With the Hello! Project in a state of transformation and turmoil, who do H!P wota turn to for a sense of calm amid the rising tide of change and anxiety? Why, Tsubaki Factory, of course? Duh.
The first video from TF’s second major single dropped a couple of days ago, and it’s enough to get you to calm your tits and remember why it is you follow Hello! Project groups. Every new H!P group gets the DANCE☆MAN treatment soon enough, and “Shuukatsu Sensation” is Tsubaki’s first time working with the King of J-Funk. The song is a bit of a departure from what we’ve come to expect from DANCE☆MAN-H!P productions, eschewing the usual disco beats and strong horns in favor of a funky half-time shuffle. The trademark congas are present throughout, but they’re really the only thing that screams “DANCE☆MAN!” at all. The song is fantastic the first time you hear it, and gets better with repeated listenings.
The video follows the narrative of girls on the hunt for their first jobs out of college, from interviewing the company senpai through to the actual job interview. That’s right, I said it follows a narrative. It’s nice to see Hello! Project remember that this is an option for music videos. As far as quality goes, it’s typical H!P quality, however the narrative and multiple locations mitigate that to a great extent. The scenes are all shot with a desaturated look, which works to convey the dreary nature of job-hunting.
The star of this PV, though, is the dance. It’s so wonderfully awkward! The girls herky-jerky bowing through the cross-walk in their crisp, tailored conservative business suits is equal parts Abby Road cover and “Walk Like An Egyptian”. Throughout, the dance jumps between very formal bowing, stiff poses and funky dancing. It’s all very silly, and so perfect for this song and this group. I’ve seen some noise from fans wishing this song had gone to a different group, bit that’s nonsense. Only Tsubaki Factory could have pulled this dance off with the requisite sincere awkwardness and joy.
Between this dance routine and the last Morning Musume concert, I’ve noticed H!P introducing tutting into their dance routines. I don’t even know if you can properly call it “tutting” in this video, but it’s close enough. I like it, but I hope they don’t over use it.
As a package of music and video, “Shuukatsu Sensation” is a winner. It manages to be fun without being childish and smartly pushes Tsubaki’s awkwardness forward as a charm point rather than trying to mask it.
One final thought: Yumeno Kishimoto is the lead singer here, and she sounds phenomenal, especially that little bit of ad-lib she does toward the end. Tsubaki is supposed to be the “untalented” Factory, right? Yeah, that’s in the past. The entire group sounds great, but this is Kishimo’s coming out party.
One final final thought: As good as this is, I liked the radio-rip of Waratte even more, and we still have that to look forward to. If you had told me in January that Tsubaki Factory would have the leading candidate for H!P Single of the Year in July, I’d have laughed and laughed and laughed. I would have been so full of giddy smug laughing at you, and yet here we are. The other H!P bitches better get to work, because Tsubaki Factory looks like they have no intention of being looked down upon as the adorable, pat-them-on-the-head KSS cast-offs. They’re here to get their mother fuckin’ idol on.