Saito Soma (Kujo Tenn in IDOLiSH7)
※There were also interviews with Masuda Toshiki, Ono Kensho, and various anime staff, but only Soma’s interview is translated here.
The awkward Tenn’s strictness comes from kindness
Q: The broadcast has reached Episode 12. Were there any scenes that left an impression on you so far?
The conversation in Riku’s room in Episode 5 was extremely memorable. Tenn visits the IDOLiSH7 dorm and confronts Riku with his professionalism and determination as an idol. While they’re talking, funny things are happening elsewhere in the dorm, so it made for a packed episode.
Q: He starts off with a gentle tone of voice, but partway through he switches to quite harsh phrasing, right?
I think that Tenn said those things out of kindness, but since he’s a clumsy man, that was the only way he could express his feelings toward Riku.
Q: Riku lashed back at what Tenn said and Tenn seemed flustered. The changes in their facial expressions and tones of voice were a highlight of this scene.
I felt that Tenn showed that expression not because of Riku’s backlash, but because he was shocked that his feelings didn’t get across. In the mobile game’s second arc, Tenn is depicted as a high wall that Riku is faced with. In the anime’s second season which is based on that arc, Tenn’s strictness is emphasized more prominently. At first my plan was to say his lines a bit more softly, but at the recording, the staff told me, “Because he’s stoic towards Riku and because he’s worried about Riku, please be harsh.” I think that that strictness was also plainly visible in Episode 3 when Tenn sings “Dancing∞BEAT!!”
Q: The scene where Riku was in poor shape and Tenn took his place at the rehearsal, right?
Tenn’s professionalism shines in this scene. He can sing the song even without practicing, and he memorized the choreography. That perfection of his was a shock for Riku. I felt that it was a very fitting scene for Tenn, showing that he doesn’t cut corners even during rehearsal.
Q: I was surprised that the scene with Tenn singing “Dancing∞BEAT!!” came with vocals. His singing voice sounded completely different from when he sings with TRIGGER. Were you given any detailed direction for it?
Not particularly. I just felt that Tenn would be conscious of playing Riku’s part, and I kept that in mind during the recording.
Q: In Season 2, there were a lot of scenes where IDOLiSH7 gets discouraged by external opinions. How did you feel about that?
Mitsuki’s chain of events left a strong impression on me from the original game too. I think that every voice actor will have experienced that at least once. Personally I don’t project myself onto the characters I play, but something about those events resonated with me. One of the great things about Ainana is that it’s not always sparkly and happy—the other aspects are depicted very thoroughly too. Since it shows both the fun times and the painful times without over-embellishing, the story feels deeper.
Q: In Episode 9, when the special units are practicing for the concert, Tenn creates an opportunity for Iori and Riku to have a proper talk. He has a lot of lines that make them realize things, like “It’s because you compare yourself to others that you fall into the pit.”
I feel that this scene is more about Tenn’s professionalism and stoicism guiding the two forward, rather than him giving them advice. Instead of drawing closer to their feelings, he’s telling them that they need to be more determined. Tenn is stoic towards himself and others at all times, and he asks himself what it means to stand on stage as a professional. So, he also questions Riku and Iori on what their stances are as professional idols. I felt that Tenn has a very clear position in Season 2.
Q: It’s amazing that Tenn can continue to be stoic at all times.
Indeed, the word “amazing” sums it up. He made his resolve at an early stage in life, and he’s been walking that path ever since. When I’m voicing Tenn, it makes me want to be a person like that too. Although it’s difficult to be that stoic in real life.
Q: Do you empathize with Tenn in any way?
I think that every voice actor has their own way of approaching their characters. In my case, I don’t overlap myself with Tenn. As a person, I respect Tenn very much, and of course, there are times when I objectively think, “That’s so painful.” I can also sense his fragility, but—impudent as it may be—I can’t see myself in him.
Q: What do you think “idols” are?
In my personal view, they exist in a different world. They sparkle with all their might, and they work extremely hard to accomplish that. I think this goes for all idols in the real world too, not just the ones in Ainana. They’re like seekers. They’re brilliant, and I honestly think they’re amazing.
Q: And what do you think of the fans’ voices?
I’m not an idol so I don’t know for sure, but when I’m performing on stage, I feel that the view from on stage and the feelings that reach me from the audience are things that can only be experienced there. It’s a two-way interaction: the people on stage perform, the audience watches them and sends them their voices and feelings, and the performers take those in and return them in the form of a stronger performance. There’s a circular pattern there.
The direct, passionate Gaku and the balancer Ryunosuke
Q: After it’s announced that Re:vale will be covering a Zero song, society is sent into a roar by a mysterious scrawled message thought to be from Zero: “Get Back My Song.” Re:vale, IDOLiSH7, and TRIGGER are all hounded by the mass media for their opinions on singing Zero’s song. In Episode 12, TRIGGER answers them with an acapella performance of “Last Dimension.” It was really cool.
When I watched the footage, I thought it was a wonderful scene. “Last Dimension” is a song we already recorded before, but since it was a new arrangement, we got to sing it again, and I was extremely thankful for that experience. It also matched the visuals very well. I thought it was beautiful. Gaku said something good in the scene right before the song, right? It’s one thing if the person themselves is saying it, but it’s different if other people are saying it. I completely agree, and since it was Gaku saying it, it was extremely convincing. I think that Gaku is always saying passionate, good things.
Q: Gaku comes in with smart lines at critical moments. And in Episode 10 when Momo is anxious, Gaku tells Yuki to say to him, “You’re my only eternal partner.” It’s embarrassing, but it’s what Momo wants to hear.
Indeed. Gaku is a very direct person, so he doesn’t put on airs or tell lies. Because of that, his words carry strong emotion and they resound with the person hearing them.
Q: What about Ryunosuke?
I felt this during Episode 12 too, but even though the TRIGGER members are different types of people, you have Tenn and Gaku asserting themselves and Ryunosuke acting as the balancer connecting them. It’s because he’s there that they can be TRIGGER. In Episode 5 he was drunkenly rambling in Okinawa dialect the whole time and I didn’t know exactly what he was saying, but I could tell that he was having fun. I think that’s a great thing about him too.
Q: Episode 13 and onwards seem like they’ll be about Re:vale confronting their problem. What’s your impression of Re:vale?
Re:vale’s story is a major axis of Season 2. From a regular viewer’s perspective, I can sympathize with Momo’s sorrow. After the two spent so many years together, there are things that can’t be easily changed. IDOLiSH7’s method is to be reckless and work together to overcome their failures, but it may be difficult for Re:vale to choose that approach. I think that some of their pain stems from the fact that they have to be mature adults.
Q: What should we look out for in regards to TRIGGER?
The story up until now strongly emphasized Tenn’s strictness and stoicism. At the same time, we saw that he might not be good at showing his honest feelings. But in future developments, we get a glimpse of his natural self that he normally doesn’t show when he’s performing. I hope that when you see it, the gap from his current standoffish attitude will make you think, “This is what he was really thinking?” I want you to see how TRIGGER can talk about a lot of things after their unity as a team solidified in Season 1.
Q: Lastly, a message for the readers.
Thank you for watching Ainana up until now. Due to various circumstances, the recordings this season weren’t very straightforward, but I’m glad that we got to deliver the anime to you. Also, the director and all of the staff pour their hearts into creating every episode, and I’m truly grateful to be able to be part of the series as a voice actor. The idols go through a lot of problems in the story, but I hope you’ll see with your own eyes where they end up. We’re almost at the final episode, but after coming so far, I want to see what happens next too, and the production staff may feel the same way. This series gives me the passion to want to keep doing it. But despite my impatience, first I’d like you to enjoy Season 2 until the end.
Q: How would you spend Christmas with Tenn and the others?
I want to drink with Ryunosuke and Yamato. I think it’d be fun. Drinking with Sogo-san would require courage *laughs*, but I want to drink with the adults and hear their candid thoughts and feelings. If I was giving Tenn a present, it’d be something like cute earmuffs. I think he already has scarves and coats, so I want to give him something that he wouldn’t specifically buy himself. Also, a vacation. I don’t know if Tenn would approve of receiving a vacation, but I honestly want to know how he switches between his days off and his stage time. I also want to give him items that would help him rest and relax.