Translation of Oricon's interview with Takahashi Ai. ^_^
--The last Morning Musume song in which Takahashi-san will participate, “Kono Chikyuu no Heiwa wo Honki de Negatterundayo!” will be on sale on September 14th. Please tell us your impression of this song when you first heard it.
Takahashi: When I first heard it, I thought, “Huh--!” The previous single was “Only You,” and within me, there was this idea of a “cool Morning Musume.” But this time, the nature of the message is strong, or, how should I put it.....That's why at first, the scale was so big that I was thinking, “What kind of facial expression should I have when singing?” But every time I sang it during the recording and the concerts, I came to like it more and more. Before I knew it, I was singing with a huge smile without thinking about anything. It wasn't about expressing it or anything like that, but rather about me becoming life-sized. I really felt like I got a lot of courage from this song.
--And on the Takahashi Ai Graduation Commemoration CD with the same title is “Jishin Motte Yume wo Motte Tabidatsukara.” I get the impression that Tsunku-san wrote this as a message song for Takahashi-san.
Takahashi: Yeah, Tsunku-san told me, “I wrote this while thinking of Takahashi's future.” Many of my senpais' graduation songs up to now have been ballads, but this is an uptempo song. But on the contrary, it's heartwrenching [?]. Like the feeling of singing with a smile. Or the part in the second verse that goes “Cleaned my room, found a nostalgic photo, and of course I started crying.” I got to shoot a music video and all these photos looking back on the last 10 years were all lined up. I got a little teary-eyed.
--Right now you're in the middle of the fall tour, and Takahashi-san will graduate at the final concert at the Budoukan. Are you gonna cry?
Takahashi: I don't want to cry (laughs). .....I think that, but I don't know.
--10th generation members will enter Morning Musume to replace Takahashi-san. Is there anything that you want to convey to them?
Takahashi: To the 10th gen, no. Because I'm graduating, that's my juniors' duty. As for me, I've been telling the current members “Morning Musume is like this.” Right now, especially to the 9th gen, I say things like “The choreography for this dance, lift your hands with this kind of feeling.” I tell them the things that I notice.
--Well then, as something to impart to all of your juniors, do you have any regrets? Takahashi: I don't. I want them to change steadily. Without me........(covers her face) Sorry....(cries).
Takahashi:......After all, Morning Musume has a 13-year history, and there are things that we must inherit and continue. But now we only have members who weren't there at the time [as in, when the group began]. But I think the “Love Machine” that the current members perform is good. As for me, I've come along singing in my own style. That's why I think the girl who will get my parts should sing them in her own way.
--In the sense of “I don't want them to be captive to the Morning Musume that has existed up to now.”
Takahashi: Yes. That's why I want them to go with their own style, rather than copy. Because as a Morning Musume, I think what's really important is to inherit and continue forward. .....Sorry, somehow (laughs, cries).
--Takahashi-san's feelings about the juniors have been conveyed, to the point that it's painful. In August of this year, it will be exactly 10 years since your debut. In these past 10 years, with what kind of support have you been running forward?
Takahashi: .......Me, I was very eager. That's why I never thought, “It's fine this way.” I constantly thought, “Let's do it more like this.” But I think that came from the thought “I want to respond to the fans' voices.”
--The fans' voices. Moreover, that “eagerness” then means you also had your own desires?
Takahashi: That's right. I had them. Morning Musume is a group in which there are a lot of rivals if you look beside you. It's related to the feeling of not wanting to lose, like you have to be running constantly. I really have just been continuing to run, this whole time.
--How has it been since you became leader?
Takahashi: ...Since my seniors have left along the way, it was no longer “I'll catch up and surpass them,” it became “I have to lead the way.” From there, my consciousness may have changed. It's because up until then, I've just been following my seniors who were running ahead of me.
--It's hard to run without seeing anyone's back. It's as if you're in the wilderness. Takahashi Ai has come running through the wilderness as Musume's leader.
Takahashi: Ahaha (laughs). Certainly, it's not like I could see the way, either. I might have been a daredevil.
--Right now, the idol scene is swelling to the point that it's called the “Idol Warring States period.” Are you conscious of other idol groups?
Takahashi: ....Well, yes (laughs). But I think it's great that the idol world is flourishing. Of course, our rivals are increasing. I think there are a lot of people crying, thinking “I don't want to lose.” I think everyone's the same. Right now, the fact that Morning Musume is able to continue....we should be thankful to a lot of people. We can't take things like being able to do concerts and being able to release CD's for granted. If we never forget that gratitude, I definitely think MM can continue for 20, 30 years.
--I really think so. Lastly, do you have any goals for post-graduation?
Takahashi: Hereafter, I'll be disconnected from this huge sign that says “Morning Musume,” so I'm very uneasy, but I think it might be good to start over from scratch. I will start life anew as “Takahashi Ai.” As Takahashi Ai, I want to learn to express, from acting to singing. For that, I have to study various things. But in any case, right now I want to enjoy the last concert with all my might. It's because I'm the type to run around in circles, thinking, “Let's show the accumulation of these 10 years!”