It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Ishikawa Rika, and I enjoy groups she's in. However, that's not to say that I like every group she's ever in; I RARELY listen to EcoMoni and I almost always regret that. I also prefer some groups over her groups.
However, when reading blogs, I almost always see "v-u-den only existed for fanservice" and I have to wonder if they've seen all of v-u-den's songs/PVs; I admit that there's fanservice to be had in the later singles of v-u-den, but calling it a blanket 'fanservice group' really does injustice to a lot of v-u-den's stuff, especially the earlier stuff that is pretty nearly fanservice free. Aisu Kuriimu to My Purin and Jajauma Paradise have fanservice, yes, but what about some of their less remembered singles, Koi no Nukegara, Hitorijime and Kurenai no Kisestsu?
SO this is a little primer about v-u-den and the fanservice levels. I will rate each single (the main song, not the B-sides, though I don't necessarily think there's fanservice in the lyrics of any B-side) by the costume, the dance, the PV itself and the song. I'll give it an unofficial "how I would feel if young!H!P Kids sang this song" rating and then I'll give my final remarks with the overall averaged score.
Each rating goes from 1 to 10; 1 is Jankenpyon, most Mini Moni stuff, Piriri to Yukou, etc. If you find this in anyway appealing it's YOU, not the PV. 10 is Some Boys! Touch, some of the things in Heavy Rotation, etc. REALLY heavy fanservice.
So, let's go in order and see how each is rated~
Koi no Nukegara
Costumes: The only thing I can see here that would POSSIBLY offend is that Miyoshi Erika has some midriff showing; otherwise, they're long and flowy dresses, which is really what I think of as the opposite of fanservice. There's nothing form fitting or revealing about them, unless you really like shoulders or ankles, and then you're in luck. I'll give this a 2 just because of Erika, but really this isn't fanservice. 2
Dance: This isn't very fanservicey; there are a few times where they move their shoulders or bend over slightly (though this doesn't show any cleavage) that could be perceived in that way, but I really don't see too much in it. It's a very swishy (um, new adjective?) dance that plays a lot with their flowing dresses. I'm going to give it a bit of a generous score because there's some bending over slightly (though not really sexy?) and they sometimes move a bit with their dresses, but really this isn't. bad. 3
PV: There are some kinds of smoldering looks, but the PV is MAINLY dance shot+ close ups + them walking + flowers. There are a few low-ish angles and they make some faces but those are more.. concerned/serious than sexy. 2
Song: It's about love; they ask a "Mr. Doctor Love" to look them over to see if they're OK. It's not completely innocent, but it's a standard song about love. 2
H!P Kids Friendly: It reminds me a lot (PV/dance/costume) of Tsukiatteru no ni Kataomoi by Berryz. I'd have no qualms about watching H!P Kids (even young'uns) do Koi no Nukegara.
Overall score: 2.25 If you think this is overly fanservicey, I have no idea what you're talking about.
Costumes: These are cut more flatteringly towards the female body; you see some cleavage from Yui, but that's not really difficult considering she's Okappai. These are cut lower on Yui and a tiny bit lower on Erika, but Rika's version's pretty conservative. The puffy skirt goes down to about their knees. I'll give it a bit more for Yui, but that's the only thing I see. 4
Dance: It's mostly punching and moving around. They do a bit of light bending but nothing horrific. 3
PV: This is the most fanservicey thing of the bunch. In the PV we have v-u-den as a bit of a love triangle, with both Yui and Erika wanting Rika. In the PV we see a couple of them on a bed, Yui grabbing Rika's leg, and general "I want you" looks. The reclining and moving to kiss on a bed is what does it. It's not quite Melodies and it's a lot more subtle, but it still gets more fanservice points. 5
Song: "Japan is cool!" is essentially what this song is. It was used for Japanese tourism or something, so it's basically "come visit and we welcome you to Japan!" 1
H!P Kids approved?: I'd be mostly OK with the costumes on a young H!P Kid; I don't really think there'd be any effect of cleavage because they don't have Yui's breasts. I'd be a bit uncomfortable with the whole relationship aspect of the PV, so I don't think I'd want to see them doing this, but other than that, the dance and the costumes and the song is approved. The PV would be, if they took out the stuff on the bed and the leg grabbing.
Overall score: 3.25. The PV has some fanservice, but that's about it. The song, costume and the dance are approved, and I don't think the PV is all that bad, other than hinting at lesbian relationships.
Ajisai Ai Ai Monogatari
Costumes: Classy girl clothes. I don't see anything wrong with any of them at all. 1
Dance: It's the clock dance! I know a lot of people don't like this dance because it looks strange, but I think it looks fun. Nothing super suggestive here; Rika moves her body a little bit in the seconds after the "yurari yurari" bit when she's waving her hand back and forth, but it's nothing suggestive sexually. 2
PV: Nothing I can really see is fanservicy. The PV is made up of close up shots, dance shots and then shots from the v-u-den mini-drama thing that came out around this time. Which I've seen but I really do NOT remember what the plot was about because I knew a lot less Japanese than I do now. But I swear, that has them wearing even less revealing clothes than in the dance shot (Yui has a REALLY baggy sweater). 1
Song: On a slightly musical note, this is one of my favorite v-u-den single songs; it's an excellent song. The lyrics are another love song, singing about a guy, shaking feelings and sadness. Which is interesting, considering how much everyone smiles throughout the PV. There's one line about how the guy's favorite girl is one with "delicate arms and a large chest." And Tsunku HAD to write that one for Yui to sing, I swear; she has this smile as she sings "ooki na mune" like "yeah, I got that!" Anyways, that's the only suggestive line. 2
H!P Kid Approved?: Yes. I have no qualms about anyone doing this group. I have general qualms about young girls singing about relationships and heartbreak, but there's no fanservice in this single.
Overall Score: 1.5; They wear baggy sweaters in half the PV and the other half is in regular sweaters. My goodness, they are practically trying NOT to be sexy.
Now we're hitting what I like to refer to as the forgotten v-u-den singles; Hitorijime, Kurenai no Kisetsu and, to an extent, Issai Gassai Anata ni A.GE.RU are essentially forgotten by the world, even though they're great songs/pvs/singles.
Costumes: These are probably the sexiest costumes we've gotten yet; there's some definite leg action and some slightly bare backs. Other than that, they're not form fitting at all, don't show cleavage and for sure cover everything up. 4
Dance: (on a personal note, I think this is one of the fiercest H!P dances ever. I love the dance shot almost more than the regular PV). This is a sexier dance than we've gotten yet; there's some moving down the other members' bodies, and some moving hands on their own bodies and smooth movements. It's a sexy dance, but it's a lot more subtly sexy; it fits the song perfectly. And is perfectly fierce. Yeah. This is one of my favorite dances ever. 5
PV: To be honest, this is kind of a bit of a boring PV. Close ups and dance shots, and shots of the girls looking all sultry and sad. But nothing fanservicey! There aren't any weird cleavage shots or anything. Tame. 2
Song: As one would expect from the title, it's a sad song about wanting someone all to themselves and being sad. There's a small part about the guy they're into kissing another girl. Which is hard to imagine, considering it's the v-u-den girls. I can't imagine why they'd want to cheat on them. But I digress, it's not bad; there's relationship things, which makes it not a 1. But nothing like, sexy. 3
H!P Kid approved?: Everything but the dance. I don't know if I want to see young!H!P Kids being all sultry and dancing around like v-u-den; it's not BAD, but it's definitely more mature than kids stuff.
Overall Rating: 3.5. Another tame v-u-den single. There's a bit of suggestive dancing but it's done tastefully and artfully, which is good.
Kurenai no Kisetsu
Um, yeah, this is THE forgotten v-u-den single, which is a shame, because I think it's amazing. Everything about it. Is love. It's probably my second favorite H!P PV ever (second to the cool version of Ayaya's Zutto Suki de Ii Desu Ka).
Costumes: Long, flowy, purple dresses. They're really pretty, but I wouldn't consider them fanservice. Um. They're pretty? That's not fanservice, though. 1
Dance: There's a bit of the "Arms around my body" thing but I wouldn't consider it really sexy. It's not really a super ultra innocent dance in that it's not childish; it's very much a dance by adults, but not adult as in sexual content. I'll give it a bit of a bump due to to moving arms around their own body, but I don't really think this constitutes fanservice. 2
PV: Pure perfection? Beautiful-ness? This is, IMO, one of THE most beautiful H!P PVs. It's REALLY gorgeous, with the shots of the mirrors and just the colors in it. There's some sultry looks and a bit of reclining, but nothing fanservicey. 2
Song: Kurenai no Kisetsu is a bit more suggestive than the previous v-u-den singles; they sing about wanting to meet someone, "I won't touch you" (implying the alternative), "your voice drives me crazy"; it's a bit more sensuous than the others and it's really gorgeous, but there's a level of fanservice in it. 5
H!P Kid Approved?: While the song would totally make me uncomfortable if H!P Kids sang it, Anata Nashi de wa Ikite Yukenai (Berryz's first single) is pretty much like this single in terms of lyrics. No joke. So. Yeah.
Overall Score: 2.5; Mature, yes. A very adult song, yes. Fanservice? Absolutely not.
Issai Gassai Anata ni A.GE.RU
One of the other forgotten v-u-den singles. Which is sad, because I'm kind of in love with the song.
Costumes: In half the PV they wear sweaters (albeit tighter than in Ajisai) and short skirts (that's the story portion) and in the other half they wear what's essentially lingerie. However, I wouldn't put this in the same category as the lingerie in, say, Heavy Rotation because it's pretty harmless stuff; Rika's is definitely shorter and cut differently than Erika or Yui's, but I don't think the whole concept is too bad. It sometimes astounds me that people accuse v-u-den of being overly fanservicey when you see the lengths they did in these earlier PVs to hide her breasts. Still, it's pretty sexy stuff. 6
Dance: It's very old fashioned, with the way they use the microphones. They were for sure going for an old-fashioned vibe with everything, something I'll touch a bit more in the PV section. However, I'm not one of the people that automatically sees "MIC=PHALLUS" like I know a lot of people do. There's a bit in the bridge where they are a bit sexier, but I wouldn't say there's much to object about in the dance of the PV. It's a bit flirty, but nothing too terrible. 4
PV: When I first saw this PV I was all about calling it sexist; it seemed to me the whole "as a woman I screwed up so I need to fix it" wasn't exactly very complimentary. Then, I saw a comment on YouTube about how this was an homage to the old TV show Bewitched and it ALL MADE SENSE. In the 60s series, the main character was a witch who lived a normal life but had to fix things with magic. When I saw this comment I remembered that Bewitched actually was very popular in Japan, and the homage would make sense. In addition, the song and the dance feel to be from a similar era. With that point of view I'm not bothered with the PV anymore. Fanservice wise there's no questionable shots, and while you might not like the PV's message, I think if it's viewed as an homage then I have little to object to. 2
Song: I originally was all on the sexist parade with this song (despite loving it from the bottom of my heart), but the lyrics are really cute; it's a sweet song about the feeling of being in love and wanting to give everything you have to the person you love, which I think is a lovely sentiment. 2
H!P Kid Approved: Well, the dance and the old-fashioned feel's already done by Berryz in Waracchau yo Boyfriend; I'd be iffy about letting them in the costumes, but the rest is approved.
Overall Score: 3.5- I know a lot of people would disagree, considering the costume choice (which is why this song is sometimes targeted for its fanservice) but the rest of the PV/song is almost overtly innocent, complying with the 60s vibe.
Aisu Kuriimu to MY Purin
Oh goodness. It's that time. One of the most common "V-U-DEN IS JUST FANSERVICE!!" videos. Probably THE most common one, actually.
Costumes: There are two costumes in here; the bunny girl outfits and the sparkly short dresses that are not at all trying to be reminiscent of Marilyn Munroe, noo. Well, obviously the bunny girl outfits are suggestive because of how our culture perceives it. Even though they're not SUPER revealing, they're definitely fanservice. Plus, the dresses are really short. So yes. I admit. this is craaazy fanservice. 8
Dance: 'AISU KURIIMU TO MY PURIIIN" has one of the more famous dances in H!P history; I personally find the dance to be kind of goofy, but it's still admittedly v-u-den pointing at their breasts and ass and shaking around. I think it's fun, but that doesn't stop the fanservice. 8
PV: As a PV it's not all that bad; there aren't super blatant sexy shots. Granted, it's not all that original; dance shot plus close ups plus group shots. Add some homages to Marilyn Munroe (I love Rika's face when she does it XD So silly) and it's not all that terrible, I'd argue. 6
Song: Yes, there's definitely innuendo; the song's about wanting to get closer to someone, so I imagine that v-u-den thinks they'll do this by being blatantly sexually charged. It's not that bad, really; it has some references to kissing and wanting a crazy night. Oh wait. Berryz already did that. With their first single. But anyways, I don't think it's all that. 7
H!P Kid Approved?: Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha no.
Overall?: 7.25- It's sexy, yes. However, the whole thing seems like a parody; like it's parodying the idea of fanservice. Everything goes over the top, they spoof Marilyn Munroe, the lyrics are kind of silly; it's still very fanservice-y and sexy, but I don't think it was just for fanservice; I think it was a bit of a spoof, as well.
Koisuru Angel Heart
This is a fairly well known single of v-u-den; in my opinion, singles 7-9 (Aisu Kuriimu, Koisuru Angel Heart, Jajauma Paradise) are THE most well known v-u-den singles, at least from my experience.
Costumes: There are two costumes in the PV; the "white angels" and the "dark angels." Both are pretty sexy; the short white dress shows off both cleavage and legs, with Rika's again being cut to be more form fitting than either Erika's or Yui's (though I'd be lying if I said I minded, *cough*. The "dark angel" outfits are pretty sexy, not necessarily by what's shown but by the attitude. It's definitely both sides of the spectrum; on the one hand cute and sexy and on the other erotic and sexy. Yeah, uh, that's terrible *cough*. 6
Dance: There's some bending and you definitely get some cleavage itself, but it's definitely not as.. glaring as in Aisu Kuriimu. It's very cute and energetic. The use of it with the particular costumes is sexy, but if it were removed from the costumes it wouldn't be very fanservicey. 4
PV: The PV itself, once removed from the dance and the costumes isn't very fanservicey; there's some alluring glances during the "dark angel" portions and they definitely looked sexy, but it's nothing too objectionable, I'd say. 3
Song: It's a cute song about being in love and wanting a wonderful summer. They want to be hugged. Oh the fanservice to be had in a hug. 3
H!P Kid Approved?: The dark angel bit is a little mature-ish, but nothing very objectionable. Honestly, it seems a bit less mature than a lot of the stuff v-u-den does, and while this song and PV is very dear to me it doesn't really fit that much with the rest of the v-u-den singles.
Overall Score: 4; a cute, sweet song and PV. I don't have all that much else to say about it.
Ohhhh yes. Jajauma Paradise. Other than Aisu Kuriimu, this is the main argument for v-u-den having lots of fanservice. Um. There's not going to be that much argument from me.
Costumes: Again, there are two sets of costumes in place here; the dance shot costumes with the small red skirts and black tops and the "pink version" costumes, which are basically pink tank tops and white shorts. The pink version costumes aren't terribly offensive; there's quite a lot of cleavage with Yui especially (which is actually unusual). These are pretty sexy; a bit less sexy than my 10 markers (sexy!Goto Maki and Heavy Rotation), but nevertheless fairly fanservice-ful. 9
Dance: It's pretty sexy, too; there's some hip thrusting and false rodeo dancing. Granted, this isn't too unheard of in H!P (see: C-ute's first PV, Massara Blue Jeans), but it IS fanservice. I have a difficult time taking the dancing seriously after what I call "Rika Monkey" at 3:45, but this is pretty fanservice-ful. 7
PV: hoooo boy. I really like how this PV was shot; it's honestly such a CHEAP PV, yet the camera work and the editing manage to make it interesting. However. Sooo many boob shots, bending over cleavage, Erika sticking out her ass because she doesn't have the greatest cleavage, etc. It occasionally feels somewhat cheap and a bit embarrassing to watch; I love it because it's v-u-den, but it is really rather extreme. 9
Song: Not necessarily the most coherent lyrics, but they name a bunch of couples and talk about being together? Am I weird in that this is NOT decipherable to me? There aren't any lyrics that stick out as being particularly fanservice, but the song itself has gasps and noises. That have been done in Berryz since they were little. But I digress. 5
H!P Kid Approved?: Most certainly not; none of it. Granted, most H!P Kids did something to the equivalent to either the dance (Massara Blue Jeans) or the gasping in the song (Koi no Jubaku, Special Generation) early in their careers, so it's probably Tsunku approved for young girls.
Overall: 7.5; the song brought down its score quite a bit. But it IS the most fanservice v-u-den ever got.
Nan ni mo Iwazu ni I LOVE YOU
Sad face!! It's the last v-u-den single before they disbanded. :( The thing I find interesting is that while v-u-den climbed in fanservice as a general rule from their chaste early singles, this is way back at their roots, which I kind of appreciate.
Costumes: Back to the flowy dresses again! You see... shoulders? There are also shots of v-u-den screwing around at the beach where they're wearing normal clothes, but they show no cleavage and not much leg. It's kind of incredible how little fanservice there is here. 2
Dance: The dance is not too dance-y, because of the ballad; it doesn't even show up very much in the regular PV that I'm reviewing. Um. I don't have much to say about it. I see nothing offensive here. 1
PV: It's comprised of shots of v-u-den at the beach, the dance shot, them all sitting together and close up shots of all of them. There's literally nothing offensive I can even remotely find. It's a very sweet PV. 1
Song: As most people know this is a cover of the song off of Morning Musume's 4th album and it's very clean "without saying a word I love you" is what the title literally says. I think there's a slight reference to the guy potentially cheating but the girls don't believe it. So that gets us a 3...? I guess. 3
H!P Kids Approved?: I don't see why not.
Overall Score: 1.75- As in. There is SUCH LITTLE FANSERVICE
Overall score of every v-u-den single: 3.7 That's not so much fanservice. Now, before anyone complains about me being not objective, I'm trying to be. I acknowledge that Aisu Kuriimu to My Purin and Jajauma Paradise are pretty much laced with fanservice. However, two songs/PVs do not make the entire group JUST about fanservice.
To me, v-u-den isn't a fanservice group, it's an adult group. And no, I don't mean adult as in sexy, I mean adult as in mature. Hello!Project, except at the beginning has almost always been focused on youth and young-ness If you get old you get booted from Morning Musume and put into the Elder Club; that's the way it's been. At the time v-u-den was around the H!P Kids were younger, and while they've never had the success of Morning Musume they are really quite popular and they epitomize just how into youth and youngness that Hello!Project has been. v-u-den took three women that are honestly older than the average idol when she debuts (I believe that Yui was both the youngest AND 16 when Koi no Nukegara came out, but grew older when it got more fanservice-y); these are women who are quite honestly delving into adulthood, and their material reflected that; women. Not girls, women. And sexuality is for sure a part of the experience of a woman.
v-u-den's done a lot of beautiful things, sexy things, things I originally saw as sexist and just shows a portrait of the WOMAN; not a teenage girl. And for that juxtaposed next to the H!P Kids groups (that are honestly not as innocent as many people like to believe; the older H!P Kids songs and PVs kind of creep me out, sometimes) sometimes v-u-den seems to be the 'sexy group' when really they're the 'older group'. They were older than Morning Musume, Berryz Koubou and C-ute and, when they were in Wonderful Hearts, they were the most mature group, and for that I admire them. Actually, if I were Tsunku/UFA I would have personally spent a lot of time marketing v-u-den towards a female 20-something audience solely for the relatability issue, which is part of the reason that AKB48 is so popular now with women.
One thing I'd like to add is that even though I didn't mention v-u-den's B-sides and album songs (because I was JUST delving into the fanservice aspect), they're really something special. I recommend Naishin Kyaakyaa da wa!, Fantasy, Aimai Me Mind, Kyou mo Mattemasu, Let's Live! and Rika's solo Omoide wa Kanata.
... yeah, and if anyone read all that. I love you.