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A screenshot from Sheena Ringo’s music video for “Hatsu K.O. Gachi”. Featuring Sheena and Nocchi on stage, wearing Prada denim outfits and boxing gloves.

Sheena Ringo has a collaborations album out, Houjoya (which translates to ‘Carnival’). And with it, came a bunch of music videos. ‘That’s cute’ I said to myself. And I didn’t think much of it until I saw two of them in particular. One with Ai, featuring a horrendous choice of hairstyle. Japanese women with the driest dreadlock wig in 2024 was truly a creative choice. And one with Nocchi.

Yes. THAT Nocchi. Nocchi of Perfume. Featuring on a song with Sheena Ringo. By herself. In a music video. By herself. On a song, not produced nor written by Nakata Yasutaka.

The lake that Hikaru Utada was dancing on in “Nani Iro Demo Nai Hana”? That was hell frozen over.

And Boeings may not be flying, but the pigs are. And a-chan is screaming into a pillow somewhere.

I’ve joked so many times over the years about Nocchi going solo, but it’s crazy to see it actually kinda happen.

Nocchi looks great and sounds great. This is miles from Perfume’s own sound, but one which could make sense for them given the range of styles they’ve done over the years. And this is one of many reasons why I bang on about how limiting it is for Perfume to be tied exclusively to Nakata Yasutaka as their songwriter and producer, because we’re losing out on other interpretations and takes of what a Perfume sound could and should be, which would push Perfume further than Nakata has managed to. Yes. Perfume’s last studio album was pretty decent. And the music they’ve released over the past year has been decent too. But it’s still not pushing Perfume’s music far enough, and there is very clearly a cap on Perfume’s music, and that cap is Nakata Yasutaka.

It’s always been clear from moments we’ve gotten from Perfume over the years that they have more to offer on their own songs. But it’s as clear as day from this one collaboration with Sheena Ringo that Nocchi herself has so much more to offer than we see her give as part of Perfume. And this is why I’m critical when it comes to Perfume’s music, because I know it has the room to be so much more. And it’s also why I’m so confused as to why Nocchi has been categorically side-lined on songs since LEVEL3.

So I really do hope that this solo endeavour of Nocchi’s actually shakes Perfume’s table and amounts to something. Even if it is just within the confines of still having to work with Nakata Yasutaka. I’d definitely like to hear a Perfume album where a-chan, Kashiyuka and Nocchi each get a solo song. Most of Perfume’s songs are a-chan solo songs anyway. But, still.

Sheena had done the promo circuit of TV shows with her suitcase of wigs, where she spoke about collaborating with Nocchi. Some of which was translated by Perfume fan and translator Macaroni575, who continues to do the Lord’s work with translating Perfume stuff.

Sheena had been asking Nocchi for YEARS, and Nocchi said ‘No’ then just avoided a bitch. Relatable.

But it’s interesting to hear how Sheena herself sees Nocchi, because I feel her sentiments are echoed amongst fans. There is just something about her. Nocchi has a magnetism that I’m also drawn to. Sheena is a woman of the people. She gets it.

Sheena going out of her way to seek out Nocchi specifically and not Perfume also speaks to how she was able to see Nocchi specifically through the branding of Perfume. It’s important for a songwriter and a producer to really be able to see a person, and this has been something I’ve remarked on when it comes to how Nakata approaches Perfume’s music. Because I don’t think he truly sees Perfume at all—certainly not in the way that he sees Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, whose music feels very specific to her, which is all off the back of Kyary and Nakata having a genuine relationship separate from the music. There is a barrier between Perfume and Nakata Yasutaka, despite them having worked together for so long. Their relationship is one of just work. But also imbalance, because I feel Perfume revere Nakata too much and that he holds too much power of Perfume’s music, but that’s a WHOLE other post. I don’t feel like Nakata really knows the members of Perfume, or has taken the time to get to know them. Nakata treats Perfume’s music as his own vanity project. It’s all a reflection of him and not Perfume.

Sheena Ringo on the other hand, was able to see Nocchi and create something with her in mind, which is different from what people are used to seeing from her. “Hatsu K.O. Gachi” frames Nocchi in a different light, which speaks to the possibilities of what she could do and is capable of, which is a big part of what music should do. It doesn’t just shift our expectations of Nocchi, but it’s probably shifted things for Nocchi too. Like ‘Oh, wow. I can do this and have an identity which is not JUST Perfume.’ And for some of us fans, we’re like FINALLY. Because we’ve seen and heard Nocchi sing in her natural voice over the years and have long wanted to hear it on a song.

THIS is how Nakata should be looking at Perfume. Through a lens of curiosity and having a clear idea. And this same energy Sheena had when it came to Nocchi and “Hatsu K.O. Gachi” is what I want for those who work with Perfume. Because it would be such a shame for the group to call it quits before they reach their full potential musically, but its looking like that’s exactly what’s gonna happen at this rate. Because I can’t see them ever working with anybody but that man with them fried bangs.

A screenshot from Sheena Ringo’s music video for “Hatsu K.O. Gachi”. Featuring Sheena and Nocchi on stage, wearing Prada denim outfits and boxing gloves.

It’s going to be really interesting to see which doors this collaboration between Sheena Ringo and Nocchi opens, if any.

Sheena Ringo also did an interview with Natalie, where she spoke about her relationship with Hikaru Utada, as their song together “Roman to Soroban” also features on the Houjoya with a slightly different mix and arrangement. And there is more on what it was like to work with Nocchi.

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Nocchi of Perfume features on a song with Sheena Ringo, “Hatsu K.O. Gachi”. And my wig is flying with the pigs.