Atsushi Abe and KENN reflect on IDOLiSH7 the Movie

IDOLiSH7 stands out as a celebrated male idol franchise where music and collective growth take center stage. The franchise not only resonates with fans for its engaging storyline but also for the talented voice cast, including KENN (Tamaki Yotsuba) and Atsushi Abe (Sogo Osaka), who bring the idols to life. At Anime NYC 2023, Anime Trending and other outlets had a chance to interview KENN and Atsushi Abe to delve into their experiences, capturing the essence of their idols, the allure of IDOLiSH7, and some stories related to the IDOLiSH7 the Movie: LIVE 4bit – BEYOND THE PERiOD.

Can you tell us about the idol you voice? What do you think are the idols’ main appeal?

Atsushi Abe: I play Sogo Osaka, and I believe that one of his biggest appeals is the difference in personalities that he has. Usually, he’s a kind and gentle person, but he does take some drastic actions, such as getting drunk with just a little alcohol or trying to open doors with screwdrivers. I believe that the difference in personality that he has is the main appeal.

Part of IDOLiSH7 is that it depicts the relationships between the fans and the idols. It depicts how the idols can be influenced by the fans’ reactions. But it also realistically depicts how the fans’ support gives the idols strength, which is a rare depiction that you see from an idol anime. I believe that’s part of the big appeal of the show as well.

KENN: I voice Tamaki Yotsuba, and he has his own personal reasons for becoming an idol. He’s very fixated on that, and he would tunnel vision it and cause trouble for people around him because he was only fixated on that goal. But over the years, as time went by, he was able to form a bond with the rest of the members. By forming those bonds, he was able to fully understand what it truly means to take care of his fans, to be able to please his fans, and whatnot. I believe that the speed of his character growth is probably one of the fastest out of all the group members, so I believe that’s his main appeal.

Not just Tamaki himself, but all the group members have their own personal problems and their own personal struggles. Their struggles aren’t just the glittery things that they show to the audience, but more real — they’re more realistic struggles. So I believe the appeal, not just for Tamaki but for all the other members, is how they overcome their struggles and how they put all their efforts into providing the performances to all their audiences. I believe that’s part of the great appeal of both Tamaki and the rest of the members.

What is important to you when performing the voices of the idols?

Abe: In terms of Sogo, the character itself, whether he sometimes goes crazy, the base of his character is that he’s a very kind and gentle soul. Even when he does those crazy actions or whatever he does, I try to keep the main core intact as much as possible. 

KENN: In terms of Tamaki, because I talked about how fast he grows, there’s like a spectrum, a gradation of how much he works on. But he still has some instinctual parts, some parts where he just does things without thinking. So I try to keep that balance of his mental growth of becoming more mature and more understanding of his identity as an idol. So I keep the balance between his instinctual parts and his mental fortitude as well.

©BNOI/IDOLiSH7 the Movie Project

Anime Trending: Do you have a favorite scene or song from IDOLiSH7 the Movie: LIVE 4bit BEYOND THE PERiOD? If so, could you elaborate why?

Abe: All of the songs are very great, but there’s one song called “TOMORROW EViDENCE.” The song itself was made by Sogo, and the dance choreography was done by Tamaki. The song shows up a little later in the movie, and it’s a little emotional in the fact that the entire group is performing the song made by the two of us. Also, another part I like about it is that all three groups from the show come together to perform the one song, which I find very emotional and left a good impression in my mind.

KENN: The first song is “MONSTER GENERATiON,” and this is something that Kensho Ono — who voices Riku Nanase — also mentioned this, but “MONSTER GENERATiON” is a song that the idols performed early in their career when they didn’t get many audiences. Even though it left a little bit of a bitter feeling of not many people showing up, it was still one of their very important first songs. When they performed the song once again when they had a larger audience, when everyone was showing up, the contrast between the two times they performed left a great impression on me.

On top of that, keeping the memories of the early performance in mind, we changed the latter performance a little bit more. So by providing a new experience for all the fans that were here from the beginning, I thought that left a good impression on me, just like Kensho Ono also said as well.

On MyAnimeList, IDOLiSH7 is the highest-ranked/score male idol anime as voted by overseas fans. It is often recommended as “the one” male idol anime you need to watch. What do you think are the charming points of the IDOLiSH7 franchise?

Abe: IDOLiSH7 not only portrays the shiny, extravagant side of the idol industry — it also shows the background, and the amount of effort being put into each of the performances. I believe the series depicts both of those aspects very well, and I believe one of the charming points of the series is that you’re able to see the amount of determination put into the idols as they make these performances. You’re able to see what gets put in and all their thoughts and feelings that they put into the performances.

To everyone else, I might seem like a star, but I’m just a regular person sticking silver paper to myself the best I can to act like a star. What I like about this series is that it depicts the idols not as someone that’s up on a pedestal. They’re still just the same people, but they just put in that much more effort to be shown as a star.

KENN: There are a lot of jobs and occupations out there in the world, and out of those, whether it be fun jobs or very hard jobs, this series really dives deep into the job of an idol. Even though it talks about the more realistic parts of the job of an idol, it also shows the fun parts, the shiny, and the extravagant parts. The idols are also very cute, and they have very cute mascot characters as well. But no corners are left behind in depicting the idol industry. I believe one of the biggest appeals of the show is that even if the story is fiction, it shows us the realistic parts of the idol industry such as, what it takes to be an idol, whether it be the smaller, unnoticed parts or the things that are being shown to the audience.

©BNOI/IDOLiSH7 the Movie Project

AT: In IDOLiSH7, many of the idols undergo significant character development. How do you ensure that these lines are delivered with the right amount of energy and impact to resonate with the fans?

Abe: IDOLiSH7 started off as a mobile game. So the anime itself is really just a re-enactment of what happens in the mobile game, but there are some differences in how they express the lines in the anime. I try to think about how it will be displayed in the anime as opposed to the mobile game, and there’s a lot of work put into talking with the anime director and the sound director as well. When we perform the lines in the anime, they were initially performed for the mobile game. So I try to remember how I recorded them for the game. Although there are some differences in the anime, I still try to make sure that the core of what I performed previously is still left behind when I was recording for the anime.

KENN: Tamaki Yotsuba, has a lot of development throughout the series. I try to understand Tamaki as a person first. In the process of understanding Tamaki, I have to build him up, and then deconstruct him.  As Tamaki evolves, I would repeat that process over and over again. I try to view the minor differences between: his words and his true feelings behind the words. I find this process very fun, and I put that in my efforts into voicing Tamaki. Since the anime was developed from the mobile game, I had to re-do the same process, but it is fun because it was like seeing a new Tamaki.

What was your impression when you heard the new song “NiGHTFALL” performed by IDOLiSH7 at the concert film? What was your impression regarding the live performance?

Abe: I had already recorded and heard the song before the live performance. But I was very surprised when the members show up from the audience because I wasn’t told that. I thought it was a very interesting way of performing the song. I really thought, “Oh, so this is how IDOLiSH7 would perform this song.” The costume that IDOLiSH7 wore had the image of a night sky, and I thought that was very pretty and cool.

KENN: When we do the recording, we don’t have a final image of what the song is supposed to be like.  I really liked it when it was portrayed in such a good way in the end and was surprised by how it’s done.  

Whenever we make a song, a lot of people are involved in it, whether it be the artists, the animators, the production team, and everything. I’m very excited as a fan of the series myself. I really like it when I’m pleasantly surprised by how the final product looks like. So “NiGHTFALL” became one of my favorite songs actually, because of this. When we do these performances, even though we are actors, singers, and idols, I think it’s great that we can enjoy ourselves as part of the audience as well.

©BNOI/IDOLiSH7 the Movie Project

AT: Are there any memorable moments during the recording or events relating to the concert film?

Abe: In regard to the movie, there were already determined and prepared lines, but a lot of it was improvisation. So while we were recording, I’d try to think about what the idol would say during a performance or what he would try to say toward the audience. I’d try to imagine what kind of things he’d be thinking or saying. It was a little different from our usual recordings, so I thought it was pretty challenging, but also pretty intriguing.

For the TV anime series, each episode had its own opening and ending, but sometimes there were special endings. Some different songs were used, or different members would perform a different song.  MEZZO” was no exception. There were some songs that MEZZO” performed, especially during the episodes where MEZZO” is featured. When it was a MEZZO” featured episode, watching the songs that they perform makes me emotional.

KENN: Emoi!

Abe: Yes, emoi!

KENN: This is when I was recording the MC part of the movie, but it was a little different from our usual recording because I would sometimes try to raise my voice to reach out to the audience, and sometimes I would try to respond to what the other members were saying. Some of the responses aren’t meant to be recorded into the mic, so we had to create a dynamic between the soft and loud noises we made. 

This is something that I noticed during live-showing events. There are two types of events: one where we first go up on stage, do a little greeting, and then show the movie; and another where we show the movie, then go up on stage to do our greeting. So for the first one, when we go up first before the movie, the audience is excited, everyone will cheer us on, and their energy is very high. But when we go up on stage after the movie, the audience is very emotional and they are still lingering in their emotions. In those situations, when I say a little bit of a joke, the response is a little quiet than usual. I thought that was a little sad, but I just want to say that when there’s no reaction to my jokes even though I’m very funny and I tell a great joke, then that shows that IDOLiSH7 the Movie is a very immersive, well-produced and emotional movie!

©BNOI/IDOLiSH7 the Movie Project

What challenges would you like to take on in the future as the voice actors of IDOLiSH7?

Abe: To be honest, I would like a 3rd LIVE. We went through all the idols, each individual idol having their own live performance. So, for the third time, I’d like a live performance as a group.

KENN: I’d like the entire cast of IDOLiSH7 to come to New York and do an event with all of us.  I’d like to eat The Statue of Liberty King Pudding that we talked at today’s panel, too. The Statue of Liberty King Pudding could be pizza-flavored.

Abe: Pizza…? Cheesecake? (considering the idea from the previous day’s panel)

KENN: Cheesecake-flavored is also nice!

IDOLiSH7 Movie: LIVE 4bit – BEYOND THE PERiOD is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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