Broadcast: 2021/3/23 (Part 1), 2021/3/30 (Part 2)
Original Name: アサデス。
The second “Asadesu.” interview by Miyata Toshiya from Kis-My-Ft2, an avid seiyuu fan. Soma is the seiyuu he’s supporting the most right now!
Before the interview, there was a short clip of Soma reading a morning call in a princely voice.
Miyata: I interviewed you remotely last September, so this is my first time meeting you in person
Saito: I’d been wondering when I’d be able to meet you, so I’m really happy to be here
Miyata: Out of all the voice actors who are 20-30 years old, I think your voice is the coolest!
(Quick video featuring Saito Soma’s anime roles, Hypmic, and his artist career)
Miyata: I thought your songs were really nice, and then I went “Wait, he wrote all of these himself?” and the moment I thought that, it felt like… the person “Saito Soma” was right there, and I got really into them
Miyata: Also, congratulations on your 1 million YouTube views [on the Date MV]
Saito: *laughs* I think you might be more knowledgeable than I am
(Quick artist career video)
~About why Saito Soma began writing songs~
Saito: When I was a teenager, I was already writing songs as a hobby. I was in a band with my friends. After I became a voice actor, I still wrote songs every now and then even though I wasn’t going to show them to anyone. Then one day, I decided to show my music producer what my songs were like, and he was like “Oh! You write now!”
Miyata: Is he from Johnny’s? Our ex-president? *laughs*
Miyata: I sensed a lot of intelligence from your word choice. What’s your favourite word out of your lyrics?
Saito: I have a song called “Deraciné,” and there’s a phrase in it that goes “kaze ni natte tayutatte itatte iinda.” I like things that can’t be explained in words. So it’s like, “I want to be something that drifts around like the wind.” That’s the first thing that comes to mind right now.
Miyata: I see… You’re so smart that I don’t really understand what you’re saying
Saito: S-Sorry *laughs*
Miyata: I got through 20 years of Johnny’s with just “Whoa!” and “Really?!”
Miyata: Your tour starts in April, right? And the first stop is in Fukuoka
Saito: I don’t get many opportunities to go to Fukuoka or Kyushu for work, so to be honest, I’m really restless right now. I hope to be able to put on a performance that only the air and atmosphere in Fukuoka can bring out, so please look forward to it. Thank you very much.
~A battle between Miyacchi and Saito Soma in Old Maid~
Miyata: An Old Maid game where you can learn Fukuoka lingo!
Miyata: Since you’re coming to Fukuoka in April for the start of your live tour, we prepared this so that you can learn Fukuoka words and locations to use in your MC.
Saito: That’s so nice of you! Thank you!
Miyata: The rules are standard, but instead of pictures, the cards have Fukuoka phrases on them (in Hakata-ben and whatnot). When we get a pair we can discard it, but we have to read out the phrase in a cool voice. If you win, then 20 seconds of your MV will be aired. If I win, then 5 seconds of your MV will be aired.
Saito: So I essentially win either way?
Saito: That’s so kind of you
Miyata: Kis-My-Ft2 doesn’t get to be aired?! Come on, air us too!!
(MV of Kis-My-Ft2 – Luv Bias)
Miyacchi shuffles the cards – which have a Yu-Gi-Oh-esque back
Miyata: This brings me back to my childhood
Saito: It makes you remember, right?
Miyata: I wanted Blue Eyes
Soma finds a pair in his starting hand…
Saito: Um, I’d rather have this said to me
Saito: Nee nee… sono seki… totto-to? (Hey… is that seat… available?)
Miyacchi also has a pair in his starting hand
Miyata: I’ve got a tough one here… Chikugo-Funagoya ni wa… Tamasuta (Chikugo-Funagoya has Tomahawk Stadium) *laughs*
Saito: That was cool
Miyata: Really? Thank you
Saito: It was an ikemen voice!
Miyata: Thanks. Oh man… the person with the coolest voice said I have an ikemen voice
The game begins
Saito: ORE NO TURN! DRAW!
He draws the old maid
Miyata: Oh, a pair! *angry voice* Kosuka~!! …Sorry, what does this mean?
Miyata: Oh, “unfair”! So the way I said it wasn’t necessarily wrong, good
Saito: Boku no turn… DRAW!
Saito: *drew a pair* I want this to be said to me…!! Naa… bari sukicchan (Hey… I really like you)
Miyata: So cool! *in tears* That’s… the voice I always hear in anime… *wiping tears* I always hear this voice…
Saito: Um, this program is called “Asa desu” (“it’s morning”) but now I’m “Ase desu” (“I’m sweating”)
Miyacchi draws a card
Miyata: A pair! Chihaya-eki no tsugi wa~ Kashii-eki ya ne (The next stop after Chihaya Station is Kashii Station) …I feel like TOKIO’s leader now
Saito: Kashii Station and Chihaya Station?
Miyata: Apparently Kashii Station has a lot of students, so the students might be happy if you know about it
Saito: Ohh, I see
Saito: Watashi no turn… Draw.
Saito: *drew a pair but seems to be confused*
Saito: *old man voice* Ah… Zasshonokuma de… mattorubai! (I’m waiting at Zasshonokuma (name of a building))
Miyata: Wow! That was lifelike! I could visualize the scene!
Miyacchi has one card left, Soma has two including the old maid
Miyata: I’ll win this, and Soma’s MV will play for 5 seconds! DRAW!
He draws the old maid
Saito: I choose you!
He draws the old maid
Miyacchi draws the old maid again
Miyata: The face on this card is starting to annoy me
Saito: It’s like it’s mocking you, right?
Saito: Watashi no turn… Draw!
Saito: *drew the final pair*
Saito: *whispering voice* Nanshiyotto? (What are you up to?)
Miyata: Okay then, it’s Soma-kun’s victory!
Saito: Thank you
Miyata: It’s my loss. Please play the MV!
Saito: Please watch this MV of a song I wrote~
(carpool MV plays)
Saito: I’m glad that I got to be on such a warm, friendly program, thank you! I’m really happy *bows*
*they do the Asadesu pose together*
(no scans because it’s still a recent release)
※Part 2 of the discussion with Nakao Ryusei.
Saito Soma and his respected former teacher discuss “Voice Actor Training School” (Part 2)
—Why did Nakao-san start teaching at a training school?
Nakao: I actually didn’t want to be a teacher *laughs*. At first, it was a study group. They told me to “look after the youngsters” and I thought, “I’m not old enough to be doing that!” I was just under 30 at the time.
Saito: I’m 29, so for you to be asked that at around this age… Wow!
Nakao: The number of people in the study group grew, and they decided to turn it into a proper training school. In the early days, I’d even get questions like, “I have an audition tomorrow; how should I read this?”…
Nakao: I learned acting through self-study, so it was embarrassing to be called “Sensei,” to the point where I felt bad about it. But I think that when you’re teaching people something, it shouldn’t be what you digested and applied for yourself. When I became a lecturer, I started reading books about acting. The content was complicated, but I realized that it was all things I’d already been doing.
Saito: That’s amazing.
Nakao: The best part was studying with trainees who had much better sensibilities than me. It was stimulating and educational because we had completely different perspectives.
—In the past, voice acting training schools didn’t exist to begin with, after all.
Nakao: Yes, in a way, it’s good to be taught. But things that are simply taught are also simply forgotten. Besides, nowadays you can easily look up answers on your phone, although whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on the person. Back in my day, we would go all the way to the National Diet Library to research things. No one would teach us, so we often embarrassed ourselves at work. At training school, we teach various things so that students can avoid that situation, but in the end, you learn more from actually doing the job.
Saito: Without experience, you slip up. Even if you know in your head what to do, it doesn’t manifest at the recording unless you’ve fully grasped it.
Nakao: In these thirty-plus years, 81 Produce’s training school went from a three-year format to two, then one. Instead of leisurely studying the art, people want to become an immediate asset. The trainees are so serious that I wish I could tell them that they don’t have to stress so much about it. After all, I didn’t take acting that seriously in my life.
Saito: In my class, there were a lot of people who were truly amazing, and I was grateful to be able to study with them. Their personalities were diverse, but I think a lot of them were hungry for knowledge and progression.
Nakao: Your class really was diverse.
Saito: At the time, I was the type to think through everything, so I was extremely scared of making mistakes.
Nakao: There are people like you, and there are people who don’t plan anything. With the latter, I enjoy seeing what they’ll show in the future. There’s no correct answer, after all.
Saito: Thinking about it now, back then I was overly complacent with my knowledge and assumptions.
Nakao: You were quick to evolve when you were told to do a retake. Conversely, it means that you were too serious. At times like that, seniors tend to say “Go wild with it!”, but then it becomes, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Saito: I really wondered that *laughs*. Actually, I probably still don’t know for sure what it means…
Nakao: They’re just trying to say, “Don’t conform to the norm.” The idea is that if you’re given the number “10” and you give a compact formula like “5 x 2”, they’re telling you to instead answer with something like “10000 – 9990.” But that way of thinking isn’t really something you can just do. In fact, people who always give answers like that get told, “Come up with a normal formula!” *laughs*
Saito: Since people start with their own values as the baseline, everyone has unique traits. But Nakao-san, you give off the impression that you’ll accept any approach people take.
Nakao: That’s the only way we can phrase it. But I knew that everyone in your class was thinking deeply in their own ways, so I didn’t say much. The only thing we can teach you is formulaic approaches. We just want you to be more versatile.
Saito: I don’t think the focus of the lessons was on techniques—you taught us more fundamental things. It felt like you were saying, “If that’s the method you choose, then explore it thoroughly.” There’s logical thinking vs. acting through feeling, and you didn’t guide us towards one approach over the other. I’m really thankful for that now. At training school, I got stuck a lot while thinking things through, but before long, I started thinking, “Dialogues are really fun!” I feel like I’m leaning more towards the “feeling” side as the years go by. As I walk the path of an actor, the way I perceive the world continues to change. At training school, I learned how to get started with the fascination of voice acting.
Nakao: I’m glad to hear that. It’s just that it’s hard for trainees to think of it that way, because everyone is in a rush to become pros. Knowing that, I say these things in hope that the meaning will reach them someday in the future. I also teach them, “It’s okay if you don’t have a sense for it.” If you don’t, then you can succeed by being aware of the fact that you don’t.
Saito: You also said, “There’s nothing you can do about how nice everyone else’s voices are.”
Nakao: Even a weird voice like mine is fine, after all.
Saito: What are you saying *laughs*. You taught us that it’s good to look at things from different angles and perspectives.
—Can the teachers tell which trainees are improving?
Nakao: We don’t expect them to be skilled when they’re still in training school, but as we’re teaching, we can sense which ones are probably going to be ready to work soon.
Saito: How can you tell?
Nakao: It’s their acting spirit—whether they’re geared towards acting and creating as a group. With animation dubbing, once you’ve done it three times, you can match up with anyone. So the people who move on to become voice actors are those who can do the acting properly.
Saito: The way I think of it is that when you’re performing a dialogue, it feels like your brains are connected.
Nakao: It’s like playing catch.
Saito: For me, what’s important when acting is essentially the “conversation” aspect, with the other actors, the story, and myself. It’s exactly like how we’re talking right now. Instead of deciding everything in advance, taking in what’s said and reacting to it. It’s something you do without thinking, but actors who really enjoy it have radiant acting that draws you in.
Nakao: I think everyone has desires, like wanting to be famous or make money. But there are a lot of things you can accomplish even if you don’t achieve those. Just because you aren’t famous or you don’t make a lot of money doesn’t mean you aren’t a good actor. Although, I can only say this because of my age—young people might not be able to think this way. When I was your age, Soma, I was hopelessly cocky. And I thought, “Will I be able to do better acting when I’m 30?”…
Saito: …I also vaguely assumed that something will change when I turn 30. *laughs*
Nakao: When I turned 30, I thought, “I guess it’s not enough, maybe it has to be 40.” When I turned 50, I thought, “Hmm, maybe it’s 60.” This year I finally turned 70, and all I can think is, “Huh, I always sucked.” But even though I sucked, I still made it this far. When I was young, I was obsessed with getting better.
Saito: Being reckless in your own way, thinking, “I think I just grasped something,” only to become unsure the next moment…
Nakao: It’s an endless repeat of that process.
Saito: Even though I didn’t fully understand what I was taught at training school at the time, as I’m working, there are times when I realize, “So this is what they meant.” One example is your story about the time when you were busy with both work and personal matters. You were standing in front of the mic, and once you thought, “This isn’t the right state of mind for acting,” you were easily able to give a good performance. I also had a time when I got stuck because I was thinking too hard, and I thought, “I don’t get it! I’m going to clear away the jumbled mess in my mind for a second!”, and it felt like my field of vision opened up a bit. I immediately understood what you told us back then.
Nakao: The hardest thing for rookie voice actors to learn on the job is mic work (switching in and out with other voice actors due to the limited number of mics). Right now, due to COVID-19, everyone has their own mic… but I think rookies will have a hard time with it when the pandemic is over.
Saito: Even I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do it anymore…
Nakao: You’ll be just fine *laughs*. A long time ago, a rookie voice actor was gently instructed by his senior, “Come over here.” The rookie answered, “I’m fine right here,” and the senior scolded him, “If you stay there, the mic rotation won’t work!” Rookies should listen to what their seniors say.
Saito: Speaking of what happens at the studio, there’s one thing I want to tell you here, Ryusei-san.
Nakao: What is it? *laughs*
Saito: You taught us that, “At the studio, rookies sit close to the door and open/close it during breaks,” and I put that into practice. Then, much later, when I had the opportunity to work with you again, I was all motivated to sit next to the door… but when I arrived, you were already sitting in the chair closest to the door.
Nakao: I’m really sorry *laughs*. I’ve always been timid, so I feel the most relaxed next to the door. And I get scolded by the rookies, who say, “There’s nowhere for us to sit now.”
Saito: It made me anxious, like “Huh?!” *laughs* I’m obviously joking, but I really do feel nervous when we’re at the same recording. But like you said at training school, “If we meet at the recording studio…”
Nakao: “We’re already fellow actors.”
Saito: When I greeted you, you said, “Oh, we got to meet at work!” I was happy that you remembered me.
Nakao: I’m glad to run into trainees at work. But I’m the most nervous of all—I don’t want them to think, “What? He’s nothing special after all.”
Saito: We absolutely won’t think that!
—Please give some advice for those who want to become voice actors.
Saito: I’m in no position to be giving advice, but…
Nakao: Nowadays, people are joining the training school because they want to be like you! Don’t run away. *laughs*
Saito: Sorry *laughs*. It reminds me of when I was a teenager. I was extremely cynical back then. I couldn’t really play with everyone at school festivals or hang out after school. I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m addicted to voice acting now. I can go back to being a high schooler over and over.
Nakao: I see. *laughs*
Saito: My humble opinion is that it’s definitely better to be honest and enjoy yourself right now.
Nakao: I completely agree.
Saito: The world is in a tough place right now, so I can’t say anything irresponsible, but I believe that everything you feel and experience right now in this moment will become your assets. For me, it hurts to remember my cynical days, but when I encounter a character like that, I can make use of my experiences.
Nakao: Fully take in what you’re feeling right now and enjoy the present. It’ll benefit you in the future no matter what your profession is.
Saito: Lastly, I have a brazen request… I want to do a reading with you, Ryusei-san.
Nakao: Of course! I’ve been telling everyone, “Play the main role, and invite me as a guest.” If I can appear once on everyone’s programs, I’ll have a peaceful life in old age. *laughs*
Saito: Wow! *laughs* I’ll strive towards being able to work with you again! Thank you very much for today.
(no scans because it’s still a recent release)
Saito Soma’s new serialization where he discusses “How It’s Made” with anime industry professionals. The first guest is Nakao Ryusei, who was Saito’s teacher at voice actor training school. Nakao was born in 1951 and debuted at the age of 5 on a radio drama. He discovered the industry in an era where “voice acting was an actor’s part-time job.” He became known for roles such as Baikinman in Anpanman and Frieza in Dragon Ball Z, and in 1985, he got involved in training the next generation at the previous iteration of 81 Produce’s training school. When Saito enrolled there, Nakao considered him “already skilled” from the very beginning. Here, they discuss what a training school teacher does and what the place means to voice actors.
Saito Soma and his respected former teacher discuss “Voice Actor Training School” (Part 1)
Saito: I went to training school more than ten years ago. There are a lot of things that I don’t remember very well, but I do still remember what happened there. For example, going to a summer festival with all of my classmates, like Komada (Wataru)-kun, Ueda (Reina)-san, and Takahashi Rie-chan. I think there were a lot of unique people in our year.
Nakao: It was a fun class with a lot of motivated people.
Saito: I feel like we also caused a lot of trouble *laughs*. I think there were a lot of really ambitious people. After class, we would always discuss what we learned that day in front of the train station.
Saito: I really enjoyed the debates we had. It was truly a time of adolescence, struggling and frustration included.
Nakao: 81 Produce’s training school curriculum used to be three years. You went there for one year, right? In the first semester you studied voice fundamentals and readings, the second semester was animation voicing, and the third semester was dubbing Western films. But now, animation voicing is done in the first semester.
Saito: Right off the bat?!
Nakao: Anime dialogue is caricaturized to begin with. Before you can study realistic dialogue and acting, you have to do caricaturized acting. There are also classes for fundamentals, speaking, and narration, but it’s still rather tough.
Saito: That’s demanding.
Nakao: The “Words” class that I teach is taught by two teachers in two time blocks. One teaches fundamentals while the other is for practical application like anime dubbing. We take turns teaching the blocks.
Saito: So, Ryusei-san taught me both fundamentals and practical application. We did the “Uirou-uri” (a type of kabuki prologue used for practicing articulation and enunciation) too, right? What I remember most from the lessons is “Wasshoi” which used the lyrics from Kitahara Hakushuu’s Omatsuri.
Nakao: We still do that now.
Saito: The line “Wasshoi, wasshoi. It’s a festival, it’s a festival!” would be repeated, and the following lines would be different things like “A hanagasa on our backs~” or “A portable shrine; it’s a portable shrine~”. We would all stand in a circle and recite the verses from memory. The person speaking goes in the middle of the circle, and when they’re done, they pick a random person to go next. So, you don’t know which part you’ll be reciting until the time comes…
Nakao: You pass the baton while keeping the rhythm.
Saito: We keep going until we make it to the end without making mistakes or breaking the rhythm. It was extremely nerve-racking voice training.
Nakao: The day’s lesson wouldn’t begin until they did it perfectly. It’s a type of theatre game (practice for developing acting ability). Even though you memorized the song, you might blank out when the time comes to say your part.
Nakao: It’s even more stressful for the last person. If they make a mistake, everyone has to start over from the beginning.
Saito: The pressure builds as the song progresses.
Nakao: It also acts as mental training. At an audition, “I really do have it memorized” doesn’t fly. You have to do it right then and there. We also teach the students to look at people’s eyes when choosing the next person, because you’ll be able to tell if they remember the next line or not.
Saito: You can sense if they’re sending the “I can do this one” signal.
Nakao: Then you can also tell if they’ve memorized the entire song or if they only know one part. However, that’s not always going to work either, so what do you do? We have them work on a solution together.
Saito: You have to think about multiple things at the same time. It’s like that when voice acting too.
Nakao: The workplace is no different.
Saito: If you told me to do “Wasshoi” right now, I think I’d say “Please give me a break.” *laughs*
Nakao: Then, the final part of training school is the presentation.
Saito: Each class presents a work that’ll be the culmination of what they learned that year.
Nakao: We want everyone to come together to create a single work. Even though they aren’t “eating out of the same pot,” we want them to have that foundation. It’s also on them to find a place to practice.
Saito: For our independent practice, everyone pooled money and looked for a place we could rent. Also, each class had their specialties—for example, if they had someone who was good at making arrangements, they would get a training place booked in a flash.
Nakao: The duties naturally get distributed.
Saito: The world of acting involves working together to create something, which comes with both enjoyment and difficulties. We learned about that at training school too.
Nakao: We teachers are like driving school teachers. We can drive with one hand spinning the steering wheel, but we have to teach the students fundamental driving techniques like holding onto the wheel firmly with both hands.
Saito: What I appreciated the most at training school was that on top of teaching us the basic mentalities and techniques, they also made us think for ourselves. Instead of saying, “Do it like this,” they asked questions like, “How did that feel?” or “How do you want to do this?” I’m the kind of person that likes to think. Conversely, that means I tend to be satisfied with small successes. Also, at first I had a strong desire to not make mistakes, but Ryusei-san told me, “This place exists for you to make mistakes.” He never once scolded us unfairly either.
Nakao: I did scold people.
Saito: Aren’t scolding and admonishing completely different? I consider what you did “admonishing.” When you admonished us, we really did deserve it.
Nakao: I never admonished you alone, right? But I did admonish the class as a whole.
Saito: There was a time when we got too used to your kindness.
Nakao: It wasn’t my kindness—since we always studied from the same materials, you got used to the course content. When people become competent to a degree, they let their guard down. That’s when I scolded them and said, “Don’t get used to it!”
Saito: Ryusei-san is usually really nice, but when he says, “Tighten up this part and try again with firm emotion,” it’s sharp and motivates you.
Nakao: Saying it sharply makes them perform sharply, right? And then I scold them again, saying “Why didn’t you do it before I had to tell you to?!” I just don’t like it when they can do it but they don’t. If they can’t do it, then that’s a different story. But being capable yet choosing not to do it is bad. I get a little angry when that happens.
Saito: The sound pressure went “bang!” that time. I thought, “So this is what it means to have a voice resonate through your body!” That was when I experienced a real professional’s vocal force directly instead of through a mic.
Nakao: I’m always practicing for that purpose *laughs*. If you wait until you’re told to do it, it’s too late. When you become a professional, you have to do it properly from the start.
Saito: When we first started training school, our mindset was “first, be taught.” From there, we switched gears to assembling our own performances and acclimating our bodies to those ideas. Come to think of it, I expected the “Uirou-uri” story to come up today, so I reviewed it and was astounded. I thought I’d analyzed the content and its meaning back then, but when I read it now, it’s like seeing it through a higher resolution lens. I thought I understood it back then, but my perspective was too narrow.
Nakao: “Uirou-uri” has a lot of components. Accents, nasal sounds, devoicing…
Saito: Back then, I was really focused on memorizing it properly. “Uirou-uri” is about using any means possible to sell the audience on an amazing medicine. When I reviewed it, I kept thinking about how I’d want to present it. But if I did it right now, I think it’d sound extremely shady. *laughs*
Nakao: That’s brilliant. *laughs*
Saito: Since being taught by you, I’ve come to like more things. Back then, I was in my third year of university. That year, I decided that I would dedicate my whole life to walking the path of voice acting.
Saito: I didn’t think my personality was suited for being a voice actor because I didn’t think I could take a step forward with sensitiveness or explosiveness. That was all I thought about every day. One day, I was eating in the school cafeteria, and I suddenly thought, “Wait—if my personality isn’t suited for it, does that mean that if I keep doing voice acting work for my whole life, I’ll be able to change myself over the course of my lifetime?” I called my parents right then and there and told them, “I’m not going to go job hunting.”
Nakao: So that’s when you decided.
Saito: Both of my parents are enthusiastic teachers. They said, “It’s your own life. We’re happy that you discovered what you want to do.”
Nakao: That’s kind of them.
Saito: They also said, “But since it’s your life, be responsible for it yourself.”
Nakao: I’m definitely never meeting your parents! They’d probably say, “Was it you who tricked our son?!” *laughs*
Saito: No way *laughs*. I talk to my parents about what you taught me.
Nakao: They sound like good parents. When you were taking my classes, you were always worrying.
Saito: A lot.
Nakao: And now you’re shining. You were a bit dark when you were worrying.
Saito: *laughs* Yeah.
Nakao: At the time, I thought, “He’s the type to overthink, huh?” It was a worrying time period for you.
Saito: Back then, I was intentionally narrowing my field of vision. All I thought was, “I need to show good results here so that it’ll lead to the next step!” I think that that in itself was a necessary time for me.
Nakao: What we teach at training school isn’t that grandiose, right? The first thing we talk about is always your mentality and the “wait” attitude.
Saito: Right. At training school, rather than how to be an actor, I learned a lot more about the fundamental mentality that I should have as a person who’ll be entering society.
Nakao: Our job is to wait. We have to wait until work comes. How do you spend your time waiting? “Lessons are important, but how are you going to live your life until our next class?” Since the classes continue for a year, I want the students to wait effectively. After they become professionals, this will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
Saito: Even now when I meet people from that class, we often talk about the “wait” attitude.
Nakao: Everyone’s working as hard as they can, right? Because they’re pros. But what do you do when you don’t have work? This becomes the most important thing. Waiting effectively, concentrating effectively, and putting forth your best effort. Also, don’t slack off during lessons!
Saito: I think that 2020 in particular was a time for the whole world, not just actors, to think about “waiting.”
Nakao: Everyone, yes.
Saito: I try to keep the wait attitude, but sometimes I give in and I’m just waiting, or I become too passive. We voice actors only exist because of creative works and characters, but that said, we should also be able to actively create and express something. I thought a lot about how it’s important to “wait actively.” I can’t practice in a really loud voice at home, after all. *laughs*
Nakao: I’ve been working for many years too, and this is the first time I’ve had so much time to myself. At times like this, your mentality is the most important thing. We’ve been living rather brazenly, but the young people who are starting out in their career have weaknesses in their mentality. How will they fortify those and wait until their next opportunity? It might be a good idea to think about that.
- Soma talks more about the “wait” attitude he learned from Nakao in this interview with Livedoor News.
- Video messages promoting this new serialization:
Original URL: http://www.team-e.co.jp/spica/aoharu/special.html#vol4_03
※Only Soma’s interview has been translated in this post.
Q: Please tell us your impressions of the story after reading the Vol.4 script.
I thought it was a really great story. I cried several times while checking the script. This volume depicts the aftermath for each character, and I think that Iriya’s story became a major key. I was truly glad that he met Nao and the others. The direction also leveraged the advantages of the medium. I think that this work could only exist as a drama CD. I’m looking forward to listening to the final product.
Q: Please tell us your impressions of the recording (what you felt was difficult or enjoyable about voicing your character).
My biggest concern was simply what was going to become of Iriya, so I was really relieved that his story reached a breakpoint and continued on. There were many memorable parts, but the biggest one has to be the conversation with Nao. We unfortunately couldn’t record it together, but Nao’s lines were recorded first, and I listened to his honest, passionate feelings as I performed mine. Then there was the conversation with Takaomi-san where Iriya could finally take a half step forward, and the touching graduation ceremony. Throughout the entire volume, instead of using a logical approach, I embraced Iriya’s bared feelings and acted to the best of my ability.
Q: The theme of Vol.4 was “each of their futures.” What did you think about the final development?
I teared up at how each character either had their dream granted or found their dream, and now they’re doing their best on their own paths. Personally, while I was surprised at what happened with Ayato and Ibuki with their dreams, I was even more surprised at Ren, and it was really satisfying *laughs*. High school is only a brief moment of their long lives, but being able to spend that irreplaceable time together is their greatest fortune.
Q: Which character left the biggest impression on you in Vol.4?
Since I read the story from Iriya’s perspective, he naturally leaves an impression on me, but… it has to be Ren *laughs*. I thought, “This is unfair!” in a good way. Due to various circumstances, we couldn’t record as a full group for this series, so I wish I could’ve had more in-person dialogues with the others. Since the latter half had especially heavy plot developments, I wish we could’ve had more fun together during the everyday life parts…!
Q: Please give us a message for the fans enjoying Aoharu.
Thank you again for supporting Aoharu up until now. I’m not going to say much here; instead I just hope you’ll immerse yourself in the world of this wonderful series. Personally, I was very happy to experience this sparkling yet painful, vivid adolescence with the boys. To be honest, I don’t want to graduate from this series…! Someday, somewhere, I hope I’ll be able to meet everyone again. Thank you for listening to Vol.4!
Original URL: http://www.team-e.co.jp/spica/aoharu/special.html#vol3_03
※Only Soma’s interview has been translated in this post.
Q: Thank you for your hard work today at the recording. Could you tell us your impressions of the story after reading the Vol.3 script?
I thought it was an incredibly dense volume. Last time I was glad that Nao and Ayato’s problem got resolved, but this time the scenes moved dizzyingly fast, from Ibuki and Ren’s part in the first half to Iriya’s part in the second half. The turbulent pacing was fitting for the turning point of the story.
Q: Please tell us your impressions of the recording (what you felt was difficult or enjoyable about voicing your character).
Iriya had rather fierce emotional ups and downs this time, and it was hard to not let each of the scenes influence each other. For example, chronologically, the scene at the end takes place at the time of Vol.1. At any rate, I acted each scene to the best of my ability. Iriya and Takaomi’s disagreement is still deeply ingrained. The comedic scene where everyone’s having a strategic meeting at Nao’s house is the source of comfort this time.
Q: What did you think of the themes of “You can go to the future, but not the past” and “Making a choice you won’t regret” in Vol.3? And what did you think of Ibuki and Ren, the key characters in the first half?
Their struggles are very realistic. Having a dream but also wanting to consider your parents’ will; not being able to find your dream in the first place… I think it’s great that they’re supporting each other through those true-to-life worries. In the scene where Ren pleads with Ibuki’s father, I felt that Takeuchi-kun poured his soul into it rather than using careful technique.
Q: Which character left the biggest impression on you in Vol.3?
I think it’d be Iriya. Ren and Ibuki were notable too, but I’d always been wondering what happened on that night. I’m curious about what will happen to Iriya in the last volume and whether there’ll be solace for him, since it ended the way it did… I hope that that radiant smile will return to Nao.
Q: Please give us a message for the fans based on the story highlight of this volume.
Thank you for supporting Aoharu! What did you think of the volatile plot developments this time? The cast members are also excited to find out how the boys’ story will end. Please stick with us until the last volume and hear for yourself too. Thank you for your continued support!
In Uemura Yuto’s photo from the recording, he was wearing the beret that Soma gave him from the glamb collab:
Original URL: https://www.oricon.co.jp/news/2180697/full/
Shirai Yusuke (Amemura Ramuda in Hypnosis Mic)
Saito Soma (Yumeno Gentaro in Hypnosis Mic)
Nozuyama Yukihiro (Arisugawa Dice in Hypnosis Mic)
New frontiers? The handbells were surprisingly responsive. “At the next concert…” “It’d be too surreal”
—We saw a new side of the three of you. What was it like doing a variety show together?
Saito: I thought that the other two were really dependable. Everyone hyped up the show in their own way, and I reaffirmed the trust between us. I really felt grateful to be able to be in a team with them.
Nozuyama: When I’m with these two, I feel safe and can give it my all. Since it was a variety show, there were a lot of on-the-fly aspects, and I think it went well because we’re on the same wavelength.
Shirai: I trust Soma and Nozu, and I can rely on them. Whenever I say something weird or mess up, they cover for me. I feel safe leaving myself in their hands. That’s why I could have fun and be at ease even in a variety show. I want to keep having fun and excitement while depending on these two.
—It’s great how you trust each other and work together. This time the variety games were Christmas-themed. Was there anything in particular that was memorable or clicked with you?
Nozuyama: I think for me, it’d be the “Christmas Three Hint Challenge” where two people are blindfolded and the remaining person gives hints for them to guess the word. I thought it was amazing how Soma-san only had to give one hint for Shirai-san to guess right. I felt their bond.
Shirai: No, that was a three-person effort. But since we got them right too quickly, I didn’t have a turn as the hint-giver. I considered it a mistake.
—Even though your deep bonds led you to the right answer, you regret it from a composition perspective…
Nozuyama: Also, I was surprised we could get that far in the “Handbell Challenge” even though it was our first time. It makes me wonder if we can have a “Shibuya’s Handbell Corner” at the next Hypmic concert. Well, I don’t think it’ll ever happen. *laughs*
Saito: It fits Shibuya’s character, but it’d be too surreal. *laughs*
Shirai: Besides, our next concert is the battle against Yokohama. Why would we ring handbells there? *laughs*
—It’d be quite innovative, so I’d like to see it. Is there anything from this program that you thought someone did particularly well?
Saito: Both of them were dependable and funny, but I think it was Shirai-kun who provided the unexpected surprises. Having Shirai-kun in the middle makes for a good balance. I feel secure and it makes it really easy on us.
Nozuyama: Right. Basically, Shirai-san is leading us along.
—Both of you have high praise for Shirai-san. Shirai-san, what do you think of Saito-san and Nozuyama-san?
Shirai: Both of them have their own strengths. Nozu has fearless courage, freshness, and energy. Soma provides appropriate quips and comments in between maintaining his character. I think we showed what only this team is capable of being.
The Shibuya episodes in the anime where we can see glimpses of the characters’ unexpected faces
—In Episode 5 of the anime Hypnosis Mic -Division Rap Battle- Rhyme Anima, there was a memorable scene where Gentaro and Dice are messing around with the adorable Ramuda. What was it like acting it out?
Shirai: At the recording, I asked if Ramuda was truly scared of ghosts, and was told yes. So, I was glad that we got to see another new side of him. There were a lot of reactions from the viewers too. I think it’s great that we get to see a lot of new sides in the anime, not just of Ramuda. Although there were also parts that were tough because of all the screaming *laughs*. I remember it being a fun recording.
—The character interactions show how vast the backbone of the series is, making for deeper appeal.
Saito: I think that might be especially true for Shibuya. Instead of having a specific person always progressing the conversations, in Episode 5 it’s Gentaro that shows interest in the ghost hunt, and in Episode 8 it’s Dice saying his usual things. The perspective changes depending on the central character of the episode. I felt that Episode 5 really showed the Posse’s complex, pop aesthetic which becomes like a marble texture. I thought it was great how you can feel Dice and Ramuda’s different types of cuteness more strongly.
Nozuyama: What surprised me is that because COVID-19 delayed the recording period, Episode 5 ended up airing on Halloween. Normally it would’ve been better if that situation didn’t happen, but since it happened to be that day, does that mean that Dice’s luck worked?
Shirai: Even though it normally never does. *laughs*
Nozuyama: Maybe that’s why this time it did. I think the fans would’ve had more fun watching that story on Halloween too. The director told me it wasn’t on purpose, so the fact that it naturally ended up in a good place felt like one of Shibuya’s miracles.
—What a quirk of fate. What did you feel was Fling Posse’s charm in the anime?
Nozuyama: Shibuya is the “beautiful girl” type. Ramuda is cute, Gentaro is beautiful, and Dice is a bit sexy. Their charms were doubled in the anime. Ramuda moves around a lot, Dice has fierce emotions, and Gentaro sidesteps them with a nonchalant air. We expressed these things in the drama tracks too, but having visuals makes them flashy and colourful. I think it shows what makes Shibuya them.
Saito: All of the characters are cute, but among them, Shibuya gives off the most cheerful, casual impression. Despite that, they’re eccentric and their conversations aren’t always bright and happy, and I think that side of them is appealing as well. Each division has its quirks, and in Shibuya’s case, I think that one of their merits is the cheerfulness that stems from having Ramuda as a leader.
Shirai: Even when the other divisions are having serious clashes, Shibuya is fairly laid-back. Despite that, they also have a bit of darkness to them, and they maintain a reasonably distanced relationship. The anime condenses that, so we get to see a lot of different faces from them, including a unexpectedly passionate one.
Using their deepened bonds as a weapon… Their pledge to advance in battle in 2021
—In March of this year, “Hypnosis Mic -Division Rap Battle- 5th [email protected] 《SIX SHOTS TO THE DOME》”, which was supposed to be held at Saitama’s MetLife Dome, was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic and became a live stream instead. However, the other day, it was announced that all six divisions will be performing together next year on August 7 and 8. It’s still a ways off, but how do you feel about the “revenge concert”?
Shirai: I want to do something colourful and flashy, that only Shibuya would do. I guess for “Stella” it’d have to be wire stunts. Oh… but Soma is afraid of heights *laughs*. It might also be nice to enter with coloured smoke like in tokusatsu.
Saito: I’ll be watching you two sadly from the ground all alone. *laughs*
Nozuyama: Wait, it’s rap, you know? It’d be weird for us two to be flying around. There’s no way we’d do it *laughs*. The anime has flashy things like explosions, so I think it would be more immersive for the audience if there were special effects like the stage exploding after a song. What do you think?
Saito: It could be possible with projection mapping. I also like the idea of music visualizations flying around according to our hand gestures.
Shirai: It’d take a lot of practice, but it sounds interesting… Our dreams are vast, but we don’t actually know what we’re going to do yet, including the set list. That’s why we’re excited about putting it together. I want to show the audience a powered up performance.
—After hearing these ideas, I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of performance and effects you’ll fascinate us with. Lastly, please give a message for the fans with regards to 2021.
Nozuyama: I debuted with Hypnosis Mic, so I still don’t have much experience. There were a lot of things that couldn’t be done this year due to the circumstances, and it was incredibly frustrating, but there’ll be more new songs coming, so I want to keep doing my best to bring everyone entertainment and express Fling Posse’s charms. Please continue to lend me your support. Thank you.
Saito: I was thankful that we got to get together at the end of the year as Fling Posse and appear on on a program. I don’t know how the situation will be next year, but there are already several events announced, so I’m looking forward to what kind of scenery the three of us will be able to see, and what we’ll be able to deliver. I feel our bonds deepening with each and every event we share in, so I want to do my best to show you a strengthened Fling Posse.
Shirai: I feel like the three of us aren’t too far off from the Fling Posse characters, so I hope you enjoyed seeing that in the program.
It was a rough year all around, but we had an online concert and a variety show, and we were able to finish off the year as Fling Posse. I want to maintain this momentum and our bonds, strengthening them for our upcoming battle with Yokohama in February.
Some time ago, there was a new CD recording, and it made me feel the strong desire to win the battle. I haven’t really said this before, but I really want to give the Fling Posse members a victory. The three of us are going to solidify our unity and aim for victory while having fun, so please support us at the concert.
Bonus: Extra pictures from the show
Bonus: Promotional videos
(This one needs to be opened separately because the video doesn’t embed)
Original URL: https://rockinon.com/interview/detail/197172
Alternate version of this interview: ROCKIN’ON JAPAN 2021/2 – Saito Soma – in bloom
“It began with us expressing our middle school feelings of impatience and gloom through pink music.”
—I heard that a MiniDisc you received from a friend in middle school was what fully awakened you to music. It was an incredibly varied mix with U2, The Rolling Stones, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Marilyn Manson, and the last half was all Kinniku Shojo-tai songs.
Right. In elementary school I wanted to stay a model student, but when I heard that MD, I thought, “There’s a world like this out there?!” The world of rock came as a shock to me. Through music, books, and films, that friend taught me about a deep world that wasn’t just clean and upbeat. Book-wise, that was when I came to like Tsutsui Yasutaka-san and Nakajima Ramo-san, who I still like now. That was my formative experience. Middle school was my most cynical time, so I picked up a lot of different things, wanting to know about things that no one else did.
—That’s why your songs show influences from such a wide variety of music and literature, right?
I’m from Yamanashi Prefecture, and I went to a CD store in Kofu called Birdland all the time *laughs*. I made do with my allowance, buying CDs by their jackets, not knowing whether they’d be a hit or a miss until I listened to them. I think I liked learning and absorbing the unknown, not just with music. Also, I liked Thamesbeat and I loved Mystery Jets, so I biked with my friend to a 100-yen shop and we bought five small frying pans, thinking we could use them as drums. It wasn’t much, but we did try to make our own DIY music. That’s what my youth was like.
—Did you have a band when you were in school?
Yes. I had a band in middle school, and I was on guitar and vocals. My friend who taught me about music in my first year of middle school—his parents showed me THE STALIN and Totsuzen Danbooru, so at first we wanted to do punk. It began with us expressing our middle school feelings of impatience and gloom through pink music. Since we didn’t have a drummer, we wrote songs using step recording. From the beginning, rather than wanting to jam out at concerts, we wanted to make a really good album. At the time, I wanted to have an orchestra-style band like Arcade Fire. A band that wasn’t restricted to live sound. With that as my gateway, I also came to like postpunk and krautrock. So in middle school, I didn’t listen to any songs that had normal choruses. I think I was in denial *laughs* but now, after all that’s happened, it really feels like those things have become a part of myself.
“I was saved by works that gave me a sense of ‘a place that isn’t here’ and ‘someone who isn’t me,’ which influences my own works.”
—After that, you became a voice actor and then pursued musical activities as well. But starting from your third single, Date, you began composing and writing your own songs.
What I still find really interesting is that, for example, the song “Date” isn’t something I would’ve been able to write when I was a teenager. “Date” has background chatter throughout—it’s quite a ridiculous song, but in a way, it makes use of my skill as a voice actor. When I was a teenager, before I worked as a voice actor, the music I made had really straightforward, serious expressions. It was a period of “straightforward cynicism” for me. I had a lot of personal rules, like how the first and second verse weren’t allowed to be the same character length, and how I didn’t want to use the same kanji twice in one song. *laughs*
—Though you were aiming for free expression, you were putting your own restrictions on it.
Yes. But as I worked as a voice actor, my capacity increased—or rather, I came to find a wider variety of things interesting. I wanted to take what I’d accumulated inside myself and feed it into my music. When I tried to write a song, I was surprised by how freely I could write. In the case of “Date,” something like the beginning lyric “At Takadanobaba, right before the last train” wouldn’t have been possible when I was a teenager.
Like I was saying before, a lot of the music I made as a teenager was orchestral or fantastical in nature. I wanted my music to be detached from reality. But now my perception has become rougher and I think that can be on a case-by-case basis. So even though I spent about ten years on a different route, I think this was the best time to be given the chance to write and sing my own songs. I only gained this opportunity because of my work as a voice actor.
—It was an inevitable path, right?
That makes it sound too cool. *laughs*
—While you were releasing works as a singer-songwriter, did you reconsider what kind of musical career you wanted?
Yes, but that said, since it started because I was a voice actor, back then I thought that pop and easy-listening were important factors, and I was conscious of the idea of music as entertainment. So instead of delving deep within myself, I started off with catchy melodies, turning my expressions into things that were fun to listen to. I remember doing quite a lot of research for “Date.” I always liked city pop and funk, but at the time, there wasn’t anyone in the voice acting industry who was singing city pop. It’s become quite mainstream in the music scene now, but I remember wanting to get in on it early. Fortunately, subscription services are prospering now, so I got to re-listen to all of the things I used to like and create something interesting and entertaining.
Also, one thing that hasn’t changed ever since I started writing my own songs is that none of my songs have anything resembling “Saito Soma’s message.” I’m sure some of my own perspective seeps in, but ultimately, each song is its own story and mental picture. It’s embarrassing to say this myself, but my motto is to not write message songs or love songs.
—Where did that mindset come from?
The fiction and entertainment I consumed as a teenager would have to be a major influence. My first impressions of them were, “a place that isn’t here” and “someone who isn’t me,” and I strongly felt that I was saved by those feelings. So I do like listening to songs that nestle up to you saying “You’re not alone,” but they aren’t what I would write myself. What “saved” me as a teenager were songs that said “It’s okay to be alone,” giving attention to the loneliness. So my first thought for my music was that, rather than giving my own words, I want to deliver songs that come across as stories.
—That’s why your albums also feel like works of literature.
I’m always wanting to create music where each listener can extract different things from each song.
“I think I was the least concerned with following the rules for this album. It was more about writing songs from different angles.”
—Even with your new album in bloom, each time I listen to it, I discover something new. It has a lot of songs that can be interpreted in multiple ways. And compared to your previous works, the musical styles are more varied. It’s developed into very diverse pop music.
Before, a lot of my songs kept entertainment as the central focus while also reflecting my own world view with decadent motifs like “the end of the world.” But after two years of that, I did feel that I’d made the world end too much *laughs*. So then I wondered what it’d be like after the end of the world. Does something continue afterwards, or does it become nothing? I decided that for my next work, I’d sing about the story that comes after the world’s end. So this album is more like a collection of short stories, rather than one big theme. I think it’s more introspective than my first album. When I’m writing my own lyrics, it feels like sometimes the pop-ness can also turn into madness. So for each song, some people think it’s easy to listen to as pop music, while others think it’s a bit scary.
—It’s true. The lead track “carpool” sounds like a refreshing pop song, but when you thoroughly examine the lyrics, it feels unsettling too. Even “Summerholic!” is supposed to be an extremely happy summer tune, but once you fully understand the situation, it becomes scary like dark fantasy.
That’s exactly it *laughs*. The protagonist of “Summerholic!” seems to be happy and having a lot of fun, but from an outsider’s point of view, it’s like you can’t see it objectively. That was my aim when writing this song. There are other songs where the developments don’t make much sense, but it’s like, that’s how the protagonist is, so there’s nothing you can do about it. Rather than writing the songs in a calculated way, even I don’t know how they ended up the way they are. It’s like, if that’s what the song says, then so be it. So I think I was the least concerned with entertainment value and following the rules for this album. It was more about writing songs from different angles.
—You didn’t even follow your personal rules?
Well *laughs*… I consider myself overly theoretical, but I think this is going to be an era where senses are more important, so I started production with the intent of not sticking to the rules anymore. However, the thought of “not sticking to the rules” was a rule in itself *laughs*. But generally, I consider writing songs as entertainment in itself, so I had fun doing it. Before this album was released, three of the songs were released digitally. Because of that, there was a period of production time between the single and the album, so for this whole year, I’ve been able to enjoy thinking about music on a separate axis from my voice acting work. But compared to last time, this album is really dark. *laughs*
“I wanted to make music that wasn’t the so-called J-pop formula; to not hesitate to open the valve in my brain.”
—Dark, you say. It is a rather introspective album, though. Even “Petrichor” with its constant rain effects could be perceived as insanity.
This time, one of my distinct goals was to make songs that were a little deeper. I originally played the sax riff in “Petrichor” on guitar, and I asked the arranger, Saku-san, to turn it into a sax riff. Tone-wise it becomes dissonant, but that’s because I used more of a jazz-like perspective rather than rock. In the latter half it becomes hard to tell whether it’s a major or minor key. I wanted to make music that wasn’t the so-called J-pop formula; to not hesitate to open the valve in my brain. “Petrichor” isn’t a flashy song; it grows on you over time. But in the end, I think I made a good song.
—”Kitchen” is another song where calmness and eeriness exist in tandem. It starts with an everyday scene but then suddenly leaps to world-scale thoughts. It feels dangerous, as if there’s no going back.
It’s a crazy song, right? *laughs* “Kitchen” came about because since I was spending more time self-isolating at home, I wanted to try using motifs that I purposely hadn’t for my first album. It’s a song that could only exist because of this year.
—Among those crazy songs is “BOOKMARK,” which had an unexpected feeling of adolescence. It features rapping by someone credited as “J.”
Yes, Mysterious Friend J *laughs*. I wrote the lyrics while recalling my student days, which is rare. Staying up until 4 a.m. when the sun rises; those uneventful, lazy days as a student are part of adolescence, but they’re also bittersweet. The song itself has an 80’s feel to it, but I hope that whoever listens to it will recall their past youth—or envision their future adolescence. The lyrics are quite honest, so it’s frankly a bit embarrassing, but that’s what adolescence is all about, so. *laughs*
—The shoegazing aspect of “Isana,” which was created with The Florist’s band sound, is also wonderful. In an introspective sense, it seems like it could even be called a second lead track that defines the feeling of the album.
Thank you. The arrangement for “Isana” is truly splendid. It became a concluding song for this album. This album was a continuation from my previous “end of the world” theme, depicting what comes afterwards, and this song is deeply connected to that previous work. It’s essentially the last track of the album. To think that it’s over eight minutes long *laughs*. If I get to perform it live, I really want to make full use of space-type effects.
—It seems like it’d be the highlight of a concert. You’ll be having a live tour next April and May, right?
Yes. As I said before, I originally wasn’t that interested in performing live. But after having my first concert with a band, I really enjoyed it and thought, “I could get addicted to this.” *laughs* Those feelings were also reflected in my later songwriting. We’re currently in the midst of planning, so please wait a little longer.
Alternate version of this interview: rockin’on.com – What Gives Saito Soma’s Music Its Immersion? From His Roots to “in bloom”!
This album was less concerned with entertainment value and following the rules. Instead, I wrote songs from different angles.
● Your music feels like it comes from very broad roots. What got you into music in the first place?
A big factor was the MiniDisc I received from a friend in middle school. The disc started with U2 and The Rolling Stones, then for some reason it took a progressive turn with Emerson, Lake & Palmer. After that was Marilyn Manson, and then the last half of the disc was all Kinniku Shojo-tai *laughs*. That’s how I learned about this world.
● And then you began making music?
Yes. In middle school and high school, I was in a band with that friend. I was on guitar and vocals. At first we tried to copy T. Rex’s “Get It On,” but I was the only one who could sing the high-tone chorus. It was impossible for me to be both main vocals and chorus at the same time, so we gave up on that song *laughs* and went straight to making our own original songs. We also liked THE STALIN and Totsuzen Danbooru, so we decided to express our middle school feelings of impatience and gloom through punk music. But since we didn’t have a drummer, we used step recording to make our songs. Rather than wanting to perform live, we just wanted to create good music. At the time, I wanted to have an orchestra-style band like Arcade Fire. Now, after all that’s happened, it feels like those things have become a part of myself.
● That’s very unique. You seem to have an endless amount of influences *laughs*. If you were that absorbed in music, I would’ve expected you to pursue a musical career directly. But instead, you went the path of a voice actor.
I liked to read, so I also wrote stories when I was in middle school. I wanted to either work as a writer or make a living off of music when I grew up. But in my first year of high school, some things happened that made me not want to go to school for a few months. I’d always liked watching anime and movies, but it was then that I first became aware of voice acting as a job. After that, I was able to return to school and even go to university, and it was anime that saved me from that period of time when I couldn’t go to school. I began to admire acting and decided to take that step forward.
● As you were building experience as a voice actor, what led to your return to musical expression?
I always loved music, so I continued to write songs as a hobby, even if I wasn’t going to show them to anyone. And while I was working as a voice actor, I had opportunities to sing via character songs, which led to being able to start a musical career under my own name. At first, other creators wrote wonderful songs for me, but after a while, I really wanted to sing songs I’d written myself. So I showed my producer the song “Reminiscence” and he said, “This is good. Let’s show it to the world.” That was an important event that led to my current career.
● After that you released your first album quantum stranger and your mini-album my blue vacation, showing your personal inclinations more and more strongly. Your newest album in bloom depicts an even greater range of musical style, bringing forth an even deeper artistic nature.
A lot of my previous songs revolved around the “end of the world” motif. I used pop-entertainment as the central focus while also reflecting my own world view with that decadent motif. But after all of that, I did feel that I was making the world end too much *laughs*. So this time, I think the songs are on the introspective or subjective side. For each song, some people think it’s easy to listen to as pop music, while other people think it’s a bit scary. Compared to my previous works, I’d say that this album was less concerned with entertainment value and following the rules. Instead, I wrote songs from different angles.
● Before the album’s release, “Petrichor,” “Summerholic!”, and “Palette” were released digitally.
At first, I wanted to release a single in June 2020 to coincide with the 3rd anniversary of my artist debut. One of the songs on it was going to be “Petrichor,” which I’d already written. But the rest of the production was halted due to the COVID-19 situation. Since “Petrichor” was about rain and the rainy season, I didn’t think there’d be any point if I couldn’t release it in June. Because of that, I asked the label for a big favour: to let me release one song at a time, digitally. They said, “In that case, we want a name for the series, to use for promotional purposes.” I named it “in bloom,” and that became the album name as well.
● “Petrichor” is an incredibly beautiful song that has rain sound effects playing all the way through. The rain never stops falling, making it a perfect representation of the rainy season. It also has themes like “singing in the rain” and lyrics like “amemachi” and “kazemachi” that feel like a homage to HAPPY END. This album has a lot of songs that freely express ideas like that, and it feels like an album that listeners can also enjoy freely interpreting.
Thankfully, the people who listened to my first full album and the next mini-album said that they wanted to hear even deeper songs too, so I felt like I could be free to do whatever I wanted this time, while of course not forgetting the pop aspect.
● “Summerholic!” was a complete change of pace, being a total summer tune.
The first song “Petrichor” was quite introspective, and the second song was going to be released in midsummer, so I thought it’d be more fun to make it something super cheerful. There was the COVID situation as well. The song is straightforward for once: “Since it’s so sunny, I refuse to go outside” *laughs*. I thought it’d be nice for it to be so cheerful that it’s scary.
● It is. Even though it’s a thrilling, sunny rock song, there’s a sense of fear or madness for some reason. The same goes for “Kitchen.”
It’s a crazy song, right? *laughs* “Kitchen” came about because since I was spending more time self-isolating at home, I wanted to try using motifs that I purposely hadn’t for my first album. It’s a song that could only exist because of this year.
● The shoegazing aspect of “Isana,” which was created with The Florist’s band sound, is also wonderful.
Thank you. The arrangement for “Isana” is truly splendid. It became a concluding song for this album. This album was a continuation from my previous “end of the world” theme, depicting what comes afterwards, and this song is deeply connected to that previous work.
● It’s a defining song for the album’s impression, right? It could even be called the hidden lead track.
Yes. To think that it’s over eight minutes long *laughs*. If I get to perform it live, I really want to make full use of space-type effects.
● It seems like it’d be the highlight of a concert, so I’m looking forward to it too. Speaking of which, you’ll be having a live tour next April and May, right?
Yes. As I said before, I originally wasn’t that interested in performing live. But after having my first concert with a band, I got addicted to it. It was so much fun. Those feelings were also reflected in my later songwriting. We’re currently in the midst of planning, so please wait a little longer.
Original URL: https://natalie.mu/music/column/410376
The Yamanashi boy who yearned for Tokyo became an artist after numerous encounters
An elementary schooler who belted out PornoGraffiti in the bath
I’m told that I had a frail body as a baby, but from kindergarten up until elementary school, I was an active kid. Even though recess was only twenty minutes long, I’d still shout “Let’s play dodgeball!” and run outside—that’s the kind of boy I was. On the other hand, that was also when I started to enjoy reading books. My grandparents lived with my family, and my grandmother was an avid reader with a wall full of bookshelves. She had all sorts of literature, and I loved illustrated reference books. I was the type of kid who’d take out the Encyclopedia Britannica to read. Perhaps I still am, but at any rate, I already had both an outgoing and an introverted side back then.
In fifth grade, my mother had to move away by herself because of work. My father would drive us to her house which was about an hour away. In the car we listened to the artists my parents liked: the Beatles, the Carpenters, Matsutoya Yumi-san, etc. In sixth grade, I made my own cassette tape. I really loved Spitz and PornoGraffiti at the time—in fact, there are a lot of PornoGraffiti songs that I can still sing from memory. I think the first one I heard was “Melissa,” the opening theme for Full Metal Alchemist, and then I went back and listened to all of their previous songs. I love their first album Romantist Egoist so much. I feel like I’m still influenced by the slightly cynical tone of (Shindo) Haruichi-san’s lyrics.
Also, there’s something I really want to say *laughs*—in elementary school, I was the type who sung properly during choir. My school took it relatively seriously. There were times when the teacher had to go, “Boys, sing properly!” but in general, the class worked together during choir. I already liked singing back then, and I was always singing in the bath too. Now that I think about it, our neighbour must’ve heard me singing PornoGraffiti a lot *laughs*. But as a kid, I was never told that I had a “nice voice.” My prepubescent voice was really high, but I hit puberty early and thought, “_____-kun is singing the solo part with a really good voice, but I can’t do it because my voice is too hoarse…” It felt like the end of the world *laughs*. As an aside, I learned piano from elementary school until middle school, but I can’t play it at all now. In middle school after I started my band, I’d arrange songs with my piano teacher. Thinking about it now, those were strange times. *laughs*
A friend who introduced him to the world of Kinniku Shojo-tai and Marilyn Manson
In my first year of middle school, I made friends with a classmate who was really knowledgeable about underground music because of his parents. I said I wanted to try listening to Western music, and he made a crazy MiniDisc for me with everything from Marilyn Manson to Kinniku Shojo-tai on it. I hadn’t listened to that kind of music at all before, but I easily came to love it. I listened to Kinniku Shojo-tai’s “Ikujinashi” every night before going to sleep *laughs*. I later formed a band with that friend, and I’d bike for 20-30 minutes to his house every day, bringing my gear with me. His parents were in the Nagomu era (an indie music label), so they had tons of rare things like Hadaka no Rallizes (Les Rallizes Dénudés), Totsuzen Danbooru, etc. At the time, I thought of that friend’s house as a secret base; a treasure trove. Every day I went there, I learned about a new world. Thinking about it now, it was an amazing experience.
If I hadn’t met that classmate, I might not have chosen the path of a voice actor. I think it wasn’t just my taste in literature and music that was different, but my way of thinking and feeling. In my first year of high school, there was a period of time when I didn’t want to go to school. That was when I discovered anime and wanted to become a voice actor. It was probably also when the sense of distance I felt towards that world was formed.
Then my friend introduced me to wonderful songs from older generations, while I continued to explore the music of the current generation. Those were my two focal points in middle school. It was the so-called Japanese guitar rock era, and I loved ELLEGARDEN, ART-SCHOOL, and, since I was from Yamanashi, Fujifabric. ART-SCHOOL might’ve been the one that made the deepest impression on me. I can’t explain it in words, but a lot of their songs really influenced me, and I feel like I’m following their style of references and cutting up lyrics. Then came the rock ‘n’ roll revival era, and from there I loved the Libertines, Bloc Party, and Mystery Jets. I read the liner notes from the Libertines’ first album so many times that I can still recite them from memory. In my third year of middle school, my tastes aligned with my friend’s again. We lent Arcade Fire’s Funeral back and forth, going “Paper jackets are where it’s at!” *laughs* I guess we were trying to seem cultured.
Also, in my second year of middle school, I had another friend who I made through PornoGraffiti. We sent each other lyrics that we wrote. He was an absolute genius, and his lyrics were amazing. I have all of them saved on the cellphone I used back then, which is at my parents’ house. I think he’s still influencing me to this day.
The lingering influence from Good Dog Happy Men
I got my information from music magazines and, since my house got internet when I was in elementary school, from online as well. It was still the age of dial-up, so it was a struggle *laughs*. I still remember there was a band called The World/Inferno Friendship Society that I saw in a magazine in middle school. I listened to their music on Myspace and it was really good. Their CDs weren’t sold in Japan, though, so they could only be bought on Amazon. I wanted to listen to The World/Inferno Friendship Society so badly that I made a big presentation to my parents *laughs*. “The era is coming where you’ll be able to shop from home!” I still treasure that CD I bought. The song “Only Anarchists are Pretty” is amazing—it’s so upbeat that playing it on a holiday morning gets me finishing my cleaning in a flash. Please listen to it.
I think a lot of the songs we played in my middle school band were quite unique. They didn’t follow the usual A-melody→B-melody→chorus structure, and the parts were acoustic guitar, bass, melodica, and vocals. Our biggest influence at the time was the band Good Dog Happy Men. I’ll never forget that magazine interview I read with their vocalist, Monden Masaaki-san. For some reason it left a big impression on me, and I asked my internet-savvy friend to research the band for me *laughs*. From there I listened to BURGER NUDS’ discography (note: Monden’s previous band). Good Dog Happy Men’s “Most beautiful in the world” is a true masterpiece. I’m heavily influenced by Monden-san’s characteristic wordplay and cynical atmosphere, and how even when he sings about realistic things, he expresses them in a fantastical way. Also, in high school, I really liked a band called Hana no You ni, which had an accordion and a trombone. I wanted to do something like that, and wished my own band could have a violin and accordion too. But my other band members were like, “What in the world?” *laughs* I think Good Dog Happy Men and Hana no You ni would’ve been more successful in the current music scene.
Since I lived in a rural area, in high school I really looked forward to the one or two times a year that I could go to Shimokitazawa’s Highline Records. I couldn’t attend many concerts either, but I did go to see Good Dog Happy Men. I also went with my friends to a joint concert in Yamanashi with ART-SCHOOL, POLYSICS, and a Yamanashi band called “the court.” Those experiences remain in my heart to this day. I feel that those influences are still everywhere in the songs I write now.
If it’s only enjoyable for yourself, it won’t get across to others
Before I learned about the voice acting profession in my first year of high school, I wanted to become a writer or a musician in the future. But during the period when I didn’t go to school, I discovered anime. My simple longing to be “someone on the creation side of anime” led me to take 81 Produce’s audition when I was 17. I didn’t have a clear vision at all; I just instinctively jumped at what had saved me. I moved to Tokyo when I started university and began attending training school at the same time, but I couldn’t keep up with both of them well, so I asked the agency to let me focus on university for the time being. Later when I was a third year, I attended training school for a year, and when I became a fourth year, I began voice acting for real.
I occasionally wrote music when I was in university, though I had no intention of showing it to anyone. But I’d say that listening to music, reading books, and acting had become more important to me. Tokyo had always been like an illusion to me, so after moving there, for a while I was really excited about all of the things I could do and the places I could visit *laughs*. It was so much fun that I thought, “I don’t want to graduate!” At university there were a lot of people who were knowledgeable about all sorts of things, not just music. The things I learned from the people I met then also formed the basis for quite a lot of my current interests and tastes.
Fairly soon after I began voice acting, I had an opportunity to do a vocal recording for work. I had a habit of immediately getting carried away, which hasn’t changed *laughs*. Since I liked singing, I thought I could do a pretty good job, but I ended up not singing well at all. Of course I didn’t—if you sing in a way that’s only fun and pleasant for yourself, it won’t come across well. I gave it everything I had, but was forced to face the harsh reality that simply liking something isn’t enough to succeed at it professionally. It’s a recurring situation in the voice acting industry.
My first leading role in an anime was in 2014. Considering that I received the 81 audition award in 2008, I feel like the agency waited a very long time for me to realize my potential. I couldn’t act well at all at first; I received a lot of criticism and even had my role changed on the spot… It was only natural, though, because I lacked ability. I was also naïve, hiding behind the fact that I was a student. In the second half of my third year of university, I resolved to become a voice actor, and from there, all I could do was focus on building experience. But while you’re acting, there are moments when you feel a tight grip on your heart. “Just now, I said those words based on feeling instead of logic.” “Oh, that really felt like a dialogue.” I got addicted to those moments. Even though I originally decided to become a voice actor on a whim, I grew to love it more and more as I kept going.
How the voice actor Saito Soma awakened as an artist
When I received the offer for an artist debut, I was attracted to the words “We’d like you to incorporate forms of vocal expression aside from singing.” I still wanted voice acting to be my core focus, so those words made me think, “Maybe this team will allow me to keep voice acting as my central focus while being a singer.” The team members are actually completely different now than they were before, but either way I’m glad I took the leap back then.
My debut single, Fish Story, was released in 2017. It was composed by Oishi Masayoshi-san. I asked my label, “I know this is unreasonable, but could you ask Oishi Masayoshi-san?” and he actually accepted. I loved the groovy atmosphere of Oishi-san’s songs, and at the time I was fixed on this being the music of “the voice actor Saito Soma,” so I wanted the song to be something people would have fun listening to. Oishi-san included all of my requests and my detailed concept for the lyrics, which I’m truly grateful for.
My third single Date was when I met my current producer, Kuroda-san. Ever since then, although my music is credited to Saito Soma, this team feels like a real band to me. In my 2019 release my blue vacation, there’s a song called “Paper Tigers.” For this song, Kuroda-san and the arranger Saku-san came over to my place and we had a jam session to create a song that uses a lot of major chords, since I didn’t have one yet. The three of us came up with the song in about an hour of guitar-playing *laughs*. And during the recording, we all discussed what would sound stylish for the harmony. We’re close in age, we grew up listening to the same music, and they’re kind and accepting of me. I really think it’s a great team.
When I had my first concert in 2019, it was my first time singing an entire concert by myself, so I wasn’t sure if my throat would hold up. But once it was over, I realized that I had a ton of fun. I don’t know how to express the greatness of concerts in words, but at any rate, I felt it even more strongly after that. I wanted to write more songs with this band—this team—in mind. So while the concert was fun, it was also an important experience that greatly influenced the way I wrote music afterwards.
His enthusiasm for making music is at an all-time high
When people ask me, “Who’s your favourite musician?” I answer with Elliott Smith, but that’s actually a really tough question *laughs*. I really like songs that say “you’re not alone,” and they do give me courage, but I prefer songs that say “it’s okay to be alone,” accepting isolation as-is. When I look at Elliott Smith’s life, lyrics, and world views, I can’t say he only sings about positive messages, but his music touched me when I was a teenager, and it still touches me when I listen to it now, just in a different way because of how I’ve changed. I really love his voice too, and he makes me think, “Maybe this is what you get when you pursue something to the end.”
There aren’t really any artists I aspire to be like, although there are definitely many who I like and respect… They say that habits in youth continue through life, so maybe I still subconsciously want to be different from everyone else *laughs*. In the past, a certain actor senpai said to me, “Even if you’re imitating someone else, anything expressed through your own filter becomes your own expression,” and I’ve taken that to heart. It’s said that the word “manabu” (to learn) comes from the word “maneru” (to imitate). Creating something from nothing may be difficult, but taking the things you’ve encountered in the past, connecting them bit by bit, and outputting the result is what makes it “yours.” I want to be able to create things like that. That said, I’m truly grateful for the amazing people who take the songs I write and make them into amazing pieces. If my music career can continue like this forever, that’s enough for me to be happy.
Lately I’ve been thinking that lyrics are a fascinating form of expression. I generally compose melodies with the awareness that I’m creating something that will have lyrics, but it’s still incredibly enthralling when I add the words, giving meaning to the song for the first time. Outside of my artist career I write compositions about topics I like and express myself through voice acting, and maybe both of those are involved in writing and singing lyrics. Right now, I feel like my enthusiasm towards my music is at an all-time high. It’s still early, but I’m already thinking about what approach I’ll be able to take after my second album… Will it be more introspective, or will it be wildly upbeat? I think either way would work. I’m really excited to see what creations lie beyond this resume.
Official Playlist: 12 Songs that Shaped Saito Soma
(Don’t ask me why there are only 11 tracks)