Sound And Vision: Toshiaki Toyoda
In the article series Sound and Vision we take a look at music videos from notable directors. This week we look at Asian Kung-Fu Generation's A Flower Named You, directed by Toshiaki Toyoda.
My favorite Japanese director is Toshiaki Toyoda. I considerThe Day of Destruction and Go Seppuku Yourselves to be two of the greatest politically charged films of the Covid-era, addressing the powers that be in a way that is blunt yet cathartic. The films of Toshiaki Toyoda are often born from anger, volatile and explosive missives that touch a raw nerve. A film like Monster's Club, for instance, is a prickly yet nuanced portrait of an anarchist terrorist, while Blue Spring tackles the violent nature of teenagers in a way that is over the top, but still somehow rings true.
His best film, though, is Hanging Garden. When I reviewed the semi-recent blu-ray set of newer Toyoda-works by Third Window for the Dutch magazine I write for, I was quite surprised by this somewhat neglected entry in Toyoda's oeuvre. In it, a family has a rule where they promise not to lie, something that only highlights the hypocrisy in the family unit, and brings them closer to the edge of disaster. In the film there were two stylistic highpoints, because Toyoda is very much a visual experimentalist, that I was struggling to describe. One was an editing effect that splits the screen in small strips of vertical lines, like looking through a ribbed glass window. The second was an effect in which the camera spins 360 degrees on its axis to dizzying effects.
Both of these stylistic divergences show up in the music video that I'm discussing. While Toyoda has made quite a few music videos, only two stand out: Rosso's Emission, which feels like a stylistic counterpart to Monster's Club, also filmed with deliberate pacing in a snowy landscape. And the pick of the week, Asian Kung-Fu Generation's A Flower Named You. In the video, which is clearly made on the cheap, an impish character dances on the docks, leading the band in a frantic run through a concrete suburb. Meanwhile the lead singer of the band stands between concrete high-rises, not unlike the housing projects in Hanging Garden, singing directly into the camera.
And then it happens: the screen splits up in the ribbed-glass effect straight out of Hanging Garden, and Toyoda even adds some double-exposed overlays for shits and giggles. It's a delirious video, using just editing, that spinning camera and an actor in a fool-costume, to heighten what is basically a simple performance video. But as cheaply made as the video is, it becomes effortlessly cool. It has the charm of a Toyoda-film, while having none of his usual anger. If Hanging Garden is Toyoda's angry version of a family drama, A Flower Named You is a fun side dish, in which some of the same settings and stylistic flourishes are explored, without any of the depth. And in this case that ain't a bad thing.