Animage Jan. 2021 Interview: Soma Saito (Translation)

Let’s start this year off right…

Highlights:

  • the source of “Today is a good day to die”
  • insight into Gentaro’s roundabout nature

This is something I was compelled to do after thinking my language skills were going to die out (they already suffered after my hiatus in 2019…). This also would show how far I’ve come since my beginner translation days, which were at least since the end of 2014. For the record, this is the longest and densest thing I’ve translated to date and it shows – working on a single page took me about 3 hours…

You can find the interview on Bookwalker if you pay to read/purchase the magazine (unlimited ownership is about 800 JPY, while a subscription to various magazines for several months is about 700 JPY/month). There are 2 parts to this: pt 1 is Saito’s (voice of Gentaro) bit, pt 2 is Komada’s (voice of Jyuto) bit.

Also, because I don’t trust my own skills, please also use this blog to cross-check anything I may have stuffed up on with this part…once it has the translation up, of course.

Finally, I’ll place a spoiler warning for episodes 9 – 10 of Rhyme Anima (and episode 12 in the notes).


Soma Saito: voice of Shibuya Division Fling Posse’s Gentaro Yumeno

Multicoloured quirky energy and passion for victory

Shibuya marble feeling that accepts various colours

Thanks to everyone for watching the anime broadcast so far. What formal impressions did you get of your character?

Saito: As the anime continues, it is possible for me to more deeply understand the quirks of each character, not just Shibuya Division. Shibuya’s pop sound is more than just creating a picture. Ramuda in the original work had a gap appeal between his cute facade and his dark side and I feel like the cute parts were accentuated through the anime. He’s full of expressions, whether he’s expressing fear or laughing, which is great.

How was Dice Arisugawa?

Saito: Shibuya’s story starts with Dice’s gambling circumstances, so it might be said that Dice is the one who puts the story into motion. However, no matter how many times he tries, he loses *laughs*. Ramuda and Gentaro manipulate him, but the truth is there’s also the impression they’re the ones being manipulated and in that sense, they were acting their age. As for the anime, the more Dice moved and reacted, the more my love for Dice’s cuteness became stronger.

Also, what about Gentaro Yumeno, which you (Saito-san) play?

Saito: Compared to the other two, Gentaro’s gestures come across as reserved. I feel like it’s interesting Gentaro can be called “the silence” against the two who provide “movement”. I feel like his first person pronouns change a lot but he doesn’t move much, but then his dialogue becomes tricky.

These are the 3 who do what they want, even in an anime. Everyone [in the division] has things they’re aiming towards and yet they still made a team. The anime closely depicts this, so I would be happy if you watched and enjoyed it.

When Shibuya Division appears, the screen becomes colourful, doesn’t it?

Saito: Shibuya is pop with a lot of colours, isn’t it? Gentaro’s clothing is Japanese and in his occupation as an author, he is using Japanese sensibilities. However, even when that colourful pop all gets mixed together, there’s nothing out of place. It’s Shibuya to the max. and like mixing various colours together, you can feel the glamour of Shibuya’s marble feeling, can’t you?

The battles are also flashy, aren’t they?

Saito: Of course the anime’s battles are flashy and the coolness and humour go well together. For example, in episode 10, while watching the battle against Shinjuku Division’s Matenrou, I thought “Cool!” after Hifumi’s verse, but when Gentaro received the attack, I thought, “Why is Gentaro being wrapped in vines?!” The anime is able to be enjoyed in various ways, which is wonderful. On top of our jobs [as voice actors], we watch the episodes many times and taking in the many perspectives [on our characters] from the various people who watch [the anime] causes our opinions [on the characters] to change. Originally, Hypnosis Mic was about rap, but it has extended to express feelings with words and create entertainment by playing with words, which gives it a spirit of banter. I think the anime’s insert songs capture this balance very well.

It’s a battle [series] and so in episode 5, continuing on the topic of Ramuda, he shows impressive enthusiasm for the live show, which leaves an impression on Dice and Gentaro too.

Saito: It’s great that Ramuda takes the provocation of his opponent and in the moment, he takes up his mic and Gentaro and Dice follow on from this like it’s their usual routine. The tempo is great when the lyrics go “Ramuda, Dice and Gentaro” and the song, which says without words, “Fling Posse is on the scene!”, has an atmosphere like a shonen manga. Shibuya’s cast talks a lot, so so I think this [anime] has a shonen manga feeling to it. For example, when Ramuda’s in a pinch, he causes trouble with Dice and Gentaro, which is their simple approach, but it hits the viewer emotionally, don’t you think? That shonen manga feeling, that discordance, is the duty of Shibuya, which is wonderful.

The division battle in episodes 9 and 10 depicts Shibuya and Shinjuku’s fight. This differs from the insert songs shown in previous episodes and contains the formalities of rap battles, doesn’t it?

Saito: Yes. Up until this point, there were opponents, but they didn’t get to fight back. In episodes 9 – 10, the characters aggressively exchange words because it’s a rap battle and it’s pleasant for the eyes and ears. Up until episode 10, Fling Posse’s songs had all been a similar style of pop, and mixing it with the mysterious Shinjuku worked well. Jakurai-sensei being tied up in that present was surreal…In terms of sound, because it includes Shinjuku, which differs in colour [to Shibuya], while the BPM stays the same, the way the beat is arranged is different and so the impression it gives is the complete opposite [to usual]. Shibuya’s songs up until now have been this way, full of tense chords and possessing a melodious flow. Although it’s a serious battle, the 3 members of Shibuya are enjoying themselves through singing pop.

Shibuya Division attacked and attacked, and the viewers would think victory was within their grasp at one point, but…

Saito: “Ramuda led the charge to bring Shinjuku down but they were defeated at the hands of Doppo, who couldn’t put up with any more, so could it be said Ramuda’s instigation was what led Shinjuku to stage their comeback and win?” was what I thought, but…Of course, it’s unfortunate and annoying Shibuya lost the battle, but I think what they received [from this battle] was far more important. These 3 don’t have blood ties, nor do they have previous connections with one another, so they’re a team that gathered based on Ramuda’s goals. That’s why they weren’t unified at first and seemed to be going off in different directions. However, in this battle, the trio’s goals have become clear, so they were able to concentrate on the same thing. Aside from victory, this refreshing feeling was left after finishing the battle, you could say? Even them lying down and looking at the ceiling was something people in the middle of their youth would do, which I thought was a feeling very akin to a shonen manga and very passionate. It had a meaning like that, but it had value and I think it was a nice battle.

It’s in this battle Ramuda chooses to use the True Hypnosis Mic, which he was given the order to use from Chuoku. Why do you think in the moment Ramuda chose to use the microphone, he was stopped by Dice and Gentaro, who didn’t know the full story [of why he was using the True Hypnosis Mic]?

Saito: Why did Gentaro and Dice stop Ramuda, huh? I have my own interpretation of things, and everyone is free to interpret this in ways they see fit. I can only give one angle on things, but these lines [of dialogue] are, in comparison to the usual Gentaro, exaggerated. I think watching episode 11 and onwards should gradually make the intention [the anime staff were going for] clearer.

The other episodes that Shibuya Division appeared in were episodes 5 and 8, right?

Saito: I think episode 5 was a very Shibuya episode, with lots of colour. Halloween matches Shibuya very well, and [the anime staff] have really thought about what colours mesh well with Shibuya’s aesthetic.

It was amusing to see Ramuda is afraid of ghosts.

Saito: Up until now, we haven’t seen Ramuda being afraid of anything, so we got to see a new side of him here. Dice initially said he wasn’t afraid, but after soaking up the atmosphere for a while, he also caved, right? I liked scenes from Shibuya in episode 5, but that episode also had a scene from someone else I liked – the scene where Rex valiantly eats squid. When Shibuya held their live concert, the only ones who came to see them were Tom, Rex and Iris, so with Tom and co. just sitting on the floor, eating squid…Tom and co. are anime original characters, so they fit the [anime’s] atmosphere. They eat delicious food and talk about its deliciousness with straight faces, which makes them feel relaxed.

Aside from Tom and co., the other anime-original characters have a lot of quirks as well, right?

Saito: That’s right. There are lots of moments where Fling Posse act as the straight man, so it’s entertaining, isn’t it? Episode 5, with the confrontation and exchange of words with Space Colony, was also interesting. Ramuda writes, “We’re not going to fall for that trick!” and you quickly realise, “Yeah. That’s right.” It’s too early to give in. Continuing from that point, [from Sabasu’s] invitation of “Would you represent my live music club?” onwards, the straight man moments really increase *laughs*. This is where the straight man’s speed [of reaction] becomes critical and the side characters keep things lively and fresh. Thanks to that, the story becomes more nuanced and just like that, 30 minutes is gone.

How was episode 5’s insert song?

Saito: It was a song that was nice because it had an 80s-style beat to it. Even in the recent music scene, there’s been a revival of aspects of 80s music so it has a feeling of “old but new” and this song has that too. The lyrics and content are also pleasant and Shibuya-like, with the subject of “ghostbusters” who exterminate spirits.

In episode 8, Dice is swindled into gambling for his life. When Dice appears, he’s always losing, isn’t he?

Saito: Yes. Even in the cast, the topic of discussion was, “It’s Dice again…!” Episode 8’s insert song felt new because the atmosphere changed yet again. This is a battle with the goal to save Dice from being scammed by the gambling den, so it has an aggressive beat. Up to this point, I think this aggressive beat was only present in the original songs from BATTLE BATTLE BATTLE onwards. The rap is incisive, but the lyrics include a lot of tongue-twisters and don’t involve rattling on and on, so the amount of words is small. I performed this song while thinking about how to perform each word with more and more weight. It was difficult, but that’s how that became fun. Afterwards, before launching into the song, Gentaro…

“I despise lies!” right?

Saito: Yes. Gentaro becomes incredibly angry. Those lines weren’t in the original script and were added during recording. In this way, I think Gentaro has those kinds of possibilities, he tries them out and uses them. I forgot about this after recording, but when listening to the performance again, I was surprised Gentaro was angry *laughs*. The things he says aren’t wrong, and his songs are cool, but…how do I say this? It’s an interesting feeling. This scene shows Gentaro’s twisted sense of humour, so I laughed out loud. This is also a part of Gentaro, so I’m happy [I got to see that].

The surreal laughs of visiting the recording studio after finishing recording

What sort of discussions did you have with the cast members after recording?

Saito: The trio of Shibuya members was together a lot during recording, so we had a lot of surreal laughs. The episode that aired closest to this interview is episode 10, and during that episode, Shirai (Yuusuke) absent-mindedly blurted out, “What are…100 thousand luckies?” Certainly, you can try to guess where a number of 100 thousand comes from, but you don’t know if that’s a big or a small amount, so Shirai-san suddenly saying that made us laugh. Afterwards, at the end Ramuda looks up and says, “Today is a good day to die.” That spur-of-the-moment line of dark Ramuda speaking in his low voice was used to test the recording but made it into the final version [of the episode]. The music director went, “Wrong,” bluntly, so Nozu (Yukihiro Nozuyama-san) and I giggled together *laughs*. It’s not that we’re always laughing, but whenever someone will say something off the cuff or say something amusing, we’ll laugh. I really like calling this having a “surreal feeling” and since it was like this all the time during recording, it was fun, you see?

Episodes 7 – 9’s ED theme is Shibuya Division’s Kizuna -Shibuya ver.- . The one who wrote this verse is also the one who wrote Stella, Yanosuke-san, right?

Saito: Right. The other divisions’ lyrics were also done by different artists and Shibuya’s was done by Yanosuke-san. The part of the verse coupled with the lyrics means you can feel the mellowness of Shibuya. The hook matches the other divisions’, but Shibuya doesn’t have any deep-voiced characters which is how it has a pop sound. The phrase “bonds” suggests piling up many layers and the “na” in “Kizuna” has a very strong attack sound. The thing you can hear the most is the “na”, which you could say was conveyed in my natural voice. While recording and combining the voices together, Gentaro’s natural voice, and by extension Shibuya’s natural voices, sounds like background noise. There are mellow verses and the hook has a pop sound to it, parts of the song have several voices on top of each other, the song has strong attacking parts and so on. After cramming these elements together, it’s a very Shibuya-like song, isn’t it?

What are the highlights of the anime so far?

Saito: Shibuya’s thoroughly defeated, but we got to see new sides of them [compared to previously] as well. Instead, they’re secretly working behind the scenes and you, the viewer, are looking forward to it. Note episode 10, with Ramuda’s choice of whether to use the True Hypnosis Mic, showing the anger of Chuohku and how it all unfolds. There are decisive battles and drama unfolding at the same time.

The charming trio

We get to see various expressions of these three. Episode 5, where Ramuda is afraid of ghosts and Gentaro and Dice are dragged after him, is loaded with charm.

Colourful screen

When it’s Fling Posse’s turn, the screen turns colourful and becomes animated. Another thing about Fling Posse is that cute items like ghosts, candies etc. appear in their battles.

Cost of betrayal?

Ramuda, who works behind the scenes with and has secret dealings with Chuohku. However, during the division battle, Ramuda disobeys orders. Chuohku is in a position of power and so, this cannot be overlooked…

Saito Soma / Born on April 22 / Born in Yamanashi Prefecture / Represents 81 Produce / Recent roles include Idolish7 Second Beat! (role: Tenn Kujo), Moriarty the Patriot (role: William James Moriarty) and so on.


About HypMic‘s Music

The anime has a lot of new songs which express Gentaro’s qualities, so what did you realise about him through them?

Saito: I think the approach taken depends on the character, but because in Gentaro’s case, his MC name is only “Phantom”, so I realised smoke surrounds him. Apart from the rhythm, the songs move slowly and have a technically-polished flow. Therefore, they are also not allowed to be muddled too much, so balancing that was quite hard. That may seem excessive, but in a serious battle like episode 10’s, I think Gentaro geared up, his spirits rose, he modulated his voice and so on. It was difficult, but with the resources given to me prior to recording, I practised a lot at home. After that, Gentaro normally changes his words and the tone of his voice, which he also does in his songs. Thanks to that, I was able to tackle these various challenges, so I want to tackle more approaches to Gentaro in their various forms.

It’s a sudden step up from the difficulty the music of HypMic normally is, right?

Saito: Right. The difficulty gradually rose, and even though the cast was working at it along with me, I think we had fun. No matter how many times we’re challenged, our own rap sounds beautiful, good things come out of it, it of course has heart and it becomes good for the mouth and body. That pleasure is what makes the contents of the rap enjoyable.

Previously, when Bintaro Cola-san explained why he wrote an insert song for HypMic, I (the interviewer) heard you (Soma Saito-kun) would like to be challenged by writing a difficult rap.

Saito: From the start, Gentaro’s songs, such as the solo song Scenario Liar, were all narrative songs. Of course, I liked those and wanted to see what he [Gentaro] was capable of, so I wanted to try an aggressive song similar to Dice’s and I have talked to Subaru Kimura-kun about this. Bintaro-san conveyed that he would like to try lots of variations [for songs].

So you have the intention to do it, right?

Saito: I interpreted the question as “you want to do it”, so I was extremely happy. Even if it’s considerably difficult, with practice, the things I’ll be capable of doing will increase.

T/N notes:

  • “passion for victory” – The word used for “victory” is 王道. It can be translated various ways, such as “shortcut” and “noble rule”, but I noticed in Animate Times articles this word is used in the context of the latter more, or more specifically DRB victory. Later on, it’s used to describe FP’s nonchalance to everything, so the phrase had to be changed accordingly (to “simple approach”).
  • “Shibuya marble feeling” – Reference to Shibuya Marble Texture – PCCS -. FP is generally referred to with the use of colour and their pop style, hence many references to that.
  • “Japanese sensibilities” – Referred to in the original as “using Japanese taste”. “Taste” in katakana can mean “style”.
  • “Ramuda, Dice and Gentaro” – The original quote from the interview had exclamation marks, but the Funi subs and lyrics in the episode don’t, so I sided with that version of it.
  • “…they didn’t get to fight back.” – Interestingly, Saito calls this “getting a response from the opponent” (敵からのアンサーを受け取る). This differs with the glossary explaining the various rap terms, which explains what a “call and response” is. Most likely, the reason for Saito not using this term is simply because he’s not a rapper by nature – he’s a voice actor first, a singer second – although apparently, he does have some experience with rap.
  • BPM – Beats per minute, used to measure the speed of a song. Saito uses the abbreviation wholesale from English, so I left it alone.
  • “valiantly” – This word was a variant of 雄々しい, which means “manly”, “brave” or “heroic”. Rex isn’t being particularly heroic by eating squid, so I took “brave” and changed the meaning slightly to fit.
  • “Tom and co.” – This interview was published before the reveal Tom and co. are the “Secret Aliens”, so I had to keep calling them such (except for one part where they’re referred to by individual names). Sentences that trail off in the middle were also like that, by the way.
  • “insert song” – In the introductory tweets for the insert songs (example), they’re called 劇中RAP (literally meaning “rap used during a play”…yes, the “rap” is in all caps), tying into the information the staff was approaching this anime like a musical.
  • “…who exterminate ghosts.” – At first, I was going to remove this redundant part, but for the sake of faithfulness, I’m going to put it back in.
  • “incredibly angry” – The word here is めちゃくちゃ, a word which can mean a bunch of things like “extremely” or “disorganised”. The latter seems to indicate this is uncharacteristic of Gentaro when contradiction and being roundabout is completely within his nature.
  • “recording” – The English anime term “dubbing” differs slightly from the word アフレコ (short for “after recording”) so in order to not confuse anyone, I went with “recording”. See this Wikipedia article for details.
  • “dark Ramuda” – The term Saito uses for evil Ramuda translates literally to “black Ramuda”, but that’s commonly “dark Ramuda” in fan parlance. Either way, please don’t take it as me being offensive.
  • “‘Wrong'” – The word here is 違います. I’ve translated this as such to add to the effect of the word “blunt”, but it can mean “[this line is] different” as well.
  • “…Nozu and I…” – Part of the subject was omitted here – it could have been either Shirai + Nozu or Saito + Nozu. I’ve taken it as the latter, but other translations could take it as the former.
  • Kizuna” – This was first conveyed in kanji (as per the song title), then in hiragana. To convey the difference, I translated the 1st case, but left the 2nd alone (since that is necessary for that sentence to make sense).
  • “…ghosts, candies etc….” – Notably, ghosts only appear in episode 5 due to the Halloween theme.
  • “it of course has heart” – 心 can be translated as both “heart” and “soul”.
  • [the bit about Bintaro Cola] – This image of Animage Jan. 2020’s front cover proves the moment being referred to was in that issue. Bintaro Cola is credited for several HypMic songs, including I Am Ichiro and Run This City from the anime…but to my surprise, everyone’s sort of open about the fact he’s actually Subaru Kimura.
  • I’ve included some of the images so that you know which part of the interview I’m talking about, but for all the images…buy/preview the magazine.
  • I know the people who will find the most worth out of this will be fellow HypMic fans, hence my leaving in of honorifics and the like. However, the policy on this blog says Western name order will be used, hence “Soma Saito” etc.
  • …as for citing this, I worked hard over several days to make sure it was as accurate as possible, but there still might be mistakes. I might tweak it a little if Komada’s part makes me change my mind on anything, but otherwise feel free to quote this or use the images. If the other blog I linked to and I greatly differ on a nuance in the translation, please take their word for it.

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