Anime Expo 2005
Anime Expo - KOTOKO Focus Panel

by David Chang,
Anime Expo 2005 convention patrons were lucky enough to be graced by a visit from KOTOKO. Starting from humble beginnings in Sapporo, Hokkaido, she became a singer for the group I'ves. She released her first independent single “Hane” through Geneon Entertainment. Since then, she has recorded the intro themes to popular series like “Please Teacher,” its sequel “Please Twins,” and other series like Kannaduki no Miko and Starship Operators. Just to give a taste of how rapidly her popularity is rising in Japan, tickets for one of her upcoming concerts sold out in about five minutes!

The panel, hosted by American voice actor Greg Ayres, gave a brief introduction of KOTOKO. Unfortunately, by request from Kotoko, picture taking and recording the panel was strictly prohibited. A warm round of applause greeted her as she made her way to the panel. Eager to start the interview, Ayres asked the first question and then left the rest up to the audience.

Focus panel questions

Is there a difference in the approach in writing songs for anime and games or for recording an album?

When writing for games or anime, I try to write the songs in a manner that match the theme and the values conveyed. When I write for personal albums, I try to write based on my own personal values and feelings.

What one thing do you want to convey to your listeners?

That's a very difficult question... When watching movies or scenes from TV and such, I try to make the song convey what I see.

Are you currently undergoing any projects at the moment?

At the moment I am not working on any anime theme songs, but I am always writing original work.

Why did you remix "Lament" for the album “Hane?”

That's a very difficult, but good, question. Even though I wrote the song, it wasn't supposed to be sung by me. Instead, someone else in I'ves was supposed to sing it, but by chance I ended up singing it and it ended up working out that way. So for “Hane,” I decided to remix it to match me more.

How did you become associated with I'ves?

I happened to meet Shimamiya Eiko and she happened to find my voice to match well with the I'ves sound.

How do you feel about your rising popularity from your humble beginnings with I'ves?

I don't think I'm a big star yet, but I'm still working with I'ves and still writing songs with I'ves and still recording with I'ves in Sapporo, Hokkaido.

For Kannaduki no Miko, did you know the plotline before hand, and was the song written in the perspective of Kurusegawa Himeko or Chikane Himemiya?

I read through the script of Kannaduki no Miko very carefully before writing the song. Although it may seem like it's from the point of view of Kurusegawa Himeko, but if you look at the song carefully, you will find that it is really written from the point of view of all the characters.

Mr. Shimura (Manager): With the anime theme song business, it is very hard to write songs for anime and may take many tries before it works out, but it ended up working out very well the first time with the director.

Do you play the games or watch the anime you've recorded for?

Well, I have a Mac so I can't play many of these games, though I try and play the games that are Mac compatible. As for the anime, I watch through all the series very carefully before writing.

Shimura: Whichever games she can't play, I play them for her.* [laughs]
*(I'ves and Kotoko have recorded songs for many H-Games)

How do you feel about the copyright of your music being violated or used without permission by people like in Flash movies and such?

Shimura: We are glad for your concern on the subject, and yes, we think that copyright violation and improper use of music is very bad.

Which one of your songs do you like or care for the most?

The thing is, I love all my songs, but my favorite if I had to choose one is “Chi no Kaeru” (On the Earth) from Starship Operators. My second favorite is “Garasu no Kaze” from the album “Garasu no Kaze”

What songs will you be singing in your concert?

Well it's really a secret, but if you go to the concert you will enjoy it.

Shimura: Well, we will have songs that are not licensed by Geneon, so we must be careful.

Who do you like the most in the group I'ves?

Well I enjoy working with everyone in the group and my mother.

Do you plan to work with other people like Aki and others in the future?

I don't know.

What do you enjoy doing on your own time off while not recording?

Well, on days that I don't have work, which are few in number, I like to watch TV and movies, and I enjoy shopping on TV.

For "Chi Ni Kaeru," the single that was released before Starship Operators, was this song made for the series or was is just an original work? If it is an original work, how did it end up matching up?

Yes, the song was not written for Starship Operators, but an original song. The staff of Starship Operators liked it a lot so they decided to use it for the closing.

Shimura: I would like to add a comment. The original and the anime theme differed slightly, so the Anime theme had more of a dramatic style with the use of a full orchestra.

What do you like about music, and what inspired you to go into music?

The thing I like about music is how it makes you happy when you are sad, and how it makes you feel. As for what inspired me, I used to sing a lot when I was young and then I ended up in I'ves.

In your concert tomorrow will you be singing any denpa* songs? Also for everyone who is here today, will you say Qun, Qun.

As stated before the concert tomorrow the concert will be a secret and uhh... “Qun, Qun”

*Denpa as stated by the translator is a nickname for an Otaku or electronic freak. Their character image associated with this nickname is someone who walks around Ahkihabara “Electric Town” with their plastic antennas on their head and picks up the electric waves from the surrounding area. This translation however is the sole opinion knowledge of the translator.

Hello Miss Kotoko, I am here from Japan and one of my favorite songs is from Please Teacher. I was very inspired by the song in Please Teacher, so can you tell me what inspired you?

It wasn't an anime that inspired me, but I was inspired by Dancer in the Dark, the song and video.

I like your music and songs very much, but didn't you work on a song called “Ren Ai'Chu*”? Also, many people do not think that you sang both Kannaduki no Miko and Please Teacher. Most of my friends don't believe in me when I say this and swear that they were sung by two entirely different people.

Thank you very much. Yes, I worked on a song called “Ren Ai'Chu*” I am a singer of many voices and many people cannot believe that I sing the songs in both Please Teacher and Kannaduki no Miko.
*Another song done for an H-Game

Many people think that you're two people with the same name singing these songs.

No... I'm one person.

I enjoy your songs very much, but where do you get your inspiration from and who are your peers?

As far as the theme songs for anime and games go I usually take my inspiration from the anime and the game. As for my original songs, I live in Hokkaido so there is a lot of nature. I get most of my inspiration from what I see around me and try to write the songs so that people can see what I see from my songs.

For songs with techno or trance, how do you sing and get inspiration for songs like that with I'ves?

When I am writing my songs I do not write my songs to techno and trance, but the style of Ives and the songs I write work out well to end up with this sound style.

Will you release an American album or do a US tour any time soon?

I currently am not doing any of this, but I would like to do more concerts and release more CDs in the US.

As you release more songs for Geneon Music, is there a chance you will be a seiyuu for Geneon?

Many ask me if I will go for voice acting, but compared to the professionals at the Opening Ceremonies, I think I would go through formal training before I try voice acting.

Do any fanboys propose marriage to you and what is your process for writing your songs?

In my process of writing I may have many different patterns. Sometimes, if I am taking a bath and come up with an idea, I may go and write it down before I forget it. As for anime and games, the songs are normally prewritten and their theme is set, so I try to match the feelings and styles of the anime. As for marriage proposals, none have come to me yet.

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