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.
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: Shirai Yusuke (Amemura Ramuda in Hypnosis Mic) Saito Soma (Yumeno Gentaro in Hypnosis Mic) Nozuyama Yukihiro (Arisugawa Dice in Hypnosis Mic)
※There were also interviews with the composers/lyricists/anime production staff and cast comments from the other divisions, but only Soma-relevant mentions will be translated here.
The human expressions peeking out from Shibuya’s deep chasm
—How was the impact of finally seeing Hypnosis Mic in animated form?
Shirai: Since it’s not just the hypnosis speakers that are shown, but also the damage they inflict on their opponents, it gives a sense of realism. It was a refreshing surprise to see how much of a “battle series” it was all along.
Saito: It’s made using an additive approach, with flashy enemies and flashy effects. Also, by adding visuals to the already-cool battles, it made me understand how rich the characters’ facial expressions were.
Nozuyama: The story is easy to understand too, so I think the anime will be a way to reach a broader audience, like elementary schoolers.
Shirai: Shibuya Division in particular is colourful, so you can recommend them to young children too.
Saito: The target age demographics are expanding *laughs*. But I guess it’s true that Shibuya Division’s catchiness makes them easy to get into. The anime has both radical innovation and traditional passion.
Shirai: Shibuya’s the only division that didn’t have a battle in Episode 1, though. They were rapping to make money. *laughs*
Saito: Well, Shibuya Division’s always been talking about money since the drama track from the very first CD.
—What did you feel in each episode with regards to your characters?
Nozuyama: As they’ve pointed out *laughs*, Dice truly never changes, or rather, it seems like he’s always borrowing money. I think the anime also conveys that he’s a “lovable idiot”—a troublemaker and the life of the party.
Shirai: Dice is an honest, good guy.
Nozuyama: Right! It’s great how he always gives his all! Seeing him animated made me think, “Dice really does love Ramuda and Gentaro.”
Saito: Similarly, Gentaro still randomly changes his personal pronoun and tone of speech in the middle of conversations, but I was also asked to tone it down from the drama tracks. In the anime, Ramuda and Dice are the energetic types, while Gentaro is a balancer who takes a step back and watches them. Personally, I feel that Gentaro’s aesthetics involve a love for pointlessness, so there are quite a few times where I add lines that aren’t in the script. It might be fun to think about where those are.
Nozuyama: Dice always falls for Gentaro’s lies, but in Episode 5’s ghost frenzy, even Ramuda got teased.
Shirai: It was surprising that Ramuda would be so afraid of ghosts. At first I thought he was pretending, but I was told to voice him as if it were serious, so the rap also has a fearful nuance.
Saito: It was true, huh?
Shirai: It’s hard to believe because of his “Black Ramuda” side. More of his true nature gets revealed with each drama track, and the anime compresses that, showing us several different expressions in a short period of time. He might not be very leader-like compared to the other divisions, but he was the one who chose Gentaro and Dice as his members. I think that their existences are what makes Ramuda a leader.
—How did you interpret the ending theme, “Kizuna -SHIBUYA ver.-“?
Shirai: It felt like there was a lot more of the echoing “kizuna, na” than the other divisions had.
Saito: Does saying “kizuna” a lot make it feel like “Shibuya-mi” (Shibuya-ness)?
Nozuyama: Huh? “Shibu-yami” (Shibu-darkness)?!
Shirai: It turned into darkness *laughs*. What I wanted to say is that Shibuya Division is a group of individualistic people, who originally had the weakest “kizuna” (bonds) of all the divisions. But that’s exactly why when you hear the word repeated so much and relate it to the drama tracks… it makes you think.
Saito: The really energetic calls you hear might be me *laughs*. I recorded some aggressive ones for the background, but after hearing what Shirai-kun just said, I wondered if it might’ve been because the “bonds” that Gentaro feels on the inside came out in the form of powerful sounds.
Nozuyama: It was tofubeats-san who wrote the song, an artist who has a lot of chill, emotional, sleepy songs—a style I’ve always liked. I thought it was perfect for Shibuya Division to sing. The fact that “Kizuna” rhymes with “Shibuya” already makes us different from the other divisions!
—What do you think Fling Posse’s strengths are?
Shirai: They’re all free and uncontrolled, but you can really perceive their humanness. I bet they’re the division that keeps you in the most suspense about how they’re going to turn out.
Saito: Since they’re ephemeral, like momentary glimmers, it makes me want to watch each and every one of those moments. Not much of their journey is told, but I believe that on their road to unity, their feelings have changed more than what they show outwardly.
Nozuyama: The “Shibuya darkness” that came up earlier is another one of their appeals, right?
Saito: The chill, emotional, sleepy “Shibuya darkness,” right? *laughs* All of the divisions are fun to speculate about, but since Shibuya’s members were so scattered at first, you fall deeper into them as more and more unexpected things come to light.
—Were there moments during the recordings when you felt your “bonds”?
Shirai: We’ve been working together for a long time and we trust each other, so the recordings go smoothly as long as I don’t do weird things to make them laugh.
Nozuyama: Ramuda goes from white to black, and Gentaro switches to old-fashioned speak or a woman’s voice. When they do ad libs there, we can’t help but laugh. When they don’t ad lib there, we naturally smile at each other with our eyes only, and I can feel our cultivated bonds there.
Saito: Shibuya Division rarely shows sentimentality, and similarly, we don’t really say publicly that we’re close friends. It’s kind of embarrassing, and it’s like it’s okay as long as we know it for ourselves. In that sense, I think it might be close to a familial relationship. When they’re making use of their strengths, I can feel safer than ever as long as I’m with them.
Nozuyama: Also, compared to other divisions that think, “We don’t want to lose,” we share the mindset of, “How can we make Shibuya Division better?”
Shirai: Yeah! That’s absolutely right.
—In Episode 10, sparks flew between you and Shinjuku Division’s “Matenro.” What do we have to look forward to next?
Shirai: Ramuda’s words were scathing, but he and Jakurai have a history between them. Those who only know him from the anime probably had their impression change, but for me, I had fun voicing him, thinking, “Yeah, yeah! This is Ramuda!”
Saito: Gentaro also went into a “battle mode” compared to his usual self. Returning attacks together is what makes battles so great.
Shirai: I don’t know how much Gentaro and Dice guessed of what Ramuda was trying to do, but their desire to play fair and square really got across to him, so everyone got impassioned. It was a good episode. Well, I didn’t really understand what “My luck is worth 100,000 luckies!” was supposed to mean. *laughs*
Nozuyama: What?! But that was Dice’s time to shine!
Shirai: Even just through the anime’s insert raps, Shibuya Division got to show a lot of their different sides. There are also anime-original plot developments, so please also look forward to seeing what Shibuya Division does while the rest of the battle goes on!
Yuki “T-Groove” Takahashi (“SHIBUYA GHOST NIGHT” compose/arrange) on the recording: “It was difficult to schedule because I was busy, but somehow I managed to be present for Saito Soma-kun’s recording. He’s truly amazing. With just a bit of rehearsal, he was able to do the recording in roughly one take—switching voices instantly on the spot! I was amazed by his range of voices, from ikebo to rough and hoarse.”
YUMA HARA (“SHIBUYA GHOST NIGHT” compose/arrange) on the recording: “I was there for Saito Soma-kun’s recording, and he’s amazing! Before the recording, we only had a temporary vocal track where some parts were just synthesizer melody, but once he sang it, the song came alive! I was awed at that moment.”
T-DOT (“JACKPOT!” compose/arrange/lyrics) on the recording: “Everyone’s OK takes came very quickly. I was surprised by how quickly they mustered their concentration and vocal power.”
“I think that Hypmic began when a group of adults got together and excitedly went, ‘Let’s make something that hasn’t been done before!’ You can see it in the quality of every song and the room for speculation in the mysteries scattered about, and it’s become a franchise that many people have supported for a long time. It’s also fulfilling to be part of as a voice actor because it gives me a lot of new challenges that I’ve never done before, such as being a radio personality while in-character. Recently, all of the divisions have been singing songs that aren’t limited by their original style. In particular, Shibuya Division’s range of styles expanded after we sang ‘Stella.’ I also enjoyed the wide variety of insert songs in the anime. I’m sure the Hypmic team will continue to bring us exciting, new ideas, and we cast members will also keep doing our best to be, in Nozuyama-kun’s words, a ‘chill, emotional, sleepy’ team with ‘Shibuya darkness’… the context is in Newtype magazine. *laughs*”
Features: Ishiya Haruki (Yamada Jiro in Hypnosis Mic) Komada Wataru (Iruma Jyuto in Hypnosis Mic) Saito Soma (Yumeno Gentaro in Hypnosis Mic) Kijima Ryuichi (Izanami Hifumi in Hypnosis Mic)
Mentioned: Kimura Subaru (Yamada Ichiro in Hypnosis Mic) Amasaki Kohei (Yamada Saburo in Hypnosis Mic) Asanuma Shintaro (Aohitsugi Samatoki in Hypnosis Mic) Kamio Shinichiro (Busujima Mason Rio in Hypnosis Mic) Shirai Yusuke (Amemura Ramuda in Hypnosis Mic) Nozuyama Yukihiro (Arisugawa Dice in Hypnosis Mic) Hayami Show (Jinguji Jakurai in Hypnosis Mic) Ito Kent (Kannonzaka Doppo in Hypnosis Mic)
—What were your impressions after watching Hypnosis Mic -Division Rap Battle- Rhyme Anima?
Ishiya: “They’re moving!” Having the characters animated meant that we could see their height differences, and seeing the city and the people living there expanded the world view. When I saw Ikebukuro Division in the anime, I thought, “This is the neighbourhood where the three brothers grew up.”
—What part of it made you think that?
Ishiya: The public order *laughs*. In Episode 2, Samezuka hears a cellphone ringing and says, “Whose is that?! Why isn’t your phone in silent mode?!” That line shows his goodness. Normally you would’ve expected him to say, “Whose is that?! Show yourself! I’ll beat you to death!”
Kijima: Seeing the other people in the neighbourhood makes it feel lived-in—it makes you feel closer to the world that the characters live in. In Shibuya Division, there’s another host, Uwabami, that talks a lot.
—I’m curious about how Uwabami and Hifumi would’ve interacted at work.
Kijima: The hosts probably fought amongst themselves too. I’d like to see a rap between hosts, although it seems like it’d be hard to make each of them unique.
Komada: Before the Hypmic mobile game came out, there weren’t many official illustrations. In the letters I received from fans, I could tell that the scarcity of official art gave them a lot of room for imagination. So when the anime adaptation happened, I thought, “Finally!”
Like Haru-kun (Ishiya) said, compared to the height numbers on the characters’ profiles, it’s easier to tell their height differences when they’re moving around on screen. Whether they’re glaring at each other eye-to-eye or one of them is looking down on the other is an important aspect. I think that the fans who have been supporting the franchise this whole time will discover a lot of things in the anime, some expected and some not.
—Did you make any discoveries, Komada-san?
Komada: From the numbers, I knew that Samatoki was a bit taller than Jyuto, but seeing them actually talking to each other, I thought, “So it really is like this.” I wasn’t satisfied with that feeling of being slightly looked down on, though. *laughs*
Saito: When I first watched Episode 1, I was impressed at how the rap battles showed coolness in various ways. They tried different presentations for each division and song, so I thought it’d be fun to rewatch the anime from different angles.
—The flashiness of the rap battles was well received.
Saito:Hypmic excels with the uniqueness of its setting and characters, so I think the Hypmic-ness permeates through the whole anime. Every episode has a lot of hooks that make me go, “Wait, can you hold on a sec?” and want to rewind 15 seconds. I think it’s a good match for the current era.
The character names that the cast shouted out were…
—Tell us your memorable scenes from the eight episodes that have aired so far.
Ishiya: At the beginning of Episode 1, when Jiro and Saburo come in. Ama-chan (Amasaki Kohei who plays Yamada Saburo) and I were talking about how happy we were that we got to say the first lines out of the 12 characters.
—Amasaki-san also said that he was happy about that.
Ishiya: Then in Episode 2, the scene where Ichiro is running to Jiro and Saburo. It was really badass and protagonist-like how he jumped over the wall behind them. There was a delinquent-ness to it too, like even though he was an ally, he had the coolness of an enemy.
Komada: Honestly, up until that scene I was thinking, “Ichiro, stop rapping and run faster,” but I forgave him when he arrived. He was cool.
Kijima: Something that was cool in Shinjuku Division was Jakurai-sensei’s narration at the beginning of Episode 3. “This is Shinjuku Division, where neon lights shine all night…” Hayami-san’s voice really gives it a lot of depth. The scene where Doppo screams and runs out of the apartment was awesome too. Who would’ve thought that a single roll of toilet paper could make someone scream like that?
Saito: That chain of events was funny.
Kijima: Also, it’s not a scene, but Episode 3 had ridiculously hard-to-say names. Mimimi and Uwabami… *laughs*
Ishiya: Mimimi is rough!
Saito: Honestly, I was glad I didn’t have to say it. *laughs*
Komada: That name is a voice actor killer. I’m sure that even though it wasn’t us saying it, we still shouted, “Mimimi! I can’t say that!” I was impressed that Kijima-san said it magnificently.
Kijima: Fortunately it was a good day for me, hahahaha! *laughs* It would’ve been fine if it was just “Mimimi.” But having words before or after it, like “Mimimi-san,” was a struggle. Another memorable scene as Hifumi was Episode 7 when he yells at Kazuha.
—That was the episode where Doppo makes a new friend named Rurikawa Kazuha, but it turns out that he’s using Matenro to get away with theft.
Kijima: “Doppo was truly happy to have made a friend! How dare you play with his emotions?!” I agreed completely with that line. But I remembered earlier on when Doppo and Kazuha were getting closer and Hifumi butted in, and thought, “It’s because you do those things that Doppo can’t make any friends.” *laughs* Well, he’s still a good guy. Doppo and Hifumi have built that relationship over many years.
Komada: As for Yokohama Division, the scene in Episode 4 after they solved the case was reminiscent of old anime, and I loved that. Rio apologizes to the other two for the trouble his former comrades caused, and Samatoki tells him not to because “It was our problem.” Jyuto also says it was a good warm-up for the division battle. It was a cliche way of brushing it off, but I really liked that old-fashioned exchange. I thought it was cute.
Also, Jyuto’s line in Episode 8. They corner his police coworkers who have been making trouble, and I loved his, “I’d expect no less from my respected seniors.” It made me go, “Jyuto-saaan!”
—Jyuto’s cruelness towards wrongdoers is very different from the way he treats Samatoki and Rio.
Komada: When he clashes with Samatoki, it’s as direct equals, so his coarse speech is simply reactionary. Against other villains, he generally looks down on them and wants to take the initiative. He talks in formal language as a way of pinning them down from above. Against Samatoki, he doesn’t try to hold on to the upper hand.
Saito: Also, I really like Rex… *laughs* I liked the scene in Episode 5 when the photographers were giving a food report on squid jerky, and the Shibuya Division members were like, “These people are dangerous…”
Ishiya: Why were those three eating squid jerky in Shibuya? And in the middle of a livehouse?
Komada: I wondered if squid jerky was soul food in the real Shibuya and looked it up.
Saito: I like scenes that feel like they’re doing their own thing, like in Episode 8 when Gentaro picks up the weighted dice, shoves them at Dice’s mouth, and tells him to bite them. First of all, Dice has incredible jaw strength, and second of all, why did Gentaro make him do that? *laughs*
—It was certainly an unusual idea.
Saito: Shibuya Division’s episodes are always comedic. Even the ghost story that Gentaro tells in Episode 5—when you listen to it calmly, you go, “Wait, huh?” because the part where you’re supposed to be scared is complicated.
Kijima: It was actually scary! *laughs*
Saito: At the recording, I think it was Shirai-kun? who asked, “What does this mean?” and I had to explain why it was scary *laughs*. But Ramuda and Dice were scared. The way the story was improvised on the fly without caring about consistency is very fitting for Shibuya Division, because they enjoy aimless conversations and idle talk.
—Moving from drama tracks to anime, was there anything you experimented with at the recordings?
Kijima: For Hifumi, whether his jacket is on or off is an important point. At the anime recordings I only had the script and black-and-white line art to work with, so there were many times when I didn’t know. I was constantly confirming with the staff. And there was a time when I was “wearing the jacket” during the test run, but in the real recording, I got carried away with the flow and forgot to put it on, so we had to redo that part.
—That’s something that could only happen at an anime recording. As for the characters, I’m assuming you used what you’d built up from the CDs?
Saito: Yes, we kept what we’d fostered so far. But in Gentaro’s case, I think his eccentricity was toned down a bit from the drama tracks. For Episode 1, I was told, “Don’t go as overboard as in the drama tracks; rein it in.”
—In the drama tracks, Gentaro throws people off by doing things like suddenly changing his personal pronoun to “maro.” In the anime, it seems more like he’s calmly watching over the rambunctious Ramuda and Dice.
Saito: I think he’s become the balancer between them. Even before, he could’ve been interpreted as a sensible person who was pretending to be eccentric. In the anime, we have the cute Ramuda, the teaseable Dice, and then Gentaro who’s one step behind them. I think it emphasizes them as the “cute, upbeat division.”
Ishiya: In that sense, Jiro’s also changed from the drama tracks. I wanted to have a bigger gap between the voice he talks to his big bro with and the voice he talks to Saburo and his friends with. In the anime, I was able to switch between them perfectly.
—What was the reasoning behind that?
Ishiya: In the anime, you can see Jiro’s physical build, right? Since he’s 180cm tall, I don’t think he would normally have the voice that he talks to his big bro with, which is the one in the drama tracks. That voice comes out because his mental growth hasn’t caught up with his physical growth, and it shows that he still has room to grow. In the anime you can see his body, so I wanted the viewers to feel that dissonance and room for growth.
The voice he talks to Ichiro with is quite forced for me. I wanted to make the gap bigger, so I did my best to tune my throat to be able to reach that vocal register.
Komada: For Jyuto, what I was conscious of in the anime was preventing the rap from sounding out of place.
—Out of place?
Komada: Jyuto is generally calm and collected during the story parts, but when he’s rapping, he has powerful high-tone attacks. Yokohama Division’s songs are interesting because we have the super low-tone Rio, the unrelenting mid-tone Samatoki, and the eardrum-provoking high-tone Jyuto. So, I can’t lower his voice. But I think that people seeing Jyuto for the first time will notice the big gap between his story voice and his rap voice and go, “Is this Jyuto-san rapping?”
—True, if you start with his calm personality then the aggressiveness of his rapping voice might seem too energetic.
Komada: That’s why I decided to use a wider key range for the anime. I didn’t want Jyuto’s voice to feel off during the rap parts, so I made sure to familiarize viewers with his higher range during the story parts too.
Heavy-hitting raps that surpass the words’ meaning
—I see, because a lot of people are experiencing Hypnosis Mic for the first time through the anime. New rap songs were produced for the opening, ending, and every episode. Did any of them leave a particular impression on you?
Saito: First off, I thought, “The opening theme is such a difficulty spike!” *laughs*
Kijima: Even for you, Soma-kun?!
Saito: It’s fast, right? It’s fast, but if you get caught up in the speed, it’s hard to express coolness. The chorus is belted out too, so there was the question of how much of each character’s personality could be presented.
Komada: The opening’s relay is by far the fastest we’ve had. It was probably a speed record for every character. We didn’t even get 10 seconds.
Saito: It’s a really cool opening theme. We’re fortunate to have a lot of people supporting this series, and instead of taking advantage of that to take it easy, it really feels like we have the guts to keep trying new things, and I thought that was cool.
Ishiya: Also, the ending theme was sung individually by each division, and Jyuto’s voice really pierces through Yokohama Division’s version, like, “ore-tachi no kizuna” “KIZUNA!!!” *laughs*
Komada: The mixing engineer adjusted it so that everyone was the same volume, but my voice is still too piercing, right?
Ishiya: Yeah, it has a clanging feel to it. “KIZUNA!!!” was in the Twitter trends too.
—How were the raps in each episode’s battle scene?
Komada: I want to hear about Episode 6’s rap from Haru-kun.
Ishiya: That was cool, right?! Colabintaro-san (Kimura Subaru) said that he wanted to win against the Electro DynaMonks so badly that he crammed more rhymes in than ever before. It was a really satisfying song for me and Ama-chan too.
Ikebukuro Division’s had refreshing fast songs, but this one was hardcore from the start with the guitar intro. We wanted to sing a heavy song like “DEATH RESPECT” too, so that wish of ours was granted.
—Do you have any stories to share from the recording?
Ishiya: My part was recorded second, and first was Ama-chan. When I listened to his part, his rap was unexpectedly forceful. Since it was so cool, it motivated me for my part too. Ama-chan is always scarier than I expect. He’s a mad dog too. *laughs*
Komada: For Yokohama Division, Samatoki’s lyrics in Episode 4 were pretty striking. “They can air such blatantly offensive lyrics on TV?!” *laughs* Being able to say this is one of the good things about hip hop.
—It was so direct that the words couldn’t be shown.
Komada: Then in Episode 8 there was Jyuto’s “I have on my side yakuza and ex-military, thanks for doing all the hard work for me” which had a great sound and was extremely fitting for Jyuto. They’re angry lyrics that conjure the image of him narrowing his eyes and looking down on his opponents. In that song, Jyuto and Rio name themselves, but Samatoki’s MC name is called by the other two. It shows the relationship between them.
Kijima: I like Shinjuku Division’s rap in Episode 7. It’s cool, right? Even the prototype song was so powerful that I wish you could’ve heard it. I think it’s a song that shows visually and audibly the scenery of Shinjuku and the people living and suffering there.
“Like mixin’ too many colors of paint together, this situation should be makin’ me high, but all I feel is low”—I don’t know why, but it hits me right in the heart. I don’t have the words to explain it clearly, though. Anyway, I really love the Episode 7 song.
—Hifumi’s rapping gave off a different impression than usual.
Kijima: Maybe he expresses his feelings differently since there’s a clear target for his anger? Since the rap comes at the emotional climax of the story, it felt similar to dialogue. There’s a part that wasn’t used in the anime too, so I hope you’ll listen to the full version. The scenery descriptions become more vivid in the latter half, so the emotions come off stronger too.
—As was announced a while back, all of the new rap songs will be released together.
Saito: I received the music files for the songs I was part of, but I’m looking forward to listening to them all together. We want the album too.
—Which Shibuya Division song left an impression on you?
Saito: I really love Episode 5’s song. Gentaro has a strong supporting role as a sort of storyteller, while Ramuda is scared of ghosts and Dice is just hilarious. The three of them go off in different directions, but come together in unison for the chorus. The song is 80s-like with a good beat. It’s a style of music that Shibuya Division hasn’t done before.
—Episode 8’s “JACKPOT!” was also a new, aggressive style.
Saito: At the start, Gentaro’s “I simply despise lies!!!” is really angry. At first, I said it normally and got the OK. But then I said, “Just for the heck of it, can I try saying it really angrily?” and recorded that. Everyone laughed and the staff said, “Okay, we’ll use the one that works best.” I thought it’d be the first one, so I was surprised that they chose the angry one.
—The outrageousness of the lie does suit Gentaro.
Saito: As I said earlier, Gentaro seems calmer in the anime, but then his humorous nature shows up at every turn. I was glad that they used that take.
Shinjuku are “professionals,” Yokohama are “artisans”
—Do you have any stories to tell from the recordings?
Kijima: Episode 1’s recording was before COVID hit, so we were all able to record together, but everyone naturally sat with their divisions.
Ishiya: The three food reporters sat together too.
Komada: When one person sat down, the other teams would leave two spots open around that person when sitting down. It made more sense than sitting apart though, because the dialogues were on a division-by-division basis.
Kijima: Shibuya was the only one that was scattered.
Saito: To be precise, only Shirai-san was in a different place.
Ishiya: Yeah, he really is a free spirit.
Kijima: He’s following Ramuda’s character, I guess. *laughs*
Saito: In a way. Nozu (Nozuyama Yukihiro who plays Arisugawa Dice) came pretty close by, but Shirai-kun would greet us from a completely different place, and stay there by himself until right before the recording started.
Komada: But once everyone else was sitting with their divisions, the only space left was with Shibuya, so he ended up going there. It was funny.
Ishiya: At the start of Episode 1, the four members of The Dirty Dawg were sitting in the front. Looking at them made me think, “Yeah, they’re strong.”
Komada: Just having Hayami-san in the middle tightened up the atmosphere.
Ishiya: Also, the dorayaki we were given as refreshments was good.
Saito: I think the cast of Hypmic gets along quite well. We’ve performed a lot of concerts together, so I feel a strong bond between us.
Kijima: We can’t have get-togethers anymore because of the COVID situation, and it was unfortunate that the recordings became split up by division.
Saito: Shibuya was often recorded after Shinjuku, and since they finished their recordings with room to spare, it really felt like they were “professionals.” They did their work efficiently, said their thanks, and left.
Kijima: Hayami-san arrives the earliest, so we can’t let it run late.
Saito: Is there a general order you always arrive in? For Shibuya it’s always Nozu first, then me, and Shirai-kun is always last. Because he does things at his own pace. *laughs*
Kijima: For Shinjuku, Hayami-san usually arrives first, so I try to go as early as I can. Ito-kun really takes his time. *laughs*
Komada: For Yokohama, there’s a high chance of it being Kamio-san, then me, then Asanuma-san.
Ishiya: For Ikebukuro, Subaru-san or I would be first, and Ama-chan was last. If Subaru-san wasn’t there early, he wouldn’t show up until the last minute. If Shinjuku are professionals, then Yokohama seemed like artisans. It felt like they put a lot of care into each and every line.
Komada: Yokohama often changes their tone of voice depending on who they’re talking to. Samatoki’s coarse voice has a lot of originality, so it took time to fine-tune it. We also had a lot of discussions about ad libs.
Ishiya: For Ikebukuro, Subaru-san had to record a lot of things (like CMs and episode previews), so we’d talk to the other division members while waiting for him to finish.
Komada: For the English episode names in the previews, Ama-chan and Nozuyama-kun happened to be before and after me, and they asked me for help with pronunciation. Since they have to fit their characters’ personalities, we discussed how to accent the words.
Ishiya: Jiro couldn’t speak English to begin with, so I didn’t ask for help *laughs*. When I first took English in middle school, I didn’t know how to read anything either and I pronounced “who” as “hoh.” I remembered that when I recorded my preview.
—In Episode 9, the Division Rap Battle in Chuo-ku will finally begin. Please give us a message for all of the fans who are looking forward to it.
Ishiya: The battle season has been reproduced in anime form. The interactions with other divisions show more of the characters’ natures, like Jiro getting riled up by Jyuto, and Rio’s childishness when he’s mad at Saburo. It deepens the world.
It’s a sprint until the finish line, so I hope it gives the feeling of running to not get left behind *laughs*. I hope you’ll empathize with the teams and characters while cheering them on. Also, I want a sequel! Please show us your support!
Komada: For those who think it’s hard to get into Hypmic because it’s been going on for a long time, I hope you’ll watch this anime. Episode 1 is constructed in a relatively easy-to-watch way, and even if you only watch the anime, you’ll know what Hypmic is. Even if you only watch the rap parts, or even if you start from Episode 9, I think that’s fine. Look forward to seeing Chuo-ku’s involvement from here on.
Kijima: Since the matchups are the same as the drama tracks, I think there are already a lot of exciting, touching moments etched into our minds. How will those grand fights be depicted in the anime? Let’s get excited over them again together. I think Hypnosis Mic is a series where we can all get heated up together, pumping our hands in the air in front of the TV screen. The cast is heading into the fray now, so please keep up with us!
Saito: The major difference from Episode 9 onwards is that the divisions are clashing with each other. The battles will get more exciting, so please look forward to them. Each division gets their time in the spotlight, so please watch closely. Shibuya had a lot of happy and humorous scenes up until now, but you’ll be able to see a more serious side of them in the upcoming episodes. Please look forward to seeing that gap.
Features: Shirai Yusuke (Amemura Ramuda in Hypnosis Mic) Saito Soma (Yumeno Gentaro in Hypnosis Mic) Nozuyama Yukihiro (Arisugara Dice in Hypnosis Mic)
Mentioned: Kimura Subaru (Yamada Ichiro in Hypnosis Mic) Kijima Ryuichi (Izanami Hifumi in Hypnosis Mic) Hayami Show (Jinguuji Jakurai in Hypnosis Mic)
Taking a look at the animated rap battles
Q: At last, the anime Hypnosis Mic -Division Rap Battle- Rhyme Anima will begin airing in October. What were your impressions of the story?
Shirai: The original drama tracks focused on each division individually, but in the anime, the four divisions will all be appearing at the same time. I was curious about how the characters would interact with each other.
I can’t give any details, but everyone had their time to shine, in a well-balanced way. The starting point and the characters’ relationships are a bit different from the drama tracks, so I hope you’ll look forward to that.
Saito: Right. I think it’s made in a way that’s easy to watch for people who are starting with the anime. It has its own charms that will appeal to people who are already Hypmic fans, while also being a good jump-in point for people who think, “I hear about Hypmic a lot, but where should I start?”
Anyway, I think it’ll make an appropriate entry point because Episode 1 gives you the gist of the four divisions’ characteristics.
Nozuyama: I think the story will also feel fresh for people who have been listening to all of the drama tracks.
Shirai: Gentaro and Dice are really nice guys in the anime. It’s touching to see Shibuya Division like this in the anime after experiencing the drama tracks, so there’s an advantage there.
Saito: In one of the episodes, when I said Gentaro’s “Maro wa (…)” line at full blast the way I did in the drama tracks, I was told to say it more mildly. Gentaro might be more elegant in the anime than he is in the drama tracks.
Ramuda and Dice had very detailed movements, right?
Shirai: Those two move a lot.
Saito: Both of them are the cute type, but I think Dice is going to increase in popularity. *laughs*
Saito: The animation emphasizes his puppy-like character. There was also quite a lot of playing around with ad libs.
Nozuyama: And as always, he’s hurting for money… so the acting wasn’t much different from the drama tracks.
Since the cast has been doing the drama tracks for three years now, the characters have been solidified in our minds. So, we often suggested phrasings that would be more fitting for the characters. The staff accepted our suggestions, and the recordings went smoothly.
Q: How were the rap battle scenes?
Saito: Since the rap battles were audio-centric up until now, we were excited to see how they would be depicted in animated form.
(At the time of this interview) We’ve only seen Ikebukuro Division’s rap battle so far, but it’s really flashy, and it made me want to turn up the volume and watch it on the biggest screen that I can. Each song has its own individuality, and I think that’s one of the Hypmic anime’s biggest highlights.
Seeing the rap battle in visual, animated form was very new and impressive for us.
Shirai: We also voiced the extras who were defeated in battle.
Saito: Yes, we voice a lot of extras here and there. As for the interesting enemies…
Nozuyama: The enemies have really strong personalities! And as usual, the names were hard to read. *laughs*
Saito: I think the exaggerated characters are really funny.
Q: Every episode is going to have a new song. What was it like recording Shibuya’s songs?
Nozuyama: They have the Shibuya aesthetic while also being new genres.
Shirai: There was also a hardcore song. It was a lot of fun.
Saito: It was similar in style to “BATTLE BATTLE BATTLE.”
Nozuyama: It’s been a while since we had a song that felt like a battle.
Shirai: I didn’t expect to be able to sing this much for the anime.
Nozuyama: There was a month when we had recordings every week, right?
Shirai: It’s because there’s a new song every episode. Our songs are all very “Shibuya,” so please look forward to them.
Q: It seems that you were able to record the first half of the series with the whole cast together. What were the recordings like?
Nozuyama: With all of the male cast gathered in the dubbing booth, it really felt like the world of Hypmic, where men are forced to live outside of Chuo-ku.
What I personally liked was that even though no one said anything, everyone naturally sat with their divisions. At concerts, our backstage locations are assigned by division, but that isn’t the case at anime recordings. And yet…
Saito: No, that wasn’t the case for Shibuya… *laughs*
Shirai: We were all over the place. *laughs*
Nozuyama: Wait, really? *laughs*
Saito: For Episode 1, Shirai-kun was sitting somewhere else, right?
Shirai: Yes, I was somewhere.
Nozuyama: Shirai-san’s never around.
Shirai: Wait, you know that’s not true! *laughs*
Nozuyama: Saito-san and I often sat near each other.
Shirai: Ikebukuro was always together.
Nozuyama: Yeah, you’re right.
Saito: Shibuya’s characters all do their own thing, and I guess that goes for us too…
Shirai: Pretty much.
Saito: It felt like we could sit next to anyone, wherever there was an empty space. It was actually comfortable that way. The overall atmosphere was really nice, since they’re all good people and we perform concerts together.
Shirai: It was really friendly.
The Fling Posse style is where everyone does their own thing
Q: How has the relationship between the Shibuya Division cast members changed over these past three years?
Shirai: It doesn’t feel like anyone’s the leader.
Saito: But I feel at ease when Shirai-kun’s around.
Nozuyama: His presence is really reassuring.
Shirai: I’m pretty free spirited, so I might be similar to Ramuda.
Saito: I think there was a time when we couldn’t start rehearsing because you were eating vegetable sticks…
Shirai: The concert rehearsal? That was… *laughs* They happened to say “Let’s begin” right when I finished eating them. Then I was like, “Wait, were you waiting for me to finish my vegetable sticks…? I’m so sorry.”
Saito: Thanks to that unique pacing of yours, the rest of us can go “Let’s do this!” without feeling nervous.
Nozuyama: You help us relax.
Shirai: It really feels like everyone, not just Shibuya, lets me do whatever I want. It means that I don’t have to worry either. I think that these two are acting freely too—no one is leading the way. I’ve always felt that the Fling Posse style is where everyone does their own thing.
Saito: The three of us also went drinking together, although we haven’t been able to recently due to the coronavirus situation.
Saito: It feels like our meetups have gotten more fun over the years, but then again, I think we were just as close from the beginning?
Nozuyama: Yeah, I don’t think our closeness has changed much.
Saito: Rather than “Let’s do our best to become friends,” it was more like, “Oh, so you’re that kind of interesting person; got it.” I think there are various different kinds of teams out there, but in our case, it might feel a bit ephemeral.
Shirai: You’re right.
Nozuyama: It’s like, there doesn’t need to be a plan. For example, if someone says “Let’s meet at 6pm in Shibuya,” I’ll head there at around 6pm, even though we haven’t decided where in Shibuya we’re going.
Saito: We take things seriously when we have to, but we also have a nice, comforting sense of leniency. There’s no specific “Shibuya should be like this” in our minds.
Shirai: There’s no rules or standards.
Nozuyama: Shibuya is free.
The two-faced Ramuda, the sensible Gentaro, and the honest Dice
Q: Tell us again about what you like or sympathize with about your characters.
Shirai: Amemura Ramuda is very cute, but I think his movements and facial expressions in the anime make his cuteness even more apparent. Also—and I think this word can be interpreted in different ways—he’s very “humanlike.” I like how he expresses his emotions without hiding them in his heart, and it makes me want to support him.
Q: Since you always act calmly and naturally, it’s interesting to see you voice a two-faced character like Ramuda.
Shirai: Yes, I’m aware that I’m not two-faced.
Nozuyama: At most, there’s your “watching soccer” and “not watching soccer” modes.
Saito: I was thinking the exact same thing. “Liverpool” and “everything else.” (Shirai-san is an ardent Liverpool FC fan)
Shirai: I don’t go through any sudden changes, but acting as two-sided characters feels really satisfying and fun.
Q: What about Gentaro?
Saito: Yumeno Gentaro is an author and his MC name is “Phantom.” As you can tell from his catchphrase “That was a lie, though,” one of his character themes is “lying” or “fiction.” It’s difficult to figure out what he’s really thinking—he’s truly shrouded in fog.
However, that’s only at first glance. My personal opinion is that even though Gentaro talks and acts peculiarly, he’s actually relatively sensible. It’s like he’s acting strange on purpose.
I also think he exists to balance out Ramuda—who’s shouldering something extremely heavy—and Dice, who’s pure and honest with his feelings.
I like literature too, so I think that’s something we have in common. But I’ve never told any lies like his in my entire life, so we’re really not the same at all.
(Shirai-san and Nozuyama-san are staring at Saito-san)
Saito: (serious face) …Huh? But I really didn’t lie.
Shirai: I was waiting for you to say “That was a lie, though” at the very end.
Saito: But it’s true?
Shirai: What? Is there anyone who’s never lied?
Nozuyama: He’s been like this his entire life.
Saito: It’s true.
Nozuyama: He declared it with confidence.
Saito: *laughs* Joking aside, Gentaro talks in the form of several different characters. As an actor, it’s fun to be able to use various different voices to expand a single character’s range.
Q: What about Dice?
Nozuyama: The Shibuya characters’ histories are a mystery, and in Dice’s case, he seems like an idiot at first glance and he refuses to talk about his past. The one thing that’s easy to understand about him is that he really loves gambling. Although I don’t think that gives the best impression…
Saito: That’s the only way you can describe him, after all.
Nozuyama: He bets all of the money he has, and he borrows money from other people without returning it.
Shirai: Are you okay with that being the most important thing for new viewers to know about Dice? *laughs*
Saito: Well, he’s also pure, like a puppy.
Nozuyama: He’s good at being spoiled, since he’s not afraid to say “Lend me money”…
Nozuyama: He’s honest and cares about his friends.
Saito: He’s passionate, right?
Nozuyama: Yeah. Ramuda and Gentaro are his precious friends. When Ramuda’s in trouble, he says “Let’s save him.” I also like how he’s honest about what he likes.
The OP theme would be a real challenge to sing by yourself
Q: What were your impressions when you heard the OP theme “Hypnosis Mic -Rhyme Anima-”?
Shirai: The full group chorus felt different from the previous times. I think out of the 12 people, my recording was first.
Saito: The first take was hard, right?!
Shirai: Yeah. For the chorus, they wanted a different approach compared to previous songs. On top of that, I had to bring out Ramuda’s characteristics in the song. It was a difficult trial and error process.
Saito: There was the issue of how much we could maintain character while singing.
Shirai: Right. We were instructed to emphasize the chorus’ nuances while keeping the character in mind.
Saito: Rather than singing it however we wanted, we needed to bring the 12 characters’ nuances together.
Shirai: I’m interested in what people will think when they hear this song. It is a cool song though; fitting for the opening theme. I hope the fans will try to sing it too.
Q: It’s quite fast-paced.
Shirai: It is.
Saito: That’s what happens when you try to show everyone’s part within the length of a TV anime opening. Compared to the other full group songs, this one is shorter overall, so it switches between solo parts at a crazy speed.
I think it’d be a real challenge to sing all of the parts by yourself. Once you lose track for a second, it’s over. It’ll probably be difficult to sing live, too.
But, the song felt challenging in a good way. I wonder if it’s because they believe that we can handle it.
Q: What do you think, Nozuyama-san?
Nozuyama: As Saito-san said, it switches between characters in short phrases, but it’s amazing how each character stands out on their own and you can clearly tell who’s who. Part of it is because we’ve sung as these characters for three years, but I really felt again how amazing Hypmic is.
Shibuya Division’s songs are poppy and emotional
Q: Since there will be anime watchers who are new to the franchise, please tell us about Shibuya Division’s musical style.
Shirai: Shibuya is… pop music but emotional.
Saito: Right. They’re not only bright and happy.
Q: Are there any particularly emotional lyrics in your songs so far?
Saito: Shibuya has a lot of ephemeral lyrics. “Shibuya Marble Texture -PCCS-” has that melody to it and the lyrics are about fleeting moments.
Saito: Then there’s “Stella” of course, and its “Saisei no Verse” (verse of rebirth) lyric. That phrase became our mysterious slogan.
Saito/Nozuyama: (at the same time) “Saisei nooo~ Verse!”
Saito: *looks at Shirai-san* …Did you forget? *laughs*
Shirai: No no, I remember.
Saito: We suddenly did it at the ABEMA concert (in March 2020), right?
Shirai: Yeah, we did!
Saito: Right before the show, we were asked if we had a signature pose for the three of us, and Shirai-kun said “We do.” Nozuyama-kun and I were like, “Huh? What?!” Then Shirai-kun said, “It’s ‘Saisei nooo~ Verse!’ and we were like, we only decided on that just now! *laughs*
Nozuyama: We’d never done it before. Well, that’s how Shibuya is.
Saito: We roll with the flow.
When I received the demo for “Stella,” I really liked it, and I remember thinking that Shibuya needed a song like that. I wrote “Did you guys hear the demo?!” in our LINE group chat. They hadn’t listened to it yet, so I said “It’s really cool, so listen to it as soon as you can.”
Shirai: Yeah, he did send that. I was surprised, like “That Soma-kun sent us a LINE message…?!” *laughs*
Saito: I rarely start LINE conversations myself.
Nozuyama: In this group, no one really starts LINE conversations themselves. When Soma-san’s LINE message came, I was surprised and immediately went to listen to the demo.
Saito: It was an incredible song. All of our songs were impressive, but with “Stella,” it felt like Shibuya had moved on to the next stage.
Nozuyama: I like the line in “Shibuya Marble Texture -PCCS-” that goes “kaerimichi sukoshi toomawari” (taking a little detour on the way home).
Saito: It’s nice how it’s like, we have to go home, but…
Nozuyama: It’s emotional. It’s “chill” which is cool. (He says the English word “chill” which is not commonly used in JP.)
Saito: Suddenly bringing up “chill” *laughs*
Nozuyama: I thought it’d be a Shibuya-like word. *laughs*
Shirai: *laughs* “Shibuya Marble Texture -PCCS-” and “Stella” are emotional in different ways, and they’re both stylish and cool. Personally, I was touched by the line “tsumasaki wa mae ni muketeoku” (point our toes forward) in “Stella.”
I think the more that Shibuya’s relationships and story are developed in the drama tracks, the more meaning “Stella’s” lyrics hold. I’m sure that the listeners feel that way too.
The lyrics also give us a little push on the back in our everyday lives, and their meanings might continue to change in the future.
…Wait, what are you laughing at? *looks at Saito-san who started laughing beside him*
Saito: No, I was just remembering 4th Live, when we stood on a rising triangular stage. We came up with the name “Stella in the sky” for it, but will the “Stella _____” series continue?
Shirai: Like “Stella on the ground.”
Saito: Or “Stella in the water.” *laughs*
Shirai: How’re we going to do that?! Our voices are going to be gurgly the whole time.
Words feel different after three years of Hypmic
Q: I think that this was your first experience with “rap x character” content. How did you become accustomed to rapping?
Saito: I mainly just listened and voiced it out over and over again.
…Nozuyama-kun has a history, right?
Shirai: He’s a former rapper, or something.
Saito: His first cry as a newborn baby was rap, or something.
Nozuyama: No! My first cry wasn’t “Aaai!” *laughs*
Saito: “Aaai!” could actually be possible. *laughs*
Nozuyama: Yes, but… *laughs* But really, I wasn’t that familiar with rap.
Nozuyama: I’d never rapped before either. Actually, I was the kind of person that would think rap was scary if a friend sung it at karaoke.
Shirai: How come?! *laughs*
Nozuyama: I had this “underground” impression of it. So at first, I listened to rap that was sung by an idol.
Shirai: Huh, that’s surprising.
Nozuyama: After I’d gotten a bit used to it, I asked a friend who was a rap fan to tell me their recommended artists and programs. When I listened to them, I thought they were really interesting. Even though I was averse to it for so long, I got completely addicted to it. Hypmic allowed me to meet rap for myself.
Shirai: As for me, before I became a voice actor, I often sung rap songs at karaoke. I liked the sense of achievement and refreshing feeling that came from cramming in all of those words without fumbling, but Hypmic made me realize that it’s completely different when you have to do it in character. It’s refreshing and satisfying to think about how Amemura Ramuda would express himself when rapping. I kept practicing while thinking, “I want to sound more like this,” and at some point, I started coming up with my own ideas too, which made it even more fun.
Saito: I’ve always loved listening to music, but my formative years didn’t include rap. I liked guitar rock songs. As the years passed, I started listening to electronica and hip hop—“chill” songs. *looks at Nozuyama-san* …I’m being laughed at!
Nozuyama: “Chill” songs, right? *laughs*
Saito: *laughs* In the past, I had opportunities to do rap parts in character songs, but I never imagined there would be such a rap-focused series. But as a voice actor, I had a sense of how to rap as a character, so I didn’t worry too much about how to rap as Yumeno Gentaro.
Gentaro’s rapping isn’t what most people think of rap as—it’s “poetry reading.” He often raps to a calm beat without a set rhythm. So, Gentaro and Hypmic created a new style of rap music for my knowledgebase.
Shibuya’s raps have become very diverse. I was glad that I got to do high-speed rap with Dice in the drama tracks.
Nozuyama: We did!
Saito: My intuition towards words has changed after three years of Hypmic. The rhythm and flow of words are important for my job as a voice actor too. I want to keep working hard and enjoying this change.
Q: What do you think about concert direction and performances?
Shirai: I don’t know what the other divisions are doing, but I’d say we discuss it a lot. We think it’s important to know what we want to show and how we can reach the audience. The three of us have gone out to eat before and had discussions like, “Would it be better to move like this at this part?”
Saito: When a voice actor stands on stage, the question “How in-character should I be?” has no correct answer, so it’s difficult… For example, Ramuda’s “selfies” have become a recurring act for us, but I’m curious as to what people actually think about our acting there.
Shirai: At first it was on impulse.
Saito: At some point it became a recurring act. In order to show that carefree fun, we discuss to some degree and then act freely on top of it.
Q: “Stella” was also impressive at 4th Live.
Saito: Since “Stella’s” lyrics are like a play within a play, I thought it’d be nice for the trio to show different facial expressions than usual.
As I said before, there’s no correct way to depict our characters, but when I was performing “Stella” and saw that Ramuda’s face was down the whole time and Dice had a pained expression on his face, I realized that we all had a similar idea.
Shirai: Right. We did say in advance that for the division songs, we’d snap into place for the hooks of the songs. But as he said just now, it feels like we naturally had the same mindset on stage.
Deepening bonds and future potential
Q: Lastly, please tell us what Shibuya Division does better than any of the other divisions.
Saito: The characters and songs are really upbeat, but they aren’t purely bright and happy. There’s a tinge of sadness and darkness as they walk with light steps. I think their ephemerality is why you can’t take your eyes off of them.
We talked about “Stella” earlier, and I feel that the original Fling Posse wouldn’t have come up with this song. Ramuda originally put together the team for the sake of winning, but their bonds grew deeper, which is how these songs and stories came to be. I think you can really feel their potential future growth.
Shirai: The name Fling Posse also directly translates to “comrades for a short time.” That may have been what Ramuda had in mind when he formed the group, but their songs and stories are clearly changing in nature… I’m excited to see what happens.
Saito: In the recent drama track “The Loneliness, Tears, and Hope of a Puppet,” they got really heated up, even though they seemed like the most unemotional team until then.
Shirai: You wouldn’t have expected them to scream with each other like that.
Nozuyama: Yeah, you can see their bonds becoming tighter. In the original work, we finally learned about Ramuda, but the other characters are still full of mysteries. Please look forward to Shibuya Division’s development and their secrets being revealed.
Shibuya Division reveals the cast’s charms
Shirai Yusuke → Saito Soma His stoic professionalism. Once a character is his, he understands how he’s going to present it and what the listeners want, and he uses 100% of his power to make it happen. I think I should learn from his example.
Shirai Yusuke → Nozuyama Yukihiro Nozu has courage.Hypmic is close to his debut work, but he’s so brave that I thought he’d rapped on stage before. Plus, I can tell that he’s enjoying himself from the bottom of his heart, and I think that’s great.
Saito Soma → Shirai Yusuke Shirai-kun has a unique world view. He can play both the straight man and the funny man, as well as perform “unique movements.” He has an incredible sense of humour. At my first Hypmic concert, I wanted to confirm a detail and asked Shirai-kun, and he said “Well, it’ll be fine!” For some strange reason, when he says “It’ll be fine,” I really do feel like it’s going to be fine. Since he’s always level-headed, he’s a great influence on the people around him, and I think he’s suited to be a leader. But… I also think he’s very strange *laughs*. But I love strange people, so that’s a plus.
Saito Soma → Nozuyama Yukihiro Ever since I first met him, I thought he had a lot of kouhai energy. Of course, it’s not because he tries to flatter people—it’s because he’s the type that makes you like him. He’s Shibuya’s mood maker and he brightens up the place. When the “Shirai Universe” is in full effect, he’ll politely interrupt it *laughs*. His pureness comes through in Dice, even though their roles are different. If I had to describe him in one word, I’d say he’s cute. He was good at rapping from the very beginning, but as the dialogues went on, his acting skill got better and better too. That’s what’s amazing about him, and I think that Hayami-shachou is truly amazing for discovering him. (*Hayami Show (Jinguuji Jakurai) is the president of Nozuyama-san’s agency.)
Nozuyama Yukihiro → Shirai Yusuke He’s level-headed and neutral. I think a lot of people are watching his program, and he really is the same way in his normal life. He’s not two-faced and he has the courage to always be natural, which I think is amazing. You can tell that he’s truly enjoying himself, and I respect how he shifts into character when he’s acting.
Nozuyama Yukihiro → Saito Soma Soma-san steals the camera *laughs*. He has an amazing ability to produce himself. I don’t think many people can analyze themselves to the extent that he does. Also, he doesn’t cut any corners, no matter how small. He confirms and comprehends every detail, and keeps probing until he’s satisfied. Even during our concert prep, he had a bird’s-eye view, suggesting things like “They said ____ during that drama track, so wouldn’t it be better to move like this?” I learn so many things from the other Shibuya members, and I’m truly thankful to be on their team.
Out of the 18 members, who do you think is the type that can’t tell a lie?
Shirai: Maybe Jiro. He’s the type that wears his heart on his sleeve, so he doesn’t seem like he’d be good at lying. And in that case, Dice is probably bad at lying too. I’m surprised he’s lasted so long as a gambler. *laughs* Cast-wise, maybe Subaru-kun (Yamada Ichiro). He doesn’t seem like he’d lie. And it feels like if he did, he’d immediately get awkward and you’d find out right away.
Saito: It’d have to be Dice. As far as I can recall, I don’t think he’s ever tried to lie *laughs*. We often say among ourselves that Shibuya’s story began from Dice losing a gamble, so for better or worse, he can’t be dishonest with his desires either. The cast is full of good people, so I don’t think any of them would lie… but personality-wise, I think Kijima-san (Izanami Hifumi) would be unlikely to lie. I can tell that his words are honest and sincere, and I can trust him. I’m the type who’s suspicious of praise towards myself *laughs* but I think I can believe what Kijima-san says. But really, they’re all nice people.
Nozuyama: I know he’s my own character, but wouldn’t it be Dice? Even if he tried to lie, he’d probably be exposed right away *laughs*. I really like how he’s wholeheartedly devoted to gambling, but he seems like he’d be bad at lying. Cast-wise, maybe Subaru-san? Part of it is my hope that everything he says is true *laughs*. I get to work with him at a variety of places, and I can tell that he’s enjoying himself while entertaining the audience, and that makes me think he wouldn’t be a liar.
Bonus: Kijima Ryuichi’s reaction to reading Soma’s answer to the last question
※Only Soma’s part will be translated here, as well as mentions from other sections.
Q: Out of all of the Hypnosis Mic songs, which song or lyric is the most memorable to you, and why?
It’s difficult to choose a song because they’re all so amazing… but as far as Shibuya goes, it’d have to be “Stella.” I remember when I first heard the demo, it was such a good song that I immediately messaged the other two *laughs*. It’s a world from a story written by Gentaro and a song that only Shibuya can sing—I can feel each character’s emotions and past tightly packed within it.
In terms of Gentaro, his “uun sou sa gomeitou” in “Hypnosis Mic -Division Battle Anthem-” was memorable. Most recently would be “Utena” – “kono kanjou ga tsutawatte shimattara ii no ni” (if only these feelings would get across). Up until then he’d been describing a vivid scene, and then he delivers that message in the final line. I think Gentaro’s mellowness is expressed very well there.
Q: What is your personal highlight of your involvement in Hypnosis Mic, and why?
It’d have to be when I first heard about the project. The combination of voice actors and rap content was something I was surprised didn’t exist earlier, and I remember being very excited to see what kind of chemical change it would bring about. I was nervous during my first concert, but Shirai-kun was so calm and composed that I was confident I’d be fine if I followed his lead. I had so much fun playing with him and Nozuyama-kun.
Q: When developing your rap in the image of your character, do you have any special technique or something that you pay extra attention to?
At the beginning, Gentaro had many songs where he used a poetry reading style; in other words, different from the style where you rap to the beat. So, I thought I’d bring out his uniqueness there. As more songs came, I got to challenge varying flows that weren’t limited to that style, which I’m thankful for. But still, he’s a phantom, so instead of matching the sound to the rhythm, I think it’s better to be more laidback and slow down on purpose, creating an atmosphere that bewitches the listener.
Q: If you were to spend one day with your character, what would you want to do?
I think it’d be tiring because he’s constantly telling lies *laughs* but I’d want to leisurely read books with him at a cafe while discussing literature. What authors he likes, the stories he’s written so far, etc. Also, since he enjoys people-watching, I think it’d also be nice to watch pedestrians and fantasize, playing around with worlds that we shouldn’t. I’d also like to ask him about the equipment he uses and his preferences when it comes to stationery.
Q: Summarize your team in one phrase.
Ephemerality, pop, they appear to be facing different directions, but they trust each other to guard their backs. That’s the image I get. It feels like their relations have changed quite a lot compared to the beginning. Just like the Shibuya scramble crossing, their lives are only intersecting for this moment, and they may never run into each other again. Nevertheless, they all strongly believe in the fact that they can be together right now.
Q: What’s your “Senshu Sensei!” (oath of fair play, reference to the opening line of Division Rap Battle) for your future involvement in Hypnosis Mic?
We’re getting closer to the heart of the story, and as a Hypmic fan myself, I’m excited to see where it goes. On top of that, as a member of Fling Posse, I want to treasure the time we spend together. Personally, I want to challenge even more styles of rap. Hypmic is getting even more exciting with new teams and new characters, so please continue to support us!
(Regarding the cast after their characters’ relationships evolved during the drama track from Fling Posse -Before The 2nd D.R.B-) “The three of us didn’t discuss how we were going to do it at the start. I’ve always been the type to act freely on stage, so I feel really at ease when I’m acting as Ramuda on stage—it doesn’t feel different from how I usually am. If anything, it feels like Ramuda would say whatever he wants, but even if I don’t say anything, the other two will poke fun at that and liven things up, which I think is in-character for Fling Posse. It was like that during 5th Live on AbemaTV too; Shibuya was really lively *laughs*. I’d mimic the other divisions during their turns, and the other two would play along with me. It definitely wasn’t visible on camera, but I think the three of us all enjoy that kind of atmosphere. I can depend on them, and they’ll accept all of my antics. Ramuda may be the leader, but it’s not like he pulls people along. It’s more like he acts freely the way he wants and people choose to follow him. So, I hope I can be like that too.”
(Regarding “Stella” at 5th Live) “Since it was after the newest drama track, I think it became a different ‘Stella’ from the one we performed at 4th Live. It was packed with spontaneity and emotion… I felt like I was linked with Amemura Ramuda’s current mental state and put more passion into it. I think Soma-kun and Nozuyama-kun were the same way, but it’s not like we discussed it beforehand or anything. I think it came about naturally because of how we felt there on stage. The only thing we discussed in advance for 5th Live was the part after Dice’s solo song, where the three of us went ‘Yay!’ followed by ‘The camera’s still rolling!’ reaction *laughs*”
Tagline: Kimi-iro ni Somaritai (I want to be dyed your colour)
※Soma was on the front page cover and had a 12-page feature. There was also a pin-up poster as well as several shop-specific bonuses (3 bromides and a poster).
(There are a lot of great Soma pictures in this magazine, but I won’t be posting scans because a digital version is available at sites like Bookwalker.)
An EP resembling what comes after the end of Season 1
Q: First, please tell us about how this EP came to be.
I released my first album one year ago and held a concert in Feburary, and at that point, I felt that I’d finished the “1st season.” After performing with a live band, I also felt that I really enjoyed making music with that team. Up until then, I’d constantly been outputting ideas, and I realized that in order to keep having fun with that team, I’d need time for input as well… so I chose to wait for a while.
Q: So, this EP is the start of the long-awaited 2nd season.
To be honest, I wanted to resume my musical activities sooner *laughs*. I had various structural ideas, like whether I wanted it to be an album or a single, but when I looked at how many songs I had in mind, I saw that it was the right number for an EP. Also… isn’t the word “EP” itself cool? *laughs*
Q: It does have a nice ring to it *laughs*
I’m a fan of the book Summer Vacation EP by Furukawa Hideo, and at first I was thinking of naming this CD “Blue Vacation EP.” However, I ended up settling on the current title for various reasons *laughs*. The tracks have a conceptual feel to them, but I think it’s only natural that they ended up this way.
Q: The leading track “memento” is themed around the end of the world, and has parts that feel like they follow from your “quantum stranger” album.
Yes, that’s exactly right! This EP is more like a “Season 1.5” than a full-blown second season. In anime terms, it’s like the OVA that comes after Season 1. So, it’s thematically similar to “Kesshou Sekai.” In that song, I sang about a world where everything turned to crystal, and “memento” confronts that same phenomenon from another point of view. To be more specific, it’s a more upbeat perspective: “If the world were to end, wouldn’t the time until then be like a vacation?” It’s something I hadn’t tried until now.
Q: The song paints the end of the world in a vibrant light. Was the “suikatou” (watermelon sugar) in the lyrics influenced by Richard Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar?
Perhaps. But if I went too far in that direction, I’d end up at Season 2 instead of Season 1.5, so it’s a bit more reigned in than that. To put it simply, I’d already sung about sentimental situations in a mellow tone, and I wanted to see what would happen if I tried a more optimistic approach. So, the song was originally a lot more unsophisticated, but as production progressed, there were talks like “Should we put strings in?!” *laughs* and the final result was much grander. It was originally simpler, like “let’s all go on a drive until the world ends.” There were other ideas too, like the car being blue. The people in the song are awfully positive, so I think it can be interpreted in different ways.
Q: I see! Since the song is about embracing life when death is before your eyes, the title reminds me of “memento mori.”
I considered naming the song “memento mori,” but thought that might be saying too much. Then again, the “sono hi wo tsumi” (seize the day) in the lyrics means pretty much the same thing, so it’s already obvious. *laughs*
Q: How easy was it to sing?
When it was time to record, I found that the song was really hard to sing, and wanted to levy complaints against myself *laughs*. It’s an extremely difficult song, if I do say so myself. The hook uses a double track (layering recordings to produce a thicker sound), which is something like a self-collaboration. My singing technique has some holes in it, so I know for a fact that the arranger and sound engineer worked their magic to make it sound good.
Q: You said that you enjoyed making music with this team. Is that related?
Yes. Up until now I’d been creating songs that I could complete by myself, but after performing live, I was able to create songs that were the result of driving together as a team!
Q: How was the music video filming?
I feel like my requests are getting more abstract every time *laughs*. This time I didn’t ask for much at all from the filmers. Ever since I experienced the tremendous skill of arrangers and sound engineers, I decided to leave things to the experts.
Q: You must’ve trusted the video team a lot.
Yes. I did ask to make blue and gray the most prominent colours, but when they showed me the film set beforehand, all I could say was “Oh, this will be good as-is. It’s wonderful.” *laughs* They also included my request to make it band-style, and brought in a strings quartet and dancers. By leaving things to the pros, it became different from the world I’d wanted to construct, but that irregular feeling was enjoyable too.
Q: Is it similar to voice acting, in the sense of adapting to irregularities?
Perhaps. For the MV, it feels like I’m only one of the parts. I don’t know what the completed video is going to look like after they put everything together, and that’s part of the fun. But now that I understand that enjoyment, it might not be out of the question for me to direct my next MV all by myself.
Power pop and a hymn–a variety of themes
Q: Next, what was the theme behind “Paper Tigers”?
Even if you’re facing a tiger, it’s not scary if it’s made out of paper… “Paper Tiger” (as in paper-mache) is a historical Chinese phrase that describes an empty threat. The other inspiration for this song was Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie. The way it takes the negative idea of “as long as you’re confident, you can bluff your way through” and expresses it in an upbeat way is thematically similar to “memento.” As I was composing the songs this time, I realized that I liked taking concepts and words and shifting them away from their common meanings.
Q: The song is also rather up-tempo.
This song was actually completed last out of the ones on the EP. When we looked at the other four songs, we discussed how there wasn’t an up-tempo song, and I wanted a power pop song like something a band would come up with on momentum alone. So, I invited the producer Kuroda (Akihiro)-san and the arranger Saku-san to my place, where we had a band session and came up with the verse and chorus. The full song was completed after two days or so. In that sense, the song was created through “the wisdom of the crowd.”
Also, I just want to say that when Saku-san finished arranging the song, he even put his own temporary vocals in, and they were better than mine *laughs*. I think it’ll be a really exciting song to perform live too. It’s a song with a new perspective.
Q: What about the third track, “Waltz”?
I like songs in 6/8 time, but that rhythm always tends to become something delicate, so I wanted to make something bright and cheerful. Since it has whistles in it, genre-wise it might be considered toy pop, but the theme was “hymn.” The other image I had in mind was the anime Haibane Renmei.
Q: The original work of which was Abe Yoshitoshi’s famous work. It indirectly depicted the themes of “doomsday” and “salvation.”
Exactly! People say it was inspired by Murakami Haruki-san’s The Town and Its Uncertain Wall and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, but at any rate, I love Haibane Renmei. You could say that this song is something like an unauthorized fan work *laughs*. But on the other hand, I also wrote the lyrics to have another possible interpretation.
Q: Which is?
This song is about a girl… in other words, an angel who can no longer fly, and it could be sung by the spirits who dwell in the atmosphere. However, they’re on different wavelengths now, so they can’t touch her anymore. Nevertheless, they say “We’ll always be close by, so it’ll be okay.” The concept of “sending your feelings to a higher plane” is similar to “quantum stranger.”
This song will probably shine if performed live with an acoustic set. I think this one was the one that took the longest to record. I shouldn’t complain about my own song, but there was so much chorus work… *laughs* But by not using instruments, I really wanted to push forward with the idea of a song that was completely sung by myself.
Q: Meanwhile, “Ringo” (Apple) is a jazzy song.
When I was first writing the song, the style I had in mind was the American singer-songwriter Fiona Apple. That’s why I named it “Apple.” But, the arranger Dewa Yoshiaki-san turned it into a really cool song. The first verse’s melody originally used a backbeat rhythm (accent on the off-beats), but Dewa-san’s arrangement used the on-beats in a wonderful way. So, I abandoned the melody and rewrote it in an unprecedented production process of Arrangement→Composition *laughs*.
Q: The lyrics have a dangerous aroma to them.
The song is about betting everything away in an underground gambling den and getting drunk in a run-down bar. It’s just that, the melody being what it was, it was difficult to write lyrics for it. Rather than the topics and so on, I prioritized how it feels when you hear the notes themselves. The verse is a repetition of the same melody but with an octave shift, and I like the dark mood that that gives off. This is another song that’ll probably change dramatically when sung live. I’m looking forward to performing it one day.
Q: What about the last song, “Tonight”?
The EP was planned to have a good balance of “realistic” songs and “fantastical” songs, and “Tonight” was designated as a realistic song. To be honest, I worried about how well it’d balance out something like “Waltz”, but I was fatigued from singing grandiose, difficult songs, so I decided to go with this.
However, I couldn’t sing it satisfactorily on the recording day. The next day, I asked to do a retake, but the sound engineer Hayashi (Kenichi)-san picked the best takes out of the countless attempts I did and put them together for me, and I was stunned at how flawless the result was.
Q: That’s what happened?!
There were many other ideas that transformed this song! It was originally supposed to feel like wandering around a park somewhere along the Chuo Line, but when Saku-san added a sitar to the beginning, I revised my impression of it, because the scope of this stroll was clearly much wider. Even though the lyrics hadn’t been written until the recording day, his arrangement accelerated the definition of this song’s world.
Q: It’s rare for a song to fade out at the end like that.
That was the universal decision of the entire team. It was never a question of whether it should fade out or not; the discussion began with how long the fade should extend for *laughs*. With this song, I really felt that they were all professionals, capable of implementing the ideas that I couldn’t put into words. The bassist, Ochi (Shunsuke)-san’s performance was truly splendid, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him.
Q: Finally, there’s a surprise secret track at the end of the EP.
This is only included on the physical CD, and its title “Epilogue” is only noted on the credits page. When we all got together to come up with the melody for “Paper Tigers”, it only took an hour to finish, so we started talking about making a song to keep in reserve, and I’d actually already been considering a song like this… so I let them hear the hook melody for “Epilogue”, which I didn’t even have chords for. Saku-san said, “This is good! Let’s do this!” and we made the short version right then and there. The concept was traveling to the end of the world in “memento,” finding an old record player there, and hearing this upon playing it.
Q: Is that why there’s a filter over it?
Yes. The lyrics are also extremely direct, and I’d like to be able to do a proper reprise of it one of these days…
Q: I’m looking forward to that!
Through this EP, I realized again that I want to create songs that don’t fit the j-pop formula, where you can’t tell where the hook is supposed to be. Right now, what I want to make isn’t an assertive, serious song that I’d want everyone to listen to; it’s unsophisticated music that blends into your daily life like ambient noise. “Waltz” might be close in meaning to that…
I still have a dream left undone for the 1st season (the “Epilogue” reprise), but after that’s done, I predict that I’ll be focusing on “subtraction” work. We’ve been “putting everything in” this whole time *laughs*, so now I want us to pursue a more lightweight groove together.
my blue vocabulation (Saito Soma was asked to list 10 words associated with “blue”)
◼ Sky (空) ◼ Sea (海)
Now it reads like Master Kukai (空海) *laughs*. One of the greatest geniuses in Japanese history!
*looking at a globe in the studio* I just had this thought; what if we’re on a globe right now, and some kind of transcendental beings are watching us from their own meeting room? That wouldn’t be hard to believe. They might be spinning us in the palm of their hand without us knowing.
◼ Blue Flames
The blue part has a higher temperature than the red part, right? It resembles the relationship between calmness and passion…
◼ Indigo (藍)
This is the name of a Sukima Switch song. It’s nice… I love that song. Ancient Japanese names of colours are beautiful. ((The Sukima Switch song is called Ai as in indigo, but the lyrics are about “ai” as in love.))
◼ Lapis Lazuli
I’m a fan of a Japanese rock band called Good Dog Happy Men, and they have a song called “Jewel Box” that has this phrase in it, which stood out to me a lot.
◼ Blue Paint
I’m used to the colour blue since I voice a lot of blue characters, but I don’t think I actually used it much when I was little. I feel like I was always drawing with green, and most of my clothes were red.
◼ Sports Drink
I’m waiting for a commercial offer! *laughs* ((This is a reference to Soma’s favourite drink Pocari Sweat, which has a blue label.))
◼ Springtime of Life (has the kanji for “blue” in it)
Maybe it was there, maybe it wasn’t. I became a voice actor in search of it.
June in Kamakura. I prefer writing it in hiragana (あじさい) over katakana (アジサイ).
#1: I bought a guitar! The guitars I played at my concert were borrowed, but I finally bought a guitar to use for work! In fact, the one I’m playing in the “memento” MV is my personal guitar.
#2: Moving I moved! As part of the process, I got rid of all of my old humidifiers and the new ones just arrived yesterday. The vents are on the front, so you can stick them to the wall. It’s an excellent space-saving product. Very convenient.
#3: Matching Hats A bizarre phenomenon has been occurring lately: Umehara Yuuichirou-san and I keep wearing the same hats. Neither of us usually wear hats that often, so why is this happening? *laughs*
I finally realized that there’s no benefit from trying to act alluring
Q: It’s 2020, and you’ve reached the critical 10th year as a voice actor. Is there anything special you feel?
When I started working, my senpais told me “Keep going for 10 years first, and that’s when it really starts,” and I had a vague idea of what they meant. But, after actually continuing for the first year and then the second, I understood the weight of their words.
It really does feel like I’m finally standing at the starting line now. And on a fundamental level, if I hadn’t worked as a voice actor, I think there’s a high possibility I would’ve stayed as a bitter, unsympathetic person…
Q: Does that mean it changed you on the inside?
Yes. When you’re serious about making progress in this industry, there are times when you’re forced to look at your inner self, and you’re not always going to like what you see. But, I feel that the process of understanding myself and thinking about what it means to care for others allowed me to give myself internal feedback, which had a major effect on me… To be honest, I used to be the type to think “I should’ve said _____ instead,” but now that’s not always the case.
Q: Your perception has changed.
This is going to be an awkward way of phrasing it, but I think you have to think about the fact that you have to change *laughs*. But as the years passed, my way of thinking became simpler. I can easily accept unsophisticated thoughts such as “I like this” or “My opinion is this.” Of course, there are still many times when I get arrogant or self-centred, but when I compare myself to ten years ago, it’s clear that those occasions are fewer than before. I think that’s not just because I’ve grown older, but also because I’ve been surrounded by the voice acting industry. I’ve also learned how to entrust things to other professionals, even in work.
Q: That reminds me of what you said about the “memento” MV.
Yes. You can only leave something in someone else’s hands if you trust both them and yourself. As for why…
Q: Is it because you’re responsible for making the decision?
That’s right. In the past, I only wanted to put out the “100%” I had in my head. I’m still not very broad-minded, but I’ve changed enough that I can vaguely understand that “my past self only thought about himself.” Also, even when I’m recording for an anime and think “Why isn’t this going well?” or “I think it should be like this, so why did they reject it?”, when I watch the broadcast version I’ll see that it was very well done. I learned that even if I can’t understand something in that moment, instead of getting hung up on it, I should be flexible and adapt my thoughts and acting.
Q: You’ve broadened your views.
I think I was too egotistical. First of all, that “100%” I keep talking about seems like a logical matter at first glance, but it’s actually ridiculously subjective. The number is manipulated to suit myself, so it’s seriously ill-natured *laughs*. I don’t think the past me ever tried to think deeply about my own senses, which is why I was completely biased to a logical approach. But sometimes, I inadvertently react to things based on feeling, before thinking. It’s something that happens all the time in daily life, and yet I’d detached it from my acting. In the end, I was just big-headed.
Q: It’s a trap you fall into by thinking too logically, then.
Yes… I think ideally, you want to have the earnestness to prepare like crazy until the day before the job, and then on the day of, wrap it all in brackets so that you can be flexible with it. It sounds extreme, but that’s what I finally realized after ten years. Since I’m a logical thinker myself, ideally I don’t want to throw that weapon of mine away, and instead value my senses as an addition to that… So basically, I want to make my next theme “living through my senses.” *laughs*
Q: Is that your goal for this year?
Not just this year, but on and on forever. If you interview me again when I’ve reached my 20th year as a voice actor, you might be talking to a Saito Soma who has nothing left but his senses. *laughs*
If it’s a suspicious character, it’s gotta be voiced by Saito Soma! That’s what I want people to think
Q: It seems like your range of anime roles is getting much wider too.
It seems that when non-anime forms of content are supported for a long period of time and get an anime adaptation, activity soars even more. It’s not up to us how long we get to continue voicing a character for, so I really am thankful. Also, in 2019 I got more extremely unconventional roles, so I’m secretly happy about that. *laughs*
Q: You want to voice unconventional roles?
I feel an indescribable attraction towards characters that are twisted in some way *laughs*. Your voice changes slightly as you continue to use your vocal cords for many years. It’s the so-called “way of life” for an actor, and I feel happy when I can adapt my voice in my preferred direction.
Q: You’ve recently been making an impression in roles such as Kyougoku Fuyuto in Kabukichou Sherlock and Vinegar Doppio in JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Ougon no Kaze.
I’ve always loved the original JoJo comics, so I was incredibly honoured to play that role. Doppio had been voiced by Miyamoto Mitsuru-san and Ishida Akira-san in the past, so I knew that if I did it the same way, there was no way I could win against them. So, I prepared several variations for the audition. Later, I heard that I’d been chosen for the role right away, which was a surprise. When I asked why, they said “Because your Doppio’s phone voice was the most disgusting,” and I thought, what good fortune *laughs*. I actually wasn’t feeling well during the audition, and during the Risotto battle when Doppio vomits out razor blades, I actually did feel like throwing up, which might’ve worked in my favour. *laughs*
Q: That’s also fate. *laughs*
I loved the original work and I had several plans ready, but in the end, sometimes the result is determined by something that has nothing to do with the allure or desire I put out.
In Kabukichou Sherlock as well, I started out by ad libbing a lot based on the elaborate preparations I’d done, but in Episode 3 when my character was talking to Seki Tomokazu-san’s guest character, I sensed that “Oh, if I stop to think, I won’t make it in time” *laughs*. At some point, they started writing “(ad lib the rest)” in the script more often. As I was saying earlier, I’ve always been logic-focused, so ad libs are my Achilles’ heel. But on the other hand, I was grateful for that role because it allowed me to practice seeing how the things I’d prepared would change during the actual recording. I’m still not at the point where I’d say I’m skilled at unconventional roles, but I’d like to eventually make them part of my arsenal, to the point where people say “If it’s a suspicious character, it’s gotta be voiced by him.” I want this weapon, no matter how much I have to pay! *laughs*
Q: I’m sure you’ve been getting more kouhais at work too.
Indeed. Shun-chan (Takeuchi Shunsuke-san) has a good grip on himself, and I learn a lot from him regardless of our hierarchy. He’s a natural, and a good person.
Nozuyama (Yukihiro)-kun from Rush Style is learning under Hayami Show-san’s guidance, and it amazes me how well he’s got it together… We haven’t had the chance to drink together lately, but he has a humane philosophy while also having the cuteness appropriate for his age, and I think that’s amazing. We’ve been planning to go for sushi with Hayami-san, but it hasn’t happened yet. *laughs*
Q: You must be good friends for that to come up.
I’m a passive person, so I’m thankful for anyone who comes to me, not just my kouhais. I’m especially grateful for friends who’ll drink with me, like Hirose Yuya from Arts Vision. Although it’s a bit embarrassing when he calls me “Soma-nii” *laughs*. I’d like to continue expanding my circle of friends in my own way.
Q: Are you interested in mentoring the next generation?
If I get the chance eventually… but first, I have to develop my own ability more. As for what I’d teach, I think it’d be fun to make a place where we can all study the flexibility of Japanese, like the effect a single particle can have on the nuance of a sentence, or how a word’s tone changes based on whether it’s written in kanji or kana. It might be elementary school level content, but it’s valuable to us.
Q: I’m looking forward to your future activities!
I’ve moved past the era of being frustrated with myself for not being able to do something, and into an era where I can now think, “Wow, I didn’t know you could do that! I can’t do it! Yes!”
If you really don’t stand a chance then there’s nothing you can do about that, but if you can vaguely make out a path, then all you have to do is go for it. That’s how you expand your arsenal. In that sense, perhaps I’ve finally figured out the direction of my compass after these ten years. Now that I can look at the map and think, “What? The world is this big?!”, I’m looking forward to traveling to various places.
Behind the scenes of Saito Soma’s first front cover feature in Seiyuu Grandprix
Saito Soma-san makes his first front cover and opening feature appearance! His vivid blue outfit makes quite an impact. What did you think of it?
The internal theme for this photo shoot was “On an ordinary day, Saito Soma-san casually buys a bouquet and champagne on the way home and presents them to you.” It was only light acting, without being too conscious of the theme.
During the session, Saito-san talked about how his latest fad is matching Nishiyama Koutaro-san’s fashion. When we pressed for details, it turned out that they have similar taste in clothes, and that the trick to pulling off the Nishiyama-san look is wearing pants that go 70-90% down the leg♪ Thanks to Saito-san’s gentle aura, it was a relaxed photo shoot from start to finish.
During the interview, he talked in detail about his latest release “my blue vacation” and his 10th anniversary as a voice actor. It’s full of the most current information!
Autographed Polaroids (raffle):
Off-shot from Soma’s stylist:
Blog post from Soma’s stylist about the outfit (has a couple of other photos):