Interview: Idol Project 22/7by Kalai Chik,
Idol project 22/7 first took the world by storm as a multi-platform series project. The idol/voice acting group have been hard at work releasing behind-the-scenes footage, motion captured music videos, and animated snippets on their official YouTube page. Sally Amaki, who is the most well-known idol in the group, went viral on social media in 2017 after her bilingual Q&A livestream gathered the attention of international Twitter fans. From there, idol and non-idol fans flocked to the 22/7 YouTube Channel to learn more about the group. Their latest single, “Nani mo Shite Agerarenai,” made it to #4 on the Oricon Singles Chart at its release in late August.
Crunchyroll Expo 2019 marked the second time members from 22/7 embarked on an international trip. Sally Amaki, Mei Hanakawa, and Reina Miyase attended Anime Expo 2018, and spoke about what their projects were at the time. Now after over 2 years of waiting, the project announced the official release date for the 22/7 anime to be January 2020. Immediately following their panel, which was met with a standing ovation, Ruri Umino (voice actress of Jun Toda), Kanae Shirosawa (voice actress of Akane Maruyama), and Sally Amaki (voice actress of Sakura Fujima) chatted with ANN on their experiences as an idol group.
ANN: How was the panel with your fans? For both Kanae and Ruri, this is your first face-to-face meeting with your international fans.
Kanae Shirosawa: I was afraid my English wouldn't get through to the fans, but I was happy that they were very warm and welcoming. They even chanted my name in the panel!
Ruri Umino: When we played the teaser for the anime during the panel, I could see everyone reacting to every little detail in the video, and I'm very happy they enjoyed it so much.
Sally Amaki: I know a lot of people may not be familiar with our group because our variety TV show, 22/7 Keisanchu, isn't aired in America or overseas. During the panel we were able to talk about our group and what our concept is. It was nice to be able to tell everyone there.
What is different about performing on stage compared to when you're recording for 22/7's music videos?
Sally Amaki: Sometimes the personalities are nothing like the voice actresses. My character, Sakura, is very bouncy and bubbly character 24/7, however I'm not really like that. For example, during the motion capture, I try to act as big as possible. But when I'm on stage, I try not to be as energetic as her to show the difference between me and her. For the characters, there's a whole entire personality behind each one of them, and you put yourself in their shoes. Sakura is super energetic, loves her fans, and enjoys performing live and I have to move my body just like she would. On stage, I'll act like myself.
Ruri Umino: Like Sally, my character (Jun) moves around a lot and I have to move around more to make her movements more dynamic during motion capture performances. To me, this is more difficult than performing on stage.
Kanae Shirosawa: My character, Akane, is very proper and, as such, her posture is very straight. After performing as her for so long, those traits carried onto my live performances.
There's a lot of time that you spend together when you're training or performing. How do you bond with each other?
Sally Amaki: Although we work in Tokyo, not all of us are from Tokyo. I believe Ruri is the only one from Tokyo. When we first came to Tokyo, most of us didn't have many friends there, so we hung out and became close friends with each other. And that never changed as we always hang out inside work and outside of work. We just happen to be best buddies that way and that's how close our bond is.
What are some of the activities that 22/7 would do together?
Sally Amaki: Because we love idols and voice acting so much, we would attend idol concerts and experience that whole thing together. We would also go to karaoke and sing in our own character's voices. But since we are in the same group, we share the same struggles as well. Talking about our hardships over the phone and in person also helps to deepen our friendship. We tend to talk a lot about it to each other, and I think we've become closer because of that.
It's been about 2-3 years since 22/7 debuted. What are some of those struggles that you experienced in that period?
Sally Amaki: Since our group is a voice acting idol group, half of the girls want to be an idol and the other half want to be voice actors. I wanted to be a voice actor, and I was incredibly nervous when I first performed live onstage. A lot of the other girls also felt nervous too because they didn't know how to act like idols. And that was the type of struggle we all shared. The girls who were better at performing on stage would help give us advice on what to do before we perform to not be so nervous.
Another example would be when the anime was first announced in 2017. The specific release date wasn't announced until 2019, which means there was a two-year gap. For a while, we were all really worried the anime wasn't going to happen because it had been so long and we all worked hard on it. We would talk about that lot to each other about whether if it was happening or not, but again these struggles helped to strengthen our bonds.
Sally, you attended last year's Anime Expo with Mei Hanakawa and Reina Miyase. I read from an interview from that time that all members of 22/7 do vocal exercises before recording. What are some of your favorite tongue twisters or warm ups?
Ruri Umino: In Japan, there's a certain segment within a Kabuki performance that lasts about 5-10 minutes and is very difficult. In there, there's a very quick, tongue-twisty part which is called Ragyou in Japanese and I often pick those out and practice that. It's as if you're practicing the entire “ra” column of Japanese syllables, and it forces you to roll your tongue.
Kanae Shirosawa: Like Ruri, I also practice the “ra ri ru re ro” syllables but out of all the members, I feel like I'm the least good at speaking fast or doing tongue twisters. What my teacher taught me was to bite a chopstick and practice those sounds to improve.
Sally Amaki: I too practice those sounds, but other than what Ruri and Kanae have mentioned, we have a separate script to practice. It's really long and focuses on every aspect of the tongue, such as rolling your Rs, Ls, and vowel sounds in 10 minutes. Without having to do tongue twisters, we remember and recite the ten-minute script, which trains your tongue muscles. I think all the members practice it before lives and voice overs.
What are some parting words for the fans who came to see you at Crunchyroll Expo?
Ruri Umino: It's our first time here in America, and, of course, I was very nervous to be here. I'm very thankful for all the fans who came out to see us and welcome us with open arms. Next time, I'd love to come with all eleven members and give all the fans a proper welcome. Even though we're a young, immature group, I can't describe how happy I am to be greeted with such a warm reception. Thank you so much for having us.
Kanae Shirosawa: As a group, we're inexperienced and still have a long way to go, but meeting fans in and outside of Japan who know of 22/7 despite that made me incredibly happy. Knowing that fact encourages me to work harder. Just like Ruri said, I'd want to come back next time with all eleven of us and perform a concert in America.
Sally Amaki: I know a lot of people found out about 22/7 through Sakura's YouTube Channel and 22/7 music videos, but it's hard to get in touch with the side-tracks of the CDs. The only tracks available online are the main tracks, but I think all of 22/7 songs have a really deep message that can connect to people of any age. I hope everyone will take a look at our CDs, and listen to both the A and B tracks because they're very good! Thank you so much.
For more information and upcoming news on 22/7, visit http://www.nanabunnonijyuuni.com/.
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