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Anime Key Player Interview #4
Koji Saito a.k.a. “Saito P,” General Producer of Animelo Summer Live Part.2

2018.06.27

I'm going to go back a little on the history of ANISAMA and how you became the general producer.
 


Nana Mizuki (Left) & Rina Aiuchi (Right)
 


Hironobu Kageyama (JAM Project: Right) introducing Tatsuhisa Suzuki (Left)


Animelo Summer Live started in 2005. It was an event planned out by an anisong ring tone service called “Animelo Mix.” I was the producer for Animelo Mix so therefore I became the producer for the event and to do a festival that intertwines with different labels. Back in the days, the concert hall wasn't very big. In January 2005, Nana Mizuki performed at the Nippon Budokan for the first time. It was a dream to fill up a stadium with anisong fans back in the days. I talked to many people to get this event to happen. Masami Okui was the biggest supporter for the event. It was really challenging and no one thought it was going to succeed. The staffs and the artists were in tears at the after-party.
 


JAM Project & Yoko Ishida & Chihiro Yonekura in ANISAMA 2005


We had 14 performers for the first show at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium. In order to get rid of the stage set up time, we had 5 sets of band instruments on stage. It looked like a big instrument shop in L.A. (laugh). What hasn't changed from back then is how we had a theme and a theme song as well as the seamless construction of the show. This hasn't changed since the beginning.

So I did 2005 and 2006, and took over after. I came back as a general producer in 2013 when we did a 3-day event for the first time.

I have an on-site producer partner. He takes care of the sales and contracts and I work for the creative parts. We balance off very well. From our company MAGES., we only have about 5 people who's involved.


So there are 5 members from MAGES. How is ANISAMA's management structure like?

It's kind of like the Olympics. We have big companies such as Nippon Cultural Broadcasting, Shimizu Octo, Komaden, Kanamedo, MSI and Bandai Namco Live Creative work with us as well as stage directors, stage producers and independent members who work with other anisong concerts/festivals. We have top class members working with us. On top of that, artists and labels who are involved are similar to “America” and “France” in how they want to do different things and speak different languages. In order for this to happen in ANISAMA we have to negotiate with each and one of them.


That's a lot of work.

Yes, it is. I feel like I have multiple personalities (laugh).


How long does it take to prepare every year?
 


Koji Saito a.k.a. “Saito P,” General Producer of Animelo Summer Live


August is when the event happens. We don't do much in September because it's right after the event but we do start thinking of the next year’s theme. We thank partners in October as well as talking about the next event. Most of the booking is done in late January. We also start checking the concert videos around the autumn to the beginning of the year. It's aired on TV at the end of the year and the Blu-ray Disc comes out in March.


You are working on ANISAMA throughout the whole year.

Yes, we have to check anime tie-up songs for the next year and also the schedule and the future development of the artists. There are times the labels or the artist managers tell us and also times when they don't tell. We talk about stuff like that one by one. Researching ahead of time is very important. For a regular event, preparing starts about 3 months prior, but we have to start earlier for ANISAMA since it's hard to book voice actors. Sometimes they have schedules booked for the next 2 years already. The hardest thing ANISAMA deals with is scheduling.

If we are introduced to new artists, we listen to the song, and want them to perform live as much as possible especially if they are not known yet. It's hard to appreciate it fully if we don't watch them live.


When does the first booking start?

Sometimes on the day of the event in front of the mixing console (laugh).

If a certain artist has an awesome performance we tell them to “please perform next year too!” Sometimes we think about future performances too. Let’s say the SOS Brigade performing last year. It was a complete surprise right? I watch the video of the show and even now I still get goosebumps. I asked Minori Chihara at the press conference in 2013 in what she wanted to do. She said “I want to sing Hare Hare Yukai with Aya-chan (Aya Hirano) and Yuko-chan (Yuko Goto).” I thought about making her dream come true in 2017. I think it became possible because I was the producer for ANISAMA back in 2006 too but it's mostly about the timing. I want ANISAMA to be a magical place for artists. If the artists are having fun it really touches the audiences’ heart. I want to do things like that as much as possible.


SOS Brigade in 2006
 


SOS Brigade in 2017
 


What's the most important aspect in producing the event for you?

The event finishes in 3 days but we have our first press conference in March and want to keep it exciting throughout the whole year. We want to be connected to everyone as much as possible. ANISAMA is also a motor to the anisong industry so it's pointless if it's only talked about on the day of the event. We disclose the first list of artists, then the second and third and on the day, a special surprise. After that it's broadcasted on TV and sold on Blu-ray Disc. Anticipation and excitement continues all year long.


Can you tell me about Animelo Summer Live 2018?

During the press conference in March, we announced that JAM Project is coming back to ANISAMA. That caused a lot of buzz. In the third line-up we announced Do As Infinity. They are a J-POP/ROCK duo but they are popular to be known as the artist who sang for Inuyasha overseas. Please look forward to their stage performance. We are having Mamoru Miyano back on the second day as well as Uma Musume Pretty Derby which is very popular right now. Saori Hayami will be performing on the last day as well as Milky Holmes which is disbanding this year. I want you to anticipate who the special guest is based on the list of performers. I don't want people to be thinking negatively saying “ANISAMA is not the same without a certain artist.” I want people to enjoy Animelo Summer Live 2018 and say “Yeah. This is OK!”


JAMLAB is a site aimed towards oversea businesses and audience. Can you tell me a little about expanding overseas?

We did ANISAMA in Shanghai and ANISAMA World in Taiwan before. But to do the actual show, we need to have the same quality as we do here. In order to do that, we need to bring staffs and musicians as well doing rehearsals and that costs a lot of money. It is pretty hard to localize ANISAMA.


I noticed there are a lot of foreigners who travel to Japan to watch the show.

Yes, I noticed too and was amazed because it’s hard to get tickets. I remember a reporter from China crying when he heard the song “Sekai Ga Owaru Made Wa” from Slam Dunk being performed. The world seems to be getting closer to each other and then people overseas watch Steins;Gate anime at almost the same time of Japan. I think people will be able to enjoy ANISAMA more now that it's closer. The artists do a magnificent job on their performance but the sea of audience is amazing too. I believe that half of the stage performance is made up by the audience. I think it's pretty amazing to watch for foreigners too.
 


Tetsuro Oda & Show Uesugi in ANISAMA 2012


What do you see in the future of Animelo Summer Live?

It's not easy continuing this event but the anime industry is getting bigger and I want ANISAMA to be the best event to live up with the trend and popularity. Because it is a big event, we have to work from small details and work up. We always face the event with caution. I think it will affect the anisong industry if ANISAMA is gone. It's tough doing 3 days but to have passionate customers fill up all 3 days and passionate singers perform, it's all worth it.


This will be the last question. What is anisong to you?

The ultimate art of music.

It explores a lot of genres. Anisong ranges from hard rock to jazz, moody music to electric music. It's a type of music that can explore a lot of different genres. Japanese anime themes are so diverse that there may be emotional stories as well as human drama. Therefore the music is also very diverse. In that sense, I feel that anisong is very powerful. Because it carries the message that the anime wants to portray, it's tough making a showcase like ANISAMA but I want to continue to support portray the messages that anisong wants to deliver.


I'm looking forward to ANISAMA this year too! Thank you very much.

Thank you.

 


 

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