Popular Japanese voice actor and singer Sumire Uesaka is set to drop a new CD single called “LOVE CRAZY” on Feb. 8, which can be heard here. The title track is the opener for the TV anime series Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro 2nd Attack, in which she voices the heroine, Hayase Nagatoro.
The single also includes “REBELLION,” a song depicting themes of combat, and “Michi ga Wakaranai no Uta” (“The can’t-find-my-way song”) that comically depicts the singer’s mentality as she finds herself in a certain situation that many will find familiar.
The new single is a collection of solid numbers that kick off the 31-year-old multi-hyphenate’s 10th anniversary celebrations this year as she continues to make further strides in various fields. Uesaka chatted with Billboard Japan about the satisfaction she feels after completing this exciting project and shared details about each track on the set.
February 2023 marks ten years in music for you. Could you share what’s important to you as an artist?
My motto is to never hold back from the things I love, and I encourage my fans to do that as well. In terms of music, I do as I like and try my hand at a wide range of genres, from anime songs that I loved growing up to rock and city pop. Being able to try such a wide variety of music is something I can do because I’m an artist with roots in voice acting. I want to unleash my love for the things I enjoy together with my fans and live a happy life. In my own way, that’s the concept of my musical activities.
In the anime series Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro 2nd Attack, you play the heroine, Hayase Nagatoro. Did you notice any changes in your performance compared to when you were voicing the first season?
As we worked through the Season 2, I could feel that Senpai (voiced by Daiki Yamashita) and Nagatoro were getting to know each other better than before. Since the new show starts off where Season 1 ended, there’s already a kind of bond between the two characters. This makes Nagatoro’s usual teasing of Senpai and their efforts to get to know each other seem even more loving than before, and above all, the rom-com element is stronger. You’ll definitely want to root for them!
Your new song “LOVE CRAZY” is also a continuation of “EASY LOVE,” the opener you recorded for Season 1.
Right. The love being depicted in the new single is much more passionate than the previous one. “EASY LOVE” had equal amounts of aloof and affectionate (“tsundere” in Japanese), but the protagonist of “LOVE CRAZY” is head-over-heels and can’t help but approach her crush in a straightforward way. It’s really adorable and also very vibrant.
When you listen to it with Nagatoro’s character in mind, you can see that it’s a clear depiction of how a girl’s mind works. The message of the lyrics is really straightforward, and it’s kind of like a romantic “user’s manual.”
Yes, exactly. It’s like the song is depicting the process of writing and erasing the “user’s manual” related to Nagatoro to gradually bring it to completion. It’s very cute in that way too.
This cuteness was especially evident in the part where the mostly fast-paced number slows down briefly mid-song. I interpreted that part as an expression of Nagatoro’s affectionate side.
You got it right. Nagatoro usually appears to be tough, but she’s really an innocent girl at heart. I interpreted that part as a cute soliloquy, so I sang it with a whispery voice to give a calmer impression than the other parts.
How did the recording go?
It didn’t take that long. We finished recording in about two hours.
In just two hours!
I’m the type who usually records intensively without taking much time. And “LOVE CRAZY” is a song with brilliantly straightforward lyrics, so even if I were to sing it in a tired state, I wouldn’t be able to draw out the momentum and bounce that characterizes the song. So I was able to express myself in a way that matched the track by not taking long with the recording and enjoying the process.
So your concise recording style worked well with the momentum of the number.
My first impression of the song was that the fast pace would be hard to sing. But the rhymes in the lyrics felt really pleasing, probably because the songwriter who wrote them, Takumi Yoshida, also performs in his own band called saji. For example, the ends of some of the words are unified, like “Nigenaide, Yuuki dashite” (“Don’t run away, Have confidence”) in the chorus, so I didn’t have to think too hard about the execution.
The setting depicted in the quirky music video for “LOVE CRAZY” appears to be connected to the one presented in the video accompanying “EASY LOVE.”
I wore a summer-style school uniform in “EASY LOVE,” but this time I went with a winter version to match the clothes of the characters in 2nd Attack. I also appear in a date-friendly white outfit in the new video, so while it’s not exactly the same as in “EASY LOVE,” I’m sure people can get a sense of the similarities between both worlds.
The second song on the CD, “REBELLION,” is the theme for MAGICAL DESTROYERS KAI, the smartphone game project linked to the original anime series Magical Destroyers set to air from April in Japan. What’s this song like?
Magical Destroyers is a story about characters living in a dystopia who defy fate to reform the world. I already have several songs in my catalog that can be described as being about “revolution,” and I can really relate to “REBELLION” because protecting the things I love is something I want to cherish throughout my music career. I was surprised by how close the song was to the anime and to me personally.
Moving on to the next track, “Michi ga Wakaranai no Uta” (“The can’t-find-my-way song”)… Is it all right to assume this one’s something of a comic relief?
[Laughs] I’m not the type to make singles that are tightly structured from the first track the last, and always want some wiggle room. “Michi ga Wakaranai no Uta” depicts a situation where I’m late for an appointment, but feel relieved because that person assures me that it’s no big deal. I’m feeling disappointed in myself while heading to the meeting place, but the other person’s generosity saves my day. So it’s a comical, self-deprecatory number about that sort of thing, but comes with a really cool track for some reason.
I see, so you got off the hook for being late. It’s fascinating though, in that there’s a significant leap in the language being used, from the depiction of specific situations in the first two verses — “15 minutes looking for the owl (statue) in Ikebukuro” for example — to the chorus that’s made up of abstract phrases like “lying angels” and such.
I wanted to make a song like those typical anime songs from a generation ago, the kind that focuses on sounding cool even if you can’t really understand what it’s trying to say. So for the chorus part, I attempted to collect a lot of words being used in cool anime songs while being careful not to retread any familiar numbers. I know I shouldn’t say such things but I figured if the words match the music, it would work. [Laughs] I whipped up the lyrics in a day, then spent about a week adjusting the details.
While each track is extremely distinctive, there’s definitely a sense of unity to the single as a whole. Could you sum up the new single for us?
All the songs have a strong flavor, but they don’t taste bad together. We were able to produce a single with intriguing charm. All the songs have positive energy, so I hope you’ll listen to them daily to get yourself in the mood for my upcoming concerts in March.
—This interview by Kota Ichijo first appeared on Billboard Japan