It’s not very common for a set of words like “furry”, “unicorn”, and “kawaii” to spring to mind when thinking of a particular K-pop MV, but WJSN‘s “I Wish” is not just any K-pop MV. It’s retro in its aesthetic choices but futuristic in its conceptualisation, and it’s an explosion of colour and textures but its palette remains visually cohesive.
“I Wish” builds on the cosmic theme from WJSN’s previous release, “Secret”. While “Secret” is very beautiful, the different visual parts are somewhat disjointed, and don’t add up to a coherent whole. “I Wish” takes some elements from “Secret”, like the pink ground and unusual sky colour, but it pushes in a bolder direction visually while presenting a coherent aesthetic. It’s like someone scooped generous servings of Lisa Frank, Dr. Seuss’s truffula trees, and 1980s Care Bears and My Little Pony into a MV-making machine, and it produced the wonderful quirky visual spectacle that is “I Wish”.
Pastels are a mainstay in many K-pop MVs, especially for girl groups and summer releases. But “I Wish” establishes a visual style I’m coming to see as unique to WJSN. It draws from Japanese fairy kei fashion and combines this with cosmic motifs and non-pastel shades like dark pink or rainbow colours that are very Lisa Frank, but still mesh well with the colour scheme. The colours even extend to the bars above and below the MV’s image, switching out the usual solid colours like white or black for a changing pastel gradient.
A key trait of fairy kei fashion is the incorporation of accessories from Western toy lines or cartoons from the 1980s and 1990s. “I Wish” side-steps copyrighting or advertising issues by not using accessories from these lines, but it still manages to recreate this retro aesthetic through the use of colours. The fairy kei influence is evident in the soft pastels of the costumes and accessories: Luda‘s furry backpack, Seol-ah‘s furry coat, and Yeo-reum‘s puffy paddle-pop-coloured jacket—all of these are such wardrobe goals—as well as the stickers and keychains hanging from the girls’ pink electronics. There’s also the unicorn motif—how adorable is it and Mei Qi and Xuan Yi dress up as unicorns with a cone and a white cape?
From the flip phones, the gameboys, and the neon pink cat’s cradle, to the opening and closing shots that create a montage of computer windows from the 1990s, the MV’s visual choices will likely feel familiar to someone who grew up in the period. Despite the strong visual influence of an essentially retro style, though, the MV also has some futuristic elements, like the glowing portals that transport the girls from day to night or from the maze to the fields, or modern ones like the happy face emoji that swells into a heart eyes emoji as it is reeled in on a fishing rod.
Song-wise, “I Wish” isn’t so much of a stand-out like “Secret”, and the auto-tuned parts sound out of place in what would otherwise be a clean pop number. Nonetheless, it builds on the mid-tempo beat that characterises “Secret”, adding on light synths for a fresh sound that allows the girls’ vocals to shine, much like “Secret”. The sense of consistency yet the allowance for development or some experimentation in both the song and MV is helping WJSN to establish their signature sound and visual style, which will hopefully give a boost to the recognition of the group and their music.
MV Rating: 3.8/5