The Anime Festival Asia 2009 (AFA 2009) was held at Suntec Convention & Exhibition Centre, Singapore on the 21st and 22nd November 2009. AFA09 spanned over 5,000 square metres of floorspace at the convention hall and is the biggest anime convention in South East Asia. The AFA09 organizers managed to get an impressive list of famous artistes and personalities in the anime industry to participate in AFA09. Those personalities included Nakabayashi Mei (aka "May'n"), Yoshiki Fukuyama, Ichirou Mizuki, Shoko Nakagawa (aka "Shoko-Tan"), Kaname, Danny Choo and Director Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars)
Macrossworld members ikhii and vanpang had an opportunity to interview May'n. However we regret to inform that we did not manage to interview Yoshiki Fukuyama due to uninformed changes of his schedule at the very last minute.
During May'n's interview on 21 November 2009, we were squeezed into a room with other people representing other media organizations. Thus, questions below are a compilation of questions asked by the group collectively. May'n's manager, Yukinobu Yatabe-san and was present along with Maki-san, the translator provided by Anime Festival Asia.
This interview was supposed to put up earlier but due to my office moving to a new premise, it delayed the process. Please accept my apologies to all for the delay.
Note: May'n's answers were conveyed through her translator thus certain replies may be lost in translation.
Interviewer: Welcome back to Singapore (again), how do you feel about your trip this time? Are there any new expectations from you on this trip?
May'n: I was very impressed by all my fans and I was taken by my fans' excitement in last year AFA08! They were all very enthusiastic and their eyes were all glittering during last year concert. I am very excited as I enjoyed the first AFA concert very much and very happy to be here for the second time. I am looking forward for the live performance tomorrow!
Interviewer: Were there any differences in your state of mind during your first AFA (AFA08) performance and the coming second AFA (AFA09) performance?
May'n: Last year it was like an 'experimental' mini live concert but this year, I constructed an original 'real live' stage program just for Singapore. Fans in Japan would be very envious what I would be doing in tomorrow concert.
Interviewer: Regarding tomorrow's performance, would there be any surprises?
May'n: It's a secret! It's a performance designed for tomorrow performance in Singapore and would be the envy of the fans in Japan!
Interviewer: Between your previous year in AFA 08 and now AFA 09 , how have you grown?
May'n: I just turned 20 last month, in Japan you are regarded as an adult at the age of 20. The songs I would be singing now would be more adult. I have also like to seek more variations in the music genres especially in Rock.
Interviewer: You have mentioned in the past that you learned a lot from your "sempais". Which sempai influenced you the most?
May'n: Would that be from local or International artistes?
Interviewer: It could either be both Japanese or international artistes.
May'n: I learn from every 'sempai' singers and performers but I admire those who create music trends - originals and new stylists and not followers. I especially admire Madonna, Janet Jackson and Namie Amuro.
Interviewer: You have sung for 3 anime series so far, namely "Love Get Chu", "Shangri-La" and of course, "Macross Frontier". Would you plan to sing for more anime songs or would prefer to go into mainstream J-Pop music in the future?
May'n: I feel that there are no preferences between being an anime singer or J-pop singer. It can be both, "me". When I sing for an anime, I need to express out the feelings of the anime character. When I do my own original song, the song expresses myself. There is no "this one's me or that one's not me thing". It's both "me".
Interviewer: Do you have a favorite place that you would like to visit or hangout with your friends in Singapore? What do you like about Singapore most?
May'N: The "Shopping" and I saw the grand Christmas illumination, which was similarly as grand as last year's when I was here. I like Singaporean food especially Roti Prata.
Interviewer: What's your favorite genre of music/film?
May'N: I like all kind of music. I look at every genre of music with no specific like or dislike. I also like movies related to music.
Interviewer: What are your hobbies aside from singing? Do you cook and what kind of food you like (local/international)?
May'N: (laughs) I like to eat a lot. I like all kind of food especially 'taiyaki' (Editor's note: Taiyaki is a Japanese fish shaped cake filled with red bean paste) and I found a stall selling them in Orchard, Singapore. When I'm interested about something, I will really get into it. I will start collecting anything about that subject matter that I am interested in. I am currently collecting "Rilakkuma" soft dolls, (Editor's note: Rilakkuma is a combination of Japanese pronunciation of 'relax' and 'bear').
Interviewer: You have done many duets with Yoshiki Fukuyama-san (Totsugeki Love Heart) and Megumi Nakajima-san ("Lion"), what was it like working with them? Are there any differences working between the two?
May'n: It's kind of different when singing with both of them. When I sing with Megumi, I have to sing like Sheryl and Ranka. Ranka admires Sheryl in the Macross world so I have to act like older sister.
I have always admired Fukuyama-san. Sheryl also admires Basara in the Macross Universe (laughs). Therefore in the duet with Fukuyama-san, the singing would be an expression of admiration of a fan or "younger sister". Fans in Japan are very enthusiastic the duet performances for tomorrow's concert. Both Megumi and Fukuyama are real professionals so I enjoy working with both of them very much.
Interviewer: I understand that the famous composer, Yoko Kanno-san composed songs for your new album "Universal Bunny". What was it like working with Yoko Kanno-san? Is Yoko strict, easy or difficult to work with?
May'n: Kanno-san is not strict or mean but every time she gives me a new song, there would be a new challenge! For example in the song "Sagittarius 9pm don't be late", I felt the song can't be sung because I felt the pitch was too high. However, Kanno-san pushes me and tell me "Yes, you can!" and I did! And in another song, Kanno-san needed me to sing very fast, which it felt impossible, and again Kanno-san tells me "Yes, you can!" and again I succeeded. She's always giving new challenges to me and I enjoy fulfilling those challenges. She is like a mentor who inspires me and when she is around, I feel like I can achieve anything.
Interviewer: In other words, she makes you a better performer?
May'n: Yes, she does!
Interviewer: The tickets for the Macross Frontier Galaxy Tour Final concerts are always sold out, on average there were 10,000 audiences packed in a single concert. That's a lot of people! Do you get nervous or stage fright before each concert? How do you prepare for each concert?
May'n: I always have mix emotions towards live performances, of course, I am very nervous, heart beats goes up but at the same time, I've always wanted to see my fans. I like live performance because I can meet my fans face to face.
Interviewer: I understand that during the concerts, Kanno-san always hugs you before and after every concert?
May'n: Yes, yes she does! She always hugs and tells me "good luck!" and she gives encouragement before the performance and another hug after the performance congratulating me for a good job.
Interviewer: Some Macross fans feel that Alto loves flying more and is not interested in a relationship with either Sheryl or Ranka. Do you feel this statement is true or Alto is just indecisive between the two girls?
May'n: Officially, there is a new movie today (21st Nov 2009) and a second movie will also come next year, You may find the answer to the love triangle in the second movie next year.... Maybe! But my personal opinion, Alto is just indecisive (laughs).
Interviewer: How is the recording for the new songs for the Macross Frontier movie "pink monsoon" and "Tenshi ni Nacchatta/I have become an angel"?
May'n: The Movie's official setting for both songs is Sheryl's debut songs prior before she becomes famous. And it's very hard as I did Sheryl's singing voice two years back and now I have to record these songs in a more 'fresh/inexperience' manner.
Interviewer: What are your feelings for your first solo performance in Budokan next year (2010)?
May'n: Budokan is a symbol that a musician has finally "arrived" in Japan. When I was performing for the Macross concert at Budokan, I was happy with the warm atmosphere. When I am doing my solo performance next year, I will be looking forward to that warm atmosphere again.
Interviewer: You have many fans outside of Japan; do you have any future plan to hold concerts outside Japan? If yes, which countries (aside from Singapore), would you like to go?
May'n: Yes, if there are requests, I would happy to do so because I love live performance the most. I really want to meet all my fans and hope to see them all!
We would like to thank May'n, her manager and interpreter for allowing us to take their precious time for the interview. It was a fun and engaging interview.
Special thanks also go to Ms. Florence Ang, Ms. June Chow and Ms. Cherlyn of Red Dawn Communications and the AFA 2009 organizers for arranging the interview.