All that talk about Puffy AmiYumi being “anti-idols” is nothing more than splitting hairs.
Sure, Ami and Yumi are a good decade older than most Japanese pop idols, and yeah, they don’t chirp over swirling techno beats and walls of synthesizers.
But in the end, they’re still idols, complete with their own line of merchandise spoofing corporate logos that replace brand names with the word “Puffy”. Take that for what it is.
Because scratching beneath the surface of An Illustrated History, a Puffy AmiYumi retrospective released in the U.S., reveals more surface.
Songwriter/producer Okuda Tamio, the man behind the duo’s music, jumps from one dated genre to another in pursuit of the perfect pastiche — disco on “Nagisa ni Matsuwaru”, 60s pop on “Kore ga Watashi no Ikirumichi”, 70s arena rock on “Jet Keisatsu”, blues rock on “Stray Cat Fever”, Phil Spector girl group on “Tomodachi”.
The assumption is a band versatile enough to traverse different styles has got to be good, right? Perhaps, but the musical jet-setting Okuda takes Ami and Yumi on is akin to flying within the state of Texas — it covers a lot of ground but remains in one place.
To Ami’s and Yumi’s credit, they don’t take their anti-idol status or rock stardom as seriously as this review does. And it shows in the duo’s breezy performances.
Ami and Yumi just wanna have fun, dammit. And the Asia-loving boys in the U.S. for which this music was intended aren’t going to find anything objectionable about that.
A few tracks stand out as positively beefy — “Love So Pure”, which is an English version of “Sumire”, “Asia no Junshin”, “Mother”. The rest of An Illustrated History is as light as cracker.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Pop music aims squarely for the lowest common denominator, which Puffy AmiYumi hits on target.
And while Ami and Yumi may have more soul in their pinky fingernails than any of the boy bands and teen idols of the late 90s here in the U.S., they’re not the rockers other critics and fans would like to paint them as.
Puffy AmiYumi doesn’t take itself too seriously, and as such, they make music that doesn’t beg that much effort either.