Check is an AKB-ass AKB song. It’s an amalgam of deeply familiar and ingrained characteristics that any fan could instantly diagnose as an AKB joint: the distinctive synthetic electric guitar and trumpets, the sweeping nature of the vocals, and a catchy melody that deftly balances between exuberance and the bittersweet. And I came away liking it a lot.

The big fork in the road for many people is that Gingham Check doesn’t offer more than that. Beware for those who want that bombastic show-stopper a la Heavy Rotation, because only disappointment awaits. I actually drew a lot of comparisons between this and Chance no Junban, a song I’ve called out as derivative and uninteresting. They both aren’t as flashy as we expected them to be and they both have rehashed features, but there’s a key difference that makes Gingham Check break out of pure mediocrity, and that’s momentum. While it lacks a bite, it certainly doesn’t lack a hook, and there’s a power to this song that makes it far more effective and infectious than some would give it credit for.

Gingham has a lot of makings that match AKB’s best, as well as a chorus that will probably stand as one of my absolute favorites. For me, aside from the unimaginative corn-fed instrumentals, Gingham Check was entirely enjoyable and worth a listen.

The PV is a totally different beast; this is easily the most ambitious and crazy idol PV I’ve seen in a long time (if not ever). It harbors three distinct scenarios each playing off of a popular genre of film: Action Cop, Horror Ghost, and Monster B-Movie. A big ol’ genre mashup— think Last Action Hero. The overarching dance scene that involves all of the senbatsu members are done in a West-Side-Story-meets-The-Hellcats showdown. The last third of the PV is a great and humorous last act where all the separate threads come together like a epic dance number in a grand musical.

While it seems like a lot is going on a face value, I didn’t really have trouble keeping track of the fast cuts. There’s no involved narrative going on in any of the developments other than simple scenarios like, “The monster is attacking the city”, or “You are trapped in a haunted building”. The main point of all these visuals serve to showcase the bigger theme of “star-crossed lovers”, and that was easy to digest despite the breakneck speed of the cuts.

The amount of attention spent on detail is mind boggling. The sets, cinematography, (check out that depth of field yo!), camera tricks, and effects are not only completely unique to each style of cinema they portray, but they’re just impeccably done. The entire PV permeates with professional-grade, contemporary sheen that stands up to the visual fidelity of western music videos; something that is pretty much never achieved by idol PVs. The outfits in every scenario look damn amazing and appropriately over the top. There are new small details I catch every time I watch the PV and I’m always surprised at how solid the execution is.

The only visual drawback was the inclusion of the overlaying english type. It was incredibly effective and made sense in the beginning as stylized title credits, but the phrases were incredibly vapid (with the exception of the monster movie scenes) and its insistence on populating the entire PV were entirely unneeded and distracting.

Gingham Check’s loud and rambunctious PV undoubtedly adds another dimension of enjoyment to the song, but I believe the song itself stands fine on its own. The chorus holds up against the greats (and surpasses many of them), while it’s a shame that the instrumentals, while full sounding, were pretty humdrum for single release standards. For a release with such clear imperfections, the good still far outweighs the bad.

PV:

Song:

 

Chase:

To be quite honest, the first time I heard Gingham Check on AKB’s first aired performance of the song, I like a lot of other people was highly disappointed. I was mainly mad because I thought that Aki-P had ruined my oshimen’s return to the throne with a second-rate Mayu Watanabe B-side instead of a true sousenkyo single. However, I clung to the one hope that the PV, directed by the legendary Joseph Kahn, would redeem the song for me.

I was wrong.

The PV, although containing expensive props, CGI and a claymation Godzilla ripoff, didn’t improve my feeling towards the song and also managed to be immensely confusing at the same time. 3 or 4 separate storylines were going on at the same time, switching back and forth so fast that I couldn’t even keep up with one. The only thing that truly stuck with me and drew the biggest reaction was Yukirin’s slo-mo kiss at the end, at which point I threw my keyboard at the wall and went to go cry for several hours.

Also, the concept seemed all wrong for this song. Just by listening to the song alone, I could imagine the AKB girls on a beach somewhere in Guam, dancing in synchronicity much easier than the members playacting as biker gang members, police officers and demented ghosts. Gingham Check was just too happy for the PV idea they were going for.

In regard to the PV, the hype, just like the hype for the song went straight down the tubes. In my opinion, both Yuko and this single deserved better.

Despite my initial disappointment about Gingham Check, I can’t deny that just like every other AKB single, the song grew on me after a while whether I wanted it to or not. What did it for me was the hook at the beginning and the chorus, which I found myself humming a couple days after hearing it just once.

I know I’m going to get crap for this, but I have to admit that Aki-P can’t produce a truly bad song. Yet. Even the less liked and less popular songs have a certain kind of appeal, although you might have to dig down a couple layers to find it. I was ready to throw in the towel as soon as Gingham Check was released, I even considered not adding this single to my collection, but the unique charm still got to me.

The beginning of Gingham Check sounds an awful lot like the beginning of Everyday Kachuusha, if the strings were replaced with an acoustic guitar. The same affected and filtered drums that can be heard in Everyday’s intro reappear in Gingham Check’s as well before the rest of the band comes in with the melody. The first verse flew past me, as did the prechorus, but the first chorus is where I started liking the song. Something about the way the members sing “Ging-ing~hoom~Che-eck” makes it incredibly catchy, and before long it was stuck in my head. I came to realize that part of what makes Gingham Check appealing is how singable it is, even to a non-Japanese speaker. The vocals during the chorus are very pronounced, with almost every syllable drawn out, so I guess you could say that Gingham Check’s own unique appeal will be how much of a hit it will be at the karaoke bars. Even if you miss all of the words in between, you’ll always be sure to get the “Yes! No! Yes!” chant and the “Giiinnnghaaam Cheeeeeeeeeeeck” at the end of the chorus.

Although arguably one of the most disappointing singles released by AKB (I don’t hold with the Frying Ghetto theory), you can’t deny that it holds a certain charm. It may not ever stand out and will probably fade into the mass of singles that AKS has released, but at least for now, Gingham Check deserves a chance to work its way into our iPods and karaoke setlists.

PV:

Song:

About NSK

New School Kaidan is a community-focused website for the Japanese idol industry international fan base. Between podcasts, broadcasts, events, and analytic articles, New School Kaidan aims to bring an understanding of idol culture to the masses.

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7 comments

  1. I actually quite like this song, I know not everyone does and that’s fine but I found myself enjoying it from pretty much the first time I heard it.

    I suppose it always had a bit of an uphill battle this song, what with alot of people touting it as Heavy Rotaion ver 2 what with Yuko winning the election and all, any yes this is no heavy rotation and I feel some people did mark that against this song…

    That being said this song did not really have anything that stood out, sure it was a good song but it felt, well, safe……

    As for the PV, well it’s amazing in it’s scope and you can see that by getting Joseph Kahn it really gave almost an extra professional edge, from the sets to the cameras to the outfits it really is showing of these girls perhpas the best they ever have been, the girls themselves rose to the occasion as they to are all right on top form here in their scenes (though someone should of told yuko how to hold a jun properly)

    the girls seemed to be having fun too (especialy Yukirin nudge nudge wink wink) of course you can say they are on camera of course they are looking happy etc but I still got an extra feeling that they were enjoying fliming it and why not, it was a great and enjoyable PV to watch so was probably great to be in too.

    So what to say about this, if ever the word solid was made for a song it was this one, it has it’s moments to be sure but it also almost feels as though it holds itself back. the PV was ambitious and it reached that potential, even if it was slightly to choppy in places.

    song: 3 1/2 stars
    PV: 4 1/2 stars

  2. This was interesting to read in perspective with my opinion added Dae’s and Anthony’s. We all had such varying opinions, it was nice seeing contrasting ideas.

  3. The gap between the PV and the song itself is incredibly amazing. So goood yet so mehh

  4. Wow! For me the MV is MUUUUCHHHH better than the song itself.
    The first time i heard the song i was like, wtf with this song? Super boringgg. And i didn’t put much expectation to the MV because of the song.
    But when the MV out, i was like…….. OMFG this is the BEST of akb MV ever!
    MV: 6/5 :p
    Song: 3/5

  5. Several things here:

    * The English text makes for that Grindhouse film goodness. I like its inclusion and was happy it didn’t dip into the sad grammar of say the warning label of that SDN video (whose name escapes me at the moment).

    * The Acchan turning in her badge start was cool. The “hand-off” to Yuko was also cool, but she didn’t call herself “Jill Powers” (a very minor nit-pick there).

    * The choice of genres was very solid and the quality was top rate.

    * The song isn’t the greatest, but it has an AKB charm and it is catchy as heck. It’s a fun, cheerful summery song.

    I need to consider Wota Powerpointing… (heh)

  6. Hmm.. I guess that both the song and PV for Gingham Check could be polarizing. But both the song and the PV are awesome in my book. Gingham Check could instantaneiusly bring joy in the worst of my days. To me, it’s like the second coming of Iiwake Maybe but with Yuko as center. And the visual fest of the PV make the icing on the cake. All in all, this is top stuff for AKB48!

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