Thursday, July 5, 2012

Morning Musume's Billboard Japan Interview

This is a repost from Hello-Online...

--The Tanaka Reina Band Project has started, right? This is a development that hasn't happened before even if you look at the entire Hello Project. How did this come about?

Tanaka Reina: It's not that I took the initiative and said that I want to do it, but I've always talked to Tsunku-san about liking singing, and when he said to me, "I'm thinking of putting together a band. What do you think?" I was like, "Huh? OK!" Then it was explained to me that we're gonna diligently start from square one and gather members through an audition, and now the audition is being held.
--What kind of band do you think would be good?

Tanaka Reina: Now I'm often asked what kind of attire I want us to have and what kind of songs I'd like, so I think my opinion just might be taken into account in this band. In terms of fashion, I want everyone to be matching, kind of rock-ish, with cute accessories. And then, I want to sing love songs that are intense but also evoke empathy. I want to sing at the top of my voice.

--Do you usually listen to rock?

Tanaka Reina: Not often, but singing SCANDAL's "Shojo S" feels great and I like it. Right now, the only all-girl band that comes to mind is SCANDAL, so I sometimes think it might turn out like that.

--So sooner or later, you'll go against SCANDAL....

Tanaka Reina: But we're acquaintances, you know (laughs). Recently, I even got a message from them, saying, "You're gonna be in a band, huh?" Also, the staff have asked me, "What genre of non-Japanese music do you like?" but I don't listen to non-Japanese music. I thought, "This isn't good!" so I asked SCANDAL's HARUNA-chan, "Tell me what non-Japanese music you like."

--So rather than battling them, you're indebted to them (laughs).  Recently, a new challenge has stood out. Your enthusiastic performance as a Stacy (a girl who, after dying once, walks around once more as a corpse and won't die again until hacked into more than 165 pieces) in "Stacys Shojo Saisatsu Kageki," the play originally by Otsuki Kenji.  I think the fact that Morning Musume would take on such a heavy, sad, scary, and deep work is itself amazing. Was there any pressure?

Tanaka Reina: There are many scenes where my character is a normal human being, so at first I took it lightly. In the rehearsal studio, it was embarrassing to perform the near-death-happiness laugh (performed in a full euphoric state characteristic of young girls nearing their transformation into Stacy), but more than that, the battle was hard, and my spirit was just crushed. It has been the most difficult up to now, but somehow I was able to do it well, and I took on a truly new genre, so the desire for a lot of people to see it was stronger than the pressure. It's the best out of all the plays we've done up to now.

--Despite it being severe and serious to that extent, Iikubo-san would suddenly dance "Ren'ai Hunter."

Iikubo Haruna: That's because the scriptwriter, Suemitsu-san, told me, "What if you dance 'Ren'ai Hunter' at that part?" and so I did it eagerly (laughs). Also, the Stacy that I portrayed doesn't have very many lines, and the highlight for her was the scene when she gets cut by the chainsaw and she cries out in agony at her death, so all I thought about was how I can cry out well and how I can look like I'm being cut beautifully.

--Kudo-san was selected for the juicy role of Drew (this is what she calls herself; she's someone from an illegal re-killing agency. As she herself awaits being turned into a Stacy, she has a mysterious power of being able to kill Stacys with a bomb.). Upon actually portraying her, how did it feel, what did you think about?

Kudo Haruka: Drew took a lot of getting used to. She's a girl with a lovely Goth-loli appearance, but she frankly says what she thinks, so her lines have a lot of impact. I felt like, "Huh?...." Plus, I'm bad at speaking my lines smoothly, but Drew talks like a machine gun. I have to talk fast, but in a way that the audience still understands. That's why it was really hard, but to that extent, it was worth doing.

--Reina-san took on the role of Eiko (a girl who requests Shibukawa, a man she just met, to re-kill her; both of her parents were killed by her close friend who had turned into a Stacy), which is a difficult role in terms of both the acting and the action. I myself cried my eyes out at the last scene when the two people who love each other killed each other. It was tremendous.

Tanaka Reina: I also thought it was amazing.  I lose myself in that scene. I can't see the audience at all, I can only see Shibu-san (Shibukawa, who ends up loving Eiko, despite the privilege of re-killing Eiko being forced upon him; played by Kaai Gamon). Even if my foot bangs against the stairs, it doesn't hurt.  I don't feel anything. Then when I look after the performance, there'd be a bruise or a cut, and I get all weak.  However, the more I do the battle with all of my power, the sadder the last line, "Thank you. I'm sorry. I love you," becomes even for me. This time I was able to concentrate on that alone, so I really felt like I completed the task well.

--Do you have a strong desire to take on something that hasn't been considered by Morning Musume and other idols, something similar to "Stacys"?

Tanaka Reina: That's right. Now that we've done "Stacys," I'm no longer scared of anything (laughs). I think it's like that for everyone. We normally don't make roaring sounds, so at first, we weren't good at all. But then, Iikubo became able to produce such a dreadful voice, and Kudo's way of walking was super zombie-like! In that way, I think everyone tried their best to overcome the embarrassment and fear. Now, no matter what comes at us, I feel like we can do it.

--Before that "Stacys" play, Niigaki Risa and Mitsui Aika's graduation performance was held. What was that day like for everyone?

Tanaka Reina: It hadn't been that long since Takahashi Ai-chan graduated, so a part of me was used to graduation itself. But when it comes to the Budokan, we don't often stand there unless it's a graduation performance, and we don't know if we'll be able to send off the next person to graduate at the Budokan as well, so I thought to myself, "This might be the last time I stand on the Budokan stage," and I looked at the audience a lot. As I stood on stage, I experienced it thoroughly, thinking, "Ah, so it's this spacious," and "[The sounds] reverberate in this way."

Iikubo Haruna: The day after the 10th gen members joined was Takahashi-san's graduation performance, but this one was our first time to experience the graduation of members that we were actually with for a long time. I was just so sad since morning. Even just seeing the sign at the Budokan entrance that said "Niigaki Risa Mitsui Aika Graduation" moved me to tears, but since it was gonna be the last performance with the 12 of us, with the will to make it the best performance ever, I cherished each and every song.

Kudo Haruka: Niigaki-san and Mitsui-san are seniors that gave us advice during tours and such. Niigaki-san is also the first leader for the 10th gen, and Mitsui-san is someone close to us who taught us various things, so there was nothing but loneliness. But this was the first full concert at the Budokan for the 10th gen, so in that sense, I wanted to make it successful, and I wanted to send them off after telling them what I wanted to tell them, so I did my best.

--It seems that Mitsui-san was the sole member that Reina-san could talk to about private matters, so as would be expected, were you sad about her graduation?

Tanaka Reina: I would talk to Aika about various things, so I wasn't like, "Huh? No way!?" Plus I knew the circumstances. It's just that Aika was the only member that I could talk to, like, "Hey, this happened yesterday!" so now I totally can't talk about private things at the workplace. In that sense, its like, "Ah, my mouth feels lonely."

All: (laughs)

--Are you really lonely!?

Iikubo Haruna: I'll listen to you! I'll listen!

--It seems her mouth feels lonely, so please do so.

Tanaka Reina: That's hilarious!

--Again, that day's performance. You revealed that there was a period when your relationship with Gaki-san was strained and you didn't talk for about a year.  What led to that?

Tanaka Reina: I just said it normally, huh? (laughs). There wasn't anything in particular that started it. I'll talk about everything, but....what is it....don't the fans somehow understand? Like, "It seems awkward between these members, these members seem to get along." And the two of us were always along the awkward line.  Of course, we normally came into contact with each other for work. But before we knew it, we didn't even exchange greetings, didn't have any conversations, and even if we were in the same place, we acted like the other wasn't there. Even among our managers, they were like, "Huh? What's wrong?" "I don't know."

--It was a year?

Tanaka Reina: It continued for about a year. But in the fall of last year, we were cast as the double lead in "Reborn~Inochi no Audition~." Honestly, at first I thought, "Oh crap!" The four 9th gen members also acted in the play, but at the time, there was also a barrier between me and the 9th gen, so I thought it was harsh. I also couldn't talk to Gaki-san. But the musical wasn't taking shape and we were cutting it close to the actual show, so I thought, "This is not the time to be saying I can't talk to her." Because of that, after talking together with Gaki-san, we became able to have conversations normally. That's why I'm glad that we had "Reborn" and I conveyed that feeling as it is to Gaki-san during the graduation ceremony.

--Even the fans celebrated, going, "The two of them reconciled!" because of "Reborn."

Tanaka Reina: Yeah, that's right! Even the director of "Reborn" said at the finale something like, "More than anything, what's great is that Gaki-san and Reina became good friends!" I was astonished, like, "Huh? It's not about the musical but about the two of us!?" (laughs).

--Isn't it a great story? By the way, there is also the legend that when Reina-san was still a newcomer, you lashed out at then-leader Iida Kaori-san. You have a disposition that wants to fight your seniors, huh?

Tanaka Reina: What could it be? I bow down to all the OG members, but could it be that it doesn't seem that way....?

All: (laughs)

--So you believe that you do show proper respect to the OGs themselves?

Tanaka Reina: I do it properly, but there's probably rebellion showing on my face, I guess.

--That's not showing respect, you know (laughs)!

Tanaka Reina: I did talk back to Iida-san, but that's because in my mind, I thought, "That's wrong." Even though I was doing my stretches properly, Iida-san said to me, "Did you stretch?" and it was like, "I did" and "No you weren't!" I was annoyed and also got scolded in a really loud voice. All of the seniors were also watching, but I thought, "It'd be cool if I talk back now!" (laughs) so I said, "I did!!!" And then Iida-san was like, "Enough already!" and went off somewhere. It was really awkward, but when people became aware of that, it became a legend.

--It was probably set because of that, huh? Tanaka Reina's position within Morning Musume.

Tanaka Reina: No way!?

--Definitely, don't you think so? It becomes difficult to approach you, like, "That girl, she snaps even at her seniors....." right? (laughs)

Tanaka Reina: Is that so...?

--How does Reina-senpai look to the juniors?

Kudo Haruka: I also appeared in "Reborn," and compared to back then, I think she's gotten incredibly close to us.  Tanaka-san said earlier that there was a barrier between her and the 9th gen, right? Even when I was watching as a Hello Pro Egg, I could sense that. Tanaka-san was constantly by herself, to the point that when I'd see her talking to a girl from the Eggs or something, I'd be surprised.  But then the 10th gen joined, and Sato Masaki-chan is a girl who's contantly getting herself involved with the seniors, so because of that, we've become able to call out, "Tanaka-san!" and go up to talk to her. Tanaka-san has also become able to come talk to us, going, "Heey, heey." I myself have also found it much easier to get closer to her.

Iikubo Haruna: When I first joined, there was a shoot with everyone from Hello! Project, and at the time, Tanaka-san was sitting at the edge, playing with her phone by herself. That's why I thought that maybe she doesn't associate much with her juniors, but when I would do my makeup for tours and events, I was often near Tanaka-san and Mitsui-san. So I saw her talk excitedly about private things with Mitsui-san, and I thought, "I guess she's actually cheerful and talkative." Then because of Masaki-chan, she also started talking to us, and during "Stacys" she would also come and discuss things with us, so now, the impression of her being kind is stronger than of her being scary.

--I see. But at first, everyone's scared of her.

All: (Laughs)

Tanaka Reina: I put up a barrier at first.

--Is there a member from the 9th or 10th gen that you think might be similar to your former self?

Tanaka Reina: Similar to might be Kudo.

Kudo Haruka: Huuuh?

Tanaka Reina: During "Stacys" Fuku-chan consulted me, saying, "There are various things between the 9th and 10th gen and I don't know what to do," so I said, "Let's all talk together," and gathered everyone. And then, when I said, "The 10th gen might have a lot of things that they find hard to say to the senior 9th gen members, so in this discussion, let's all talk without regard to seniority," the 10th gen started criticizing them with reckless abandon! That was awesome! The 9th gen were overwhelmed. Iikubo is kinda like, "I think it should be like this here, but what do you think?" but Kudo is like, "Hey, it's like this here, and I think it should be like that there!"

All: (Laughs)

Tanaka Reina: Her manner is also amazing. The way she sits is like how an old man sits, you know! It's already hard to suppress my laughter.

Iikubo Haruna: Plus, the way she calls people's names is reproachful.

Tanaka Reina: She's like, "Ikuta-san!" Ishida is also forceful. It seems that Ikuta and Suzuki's positions were wrong, and she started saying, "Ikuta-san and Suzuki-san's...." Then, since those two are her seniors, they're like, "Huh? Me?" with puzzled facial expressions, right? But still, without getting discouraged, Ishida said, "I think you made a mistake and...." So Ikuta and the others said, "No, but..." But on top of that, Ishida resolutely said, "Don't 'No, but...' me, you were wrong!" I thought 10th gen is amazing. Truly.

Kudo Haruka: If somebody is out of place even by just a little bit, since there are many of us, we'll overlap and someone will end up being hidden. Daishi and I and the 10th gen really hate that. It's just that our companions are our seniors, so we couldn't say it. So during that discussion, we let it all out and it seems that was the result.

--(Laughs). This is about some time ago, but on the occasion of Kamei Eri, Junjun, and Linlin's graduation performance in 2010, I recall that Reina-san said something like, "I want the 6th gen to lead Morning Musume someday," and "The 6th gen has to become the most legendary." Since Ai-chan and Gaki-san have graduated, you've now actually become a 6th-gen-led Morning Musume. How do you feel now?

Tanaka Reina: It feels like, "It's finally here," but after that, nothing in particular has changed from before. It's just that, I no longer say, "6th gen, 6th gen," as much as I used to. Even if I say, "6th gen is the most powerful" in front of my juniors, it's not funny, right? (laughs). It used to be fun because I was saying it in front of our seniors. But of course, when I do something with Sayu, it's reassuring. I can sense things like, "If I retaliate with this, she'll come back at me with that." She comes at me just as I expect, so it's easy to go back and forth with her.

--How did you feel when that same Michishige-san became the leader?

Tanaka Reina: It was like, "Huh, will it be ok?" People around me were saying, "The next one is Reina, right?" but I was like, "I wonder..." When the leader is entrusted with something, I think the word "leader" weighs heavily on her. She'll do things like hold herself back. Sayu is pushing forward with her character in the same way as before, but if I had become leader, I'd be burdened with the duty of holding [the group] together, and I might lose the freewheeling style that I've had up to now. That's why I'm glad that Sayu became the leader.

--Previously, you and Michishige-san said, "Since the 9th and 10th gen joined, the company will probably push them, so the 6th gen members have to work hard by ourselves (laugh)." Although asking you in front of your juniors is a know....but do you marvel at the presence of the young girls, does it ever turn into pressure?  

Tanaka Reina: No, it doesn't.

--I think this despite what I just heard from you, but the more rivals you have above you, the more you get fired up, right?

Tanaka Reina: Yes, that's right. Talking about it in terms of back then, I made it my aim to become like Goto-san, and I loved Ishikawa-san's dancing, so I wanted to be like her, but now, I'm the most senior, so there's no longer anything like that, right? So now, I really like transforming into another person, and I'll be like, "I'm this person," depending on the song. For a time, I was obsessed with Hikaru GENJI and Shibugakitai, so I'd be like, "Today, I'm Shibugakitai," (laughs).  Recently, while recording, I sang while imagining, "I'm EXILE's ATSUSHI." I find that enjoyable.

--What I'm curious about is for which song you turned into ATSUSHI (laughs). By the way, do you consider any of your juniors as your rival?

Tanaka Reina: I wonder...Umm...

--For example, before, Ai-chan and Reina-san were often the lead vocals together,  but after she graduated, you and Sayashi Riho became the two-top.  How do you feel about that change?

Tanaka Reina: When it was with Ai-chan, both of us were kind of mature. Even though we had different types of voices, we thought it'd be great if we could convey the same atmosphere. But now, with Sayashi...or rather than that, I want to keep improving my own singing more and more. It might be a battle with myself, rather than with someone else.

--As an example, there's a rivalry between Sayashi Riho and Ishida Ayumi that's easy to understand.  Is there a member that Iikubo-san and Kudo-san especially consider to be their rival?

Kudo Haruka: For me it's Fukumura Mizuki-san. Fukumura-san has been active for a longer time than I have, but of course, we're both from the Eggs and we both joined the same group, so we also get compared. If I'm gonna be compared to her, I don't want to lose, so I want to be able to surpass her. In that sense, I think [my rival] is Fukumura-san.

Iikubo Haruna: As for me, I'm not really sure if I've improved enough to be able to consider anyone as my rival. These days, I'm just thinking that I have to improve on my dancing and singing......However, if I were to presume to name someone, whenever I do radio with Kuduu, she joins in powerfully and talks a lot. Those times, I think, "I also have to talk so that I don't lose."

--So first of all, you want to lessen how much Kudo Haruka talks.

Kudo Haruka: Hey!?

All: (Laughs)

--By the way, more than a month has passed since Gaki-san and Mitsui-san graduated. What's Morning Musume like now?

Tanaka Reina: It feels less calm than before. In a good way. When the two of them were here, Sayu and I would get separated into kind of the adult team with them, but now, there are only 2 adults, so that tie has disappeared. Even when we did photoshoots or something, I wondered if Sayu and I would feel out of place, but we're told, "You totally fit in," so personally, I think that maybe it has gotten better.

--That same Morning Musume is releasing its 50th single, "One Two Three/The Matenrou Show." What are your impressions of it?

Tanaka Reina: This time, we're also being introduced as the "reborn Morning Musume." Furthermore, it's the 50th, so I think this will set our direction from now on. Also, it's a really cool single, it has a contemporary arrangement, and the key starts off high, so I think it will leave an impression on people. I'm glad that we can release only this kind of work with this timing.

--Recently, there's been a "cool Morning Musume" that was unimaginable back when "Pyoko Pyoko Ultra" was announced after the 10th gen's entry.  Moreover, you've completely broken away from that previous image.

Tanaka Reina: I'm happy about that. Personally, when we got "Pyoko Pyoko Ultra" I thought, "Whoa! Seriously?" (laughs). It's not that I particularly hate it, but the cartoon-character costumes also had a huge impact. So when the next one was "Ren'ai hunter," I thought, "Yes!" and it turned out to be a song that I really like. That's why I wondered if we'd get a song that could surpass that, but this time, it's an even cooler song, so I was very happy.

--For example, Ai-chan's ideal was a cool but cozy Morning Musume.  For the 3 of you, what kind of image do you want for your ideal Morning Musume?

Iikubo Haruna: I know of the Morning Musume from back then, but I really like the current situation, when we're called the "reborn Morning Musume." I think each of us can finally reveal our own good points. We've also attained a good balance. My dream is for us to be known by more and more people in the world. To that end, I think it'd be great if each of us increased our motivation and skills. I think we already have a good balance.

Kudo Haruka: Ever since the 10th gen joined, we've had "Pyoko Pyoko Ultra," "Ren'ai Hunter," and "One Two Three/The Matenrou Show," but from now on, I'd like us to be a group that can do various things without being fixed on a single image. For example, there are a lot of groups with songs that have that sense of intense and cute "The IDOL" feel, right? However, I think it would be perfect if we can do songs that are not just that, but also J-POP songs that take the high road, songs that are kind of musician-like, similar to "One Two Three." I think a group like that would be great.

Tanaka Reina: Ever since I joined, I haven't really known what my ideal Morning Musume is. It's because I only think of myself (laughs). But in terms of the route I want to take, I prefer songs like "One Two Three," so I want us to sing songs like that.  But at the same time, I think it'd be also great to have amusing but cool songs like "Love Machine" that are karaoke staples and can get everyone excited.

--At Niigaki Risa and Mitsui Aika's graduation performance, Tsunku-san said, "Going along with the trend, recently, there have been a lot of girl groups, so I want to beat them." Being among this unprecedented number of idols, is the desire to reign supreme as the current Morning Musume strong?

Tanaka Reina: There is that feeling. The name "Morning Musume" has existed for a while, so since I'm also a Morning Musume, I think that I probably get watched around town. I actually feel that power. That's why I have the desire not to lose that power.

Iikubo Haruna: I've also been watching Morning Musume since I was small,  and I think it's a name that everyone knows. It also has a 15-year history, so I think it's different from other idol groups. Although I'm a newcomer who just joined, I preserve that dignity as a member, and I want to show a style that says, "We're different from other idols!"

Kudo Haruka: Just like the two of them have mentioned, I think Morning Musume's name is amazing, but even if there are a lot of people who know Tanaka-san and Michishige-san's names, I think there are definitely a lot of people who don't know 9th and 10th gen's names, so I also want them to rapidly remember our names, to the point that even with just the mention of our surnames, people know, like, "Ah, you mean that Musume, right?" I want us to capitalize on various things and spread our names around.

Tanaka Reina: As you can understand from listening to these two, everyone hates to lose, right? I think it'd be great if they apply that to various things and have fun.

--And into that collection of girls who hate to lose, the 11th gen will enter, right?

Kudo Haruka: When the 11th gen enter, I think they'll be surprised to see the 10th gen saying what they want to say to the 9th gen. They'll be like, "Just when I thought I shouldn't say it, my senior went and blurted it out." But I want them to see that forceful part of us like that.

--It seems like it'll turn out amazing, huh? (laughs). Reina-san, does it look like you'll be able to get along with the 11th gen?

Tanaka Reina: It depends on the person.

All: (explode into laughter)

--That's all for today!

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