Episode 02 of Derek Vasconi’s documentary series, The Flowers of Passion was made available for streaming on Friday, and I dug into it almost immediately.
The episode packs a lot into 73 minutes, giving us XOXO EXTREME’s thoughts on the history of idol and the difficulties of holding a place in it, some dramatically personal insight into what it is like to be 14th Generation Toilet Hanako-San, footage from a special acoustic set by NaNoMoRaL, and a behind-the-scenes look at LiLii Kaona’s creative processes including the birth of their incomparable tune, “Rust”.
This is all delivered via extremely candid conversations and intimate performance footage capturing the action both on stage and in the studio. So far, the strength of the series stems from the presentation of the interviews and performances largely without external narration or commentary. Other than the first several minutes of episode one (which we reviewed here), the only editorial context comes from infrequent captions that usually serve an introductory purpose. The end result is that what we see and hear is almost entirely the unfiltered thoughts of the idols and their management or production staff.
What is remarkable about the series so far, and what makes it so valuable, is just how forthright and insightful these conversations are. The documentary doesn’t just go behind the scenes, but behind the veil. The Flowers of Passion is providing the Western world it’s most extensive access yet into the minds of Japanese idols and the creatives surrounding underground idol production. For anyone with an interest in indie/alternative/underground idol, this series will likely become required viewing.
After the lovely acapella intro provided by CHiHiRO of MERRY BAD END, episode two of The Flowers of Passion begins with Rin Kojima of XOXO EXTREME expertly performing a violin solo. The conversations that follow with the prog-rock idols and their manager are enlightening and I found member Moe Hiiro especially articulate. She speaks of how thankful they are to the idols who gave it their all, broke taboos and established an artistic environment where they are free to experiment. However, while they now have the freedom to do whatever they want, she finds that it can be a struggle to find something that hasn’t been done before.
The episode then moves to perhaps the most highly anticipated appearance in the series: that of grindcore idol (and homicidols dot com favorite), 14th Generation Toilet Hanako-San. Her inclusion does not disappoint. Not only does Flowers of Passion include incredibly rare video footage of an actual Hanako-San performance, but she is also extremely candid in her interviews. While she speaks about more standard topics such as how she came to adopt her onstage persona, she also unexpectedly veers into some very personal territory such as the difficulties she once faced trying to hold a regular job, and her father’s reactions to her chosen line of work.
For the true otaku audiophile, the most valuable footage in episode two is the section devoted to LiLii Kaona which intimately captures the creative process behind songwriting and production. It is especially significant as it covers the creation of “Rust” from the EP, KIYOKU (which just happen to be my respective picks for Best Song and EP of 2020).
We meet Mishima, LiliKoa’s producer, at the stage where he has completed the music for “Rust” but before the lyrics have been decided. The following scenes paint a complete picture of the process from song conception to recording including actual footage of the meeting where Mishima and the members, KOYUKI and YUKA, compose the lyrics and first discuss the song’s dynamic chorus.
- Mishima: “For the chorus I want many voices… Why do you look so worried”
- YUKA: “Whose voices? Are you trying to replace us?”
Although it’s a light conversation, it’s a thrilling moment to watch on film: these are the subdued discussions and deliberations that led to the creation of an electrifying chorus that hits with all the subtlety of a direct lightning strike.
In addition to these significant exchanges, episode two also contains dozens of small yet remarkable moments such as: XOXO EXTREME making last minute adjustments to choreography just as they are about to go onstage; NaNoMoRaL’s Miku spilling the beans that Paseli’s mom buys all of his clothes; the toy microphone Hanako-San holds to mimic being onstage when in the recording studio.
The episode feels like it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. At least, it left me wanting more. I definitely wished I could binge-watch straight into episode three instead of having to wait a week. I hope it follows more of LiliKoa to their second one-man live and introduces the audience to the remarkable song that, “Rust” turned out to be.
If, like me, you have trouble waiting, LiLii Kaona just released the footage from their November one-man live on YouTube. Until next Friday, this will have to do:
The Flowers of Passion is available at the Idol Underworld website or via streaming: