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Anime Key Player Interview #6
Mr. Shiro Sasaki, the president of Flying Dog Part. 2

2018.09.25



So Flying Dog was established in 2007 under Victor? Was this label created just for anime songs?

Yes. Well, there was always a department that worked on anime songs. In 2007, our department which was called department #4 went to a different company as a whole. So after we moved there, we couldn’t say we are part of Victor anymore. That’s when we decided to just make a new label just like Starchild from King Records. We put thought into and decided to name it Flying Dog.
 

 
The name Flying Dog is so cute. Is there a reason behind this name?

So Victor Entertainment’s mascot is a dog. I was also born in the year of the dog (laugh). We knew how nice the people from Victor were, and we wanted to keep that aspect from Victor. We wanted to name it something dog, or dog something to begin with. The name Flying Dog was a name of a rock label that Victor owned before I started working there. The Rock label was gone so the name was available. I initially wanted to use a new name, but Flying Dog is such an easy name to remember. Also, if you’re a creator there are times you do things that are impossible. For example, in Peter Pan, children thought they can fly but when you become an adult you can’t fly anymore. So the truth is, if you don’t have it in you to think you can fly, you can’t fly. So when you get older, you experience a lot of things and realize that you can’t fly. We thought this name was a good choice because even if you are a dog if you believe you can fly, you CAN fly.


There are a lot of dreams and hopes to the name Flying Dog.

Yes. When you’re working in this field someone ought to say, “This isn’t going to sell.” There’s always one person that says, “No, this will sell!” and it actually does. So the feeling of liking something and holding a passion for something creates a miracle. Miracles will never happen unless you have the feeling of love towards it.


That’s true.

Yeah, so miracles don’t happen when someone is too clever. You have to be crazy for a miracle to happen. You need that craziness. For Flying Dog, we have a slogan saying “We can fly” which is like Peter Pan. We decided on this slogan for that very reason. We are able to fly now with Victor’s dog.


Plus it’s easy to remember. So it’s been about 10 years since Flying Dog was established?

January 2019 will mark its 10 year anniversary as a company. The label was created in 2007 but it became a company in January 2009. So it’s going to be 10 years soon.


During these 10 years are there any anime titles or artists you were happy working with?

I worked with so many titles. So in the last 10 years, the title that sold the most was probably Macross Frontier. Macross Frontier started in April 2008. If you put in the movies, it was a title that was on for a very long time. The biggest anime in Flying Dog’s 10 years was definitelyMacross Frontier. Macross Delta, of course, is big too. Macross Frontierhappened as we were establishing the label so it very memorable for us.


It seems like the artists involved are popular too.

Yes, the music was composed by Yoko Kanno. The first opening theme was performed by Maaya Sakamoto. Macross always have singers as main characters so there were two girls, one named Ranka Lee and Sheryl Nome which were represented by May’n and Megumi Nakajima. For Ranka, we had an audition throughout Japan and Nakajima was chosen.


This marks her first anime debut?

Yes. May’n was also singing under a different name and changed her name to May’n during this time. They were both High School seniors at the time.


May’n, Megumi Nakajima, Maaya Sakamoto are all popular in Japan but also popular overseas. They all perform outside of Japan and May’n was at Anime Expo last month as well. How do you feel about expanding overseas?

What’s hard about performing outside is bringing over the whole band. Using karaoke tracks are actually very easy but we actually like to bring over musicians but that ends up costing a lot. If events are ok with karaoke tracks we can go anywhere. Maaya Sakamoto usually sings with her band too. She just had her first event in Taiwan and Hong Kong. During that time, we brought over the Japanese tour members.
 


(L to R) May’n, Megumi Nakajima, Maaya Sakamoto
 

Bringing over the bands seems tough.

Yes, definitely.


But you would like to expand overseas more in the future?

Yes, of course. In Anime Expo, May’n spoke in English during her whole talk segment. She got that from Kanno san. Kanno san likes to speak in the native language of countries she visits. Also, I noticed people are happier when they speak in that countries’ language.


I saw her at Anime Expo too. I heard her speak English and wondered if she is going to speak in Japanese but I was surprised. 

May’n speaks better Chinese than her English actually.


Wow! Did she study Chinese?

We also have a strong desire to speak the native language there. Anime as well as anime songs air in countries other than Japan so artist has to keep in mind that they will be performing in different countries. It’s important to speak in their own words, not off a script. It’s actually good to say slang words instead of talking the way textbooks taught you. People get happier hearing stuff like that. We tell them to study and also tell them to ask interpreters how to say something. It’s good to know foods that are popular too.


Yes, that will definitely make fans happy. I’m sure you have gone to many conventions in the past. Which event was the most memorable for you?

Hmm…I’ve been to too many. Many conventions are operated by fans and it works differently from Japan. I tell all the Japanese staff members beforehand that many things will happen but don’t get mad at every little thing.


But because they are volunteers, they have a great passion for the event and they work harder than normal workers sometimes leading to a lot go good outcomes.

Yeah, also Japan is number one being a perfectionist. But I don’t expect trains to come on time in other countries. That’s more normal. Sometimes recording doesn’t go the way you want to either. The first place I went to recording was in Russia, Moscow. It was for an orchestra. We tried to do everything perfectly, and people think we are crazy for working until 10-11pm. So Japanese people are in a way very different, they are serious and unique (laugh). People from different countries look at us like “why are you working so hard?” I learned a lot from them. It’s the way when recording too and it’s the same for conventions. For conventions, it was memorable seeing the audience singing along in Japanese. Like let’s say if Eric Clapton comes to Japan to sing, I doubt people can actually sing the whole song from the beginning to the end. It’s actually really hard; we can sing the verse though. I thought it was amazing to see fans actually sing Japanese, a language that is so foreign. A lot of fans actually try to pick up Japanese too. They learn it to understand anime and games. But the fact that they try to learn Japanese makes us happy.


Are there more people familiar with anime songs now compared to the 80s?

Yes, there are a lot more now. It’s funny because in Japan back in the days, liking anime was seen as “not cool.” Being cool was liking Jpop and JRock. Anime was looked down upon. It was seen as something otaku’s were into. That’s how it was in the past. Kanno san didn’t want that image stuck on her so she made music that would level with music overseas. Nowadays anime became cool!


I guess for other countries, it’s not about being cool or not but just liking what they like. It’s interesting how much things change over time.

Yeah, back then JPop singers didn’t want to sing for anime but now artists like Gen Hoshino sings for anime too.Back then it was like “no anime tie-ups.” I’ve been working all these years wanting to change that too especially during the 80s and 90s.


Next: Shiro Sasaki Interview Part 3 will be published on 2 Oct, 2018!

>> Interview Part.1

 

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