While a good number of AKB singles have been experimenting with different sounds, we could always count on the Undergirls’ b-sides to provide their staple idol sound we know and love. Simple and safe but catchy and impossible to hate, Undergirls songs have been my idol comfort food since ‘Kimi no Koto ga Suki Dakara’. Accompanying ‘Sakura no Ki ni Narou’ this time, is ‘Guuzen no Juujiro’.
The last Undergirls song, ‘Boku Dake no Value’, unexpectedly became one of the best b-sides of 2010, and ‘Guuzen no Juujiro’ is a great follow-up that doesn’t disappoint.
The PV is school-themed, like Boku Dake no Value, but takes a more narrative-driven route; but this time, there’s no magic gumballs falling from the sky or clique squabbles among girls. The downside of having a heavily narrative PV is the resulting absence of dance shots and outfits but I’m OK with it this time, since it lets in more scenarios.
The premise follows a group of misfit boys and their hopeless crush on a group of angelic girls who take the ferry across a river everyday to get to school. This group perfectly displays what most people see idols as: a group of cute girls, without the stigma of being judgmental and stuck up. The girls are polite, fun-loving, nice, and without prejudice; what group of boys wouldn’t fall for them?
The song is integrated into the video with the members singing along with the lyrics in the scenes portrayed, sometimes even from the boys and secondary characters. I found the integration clever, and I enjoyed the progression of events from beginning to end. There’s some inside jokes involved with this video: The event the boys try to sneak into is of Ohori Megumi, an AKB graduate who is now with SDN48; The man kicking them out is a cameo appearance by the AKB theater manager, Togasaki. There’s a lot of humorous touches throughout the video that showcase many of the painful steps we probably went through in unrequited love.
Maeda Ami is stunning in this video. She has a lot more screen time than she’s had in previous videos, which is more than I could ask for. Ohta Aika leads the song as she has been in the recent Undergirl entries, and Yokoyama Yui emerges as a prominent new face. Kimoto Kanon, a new recruit from from SKE’s team E, appeared out of nowhere with tons of screentime in this PV; which isn’t necessarily bad, but it confused me as to why they chose to push her as hard as they did in this video.
I didn’t have this stance before, but I’m slowly edging toward the opinion of letting SKE leave AKB releases, now that they’re a self-sustaining group that no longer needs AKB to lean on. As much as I love seeing Matsui Rena and Yagami Kumi perform in AKB releases, I think it’s time to cut the cord and let them devote that time to SKE.
Guuzen no Juujiro doesn’t have the same power as Boku Dake no Value, but it does more than just fill out a single and it’s very catchy. It embraces the basic meat and potatoes of the idol genre, and it’s comforting.
‘Guuzen no Juujiro’ (b-side to Sakura no Ki ni Narou)
Releases February 16th, 2011