Anime Expo 2017 continued its tradition of bringing renowned Japanese guest to its venue. Among the long list of famous Japanese voice actors and artists, Anime Expo organized an impressive opening-night concert on Day Zero: The Anisong World Matsuri – Japan Kawaii Live on Friday June 30th right before the start of the four-day convention.

The concert showcased an impressive lineup of performers which included: THE IDOLM@STER CINDERELLA GIRLS, Wake Up, Girls!, JUNNA and Minori Suzuki from Walküre, and Aqours. Many fans stood in line wearing popular Aqours memorabilia well before the 7:30pm showtime at the Microsoft Theatre for the much anticipated four-hour show.

Admittedly, I wasn’t surprised at the huge turnout of Aqours fans at the concert because I was also there to see the nine-member full group performance of Aqours. When the group finally took the stage, they performed five songs which included: “Aozora Jumping Heart”, “Kimino Kokorowa Kagayaiterukai?”, “Koini Naritai AQUARIUM”, “MIRAI TICKET”, and “Yume Kataruyori Yume Utaou”. It was an exciting performance — well worth the wait.

Although I have seen many videos of Aqours’ live performances, nothing can compare to experiencing a concert in person. The nine girls delivered an impressive show despite it being their first overseas performance.

While a large number of fans who attended the Kawaii Live concert were most likely Americans, it is important to note that the concert attracted supporters worldwide. According to the Expo there were 8068 unique attendance, including some from Canada.

After a successful show on Day Zero, all nine members of Aqours sat down to a press junket answering pre-approved questions to a few media groups, such as Ultra Nerdy a blog from Vancouver, Canada.

Aqours nine member full group at Anime Expo 2017
Aqours nine member full group at Anime Expo 2017

 

Below is the entire 50 min interview with all nine Aqours members:

Question 1: Please introduce “Love Live! Sunshine!!” and the member role you act.

(Chika) Anju Inami: “Love Live! Sunshine!!” takes place in a place filled with nature called Uchiura, in Shizuoka-ken, Numazu-shi. The story proceeds with 9 girls running towards their dreams of becoming school idols with many thoughts and emotions. In there, the character played by myself, Takami Chika-chan is very…well she’s the starter of Aqours, and its leader, who has an energetic side, and clumsy and screws up sometimes, but her smile is very attractive.

(Riko) Rikako Aida: I’m Rikako Aida, playing Riko Sakurauchi. The Riko Sakurauchi I see out of the 9 girls of Aqours is a very mature and calm girl. She’s a girl who is passionate about the piano. But she’s afraid of dogs, and has a childish and clumsy side.

(Kanan) Nanaka Suwa: Kanan Matsuura is a diving shop owner’s daughter. She does diving of course, but also runs every day, and enjoys exercising. Being one of the three 3rd-years, she knows how to bring everyone together, and enjoys dance. She leads everyone with dance, cares for her friends and thinks dearly of them.

(Dia) Arisa Komiya: The girl I play, Dia Kurosawa is the Student Council President of Uranohoshi Girls’ High School. She wants to be a little strict, and being Ruby’s sister, she wants to be mature. She has a clumsy and very cute side too. She genuinely loves school idols, and since she became a member of Aqours, she worked harder than everyone on her singing and dancing.

(You) Shuka Saito: I play, You Watanabe, who is a boyish girl, also very communicative but also the opposite. I feel that in a way, she’s more feminine than anyone.

(Yoshiko) Aika Kobayashi: With Yoshiko Tsushima, misfortune always comes by. She’s a misfortunate girl. She’s so misfortunate that I feel that she is a fallen angel. I call her Datenshi (fallen angel) Yohane, but like in her name (Yoshiko), she can be a good girl. She’s like a mix of an angel and a fallen angel.

(Hanamaru) Kanako Takatsuki: Hanamaru Kunikida loves books, she’s a literature girl. She’s the daughter of a temple owner, and uses a regional dialect term “Zura!”

(Mari) Aina Suzuki: Mari Ohara is a very energetic, bright and shiny girl. She’s the Director of the high school. She’s sensitive to others’ feelings, tends to stays close with them, and is very kind hearted.

(Ruby) Ai Furihata: I’m playing Ruby Kurosawa. Ruby is the younger sister of Dia. She’s not good with people, but admires school idols and with Hanamaru-chan, joins Aqours. She practices dance moves on her own, she has a hardworking side.

Aqours nine member full group at Anime Expo 2017
Aqours nine member full group at Anime Expo 2017

Question 2: This is the first time to come to Los Angeles with all 9 members together. How do you feel being in Los Angeles with everyone?

(Chika) Anju Inami: We’re very happy. We came with all 9 of us, and there’s many things we don’t see in Japan. Like through our time spent, we want to connect with everyone.

(Kanan) Nanaka Suwa: Last year we came to LA with just the 6 of us. Yesterday, we got to do a show at Anisong World Matsuri, and this was our first overseas live show, and it was refreshing. Everyone who came was warm, and it was real fun.

(Yoshiko) Aika Kobayashi: This was my first time in the US. Doing a show in LA is also my first time. Being able to do something with everyone as Aqours, all 9 of us is also the first time. Everything was a first-time experience. I was worried at first, but through our live, I thought with the 9 of us, in a wonderful place overseas, we can shine. We want to deliver shine overseas to many people.

(Mari) Aina Suzuki: Everything in America was a first-time experience. Yesterday’s live, everyone watching us with warm eyes. We all got so into the moment, I was happy. I want to know, and enjoy more of LA.

Question 3: How was the Anisong World Matsuri yesterday? How did you feel seeing the response from American “Love Live! Sunshine!!” fans?

(Riko) Rikako Aida: Last year, we did a talk show. That time, everyone’s cheering was huge and I remember we were surprised. With yesterday’s live, it was even bigger. I felt glad that we came, it was real fun once again.

(Dia) Arisa Komiya: This was the first time we did a live show overseas with all 9 of us. I was looking forward to it but also felt anxious. When I stood on stage, with the music and all, I felt the world was connected. Everyone cheered, we were all happy. I felt glad that all 9 Aqours members got to come.

(You) Shuka Saito: It was also the first time in LA for me, with all 9 of us, and even did a live show. Standing in front of our fans, they all welcomed us with big smiles. The moment I saw that, I got so happy, sort of crying. In a section of Aozora Jumping Heart, our backs are to the audience. As I turned back to face the audience, I was holding back tears. Everyone enjoyed it so much, called our names and such.  I didn’t think my first LA experience would be this wonderful. I hope to come back again with the 9 of us.

(Hanamaru) Kanako Takatsuki: This was the first overseas live show for me, and I was curious about how Americans would react. I thought it’d be different from Japan, but they successfully visualized Japan’s Anisong culture. They seemed a little anxious to cheer for us, and I felt their passion.

In Japan, we have opportunities to do shows. But doing one overseas, in US, comes only a few times a year. We want to do more shows all over the world.

(Ruby) Ai Furihata: With yesterday’s show, many dressed like Aqours members, I was happy and I noticed that their Japanese was good. They’d be like “Ganba Ruby! (Rubesty)” I thought “Wow, so happy!” I felt their energy, and managed to perform my best.

Question 4: Which scene is most memorable from the 1st season of the TV Animation “Love Live! Sunshine!!”?

(Chika) Anju Inami: There’s many, but like when Riko-chan, You-chan first joined, there’s scenes right before they join, with a powerful line. These scenes were most memorable to me.

(Riko) Rikako Aida: In episode one, during Riko’s appearance, she suddenly takes off her uniform and changes into her bathing suit and jumps into the sea. That was shocking, and it was also when she met Chika. For many reasons, it remains memorable to me.

(Kanan) Nanaka Suwa: Kanan never smiled prior to episode nine, always holding on to her motions. When her and Mari started to understand each other, that was when she finally showed a smile.

(Dia) Arisa Komiya: There’s a scene when Dia wrote ‘Aquors’ by the sea. She senses the 2nd-years were walking over and she tries to run. It’s a scene that expresses how much she wanted to be a school idol.

(You) Shuka Saito: For me the most memorable scene was in episode eleven when You-chan cries.

(Yoshiko) Aika Kobayashi: All scenes with Yohane! In episode eight when Chika was upset, Yohane confesses her true emotions. It was a scene where everyone got watery eyes, but then she partially falls into the water. It was very like her – not too gut wrenching, almost like a good spice. It’s a scene I really like.

(Hanamaru) Kanako Takatsuki: Hanamaru-chan in episode five. Since she’s a daughter of a temple owner she’s not very technical, and seeing that scene in the TV anime, I discovered a side of her I was unaware of. I was surprised.

(Mari) Aina Suzuki: In episode ten of the TV anime, when we’re shown that Stewshine uses only expensive ingredients, like $1000 worth. That surprised me.

(Ruby) Ai Furihata: When Dia joined, she couldn’t be honest with herself. She’d always watch but because she and Ruby are close sisters, there’s things they couldn’t share. Ruby was happy when Dia joined. When she said ‘to my beloved sister, welcome to Aqours.’ that is my favorite scene.

Question 5: What is your favorite song from “Love Live! Sunshine!!”?

(You) Shuka Saito: My favourite tune is “Koini Naritai AQUARIUM”. It’s an important tune to me and You-chan, so I love this song.

(Kanan) Nanaka Suwa: I like “HAPPY PARTY TRAIN”. It’s a new tune, and Kanan is in the center position. It’s memorable, and same for Kanan.

(Yoshiko) Aika Kobayashi: “Waku-Waku-Week!”, a 1st-year’s tune. I feel excited just by listening how happily making plans comes to mind. So, I really like “Waku-Waku-Week!”.

(Mari) Aina Suzuki from Anime Expo 2017
(Mari) Aina Suzuki from Anime Expo 2017

Question 6: Fans around the world voted and decided on the “Love Live! Sunshine!!” World Poster Girls. Mari is in charge of the USA. How do you feel being voted to be the ambassador of the USA and why do you think you were chosen?

(Mari) Aina Suzuki: Mari is part Italian, part American, so she’s fitting to be the poster girl for America. I was happy, hoping to deliver Shine to the American audience.

Question 7: There are a lot of users of rhythm action game “Love Live! School idol festival” in the US. We heard Suwa-san is good at the game. Could you please give the message for game users in US?

(Kanan) Nanaka Suwa: You can play many of the tunes. There’s outfits you won’t see on the anime or the singles, they’re very cute so please check it out.

Question 8: It’s already half way through 2017, what has been your most memorable activity this so far?

(Riko) Rikako Aida: The first live show we pulled off with all 9 members in Yokohama arena.

(Dia) Arisa Komiya: Our first live of course, but also being able to be here with all 9 members overseas. I feel grateful.

(Ruby) Ai Furihata: The first live is memorable. We did it for 2 days and too much happened. It went by fast. It felt like a second, but I remember it very well. In Aozora Jumping Heart, there’s a part we turn around to the audience, and we can see the view of the audience that only we can see. It was an extravagant 2 days. It was like a treasure.

Question 9: Are you excited for the Love Live! Sunshine!! Aqours 2nd LoveLive! HAPPY PARTY TRAIN TOUR. What kind of live do you want it to be?

(Chika) Anju Inami: It’s our first live tour, and we’re happy to tour many places. There’s performances we can only do in that region, feeling the different atmospheres, we want to create passionate summer memories.

(Hanamaru) Kanako Takatsuki: The fact that it’s us that can visit. After our first live, going overseas and all, I think we’ll continue to grow.

(Mari) Aina Suzuki: Our first live was in Yokohama, which is a big stage. Our second one is a tour, and we wish to go see more people, and we want as many of them as possible to be happy.

Question 10: A 2nd season for the TV series will start in autumn. What should the fans anticipate for 2nd season?

(Chika) Anju Inami: We want you to be as excited as last year’s first episode of the anime.

Question 11: “Love Live! Sunshine!!” has had a massive amount of interest on the international level. As you’ve probably already noticed, there are a lot of fans of Love Live! here in the US. In fact, tickets for live viewing in a lot of theaters across the US were sold out or near filled to capacity to see your 1st Live concert at Yokohoma. Did you expect Love Live! Sunshine!! to have this amount of reach worldwide as it has?

(Chika) Anju Inami: We would’ve been happy enough if even a handful of them knew, so this was beyond expectation.

Question 12: Please describe the feeling each of you had on stage looking at the audience at 1st Live concert in Yokohama Arena who were there to cheer you on.

(Riko) Rikako Aida: When we saw our fans filling the space, we never thought to be supported by this many people. There’s nothing that can scare us. It made me a little less nervous, because I felt their warmth.

Question 13: “Love Live! Sunshine!!” takes place in the town of Numazu and Uchiura, known for its coast line with great views of Mt. Fuji and they attract a lot of tourists. I’ve actually had the opportunity to travel to this area myself a few times and really enjoyed Awashima Island. Please name one spot you would recommend.

(You) Shuka Saito: Numazu and Uchiura has many wonderful places, so it’s difficult to pick one. But I would recommend you visit Izu-Mito Sea Paradise. There’s a cute mascot character Uchicchi so I’d be happy if you go meet Uchicchi.

Question 14: Furihata-san, what do you like about Hanamaru?

(Ruby) Ai Furihata: Maru-chan is a good friend of Ruby. Their interests are different but Maru-chan always listens to Ruby. Like how she offers a relaxing warmth and how she eats leftover bread.

Question 14a: Takatsuki-san, what do you like about Ruby?

(Hanamaru) Kanako Takatsuki: Ruby is cute. She’s very girly, very feminine.

Question 15: In the first season of the anime, what challenges does your member overcome and how did it help the member development?

(Kanan) Nanaka Suwa: Kanan’s hardship was her life until her 3rd year. Until then, everyone was caring but there were also misunderstandings of feelings.

(Mari) Aina Suzuki: Mari can be stubborn, unable to be honest. The day she and Kanan wanted to be idols, she came back to Japan, and finally got to express her true feelings. I thought she made a development there.

Question 16: Have you ever been surprised by your member in the first season of the anime?

(Yoshiko) Aika Kobayashi: I thought Yohane was very much like a fallen angel, but she wanted to know her angel side too. I found that out in the anime and it surprised me that she has a good side too. She’s able to see others like good girl Yoshiko (her angel side).

Question 17: Finally, please give a message to your American fans.

(Chika) Anju Inami: I first want to say thank you for always cheering us. One day we’d like to do a live show with just us, in the US. We want to race towards that goal, so please continue supporting us.

For more information on Love Live! please visit the Love Live! Official Worldwide Website:
http://www.lovelive-anime.jp/worldwide/

For more information on Anisong World Matsuri please visit:

Anisong World Matsuri Website: http://anisongworldmatsuri.com
Anisong World Matsuri Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnisongWorldMatsuri
Anisong World Matsuri Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnisongWorld
Anisong World Matsuri YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/anisongworldmatsuri

 

The heavy rain and the muddy grounds did not hinder the Day 1 festivities of Sakura Days Japan Fair. In fact the parking lot was full by 10:00 am and I had to park across the street and lug my camera gear a modest distance to the event. According to experienced attendees the rain did not come as a surprise, in fact it was worse two years ago. However, Sakura Days was well prepared with wooden mats placed in front of the vendors to aid attendees, like myself who had inadequate footwear.

The rain gradually got heavier towards 3:30 pm right near the end of Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra’s performance. I stood in the rain in my fitted leather jacket, my blonde hair exposed to the elements because I had loan my black hooded North Face Gore-tex jacket to my girlfriend who was a performer, and leader of VAN48, an idol dance cover group. The group was schedule to be next, right after the astonishingly beautiful performance of the Orchestra.

When VAN48 finally took the stage at 3:50 pm, my fingers were already frozen. I watched a group of people leave as the rain came down slightly even harder. The next 20 minuted would have been even more discouraging if it was not for the lovely fans who stood in the rain and cheered to support VAN48.

The term ‘idols’ is used to describe professional pop stars in Asia, specifically in Japan they include girl groups such as AKB48.  Although I have been to a number of events with idol performances, I did not fully appreciate or understand why amateur idol performers wanted to perform. In Vancouver the performers are hobbiest who dance mostly for free, and VAN48 was no exception. As a salaried employee, this made little sense to me, but as I watched in the rain, two fans cheered with penlights in both hands, and just a bit further, a group of girls dancing under their umbrellas, in support of the dancers on stage. I suddenly realized at least why VAN48 can manage to dance for as long as 4 years: The group delivered a solid performance and captured the attention of a modest crowd, despite having only three dancers (out of six active members) on stage  – a testimony of how versatile their craft was.

It is inspirational to watch people do what they love, regardless if they are taking the stage or cheering from the side. As VAN48 leader Melina (Hina) puts it “What motivates me to continue dancing, is my love for idols. . . ” And although some will regard this hobby as a mere tribute to “real idols” of Japan, at least one Vancouver-based fan, Daryl Dela Cruz feels differently, according to him they are real idols: “Idols can be the people doing the covers too . . . the term idols goes back to some one you follow and admire and this can be any person, and this can be a cover group in Japan or out here (in Vancouver).”

~ ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON: APRIL 10, 2017, THE VANCOUVER SUN ULTRA NERDY BLOG.