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Interview: Shoko Nakagawa

by Nikki Flores,

Well known for her song Sorairo Days and as the host of Pokémon Sunday, Shoko Nakagawa does it all. In addition to singing, acting, and being a TV personality, she has also illustrated and provided the voices of countless anime characters over her expansive career. Her resume is quite impressive given her young age.

Despite her busy schedule, the young actress/singer was able to sit down with me at this year's Anime Expo, where she is attending and performing as a guest, to answer some of our questions.

ANN: It's been ten years since you first visited Los Angeles for Anime Expo. How have you changed as an artist since then and what are you most excited to share with your overseas fans now?

Shoko Nakagawa: Ten years ago I came to the Nokia Theater, now it's called the Microsoft Theater. This was right after I released the song from Gurren Lagann. As a singer, I was just starting and I didn't have many songs for my set list, but I really embraced the opportunity given to me in the states. That was ten years ago. Compared to before, I had a lot of great opportunities as a singer, as a voice actress, and as an actress. I had more variety and felt more comfortable performing. Last time I was here, I was quite nervous because I didn't have much experience, but now I feel a little more comfortable performing and I'm looking forward to being an entertainer more than ever before.

Compared to ten years ago, now everyone has a pen light which is used to interact with the audience, and to do the choreography. It is much more widely recognized and well-known now. Ten years ago, Japan already established the pen light interaction between the audience and the artist, but back then in America people used iphones. I had a great view from stage, and I was really surprised. This time I want to have more interaction and have prepared some moves, like a simple jump and choreographed movement with the audience's arms, so I'm really looking forward to it.

What was your relationship to Pokémon like before becoming a host on Pokémon Sunday in 2006? How do you think acting and singing for Pokémon since then has changed your career?

When I was a kid, from the very first generation of Pokémon on the black and white Game Boy, I really liked it. I thought it would be great if I could do some sort of work for Pokémon in the future regardless of the profession, whether it be voice over or singer or anything, but I wanted to interact with Pokémon. Now that I've been doing this Pokémon show for twelve years, it's been such a pleasure to work with the kids and interact with them. Back then I wanted to have fun, but now I have a new dream. My goal is for the next generation of kids to have more fun moments and bring out their smiles. That's going to be my new mission. Pokémon is such a great game and has such a presence. Pokémon is very global. I'm playing Pokémon Go and I've been playing here too. When I go to another country I can play and make friends with the local people and we have something to talk about. That kind of thing is great. Over the last twenty years, and over many generations, it's been loved - and that's such a rare thing. In Japan, you still see a lot of trainers and I just think it's great.

What were your impressions of Sorairo Days when you first performed it, and how surprised were you when the song and Gurren Lagann became such a big hit? Have your feelings about Sorairo Days changed ten years later, now that it's become so iconic? Do you think of it differently when you perform it?

There's a bit of a story behind when I first heard about Sorairo Days. I was really happy because I always wanted to sing an anime song, but when I went into the recording session I thought somebody else was going to sing it too and that I wasn't the only candidate for this song. I had mixed feelings, and was kind of anxious about it. I did my best because I really wanted it. After the recording I heard the management say that it was going to be me, and I was speechless. Before the first episode came out I kept wondering if it had really happened. When episode one came out, I went to Akihabara and I actually saw this man buying my CD. I still remember that I wanted to shake hands with him, but I thought I might look like a weirdo or something. I was really happy and it finally made me realize that it had happened.

Gurren Lagann itself is made by the same studio that did Neon Genesis Evangelion and is the first robot anime they did since then, and that makes it special to me as an anime fan. I was just really happy to be involved with something so epic that was produced by the same team that had done Evangelion. Even ten years later I always find something new and different when I sing this song. “Sorairo” means the color of the sky, right? The sky is sometimes clear or sad looking or cloudy looking - it's different every day, and so I find something different in the song every time I performit . I find it very fascinating.

What is the most exciting or memorable collaboration you've ever performed live with another artist?

There are two collaborations that are really memorable for me. One is for Dragon Ball Z. There's a song, Cha-La Head-Cha-La, and I sang it with the original artist. When I was on stage with him I almost fainted because I was really just overwhelmed and excited. The other one is from Saint Seiya. There's a song called, Pegasus Fantasy - I collaborated and recorded with Nobuo, the original artist, and his voice presence was very, very big. He's got this incredible range, and I felt really alone because of the power of his voice. I feel like the original singers are not only trying to make sure their voice is infinite, but they are wonderful people in general that I look up to.

Since you're such a prolific cover artist, what anisongs would you be most excited to cover that you haven't done yet?

I would love to cover many songs in the future, but ultimately it's hard to answer. I am interested in many nostalgic and older songs, but also would love to sing Macross Frontier or Love Live!. I'm not part of a group though and I'm on my own which makes it tricky.

Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you would like your fans in the U.S.A. to look forward to?

There is a convention called Tokyo Comic-Con which is from November 30th to December 2nd in Tokyo. I became an ambassador for this convention and I would love to do some cosplay from American comics. There are a lot of interesting cosplayers from American comics and manga there. I also heard The Walking Dead cast will be there and I'm looking forward to interacting with them. If Americans visit, that would be so exciting because it is such a big event, so maybe that is something my American fans can look forward to.

I can't announce specific details right now, but there are many upcoming projects that US fans can look forward to, so please stay tuned.

Is there anything fun you're planning to do in Los Angeles while you're here?

I actually have already gotten to go to Disneyland back in 2011 and it was great. I did the voice over for Rapunzel from Tangled, and it was such a great experience for me because I could buy a lot of merchandise here that I couldn't back in Tokyo. That was great and I was so happy. I also got to see a show I was looking forward to that was on stage there - I had heard that it was already cancelled, but they brought it back to Disneyland and it was a nice surprise for me.

Since I'm in Los Angeles now I would like to meet fans and I wish I could interact with them a lot more.

Shoko Nakagawa: http://www.anime-expo.org/guest/shoko-nakagawa/

Our thanks to Shoko Nakagawa and Anisong World Matsuri for this opportunity.

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