Bandori: 3rd Year Anniversary Interview with Sakura Ayane

A girl who values bonds over everything

With Bandori celebrating its 3rd year anniversary and Garuparty 2020 approaching fast in May (for now anyway), we have a Bandori interview with Ayaneru. Personally, before reading this interview I actually didn’t know how much Ayaneru knew about Bandori or how much she got involved in it. But after reading this, it’s pretty clear that Ayaneru really loves this franchise. I like Bandori, when I watched that livestream where they first announced all the lead vocalist/members of other Bandori bands, I knew I had to get into this franchise, not just because Ayaneru was in it, but because we might see things from Ayaneru we’ve never seen before. Fast forward to now, Bandori has made Ayaneru shine in a lot of areas we’ve never seen before, mainly singing. Not to mention, that 3rd anniversary livestream was pretty funny too. I really enjoyed seeing some insight from Ayaneru about Bandori. For me, what I found intriguing was when she talked about her experience performing for the first time as Ran in front of an audience. I feel that Ayaneru always feels so nervous performing in front of an audience. I just see a constant pattern where a 10 year veteran seiyuu still can’t get used to being in front of an audience, understandable I guess. Also this talk triggered me because I was supposed to go to that live but had to leave a day early. So, to this day I could never live it down (lol). Also, I’d like to highlight the part where Ayaneru briefly talks about her childhood friends. This is like the 2nd time she’s mentioned how she hangs with them & they come back to their old local area a lot. From what I gathered from Ayaneru’s photobook, this area is Musashino, Kichijoji? Also in the photobook: Ayaneru says that even though she’s been in this industry for a while, her childhood friends never treated her any differently & that’s why she loves them. Wonder if Kou-chan is also included here? Anyway, hope you guys enjoy.

―What was it like for you when it was decided that you would play as Ran?

Ayaneru: I’m… not really the most gifted when it comes to music and singing isn’t my strong point at all. Fate has never been on my side and so I thought, will someone like me even have a chance to get into this? I had such overwhelming insecurity and anxiety thinking about all of this. But when I read Ran’s profile, what Girls Band Party simply requested that you represent anything that the character loves however it pleases you. I specifically remember it saying “Most likely, we’re not asking you to have such extensive knowledge about music and whether or not you’re good at singing – well we’re not specifically demanding and looking for that kind of stuff.” I could finally take some weight off my shoulders after knowing that.

―Certainly, Afterglow’s qualities are just a different type compared to other bands.

Ayaneru: Yes that’s right. The other bands have aspirations like the desire to improve and the constant idea of stoically aiming to become a professional. Compared to Afterglow, where the loveable childhood friend band members emphasise the idea of doing activities together all the while refining the band’s musical ability and appeal. In saying that, Afterglow’s intimacy as childhood friends are one of their strong points compared to other bands.

―I think that the bonds between Afterglow members are stronger compared to other bands.

Ayaneru: For Ran, especially in Afterglow, getting along is necessary for this group to exist. It’s that important. The part where they pettily depend on each other, personally, is completely understandable. In the episodes where they have a bit of a disagreement, where everyone goes out on trips and like those various incidents at school, these are things and feelings that really hit close to home. I can say with confidence, that this genuine feeling and atmosphere that comes from Afterglow is the reason why they’re so fascinating.

―Ran and her band members are known for their intimate relationships. In saying that, do you talk to the other members when you are recording for your roles?

Ayaneru: Every member’s recordings, whether it’s for the game or for the show are done separately. So, even now, we haven’t had the chance to actually talk to each other at the recording studios. But, on certain occasions elsewhere, where everyone gets the chance to meet each other, we pretty much talk about anything Bandori related. Things like thoughts about episode recordings, talking about upcoming and past events, what happened at certain livestream talk shows – you name it. We tell each other everything.

―That’s interesting. When you’re reading the story, are there any moments that feel wholesome?

Ayaneru: Whenever I read the story… “I wanted to spend my youth like this” or “If you’re going to do something, do it with your friends”. Those are the kind of feelings and experiences that I’ve always aspired towards. Actually, I personally, have quite a few childhood friends too. To this day, whenever I get a chance to take a day off from work, we go out and have a meal together and we come back to our local home area. For that reason, I feel really envious of Ran’s daily life. I also think that, perhaps, if someone was observing my life, maybe they would also think about the same thing towards me, the way in which I get jealous of Ran’s life.  

―Putting aside the things you resonate with Ran, are there any particular highlights in the story that stand out to you the most?

Ayaneru: I could never forget that story when Ran and Tomoe had a disagreement and had a fight. When I was in the studio with Hikasa Yoko-san (Udagawa Tomoe’s voice actress), just imagining the way she performed made me convey those crushing feelings when I was performing too. Looking back at it now, emotions really were high during that episode. Also, Moca’s monologue where she says: “You’re way ahead of us Ran, though we’re unsure if all of us can keep up with you, even then, we chose to be together” really left an impression on me. Of course that monologue was unknown to Ran, but when I saw the script I thought Moca handled the situation in such a mature way. Even though she was in pain, keeping that feeling of uneasiness all to herself is very much like an adult. 

―Do you ever talk about these feelings with other members of the cast?

Ayaneru: During one of the Bandori events, on stage, we had a chance to talk about our most memorable episode from the story. Hikasa-san and I brought up the Tomoe and Ran drama and we both agreed on how it was a really thrilling memory. Misawa Sachika-san (Aoba Moca’s voice actress), also remembered  the Moca episode well and talked about it. It’s good to know that we were all on the same page.

―When you came across that episode, did your impression of Ran change at all?

Ayaneru: At first, apart from the Afterglow members, Ran could not socialize at all. But, her circle of friends slowly got bigger and bigger and overtime, she started to socialize and go out more. Her growth as a person felt so natural. The impression I’m getting is that: as new Afterglow stories arise, yet again, their bonds would continue to grow deeper and become more meaningful. 

―When you observe that growth in Ran, are there any things that you can take from this and learn about yourself?

Ayaneru: Ran can make a lot of insensitive remarks, but, in the end, she can show her appreciation and can be a very apologetic girl. I value that kind of attitude and I feel that I also want to become a person like that.

―Among the numerous songs you’ve recorded, what’s your favourite Afterglow song so far? 

Ayaneru: I haven’t decided my favourite Afterglow song, but, if I have to pick, I’d pick Comic Panic and Hey-day Capriccio just because those are the songs that we, as a band have been able to share the stage together and gives off the feeling that we can finally spend time together. I feel so happy whenever I listen to them.

―Everyone’s duet certainly does create an impressive song.

Ayaneru: Yup that’s right. In a good sense, it’s kind of like a character song, or how should I say it… Being able to do a live duet makes me feel really happy. As expected, it really is lonely when I do solo recordings as Ran. Then, when I finally listen to the finished product, I feel like I’m finally free from that isolation. But when everyone does their recording first and I go last, I can do the recording without feeling lonely.

―I see. Whenever you’re recording songs or appearing as Ran, are there any particular things you keep in mind when you’re playing as Ran?

Ayaneru: Because I’m not trained to sing with such technicality, even now, with how far Bandori has gotten and how long it’s been going for, whenever I have to sing as Ran, to get a feel for the way she sings, in my head, I just imagine the way Ran would probably sound like when she sings.

―When you hear stories like this, I feel like you get to enjoy the song much more when you listen to it again. Sakura-san, you sang as Ran live for the first time in front of fans at Garupa Live & Garuparty in Tokyo during January of 2018. For you personally, would you please tell us your thoughts during that time?

Ayaneru: I rehearsed the day before, but actually, I only sang on the day of the performance. But I’m so inexperienced at performing at lives. So, three minutes before my performance, I noticed that I was completely speechless. 

―3 minutes before?! (Laughs).

Ayaneru: I thought that these people standing on stage actually practiced their singing beforehand and well… I didn’t want to remind myself of that. Even more, when the first person performed on stage, it was like I was no match for them. I was an amateur compared to them (laughs). At that time, I remembered well enough that I felt like I was about to lose it and panic. But when it was my time to perform, as I was standing on that stage, seeing all those fans show their love for Bandori and the cheering that they did. From head to toe, I felt all their love and support.

―Does it feel different doing talk shows in front of a crowd compared to singing in front of a crowd?

Ayaneru: If you think about it, I’m the sole singer on the stage, it’s my first time having a live band perform with me and I’m performing a song genre I don’t usually do, surely I’d be a nervous wreck. Also, compared to everyone else, I’ve got little to no experience. 

―Anyhow, gaining experience is valuable.

Ayaneru: Yes, when it comes to talk shows, when you’re forced to stand on stage, little by little, you overcome your stage fright and get better through experience. But when it comes to singing, to this day, you have to always be prepared.

―From what you just told us, do you mean that the same people who performed on stage with you have the same thoughts as you do?

Ayaneru: As soon as the live ended, Aiai (Aiba Aina-san who plays as Minato Yukina), quickly came up to me and the first thing she said was: “I’m Aiba Aina. I’m so glad that I performed at this live. I almost cried.” That was the first time I’ve ever met Aiai. I was so happy meeting her. That was the flag that started our friendship. Nowadays, we go out and have meals together and try to do all sorts of stuff. Also, after that, the band that performed with me, who was formerly known as THE THIRD, but now known as RAS, said to me: “We’d like to perform with you on stage again”. I was so happy hearing that too.

―How was your encounter with RAS on stage?

Ayaneru: Whenever our eyes met during the performance, I’d give them a cheery smile and after the live, we congratulated each other. Because I’ve never had any experiences being in a band, I felt that because it was so enjoyable being in a band, it felt like I was connected with Ran and the others when I was on stage. This left such a lasting impression on me.

―When you experienced this, did you have this burning desire to be on stage along with everyone from Afterglow?

Ayaneru: Actually, now that you say that, a long time after that, all 5 Afterglow members finally, were able to gather as one at the Afterglow Itsumodoori no Houkago Days Special Event on the 2nd February, 2020. It was really fun having the chance to sing even just for a little while. On the other hand, I also felt that nothing beats performing like a real band after all, so I felt all excited and I didn’t know what to do and all that (laughs).

―I want to see all the members on stage again as soon as possible! Sakura-san, have you had the chance to see the other bands perform?

Ayaneru: Well, there was that time I watched everyone perform backstage at GarupaLive. Those times on NHK and I also saw that time when Poppin Party appeared on Anisama’s digest.

―Do you have any bands you’d like to watch in particular?

Ayaneru: I have to see my bestest best friend Aiai transform into Yukina at a Roselia live at least once in my lifetime.

―In May, you’ll be performing at MetLife Dome for BanG Dream! Special☆LIVE Girls Band Party! 2020. What’s it going to be like there?

Ayaneru: Generally speaking, I want to stand on that stage and show everyone what Ran’s really made off. I want to convey her feelings and emotions through my singing. I’ll be channeling Ran on that stage, performing with everything I’ve got.

―So what you’re saying is, that your burning desire to perform as Ran remains unchanged? That you want to perform as you usually do?

Ayaneru: Absolutely. At any rate, I’ll make sure to never spoil her image. I’ll get my Ran T-shirt and red hair extensions ready for Garuparty. I look forward to that day. On the day of the event, everybody will see Ran in a different light. That, I guarantee.

―Looking forward to the event in May! From here on, what kind of challenges do you want to try and overcome through Bandori?

Ayaneru: The Bandori staff always work so earnestly creating new content for this project. Anyhow, I want to cling to this strong feeling with everything I’ve got. In saying that, rather than me trying to overcome my challenges, I feel that whatever challenges Ran encounters and overcomes, I too want to overcome them. 

―Thank you very much! Lastly, could you please give us any thoughts for what’s to come?

Ayaneru: To the fans who already show so much love and support for Bandori; its activities and characters, but also, to the people who are yet to discover the wonders of Bandori, who someday, will also see the light, as always, I will continue to do my absolute best!

よくね?

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