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Anime Key Player Interview #11
Sumimasa Morita, CEO of FIREWORKS Part.1


Thank you for your time. Please talk about yourself.

My work mainly involves production of concerts and events. We also do composition of original music, production of videos, management of anisong singers as an agency for creators and singers, dispatching of choreographers and dancers and others, and we operate a dance and vocal training school as well. One of the strengths of our company FIREWORKS is that we wrap up everything with our own resources.

You are involved with numerous large scale events. Please tell us about your career before you took your current job.

I was an amateur guitarist and fresh in Tokyo, but I realized the difficulty of making it with a band. So I worked in music TV shows pretending to play musical instruments, experienced being the on-site manager of Yoshihiro Kai and met different people. Through those connections, I was able to go on tour with Masami Okui as a guitarist and I produced songs for her and got involved with producing her album, too. With King Record’s financial support, I experienced composing original music and became a sound producer. Naturally, I became involved in the production of Masami Okui’s concerts. I can say that was the start of my work as a stage producer and director. 

With Animelo Summer Live (also known as Anisama), I was involved with the music part from the very beginning, and was in charge of production and direction of the theme song. Mr. Yabuki in charge of Nana Mizuki was the stage producer of the first Anisama held in Yoyogi in 2005. In 2006, the second Anisama was held in Nippon Budokan and Mr. Inoue of Lantis was in charge of stage production. For the third year, I was asked to direct the production. As the stage producer for the Animelo Summer Live 2007 Generation-A, I debuted as a stage director. I can say Anisama was the first huge project I took charge of. Back then, when something did not go as I planned, I would yell at people. I used to be short-tempered back then.

Wow, you don’t look like it. You seem like a very mild person now.

Thank you very much. Back then, I think I was doing it out of bravado so that people will not look down on me. Now I’m able to look at things from a wider perspective so I’ve become a relatively calmer person (laughs). In addition, I learned techniques of how to organize people without yelling at them. However, I hate unprofessional people, so when there are staff who slack off, I sometimes use strong language to keep everyone on their toes. 

Thankfully, I became in charge of stage production of Anisama every year and in 2014, I was also asked to do LisAni! Live. Other than those, I am working with Luna Haruna, Haruka Tomatsu, Sphere, fripSide, and various voice actors and anisong singers. 

Another thing that contributed to improving my skills was working with Takeshi Konomi-sensei, the manga artist of Prince of Tennis. At that time, Konomi-sensei wanted to do a live concert with the characters he himself created. My friend then was using motion capture in real time for a show. My friend taught me many things and I learned a lot about VR and motion capture. Konomi-sensei was very much interested in my stage plan of a combination of VR characters and concerts, and four years ago, we started doing concerts using VR characters moving in real time. Nowadays, it’s very common to use realtime performances of VR characters in events but I think at that time, we were the first to do a live concert with characters moving in real time together with a human being. I can’t say for a fact, though.

So you had it projected on some sort of screen?

Yes, of course, there are cases when we use CG already prepared beforehand as is, but that doesn’t differ much from a screening so it’s not interesting. We use the technology of realtime motion capture, so the audience’s favorite character reacts in realtime according to their reaction; the audience at the time might have been really surprised. I can say that this experience greatly improved my skills. After that, we made a successful show using a more advanced system at Pacifico Yokohama. I also get offers from China but we couldn’t reach an agreement on the conditions so I’ve turned down a few of them. I think on a global scale, this kind of show will continue to increase from here on.

When did you start your own company?

I established the company itself in May 2001.

And you were mainly working on Okui-san’s live concerts?

The name of the company back then was different. In 2010, I changed the company name to FIREWORKS. Our projects, to some extent, have also changed from before. About the company name, my friend said the word seems to be used as a slang for celebrating when an event is a success, so I used that name to refer to a “company that aims for the sure success of an event”. From time to time, overseas companies would mistake us for a fireworks company, so we get inquiries like “could you make Japanese-like fireworks for our event?” (laughs)

When did you start the management business?

If I’m not mistaken, it was 2003. When Okui-san went to start her own thing, she had no manager, and we had to do music production, concert production as well as the management job on our own. Okui-san was the first artist we had, and we learned many things about management from her. Moreover, working with Yoshihiro Kai taught me much about management as well as publishing and original music management so those skills were very useful. 

The people I met then include Aniplex’ Yamanouchi-san around 20 years ago. He’s the one who nurtured LiSA and is now doing the Monogatari Series among other numerous titles. My 27-year-old self learned many things from that, so that’s why I was actually able to manage Okui-san. I realized the importance of the the hardships I faced when I was young, and the network I was able to build.

Next: Mr. Sumimasa Morita Interview Part.2 will be published on 13 August, 2019!

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