Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Analyse Visuelle de Ringo no Uta

As the year 2004 approached, and after creating possibly her magnum-opus in the form of 加爾基 精液 栗ノ花, the ever astounding goddess of music Shiina Ringo decided to put her solo career on hiatus to concentrate on forming a band, a decision which sparked mass hysteria across the continent of Japan and set Ringo's fanbase into frenzy. What was our girl doing? But what Ringo did next settled fan doubts.

As a farewell (albeit a very dignified one) she presented us with a final single. The masterwork that is "りんごのうた" "The Apple's Song" or however else you wish to translate it (leave it in Japanese, please).

Now the single contained something very, very interesting indeed. A song formed entirely out of samples from her career, a rather unconventional idea which again proved that on an artistic level she is still not to be trifiled with. But what I wish to discuss today is the excellent title track, a beautiful laid-back composition that has a low-profile swagger, but still it carries a mournful undertone that stirs our emotions and fills our eyes. This is the Ringo we knew and the Ringo we know. What is the difference anyway between past and present? Ringo is Ringo. But she's grown so much... but it's still good old rocking Ringo. After this single, Ringo's fans were all ready to wave goodbye to their heroes solo career and wished her good luck with the band, knowing that this was not the end of the Ringo story, but in fact barely the beginning...

To create a concise package with the single's theme of closure, and retrospection, two promotional videos were directed and given on a DVD with the single. The first contained her reenacting various scenes from her past videos in appropriate costume. However the second, the "unplugged" version presented her in a blank room, still outfitted in the various past costumes but somehow despite the clothing she seems "naked" on a metaphorical level. We see a very human side to the artist, and it is almost as if she is addressing us personally, alone, one to one, which again adds to the impact and gets us rather teary eyed.

And this is what I wish to deconstruct today, quite possibly one of her greatest visual presentations. And also, quite sadly, possibly the closest we shall ever get to her person.

A blank room, however it is completely filled suddenly by a certain young woman's personality - once which we recognise immediately, due to our refined cultural awareness and appreciation for curious characters such as Ringo. It is then that we see le reine pomme walk out, the same dark, ravenesque girl we seen three years previously in the rose gardens of Kiss Shite. However, as we look into her face, we notice reformation. She has matured ever so slightly, thinned, a sharper look. Here we witness the peak of stage two in Ringo's physical career. Refinement, like a perfectly sculpted Renaissance sculpture. A picture of realism and unrequited desire in one clashing shot.

Still wielding the famed Dusenberg, however this is a Ringo from a year before. The angel-winged school girl in calm disarray lying on a concrete floor. Surrounded by a confused public. So timid and ungainly, yet with a natural born raw purity and sweetness. Now off the floor and into a non-descript room for our observation. She contrasts with the wall by being so magical and pure, as I like to say, an amazing contradiction.

A very rare moment. A Ringo who previously only existed in the animated realm of 真夜中は純潔 is dragged into our reality. Fresh from a colourful caper, a 60s catsuited, crime-fighting, femme fatale. Ringo as 峰不二子, and the ultimate combination of sweetness and strength. A very sexy combination! But also really tough and that. If she was ever angry, she could slap me in the face for as long as she wanted, AND I WOULD LOVE IT!

The former princess, and now queen of Kabuki-cho. Previously seen being sexually suggestive on the streets of Shinjuku, here present in her militaristic attire which represents the intense mental training which was required to dethrone her mother and also references night ladies involved in military situations. Such as a Joy Division, or those that sold themselves to western soliders during WW2.

The first geisha that appears, not from a career perspective though. Seems to be a personification of Miss Ringo's general mood, casual mood, the "neutral" geisha as it were. Maybe this is the perfect state of humanity, neither hot or cold, the ultimate balance. Yet, perhaps thus the least accessible side of Ringo, the one most free of luresome lustre. Notice the colour of her Kimono and then notice the themed colour of this site, I chose grey to indeed represent this more common side of Ringo's character. Common, yet boundlessly unique. This is Ringo after all.

A country lass, who travelled an abstract, depression struck alien landscape in the video for mega-power-ballad "GIPS". Notice the red leather choker and wrist band, which could actually directly reference the outfit worn in the video for 罪と罰. Perhaps this is a younger version of that Ringo, one yet to take a fall through the darker side of life. The red could be a metaphor for suffering, and here it only has a slight grip on Ringo, albeit strategically placed in vulnerable positions, hence the ballad nature of the particular song the outfit was used for.

And so here it is. The 罪と罰 (Crime and Punishment) outfit. And as we can see she wears a full outfit of red leather, which as I mentioned in the last video could indeed represent suffering, in this case then she is suffering heavily - an angel that has fallen into the mires of a corrupt society and needs to seek refuge, but is hopelessly marred in bottomless sorrow. Angsty, yes, but the emotional effect it has on us leaves no doubt of Ringo's authenticity. Desperate and close to the edge as reflected by the tone of the song and video, particularly the scene in which she holds a katana to her throat, however her neck is free from the red which could suggest the watered down feelings of longing that were present in GIPS. Notice the black eyeliner, a great strip of black depression across her character, a slyly delivered blow of hatred or negativity obviously delivered by one jealous of Ringo's beauty

And so here we have the "positive" geisha from the 積木遊び video. An upbeat, fun, flamboyant personality, but also carries the sexually aggressive and hard-to-get edge usually associated with Ringo. Could be a manifestation of Ringo's good mood.

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, the "negative" geisha from STEM. Almost spectral in appearance, a lady of death. Not evil, but exibits a dark, depressing presence. Quite possibly a manifestion of Ringo's bad mood.

The infamous challenging nurse, answering those ignorant enough to say "why don't you dress up as a nurse anymore?" But now carrying a more stern, serious look. Indeed, the young nurse has gotten older. A girl committed to healing, who has already had to heal herself many times spiritually. Ringo has been through a lot and people take this credibility as a bond of trust - Ringo is as reliable as fuck.

A particularly interesting moment, and the only thing besides Ringo that appears in the room. But this could possibly be a representation of Ringo. The large red apple splitting, which represents her solo career, breaking open and unveiling a fresh green apple which represents her future exploits. The splitting of the apple may also represent strong feminist tendencies - the splitting of the Adam's Apple, the silencing of men and the ultimate death blow.

A final face to face with each version of Ringo, counting down from the last single to the first. A montage that delivers the clear meaning and implication of what we've seen so far, clearly animating in fast pace the build up and evolution of Ringo. Suddenly a flash of white light, and we are presented with...

The new Shiina Ringo naked. Not only on a metaphorical level anymore, which is frankly a stroke of genius on her part, as she does acknowledge the significance of this promotional video, but it also serves as a direct challenge to those who are only interested in her image. But who can blame such ruffians who do not understand the arts? For she is indeed a beautiful woman. However, she finally presents herself naked for their entertainment, but she only shows herself from shoulder level up, no doubt frustrating them. A rather amusing gesture typical of Ringo. But what is also important here is the fact her mole has gone, believed to have been removed for medical reasons but it also represents a fresh start for Ringo, a lesser emphasis on herself as she wishes to form a band.

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