※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!
※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:
Features: 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.
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)
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.
“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.
He learned about a deep world in his first year of middle school
—Since this is your first interview with Natalie, please tell us about the music that influenced you.
Up until elementary school, I listened to the music my parents liked and the artists that were popular at the time, like the Beatles, Yuming-san, Spitz, and PornoGraffiti. After that, in my first year of middle school, I made a friend who was a fan of all things subculture. He taught me about the deep world of music and literature, and I started looking for new music and artists myself too. It was the rock ‘n’ roll revival era at the time. For Western music I listened to the Libertines, the Strokes, and Bloc Party, and for Japanese music I listened to artists with a slight downer aesthetic like ART-SCHOOL and GRAPEVINE. I think the music I listened to in middle school became my musical roots.
—I heard that at the time, you frequented a CD/record shop called Birdland in your local area of Yamanashi.
My family didn’t have a record player at the time, so I bought CDs. Unfortunately, Birdland no longer exists… I miss it. In elementary school I listened to cassettes, and in middle school it was MiniDiscs and CDs. Thinking about it now, it feels like I was gaining listening experience during a time when music formats were changing. Speaking of which, the other day I finally bought a record player—although it was a cheap one, under ¥10,000. It feels like once you step into the world of records and audio equipment, you end up in the rabbit hole *laughs*. Recently I’ve been asking a knowledgeable friend about them.
—Your artist debut with SACRA MUSIC was in 2017. Was an artist debut something you originally wanted?
I had opportunities to sing character songs, but I didn’t really have a desire to sing under my own name. But when the topic of an artist debut was brought to me, I had a premonition that if I leapt at this chance, I’d be able to do new interesting things. So, I went for it.
—Your second album in bloom is the first time you composed and wrote lyrics for all of the tracks on a full album. Did you ever think you’d be writing so many songs?
In middle school, I was in a hobby band and wrote songs there. Even after becoming a voice actor, I still wrote music, even though I didn’t plan on showing it to anyone in particular. When it was time to make my third single, I told the producer, “I’ve actually been writing songs on my own,” and had him listen to the track that “Reminiscence” was based on. Then he said, “Let’s use this!”
I was really happy to be able to sing my own creations as part of my artist career. After that, I suggested more of my songs. The team I work with generally responds positively to my suggestions, and before I knew it, I was the composer and lyricist for every track on in bloom *laughs*. It’s fun to create each song with the team, like we’re a band. I’m glad I took the leap when I was first offered an artist debut.
He wants to create introspective music, that isn’t pop style
—Do you use your voice acting experience in your music?
I do. My various experiences as a voice actor are heavily reflected in my music creation. I think these are all songs and lyrics that I couldn’t have come up with when I was in a band as a teenager. Even if I had the chance to release a song that I wrote as a teenager, the scope of it would probably end up being very small. These are songs that I’m only able to present because of my accumulated experiences as a voice actor—songs that I can only create now. It’s like everything has a reciprocal effect. Thinking about it that way, the opportunity truly came at a good time for me.
—You mentioned character songs earlier. How do your vocals differ between singing as a character and singing as a solo artist, in regards to approach and mentality?
When I’m singing as a character, I think the most important aspect is “How would this character sing?” Rather than my own singing style, I consider how the character’s personality would reflect in the song. Singing as myself is something I didn’t have the chance to do much since starting this job, so when I began as a solo artist, I thought, “Have I been spoiled by my characters all this time?” When it came time to sing, I thought, “Is this right?” and started out fumbling around with every song. It felt like I was reexamining what “my music” was.
—When I watched concerts from series like IDOLiSH7 or Hypnosis Mic, I got the impression that you prioritized characterization, putting on a performance that gave the fans exactly what they wanted.
That might be because my inspiration for becoming a voice actor was my admiration for their craft; the way they add appeal to their characters who take center stage. To be honest, I’m still not great at public appearances. I’m sure that when you were in school, there was always someone in your class that would pass on having his photo taken. That was me *laughs*. But when it comes to performing in-character at a concert or event, even though I’m still nowhere near perfect, I still want to perform in a way that won’t bring shame to the character or the fans. For example, at an IDOLiSH7 concert, standing on stage as Kujo Tenn is a difficult task, but as long as the audience goes home thinking, “I saw something amazing,” “That was fun,” “That felt great,” then I feel blessed to be an actor. I think that’s exactly what entertainment means.
—When it comes to your solo music, which do you prioritize: the desire to provide the fans with the performances and music they want, or the desire to bring out what you yourself want to do?
The focus is around what I want to do, but I also prioritize pop appeal and entertainment value. But since I’m doing this under my own name, I want to take the music I’ve listened to and the books I’ve read, and express them through my own songs. I think this album is a particularly good example of what I want to do. My previous works had quite a large focus on entertainment value and ease of listening. I kept that for this album too, but I was a bit more self-indulgent with my technique.
—It feels like you can do this because you trust that the fans will accept your music no matter what form it takes on.
That’s true. I’m fortunate to have fans who write to me, “I want to hear deeper songs too” *laughs*. After releasing quantum stranger and my blue vacation, my desire to write more introspective songs that weren’t easy listening grew stronger. I think that atmosphere is in this album. However, my original intent hasn’t changed: when releasing songs under my own name, each song has its own story, and doesn’t contain any of Saito Soma’s own feelings or messages.
The journey that began with “Fish Story”
—The three “in bloom” singles that released between June and August were created as the second chapter of your artist career. What changes were there between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2?
It might seem pretentious calling it “Chapter 2!” myself, but I feel that my solo artist career is a journey that began when Oishi Masayoshi-san wrote “Fish Story” for me. “Journey” is a common motif in the lyrics I write, and when I created quantum stranger and my blue vacation, I felt that I’d reached a major milestone in the journey that began with “Fish Story”. My first journey had reached a conclusion for the time being. Then, as I said earlier, I wanted to try writing deeper songs, or rather, songs that weren’t too held up by pop conventions. Since I’d been singing about “the end of the world,” I wondered what expressions would be born if I thought of Chapter 2 as “what comes after the end of the world.” How do I put this… It was like, “Can I be a bit more self-indulgent?” *laughs*
At the time of this interview (late November), I still don’t know what the fans’ reception is, but I think each song in my second album has interesting elements that I hope they’ll notice. Rather than a major change in direction, I want to widen my scope, taking off the shackles to express myself the way I want. That’s what Chapter 2 is about.
—In Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu, you wrote that when you were composing songs as a student, the themes were “extreme sentimentalism” and “the end of the world.” You kept “the end of the world” as a theme for quite a long time, but now the theme of in bloom is “what comes after the end of the world.” Is that because there was a major change in your mentality?
Thank you for reading my essays. That might be part of it, but even right now, I still think that that decadent feeling is an important characteristic of my works. When I’m writing prose, it’s never 100% bright—there’s a dark, fuzzy side to it. So even though this is Chapter 2, I don’t think there’s been a major change in my intrinsic nature.
Basso continuo throughout the album
—It feels like you have a lot of conceptual works. When you’re producing a release, do you decide the overarching theme in advance?
I used to love coming up with things like plots of short story collections, but I don’t think that’s quite the case for my music. My first album’s title, “quantum stranger,” wasn’t decided until the very end. I was stuck between “étranger” and “quantum stranger”… I don’t want to admit it, but I named the album after the fact *laughs*. I really love creating things conceptually, but I don’t plan my albums out from the very beginning. I think it’s interesting to find common themes between the songs once they’re done. My belief is that when you’re in that unconscious creative zone, it’ll definitely show through in what you produce. In that sense, in bloom got its title because among all of the songs and stories in the album, there are a lot of people who seem to be enjoying themselves. I sensed this while doing various interviews and promotions—there’s something like a basso continuo throughout the album.
—A variety of musicians were involved with this release. How did this come about?
The music is released under the name Saito Soma, but I think what’s fun about creating music as a team is the unexpected chemical reactions that occur, so I’m not too specific with my orders—I let the label decide who to send offers to. As a result, I’m able to perform with incredible people, and I’m truly grateful for that.
—It feels like you’ve polished your band sound. When did the album production begin?
The original plan was to release a 3-song single in June to coincide with my third anniversary since my debut. Since it was going to be June, the rainy season, I wanted to write three songs about rain, and that’s when “Petrichor” was born. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we changed the plan to a series of digital singles released in time with the seasons. After creating those three songs we continued straight into the album production, so I’ve been spending essentially the entire year up to now working on music. It was a lot of fun.
—That’s amazing, considering how busy you are with your voice acting work too.
Music isn’t something that can be finished in an instant, but creating music has always been a hobby and a form of relaxation for me. So even though there were some really busy times, I still had a lot of fun doing it.
—How do you create your demos?
Since my blue vacation, I started using a DAW to create my demos. My main arranger, Saku-san, was overjoyed, saying “Now I don’t have to align the BPM anymore!” *laughs* Before, I always felt bad for submitting my demos as simple recordings of me playing my guitar and singing along. I’m glad that I brought a DAW into my workflow, because it has greatly improved the density and level of detail of the arrangements. I still have a long way to go before mastering it, but I’ve acquired a lot of equipment during the stay-home period. That said, while a DAW is extremely advantageous when creating as a team, I also think songs like “Canary” and “C” are better off sounding less polished; I like the distorted aesthetic that comes from imperfect pitch. I want to keep being able to do that, so understanding the DAW is a way of expanding my range.
—I see. Are you attracted to imperfections?
Yes, I’d say so. Perhaps ever since I was a child, I’ve been attracted to things that feel somehow strange, awkward, or warped, including lyrics. But on the other hand, part of me is also attracted to things that feel complete. It depends on my mood at the moment, and I’d like to express that through music and melodies.
“This will definitely become a masterpiece”
—It’s brilliant how each and every instrument and vocal in the leading track “carpool” stands out on its own. How did you create this song?
“carpool” came about quite late in the process. The release timing for the album was confirmed, and we calculated backwards in the schedule to determine the deadline for the music video filming. Before “carpool” was made, the plan was to film an MV for either “Schrödinger Girl” or another song. I personally like both of them very much, but neither of them felt right as a leading track with an MV, and in the end, we chose not to include the other song on in bloom. At that time, I decided, “I’ll reset my thinking and just play my favourite chords however feels right, and figure it out from there.” I sang up to the chorus in a flash, coming up with the chorus’ lyrics at about the same time. I sent it to the label and they told me, “This is really good!” Saku-san said, “This will definitely become a masterpiece, so please let me do the arrangement,” which made me happy to hear, although I replied doubtfully, “Are you sure? I still have no idea.” *laughs*
From there, the rest of the song came along smoothly, and I thought, “This is going to be the leading track.” It’s strange—the songs that I don’t put too much thought into, letting the melody and lyrics come to mind naturally, are really easy to listen to. The same thing happened with “Date,” and it was the first time in a while that I felt that sensation. The team members said things like, “This is the kind of song we love!” and “This is the kind of band we want to be!” *laughs* Also, since the album was going to release in winter, I wanted the leading track to have both a good melody and an ominous air to it. Fortunately I was able to create this at the last minute.
—Do you think that because it was created at the last minute, it represents your current style the most?
—Next, I’d like to hear about “BOOKMARK” and its rapping parts. It’s credited to both you and J-san, and it’s also the only song on this album where you’re credited for arrangement as well. Who is the guest vocalist for this song, by the way?
The guest vocalist is J-san as well. He’s an old friend of mine. The base song that became “BOOKMARK” was originally a candidate for the 3-track single I mentioned earlier. But since the plan was changed to digital singles, this song was set aside. I happened to show it to J-san, and he did a really cool arrangement of it and added the rapping. When I showed it to my producer, he gave it the greenlight.
J-san and I did the arrangement together. It’s unique, right? The song is about a student who stays up all night, looks around at 4 a.m., realizes that the sky’s already blue, thinks “I’ve wasted this time”—but definitely doesn’t feel bad about it. It might be the most straightforward “adolescent” song on this album. Also, J-san has a nice voice, right? He’s so good at rapping *laughs*. It’s interesting how this kind of song becomes an accent of the album.
—So J-san is your friend. What kind of discussions with him led to “BOOKMARK”?
I’d created the full-size of the base song, and I asked him for advice on how much rap to add. Also, we made it almost completely remotely, although I’d attribute that to the pandemic. I only met with J-san in person for the recording. Being able to create a song while restricted by distance and time was fun in its own way.
—”BOOKMARK” is a straightforward number, but the lyrics of the songs you write always have room for interpretation.
Yes, that might be true. I think that using complicated words to say complicated things is actually simple. My writing style changed quite a bit for this album. My current mood is that linking two simple words to create something new is the wonder of language. I’m still probing around, but personally, I think I was able to write lyrics that were interesting in a new way.
Creating a “space” with fans
—Tell us about your future activities. Your official fan club “space” opened on December 11, right? How do you plan on using it to connect with your fans?
As I continue with my releases and concerts, I want to create a peaceful place for the people who support me by buying my CDs and attending my concerts. That’s why I named it “space”—it’s a space that we all build together. It also has other meanings, like “Saito’s pace,” outer space, and so on. It also represents my original wish of wanting to produce music at a gentle pace for a long time. I don’t know how “space” will evolve yet, but I hope it becomes a good place for my supporters.
—And then there’s your live tour “We are in bloom!” which will be held from April to May next year.
We’ll have to deal with practical issues and we don’t know how the pandemic situation will change by then, but I’m looking forward to it. I had my first concert after releasing my first album, and I’ve gained quite a lot of songs since then, so I don’t plan on limiting the setlist to this album. I hope you’ll look forward to it too.
Also, as I thought during my first concert as well, since I was a band kid to begin with, I truly feel blessed to be able to sing with a live band. To be honest, I wasn’t that thrilled about performing live at first, but once I did a concert, I realized that there was something I could only relish there. I’m excited about what kind of performance I’ll be able to put on next, so please wait patiently until then.
※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.
Features: Saito Soma (Yumeno Gentaro in Hypnosis Mic)
Mentioned: Shirai Yusuke (Amemura Ramuda in Hypnosis Mic) Nozuyama Yukihiro (Arisugawa Dice in Hypnosis Mic) Kimura Subaru (Yamada Ichiro in Hypnosis Mic)
Shibuya is like a multicoloured marble pattern
—What is your impression of Shibuya Division’s “Fling Posse” after the anime episodes that have aired so far?
Now that they’ve been animated, I have a better understanding of all of the characters’ quirks, not just Shibuya’s. Shibuya’s bright, upbeatness stands out more in visual form. In the original drama tracks, Amemura Ramuda had a gap between his cutesy side and his dark side, and I think his cutesy side comes across more strongly in the anime. When he’s scared or laughing, his face is very expressive, which is great.
—What about Arisugawa Dice?
Shibuya’s stories tend to begin with Dice’s gambling problem, so in that sense, he might be a character that pushes the story forward. Although he’s always losing the bets *laughs*. He thinks he’s pushing Ramuda and Gentaro around, but it’s actually the other way around, which makes sense at his age. The anime adds movements and reaction voices that power up that lovable cuteness of his.
—What about the character you voice, Yumeno Gentaro?
Gentaro’s physical movements and gestures are more restrained than the other two characters’. I think the contrast between the “active” two and the “calm” Gentaro is interesting. Gentaro’s always changing his personal pronoun, and since he doesn’t move much, the unconventionality of his words stands out even more. The three of them continue to be free spirits in the anime. Even though they’re all facing different directions, they come together as a team. The anime depicts that nicely, so it’s fun to watch and I feel happy seeing it.
—The visuals also become colourful when they’re on screen.
They have a lot of colours, so they pop out, right? Gentaro wears traditional Japanese-style clothes and he’s a writer, so Japanese-style effects are used for him. But since Shibuya has that colorful pop aesthetic, he doesn’t feel out of place. You can feel how the streets of Shibuya allow for a wide variety of colours to mix together in a marbled pattern.
—The battles are very flashy too.
The battles in the anime have flashy visuals, and the direction includes both coolness and humour. For example, when you watch their battle with Shinjuku Division’s “Matenro” in Episode 10, you might think, “Hifumi’s verse is so cool!”, or you could look at Gentaro taking his attack and think, “Why is his entire body wrapped in roses?!” It’s great how the anime allows for different types of enjoyment. We’ve been rewatching the aired episodes over and over for work, and depending on who I watch them with, the topics and perspective of the conversation change. Rap was originally for expressing your thoughts through words, but it also contains the fun of playing with words and joking around. I think that the anime’s insert raps have a really good balance between those.
—It was notable how Dice and Gentaro joined in on Ramuda’s enthusiasm during battles and the concert in Episode 5.
When Ramuda responds to the other side’s provocations and picks up his mic, Dice and Gentaro immediately follow suit. It’s nice, right? The way they go “Ramuda! Dice! Gentaro!” as if to say “Fling Posse is here!” feels like they’re in a shounen manga. Shibuya’s cast members often talk about how nice the shounen manga feeling of this franchise is. For example, in the original drama CDs, when Ramuda is in trouble, Dice and Gentaro run over to help him. It’s orthodox, but it’s really moving, right? I think it’s amazing that Shibuya, which seems to lack unity at first glance, can be responsible for that shounen manga feeling.
—The division battle began in Episode 9, and Episode 10 depicted the fight between Shibuya Division and Shinjuku Division. This insert rap was unique from the others because it was in the format of a rap battle.
Right. They’d battled people before, but those raps were one-sided attacks and didn’t show the enemies fighting back. In Episodes 9-10, the divisions exchange blows using words, and it feels good to see and hear the back-and-forth. In Episode 10, Shibuya continues to have the same bright and colorful depiction that they did in the previous raps, but I like how it’s mixed with Shinjuku’s mysteriousness. There was also the indescribable surrealism of combining Jakurai-sensei with a gift box…
Sound-wise, since it’s a battle between divisions with different styles, even though the BPM is the same throughout, the different arrangements of the beats result in opposite effects. As with previous songs, Shibuya has a lot of beats that come in on tension chords and a melodious flow. Even in a serious battle, if it’s Shibuya singing, it comes out cheerful and fun.
—Shibuya Division attacked relentlessly, but just when it seemed like they won…
Ramuda riles up Shinjuku when they’re down and they lose to Doppo losing his temper and counterattacking. The sudden development makes you wonder if Shibuya would’ve won if Ramuda hadn’t provoked them…
Of course, it’s a shame that they lost, but I think Shibuya gained something more important from it. These three aren’t related by blood, nor have they known each other since long ago. Their team was formed so that Ramuda could complete his objective. So at first, they had no sense of unity and were all doing their own things. But in this battle, they all faced the same direction with a clear, shared objective. They still felt refreshed afterwards even though they lost. The way they laid on the ground looking up at the sky really felt like a scene from a shounen manga. In that sense, it was a good, worthwhile fight.
—Ramuda was ordered to use the real hypnosis mic in this battle, but the moment he tries to, Dice and Gentaro stop him even though they shouldn’t know what it means. Why do you think they did?
Why did Gentaro and Dice stop him, and what were they thinking? I have my own interpretation, but I think it would be better to let the viewers think about it some more. What I can say is that Gentaro’s lines in this part were said in a more over-the-top way than normal. The intent behind that will be made more clear in Episode 11 and beyond.
—Shibuya Division’s other episodes were Episode 5 and 8.
I think Episode 5 was very Shibuya-esque. The Halloween aesthetic really matches them, and it made me realize that Shibuya can blend in with any colours.
—It was funny how Ramuda was afraid of ghosts.
Up until then we hadn’t seen Ramuda outright terrified, so we got to know a new side of him. It was also great how Dice said he wasn’t scared at first, but gradually got caught up in the atmosphere. I liked Shibuya’s scenes in Episode 5, but what I liked more was the scene where Rex heroically takes a bite out of the squid jerky. Tom, Iris, and Rex were the only audience members for Shibuya’s concert, and I never expected them to be sitting on the floor, eating squid jerky… The three of them are anime-original characters, but they have a nice, loose vibe. When they eat delicious things, they talk about the deliciousness with a straight face.
—Aside from Tom’s group, the other anime-original characters also have strong personalities.
Exactly. It’s fun how there are so many things to poke fun at. The dialogue with Space Colony, who Shibuya faces in Episode 5, was entertaining too. Ramuda reveals Space Colony’s plot and says, “We won’t fall for that trick,” and Space Colony admits to it right away. Don’t you think they gave in too quickly? And then they follow up by trying to recruit Fling Posse—there’s just too many things to question *laughs*. The sub-characters are so energized that I need to make my quips at a fast pace if I want to keep up. Thanks to that, the story is denser and the half hour goes by in a flash.
—How was the rap in Episode 5?
It’s an enjoyable song with an 80s style beat. Recently, the music scene in general has been going through a modified 80s revival. This song has that “old yet new” feeling as well. I also like how the music sounds and the ghostbusters theme of the lyrics—they’re very “Shibuya.”
—In Episode 8, Dice lost a bet and fell for a trick. He loses a bet every time he appears, huh?
Yeah. Even among the cast, we said, “Dice did it again…!” The Episode 8 rap had a different atmosphere from anything Shibuya had done before, which was refreshing. Since it was a battle to save Dice from the casino that tricked him, the beat is aggressive. I think it’s the first time we’ve had an aggressive song since “BATTLE BATTLE BATTLE” from the original dramas. Even though the beat is aggressive, the rap itself isn’t rapidfire. The word count is low and I sang while thinking about how to add weight to each and every word. It was difficult, but that’s what made it fun. Also, Gentaro’s line right before the song…
—You mean, “I simply despise lies!” ?
Yep. Gentaro was extremely angry, right? This line was recorded at a recording session that took place before the actual episode recording. I thought that kind of Gentaro might work too, so I tried it, and it was used. I actually forgot I’d recorded that line, and when I heard it again at the episode recording, I was surprised by how sharp it was *laughs*. The line itself wasn’t wrong, and the song was really cool too, but… it seems a bit funny, right? Gentaro’s twisted sense of humour is on full blast in this scene. I hope you think of it as part of what makes him who he is.
The surreal laughter at the recording sessions
—What did the cast talk about at the recording sessions?
The three Shibuya members often recorded together, and we often broke out into surreal laughter. To give an example from a recently aired episode, at the Episode 10 recording, Shirai-san absentmindedly said, “100,000 luckies… What’s that?” It’s true that we don’t know where the number 100,000 came from or if it’s considered big or small, so we burst out laughing at Shirai-san’s sudden remark. Also, at the end, when Ramuda looks up and says, “Today is a good day to die”—he’d been saying it the way you heard it in the broadcast version, but during the recording, he suddenly said it in the dark Ramuda’s low voice instead. The sound director gave him an indifferent, “That’s wrong,” and Nozu and I chuckled *laughs*. It’s not like we’re always playing around, but someone will say something kind of funny out of nowhere that makes us laugh. I love that kind of surreal atmosphere, so I had fun at every recording session.
—The ending theme for Episodes 7-9 were Shibuya Division’s “Kizuna -SHIBUYA ver.-” The verse lyrics were written by Yanosuke, who also wrote the lyrics for “Stella.”
That’s right. The other division’s lyrics were also written by artists who’d been involved with their music, and Shibuya’s was Yanosuke. The verse and the lyrics exuded Shibuya’s mellowness. The chorus is shared with the other divisions, but since Shibuya doesn’t have any characters with low voices, it feels like pop music.
The “Kizuna” line has many layers of voices. The attack-like “na” at the end is really powerful, right? I think the most audible “na” is probably my natural voice. When I was recording the layering voices, I did Gentaro’s voice of course, and I also did my natural voice as part of the background crowd.
A mellow verse, an upbeat chorus, and a powerful attack made up of different layered voices—all of these elements combine into a Shibuya-esque song.
—What should we look out for in the rest of the anime?
Shibuya lost their battle, but they’ll continue to be part of the show. They’ll actually kind of be operating behind the scenes, so I hope you’ll look forward to that. Chuo-ku was clearly angry at Ramuda for choosing not to use the real hypnosis mic in Episode 10, so please watch to see what becomes of that. There’s drama going on at the same time as the final battle, and I hope you’ll enjoy the climax.
—Lastly, a message for the readers.
Hypmic began with music CDs, and now it’s expanded into comics, stage plays, and a game. It’s wonderful how there are so many different entry points. It’s good to enjoy one of them in depth, but it’s also interesting how the characters are depicted in each medium. I believe there are also people who are experiencing Hypmic for the first time through the anime. I hope you’ll take this opportunity to enjoy the other Hypmic media too.
About the Music of Hypmic
—The anime introduced many new songs. What did you pay attention to when expressing Gentaro’s nuances?
I think the approach differs depending on the character. In Gentaro’s case, since he’s MC Phantom, I try for a fluttering feeling, as if swirling smoke around the target. He often has a crafted flow that intentionally strays from the rhythm in a meandering way. But that said, I can’t actually meander, so it’s a tricky balance. He acts calm and collected, but I think he would switch gears in a serious fight like Episode 10, so I tried to add more emotion to his usual elegance. All of the songs are difficult, so I’d practice at home a lot before the recording. Also, Gentaro changes his voice even in normal dialogue, so I can change my tone of voice in the middle of songs as well. This means I can try out a lot of things, and I’d like to continue using different approaches to Gentaro.
—Hypmic’s songs have been getting more and more difficult since the original drama CDs.
Indeed. The difficulty is rising, and I assume the other cast members are struggling too, but at the same time, I’m sure they’re having fun as well. When you keep trying over and over until your rap fits the music cleanly and produces a good result, it feels good in your heart, mouth, and body. That exhilaration is something we can only experience because it’s rap.
—Before, when we had Colabintaro-san explain the insert raps in the original drama CDs, he said, “We have Saito Soma-kun attempt difficult raps for us.”
Many of Gentaro’s songs use a storytelling tone, like his solo song “Scenario Liar.” I do like that, but I also talked to Kimura Subaru-kun about how I wanted to try something aggressive like Dice’s songs, although I didn’t know how far I could go with it as Gentaro. Perhaps that message got across to Bintaro-san, because I’ve been able to do different variations now.
((Note: Colabintaro is Kimura Subaru’s alias that he uses when writing lyrics for Hypmic.))
—Is it fulfilling?
It makes me really happy when someone writes a song for me thinking, “I want you to sing this.” Even if it’s a difficult one, practicing it gives me more tools at my disposal.
Features: Saito Soma (William James Moriarty in Yuukoku no Moriarty) Sato Takuya (Albert James Moriarty in Yuukoku no Moriarty) Kobayashi Chiaki (Louis James Moriarty in Yuukoku no Moriarty)
※This is a report + interview on the “Afternoon Tea Experience” that was filmed as bonus footage for Vol.2 of the anime’s BD/DVD release. ※※Due to visual similarity between Saito and Sato, I switched to using first names outside of direct quotes.
Saito Soma x Sato Takuya x Kobayashi Chiaki Afternoon Tea Experience Report
A few days before the TV broadcast of Yuukoku no Moriarty began, Soma, Takuya, and Chiaki gathered at a certain location—Salon “Three Tiers”, a inconspicuous hideaway in Meguro, a residential district in Tokyo. On this drizzly day, to coincide with the setting of Yuukoku no Moriarty, the three of them came here to learn about British-style afternoon tea.
First was the filming of the opening footage. The weather was unfortunate, but they said, “This weather is actually Moriarty-esque, right?”, “London doesn’t give the impression of clear weather”, “I can imagine nobles using umbrellas a lot.” They already had the friendly atmosphere of the three brothers.
It was their first time experiencing real afternoon tea, and they nervously went inside. First, the owner, Shintaku Hisaki, explained Three Tiers and the 80-year old Western house it inhabited, which is a registered cultural property. Faced with the historical building and the numerous furnishings inside, Soma murmured, “I want to live here…”
Five types of black tea were brought to the table. “Royal Wedding” makes an impact with its rose fragrance and bright flower petals. “Darjeeling First Flush,” which uses the first-picked leaves, has a clear astringency similar to green tea. “Farrer’s Lakeland Special” is notable for its small leaves, and is suitable for milk tea. “Elderflower” has the sweet fragrance of osmanthus. Lastly, there was England’s representative tea, “Earl Grey.” Soma began by smelling the tea leaves. It was such a diverse lineup that he had a different reaction to each one.
Next, Takuya and Chiaki enjoyed the fragrances as well. “It’s like the scent is coming straight to my brain,” Takuya said. He seemed to be relatively knowledgeable about black tea compared to the other two. “Simply enjoying the fragrance is nice too, right?”
Chiaki said he liked milk tea, and when he smelled each type of tea leaves, he gave honest reactions like, “Whoa!” “Oh, it’s completely different!” and “It’s a simple, nice scent.” Soma and Takuya seemed to enjoy his pure reactions.
After much deliberation, the teas they chose were brought to them. They tasted them and shared their impressions.
Soma was impressed, saying, “Interesting! It seems like the refreshing type for a moment, but then the astringency comes when it reaches your throat… This is really good. I seriously feel like I’m going to awaken.”
Next, Takuya said, “It feels like it showed me a different side of itself from when we first met. It has a slight astringency too… it’s not only sweet.”
“That sounds kind of lewd…” quipped Soma.
“Is that love?” continued Chiaki.
Chiaki’s comment was, “The fragrance doubled. It’s astringent at first, but then the mellowness comes out. You can enjoy the transformation.”
To find out which teas they chose, please watch the BD/DVD.
Then, the centerpiece of the day was brought before them: the afternoon tea set. The bottom tier had sandwiches, the middle tier had scones, and the top tier had colourful desserts. They were amazed by the beautiful sight.
The three listened earnestly to Shintaku’s explanation of each dish: the cucumber sandwiches which were considered a delicacy back in the day, the freshly baked scones that aimed to recreate the taste of England, and the compote and Mont Blanc made with plenty of seasonal fruit.
This being their first time having afternoon tea, Soma asked about table manners. Shintaku answered, “Japanese people worry about manners and etiquette, but when you ask British people, they say, ‘Can’t you start from anywhere?'”
Surprised by the answer, the three each began with what they were interested in. First, Chiaki reached for the freshly baked scones. He put plenty of jam and clotted cream on them and dug in, letting out a quiet, “It’s good.” Combining it with the tea, he declared, “I could have this for breakfast forever.”
Next, Soma said, “I think I’ll try the scones too…” but went for the beef stew instead. After one mouthful, he beamed happily, made eye contact with Takuya and Chiaki, and finished eating it while nodding silently. “The stew is good, but so is the pie that goes with it… I’ll introduce this to my diet.”
Takuya the sweet-tooth began with the desserts. Using the antique knife and fork to eat the small Mont Blanc, he said, “The cream is rich, yet the aftertaste is light…” He sipped his tea, smiled, and said, “It cleanly resets the palate.” Soma and Chiaki couldn’t hold back their laughter at his numerous words of wisdom.
They enjoyed their afternoon teatime to their heart’s content while talking about Yuukoku no Moriarty. “That was a great time,” “I want to come here every week,” they said, reluctant to leave. The filming concluded with Soma reflecting on the day and saying honestly, “I wish this would become a regular thing… I’ll be praying for the powers that be to do something. *laughs*”
Saito Soma x Sato Takuya x Kobayashi Chiaki Discussion
“We learned a lot about Chiaki-kun today *laughs*” – Soma
—How was today’s filming?
Takuya: Ahh, it was a lot of fun.
Chiaki: I was purely enjoying myself, forgetting that it was work.
Soma: I knew about afternoon tea, but I’d never gotten the chance to try it, so this was a valuable experience. Also, personally, I was happy that the three of us got to film something together. It’s actually the first time for us.
Takuya: It’s the first time we’re all together outside of the anime recordings.
Soma: These days, even at the recordings, we can’t get the time to talk properly… I’m really glad that the three brothers got to spend this time together today. Eating together really does deepen bonds.
—Even though you weren’t eating from the same pot.
Takuya: It really does. It’s strange—eating the same flavours and sharing the sensation feels like the fastest shortcut to closing the distance on a spiritual level.
Soma: Also, we learned a lot about Chiaki-kun today. *laughs*
Takuya: Yep, we did. *laughs*
Soma: I even asked your manager just now.
Chiaki: About what…?
Soma: “Is it okay for Chiaki-kun to be like that?”
Soma: It’s great for us, though. *laughs*
—During the Episode 1 screening, Kobayashi-san was the only one who could only appear in a video message. It was amusing how you two watched over him. *laughs*
Takuya: He was the only lively one there. *laughs*
Chiaki: I mean, you don’t appear as a video message that often, right? I didn’t know what the mood was going to be like there… *laughs*
“It was shocking when I added clotted cream and jam” – Chiaki
—Did anything particularly stand out to you from what you ate today?
Chiaki: It’d have to be the scones.
Takuya: They were extremely delicious.
Chiaki: I’d never eaten scones before, so I thought they’d be more flavourless…
Takuya: It was like, is this bread? A cookie? Which one?
Chiaki: Sweet but not sweet… It wasn’t an easy-to-understand flavour. But it was shocking when I added that clotted cream and jam. The scones themselves were already delicious, but eating them like that was a surprise.
Soma: What surprised me was that it was okay to eat with our hands. I thought it’d be more formal, and that we’d have to eat elegantly, but it was unexpectedly casual, if I can call it that. We were allowed to have fun, which let me savour it more genuinely.
Takuya: True, that was a big factor.
Soma: Also, when Shintaku-san gave us information like how cucumbers used to be a high-class delicacy… it made them taste “extremely cucumber”…
Soma: Learning those things was fun too.
Takuya: Cucumber sandwiches come up a lot in British novels, right? I always wondered why, but now I know. It was an extremely enjoyable and luxurious time spent, where we got to enjoy the country’s food, history, and culture. I thought about why the British value teatime so much, but realized that it must be because tea and food are important for building human relationships.
“I said that line without thinking” – Takuya
—I’d like to ask about the tea as well. You each chose from the five types of tea leaves, and I thought it was brilliant how Sato-san compared tea to a woman…
Takuya: *laughs* I knew about names like Darjeeling and Earl Grey, but I didn’t actually think about how different the tastes would be. There were five types prepared for us this time, and the differences were an unprecedented surprise for me. I said that line without thinking.
Takuya: I’m just saying whatever I want. *laughs*
Soma: I don’t drink a lot of black tea, but I liked the format of afternoon tea. I like being able to choose from different things, like obanzai or those sets where you can choose three small dishes. The restaurant also had a lovely atmosphere, and I’d like to come back many times. I also want to try the other types of tea.
Chiaki: I usually eat strongly-flavoured foods or box lunches from the convenience store, so I think my tongue has become less sensitive. But this time, I thought, “Maybe this is what true deliciousness is.” And though there was no alcohol involved, I really enjoyed drinking together with you two.
—Do you think that this experience will influence your future voice acting and character building?
Takuya: Extremely so. At the very least, I’m sure there’ll be a difference in the atmosphere when the three brothers are at home together.
Soma: In the tea-drinking scenes, I’ll have a definite idea of the taste, so the way I handle those situations will change.
“The drama and the realism are both depicted with care” – Soma
—Now then, I’d like to ask about the series as well. First, what were your impressions after watching the anime?
Takuya: Fans of the original manga may have been surprised that Episode 1 was an anime-original story. However, it was created to be an optimal introduction to the brothers’ stories. I think it was done to say, “This is what Yuukoku no Moriarty is like.” With only 30 minutes per episode, I imagine the director and the rest of the staff have a difficult time deciding which stories and scenes to show from the manga, but I get the impression that they’re making sure not to leave out anything important.
Chiaki: Manga and anime have different presentation styles, and there are directions and expressions that shine more in anime. In that sense, I think the anime is created in a way that you can enjoy it as an anime. Today we were given the opportunity to see and feel an antique building and furniture resembling England’s at that time, which made me realize that the anime depicts that era realistically. The director and the staff did a lot of research.
Soma:Exactly. (said in English)
Soma: It’s really as the other two said. I think the anime takes the manga’s essence and presents the appeal of Yuukoku no Moriarty in a different medium. Manga and anime each have their own strengths, and both of them show the series’ charm in their own ways. To give a specific example, “So when William is smoking, there is music in the background and feathers falling from the sky.” *laughs*
Soma: I think the drama and the realism are both depicted with care, so I hope you’ll enjoy it whether you’re a fan of the manga or you’re starting with the anime.
“William is a ‘Louis Protection Extremist'” – Soma
—One of the themes of this series is the bonds between the three brothers. How do you interpret the characters’ relationships in your acting?
Soma: Albert is an extremely sharp and capable person. Ever since he was a child, he felt uncomfortable with the world, but he couldn’t tell what exactly was the problem or what he should do. Then he met the young William, and the path was opened to him. To William, he’s the most trustworthy partner in crime. He thinks about things from the same perspective and can take practical action from a different position. In that sense, Albert is the brother who does the most actual work. On the other hand, Louis is a special person to William. I think that William has a “Louis Protection Extremist” side to him. *laughs*
Takuya: He can’t stay logical when it comes to Louis. *laughs*
Soma: William is prepared to face self-ruin as a result of using crime to reform the world, but he doesn’t want to get Louis involved. He wants to keep Louis away from uncleanness. So even though it seems like it’s Louis who admires William, William seriously cares about Louis too, in his own way. I think it’ll be shown in the anime later too, but their bonds deepen after Louis speaks his mind. The change in the brothers’ relationship is one of the charms of this series.
Takuya: I think that Albert is quite unusual. The three of them are on the criminal side, taking the lives of the greedy, arrogant nobles, but Albert grew up right in the middle of those nobles. He should’ve been raised to think that it’s normal for nobles to act like that, and not to question it. Yet, he felt that his world was crooked and even reached the point of thinking that it had to be destroyed. It wouldn’t be wrong to say he’s eccentric. If anything, he’s a dangerous individual. He experienced a form of divine revelation when he met William and Louis, and found his purpose in life.
—He found partners who he could trust.
Takuya: I guess you could say… he met a business partner who could turn his ideals into reality, with the actual results to back it up. He trusts William and Louis to accomplish his dream, but I think part of why it works is because they aren’t his real brothers. Since they aren’t related by blood, they don’t get overly reliant on each other. There’s an absolute sense of distance and tension between them, which I think is one of the curiosities surrounding the Moriarty brothers.
Chiaki: I agree that to Louis, there’s a sense of distance between him and Albert, because unlike William, he isn’t related to him by blood. But on the other hand, he does trust Albert. I think that William and Albert trust Moran and Fred to some degree, but Louis felt wary when Fred visited their house at night—he doesn’t really open up to others. In that sense, I think that Albert is the only non-blood relative that Louis trusts.
—And he has something resembling absolute trust towards William.
Chiaki: Right. If carrying out their plan meant losing William, I can’t even imagine what Louis would choose. His trust exceeds the realm of brotherly love. But that doesn’t mean he blindly believes William—at first I thought it might be better to voice him with affection towards William (though not to the point of having hearts at the end of lines *laughs*), but as I was reading the script, I saw that he asked William questions like, “What does that mean?” or “Isn’t that dangerous?” If he really trusted William wholeheartedly, it wouldn’t be out of place for him to accept everything without question, but he thinks about William’s words and voices his concerns. I think that Louis wants to protect William and Albert’s home in his own way.
“I’d like to go to a pub and drink beer from large mugs with Hudson-san *laughs*” – Soma
—By the way, are there any characters you like besides the ones you voiced?
Chiaki: I like William-niisan.
Takuya: So fast! It’s as if you’ve never changed from your first impression. *laughs*
Chiaki: I always answer that question with William-niisan.
Soma: …But what’s the truth?
Takuya: …Do you mean it?
Chiaki: I think that Jack is austere and cool, but… No *laughs*. I tend to get immersed in my role, so it’s easy for me to like the characters that my character likes. Regardless of gender. So William’s scenes catch my eye, and I end up following him with my eyes, thinking that he’s cool.
Soma: I see.
Takuya: I like Inspector Lestrade. He seems like he’s seen much of life *laughs*. He also prioritizes his own justice over his police work. He must have quite the mental fortitude in order to associate with a problematic person like Sherlock, and I also really like the human kindness he shows in not being able to do things coldheartedly.
Soma: I like von Herder. As for why, I’ve always liked that kind of unconventional character *laughs*. Also, Hudson-san. She’s very charming as a woman, and I’d like to go to a pub and drink beer from large mugs with her. *laughs*
Takuya: Oh, that sounds nice. In that case, I want Moneypenny-san at our office.
Soma: Ohh, I know what you mean!
Takuya: She’s very capable. *laughs*
“Will there be a swimsuit episode, as I hoped for at the Episode 1 screening…?” – Chiaki
—This feature will be published when the first cour has reached its climax. Please give us a message for the readers.
Soma: First, thank you for reading this far. At the time that we’re doing this interview, we’ve just finished recording up to Episode 8, and we’re enjoying encountering new mysteries, characters, and anime-specific appeals. Please enjoy the show that we’ve put 120% of our excitement into, and use the manga to speculate about what’s to come. We hope for your continued support.
Takuya: I’m always looking forward to every recording because of how fulfilling they are. The production team is also doing their best, adjusting every last detail to deliver the best that they can. We want to bring you a wonderful story and characters. I’m sure there will be various developments from here on out—after all, I never expected to be going for afternoon tea with these two today *laughs*—so please look forward to those as well.
Chiaki: The manga and anime present the story in different ways and some of the developments differ as well, but on the flip side, I think that means the people who read the original manga can also enjoy new things in the anime. And personally, I’m interested in what role Louis will play later on. Will there be a swimsuit episode, as I hoped for at the Episode 1 screening…? *laughs*
Soma: Yeah, it could be an anime original.
Takuya: It’s not a complete lost cause.
Chiaki: Right? It could even be a 5-minute anime. I won’t abandon hope. *laughs*
Chiaki: Well, I’m only half serious *laughs* but I think it’d be nice to have scenes where they take a breather. I’m looking forward to the story developments, and I hope the viewers will continue to do so as well.