Sometimes even fairly mainstream Japanese music news sources can grant you a couple of interesting little discoveries here and there. Brought to my attention today, courtesy of Natalie, was Sayonara Ponytail — a group of three “mysterious girls” set to release their first album Momyu no Ki no Mukougawa on April 27th.

The mystery being that they’re apparently drawings.

With no singles, albums or live performances anywhere under their collective belt, they’ve come to fame entirely from the few songs uploaded to their MySpace, currently standing at over one hundred thousand views. Don’t be fooled by the “idol / indie / J-pop” genre they proclaim on their profile, because aside from two mid-tempo remixes by their in-house DJ 324P, this is straight acoustic pop. Mellow, charming, enjoyable… but not, in my opinion, particularly remarkable.

Undoubtedly, what’s grabbing people’s attention with Sayonara Ponytail is the illustration work of Yuritan, described as the “god” of the group and arguably the sole creative force behind the entire operation. In comparison, members Miina, Nacchan and Ayumin remain largely unknowable, a problem for audiences looking to connect with the face of the music they’re listening to, illustrated or not. I’m personally having a hard time believing all three of them even exist outside of Yuritan’s imagination. Searching their first interview for answers, I found a lot of references to just that — the power of Yuritan’s ideas in the construction of this whole unit — and suddenly I was wondering how much of it was fabricated and how much was truly based in reality.

Backing up a little bit, I’m not really sure how this interview came about or was even conducted. Only three of the “team” were present: Yuritan, Miina, and Kuroneko. This was a new name for me and is probably also one for you. Just who is he, then? Let’s find out:

In that case, what is Kuroneko’s role?

KURONEKO: Me? […] I’m not even human in the first place. I’m something of the producer or the shadow behind the curtain, but because I’m a cat, I might have a more approachable appearance.

Say that again?

MIINA: When the “Omoide ga Kanashiku Naru Mae ni” PV was shot, there was a black cat lurking about, so he still hasn’t been separated from us. But since he’s kind of a clumsy character, Yuritan is always getting angry with him, so he might end up erased because of that (laughs).

You in danger, imaginary cat.

To say anyone “shot” a PV that’s little more than a series of sketches is slightly questionable, too, but I’m going to leave that alone for now. The point is that the more I read of this interview, the less I knew what to believe, and talk of erasing members for bad behavior didn’t help. Which members are actually in charge of what and how involved are they? Is the artist actually controlling everything even though she claims to be completely uninvolved with their music? How has this group gotten so much attention when their drawings aren’t even really great?

Shit, it’s probably that cat and all of his production expertise.

(By the way, he has a Twitter, and it has 217 followers. I’m pretty sure your real, flesh-and-blood feline could never.)

I’ll be fair and say that this venture is described plenty of times as a story with music at its core. The “Sayo-Pony world” seemingly created by Yuritan has no shortage of characters to inhabit it, like Megane-kun, a bespectacled boy who moved from the city and could prove to be a potential match for Miina (at least as far as his description on the group’s MySpace page goes). But I’m someone who places a lot of importance on sincerity and relatability when it comes to the music I listen to, so unfortunately, Sayonara Ponytail is putting me off. However, in much the same way I love the art produced by fans of Perfume, I’m drawn in by Yuritan’s illustrations and the stories she crafts with them. Who knows? Me and MAA started out rocky, too, and for similar reasons. Maybe I just need to lighten up and enjoy the fairytale.

Momyu no Ki no Mukougawa will contain eight tracks, precisely half of which you can already listen to in full from their MySpace page: “Omoide ga Kanashiku Naru Mae ni,” “Maboroshi Goodbye Day,” “Nee, Zutto Suki Demo Ii Kai?” and “Sekai to Mahou to Kare no Kimagure.”

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