Obvious but true: inspiration is crucial for visual designers. You get new ideas, you positively influence your style, and your imagination feels energized and revitalized. Not often explored, but music videos are a great source of inspiration: The moving imagery and graphics can give fresh design inspiration in ways that still-image can’t do. It’s like getting inspired by nature, watching films or even listening to music.
So, music videos – this article features 20 Japanese music videos for your design inspiration. Why Japanese music videos specifically? Well, the author of this article (me, Oleg Mokhov) loves the country and its culture. So why not make this music video showcase more unique and interesting by focusing on Japan?
Secondly, a typical modern Japanese style–if such a thing could exist–is very original and unlike the rest of the world. There’s this aesthetic of taking elements from all over and repurposing them into something fresh and new. Punk with hip-hop, traditional with the sleek and new, fantasy with the future – any possible culture clashes don’t matter, since only the style is taken without having concern for how things “should” be. And some of these music videos showcase just that, which hopefully will make watching them fun, enjoyable, and inspiring.
20 Visually Stunning Music Videos from Japan
Sakanaction – Native Dancer
Clean black and white shots, subtle color flourishes, a fun and smooth sneaker dance sequence – all of these add up to a simple and highly stylish music video
Capsule – Jumper
This video is futuristic, glitchy, technological, and graphics-heavy to match the style of the energetic synth-heavy dance tune. The video could’ve only focused on the graphics, but a nice bonus is the real-life girl shots that remain as colorful and stylish as the graphics shots.
Capsule – More More More
Speaking of graphics, this video is nothing but frantic, fun, and ultra-stylish motion graphics. While that may seem questionable with no people or some sort of focal point, the constantly-changing parade of fast-moving graphics works well with the equally-frantic music.
School Food Punishment – You May Crawl
A very slick way of presenting the band performing. Moving screens, changing backgrounds, and just a lot of change throughout the video turns a performance video into something fun and exciting.
School Food Punishment – Feedback
The inverse of the above School Food Punishment music video. Instead of colorful constantly-changing shots, this video uses a black-backdrop performance shot and plays with the screen-framing and speed very effectively. A normal performance shot is slowed down to a turtle crawl, split into many vertical slivers, and so forth.
Emi Maria – Mr. Alien
Sweet graphic overlays over a sweetly-dressed Emi Maria, who sings in front of a sweet deep purple backdrop. In other words, the style in this video is pretty sweet.
Crystal Boy feat. Azu – Kotoba Ijou
You can’t go wrong with black and white, and this is a sleek and clean performance video, complete with a jazz ensemble and quick shots of some funky dancing. The video does one better, however, by having bits of fading-in red to spice things up.
Towa Tei feat. Yukihiro Takahashi & Kiko Mizuhara – The Burning Plane
Fun, playful, and a great fusion of black and white and color shots (sometimes in the same shot). The overall aesthetic is big shapes and clean layouts, which universally works for not only any video but any visual design too.
Perfume – Fushizen na Girl
What’s interesting in this video is graphic designs being recreated live. The entire style of the video is that of bold shapes, colors, and lines, but instead of being motion graphics–the natural choice for a style like this–it’s physical objects being held up by people or scenery to be walked and danced on.
Perfume – Nee
Similar to the other Perfume video, but here only one color is used–grey–and the shapes are more intricate, such as trees. But again, the entire style of the video of bold shapes and colors fits naturally for motion graphics work, but instead physical cutouts are used.
Coma-Chi – Sayonara
A singer/rapper performance video boiled down to the bare minimum and then stylized. All you see for the great majority of the video is Coma-Chi singing and rapping, and the backgrounds are all single colors, but the cleanliness of the video style and the stylish outfits make this video very, er, stylish.
Akihiro Namba – Jump! Jump!! Jump!!!
A fun, bold, stylish fusion of punk and hip-hop style. The jumping around, dyed red hair, guitar playing, and microphone all are punk, and the colors, dancing, black ghost figure, and fashion is hip-hop. And all of it shot against simple and clean backgrounds.
In-Sist – Just When the Sun Is
Very simple yet effective – a non-stop sliding shot showing a collage of the cut-out band members performing the song. Except they’re black and white while the background is an eye-grabbing orange, which makes what otherwise could’ve just been “good enough” into something much more stylish.
Tamaki Roy feat. Tavito Nanao – Break Boy in the Dream
Moving around in stop-motion, colorful trimmings, and a stylin’ hoodie all add up to a music video that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Tamaki Roy x Fragment – Mad Pop
Very sparse and very stylish (has this word been used enough yet in this article?). White background, black and white performer, and artful color splats all come together for a sweet-looking video. An added bonus is the effective use of paint splats in certain shots – pretending to throw paint on the camera and paint splattering on the screen, pretending to be shot and paint splatters appearing where blood would’ve sprayed, and so forth.
Doping Panda – Hi-Fi
Sparkling colorful figures dancing around, sparkling colorful bits flying around the band while it performs, and some more sparkling colorful elements thrown around elsewhere. This video is very, well, sparkling and colorful.
Doping Panda – Miracle
An interesting use of zoom. The band members are zoomed in, one by one, from background to foreground as they perform the song in a sleek area which appears to be an airport or other some sort of transit station.
TwiGy al Salaam – Bag
It’s said again and again: you can’t go wrong with black and white. And in this case, a few tasteful elements of dancers, artful cuts, and some macro shots of objects.
Ai feat. Miliyah Kato – Katou Miriya
Another use of a primarily white background, but this time there’s some graphics to really spice things up. Floating rings around Ai and Miliyah Kato, the two fading in and out via pixelation, and other motion graphics flourishes take a stylish-but-standard black-against-white-background performance video and raise it up a notch.
M-Flo feat. Melody & Ryohei – Miss You
A constantly-sliding shot with the 4 performers repeatedly showing up–sometimes multiple copies of themselves in one shot–doing some new activity. A sweet-looking shot that keeps your attention going throughout. Plus, M-Flo’s, Melody’s, and Ryohei’s greyscale outfits match the sleek metallic setting which adds to the stylishness.
Your Favorite Japanese Music Videos
Over to you: know of any other stylish Japanese music videos that are missing from this compilation? Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section below.