Category Archives: Interviews

04/03/17 Nikkei Business Interview with Akimoto Yasushi

[original source]

A glimpse into the mind of Akimoto Yasushi, a man who continues to be an innovative producer

“I want to see something I’ve never seen before” is his continual response.

While persisting in his role as the center of innovations in the idol industry, Akimoto Yasushi is currently the comprehensive producer and lyricist for the AKB48 Group.
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Akimoto Yasushi
Born in 1958, he hails from Tokyo. He has been creating broadcast material since his high school days. He has worked on various programs, including “The Best Ten”. In 1983, he became known as the lyricist of Misora Hibari’s song “Kawa no nagare no you ni”, and since then has created hit after hit. Currently, he is the comprehensive producer of the AKB48 national idol group, as well as Nogizaka46 and Keyakizaka46.


 

—-In this special edition, we are discussing the definition of “idol”. Akimoto-san, what would your definition of “idol” be? Continue reading

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Real Sound Interview 7/9/16 – Komiyama Haruka & Owada Nana

[original source]

“Reason for Being – Documentary of AKB48”, the movie that follows the activies of AKB48, opens nationwide in theaters on 7/8. It’s the most recent entry in a series of “Documentary of AKB48” films. Ishihara Shin, who directed SKE48’s recent “Tears of an Idol – Documentary of SKE48”, also filled the role of director for AKB’s movie, which follows the experiences of members of the group who witnessed the 10-year turning point of AKB’s existence and Takahashi Minami’s graduation. It is to be an ambitious creative work that paints a picture of “the next 10 years”.

Today, Real Sound has the pleasure of interviewing two members of AKB48’s 15th generation who carry the future of the group on their shoulders, Owada Nana and Komiyama Haruka. They talk about a great many subjects, including highlights of the documentary, the presence of Takahashi Minami, their feelings about the newer groups that are hot on AKB48’s heels, as well as the recent “AKB48 45th Single Senbatsu Election”.

“The AKB48 I loved and the AKB48 I’m in now are completely different from each other” (Komiyama) Continue reading

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Okada Nana “Love Night” Interview – 2016

Chapter 23 – Okada Nana – “Color of a Lover’s Sky”
[source]

──What were your impressions the first time you read the script?

I thought, “Um, isn’t this unusual?” I got stuck on the part where my partner was a girl, so I re-read it right away. And then I understood that it’s a story about a girl who falls in love with a girl she admires. I thought it would be a love drama with a guy, so I was pretty nervous. And the fans were worrying like “Nana-chan in a love drama…?” so my partner being a girl was actually a relief.

──Did the character you played have any resemblance to yourself?

In the drama, there was a scene where my character cut her hair for an image change, but what happened before the image change was nothing like me. The character wore glasses and grew her hair out wild, and had no interest in fashion either. But I do have an interest in fashion, and I’m particular about personal grooming.

──What are the highlights of the drama?

The kiss scene on the rooftop. And my partner is a girl. I’m so embarassed that the fans are going to see my first kiss…

──The theme of this drama is love, so are there any other works with the same theme that you enjoy?

I like the manga “Kaichou wa Maid-sama!”, I own all the books. It’s a story about a student council president who’s strict as a demon, but behind the scenes she works at a maid café to support her family…it really made my heart thump, so I recommend reading it!

──Tell me about your first love.

In first year of elementary school, there was a rowdy kid who would flip my skirt. I really hated it, but there was a boy who would then ask me “are you okay?” He had black hair and fair skin, and he seemed just like a prince to me, so it was love at first sight. Sometimes he would casually sit in the seat next to me, it was just like what happens in a shoujo manga.

──If you were male, which of the starring members would you want to date?

Minegishi Minami (AKB48). She’s cute, and her skin is pretty and pale. I’ve touched her cheeks, they are really soft. Her lips are pouty, and she has an amazing body for a woman. If I was male, I would definitely want to date her.

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2014 Election Book Interview – Yamamoto Sayaka

This is an interview with Yamamoto Sayaka, found in the 2014 version of the Senbatsu Election Book. Interviewer is in bold, Sayanee’s answers are in quotes.

“The theme for this year’s election is ‘You can’t just wish for it, you have to take it!’ Last year, my sentiments were weak and I was only wishing to get into senbatsu. But I thought after that, ‘Isn’t the way I participated with such failing resolution really rude to the fans who did their best to support me?…’ That’s why, this year, I decided to aim as high as I possibly can. On that note, the rank I’m setting my sights on…well, it’s gotta be 1st! There, I said it!”

You aim to jump from your rank of 14 last year to 1st in one go!?

“I think that setting that as my goal is, in itself, a way to answer my fans’ expectations.”

I see. Actually, I haven’t told you this yet, but in the official election guidebook, this year, we ranked members based on our own ideas of where they might place this time rather than where they placed last yea
r.

“Ahh~ really? That’s an interesting way to do it.”

And in the book, we placed you at number 1.

“…Huh? What did you just say…?”

I’m sorry to have surprised you. But anyhow, congratulations!

“No, no, wait… huh. Yeah… okay. Sorry, instead of hesitating thinking it over, I’ll just say… I’ll do my best. I’ll have to do my best!”

That’s positive of you! You can feel the strength of someone who’s steeled her resolve coming from you this year.

“That’s right. I feel like maybe I’ve gotten a little stronger this past year. A little like (Oshima) Yuko-san…”

Do you have a close relationship with Yuko-san?

“The last half-year, I feel like the distance between us has closed really quickly. We went to meals together and she got me a present for my birthday, things like that. I’m definitely not the type to shy from proactively involving myself as a junior, but I feel that the effort to get closer came from her, and I’m very thankful for that.

She had written on a card for my birthday. On it were the words ‘It’s also important to act, not just to think’. She decisively hit the nail on the head as far as what I’m lacking in. I was very moved… . Other seniors pretty much stick to being kind. They point out what you did well, and they search for the good things about you. But Yuko-san sometimes gives very harsh advice.”

Like what, for example?

“Last year, during my speech I made the declaration that ‘From here on, I’ll become a beast’, but…”

You wanted to stir things up by graduating from being a ‘stray cat who was taken in’ in AKB senbatsu and becoming instead something like a beast.

“That’s what I proclaimed. Actually, on the program we did a recording for the next day when we played a game of musical chairs, I did manage to stir things up. Even Yuko-san praised me by saying ‘I felt that beast aura from you’, and I was elated. But honestly, that was the only time I was able to become a beast”.

Just once, the very next day after the election!? (laughs)

“I’m sorry! But then it became a question of how I should really become this beast. I didn’t hit upon anything even when I was trying to think of ideas. I don’t have the kind of character Suda (Akari)-san does, where she can appeal to fans by pushing her way to the front… And while I was thinking, feeling that it would be impossible for me to become a beast, I sealed off the word ‘beast’ during that period of time (laughs).

And then, one time Yuko-san abruptly asked me ‘So when are you becoming a beast, Sayanee? Or have you given up on that!?’ She saw through it all. She was so on the mark that I didn’t have a reply. It was kind of scary (laughs). But after that, she said this to me: ‘You might not be able to be a beast just yet, but it’s you so I know you can do it’. Even recently, though I’ve been able to perform on TV, there are times I get depressed when it’s over because I feel like I didn’t stand out at all. But then I remember the words Yuko-san told me, and after that I feel like I want to keep on challenging myself without giving up”.

On the flip side of that harshness are Yuko’s big hopes and affection for you. There are episodes when they show through. Although, on TV, you haven’t been able to break out of being seen as “a stray cat who was taken in”. With your resentment towards yourself, and TV viewers pointing out again and again ‘that’s not the Sayanee I know’, you’ve been fairly cornered.

“I know it’s bad that I haven’t been able to break out of the shell I’m in, but that’s also a part of myself, so I’m a little bit sad about it….”

This spring, you were presented with a large opportunity. You were given a concurrent position in AKB48’s Team K.

“The other day, when the new Team K performed for the first time at Saitama Super Arena, the fans who watched were saying ‘You were really dazzling today, Sayanee’. And there were a lot of people saying it, too! Actually, since my own fighting spirit was on fire, I thought ‘Ah, did it come around to me?’ In Team N, I’m always going out with ‘Team Spirit’. Dancing with representing Team N foremost on my mind. But I figured out that I can polish up a different side of myself in Team K. During the time I’m in this team, I can shine as an individual, I think.”

Not as a representative of the NMB48 group, or as the captain of Team N; when you’re in Team K, the “beast” may awaken.

“It’s a really good stimulus!”

Who do you get motivation from in Team K?

“I get it from a lot of people, but the foremost would be (Matsui) Jurina-san, who’s also a concurrent member. She burns with desire, in a good way. When Jurina-san is there, she draws your eye”.

Jurina is the possessor of a fiery passion, isn’t she?

“She really is. That’s why, when I’m standing next to her, that fire comes across to me, and even I feel like I might lose to her! My heart is so set on our rivalry that it might cause trouble to her actually… and when I think that, I end up repressing myself. But when I realized I was doing that, I tried to bare my heart toward my opponent in my dancing… . Even I’m surprised about it”.

You’re speaking very lively now. You’re spoken of as one of the successors to Oshima Yuko. So by putting you in Team K, the old home of Oshima Yuko, do you feel like they’re trying to awaken something in you? Or do you think it was just coincidence?

“Actually, the day before the big shuffle, I met Yuko-san at a music show we were recording for, and she asked me a question it seemed just came to her mind. ‘What would you do if you were told you’d have a concurrent position with Team K?’ Since I had never thought about it before and I wondered what to say, I answered something like ‘I think I’d like to try it.’ And then Yuko-san just said, ‘I see, well I’d be happy if you came to Team K’ and walked off. And then the next day, my concurrency with Team K was announced…”

The concurrency might be a coincidence. But then there’s the feeling that Oshima Yuko wished for the team she poured her soul into to help polish you up as well. By the way, something that was a big factor in this imagining of you at #1 is that you have the same “hourglass figure” as Oshima Yuko. Right now, sports clubs around the country have posters of you stuck up on their clubroom walls, saying you’re their idol.

“It’s not that great… But my friends have also told me that when you do an image search for ‘Yamamoto Sayaka’ on the internet, all that comes up are pictures of me in a swimsuit (laughs)”.

The other day, Yuko-san saw a cover of you on a magazine in a bikini holding a guitar for some reason, and she thought in surprise ‘What in the world is that girl doing!?’

“Before, when I was asked to do gravure in a bikini with an apron, Yuko-san pointed it out and said ‘That’s a little extreme!’ (laughs)”

You must like to be photographed in swimsuits.

“No way! I’ll just say this. I’ve always been really embarrassed when it came to doing gravure! On top of that, it might just be my imagination, but doesn’t it seem that recently the amount of cloth in the swimsuits has been getting smaller, and the demands getting bigger…?”

But, since it’s you, you definitely won’t complain.

“There’s a part of me that wants to answer my fans’ expectations, and with the requests of the staff who are helping me prepare, I just end up doing it… . I keep saying that, but behind those covers of me you see at the convenience stores is my own desire to push myself forward (laughs)”.

So it’s a good kind of embarrassment (laughs). Well then, in the end, seeing as we imagined Sashihara Rino at 2nd and Watanabe Mayu at 3rd, please ring out a declaration of war!

“To declare war on those two, who are so big… your demands are high, huh~. They’re both seniors whom I respect. Sashihara-san has her individual activities, of course, and it’s thanks to her presence that the HKT group has kept getting bigger and bigger. Her power of production is really something! And most of all, she’s the first member from a sister group to reach #1 in the election. I think seeing her like that became a huge goal for sister group members.

Mayuyu (Watanabe Mayu)-san is a stoic person to the end. I love how high level her professional consciousness is! I want Mayuyu-san’s faithful fans to be rewarded, too. A declaration of war…? Oh, that’s right. Because it’s those two, I want to overtake them someday. With that high hurdle in mind, I’ll do my best!”

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2014 Election Book Interview – Shiroma Miru

This is an interview with Shiroma Miru, found in the 2014 version of the Senbatsu Election Book. Interviewer is in bold, Mirurun’s answers are in quotes.

Dependent like a puppy and whimsical like a kitten: when you become a fan of Mirurun, you want to protect her and be teased by her so much, you don’t know what to do! But there you have one of the unexplained mysteries of the world. Right now, the number of people who want to become her prisoner are rapidly increasing.

The same as Yamamoto Sayaka and Watanabe Miyuki, Mirurun is a founding member of NMB48. She’s the orthodox idol type who seems like a dependent little sister one would like to protect. However, in the past 3 elections she’s participated in, she’s never ranked. Up on that stage, her own name has never been called.

“Honestly, in the 3rd and 4th elections, it wasn’t that much of a shock to me. I wasn’t able to stand out from the crowd, I wasn’t able to imprint myself on everyone’s hearts, and I couldn’t even really say I tried my absolute hardest… that’s why I felt I didn’t rank. But instead of feeling frustrated, I was sad about my state of affairs”.

The turning point was last year’s election. NMB48 names were called again and again.

“The candidates had increased for those 64 ranks, so I got in a defeatist mood, thinking ‘I probably won’t rank in this year, either…’ But then (Yoshida) Akari-chan’s and (Yabushita) Shuu-chan’s names were called for Future Girls, and they hadn’t ranked in previous years. Because of that, my heart started to pound in excitement. After that, Fuu-chan (Yagura Fuuko) and Keicchi (Jounishi Kei) were called up for Next Girls, and at that point my heart really started hammering.

My hopes were lifted. What should I do if I’m called!? Tons of people are watching this live on TV, what should I say in my speech!? But then (Yamada) Nana-chan was called for 28th, and after the announcement that the Undergirls ranks would start to be called, I came to the realization: ‘Ah, I guess I’m not going to rank this year, either…’. I was getting my hopes up all by myself. I was an idiot for getting excited. That’s when I started to feel just how cold the wind hitting my skin was, and I shivered in the chill. And for the first time, I seriously felt ‘frustration’. My tears just wouldn’t stop. Looking back on it now, it’s embarrassing enough to make my face turn red….”

What you were left with were feelings of impatience and frustration. You wanted to break out of your shell somehow. But first, you resolved to do something about your handshakes, which you lacked skill in.

“I like meeting fans, but I couldn’t figure out a way to make handshake events fun, and I wasn’t very good at them. But I thought, ‘It can’t go on like this’.”

How were you able to change it?

“I started to do this run run run♪ thing, and shook hands by crossing my arms, I tried coming up with some different things to do. And then I started speaking in a loud and energetic voice, and jumping in little hops. When I look like I’m having fun, it also makes the fans happy.”

The impressions posted on the internet by fans who shook your hand quickly gained you the reputation of a “handshake goddess”. Hearing of this, the number of people lining up to shake hands with you skyrocketed. Recently, you’ve become popular enough to be a contender for NMB’s Top 3.

“My confidence level has gone up a bit thanks to that. Handshakes, the thing I was worst at, have now become so much fun every time!”

After your change, a chance opened up for you in NMB48’s single “Takane no Ringo” which was announced in March. Aside from being a senbatsu member for the A-side song, you were also chosen as center for the coupling song “Yama e Yukou”.

“I was so, so happy. After the shooting was over, I wanted to tell my fans right away. Because I hadn’t been able to repay them at all… . And then there was my family. Because I haven’t been very visible in media up until now, when I showed them the MV at home, they were incredibly happy, saying ‘What happened that you’re so up front and center now?!’ We watched the MV together over and over (laughs). And behind them, all the while, I was grinning like mad while we watched… and I felt a prickling behind my eyes.”

Now, finally, the election will answer the question of how much you’ve grown this past year. In this book, you’ve been placed at 16th!

“Eh!? Wait, are you being serious? Wow, I’m really happy. Yes, I really want to make something of this chance. I hope I can at least make Undergirls… . I’m going to bank everything I’ve done up until now on this challenge!”

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2014 Election Book Interview – Ikoma Rina

This is an interview with Ikoma Rina, found in the 2014 version of the Senbatsu Election Book. Interviewer is in bold, Ikoma’s answers are in quotes.

Nogizaka46 was formed as AKB48’s “official rival”. One of the members who stands at the center of the group is Ikoma Rina. In the “Grand Shuffle Festival”, it was announced that she would become a concurrent member with AKB48 as a “foreign exchange student”.

“When I first heard the announcement that I would be a concurrent member, I was really surprised too. The members were all joking with each other, saying ‘I bet someone will get transferred from Nogizaka’, but I never thought it would be me… . It’s just that, if what we were joking about actually happened, I planned on going to AKB. One reason is that I feel our live peformances are lacking in strength. In order to satisfy the people who come to see us, I have to level up my singing and dancing…And right when I was thinking that, I received the news about the concurrency, so I feel like it was fated. I think it’s a huge chance for me to grow”.

For the sake of her own growth, and to further the development of the group even more, Ikoma accepted the concurrency.

“Before, I would get sentimental very easily and ended up crying a lot. I worried about coming to a standstill, then I would panic and try to run away. But since I joined Nogizaka, I’ve experienced many things, and I think I’ve gotten a little tougher and more resilient. Without running from the things set before me, I’ll challenge anything I can, and I’ve started to be able to think of it as good experience for my future. It’s probably impossible to do everything perfectly, but I think as long as I try, it’s fine even if it doesn’t turn out that well”.

When she was in middle school, she was a glum, negative girl. She looked upon her more popular classmates with jealousy and envy. Wanting to change, she became an idol.

“From the start, I wasn’t the type of person to stand in the spotlight. I never imagined I would be chosen to be Nogizaka’s center and do MCs as the group representative. I really think it was a miracle. There have been a lot of hard times, but this is the first time I’ve ever found something I could really lose myself in. I’m not good at studying or athletics. For someone like me with no redeeming qualities, Nogizaka46 is the one place I belong, a place where I can give my all and have fun”.

This will be her first election as a concurrent member.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure I should present candidacy. I know there were some fans who were saying ‘I don’t want you to enter’, and I was also worried about what the other Nogizaka members would think… . But our captain, Sakurai Reika, gave me a push by telling me ‘I think the election will turn into a positive for you, Ikoma, so you should enter’. Her words put me at ease, and I know the other members are supporting me, so I went for it”.

Ikoma is worried about the “challenge of the unknown” the election represents, but she’s ready for it.

“Since it’s been decided that I’ll do things with AKB as a concurrent member, I think I have to see everything that AKB does. I might not be allowed to enter the election next year, so I think it’s something I can only do right now. What is the election like? I want to see that with my own eyes and experience it for myself. Even just once, I want to absorb a lot of things and take them back with me to Nogizaka”.

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2014 Election Book Interview – Kawaei Rina

This is an interview with Kawaei Rina, found in the 2014 version of the Senbatsu Election Book. Interviewer is in bold, Ricchan’s answers are in quotes.

Kawaei Rina, preparing for the close-at-hand election, is seriously thinking and worrying about her rank this year.

“Last year, I went from unranked to my first time ranking in. And on top of that, I even ranked at 25th, so of course I was really happy! But I kept hearing ‘I thought you’d rank higher’ from everyone around me, and even the fans told me ‘Sorry you only ranked 25th’. That’s why, this year, the feeling that I want to rank higher than 25th is really strong. It’s just that I honestly lack confidence in myself. I’m really anxious, actually…”.

Though she says this, the rank she’s aiming for is 16th. Of course, she has a reason for setting her goal as a rank inside the single senbatsu, despite her lack of confidence. Her exposure in the media this past year has risen rapidly, and as a result of that, she’s surely aware of herself as a person who has accumulated many different experiences.

“I’ve made appearances on a lot of variety programs, and I’ve been in dramas like ‘SHARK’ and ‘Sailor Zombie’ too. I was chosen as one of the 16-member senbatsu for the first time in ‘Heart Ereki’, and followed Yokoyama (Yui)-san in being promoted in commercials for ‘AKB Challenge: You Can!’ So I want to live up to those expectations, and I want to connect my experience with results. Because I get the chance to appear in media so much. On the stage last year, I was able to hold it in and didn’t cry. But this year, if I can rank 16th, I might…..start crying”.

Kawaei says this year’s election is a battlefield.

“As expected, it’s a ‘battle’. Since I believe I’ve worked as hard as I possibly could up until now, if I fail to reach rank 16, I’ll wonder, ‘What did I do wrong?’ So no matter what ends up happening in the election this year, I’ll take it as an opportunity to reevaluate my life and think about what I should do from now on.”

Kawaei also has a clear idea of what she wants to be.

“Everyone sees me as the ‘dunce character’, but I’m thinking seriously! Right now, what I want to become is ‘someone who ought to be in senbatsu’. That is to say, I guess I want to be someone who’s required to be around (laughs). Like if I’m not in senbatsu, people will say, ‘Huh? Kawaei’s not there?!'”

She herself says her goal is 16th, but in this book, she’s ranked 9th! When I showed it to her, she said “No way!” with a look of surprise.

“9th is how many steps up from last year? Around 15 ranks?! …Ah, 16 ranks, huh (laughs). It would be too awesome if I could climb that many ranks!”

However, after “Waratte Ii Tomo!”, she began serving as a regular on the show “Viking” and, as usual, using it as a chance to make her appeal to people other than AKB48 fans. When we consider this, her rank jumping up to 9th is not outside the realm of possibility.

“Well, if I really did end up ranking 9th, I’d shake and hyperventilate onstage like Yokoyama-san!! And she’d probably get mad and say ‘Oi, Kawaei!’ (laughs)”.

Kawaei! Because it’s you, you can do that!

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