AKIRA has many faces, such as a magazine model who graces the cover of popular Aomoji-kei magazine KERA, the ideal output of BOY STYLE, Ouji-style and others, the lead singer of DISACODE and now a solo artist who sings “Aoki Tsuki Michite”, the ending theme of Black Butler: Book of Circus. I was able to catch up with the singer at San Francisco’s celebration of JPOP Culture, J-POP Summit Festival held this past July 19-20th. AKIRA had just finished her first performance as a solo artist in San Francisco for the first time the day before at the time of this interview. I hope you get to know AKIRA in this first half of the two-part interview.
Crunchyroll: Welcome to San Francisco! How is your first time in California so far?
AKIRA: I am truly happy. The first day was my free day so we went for an afternoon tea and I got to do some sightseeing after that. The location for the US sitcom, Full House was somewhere I’ve been wanting to see and unfortunately, the house was under construction, but I was still able to enjoy the scenery.
CR: What brought you out here this time?
AKIRA: I'm modeling for Baby, The Stars Shine Bright during the J-POP Summit Festival fashion show and to sing my first solo single. That was my first performance as a solo singer yesterday and I haven’t performed my debut song in Japan yet, either! I did 3 songs, including the single and the coupling songs on stage yesterday.
Photo by Erskine Noel for J-POP Summit Festival 2014
AKIRA at Baby, The Stars Shine Bright Fashion Contest
Photo by Ken Goto for J-POP Summit Festival 2014
CR: I think it’s a big deal that your first solo performance was outside of Japan! How was singing "Aoki Tsuki Michite," the ending theme of Black Butler Book of Circus in front of non-Japanese audience?
AKIRA: I was a little nervous at first back stage, until the stage MC asked the audience if they know Black Butler and they got wild. When I heard all the cheering from them, I was ready to go out there. I still didn’t know what to expect, but once I was in front of them, the audience welcomed me very warmly including people who had no idea who I was! I would love to come back to perform again. Doing live performances outside of Japan is fun!
CR: I’m glad you like the fans in San Francisco! I remember you have performed songs by the band in Paris at Japan Expo before, is there any difference in audience between France and here?
AKIRA: I feel like the US audience is much louder. I hear more whistling and other noises here more.
Aoki Tsuki Michite Anime Single cover above.
©Yana Toboso/SQUARE ENIX
CR: There must have been a lot of Black Butler fans in the audience yesterday, but do you watch the anime, too?
AKIRA: I've loved the series since when it was a manga, so naturally I've watched all the anime so far as well. I was very happy to know the circus arc was going to get animated, but never expected that I would get to sing the ending theme for it. I learned about the anime and the singing deal at the same time, so it was a double surprise and I was twice as happy.
CR: You worked on the lyrics of "Aoki Tsuki Michite". When did you start writing for the song? Did you know it was going to be for the anime?
AKIRA: Yes, I did. I wrote the words with the storyline of the Circus Arc in mind. The ending theme of the anime comes in at the end of each episode so I tried to make it so that the song keeps carrying the world of the anime and the image each viewer has in their head to continue, instead of distracting from it. I already loved the arc, but I read it over again to think about the theme even deeper while working on the lyrics. The arc is not only entertaining, but has a very heavy theme. I always wonder whose justice was the correct one in the arc. I really enjoyed the complexity of the story.
CR: Did you enjoy working on the words?
AKIRA: Yes, I was having fun writing and got depressed while thinking about it at the same time (Laughter)
Aoki Tsuki Michite normal version cover above.
CR: That’s tough (Laughter) Getting off the subject, but do you cosplay?
AKIRA: I don’t do it regularly, but whenever my modeling work lets me do it for KERA BOKU, that’s when I cosplay. I was once Sebastian for the magazine.
CR: I think you would make a great Sebastian!
AKIRA： I don’t have the money to cosplay in my private time (Laughter)
CR: In your private life, you incorporate BOYS STYLE and Ouji style fashion, but is there any other fashion style you are interested in?
AKIRA: BOYS FASHION itself covers vast styles, such as Mode, Gothic, Punk and so on, so I’m too occupied with it to look for anything else (Laughter)
Photo by Rendy Lai for J-POP Summit Festival 2014
CR: When you were a guest at Anime Matsuri in Houston, TX in March, you were invited as a fashion model. This time, you were invited as a model and singer who sings a theme song for a popular anime. Do you see any difference in people’s reaction when you are a fashion model and when you sing for anime outside of Japan?
AKIRA: I haven’t seen too much difference, but at J-POP, I noticed that there are people who know Black Butler even though they don't know who I am. When I do guest appearances as a model, fans already know about me very well and that’s how it was in Houston (since the Lolita Tea Party at the event gathered many loyal fans of the fashion brand). They all knew me from reading KERA or already follow me on the internet from modeling. At J-POP, many people saw me for the first time and told me “I saw you on stage and it’s great that you sing for Black Butler!”. I went to get a Boba drink after the stage and even people there were like “I saw you on stage! You were awesome” (Laughter). When I visited the Baby shop in the New People building in Japantown, people stopped me to tell me “I didn’t know about you, but it’s so great that you sing for Black Butler”. It was refreshing to get that kind of reaction outside of Japan.
CR: I have seen that since anime makes it easy for people to learn about Japanese culture, your name gets widely known much easier when you are associated with anime. So now that you have done your first solo performance at your first solo appearance outside of Japan, what is waiting for you back in Japan?
AKIRA： When I get back, it’s few weeks before the release of the debut single (the release date was July 30th), I will be doing in-store events and doing interviews. It will be busy, but I’m used to it (Laughter).
CR： I see you post your home cooking on your social network pages often, but would you keep doing that in spite of your busy schedule?
AKIRA: Of course!
Since I met AKIRA for the first time at Anime Matsuri in Houston, I have been wanting to interview her to show her friendliness and her absolute beauty. In the second half of the interview, AKIRA talks about her anime viewing habits and other interesting things. Stay tuned for tomorrow around the same time!
Images provided by JPOP Summit Festival where noted. #jpopsummit