A Note from the Editor: This year, Anime Maru was given a unique opportunity at Anime Expo to interview Aqours as a member of the media. While our other Anime Expo coverage is satirical, this article is not. As a service to our readers and Love Live fans around the world, we are departing from our usual style for today and providing a factual report of the interview hosted on July 4 at Anime Expo.
Once again, Aqours from the anime Love Live! Sunshine!! was a headline musical act at Anime Expo in Los Angeles. Thanks to the folks at Bandai Namco Arts, this year kevo and onepunchmeme were able to attend an exclusive press conference featuring Aqours members and Love Live! Sunshine!! seiyuu Inami Anju, Suzuki Aina, and Takatsuki Kanako. Below, kevo will share his experiences and highlight some of the questions that were answered.
The Aqours press panel was on Thursday, the second day I arrived at the convention. I arrived an hour before the scheduled time and waited in the press lounge to prepare my notes and unwind. The quiet upper floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center was in stark contrast to bustling crowds found in the public areas of the convention. So much so that I initially thought I had gone to the wrong place because I am so used to a giant line waiting wherever Aqours appears — a testament to the incredible popularity of the Love Live franchise worldwide.
I like Aqours a great deal, so I was anxious for the chance to meet them.
There were around 30 of us, and the excitement was palpable. Though I didn’t really know what to expect, I was put at ease by the small conference room provided on the second floor of the Los Angeles Convention Center. It was cozy and quaint — I had interviewed many guests there over the years.
Finally, Inami Anju, Takatsuki Kanako, and Suzuki Aina walked into the room, to a warm and friendly reception.
The full transcript of the interview is available below, but I will go through some of the moments that made an impression on me. Suzuki Aina fielded a question about her favorite memory from working on the movie. She revealed that there was a total of three days of recording, with the third years joining the rest of the cast starting on the second day. This is a unique insight into the process of creating anime. I was surprised that the entire voice acting process was only three days long.
Inami Anju answered a question about how the character she voices, Takami Chika, inspires her. She answered that Chika is an honest and curious girl who knows what she wants in her life and works tirelessly to achieve her dreams. This is consistent with answers she has given in the past.
I am personally a big fan of Inami Anju, so I was very excited at this chance to meet her. I am in her online fan club and I love her beautiful smile and cute voice.
I asked what their favorite things about Anime Expo and Los Angeles were, now that they’ve been here so many times. Suzuki Aina mentioned the lasting impression the “Aqours Rainbow” penlight project had on her. I know a few people who helped coordinate that penlight project last year, and I am certain they would be very proud to learn how memorable their efforts turned out to be.
onepunchmeme was fortunate enough to get the final question, and he asked about the difference between Japanese and American audiences. Takatsuki Kanako summed it up, claiming that generally Japanese audiences tend to build up in energy while overseas audiences are energetic from start to finish.
This is similar to answers I have heard from other groups, and it’s good to hear that guests appreciate our energy. I understand Japanese industry guests at conventions (music-related or not) can get confused why people are so eager to cheer for any little thing. From my observations, it just seems polite in our culture to cheer a presenter or a performer on. I hope that in the future, more musical groups will take advantage of the crowds and energy found in North America.
It was great being so close to Aqours, and they are every bit as elegant and graceful in a conference room than on a stage. I had the opportunity to see Aqours perform on Saturday from the VIP pit. The small and intimate space really added energy and intensity to the crowd. The setlist was great, and overall it led to a truly memorable experience. Aqours has come a long way, and I am sure there are going to be plenty more wonderful stories ahead.
Question: Thank you so much for coming, you guys are amazing. Just curious, how do you guys keep your smiles so bright all the time?
INAMI ANJU: I think the secret is to have fun. From performing or acting and as such, so if I am having fun I am sure it will spread all over you guys as well.
Question: As Love Live! Sunshine!! has ended for now, but Aqours is still going strong, I’d like to know how you thought you have all evolved as both performers and people since the conclusion of the series.
TAKATSUKI KANAKO: It’s true that the movie might be done for now, but the characters always showed us the growth of this group Aqours. I hope now on we would like to be the ones leading the group like for example coming overseas and having a performance and we would like to grow even more.
Question: Do you have a favorite memory from working on the movie? Or something that makes you smile from when you worked on the movie? Thank you.
SUZUKI AINA: As for post-recording, we had 3 days in total. The first day was for 1st and 2nd years. The 3rd years joined the recording for day 2. Since the 1st years and 2nd years already made this fun atmosphere, and also the story takes place in Italy, so the 3rd years thanks to the fun atmosphere that they already made, I think we could also drag them around even more to make it even crazier and more fun. So yeah, we had lots of fun.
Question: This is for Anju-san. As Aqours leader you have a unique viewpoint compared to the other members. What would you say is Aqours’s greatest challenge you have overcome it, likewise what has been Aqours’s greatest triumph.
INAMI ANJU: So the biggest challenge for Aqours would be finding Aqours original path. Finding our original path was hard and challenging, and also it was hard to find our own shine, and that was our biggest goal for this group. But as for the movie phrase “over the rainbow”, I think at the end I think Aqours could hold hands and jump over the rainbow towards the brighter future . So that was the biggest challenge.
Question: So the fans are very excited to see all of you again performing at Anime Expo for the concert. Do you have any memorable experiences from your previous visits to Anime Expo or to Los Angeles that you want to share with us?
TAKATSUKI KANAKO: When I first came to Los Angeles that’s when we premiered the first episode of the first season. And it was actually our first time watching the full episode as well. So it was very fun to watch this episode with everyone’s big reaction.
Question: What part of your characters inspire you the most? How do your characters inspire you?
SUZUKI AINA: So I play the character Mari and as you know Mari is very bright cheerful and energetic and she’s super SHINY [laughter] and she always gives me power and energy everytime I play this character. She also taught me how to be kinder and nicer to others as well.
INAMI ANJU: So I play Chika and Chika is very honest and curious about everything. And she knows exactly what she wants. Once she knows what she wants to do she is very determined and I was very inspired by Chika, who is this kind of character. And also the view I can see through her eyes and also through her facial expression that taught me so many important things as well. I’m always inspired by her.
TAKATSUKI KANAKO: As for Hanamaru, people started telling me that Hanamaru and I are very look alike (sic). [laughter] We look like we have lots of things in common, but I think people are telling me that because both Hanamaru and I are always kind of like one step behind from everyone and observing. And watching them over.
Question: This would be your fourth year in a row at Anime Expo. As regular travelers to the city of Los Angeles, what are your favourite things about coming to Los Angeles you’re your favorite things about coming to Anime Expo in general? Thank you.
SUZUKI AINA: So personally, this is my third time to visit Los Angeles. Thankfully last year we even had a solo concert. And the impression of LA is that people are always so nice warm and welcoming. And also for last year’s concert I think as a surprise, for “Yuuki wa Doko Ni? [Kimi no Mune Ni!]”, they even made a 9-colored rainbow as a surprise and we were so touched by it. We didn’t expect to see that so that’s why we are even happier to come back to Los Angeles again to see everyone.
Question: I would like to know, well for one your voices are very cute, very kawaii — I just want to know what is your favorite song to perform and why?
INAMI ANJU: Overall I love all the songs and this might not be the best song to perform in the summer, but my favorite might be “Jingle Bell ga Tomaranai”. Its also so fun to sing and dance to this song.
TAKATSUKI KANAKO: I think mine is “Aozora Jumping Heart”. I think with this song we can hype up the crowd even more extra since I’m a first year we always go FUU! during the song. [laughter] I notice the audience, the whole crowd also goes FUU! together so that’s really fun to do the cheer with everyone.
SUZUKI AINA: I think mine is “Thrilling One-way” its such and energetic song that we can hype up with the crowd together. I think it’s a really exciting song from the beginning until the end.
Question: Each of you are in a different year. In your own words describe what is the most endearing part of being in the year you’re in.
SUZUKI AINA: I am Mari and I am in the 3rd year. So third year means we are a senior at the school. I feel like we are in a position of watching everyone over.
INAMI ANJU: Chika is in the second year. And 2nd year is the one who kinda started Aqours. In episode 3 there is a scene where we all hold each others hands. And I feel like the wamth and also the feelings towards Aqours the 2nd years always has are shown in that episode specifically pretty well. And also I think one of the best part about 2nd year is the trust and the teamwork.
TAKATSUKI KANAKO: So as for the first years, I think overall we are all super genki energetic, like little kids. But it doesn’t mean that we cannot read the atmosphere so every time we have serious things, it gets serious but then because of us the first years can kind of break the ice over the serious relationship and serious things. I think that’s how our roles work the best as the first years in the series.
Question: Recently, Love Live! series celebrated its 9th anniversary, a milestone for both the fans and franchise. What is your opinion of the future and legacy of Love Live! series?
INAMI ANJU: So Love Live! series overall is the story achieved by everyone together. that’s the same throughout the series. I feel like we all create and cherish this series and succeeded by muse and also the power of everyone including the fans. and we would love to keep this tradition and keep delivering this message to everyone.
Question: So you’ve performed both in Japan and Overseas. Do you get a different impression when you perform overseas compared to those in Japan? If so, how, and do you have a preference?
TAKATSUKI KANAKO: I think people are shy in general so they kind of build up the hype gradually towards the end. But when we perform overseas we feel like everyone’s 100% energetic from the beginning. I would like to see different reactions more so hopefully we can visit other countries to perform.