[Interview] Seiyuu Grandprix 2020/12 Edition – The scenery changes – Saito Soma’s expanding world

Released: 2020/11/10

※Soma was on the front page cover and had a 12-page feature. There were also two shop-specific bromides.

※Scans not provided because the magazine can easily be bought digitally from sites like Bookwalker.

Throwback 2020

The situation made me realize that I’d become a captive to our ways

—This will be the second time in 2020 that you’re gracing the cover of Seiyuu Grandprix.

Thank you very much. It feels like it’s been quite a while since last time, but when I heard it was February, I thought, “It was still within this year!” *laughs* Still, it’s already been half a year…? It’s not just my situation, but the whole world’s that’s changed. To get straight to the point, even now, it still feels like the things I used to think were normal were actually things I was taking for granted. Before, it was normal to have thirty cast members sharing four mics at a sports anime recording, but now it’s too difficult. The recording environment has completely changed.

—Technique-wise, has recording become more difficult now that you can’t record in large groups?

In American cartoons, it’s standard practice for everyone to record separately, one by one. When you think about it that way, our environment up until now might’ve been a blessing. By the way, when foreigners see us switching in and out in front of the mics while voice acting, apparently many of them get surprised and go, “Ohh! They’re ninjas!” *laughs*

—That means that Japan’s voice acting technique is a culture we should be proud of! *laughs*

Now, we can’t really do recordings like that either. I’ve done recordings by myself in the past before, of course, but personally, I love the acting that comes from live dialogues. This situation made me realize that I’d become addicted to it.

—In scenes with a lot of room for movement, those dialogues can result in something more exciting than you imagined.

Exactly. I was forced to realize just how much I’d been receiving from others’ acting. By the way, in the past, I was bad at listening to other people’s lines. Rather, when you’re just starting out, it’s common to get too caught up in the idea of “I have to say my own lines right.”

—In your case, when did that weakness turn into an “addiction”?

To put it simply, when I properly received someone’s acting and returned with mine, I could sense that I’d succeeded in establishing a conversation, and that felt really good. I don’t think I would’ve noticed it if I’d always been recording alone, so I’m grateful for that. But right now, it’s hard to get the chance to notice that and change my responses accordingly. There’s nothing that can be done about that… but I think that by realizing this and reflecting on myself, I was able to make good use of this stay-home period.

—In these turbulent times, have you been talking to others about the current state of entertainment?

Yes! My personal impression is that there are a lot of people in this industry who are thinking seriously about what we can do and how we should continue going forward. If there are things we can’t do no matter what, then it’s important to proactively consider what we can do—we often talk about that.

—Many voice actors have taken this opportunity to entertain the fans with personal online streams and videos. Are you considering trying something like that?

My primary focus has always been on characters and works. I entered this industry because I wanted to add colour to them with my voice, and I don’t think that central feeling will ever change in my life. That said, today’s world is such that if you stick too closely to that principle, you won’t be able to expand your range of expressions. Ideally you want to be flexible, so I do want to take on expressing myself in various forms. Fortunately, I have my music career as an outlet for that. I think I’m very blessed to have been able to release three digital singles over the course of three months. Also, the stay-home period gave me a lot of time for input. I’m glad that I was able to prepare for my future output as well.

—You’re appearing in many anime this season, including ones that had their broadcast dates pushed back.

The recordings were all at varying times, and I can really feel that I’ve been given the opportunity to play a wide variety of roles. In EX-ARM which airs next year, I play an ordinary high school student who risks his life to save the world, while in Yuukoku no Moriarty, I play a young man who chooses the path of evil for the sake of changing the world… Since I’m playing a lot of unconventional characters, I’m spending more time thinking “What would this character do?” than I used to.

—In a previous interview, you said that you wanted to be associated with unconventional roles. Have you gotten closer to that ideal?

I hope so, but it’s rather difficult… *laughs* There are also more series that I’ve been involved with for a long time, like IDOLiSH7 which can be considered a stable franchise now. There are also works like Hypnosis Mic -Division Rap Battle- Rhyme Anima where, rather than explaining it, I’d rather you watch it first and get a feel for it yourself. In every work, the staff are trying to deliver the best entertainment they can in these circumstances, so I hope you’ll enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Soma Saito ✕ glamb

I aimed for simple clothes that I wanted to wear

—In October, you announced your collaboration with glamb, consisting of pullover knits, berets, and socks.

I like fashion, but I never would’ve expected that I could be involved with clothes in this way, so I was grateful and surprised at the same time. We had several meetings, and the end result was clothes you could wear in everyday life rather than ones that strongly looked like merchandise. A better way to explain it would be clothes that I wanted to wear. *laughs*

—Yes, when I looked at the lineup, I felt that they seemed like clothes you yourself would like. *laughs*

Right?! *laughs* When I first received the collaboration offer, they asked me to choose a brand too… so I requested glamb, a brand that I wear often for work and in my personal life, and they accepted right away.

—They’re warm items that suit the release date.

I considered a cardigan too, but ended up going with the pullover knit first. Then, they suggested an incredible number of materials and designs. They adjusted every little detail for me, such as whether or not the sleeves should be ribbed.

—The logo placement also felt like it was carefully selected.

If it weren’t for the logo, I think it’d be a simpler piece that you could wear more easily, but I had a selfish desire for something a bit unconventional *laughs*. I got to wear it myself too, and the size, material, and logo were all exquisite. I’m definitely going to wear it all the time!

—The socks make for vivid accent colours.

Socks represent an exquisite area—there are times when they aren’t visible, but then they peek out when you sit down. I think it’s nice to have a sense of playfulness for those times.

Also, the berets come in two colours: black which goes with everything, and a stylish beige.

—Berets always seem to match you perfectly.

Before I started this job, I’d never worn a beret before! The first person who put a beret on me was my stylist, Honda-san. Thank you, Honda-san! *laughs*

—Wow… I see!

I like simple clothes where the material feels good on my skin. Shape-wise, I think I’ve been wearing a lot of loose clothes lately. I generally like autumn/winter fashion, like shirts, knits, and cardigans. For photo shoots, I get to wear a lot of clothes that I normally wouldn’t choose, and that’s fun.

—What do you pay attention to when choosing clothes?

Whether clothes suit someone or not is important, but in the end, I think what matters most is what I want to wear. Basically, whether I’m committed to liking how I look when I’m wearing them. In the past, I had an extremely narrow scope for that, and I thought I could only pull off one specific look. I didn’t even think that hats or glasses suited me. But, that scope expanded bit by bit as I encountered new things.

—Did your view change because of doing photo shoots for work?

It did. Up until high school, I hated having my photo taken, but after having it become part of my job, I started thinking, “What feelings can I express when I’m wearing these clothes?” It was really fun, and it felt like it was the clothes that were providing me with that enjoyment.

So, I love encountering styling that I’d never imagined before. While I do value my own preferences, I also want to value things that aren’t to my taste. After all, if it leads to me liking it, there’s nothing more wonderful than that. This applies to acting too—I have more fun when others present me with things I hadn’t expected.

—I think that having those “realizations” enriches your life.

Sometimes the realizations come when I’m not in the right frame of mind, but I do prepare for them… Basically, I keep an open mind and put up an antenna for them. I think there are a lot of things I’ve realized this way.

This year in particular, I realized that many of the things I thought were normal were actually very special, and I should be grateful for them. For example, being able to talk to someone in person and laugh loudly with them was special. By the way, my latest revelation was that yakiniku and sushi are better eaten in restaurants *laughs*. Being able to wander into a store and eat all sorts of things is a special thing I should be grateful for. I want to be thankful for all of these “normal” things and treasure them going forward.

about Soma’s fashion

An interview with Saito Soma’s stylist, Honda Yuuki, who has gained the trust of Saito-san’s fans as well. From the way they enjoy choosing clothes together, we can guess that they have the same values. What’s his secret to maximizing Saito-san’s charm?

—How did you meet Saito Soma-san?

When I was working as a stylist’s assistant, my mentor worked with a number of voice actors, and Saito-san was one of them. I remember that when we first met, I really clicked with his opinions on clothes. Perhaps he remembered too, because when I went independent, my first job was from Saito-san, who requested me as his personal stylist.

—What do you focus on for Saito-san’s styling?

Our taste in clothes is extremely similar and our physiques are also quite close, so it’s easy to imagine outfits on him, which makes styling very easy as well. Plus, Saito-san has an androgynous aura, so he looks good in a wide variety of clothes. As a result, I end up bringing tons of clothes because I want him to try them all on. If it’s for a magazine shoot, then I prepare styles that feel more like “outfits,” but if it’s for an event, he likely has to use his voice a lot, so I focus on functionality—a loose neckline—and add in abstract elements of the role he’s playing… For his artist career, I go for a more sophisticated look. But, it feels like he picks the clothes I want him to wear, so as long as he doesn’t dismiss me, I’d like to continue having fun choosing clothes for him. *laughs*

—What were the styling considerations made this time?

Since he was going to be wearing the collaboration items, I prepared clean styles that would match them. For the one with the jacket, since it’s a magazine shoot, I included a lot of playful, fun clothes.

By the way, it wasn’t used this time, but I also brought something from a brand that Saito-san and I had clicked with before. It was back during my assistant days, and we both agreed that we liked that style. Saito-san remembered too, and he said “This brings back memories, right?” *laughs*

What are “kuumaA” and “glamb”?

kuumaA is a brand collaboration project where an artist (expresser) thinks of what they want and find interesting, and a brand supports them to turn those thoughts into special items. This time, Saito Soma requested to collaborate with glamb, a fashion brand whose concept is “grunge for luxury.” Their style is elegant rock and they’re known for their borderless ideas that aren’t restricted by conventional fashion.

“in bloom” series

Saito Soma composed and wrote lyrics for every song, shaping various worlds!

—Your second album, in bloom, will finally be released on December 23.

So far, in quantum stranger and my blue vacation, I’ve been releasing songs themed around “the end of the world.” This time, I wanted to depict the story of what comes afterwards. Prior to the album, in bloom was announced as a series of digital singles, consisting of the three songs “Petrichor,” “Summerholic!”, and “Palette.” The full album will be a collection of songs related to them that expand on the world views. Rather than having a single concept for the album, it’s more like the songs exist within the same overarching theme, but each represents its own unique story and lifestyle.

The main difference from my previous full album is that this time, all of the composition and lyrics were done by me. But rather than making it about me, I think the idea of “having one person present a different world view in every song” is an interesting experiment. Among these songs are lyrics with motifs that I wouldn’t have tried to use in songs before.

—Motifs you haven’t used before?

Earlier, we talked about “realizations.” There were many realizations I had that were only possible because of the coronavirus situation. For example, the song “Kitchen” came from that.

—It’s a bossa nova style song.

But, the chorus is like guitar rock with a sense of speed. I’ve actually had the prototype for this song ever since the time when I was in a band for fun, but it’s so distinctive that it was hard to find a place to use it… Also, normally lyrics come to mind together with the melody, but this song was the only one where that didn’t happen. However, due to COVID, I started cooking for myself again after a while of not being able to, and I thought “kitchen” might make an interesting theme. But the finished lyrics feel the craziest out of these songs. *laughs*

—It’s brimming with paranoia. *laughs*

“Petrichor” and “Summerholic!” were also subjective songs, but it’s even more prominent in “Kitchen.” It’s like the protagonist is cheerful about eating something, but when you look at him from an onlooker’s perspective, his behaviour is abnormal. What I can say is that you’d better not seriously try to follow the recipe in these lyrics. *laughs*

—The abstract lyrics feel very much your style.

Yes. If I restrict lyrics to a single meaning, I don’t feel much meaning from them anymore. Feel free to read too much into this song and think, “The kitchen is a metaphor for an alchemist’s workshop…” *laughs*

—What’s your impression of the leading track, “carpool”?

It was rather difficult to decide what to do with the leading track. The three songs from the “in bloom” series depicted the changing of seasons up until fall, and this album was going to be released in winter, so I wanted to use a darker song with a good melody… but I couldn’t come up with anything. When it was almost time for the MV filming and I was like “Oh no!”, that’s when “carpool” popped out. It’s an orthodox chord progression that I like, sprinkled with my vocals, and the arranger Saku-san and the others liked it too. Writing the lyrics was a struggle at first, but once the song was finalized, it went incredibly quickly. It’s possible that I was too hung up on the idea of “writing songs that are different from what I’ve done before” and that made me too fixated on logic. In the end, the lyrics and the melody are pop with a hint of darkness… It has an aspect that I haven’t had before, so I personally like it too.

—It’s interesting how composing songs based on intuition leads to discovering new ground.

It’s incredibly difficult to decide whether to compose based on logic or feeling… This time, I decided to write songs freely without any restrictions on myself, but I realized that that thought was already restricted by logic. By the way, “carpool” doesn’t have anywhere to breathe at all, so it’s ridiculously hard to sing. *laughs*

I’m interested in how they’ll turn out when I sing them live

—What about “Schrödinger Girl”?

Since I started doing more work at home, I bought a new DAW software. I used that to make a demo of a song called “Hokuou (Kari)” (Scandinavia (Temp)), which I posted on Twitter. The temporary name was that because the melody resembled Scandinavian rock bands. Every now and then, the fans would ask “What happened to that song?”, and at last, that song has become “Schrödinger Girl” *laughs*.

Even though it makes heavy use of bubbly, swaying effects, it became one of my fastest songs. But to tell the truth, it was also the hardest one on this album to come up with lyrics for… The recording was delayed, and I’d write lyrics while commuting. Looking back now, it’s become a fond memory *laughs*. The final result tells a clear story, which is rare for me. So, please listen to it and make your own speculations.

“Canary” is a simple composition without many syllables.

I wanted to do a dark, whispery song like Elliott Smith (an American singer-songwriter). However, even though I like that kind of music, I had to consider whether or not there would be meaning in the voice actor Saito Soma singing it. But ever since around the time of my blue vacation, my desire to sing introspective songs had been growing. This time, I included one with the reasoning that it would expand my range. I hope the lyrics also make it feel like the singer’s consciousness is clouded in fog.

By the way, this song was only recorded in about two takes, and there wasn’t really any pitch correction or whatnot, so I think it really feels like it’s sung live.

—”Vampire Weekend” is another conspicuous song.

I haven’t been following set formats with my songs, but I think this one is by far the strangest structure *laughs*. It began when I found a sound loop in the DAW I started using and I wanted to see if I could make a song out of it. I played the looping sound through my tablet and sung along into a mic, in a haphazard digital-yet-analog way of making a demo. *laughs*

So, the original song sounded like a 70s “looping” song, but when I asked ESME MORI-san (who I worked with in Hypnosis Mic) to do the arrangement, he immediately turned it into the stylish song that we have now.

The lyrics give off a very different impression depending on how you interpret the meaning of the word “vampire”—I think they can also feel perversely humorous.

—At the time of this interview, some of the songs are still in production.

Yes. Please look forward to them… One of them is also an epic that’s over eight minutes long.

—Eight minutes?!

I was originally assuming it’d be around six minutes when I sent in the demo, but the arranger slowed down the tempo, so I figured I might as well make it longer *laughs*. I’ve always loved shoegazing (a type of rock music), and this song has that kind of feel. I hope you enjoy the wonderful flood of tones.

—There really is a lot of variation on this one disc! I’m sure many fans are hoping you’ll be able to sing these songs live one day.

Many of the songs have challenging aspects, like “Kitchen” which includes the sounds of kitchen utensils and “carpool” which will be difficult to sing live in one take [because of the lack of breaks]. So, I’m really curious about how they’ll turn out if I sing them at a concert. Considering my musical style, it’s also possible to use special production techniques on stage, so I’ll save the fun of figuring out the specifics for when the time comes!

This album really does have a wide variety of songs, so I hope you’ll listen to it over and over, savouring the sounds as pure “music.”

Behind the scenes of Saito Soma’s fashion

Saito Soma-san makes his second front cover appearance after the first one in the February 2020 edition! For this photo shoot, he wore the items he produced himself. The day of the shoot was the first time he put on the completed samples. They were designed for everyday use in the first place, but he seemed to very fond of the colouring and size, and said “I really am going to end up wearing these all the time” with a smile.

Also, since the interview was going to focus on Saito-san’s fashion style, we also interviewed his stylist, Honda-san. The outfit on the front cover was his freestyle styling. He always brings many different outfits with him. When he and Saito-san were choosing clothes, you could tell how close they were—they looked like they were going clothes shopping, saying things like “This one looks good too” and “I want to buy this one.” It was a harmonious start to the photo shoot.

We also interviewed him about his second album “in bloom” which comes out on December 23. It’s a must-read for fans who are impatiently waiting for the release!

Shop-specific bromides:

Off-shot from Honda Yuuki:


The blue jacket Soma wears in one of the outfits is glamb’s GB0320 / JKT17 in Navy (¥38,500): https://www.glamb-lodge.com/c/jacket/0320jkt17