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Love Live Sunshine - Aqours

by Bamboo Dong,

It's been a big year for the girls from Love Live! Sunshine!!. It's the first voice role for many of the girls; they're the new "school idols" from the Love Live! project, an all-media project that's enjoyed immense success around the world. But despite being newcomers who have only been around for a year, the members of Love Live! Sunshine!!, who form the in-series school idol group Aqours, are already enjoying devoted fan support. In January, they held their first event with nine members, where they performed three songs from the group's 1st single CD to an excited crowd, and have since been active hosting their own radio show and internet streaming show, among other events. Furthermore, their TV anime started online and on TV in July 2016, simultaneously across the globe.

We had the rare opportunity to sit down to talk to six of the girls from Aqours when they visited this year's Anime Expo in Los Angeles. Present was Anju Inami (Chika Takami), Rikako Aida (Riko Sakurauchi), Arisa Komiya (Dia Kurosawa), Nanaka Suwa (Kanan Matsuura), Kanako Takatsuki (Hanamaru Kunikida), and Ai Furihata (Ruby Kurosawa), all of whom were at the special Love Live! Sunshine!! panel earlier that day, where audience members were also given an early look at the first episode of the TV anime.

Watching the girls interact, it's not hard to see how they've already adopted a large fanbase. They're earnest and energetic. Together we chatted lightly about Love Live! Sunshine!!, as well as their excitement about the journey that lies ahead.

First of all, welcome to Anime Expo. We're very happy to have you here. How has your experience been so far?

Inami (Chika): One thing that I really noticed is all the cosplay. There are a lot of cosplayers in Japan, but there are even more cosplayers here, and everyone is so energetic. It feels like we've come to the grandest of all festivals!

Aida (Riko): It really makes me happy when I see an attendee try their best to talk to me in English. And as she said about cosplay— it's very exciting to see all the handmade works and handicrafts. I see that everyone is so excited, and that is very contagious.

Komiya (Dia): The first thing I got going up on stage was the warm reception and the great reaction from the crowd. Everyone is very genki and energetic, and I can feel that everyone loves anime. I can appreciate that they love our show.

Was it your first time in the Unites States? Have you had any chances to go sightseeing and tour Los Angeles?

Suwa (Kanan): This is my first time in the mainland U.S. We got to see Santa Monica, and we got to see the supermarket and the mall. There's very pretty scenery, and I hope we get to have more time to look around.

You had a panel and a meet & greet session (an event where name cards are handed to fans) today at Anime Expo for Love Live! Sunshine!!. Did you enjoy it? What did you think of the Love Live! fans in the U.S.?

Takatsuki (Hanamaru): It was great doing the one-on-one name card-handing with the fans. Everyone is so excited and energetic, and there were quite a few people who tried to talk to me in Japanese. I was very happy they knew the audience calls, too. It was very great to see that from the audience!

The new TV anime, Love Live! Sunshine!!, premiered today. Now that the show has finally started, how do you feel?

Furihata (Ruby): It's finally started, and I'm really happy and honored that we could do the premiere here with a big audience! The nine of us are resolved to stick together and go on!

Speaking of Aqours, can you introduce us to the members that you play?

Inami (Chika): I play the member Chika Takami. She is somewhat of a main, central member in the group. She is very cheerful and forward-looking. She's the youngest of three sisters, so she tends to be a little self-centered, but that also gives her the energy to be the pull for the other eight members. She's very bright and cheerful, and brings the rest of the members together.

Aida (Riko): I play the member Riko Sakurauchi. She is someone who was originally from another school, and she transfers in. She plays the piano and is a hard worker. She has the kindness of heart to give support to the other members, especially to Chika.

Komiya (Dia): The member that I play is Dia Kurosawa. She is a third year student at the school, and also the student body president. She's from a local well-to-do family, and she has a younger sister by the name of Ruby. Because she's the older sister, she tends to be strict and give out the rules. She's a stickler for rules and being proper, but sometimes those efforts go in vein. There's a lot more about her that's going to be revealed in the story as its progresses.

Suwa (Kanan): The member that I play is Kanan Matsuura. Kanan is a third year student and her family runs a diving shop, so she helps the family business a lot. There isn't much detail that can be revealed about her yet except that she's much of a supporting member within Aqours. She has a lot of stamina, so when it comes to endurance and support, that's really how she supports the group.

Takatsuki (Hanamaru): I play Hanamaru Kunikida. She's a nice girl, but sometimes she dwells in the negative. She's kind of a quiet, reserved girl. One things that's characteristic of her is that she has no reservations speaking in the local Numazu dialect, so a lot of her sentences end with "-zura". She was born into a temple family, so she used to be in the choir, which overlaps with myself in real life.

Furihata (Ruby): My member Ruby Kurosawa is the younger sister of Dia, and is good friends with Hanamaru. Ruby is the bashful, crybaby of the group, but she has a strong core, and she really loves her older sister. She grew up watching school idol performances, so that's one thing she aspires to be, and one thing she is working towards becoming.

What did you think when you were chosen to be in Love Live! Sunshine!!? Were you surprised?

Komiya (Dia): I was never really into group activities, personally speaking, so it was hard to imagine myself part of a nine member group. But when I was cast, I found out that all of our ages are pretty close, and our hobbies and likes are similar, too, so I'm having a very good time, and getting along with everyone!

What qualities of Aqours do you think are the most appealing?

Suwa (Kanan): I think that it's not just as cast members, but also as Aqours that we're all together behind Chika, trying to fulfill our dreams. So it's not just nine of us, but 18 of us all working together toward the same goal.

So there are three groups within Aqours. How were they formed, and what are your impressions of the groups?

Furihata (Ruby): The grouping was decided as a magazine reader project (where magazine readers participate in the project). Our readers cast their votes, and our groups were formed that way. I'm with the subunit group CYaRon!, and this is the one that has all the genki, cheerful girls, so we're all smiles and giggles.

Takatsuki (Hanamaru): My subunit AZALEA has all the most quiet and reserved girls of our group, but the songs that we do are pretty upbeat love songs.

Aida (Riko): My unit is Guilty Kiss, and as the name suggest, we have the full chuuni (chuunibyo) disease going on. But our songs tend to be the rock and roll type, and embody the role models that we want to be.

There are various activities that you have to do as Aqours besides voice acting, like radio, events, live-stream shows, and other stuff. What's been the most memorable experience you've had so far?

Aida (Riko): Everything that we've been doing as Aqours has been a first to me, but among the most memorable would be our January 11 first event where all nine of us were together for the first time, and we got to sing three of our songs from the first single.

Not all nine of us are here today, just six of us, but this is our first overseas appearance, and I think this will be one cherished memory that we'll continue to carry on.

What do you want to say to anime fans in the U.S. about Love Live! Sunshine!!?

Inami (Chika): Love Live! Sunshine!! depicts the story of nine girls working towards their dream, and it really is full of youthful aspirations. Each one of us has all the dreams and aspirations that we're carrying, so please look forward to what will happen when all of this is put forward as one, and what kind of chemistry will unfold. What we want to do is shine, so we'll see how that goes, and we'll do our best. If you can please watch and support us, we'll respond in kind.

Thank you so much!

All: Thank you!

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