[Review] Nogizaka46 – Natsu no Free & Easy


(NSK trainee Quiana gives her impressions on the latest song and PV from Nogizaka46; “Natsu no Free & Easy”.)

Nogizaka46, AKB48’s official rival group, has a pretty big name to live up to. Their last single “Kidzuitara Kataomoi” sold a little less than 25% of what AKB sold with their most recent single, “Labrador Retriever“. However, 25% is still pretty good — around 500,000 copies in the first week is great for any music group nowadays in Japan (aside, of course, from AKB); these sales signify that Nogizaka is on the rise. In fact, they’ve been climbing for a while.

And now the 9th single PV is released! How does “Natsu no Free & Easy” fare with its music video? Read on to find out!

natsufree&easy1I can see the color on this video is kinda chrome-ish, kind of processed. That’s something new with a 48/46 video, so thumbs up for that.


natsufree&easy2Ah, this starting pose. It seems to emphasize Nogizaka’s “innocent” and “pure” image, along with the relatively longer skirts compared to the main 48 groups. And hey, Nishino Nanase center!


natsufree&easy3There appears to be separate solo shots of the Juu-Fukujin (Nishino Nanase, Shiraishi Mai, Hashimoto Nanami, Matsumura Sayuri, Matsui Rena, Sakurai Reika, Akimoto Manatsu, Fukugawa Mai, Ikoma Rina, Wakatsuki Yumi) with headphones. Speaking of which, why is there a headphone motif in this music video? Since I know about twenty words and grammar rules in Japanese, I have no idea what the lyrics mean, so I’m going to wing it on interpreting the headphones part.


natsufree&easy4I have to admit, when I heard this part I thought it that this was the first verse of the song and that it was going to turn out to be a phenomenal song. Turns out this was the chorus and the first verse was pretty ordinary, but even then the chorus was still pretty good. I would have liked to see my hopes fulfilled, though.


natsufree&easy5This dance feels a lot more active than most Nogizaka dances to me with all of the jumps and arm movements. I’m also thinking that this single is a summer song, so that marks now AKB48, SKE48, NMB48, and Nogizaka that do the whole summer song type of single (e.g. “Bokura no Eureka“, “Utsukushii Inazuma“, “Sayonara Crawl“). I like Nogizaka’s take on it, though — just the tune is good enough; there doesn’t have to be bikinis to make it summery.


natsufree&easy6The processed neon chrome colors are complimenting the PV very nicely. The typography used for the group name and single name are pleasant to look at too. I always seem to find Nogizaka’s graphic designs (whether it be PVs or single/DVD/promotion artwork) to be on a much higher level than the 48 groups; the design of everything is so simple and beautiful. You go, Nogizaka designers!

natsufree&easy7The camera swing into Nanase’s shot was just soooo cool. To quote McDonald’s, “I’m lovin’ it!”


natsufree&easy8I get that PVs need artistic shots of the girls to make it feel professional. But what compelled the director to think to himself, “Ah, yes, we need Matsumura to lie on the carpet of a completely empty room, with some light falling on her face. Dramatic!” and then they put her in high heels? Both are really, really weird ideas.


natsufree&easy9Aww man, this is a gorgeous shot of Reika. The director gets his merit back for this one.


natsufree&easy10These colors are getting to me so much! My admiration for the Nogizaka graphics team is growing so much more.


natsufree&easy11Before I begin anything, it looks like I was wrong about only the Juu-Fukujin getting solo shots. Here we have Hoshino Minami in all her glory.

Okay, I’m worrying for Hoshimina’s safety here. First of all, she’s at a poolside in full clothing. Someone’s definitely going to push her in for the kick of it. Second, she’s wearing headphones, which should be connected to an electric device of some sort—that’s extremely dangerous near water and I fear for the safety of the device much more than the girl herself (who in their right mind would bring their phone or whatever near a pool without a waterproof case/coating?). Tsk tsk tsk. (At this point, I would like to place a disclaimer that the statements I have just made are purely for comic effect.)


natsufree&easy12This scene right here of Rena really reminded me of AKB48 Team A’s “Ikiru Koto” PV. The colors are somewhat similar, and the multiple shots of girls both solo and in groups are also alike.


natsufree&easy13I watched this PV three times, and I still wonder why Ikoma is drinking juice here. And I don’t know if this is just because of the colors in the PV, but that juice looks like it’s probably mostly from concentrate. Heck, I doubt it’s even 50% juice!


natsufree&easy14Now Maiyan has some parfait yogurt thing out of nowhere. What is this? Tabemonozaka46?


natsufree&easy15Maimai’s probably gonna lose the balance of the books and cause a disturbance to the customers in the bookstore. This isn’t going to look great for Nogizaka’s clean image, Maimai.


natsufree&easy16Again, I was wrong about only the Juu-Fukujin getting solo closeup shots. Looks like Hori Miona still gets one, which is most likely an aftereffect of her past presence in the top ranks of Nogizaka singles before. I have a feeling she’ll be back in whatever-Fukujin next single.


natsufree&easy17The head movements that Nanamin does are super cute!


natsufree&easy18When Reika finishes one word and turns her head towards the camera, it feels really mechanical. Her expressions are pretty realistic though, and another more natural head movement after that slightly fixes that change.


natsufree&easy19Look! Hoshimina’s attracted two more girls. This dangerous practice of headphones near the pool must stop now, Aki-P. Think of the girls.


natsufree&easy20After watching the PV, I’d like to note that these party-dance movements are somewhat foreshadowing for the single cover art. Or maybe it’s just me thinking too hard.


natsufree&easy21I swear, it’s like the director has slapped a really good Instagram filter on this PV. Of course, there isn’t an Instagram filter that has such an effect as this, and most Instagramming teenagers these days wouldn’t post such a color-heavy photo. But still, I love the colors. I’m gonna pull a color palette from this shot later.


natsufree&easy22But why exactly have all of the girls gathered in headphones?


natsufree&easy23And so we end the PV with no explanation whatsoever.

This is an A+ quality PV. The colors and directing are both amazing; I’ll admit that I did save some screenshots to make color palettes out of. There is still a tiny shortcoming though — I would have really liked to see an explanation for the girls all standing together. Maybe the PV could have transitioned into an after-song party scene like with the single covers? (This PV didn’t have much of a plot anyways though, so it’s not that much of a minus.) One additional note, the choreography is very energetic and idol-like.

As far as the song goes, while this is a nice summer song, it’s really just another summer song from Nogizaka. The tune and mood are honestly too similar to “Girls’ Rule” for me to enjoy it as much as I would like to, and since “Girls’ Rule” got pretty bland after maybe ten listens, I have a feeling “Natsu no Free & Easy” will do the same for me. Oh, well.

What are your thoughts on “Natsu no Free & Easy”? Leave your comments about the song, PV or both down below!

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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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