Friday, 13 June 2014

Suzuki Airi x Sayashi Riho: Hello! Pro Next Generation Ace Dialogue (2012)

{For context, this interview comes from the September 2012 edition of Top Yell magazine. This sets the interview after Niigaki Risa's graduation and the release of One Two Three/The Matenrou Show, around the time of Aitai Aitai Aitai na, and before Oda Sakura joined MM. ℃-ute themselves were still building up steam at this point, with over half a year until their labours bore fruit with the Budokan and France announcement. For even more disclosure, the version I'm using is a reproduction of the article from Top Yell +'s 2012 H!P compilation. The difference looks to only be the opening blurb and a short framing note before the interview.}

Front cover
Back cover
Hello! Pro Next Generation Ace Dialogue
Dancing! Singing! Talking!

A miraculous singing voice! The pride of the Japanese idol world 
℃-ute Suzuki Airi

The genius dancer has finally awoken!
Morning Musume. Sayashi Riho

The gifted collective without any blind spots! Opening the door to a new age of idols, these 2 leading figures have an earnest discussion!!

Long standing idol collective Hello! Project is currently undergoing changes. In the heart of it is Morning Musume., reborn again a year ago, becoming a completely different group, and  ℃-ute, expanding their fanbase with their accomplished performances. From the core of both these groups, we had a discussion with their 2 aces. These two, who are opening the door to the new generation, talk about innovations in Hello! Project's 15th year.

{Note: The compilation edition has a slightly different opening blurb, as follows
Last year, Hello! Project celebrated its 15th year. There, making new memories, Morning Musume and ℃-ute received a shock. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call it a 2nd impact, and in the background were these 2 aces. From the long-standing idols we have Suzuki Airi, acknowledged by everyone to be a supreme presence, and breathing a new breath of life into the reborn Morning Musume., we have Sayashi Riho. Let this encounter between the two of them tell you about the beginning of a new age for Hello! Pro.

{Compilation edition framing passage}
[At the time of the the discussion, these two were...]
Airi had just got done with '°C-ute Concert Tour 2012 Shunka ~Utsukushikutte Gomen ne~', and was entering into the promotion period for their 19th single 'Aitai Aitai Aitai na. With their high level of performance, °C-ute had once again garnered the attention of the idol industry. On the other hand, Sayashi had been selected to act as centre for the first time in Morning Musume.'s landmark 50th single, the double A side 'One Two Three/ The Matenrou Show'. This discussion was recorded right in the midst of the summer Hello! Cons, before a rehearsal.

Have the two of you worked together before this?

Suzuki: Not really. Just some light chatting during rehearsals. Since we share a love of stationery, we could talk about stationery (laughs).

Suzuki-san, did you have any previous evaluations or judgements about Sayashi-san?

Suzuki: Not from such a high point of view (laughs). But, I think that she's got style. When she got in, she really left an impression by saying that 'I want to become Morning Musume.'s leader in the future!'. If I remember correctly, that was at your first Hello! Con, wasn't it?

Sayashi: Yes, that's right.

Suzuki: When I heard that, I thought that this kid seemed to become a figure that was so much larger than life. Even though she had just joined, she really had style. Despite her small stature, her presence was huge, and it seemed like we had an amazing kid joining us (laughs).

Compared to when you were 14, what do you think?

Suzuki: At 14, that would mean that I'd have been part of Buono! for about a year. If the me of that time were to enter Morning Musume., I'd probably be too childish, and wouldn't be able to fit in. I probably wouldn't be too concerned about my age, but at times I'd probably come to the sudden realisation that 'Thinking about it properly, I'm still in my 2nd year of middle school'. I mean, isn't there like 4 years until she gets to my current age? When I try thinking about how I'd be at the time, that'd be quite the problem.

For Sayashi-san, how do you see Suzuki-san?

Sayashi: The first time we appeared together, for a Hello! Con rehearsal, you couldn't help but notice ℃-ute-san.  I like ℃-ute-san since their performance level is high, so I was looking at all 5 of them, but when I realised it, my eyes were only following Suzuki-san. And just like a switch had been flipped, when it came to talking, Suzuki-san was completely different. A completely different person, really.

Suzuki: Well, Sayashi-chan's just the same~. You know, during MCs, you're like all 'Ehehe~'. She normally gives out this extremely soothing aura. Previously during Niigaki (Risa)-san and Mitsui (Aika)-san's graduation, she was saying cute things like 'Dehehe... My nose is running'. However, her dancing is top-notch, she's such an artiste! Of course, her nose doesn't run when she's in the midst of dancing (laughs). It's really amazing when Sayashi-chan's switch is flipped!

You say that Sayashi-san's dancing is good, but Suzuki-san, what's something that people would say is amazing about you?

Suzuki: It's not really a skill, but I catch the rhythm differently from the other members. I'm accurate, but a bit slow, it's more like I feel the rhythm. Me, I like people who take it slow. Takahashi (Ai)-san is also a bit slow. Also, when singing in concert with the other members, it's like 'When we come together as one, our singing becomes better!' Previously, our image of Sayashi-chan was of that of a dancer, but when we were watching her at the Budokan, a chatter arose in the stands, 'Her singing is good!' I think it gave motivation to everyone in Hello! Pro.

In these 10 years, you've never seen such a new person in Morning Musume.?

Suzuki: Despite her youth in age, someone so level-headed upon joining, and with dance experience to boot... there's never been such a girl. It's a first. The reason I started thinking about 'the juniors coming out' was due to Niigaki-san and Mitsui-san's graduation. Since it meant that BeriKyu now have the most experience in the entertainment world. But when it comes to Sayashi-chan, looking at her, I don't feel like she's my junior. It feels like we've got the same point of view when it comes to 'what's amazing about you!'

On the other hand, Sayashi-san, what do you think is amazing about Suzuki-san?

Sayashi: Aren't there all styles of songs, like cool songs, as well as ballads? Suzuki-san can have completely different expressions depending on the song! I really admire that aspect of her! She really makes the scene rise to the surface! It isn't just a matter of facial expression. Her singing and dancing brings the whole story together.  By including all of those, you're suspended in the world of the lyrics. I personally would like to be able to create such a world soon. I really revere her.

Sayashi-san, you started studying dance due to your admiration for Morning Musume. In your mind, were you not aware of ℃-ute in those days...

Sayashi: That's accurate. I knew of Hello! Project, but at any rate, since my goal was Morning Musume., I only properly listened to Berryz Kobo-san and ℃-ute-san's songs after I had joined Hello!. But when I actually joined, they became role models, as there were a lot of senpai that I thought were amazing. Honestly, I think that the entirety of Hello! Pro is awe-inspiring.

What about ℃-ute in particular?

Sayashi: Isn't the singing and dancing of all the members of  ℃-ute-san at a high level? However, it's not just that their level is high only when they're all gathered together. Since they have their own, general idiosyncrasies. Their personalities are spread about. Despite that, ℃-ute-san are tight-knit... It's difficult for me to express how amazing ℃-ute-san are in words... (laughs)

Take the example of the 5 of them being good at dancing. When you say even though they aren't gathered together, what does that mean?

Sayashi: That's what it is~ I was wondering, like what was it~

Suzuki: Sounds like it's super complicated to explain (laughs). I can only say that ℃-ute got our début later than Berryz Kobo. It was a long, extremely vexing period, since during the early days all of us had gone earnestly through foundational lessons and muscle training under the same teachers, the same amount of time, the same number of times. That was every week, on Wednesdays. What all of the members had been taught, from the ground up, was the same. The awareness that we had to bring everything together, it probably became ingrained naturally. The dance teacher who supervised our live performances was a teacher who made sure that we were really aware of how we formed up. If it wasn't for that teacher, I don't think we'd be able to come together as one. The instructions were really detailed, like '45 degrees this way'.

Sayashi: Amazing...

Suzuki: Also, ℃-ute's meetings for performances are really long. We double-check with the video and make sure our angles all match up together. Honestly, at the beginning, we wondered 'Why to we have to do it to that extent?' However, at some point there was a change in the members' minds,with us thinking 'We have to match up, we have to match up,' or 'If we don't match up it'll look bad'. Since then, us members have been taking the initiative to make sure we're formed up well.

I see. So it was due to the untold hardships that happened every Wednesday. Well then, the theme this time around is 'A dialogue between the aces of both groups'.

Both ...(Mutually exchange glances, making an awkward expression)

In truth, do you feel a heavy pressure when the world refers to you as such?

Suzuki: But Tsunku♂-san's never directly said to me 'You're the ace!'...

But, for example, there are times when you adorn magazine covers alone.

Suzuki: Yet ℃-ute has a rule that whenever we appear alone or in pairs, we ensure that 'from ℃-ute' will be mentioned along with our names. Since I'm appearing as a representative of ℃-ute, I'm endlessly thinking of how I can use the opportunity to turn people into fans of ℃-ute.

Up to now, Sayashi-san's singing portions have increased, haven't they?

Sayashi: Yea~h, but I think that it's nice when everyone sings together. With increased singing parts, I do think 'It's a bother, I've got to work harder', but singing as Morning Musume. makes me happy...

Though in our discussion with Nakazawa Yuko-san in last month's edition, she mentioned that 'Abe Natsumi and Goto Maki went overboard!'

Suzuki: Ehehe... Well, if it's Sayashi-chan, she wouldn't go overboard, would she? (laughs)

Please don't do that Suu-san.-like reaction. (laughs)

Suzuki: But indeed, the pressure really does mount on you. When it suddenly turned out that no one from ℃-ute besides myself would be singing 'SHOCK!', I was in a panic. Even though it was our first single as a 5-person group, and we put up a lot of resistance to it despite it already being announced...

Didn't it make you feel like 'I've made it!'?

Suzuki: Not at all! Instead, it honestly made me want to quit. It makes me wonder now. 'Why did Tsunku♂-san do something like that?'... When it was first announced at Yomiuri Land, it felt like the fans were abuzz in chatter. Since it wasn't really my own solo, I had no idea how best to present it, and I was kind of in a panic... After that, I went to consult with Takahashi (Ai)-san while crying...

Takahashi-san, she really drew together the groups, didn't she.

Suzuki: That's right. Like, since it's Takahashi-san, she'd understand. Of course, 'SHOCK!' is a precious ℃-ute song, so even now I still treasure singing it. It's just that, at that time, why was I in such a panic?... I lost my confidence, and I became even more unable to do it... I strongly remember putting myself under the impression that 'That's enough!!', and making myself be confident.

You turned against it?

Suzuki: Once, I exploded with emotion. Like, 'Just do what you want!' At the time, I was often told, 'If Suzuki doesn't do her best, it'll make ℃-ute as a whole look bad'. It was mentioned by Tsunku♂-san, it was mentioned by our teachers... And I couldn't discuss it with the other members. So I went 'Arrgh....That's enough!' But letting the piled-up emotions burst out with such a bang, I somehow regained my spirit (laughs). Thinking about it now, that might have built up my mental strength a little.

When ℃-ute's single broke their own group's sales record, they garnered a lot of attention. Sayashi-san, what are your views on that?

Sayashi: As someone who gets to see ℃-ute-san from up close, I really understand how great they are, but it always strikes me as odd, why do people not know of ℃-ute-san? There are a lot of idols at the moment, but it's not like people aren't paying attention to all sorts of groups. But still, it makes me wonder why ℃-ute-san are left unnoticed, despite being so amazing. I think that those people are missing out. I want even more people to know about them. Lots of my friends, since I joined Morning Musume., started liking ℃-ute-san. When they listen to ℃-ute-san, they're like 'Awesome! Awesome!'

Given the chance, they'd come to like them more.

Sayashi: Yes, that's what I think.

Suzuki: Thank you for the publicity (laughs). But, we're getting a lot of motivation from the present Morning Musume. Like, you guys push yourselves forward, don't you? I think that's something that's really important. I don't really have the desire to put myself forward, like those feelings have been buried. Like at Hello! Cons, I get buried in the large groups. For people like Miya-chan (Natsuyaki Miyabi), she's a girl who can attract attention just by standing up, so if you aren't like that, then your feelings are important. The current 9th and 10th generation are unrestrained in a good way, so we just can't hand it over to the juniors, we have to push ourselves forward.

Next to you is Natsuyaki Miyabi, and from below the 9th and 10th gen are coming with their unrestrained bluntness (laughs).

Suzuki: The presence of those types of people motivates me as well. If someone from ℃-ute were to arbitrarily dance in their own way, our sensei would point it out. But, when we're at Hello! Cons or as BeriKyuu, we come out badly.

Come out badly?

Suzuki: It's all right when we're performing as ℃-ute, but when we're singing with 12 people, each and every one of us has to draw attention. In that situation, you could say that Berryz Kobo definitely have strong individual points, and they're good at showing them off...

So it's not just a simple story of all of you guys getting together and it being great?

Suzuki: It's like asking for the impossible, but everyone's goal now is to stand out even when it's not ℃-ute's turn at bat. 

 ℃-ute have also become an onee-san-like presence in Hello! Project, do you ever feel that you're leading them forward?

Suzuki: Rather than me personally, I think what everyone in ℃-ute wants to head for, is the fact that there are hardly any other idols with 10 years of experience in entertainment. As it is, it's something that can't be seen, and the discussion turns to 'What have we done in these 10 years!' It really is a critical juncture for ℃-ute. We'd like to get to the next level, and with 'Kimi Chari' (Kimi ha Jitensha Watashi ha Densha de Kitaku), the range of genres we've covered with our songs has increased. The number of new fans has also greatly increased, so we've got to show them a good fight. With this new song (Aitai Aitai Aitai na), we aren't just attacking through dance, but with everything we've amassed... That's Sayashi-chan's forte, it's a dance for people who are slow to catch (the rhythm) of the dance.Since we've been mentioning that we've been 'Forming up, forming up', we want to build up our physique, and it feels like all 5 of us are now heading in the same direction. While preserving the current atmosphere, we want to become a group that can perform with confidence, not only at Hello! Cons, but wherever we are. We won't lose steam wherever we are, and I feel like everything's an opportunity. We'll work hard, with spirit, in order to obtain any chance we can get!

How passionate! The popularity of your new song is really something though.

Sayashi: Yesterday, I heard it for the first time, but I was like 'Whoa, OMG!' At any rate, its intensity was really amazing... It's cool and sexy, and it's so intense that I'd probably run out of breath if I tried to dance it. And the facial expressions at the other parts are amazing... If I were to dance it seriously, I'd pretty much get tired out. Just watching it made my jaw drop, wondering 'In spite of that, they've got a song after this, can they pull it off?', yet all of them were pretty composed. I guess that their physical strength is something amazing too.

Suzuki-san, looking at the present Morning Musume., what are your thoughts?

Suzuki: Currently Morning-san has this intensity, and their recent songs are K-Pop-like, they come out looking cool and it feels completely different from what they've done before this. S/mileage's new songs looks cool as well, so this time around, everyone gives out some sort of impact. And so, after we're done with a rehearsal, the 5 of us discuss, 'We're in a bind, aren't we?'...

Oh my, another loss of confidence?

Suzuki: But this time around there's nothing left to finish besides the choreography. We've just started performing with the concert outfits yesterday. Actually, there's a difference between the outfits and what we wear for lessons, and since the songs are so intense, it's difficult to form up. And we also use the stage. We can't really think it through... Once we start discussing 'For this, we're in a bind', and in a moment, everyone starts going 'OMG, OMG'...

It'll be started by the usual suspects, I suppose (laughs).

Suzuki: But, for this new song, accidents might happen if we don't have confidence. Because the mood of everyone in ℃-ute is like 'Let's go!'

Morning Musume.'s 'One Two Three' is also a hit, garnering attention worldwide.

Sayashi: As it's our 50th single, it's really special to us. We went to hold handshake events at all sorts of places as well, and our posters were also put up at all sorts of places. My friends from school told me 'We saw your commercial', and they sent me pictures of the posters, that had me as happy as a lark. I don't just want the fans to know that 'The present Morning Musume. can do all these things', I'd like as many people as possible to know about it. The 11th generation will be joining us, and there's lots of things I'm looking forward to, personally. I think that everyone's looking forward to it too!

1 comment:

  1. Ah, so this was ages ago?? I was wondering why Riho and Airi were wearing clothes from 2012 XD Anyways, I still think as an ace, Riho has a lot to improve on but she is really good at dancing.