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Interview: Aqours

by Bamboo Dong,

Exactly one year since six of the members of Love Live! Sunshine!!'s Aqours first visited Los Angeles, they were back again, this time with the full set of nine and a concert experience planned for fans of Love Live! Sunshine!! and other idol series. Appearing as part of the ANISONG WORLD MATSURI ~JAPAN KAWAII LIVE~, they performed five of their biggest hits: "Aozora Jumping Heart," "Kimino Kokorowa Kagayaiterukai," "Koini Naritai AQUARIUM," "MIRAI TICKET," and "Yume Kataruyori Yume Utaou." It was the first time Aqours had performed live in the United States, and if audience reaction was anything to go by, it was a smash hit.

A lot has changed since the last time Aqours was in the U.S. The second season of Love Live! Sunshine!! is now broadcasting in Japan and simulcasting in the U.S. on Crunchyroll, they just completed another major live concert tour in Japan that will be shown in select U.S. theaters, and are embarking on a nationwide fan tour of Japan. We were fortunate to chat with the whole group, which features Anju Inami (Chika Takami), Rikako Aida (Riko Sakurauchi), Nanaka Suwa (Kanan Matsūra), Arisa Komiya (Dia Kurosawa), Shuka Saitō (You Watanabe), Aika Kobayashi (Yoshiko Tsushima), Kanako Takatsuki (Hanamaru Kunikida), Aina Suzuki (Mari Ohara), and Ai Furihata (Ruby Kurosawa).

It's exciting that all nine of you were able to make it to Anime Expo in Los Angeles this year. Does this trip feel different now that you're all here together?

Inami (Chika): Last year we came with six people, but this year we came with all nine. I'm really glad we were able to perform a great live performance for all the people of LA.

Suwa (Kanan): Yes, this year we came with all nine. It was nice being able to do all types of different events, with the live concert, as well as the talk show.

Kobayashi (Yoshiko): It's my first time coming to America, and yesterday we were able to sing and have a great concert. Singing in America with everyone was a first, so it's a lot of firsts for me. Everyone was so kind at the concert, and everyone was so cheerful and great at cheering for us. I really love America now.

Suzuki (Mari): It's my first time coming to America, too. I'm really glad we were able to come with all nine members. It was just so amazing to see how well-loved anime is here, and it's made me really, really happy.

You've spent the last year doing a lot of concerts and other promotional events. Looking back, how has your relationship with the other members grown, and do you think you've had a lot of personal development through those events as well?

Inami (Chika): Now that all nine of us are together, we spend a lot of time together, and we spend a lot of time practicing together. We've been able to synchronize all our different movements with the nine of us, and it's gotten a lot better.

Aida (Riko): After having gone through the first live concert together, our bonds have certainly grown. As a personal development, I feel like I've developed a lot more stamina. I don't get as tired singing and dancing now as I used to.

Suwa (Kanan): I feel that we've grown a lot; we've grown together after the first live. I'm really happy to have met all the fans, and gotten a chance to meet them and spend time with them. It's a lot of fun! As a personal development, I feel like having gone through the first live, we've really managed to grasp something as Aqours.

Komiya (Dia): Going through all the events, the concerts, and recording the anime series as well, we spend a lot of time together with all nine members, sometimes more than a full day during the week. At first we had a lot of anxiety because we weren't sure what we were doing at first. But the fans greeted us warmly, and accepted all of our feelings. We became more confident in all our actions, and we're all having a lot of fun now.

Saito (You): I feel like I spend more time with everyone here than maybe my family at this point. We have really deepened all of our bonds. In terms of personal development, my turns are really nice and clean and sharp now, which is a great development for me.

Kobayashi (Yoshiko): Going through all the events together, we've definitely grown stronger together, and strengthened our bonds. I feel like I've also grown stronger because I feel like I can really enjoy the live performances more, and I can actually enjoy enjoying those live performances with everyone.

Takatsuki (Hanamaru): Spending time with everyone, we're very close, almost like we're classmates. When we're getting ready for events, the feeling is similar to that of getting ready for a cultural festival at school, where we spend a lot of time together getting the event ready for everyone. It feels like that, with the preparations, as well as the real event. It's like I'm able to experience being a teenager again, which is a really nice feeling. And as for personal developments, I'm able to relax more, and enjoy things more that way.

Suzuki (Mari): Being able to be with all nine members has made everyone's bond stronger. At the beginning, I felt like singing and dancing and smiling took a lot of effort, and it was hard. But now, being with everyone, I feel from the bottom of my heart that it's fun, singing and dancing with everyone. It's because of these nine members that we've become what we've become.

Furihata (Ruby): I'm not too comfortable in front of people, but being a member of Aqours, I've become more confident because of all the teamwork with the nine members, as well as the fans and their support. After having gone through and experienced the first live, and having the fans accept me as Ruby Kurosawa, it made me want to grow better as a member, and grow as a person as well.

What do you think has surprised you the most about the past year?

Saito (You): The thing that surprised me most was our first live, which we got to have at the Yokohama Arena, which is a really amazing place.

Komiya (Dia): I started Twitter exactly one year ago, and in just that one year, 160,000 followers began to follow me. I feel it was due to Love Live! Sunshine!! and the fans that support it, and I want to be able to return that as well.

Kobayashi (Yoshiko): I was surprised at the warmth and excited cheering of American fans yesterday at the Japan Kawaii Live. I didn't really know what to expect, but then experiencing that firsthand, just seeing how loud they screamed and how cheerful they were, I felt the love they had for Love Live! Sunshine!! and also for us as Aqours. I was surprised, but happy.

Furihata (Ruby): Every day there's something new, but for the first live, I was surprised at how the audience created a sort of night sky with all the pen lights. I was surprised at the live yesterday, too, when everyone all united as one big fan to support us. I was really surprised by that, but happy as well.

What is one of your favorite memories involving your fans?

Inami (Chika): All of my memories are really important to me, but the one that sticks out the most is from our first event at Mielparque Hall in Tokyo, where we sang three songs. It was our first time singing for the fans.

Aida (Riko): I have a lot of memories with the fans as well, but the one that sticks out is an event we had where we gave something out to the fans. The concept of the event was for us to go meet the fans, and being able to talk to them in person and meet them was a very different experience from everything else I'd done, and I appreciated what the experience gave me, being able to meet the fans like that.

Suwa (Kanan): We receive a lot of letters at the fan events, and that makes me happy. But one of my favorite memories is from the first live when the fans were shining the pen lights. It just feels like everyone, from the fans to the members, is having fun.

Takatsuki (Hanamaru): For me, it's the first live, when we're singing "MIRAI TICKET". We're counting, "1.. 2.. 3.. 4…" all the way to "10," and when we reach "10," all the fans are screaming, "10!" It felt like it wasn't just the members of Aqours that were creating Aqours, but the fans as well. It's the unity of the two that's creating Aqours, and I'm really happy about that. It's not just the fans in Japan, but the fans overseas as well that are creating Aqours and Love! Live Sunshine!!, and I really appreciate that.

Suzuki (Mari): I have a lot of warm memories of all the fans, but for me, the one that sticks out is the first live, and being able to hold it at the Yokohama Arena. That venue is very special to me, and I've always admired it. Being able to have the first live there was really amazing.

There's a new season of Love Live! Sunshine!! coming out in the fall. What are your hopes for the year to come?

Inami (Chika): We're going to have our first live tour across Japan, and we're also going to have the 2nd season of Love Live! Sunshine!! airing in the fall. We're also going to be having fan meetings in areas all over Japan. We're going to be traveling to areas of Japan we've never been to, so there's going to be a lot of firsts this year. We want to enjoy it, have fun, but also be careful of everything, and make sure everyone has a good time.

Aida (Riko): I just want lots of fans to come to know about us, and come to understand us more. Both through our tour in Japan, and at the fan meetings as well.

Suwa (Kanan): We're going to be doing the fan meetings, but I just want to be able to make the live tour a big success, since that's coming up soon.

Komiya (Dia): My hope for this year is that we'll be able to make all the fans like us more as Aqours, and make sure they're glad they came to see us as Aqours, since we're doing all these overseas events, doing live tours, and meeting everyone. I want them to be able to enjoy meeting us and coming to see us, but I want to be careful of everyone's health, too.

Saito (You): We were able to see a very maidenly part of You Watanabe in Love Live! Sunshine!! last year, but I want to be able to show a cooler part of You this time. Cool and cute. But I want to show a different part of You.

Kobayashi (Yoshiko): The member that I voice, Yoshiko, refers to herself as a fallen angel. I want to be able to create more of my followers, my little demons, through the anime and the live concerts, and have them really support me as the fallen angel Yohane.

Takatsuki (Hanamaru): The rest of the year is full of things to do. Our schedule is pretty full. So my life hope is just to be able to do everything with all my might, and put everything I have in it. So for this year, I just want to be able to do everything with great health.

Suzuki (Mari): There's going to be a lot of opportunities to meet the fans, with the live tour and the fan meetings. My hope is to be able to make the fans smile more, and have even more fun this year.

Furihata (Ruby): My hope is to grow taller! It's actually maybe half-joke, half-truth, because the member I play, Ruby, wants to grow as well. As a person, but also her height.

It sounds like you have a lot of fun and exciting things planned. Do you have one last message for your fans here?

Inami (Chika): Love Live! Sunshine!! is about the nine members of Aqours who live in a very small seaside town, who want to make the town shine more, and to make people feel like it's a really great place. I also want everyone to make Love Live! Sunshine!! grow bigger, and convey it to more people all around the world. I hope all the fans will continue to support Love Live! Sunshine!!, and the members of Aqours as well.

© 2017 PROJECT Lovelive! Sunshine!!

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