A New Kind of Cinema: KPop Group ‘LOONA’ Is Changing the Storytelling Game

KPop – or Korean Pop Music – has no shortage of beautiful visuals. Whether it be through their members (some of which are in fact labelled as visuals) or through the illustrious sets created for the perfect concept, no expense is spared. Filled with colour, emotion and of course, incredible dance routines, the KPop music video game is quite like no other and has taken the world by storm. BTS’s #IdolChallenge from their hit single – Idol – had fans all over the world recreating its iconic choreography whilst weirder videos, such as Orange Caramel’s Catellena, made audiences around the world beg for understanding on what just happened. Regardless of the standing, the world seems to have fallen in love with the KPop experience. But when the experience is such a regimented, widely loved phenomenon, how do you change the game?

On 20th August 2018, Blockberry Creative’s first girl group, LOONA, said hello to the world through their debut single, Hi High. Filled with colour, greetings and a rush of wind into a new world, LOONA waste no time in to waving to their eager fans (who they lovingly call their Orbits). Though unlike other groups, LOONA’s following was already established by their debut; they had been debuting as soloists and subunits since October 2016 and continue to tease them with what’s yet to come.

“I know that you’re looking at me /

More than anyone /

But I just want to keep teasing you

Heejin in Hi High

 

Members of LOONA in order of debut (left to right, top to bottom) 1.Heejin, 2.Hyunjin, 3.Haseul, 4.Yeojin, 5.ViVi, 6.Kim Lip, 7.Jinsoul, 8.Choerry, 9.Yves, 10.Chuu, 11.Gowon and 12.Olivia Hye

Compared to other KPop groups, LOONA’s debut was certainly unconventional. In fact, their debut is the first of its kind and is almost two years in the making. Starting with founding member and supposed ‘creator’ of the LOONAverse, fans first glimpse into this extraordinary debut through Heejin’s solo single – ViVid. Here we are given an Alice in Wonderland inspired glimpse into the world to come through the rose-tinted lenses of Heejin.

With three strong years of carefully crafted lore under its belt, to understand just how intricate this universe is would take hours (many of which I have lost delving into dozens of YouTube videos that quick literally pick these music videos apart frame by frame). However, in order to give you a small idea of just what you’re in for, here’s a small introduction to the world of the LOONAverse.

The LOONAverse exists on a mobius strip: a continuous surface of a rectangle that has been joined together but one side flipped by 180 degrees to create an unbreakable surface. Each of the members resides in a different area of this strip, and in different planes in the universe.

Along with this, each of the girls is assigned a representative colour and animal, with others also having representative fruit, locations and even supernatural powers. This all varies with each girl’s location within the mobius strip and is all extremely important information.

The official poster for LOONA’s debut concert, LOONAbirth, featuring the LOONAverse (aka. its mobius strip)

For example, my mentioning of Heejin’s rose-tinted look at life is no accident; her designated colour is pink, after all, and this colour in itself tells us a lot about Heejin’s character in the LOONAverse. She is an optimist, filling the world with life and colour from the dark world she had known (as shown through the black and white shots that open the video).

“This world without colours /

It’s so boring /

Would you change it with your fingertips?

Red, yellow, orange, green /

More vividly be okay?” 

Heejin in ViVid

This is a stark contrast to the twelfth and final member of LOONA, Olivia Hye, whose signature colour shows a far more pessimistic view on life. Olivia Hye debuted as a soloist and an official member of LOONA on 30th March 2018, nearly eighteen months after Heejin, with her single Egoist. Egoist takes a much darker tone that Heejin’s ViVid, even going as far to revert the world back to the black and white tones that Heejin had so liberally painted with colour. You could say they were almost exact opposites of one another, and that would be a rather apt conclusion.

Egoist depicts Olivia Hye’s journey of self-discovery and self-love, taking a much more sinister tone than the rest of her members to create a suspiciously villainous character. “I’ll love myself instead of you,” she sings, “I’ll live on,” as she rejects her fall from grace and becomes the person she was always meant to be, complete with wolf and blood-like imagery.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkY8HvgvBJ8

What’s interesting with Olivia Hye’s videos is how is connects to so many of her fellow members. Most obviously, is its connection with Heejin – who appears at the end of the video to complete the LOONA cycle and presenting the formation of LOONA as a whole (who are otherwise known as the Girls of the Month, therefore presenting a new “year” in the LOONA calendar). Though along with Heejin, seventh member Jinsoul is the only other member to appear in Olivia Hye’s video, providing an intoxicating rap whilst enshrouded in blue – her signature colour. Behind her lies Chinese characters which translate to “Fallen Angel,” a clear calling to fifth member ViVi, the only foreign (and Chinese) member of LOONA, who we are introduced to as an android in LOONA 1/3’s debut single, Love & Live. But with the opening shot of Olivia Hye being her laying on a mattress shrouded by white feathers, fans are becoming even more suspicious that ViVi is not the only fallen angel of the LOONAverse, and that Olivia Hye might just play a hand in ViVi’s reincarnation. Especially since burning cassettes are a regular motif in Egoist, and cassettes being a key feature of Vivi’s solo debut, Everyday I Love You.

Jinsoul is also theorised to have a part in Olivia Hye and Vivi’s story. Her segment opens with someone pulling out an earphone, harking back to Odd Eye Circle’s Sweet, Crazy Love music video in which Jinsoul’s earphone is pulled out by an unknown force, suggesting that this may have been a warning from her future self. Plus, with visuals that hark back to her own solo single, Singing in the Rain, where she tells us Orbits that she is “guilty of swallowing the sun in the afternoon,” it is clear to see that Jinsoul’s place in the LOONAverse is definitely intertwined with Olivia Hye in more ways than we may realise.

It is speculated that Jinsoul is involved with ViVi’s rebirth as an android and is trapped in Hong Kong (ViVi’s place of birth) by Olivia Hye, the place which she supposedly breaks out of in Singing in the Rain, which features many metaphors of breaking free – including lights which change from vertical to horizontal, signifying her escape. For what reason this has all occurred is yet unknown, but it is certainly worth delving deep into the theory pages to find out what everyone else thinks.

These members are not the only ones connected in the LOONAverse, as many other members show up in one another’s videos for one reason or another. Haseul appeared at the end on Chuu’s Heart Attack, donning clothes exactly the same as the one she wore in The Carol, a Christmassy trio with Heejin and Hyunjin. Yves is also a major focus in Heart Attack, leaving fans to theorise that Chuu has a crush on Yves due to her obsession with her in the video. In Yves’ own video, the sultry soultronic  number – new – ViVi and Choerry appear; ViVi being led in a skate like dream almost identical to that of the one depicted in her solo, Everyday I Love You, where she relives her pre-android memories surrounded by her fellow LOONA 1/3 members. Choerry, on the other hand, appears momentarily in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance that LOONA loves to toy fans with, catching one of Yves’s rebellion-inducing apples. Speaking of Choerry, Hyunjin, Yeojin, Jinsoul and Kim Lip all feature in her video, Love Cherry Motion, giving the audience a small glimpse into Choerry’s dimension hopping abilities as she is the only member to appear in all three locations within the mobius strip. LOONA does not throw these members into each other’s videos for no reason, there is always a hidden meaning. You just have to dig to find it.

A map of mirrors as featured in Choerry’s solo video, Love Cherry Motion, which gives Choerry access to all areas and members within the LOONAverse, enshrouded by her signature colour – purple.

LOONA is an intertextual goldmine within itself, having created a full realised universe where every lyric, post and visual is brimming with hidden meaning. It knows its audience too, often providing new details about the LOONAverse through its Instagram posts, which are usually translated into both English and Korean for the benefit of international fans.

To truly understand the LOONAverse and the intricate depths BlockBerry Creative have created with their flagship girl group, you have to not only delve into the videos themselves, but the comments sections. Watch these videos, watch them again and then watch them even more – I can guarantee there is something you have missed. For a full list of their music videos, you can watch them here.

Their latest single, Butterfly, suggests an exploration into the eleventh member – Gowon – whose signature creature is that of, you guessed it, a butterfly. “LOOΠΔ causes a Butterfly effect through music for the listeners to gain courage, find oneself, and raise one’s voice. Anyone under influence, is another LOOΠΔ,” BlockBerry Creative write in Butterfly’s video description, and it is certainly apt. The LOONAverse they have created is as contagious as it is intriguing, a masterpiece of visual storytelling and intersplicing narratives. And when you consider that the LOONAverse singles are not in chronological order, it makes this project even more of an impressive feat.

Ultimately, the LOONAverse is completely changing the KPop change. By using a medium that is almost taken for granted by everyday viewers, LOONA and BlockBerry created have created a brand-new world, hidden within music, song, dance and visuals – where nothing is a coincidence, and everything is connected. There is much more hidden within the twisted realms of the LOONAverse, and many unanswered questions to be answered. Did Olivia Hye kill ViVi? What happened to Yeojin – the only member of subunit LOONA 1/3 not to be present in promotions? How does Gowon – the ‘x’ in the third and final subunit yyxy – differ from her other members, and play her part in the LOONAverse? But most importantly, will LOONA answer our burning questions, or have they answered them already? The only way to find out is to watch, wait, and re-watch the content we already have; that is the true beauty of the LOONAverse.

13 comments

  1. Vivi is actually the one to save Jinsoul from the basement in Hong Kong, this is canon thanks to the bits of official lore in some of the music video descriptions. And the members featured in Love Cherry Motion alongside Choerry are: Haseul, Yeojin, Jinsoul and Kim Lip (Hyunjin was not present but Haseul was). Other than that, this was a wonderful article, the amount of detail really shows the hard work and dedication behind this article. 🙂

  2. Look into the Bangtan Universe (aka the BU) from BTS. It predates this by a few years. Love Loona but to say they changed the kpop game with this ignores that BTS with their company BigHit really changed the game. If you want to go at it from the angle of their debut tactic in presenting each member individually and than in a small unit than sure in that respect they are. But the BU is the result of too many years of ridiculously hard work and planning and extends even into album notes, fake sns accounts that hinted at comebacks and required reading for said comebacks, short films.and manga; and is in planning to extend into a drama for it not to get credit for “changing the game”.

  3. The LOONAverse is irreplaceable. It is so unique that it has the potential of being written as a novel, or even showcased as a movie. Implementing different aspects such as the Möbius strip, the butterfly effect, the color wheel, and so much more, the LOONAverse ultimately stands out. All minute details that are yet to be discovered are hidden all around LOONA’s music videos, some of which even gave hints of the next chapter of their story which is yet to unfold. Amazingly, while the LOONAverse continues to expand, so does the influence of LOONA on its fans, Orbits. Though the complexity of the lore may appear to be a barrier between a fan and LOONA, it does the opposite. In fact, it does more. Many Orbits have uploaded content of their interpretations on the LOONAverse which sparked many interactions between the fanbase and thus led to a strong connection between them. Some even uploaded original songs dedicated to Orbits, which is an unusual way of how fanbases bond. Nevertheless, the fact that a group named LOONA, who has an eye-opening story to tell which led a diverse community to bond, is astonishing. Although it is undeniable that many other groups have other stories of their own, LOONA’s execution is perfect. Posting teasers on a certain time, dance covers which correlate to the group’s comeback and jaw-dropping films; releasing songs in which its lyrics were also tied to the LOONAverse, also in which its notes were placed strategically to not just make the song sound pleasing, but to describe the LOONAverse; revealing many symbolism in the story; and including the many other efforts that were made to showcase the LOONAverse, LOONA has definitely stepped up the storytelling game.

    In conclusion, stan LOONA.

  4. this was beautifully written. i’m sure many others will want to check out loona after reading this masterpiece

  5. @bambi maybe if you stanned loona you wouldn’t be the way you are

  6. thank you so much. this was very well written, well researched. this is sure to make many interested in loona

  7. Thank you so much. Despite Butterfly being released months ago, for orbits this type of notability means the world to us. This article was written with prior knowledge, time and thorough research, and explains Loona and the loonaverse in a a lot more detailed light then what I’ve seen from an article so far. Perhaps there’s an orbit behind this masterpiece? Either way, It’s much appreciated. So thank you.

  8. @bambi “BU” doesn’t “predate” this concept at all. BTS and LOONA tackle lore and story in their own unique ways, and so have many other K-Pop groups. Stop trying to downplay the achievements of other groups; you’re donning the hat of the typical frothing-at-the-mouth ARMY who thinks BTS created the entire genre of K-Pop.

    Other than that, excellent article. Definitely an angle that deserves attention.

  9. @JinsoulTheeStallion and @ Anonymous

    I am stating facts that they could not change a game that was already shown to be changed in the particular way the author is arguing. I have no problem with the article besides that. It is greatly researched besides the fact that the author attributed an innovation to a group when the said innovation for the industry was clearly already around and could have been easily found with minimal research.

    @Anonymous How does the BU not predate Loona Universe? I need u was in april 2015. They had the prologue film, run, wings shorts fims, a fake sns account that etc. All by the time the first solo for loona was released in 2016. Loona fans were constantly discussing how Loona had a devdloping storyline like Bts. I have not downplayed their achievmemts just because I pointed out a flawed argument claiming the group to be changing the game for storytelling in kpop by creating a long form narrative across multiple media forms, when those are things Bts has been known for.

    Pointing out this flaw is not taking away from the uniqueness of Loonas own story, nor is it disregarding the effort put into the undertaking. Nor is it me “claiming that bts invented the entire genre of kpop”, which is a ridiculous thing for you to have put into my mouth. It is simply pointing out a flaw in the otherwise excelently researched article.

    You claiming that I am a typical frothing at the mouth Army for pointing out that there is in fact a predating Universe which could have potentially been the game changer instead of this one…. well its along the same lines as people claiming someone feels threatened on behalf of bts when they simply correct someone using/ spreading around false statistics. Aka anyone with half a brain who is not biased against bts should not have any issue with me pointing out that the BU does in fact predate this and has the attributes that the author used to claim this to be a game-changer. Which again is the only issue I had with the article because and get this it disregards Bts in the same way you are claiming I disregard Loona – which I did not do. Because I never tried to claim that they haven’t created a fantastic and intricate Universe across multiple media forms at the time that they did. But the author by failing to research other examples before attributing game changer status to the Loona Universe did disregard that Bts does in fact have their own incredibly intricate Universe. And you by claiming that the BU does not predate Loona Universe are disregarding when the BU started.

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