Crunchyroll Expo 2019: Interview with 22/7 (Nanabun no Nijyuuni)

Described as a project that “transcends dimensions, and with a name corresponding to π (pi), 22/7 is a Japanese idol group and corresponding anime, in which each member of the idol group voices their respective character, and is set to air in January 2020. We had the chance to talk to three of the idols—Ruri Umino, Kanae Shirosawa, and Sally Amaki—in a press-junket style Q&A at Crunchyroll Expo 2019. Sally is perhaps best known in the West as a Los Angeles born and raised Japanese American who moved to Japan and made her debut as a member of 22/7.

Q: Many of your fans love how sentimental your music is. Do you have any strong motivations for yourself when you’re performing?

Sally: The lyrics in general are very relatable and I feel like a lot of people can connect it them. But we’re a voice acting idol group so we take acting lessons too. I feel like those acting lessons really connect to how we perform on stage. We also have a meeting every time we perform and talk about the lyrics and the story behind it. We tend to share what we think about it so that we can all have a shared concept about what kind of stage we want it to be when we perform the song.

Ruri: A lot of times we perform the songs with choreography. As I perform it, I start resonating with the lyrics that we’re singing and get emotional and get to the point to where I want to cry.

Kanae: It depends on each person as each person interprets the lyrics differently. Some people interpret them as sad lyrics or some as happy lyrics. I think it’s very interesting to see the different interpretations and how different people resonate with them.

Q: Each of you plays a character in the idol group. How much of the characters reflect your own personality, and do you tend to grow into the character?

Sally: I play Sakura Fujima. The only part that I feel like I am similar to her is that we’re both from Los Angeles and she knows how to figure skate too. But other than that, she’s a really bright girl and makes friends really easily. She’s just energetic 24/7. But I feel like I have a really hard time making friends and talking to new people. I tend to be really shy backstage and in real life, so she’s like the complete opposite of me. But because I look up to how energetic and how nice she is, during Keisanchuu, our comedy TV show, I feel like through her, I can live a different lifestyle.

Ruri: Like Sally said, we have a TV show called Keisanchuu. A lot of times there’s no script, so we have to perform the characters as we imagine them to be. So if I imagine my character is very energetic, I’ll say whatever comes to my mind. Also, not just in the show, but sometimes we channel the character in our daily lives to make sure we can act them out.

Kanae: My character Akane Maruyama is very well mannered. So even during daily routines, I’ll try to make my posture better and be more well mannered. That makes me feel more connected to the character.

Q: When the project first started, livestreaming and virtual youtubers were still a very new thing. What were your reactions when you learned that you would be doing these things?

Sally: So when we first started the virtual youtuber, like you said, there weren’t that many virtual youtuber channels, so we couldn’t really look at other channels to see how we should act. We had a meeting with the staff members to discuss the characters we were playing so we wouldn’t go off on the character setting. A lot of times, virtual youtubers only have a light script that isn’t all set like in anime. Someone could really go off on a tangent and say something the character wouldn’t say. So when we first found out we were going to do it, we had to sit down and talk about how the characters would act and what they wouldn’t say.

Kanae:When we first started doing it, we hadn’t really acted out the characters before, so I was really happy that we were able to start walking with and grow with the character.

Ruri: Even though there weren’t a lot of virtual youtubers, it was growing in popularity. So it was really shocking to feel that I wouldn’t be watching one, but instead acting as one.

Q: The group has done a lot of events since you started even though the anime hasn’t aired yet. Now that the anime is close to airing, how do you feel about it?

Sally: From the very start, the goal was to have our own anime air. It’s been three years since we formed in 2016 and ever since then, we really wanted it to air. Now that it’s finally happening, a lot of people often think that the anime airing is the end goal or the final point. But for us, the anime is a new starting point for us so that more people will know who we are. The anime can be a turning point for the whole entire group, so I’m really excited for that.

Ruri: Since the anime isn’t out yet, there’s not a lot about the characters that people know. I want people to know more about the characters and their personalities through the anime. Also, right now we’re kind of known as an idol group, but we also do voice acting, so I want people to know us as voice actors in addition to idols.

Kanae: When we auditioned, we auditioned for the anime character. I want people to know about the characters through our voice acting and the anime. The project is focused on the characters, so I’m happy that the anime is finally happening. Also, there are a lot of idol anime, and I want the anime to be as successful as others.

Q: Were you idol or anime fans before you got into this work, and who or what series inspires you?

Sally: A lot of our members were either idol or anime fans or both. I’ve always been a fan of Hello Project and also the 48 groups. The very first anime that got me into voice acting was Gintama. It really inspired me, and it really made me love anime in general. Maybe one day I want to be like Gintoki!

Ruri: I liked both anime and idols before joining. I really like SKE48’s Matsui Rena. As for anime, there are a lot, but I like Sango from Inuyasha. Also Love Live’s Nishikino Maki.

Kanae: For idols, I really like Kyakizaka46. I really like Jump series and action. Right now I really like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

Q: Is it surreal, or an out-of-body experience, to see your virtual selves singing and dancing?

Sally: For me, I don’t really look at my character as myself but I actually look at Sakura as my daughter. I want what’s best for her. When we do the music videos, we use motion capture suits that capture your posture and everything, so if I’m slouching during the video, Sakura would be slouching too, but I don’t want my daughter to be slouching. So I would make sure to walk around the set in the best posture and have the dance so that Sakura. It really is an out-of-body experience since whatever we do is on screen but in a different, fictional form. As an anime lover, that’s really exciting.

Ruri: Half of it is thinking of how cute she is but the other half is what Sally said in that she’s like my daughter.  Since I’m an idol fan, I also think of how my oshi is out on stage. I also listen to the voice and wonder if I sound like the character or not and if not, to try to sound more like the character should.

Kanae: Like the other two, I think of her as my daughter. I actually never felt like the character myself but just that she is a really cute daughter.

Although the session wrapped up with those questions, the idols from 22/7 are just ramping up their activities with the anime on the horizon. They continue to have regular events in Japan, so if you’re ever visiting, maybe you can stop by and say hello! Otherwise, check out their current projects, listen to the group’s music, and anticipate the coming series!

Kaze

Kaze is a graduate from the University of Tokyo who currently works on developing gene therapies for genetic diseases. He is a Nanatard since 2009 and mostly spends his time reading VNs and studying Japanese. Strangely enough, also a devout Christian.

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