Interview with 22/7 at Anime Expo 2018

interview - 08.19.2018 20:01

Sally Amaki, Mei Hanakawa and Reina Miyase of virtual idol group 22/7 speak to JaME about their characters, personalities and songs.

Virtual idol group 22/7 was one of the special guests at Anime Expo 2018. Three of its members came from Japan to appear at the Aniplex booth and promote their upcoming anime series. Sally Amaki (voice of Sakura Fujima), Mei Hanakawa (voice of Nicole Saito) and Reina Miyase (voice of Ayaka Tachikawa) did this special interview with JaME!

Thank you for this opportunity. We know you’re really busy this weekend. Let’s begin. Why did you decide to be a digital voice actress idol?

Sally: When I first auditioned I thought it was going to be for a voice acting audition only, so I didn’t know that I had to be an idol as well. I went in thinking it was just for voice acting, and as I went through the many levels I saw all these pretty girls and I thought: “Is it an idol audition as well?!” (laughs) Then I got in and found out you had to be a voice actor and an idol. So I found out at the end that it was for this.

Mei: Since I was really little I always admired voice actors and idols, and because of this I wondered what to audition as, so when I found out about the 22/7 audition it was amazing. I think it was fate! And I was able to get it.

Reina: I always watched a lot of dramas and anime growing up so I always thought that one day I wanted to become like them, influence people, and get on something media related. So when I found about the audition I tried and was successful.

What are the similarities and differences between your personality and the personality of the character you voice?

Sally: The character I play is Sakura Fujima. She grew up in a rich household and she is really nice to all the members and gets along with them. She is a really social person, and that is the part that I think is really different from me.

We have a show called “22/7 Kei San Chu” and when I have to act as her I have to interview people as a really social person and it’s really hard because I can’t talk to strangers but Sakura can do that.

As for the similarities, I feel that she is kind of laid back like me.

Reina: Tachikawa Ayaka is mysterious and no one knows what she is thinking. I can’t give out that mysterious personality myself. I try really hard to act it out.

Mei: Nicole Saito has a clear image of her future and her dreams. I have a clear image of what I want to do as well so I relate to her in that way.

If you could voice another character from 22/7, who would it be? Why that character?

Sally: I would choose Akane Maruyama. She has purple hair and glasses. She is the complete opposite of what Sakura is. She is this serious person; she is laid back too but she doesn’t get along with everybody. She has this really mysterious aura, so I really want to try out that mysterious character.

Reina and Mei: That is an interesting and hard question! I can’t think of any character but my own.

To Sally Amaki: Your level of English fluency is unprecedented in the world of 2D idols. Do you feel a lot of pressure to use it? How does it affect Sakura's personality?

Sally: I do kind of feel a little bit of pressure because when I speak a little bit of English the Japanese fans say I’m leaving them behind and when I only speak in Japanese the English speaking fans ask me to translate what I’m saying. So I feel like I can never really satisfy both parties.

I try not to put my personality into Sakura but so far Sakura only speaks English as a virtual YouTuber and not inside the anime, so I don’t have a script for the English that she does when I’m on camera. I really have to control to not let my sass come out when I’m doing it so Sakura doesn’t come off as rude.

Why do you think the schoolgirl type of idol attracts so many fans?

Sally: I took an animation course once and I learned about Cool Japan and how they made ambassadors for Japan and one of them was Japanese high school girls. I feel that there is a certain image that Japanese school girls hold this purity and are always trying their hardest, and that appeals to the fans. They want someone to cheer on because they are pure and young and have the future ahead of them.

Mei: I think Japan really shows high schoolers as the nostalgic time of a person’s life, the time when anything can happen because you’re young. It brings back memories and reminds them of good times.

Reina: I think that the fact that these young girls are spending this precious time being idols and satisfying fans is what makes the fans want to cheer for them more.

As voice actresses, how do you prepare before recording for your character?

Sally: We are used to doing vocal training. I do tongue twisters and it helps with the pronunciation.

Mei: I do tongue twisters too to help with pronunciation.

Reina: I plank. It helps to train the inner muscles so the voice comes out better.

What is your favourite song to perform live? Why that song?

Sally: I personally like Chikatetsu Teiko Shugi from the first single. I like it because the beat drops from the second it starts. I really like dark theme songs and this song is really easy to jump to. I feel like it’s an energetic song and is good for performing live.

Mei: I like Yasashii Kioku. It has a deeper meaning and I like that song because I have to think of the meaning of it to project it to the fans while performing. It’s a really emotional song and I like it best for performing.

Reina: I like Junkan Bus; it’s an eleven member song. I like the choreography; it’s really cute.

Your music videos are created through the motion capture of your performances and applying it to your CGI characters. Please describe how a motion capture session usually goes for you. Is it tough?

Sally: It was hard because every single movement that you do is projected onto your character and I slouch a lot! So for the first single I looked at Sakura, my character, and it was slouching like crazy, so I had to remind myself that whatever movement I did was going to be projected onto Sakura, so if I don’t dance in a cute way she won’t be a cute character, so I needed to watch every move that I did.

Mei: I had the same issue with how everything is projected onto the character, even the small things. It’s really hard to move your hand accordingly so it looks good on screen, and sometimes you have to adapt.

Reina: When I dance as the character I can’t dance as myself. I need to imagine what the character would do and how I would move with that personality. Especially with characters that are taller, I have to adjust the hand positions; it’s hard.

What kind of thoughts and feelings did you have when singing Bokuwa Sonzai Shiteinakatta?

Mei: Every time I perform this song I know that I made the right decision to join the group. It’s a really nice feeling.

Reina: It makes me really emotional because I didn’t know if I was going to debut with it. It has a lot of backstory for me, so every time I perform it I get reminded of the struggles to enter the group and I get really emotional.

Sally: We didn’t know if we were going to debut with this song or not, so there at a lot of feelings in it.



What would you like your fans to pay attention to when listening to Shampoo No Nioi Ga Shita?

Mei: I feel that the lyrics are something everyone has experienced at least once, so every time you hear it I want people to be reminded of that certain memory it brings based on the lyrics of the song.

Sally: I think it’s a really, really cute song, but I want them to pay attention to the lyrics because even though the melody is happy and cheerful the lyrics are really, really sad. I want them to pay attention to what the song is trying to say.

Reina: It’s a cute song, so I want people to remember the memory the song speaks of.



What is the title track of your upcoming single about?

Mei: Rikaisya is about how the person in the song comes to understand the main character that likes to be alone. So, there are many ways to analyze the lyrics. Please listen to it and think back to whoever is your “understanding” person (Rikaisya).



What are your goals for the remainder of this year?

Sally: My resolutions are out the window (laughs). My character Sakura is a virtual YouTuber herself; everything is ad lib, so I want to get to know her more deeply and understand her more to get her right.

Reina: I have started using social media this year, so I want to reach out to more fans through social media and want to get more support from them and for them to get to know me.

Mei: I want to be able to reach out to people around the world through social media and be invited to more events overseas.

To wrap up the interview, please leave a message for JaME readers.

Sally: There are eleven members and everyone has a different personality, so I think everyone can find a character they like and enjoy our music. Please listen to it!

Mei: We have an anime project coming up soon. Everyone, please watch and support!

Reina: I’m really happy we were able to go overseas and meet our fans. From now on we will do our best to keep performing overseas. Please wait!

22/7 will release a new single on August 22nd! You can get to know more about 22/7 on http://www.nanabunnonijyuuni.com.

JaME would like to thank Sony Music and Aniplex for this interview opportunity.
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