Saturday, 3 November 2018

The Princesses Farewell: A Princess From Two Worlds - A Look at Houkago Princesses 'Kaguya ni Negai wo' Music Video (Review)

Despite being but a week month or so old, I feel that it is time to sit down and talk bout Houkago Princess and their music video for Kaguya ni Negai wo, the latest tale from the Idols who transform into storybook royalty at exactly 4pm. I am doing this to both discuss the videos themes and meanings, as well as to gain a better understanding of the video and its story overall.

My original intention was to write up the usual; a pic-spam overview. However, after watching the music video back a few times I feel that there is enough here in terms of visual representation to warrant an actual review. Plus, I really do want to stray from the pic-spam style posts for now and create something with a little more body to it, and a lot more theory. So, after a revelation regarding the video by a friend, a bit of scrutiny and a fair few views, it's time to talk about this PV and what it offers.

And before I get into this I do want to point out that this is not a song review, so there will be little to no focus on the music itself. I also want to point out that I am not a professional in analysing film or video, nor do I claim to be a professional of any form. These are just my thoughts, theories and views on what has been showcased in the video in question, and I am open to further discussion and would love to hear your own ideas and opinions based around Kaguya ni Negai wo, too.

With that said and done, let's talk about visuals and over-analyse this PV.

We will start the review off with this: I didn't like the music video initially, or at least I was not impressed with it. The swirling lights and black backdrop did nothing for me as a viewer, the simple structure was nice but underwhelming, and the lack of location and complexity was just disappointing. This was not the visual story telling I had come to know from my beloved Houkago Princess.

But that was the initial viewing. Going back after a comment my friend made during a chat in messenger - "... For some reason the lights remind me of bamboo. I don't know why" - I began to see it. I saw the complexity, realised the meaning behind the lights and understood the story of the music video and how it followed the pattern of Kaguya-Hime no Monogatari. The realisation was swift, and once one connection had been made many more followed, dragging me deeper into the true beauty that is Kaguya ni Negai wo.

It is a tale as old as the 10th century, a story refreshed by its unique modern twist to keep it alive and relevant to the times whilst still acknowledging its tradition and roots. This is the story of the beautiful Kaguya-hime, a being who returned to the moon after living a mortal life...

Are you ready to listen to a story?

Though many of the scenes within Kaguya ni Negai wo are notable, I think that the colour palette should be the first thing we acknowledge here. With its rich hues of purple, greens, white and blue, a sampling of red and a glimmer of silver and yellow, the music video represents the beautiful, earthen and nature tones of the story well whilst also acknowledging the celestial quality of Kaguya through other shades. It can also be said that the use of green, red and white are key to the traditional aspect of the story as well, as colours of green, red and white are more often than not associated with traditional Japan and traditional fashion. This may have to do with these colours being the easiest to acquire for dying methods during historical periods.

Taking reference from the stills above, purple acts as a mark of humanity for Kaguya well. Represented in both the accents on her robes and through the light behind the screen wall, purple acts as a sample of Kaguya's mortal lifestyle and the richness this life held for her as she grew up on Earth. The paper screen also gives us a sample of the room that Kaguya would have grown up in and the garden that she could view from her balcony, filled with the life and vibrancy that she had come to cherish.

Regarding her fleeting chance at mortality, green is another colour of importance towards Kaguya's humanity in the music video. This use of colour is especially apparent during the dance sequences, especially when you understand that the lights used act as a representation for bamboo - the bamboo that Kaguya would have been born from. It is another colour that accents Kaguya's white robe, bringing earthen tones to what might otherwise be a simple but celestial garment. Though only a small detail, it is simple accents like the purple, green and red hues upon these outfits that deliver an image of Kaguya's roots to the human world.

But it is the white of these costumes that holds the most importance in my eyes. With a pearlescent fabric for the bodice and a sliver of silver in the skirts, it is here we come to acknowledge the celestial side to Kaguya. When the light hits these outfits just right, we become aware of the translucent quality to the outfits and how they shimmer or shine. It is fitting for a celestial being, showcasing her relation to the moon through her outfit whilst also representing her mortality and emotions through various colours accented on her robes. It is the colour white that is most interesting, more-so when you consider how white can represent Kaguya's own dismissal of the emotions she once held the moment her celestial robe is placed upon her shoulders. It is at this point that she becomes a subject of the moon once again, void of emotion or care, a subdued representative of the place she came from.

No matter how much colour is showcased on Kaguya's robes to create an image of her emotions and roots, it is the shade of white upon her clothing that stands out the most within this music video. The lack of emotion it creates and the care it rejects showcases a lifestyle that Kaguya unwillingly embraces in the end of the story and the video.

Even simple touches like each members' colour of earrings and how they are different for specific members - green for Saho and Yuria (the newer members), an orange-red for Miran, Saori and Sasara (lead dancers / sub-vocals), and a deeper red for both Nana and Maika (leader + deputy leader) - is an interesting addition to their outfits and a fun observation. These earrings may even act as a mark or rank of seniority within the group.

In fact, I am fairly certain it does act as a rank of some form. Hurrah for revelations as I write this review.

There will be a point in the review where I will briefly discuss the story itself and how Houkago Princess maintains the traditional text through their visuals and use of colour, but

As the review progresses I will no doubt discuss both the story itself and Houkago Princess maintains the traditional text of Kaguya-hime no Monogatari through their visuals and use of colour, but to do that we need to further explore the colour theory within the video itself. It is undeniable that the use of colour within this video intrigues me, not just in the way various tones and textures have been threaded into the members' outfits, but also with how it is represented in each scene. In the choreography shots especially we are subject to the flashing hues of yellow-green and red, all the while enveloped in a haze of smoke. Yet after the light show falls to a quiet close during calmer moments of the song, everything except the lights behind them and the members themselves falls into a complete and silent darkness.

Already we have established that the yellow-green of the lights represents the bamboo that Kaguya came from when found by the bamboo cutter, but the red could just as easily represent the energy and passion that Kaguya herself has for the human world and the Earth that she has inhabited for so long. There is no denying that this energetic scene, encompassed by passing lights and a vivid red tone in the background, is a beautiful showcase of Kaguya's humanity and the emotions she feels when there. Once the scene falls into near-complete darkness, however - the passing lights now still and behind her, or perhaps moving gently as the music rises - we become aware of Kaguya's uncertainty of who she is. Despite knowing she came from the bamboo and growing up in the human world, she herself is unaware of where she really came from, or even who and what she is.

Kaguya is completely in the dark here, and it's this side of the dance shot that depicts an uncertainty of her roots perfectly.

In regards to the opening of the dance shot where we see the members under a blue light moments before we are thrown into green and red hues, I have a strong belief that this part of the choreography represents Kaguya's arrival to the Earth. It is a beautiful representation of how easily she breaks away from her royal status into a more freeing and passionate lifestyle.

With blue on our mind, a scene that contrasts the drive of the dance shot is the moon sequence, a delicate portrayal of Kaguya's veiled understanding of where she is from. Melancholy and still, the moon sequences showcase a blue-white light cast over the members as they stare towards the sky, a filter of dots - presumably stars - flitting around the screen. Though the scene is a lot more subdued compared to previous sequences, this feels like a beautiful representation of Kaguya's slow but sure change in character as the day of her return to the moon draws near. The members of Houkago Princess act more withdrawn, never once looking towards the camera or acknowledging the audience, their gaze fixed upon the moon. They do not smile (unless they are Sasara, then they smile), a nod to how Kaguya would look up at the moon sadly and cry without knowing why. It is this part of the story and music video that showcases how Kaguya is unknowingly missing her true home.

The use of blue can mean a number of things, the first being the most obvious: sadness. A common colour when portraying emotions of despair, loneliness or sadness, it works well with pacing of the scene as well as the distant looks the members hold. But it can also represent the night or even the mystical qualities that Kaguya has, especially when the light sparkles around the members. It can also symbolise the moon and the almost hypnotic power that it holds over the members. It could mean everything I have mentioned, but no matter what, the cool tone creates a deep, lonely feeling as well as a beautiful, mystical quality thanks to the effects used. The serene quality of this moon sequence is absolutely beautiful in a bitter-sweet way, and is a perfect representation of the idea that Kaguya is longing for her true home.

Colour and movement both play a key role in this music video - as it does with most MV's - because in Kaguya ni negai wo it is a means of showcasing which side of herself Kaguya is leaning towards. With the flashing hues of red and green during the dance shot we are aware that Kaguya is more human than celestial, yet with a still scene and subdued colours we acknowledge that Kaguya is more celestial than human. When her expression is pensive and withdrawn we are aware that se has lost control of herself, yet when she's freely moving and smiling we know that her human side is in full force.

The way Houkago Princess showcase various sides of Kaguya is interesting, with the most interesting side being Kaguya's inner struggle. The moonlight scene probably depicts both sides of the protagonist best, with Kaguya often looking away or expressing her sadness, but also showcasing her desire to stare at the moon and nothing else. We see both sides of Kaguya here - the emotion of a human, but the docile nature of a Moon Princess.

So, movement and expression is a human aspect to Kaguya, but stillness, rigidity or a lack of acknowledgement showcases the celestial side becoming more dominant. When it comes to the duality of Kaguya, the colours for each scene does well to lend to this idea of what her state of mind is, and how quickly it can change depending her own uncertainty (at least when we consider the dance shot).

When you eventually realise that they teamed everyone up by earring colour for these scenes. *Le gasp*

As a final addition to the colour theory aspect of this entire music video, the scene in which Houkago Princess move towards the lights is the last act of the 'human' side of Kaguya giving in to her celestial side. Though the area is dark, it is surrounded by blue tones from the moon and a brilliant, yellow light in the centre that creates a sparkling, ethereal glow that Kaguya is drawn to. It is this blue that represents the moon and the yellow that creates an image of power and immortality, but it is the same yellow light that takes away all of Kaguya's humanity and emotions, creating a shell of her former self.

The expressions the members hold is one that is void of emotion or acknowledgement that they are aware of what they are doing. In this scene we watch as Houkago Princess represent Kaguya once the celestial robe is thrown over her, a girl who no longer fights for what she loves because she has forgotten all aspects of her nature and the world she grew up in. It is in this very scene that we watch Kaguya leave the world she once loved and throw away the happiness, sadness, pain and love she had experienced during her short stay on Earth.

The blue is the sadness she feels before she returns to the moon as she leaves her home behind, and the light that sparkles represents Kaguya's return to her own world. The way the members walk diligently towards it is Kaguya's obedience to the moon people, her freedom now gone.

I believe that the themes throughout Kaguya ni Negai wo are obvious once we notice them, such as the use of the lights and how they represent bamboo or the moon, but I believe that it is the colour that creates such an interesting and beautiful portrayal of the Kaguya-hime tale in this music video. Through the use of colour we experience varying emotions and patterns, we see the passionate human form of Kaguya has and the pensive nature she holds when she returns to her celestial status. Throughout we see two sides to Kaguya, and that is all we need, because even in the original tale there were two sides to Kaguya - the human who was selfish and kind, beautiful and loved, and the celestial being whose emotion did not exist.

I never anticipated colour theory to be a dominant theme for this review, but it is a main aspect of Kaguya ni Negai wo that needed to be shared. I initially aimed to discuss the themes of the video, but the themes still apply even when colour theory takes over, and the colours still showcase the human and celestial sides to Kaguya's personality. No matter what, it all connects.

But it is not just the colour theory that helps to create the theme of Kaguya-hime and her dual sides that is important, but the hidden theme behind the story itself. With this single, members Odagiri Nana, Yamaguchi Miran and Kizuki Saori graduated the group after 7 and 6 years respectively, and it is with single that the members tie their own stories as idols to the tale of Kaguya-hime no Monogatari.

In the tale of Kaguya-hime we learn about a maiden who was found in a bamboo shoot that grew up and was loved by many people, including her foster parents. But when the time came she had to return to her own world and give up her mortality in order to accept her immortality, leaving a world she loved behind in order to become accepted in the world she had originally been born into. For the members Nana, Miran and Saori it is the same story in reverse: three girls enter into a magical world and leave the one they knew of behind, but after spending time in this sparkling world and meeting people who loved them, creating memories and experiencing various things, it comes to the day where they have to return to mortality and lead a normal life, one where the lights no longer shine down upon them.

Kaguya returned to the moon and left mortality behind. Houkago Princesses graduated members returned to mortality after experiencing a magical idol journey. In more ways than one, this is also their tale of a Princess who returned to the world she had once left behind.

To conclude:

Kaguya ni Negai wo is a beautiful music video, one that is rife with colour and expressions and so much more. It tells a tale that respects the Kaguya-hime no Monogatari text whilst also speaking for the members as well, perfectly representing the duality of an idols world. Though the PV seems simple at first glance - perhaps even cheap - it is riddled with complexity and themes to create a modern and beautiful rendition of the Kaguya tale.

From the costumes to the location, backdrops and lighting techniques we are given a fascinating and enjoyable music video, one I will be happy to re-visit time and again. For the groups first rendition of a Japanese tale, this is an exceptional creation and another improvement in how Houkago Princess present their music videos and visuals. I'd say the efforts of mafumafu are to be praised here as well, because without him we would not have been given such an endearing and entertaining video that showcases the duality of Kaguya perfectly. It's an interesting music video, and I strongly urge people to check it out and see if they can find their own meanings behind the set, the design and more.

With so much emotion, depth and a surprising yet melancholy ending, Kaguya ni Negai wo is the perfect end to three members' reigns. This is a fitting goodbye, and Odagiri Nana, Yamaguchi Miran and Kizuki Saori could not have been given a better send off.

Please watch this music video, and please leave your thoughts regarding it if you want to. I anticipate your own views and theories behind Kaguya ni Negai wo.

Once upon a time there was a Princess from two worlds, but one day she will have to return to the place she originally came from even if she didn't want to. Yet in another realm far away in the future there lived three princesses, all of whom made the choice to return to their mortal world after living a double life.

No matter what, whether it is your choice or not, there will be a call from your original home and you will have to return. How long will it be until the rest of the princesses feel a pull to return home?

Until next time,

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