Starshine’s Setlist: Wagamama Ki No Mama Ai No Joke / Ai No Gundan – Morning Musume

Morning Musume faces a new challenge: can they still be as popular as they were before now that superstar member Tanaka Reina has left? To try and keep sales up, they released yet another double-A side, so it’s time for another double-header review. But will these singles falter or fly without their prima dona?  There’s only one way to find out.

Let’s take a look at Wagamama Ki No Mama Ai No Joke and Ai No Gundan.

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Here’s the video for Wagamama Ki No Mama Ai No Joke (Selfish, Easy-going, Jokes of Love) with English subtitles:

So, there’s a big problem with the lyrics – I find them incomprehensible. Either the translation is off or I just don’t understand the meaning of the song.  At first, the song is about being yourself and striving for a real love, but suddenly it’s telling the person not to tell them (the girls singing) about their difficulties: “Your situations don’t matter to me.” What then exactly is the song saying and who is the song to? Is it to a potential love interest? A boy that is bothering them? a potential love rival? If it were someone you liked, it would make no sense to say that. The official lyrics translation is confusing, but if anyone else understands what’s happening in this song, please let me know. What I can ultimately say about it is that it’s about love.

The dance continues to show huge improvement with the group, and highlights how the new members have really reached a professional level. The dance is well-choreographed and entertaining. Every time they fake-slap each other, I can’t help but laugh – it fits so well with the music I can’t help but find it funny. The dance is well synchronized and shows off the same skills we saw back in Brain Storming. The costumes, on the other hands, are a mixed bag for me. While I love the outfits with the sheer sleeves and bedazzled tops, the black-and-whipe striped dresses are not all that flattering and look bizarre to me, especially since they have the one black boot and one white boot.

They look a little like a high school dance troupe, but I can live with it.

They look a little like a high school dance troupe, but I can live with it.

The video and song work well together. The video is dynamic and interesting, switching between close up shots and dance shots, with bright flashing lights and different angles. It’s nice to see a real setting instead of a CGI one or a soundstage. The song itself is an incredibly catchy, fast-paced number with some auto-tuning thrown in. It’s definitely a club song with lots of heavy bass thrown in for effect, but it fits well with their vocals. There’s good line distribution now that Reina’s gone, which is definitely comforting, though it’s starting to look a little like the Riho-Sayumi-Ayumi-Sakura show for now. Still, at least other members get more than a single syllable.

Wagamama Ki No Mama Ai no Joke is a really good song, with an impressive beat, video and dance. It’s a step in the right direction, and is one of the catchiest songs of the summer. Whether its going to do well on the charts is a complete mystery but as far as I can tell, it’s at least going to be something the fans of the group will be happy about.

Pros:

– Great dance.

– Good video.

– Strong song.

Cons:

– Confusing lyric translation.

– Costumes are a mixed bag.

Rating: 4/5

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Here’s the video for Ai No Gundan (Army Corps of Love) with English subtitles:

In terms of lyrics, the song is about the purity of love, and the “army corps of love” talking about how to protect and how to act when you’re in love. This song is a pretty vague one without a lot of emphasis on the lyrics per se. That’s not to say it’s poor written, just that the lyrics don’t seem to carry much of a message or sentiment. It’s not always necessary for songs like this to do so, even if it risks making the song less engaging for the audience.

As for the dance, I thought the marching and synchronized arm movements went well with the army theme, and tied back to the style of the previous track. It does not look as good as the other one, but it manages to retain its charm by having the girls posing in complex formations. The battle cadet outfits fit well with the theme too, and actually are really cute for what amounts to a uniform. They remind me of the 11water shuffle unit Be All Right! and are flattering on all the members. The alternate costumes of the girls in white dresses is a little plain, but are also very cute and don’t take away from the overall look and feel of the group.

Why can't the army have a cute, musical division?

Why can’t the army have a cute, musical division?

The video is a little lackluster. The obvious soundstage isn’t helped by the random trees they decided to place there, and the alternate shots look so good, it’s a wonder why they didn’t show more of them. The soft white light helped make the video seem more tied in with the theme of purity of love than the harsh black background, and there looks like there were more set pieces in that alternate cut. I don’t know if they will release a version with the alternate shot version of the video, but it would be an improvement on the official one. There isn’t much variety in the shots, which is a shame since the costumes work well but make it tricky to figure out who is in the background. There’s nothing wrong with a simply video, but they could have done better.

As for the vocals, I think they are much stronger on this track than the A one, if only because there’s less techno blaring in the background. Their voices seem to be stronger and have a fuller range in the song. The track is not quite as catchy, but is successful in its blending of horns and techno beats, giving the song a unique sound. It’s a softer song but it’s still good quality, and remains a good counter-balance to Wagamama Ki No Mama Ai no Joke.

All in all, Ai no Gundan works as the other A side on this single, but would not a particularly strong sing unless paired with a military-themed anime. That’s not to say that it is bad, or lacking, but just isn’t strong enough to stand on its own. It’s a refreshing song, to be sure, straying away from the heavy techno party themes Morning Musume has been pushing as of late.

Pros:

– Great costuming.

– Good dance.

– Good song.

Cons:

– Simple video.

– So-so lyrics.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Starshine5050

As just a regular, hard-working work, often-stressing, procrastination-mastering history and journalism student, I often turn to the silver and small screens for relief, even though I'm only an average cinema-and-television loving viewer, commenting on what, and does not, makes good entertainment. I love horror everything - book, TV shows, games, movies - even though they frighten me terribly. I'm a long time believer of the old saying "When life gives you lemons, don't take life's lemons! Give the lemons back!" So, onward I go, returning lemons and logging an unhealthy amount of screen time for your enjoyment. So please be sure to read my stuff and let me know what you think, I'm alway looking to improve and be the best, most cynical critic I can be!

Latest posts by Starshine5050 (see all)

Starshine5050

As just a regular, hard-working work, often-stressing, procrastination-mastering history and journalism student, I often turn to the silver and small screens for relief, even though I'm only an average cinema-and-television loving viewer, commenting on what, and does not, makes good entertainment. I love horror everything - book, TV shows, games, movies - even though they frighten me terribly. I'm a long time believer of the old saying "When life gives you lemons, don't take life's lemons! Give the lemons back!" So, onward I go, returning lemons and logging an unhealthy amount of screen time for your enjoyment. So please be sure to read my stuff and let me know what you think, I'm alway looking to improve and be the best, most cynical critic I can be!

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