One of Anime Expo 2019’s prime events was Aqours’ two-day concert. It was the group’s fourth appearance at the convention, and I was lucky enough to be part of an interview with some of the members and hear their thoughts regarding their return to America and roles in Aqours. The girls walked in and introduced themselves with their adorable Engrish: Aina Suzuki (Mari Ohara), Anju Inami (Chika Takami), and Kanako Takatsuki (Hanamaru Kunikida). After giving their greetings, they sat down and the questions began.
Q: How do you guys keep your smiles so bright all the time?
Anju: *laughs* I think the secret is to have fun with performing and acting. So if I’m having fun, then that will spread to everyone else as well.
Q: How do you feel you’ve evolved both as performers and people since the conclusion of “Love Live! Sunshine!!”?
Kanako: While the movie might be done for now, the characters always showed us the growth of the group Aqours. I hope from now on, we are the ones who will be leading the group. For example, in coming overseas and performing in other countries. So we’d love to grow even more.
Q: Anju-san, as Aqours’s leader, you have a unique viewpoint compared to the other members. What would you say is Aqours’ greatest challenge and how have you overcome it?
Translator: This is for Anju-san.
Anju: Oh right, because you said Anju *laughs* Ehhhhh. Challenge? Hmmm. The biggest challenge for us would be finding Aqours’ original path. Finding it was hard and challenging, as well as finding our own shine, since that was our biggest goal for the group. As the movie states, “over the rainbow”—I think at the end, Aqours could hold each other’s hands and jump over the rainbow for a brighter future.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory from the recent movie?
Mari: As for the post-recording, it took place over three days. The first day was for the first and second years. On the second day, the third years joined the post-recording. The first and second years made a really fun atmosphere when they did the recording, and since the story takes place in Italy, the third years could drag the other girls along to make the fun atmosphere even crazier, so it was a lot of fun.
Q: Which part of your characters inspires you the most?
Aina: I play Mari Ohara, and as you know, she’s very bright, cheerful, and energetic, and she’s super shiny. She always gives me power and energy when I play her character. She also taught me how to be kinder and nicer to others.
Anju: I play Chika Takami. She’s very honest and curious about everything, and she knows exactly what she wants. Once she decides what she wants, she becomes very determined, and I was very inspired by Chika, who is like that. Also, the view I see through her eyes and facial expression has taught me so many important things.
Kanako: I play Kunikida Hanamaru. I wasn’t as self-aware about it, but people started telling me that she and I look alike and that we have things in common. I think I get told that because we are always one step behind people and observing others.
Q: What’s your favorite song to perform and why?
Anju: Overall, I like all the songs. While this one might not be the best one to perform to fit the season right now, my favorite one is probably “Jingle Bells ga Tomaranai.” It’s always fun to sing and dance to.
Kanako: I think mine is “Aozoraga Jumping Heart.” With this song, we can hype up the concert even more. Since I’m a first year, we always go “fuu” during the song and the audience does it as well, so it’s always fun to do the cheer with everyone.
Aina: Mine is probably “Thrilling One-way.” It’s such an energetic song that we can hype up with the crowd together. It’s such an exciting song from beginning to end.
Q: This will be your fourth year at Anime Expo. What have been your favorite things about coming to L.A. and Anime Expo?
Aina: Personally this is my 3rd time visiting and last year we even had a solo concert. People in L.A. are always so nice and warm and welcoming. As for last year’s concert, the fans surprised us with a nine-colored rainbow, and we were so touched by it. We really didn’t expect to see it, so that’s why we’re really happy to come back to L.A. to perform again.
Q: Do you have any memorable experience from your previous visit to Anime Expo that you want to share with us?
Kanako: When I first came to L.A., it was when we premiered the first episode of the first season. It was also actually the first time we watched the full episode, so it was fun to be able to watch the episode and see everyone’s reactions.
Q: Do you get different impressions from fans overseas compared to Japan?
Kanako: Their reactions are a lot bigger compared to Japan. Japanese people are shy so they take time to build up the hype at the end. But overseas fans are 100% energetic from the very beginning, so they leave a big impression. I’d love to see different reactions more, so I hope we can perform in different countries.
Q: Each of you is from a different year. What is the most endearing quality about the year you are in?
Aina: I’m Mari in the third year, which means we’re the oldest. I feel like we’re in the position of watching over everyone.
Anju: Chika is in the second year, and the second years are the ones who kind of started Aqours. In the 3rd episode, there’s a scene where we all hold each other’s hands, and I feel like the warmth and love us second years have towards Aqours is portrayed well in the series, but especially so in that episode. I also think one of the best parts of the second years is the trust and teamwork.
Kanako: The first years are energetic like children, but that doesn’t mean we can’t read the atmosphere. So whenever we have serious scenes, the first years can figure out how to break the ice during those scenes. I think that’s how our roles as first years work.
Q: Recently, the Love Live! series celebrated its 9th anniversary, a milestone for both the fans and franchise. What is your opinion of the future and legacy of the Love Live! series?
Anju: Love Live overall is the story achieved by everyone together. That’s the theme of this series. I feel like we all create and cherish this series. We’d love to keep this tradition and keep delivering this message to all the fans.
The session flew by, ending on that fitting response. The concert was just as successful as the Q&A, exciting Aqours fans in attendance and perhaps indicating that another concert at a future Anime Expo wouldn’t be out of the question.