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Anime Key Player Interview #4
Koji Saito a.k.a. “Saito P,” General Producer of Animelo Summer Live Part.1

2018.06.20


Mr. Koji Saito a.k.a “Saito P”


Our Anime Key Player Interview today is Koji Saito as known as “Saito P” from MAGES. who is the general producer of the world’s largest anisong event “Animelo Summer Live.”

 



I heard that you had a lot of exposure to music since you were young.

Yes, I played the violin since I was 3 years old and the classic piano from six to freshmen year of high school. I also learned how to play brass instrument from the brass band. As for chamber music, I played the cello. During my high school years, I was in a copy band and I played the bass, guitar, and keyboard.


Did you like anime or watched it on your own time?

Yes, occasionally. They didn't have as much anime back in the days and no late night anime shows either. I watched Rascal the Raccoon, Space Battleship Yamato, and Lupin the Third. I didn't watch it because it was anime, it was natural to watch it and everyone also watched it. I loved watching TV in general.


What was the most memorable anisong that you remember?

I didn't necessarily get into music because of anisong, but since I've grown up playing music, I grew up loving it. The most impressive anime music I remember was the Lupin the Third tunes by Yuji Ohno. It was really cool. He mixed Jazz with anime. Anisongs back in the days were more towards children but Mr. Ohno's music was full-fledged music.

Yuji Ohno worked on movie songs. Anime music adds excitement to that anime. Anisong openings are 89 seconds long and build up emotion within that time phase. Music used in movies are also the same. I feel like movie music turned into anime became anisongs. Anisong shifted over towards older audience and that's when I feel like the quality went up even more. There were more professional composers/musicians involved. For example, Space Battleship Yamato had Hiroshi Miyagawa and Dragon Quest had Koichi Sugiyama.

I actually learned Jazz through Lupin the Third. I heard it and thought “Wow the Lupin songs are so cool!” I feel like it's the same for children nowadays too. They might hear JAM Project and then get into hard rock music. Maybe they will be introduced to funk music through Lucky Star and get into guitar rock music through “God knows…” or K-ON! They may be introduced to rock music through anime and start listening to classic rock music like The Beatles and Deep Purple. Anisong may be the door that opens to older rock music.


I see. So you had a lot of exposure to music as a child. Do these experiences help out towards your career?

Yes, a lot. For example, last year we had LiSA and May’n do an opening collaboration for ANISAMA (the abbreviated form of Animelo Summer Live). We need to talk to the artists/musicians on how to connect the medley songs and I am able to talk through from a musician point of view.

Even for creating the set list for ANISAMA, we need to know music. Our goal is to have smooth transitions throughout the whole show. It’s almost like creating a concept album. We need to look at the whole event as one. After a certain artist or song, I imagine what would be a cool or interesting transition for the next song.


I would love to know how you manage the stage in order to make ANISAMA exciting.
 

ANISAMA in 2014
 


It’s all about rhythm. In order to keep the concert exciting the whole way through, we do a really cool opening, a surprise in the middle; have ballad songs or have talk segments to calm down the audience.

An example of an exciting opening is when the SOS Brigade opened up the show last year. It’s been 11 years since their last appearance. In 2015 we also had a collaboration no one expected, μ's and The Idolm@ster. In 2014 we had JAM Project perform SKILL at the beginning of the event. We wanted the audience to anticipate the show even Motto Motto (more and more) through listening to the first song (laugh).

We need to have something that the audience totally would not expect. In order to do that, we need to know music. In order to give a suggestion on the performance theme and direction to the artists, we need to know music and also know a lot about the anime they sing for.


So in ANISAMA do you put elements of the anime along with the performances?

Yes, for example in Konomi Suzuki’s stage, we put mixed in the Re:Zero - Starting Life in Another World story. In Re:Zero the theme is resurrection. In the anime OP, if you play the video backwards, the main character is passing the baton to himself. I got my idea through that and had “two” Konomi Suzuki put on a cape. We videotaped her during the rehearsals beforehand and played the video on the screen backwards in the middle of the song. I think Re:Zero fans will notice what we did here.

Suggesting ideas like that makes the artists think “Oh, they really know the anime,” “I can’t do things like this elsewhere but I can at ANISAMA.” It builds trust in our relationship.

 


Konomi Suzuki (from the afterworld?), pointing at the stage, starts the song “RUMAJIHARAKAKOKO” (Reverse play of “Koko Kara Hajimaru”))
 


Konomi switches back to the real world)
 


Monochrome video streamed at the backscreen, inserted its reversed play)


It’s amazing how you put so much thought into it.

I do research as much as I can. I think of the relationship of the artists too. For example, μ's and The Idolm@ster are totally different so fans wouldn’t think that they would ever perform together. But when it happened, the artists were delighted and the fans who watched it were also happy.
 


Idolm@ster & μ's in ANISAMA 2015



ANISAMA is just a single event but we do it every year. In 2005, Ayana Taketatsu was watching the show as part of the audience and so did Mimori Suzuki in 2009. They then performed as an artist and the long cherished dreams came true. Last year ZAQ wrote a message song saying “It's your turn next.” It was message to people who wants to perform at a big stage in the future. I love to put in new history like that into our tapestry.
 


I'm the general producer but I do a lot of things that directors do such as supporting with stage directions, movie directions, dividing the singing parts as well as producing the main theme song for the show.


I love the theme songs of ANISAMA.

The theme song for last year created by ZAQ is wonderful. She is a creator as well as an artist. She was also a fan who dreamed of standing on this stage. So she knows both sides, the singer's point of view and the audiences point of view. She has messages directing towards fans and messages for the singers on stage. The part where Aquors sings “The back I've been looking up to and the ambition that was passed down onto me” is a message towards μ's that I thought they might've had.

I picked out which artist to sing the lyrics that ZAQ has made and lined them up in a certain order. I did all the calculations.

I come up with these ideas when I directly talk to artists and even use their troubles or worries as a hint. I want ANISAMA to be special especially in how the transition of music is flowing and to show the importance of the theme for the event.


Since when were you involved with the theme song?

In terms of producing the music, I would say 2013. The MV of this year's theme song is already done so please watch it. Just the intro itself gives an uplifting feeling. The harmony parts are really important as well. I planned out who will sing what part and their duet partners for all 3 days. There's also something unexpected at the end. I hope you like it. That's an “OK!” take.


This year the theme is “OK!” right?

Yes, “OK!” is a very simple word but it means to fully accept everything. I think it has a very strong meaning. To have 27,000 people enjoy the same music is amazing. It's easy to come up with something negative but to use words other than “yes” or “no” and instead use “OK!” is so positive.

The “!” in the theme is very important. To be able to say it out loud, even the impossibles can become possible. Everything is “OK!”

There's a part saying “to go beyond what you like and don't like” in this year’s theme song. ANISAMA is a place to meet people and artists. Sometimes you will fall in love with an artist that you didn't support in the past.


Wow. That's deep. A lot of meanings behind the word.

By setting a theme, there's always a task to complete each year. This year our theme is OK! I'm expecting people to think like “Is the set list of the songs ok in this order!?” I also think of “what kind of stages would be ok?”

The base of the theme is the word “ONENESS.” This is a concept that Masami Okui gave me when we started the whole thing. “To become one with music” and “to believe in the power of music” are the themes and it's very powerful and positive.

Sometimes people say that ANISAMA has changed. But really it's just anisong trends have been changing and the theme “ONENESS” never changed. I don't like it when people categorize music by saying a certain song is not anisong.

When you watch ANISAMA there are parts where it's universal and parts that only fans know. We need to have both of these. If all the songs are niche, then the doors will be closed to everybody else. If we just put out music in order, the customers won't be able to bring out their inner catharsis. It's important to have professional knowledge on music but we have to know how the audience and the artists feel too.


Next: Koji Saito Interview vol.2 will be published on 27June!
 

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