Home Interview: Coco Hayashi & Chiemi Tanaka on Their Love Live! Journey

Interview: Coco Hayashi & Chiemi Tanaka on Their Love Live! Journey

At this year’s Sakura-Con, Anime Corner got the opportunity to interview two voice actresses from Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol ClubCoco Hayashi who voices Setsuna Yuki and Chiemi Tanaka who voices Rina Tennoji. 

Some of Hayashi’s previous roles include Taki Shiina (BanG Dream! It’s My Go!!!!!), Mirai Monoyama (Kiratto☆Prichan), Mami Sato (MF GHOST), Ikuko Kamiyashiki (Stella of The Theater: World Dai Star), Haru Miyako (TONIKAWA: Over The Moon For You~High School Days~), and Ayumi Hayashi (Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter). Meanwhile, some of Tanaka’s previous roles include Rikka (The Little Lies We All Tell), Ririko Oribe (SAKURA QUEST), and Sasame Tsuji (Three Leaves, Three Colors). Tanaka is also part of a music duo with fellow Nijigasaki member, Natsumi Murakami. The group was in charge of singing the opening theme song “My dream Girls” for Gushing over Magical Girls.

With the announcement of Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club’s three-part movie series, we got the chance to ask them about their journey and experience of being part of Nijigasaki and the Love Live! franchise. 

Q: Can you tell us about the school idols you voice from Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club and their charm points?

I play a character called Setsuna Yuki and she has two sides to her. She has another name – Nana Nakagawa, [and] is actually the student council president. As [Nana], she [becomes] a very serious and much more reserved girl. A little bit too serious sometimes. When she is on her idol side, she [becomes] a perfect idol, who is also very sparkly and passionate about her work. I think that having these two faces was a nice charm point for [Setsuna].

Tanaka: I voice Rina Tennoji. Rina is not very good [at] expressing her emotions, so it’s difficult for her to communicate with others. It’s not that she doesn’t like communicating, [rather] she actually wants to communicate and connect with other people. So, she made and wears a mask called [the] Rina-chan Board [that] emotes for her to help her communicate. Overall, [Rina] is a cute girl who works hard.

Setsuna Yuki

Q: So, we were wondering, were you fans of Love Live! series before you started your roles in Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club?

Hayashi & Tanaka:
Yes! (Laughing)
I actually encountered Love Live! in high school. I was at karaoke with my friends. My friends sang a Love Live! song and I thought that it was a very cute song. The song also happened to have [an] anime [movie] so, I got to see [these] cute idol girls singing [these] cute songs and just fell in love with them. I then started playing [the] mobile game, Love Live! School Idol Festival, [when it] was released and ended up watching the anime. Basically, a big part of my high school life ended up being [all about] Love Live!

Hayashi: I actually got introduced to Love Live! by my dad. He is a big fan of Love Live!  We would watch the anime and listen to [Love Live!] songs together. We even went to μ’s concerts together. So, I got [into Love Live!] because of my dad. I learned about Love Live!, I played School Fest and watched the anime series and the seiyuus. As I was watching, I started to respect [the seiyuu’s] work and saw that it wasn’t just [voice] acting, but especially in the case of [the] Love Live‘s seiyuus, they had to do many other things like perform live and sing and dance. I fell in love with that and it also pushed me to want to become a seiyuu myself.

Q: If Setsuna and Rina were to sing a duet song, what type of song would you like to sing?

Tanaka: It’s this one!
Hayashi: It’s here! It’s here!
Tanaka: It’s the “What type of duet song Rina and Setsuna will sing?” question! We were actually discussing [this]. Since Setsuna’s songs are mostly rock and most of Rina’s songs are mostly techno, we thought that [the two genres] would actually pair very well together. It would be like electronic…electric…
Hayashi: Electric rock?
Hayashi & Tanaka: (Laughing)
: But we think that they harmonize really well [together] and [the songs can] possibly even [be] like synthetic music [type of songs]. We would like to try it out.

We would love to hear that in the future!
Thank you!
Tanaka and Hayashi: We would love to do it!

Q: Are there any differences or challenges you face when voicing your roles as school idols in different forms of media for love life, such as the TV anime, the OVA movies, the songs, and then in the games?

[In] Rina’s daily life [she] is very mellow. She’s very calm and quiet.. She does have her own opinions, but she doesn’t express them too much in her daily life. [Instead] she’ll just go with the flow with everyone else. When she’s singing, all of her thoughts and feelings come out much clearer and stronger and she wants to tell everyone her feelings. So, [Rina] has two parts [to her] that I have to play: the “normal everyday” Rina and the “school idol” Rina.

Is there anything different when she’s acting in the game or the anime?
There is not really a difference [between the game and the anime]. Rina is the same [in both the game and anime]. The only difference really is in the game she already has the board on her face and in the anime, you get to see a little bit [of her face] before that, then working [herself] up to be able to talk to the membersin the group, and then putting the board on.

Hayashi: I’ve just joined Love Live! and started playing the role of Setsuna Yuki and Nana [just] last year after everything that Setsuna [went through]. In the series, [Setsuna] has a part where she [went through an] inner strife because she is the student council president and is very serious. She’s serious but really loves idols. She hasn’t disclosed [to] anyone that she wants to be a school idol or that she is a school idol to [even] the people closest to her like her parents. So, she is really struggling to be herself. I got to [voice as] her after all the struggling and after she’s been [set] free.

One of her songs that illustrates this is a song called “Melody”, which reflects more [of] Nana’s [feelings] instead of Setsuna so it was a little hard to play that part when I performed the song on stage because I didn’t actually have to go through that conflict myself. But overall, I feel [like] I have lots of things in common with Setsuna and Nana, so it doesn’t feel that hard and I feel like I’m one with the characters. I try my best to be them.

Rina Tennoji

Q: It’s been 14 years since the start of the Love Live! seriesand 7 years since the project of Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club. So, how does it feel to be a part of this huge franchise as a member of Nijigasaki High School Idol Club? Tanaka-san can you tell us about your thoughts and feelings looking back on the years you were active in Nijigasaki?

Tanaka: So, as the question said, the series itself has been going on for 14 years and  Nijigasaki started seven years ago. When I first joined Nijigasaki, our senpai had already forged this path [for us]. Before [Nijigasaki], it was already this big franchise so [it] was nerve-wracking to have to follow in their footsteps. We love our senpai, so of course we felt a little nervous. Then there is also the fact that Nijigasaki was also not going to be a nine-member group.

The first two groups [in Love Live! series] were nine-member [groups], [but] Nijigasaki was going to be nine solo acts and then later 12. We have two big things to worry about and be nervous about. [It’s] because [the groups before us] have already established themselves and the franchise and we were this new group that was forming in that established ranchise, [so] we were both nervous and worried. But overall, as time went on and [after] working as a part of the Nijigasaki series for seven years , we realized that our fans actually liked our solo acts.

There are [a lot of fans] who love Nijigasaki. I really felt that at the concerts and events, but also we felt that love through the TV anime series and the movies. I got to see that there are a lot of people who love the series, and felt that Nijigasaki has established itself as a part of the Love Live! series.. We were nervous before, [but] now I’m happy that we have lots of fans and [that] we are able to be part of the Love Live! family.

Q: Hayashi-san, can you tell us your thoughts and feelings about joining Nijigasaki from last year to now?

Hayashi: I joined last year as Setsuna and as I mentioned earlier [that] my dad loves Love Live!. My whole family loves Love Live! as well, so I was very happy when I found out that I got the role of Setsuna. When I started doing concerts as Setsuna, I had a lot of people coming to me and saying “Thank you for lending your voice, taking the role, and being Setsuna.”

So, every day has been filled with thrills and sparkles. Overall, the Nijigaku members [are] very close [with one another], we all love the series and the members we play. The staff and the fans also love the series very much. Everyone really loves the Love Live! series and it is very important to them. I also love the series and I will continue to do my best every day.

Q: What are some similarities and differences between yourself and the school idols you voice?

: I am actually similar to Setsuna. In high school, I was also a student council president. We are both part of the student council, we love rock, and we also love idols. I have many things in common with Setsuna. The number one thing I [am] most like Setsuna is that I [am also] an otaku (Laughing). Setsuna is also a very big otaku who loves anime, idols, and games. So, that is the biggest thing we both have in common and as far as differences [goes], it’s difficult to answer. I think I don’t really have any [differences] with Setsuna.

Tanaka: What I have in common with Rina [is that] I’m also very shy, but I do love talking to people. Once I get close to someone, I really like to talk to them, interact with them, and get close to them. As for differences, I have lots of differences with Rina-chan. The biggest being Rina is very good with machines, mechanical things, and just fixing stuff in general. In the series, during  concerts, it’s usually Rina who fixes them. I mean Rina made the Rina-chan Board herself. The electronic board that she [made] and wears on her face emotes [her expressions] for her. That’s amazing!

If Rina wasn’t in the school idol club, there would be a lot more trouble because there would be no one to fix all the mechanical issues in stage production. So, it’s very good that Rina is there to [fix those issues]. I’m really bad with machines so that’s a part where I am most different from Rina. 

Q: The new movie, Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club Chapter 1 The Finale, will be released in Japan on September 6th! This movie will be the first part of your three-part movie. Is there anything about the movie that fans should be excited for?

Hayashi: That’s right.
Tanaka: (Laughing)
Hayashi: (Laughing) Ehhh…What can I say? There is a key visual that just came out for the movie. In that visual, six girls, Ayumu, Kasumi, Shizuku, Kanata, Emma, Lanzhu,  are in Okinawa, the setting for the movie. The original anime series took place in Odaiba, Tokyo, so they are jumping from Odaiba to Okinawa. I want [fans] to look forward to the members in the film being active in a new place. .

Tanaka: So, there’s a TV series, then an OVA (NEXT SKY), and then the [three-part] movie series. Everyone will probably wonder “Why Okinawa?” The key visual [also] prominently features five members. I can’t say anything right now, but if you watch the movie you will understand why. It’s another thing to look forward to. Fans can look forward to the things [that will be happening] in Okinawa with the 12 members [of Nijigasaki]. 

Q: Pretty open-ended, but what are some of the things that you like about Nijigasaki High School Idol Club?

Tanaka: What I like about Nijigasaki… It has to be the solo acts. Unlike the first two series, in Nijigasaki (μ’s、Aqours), the series concentrates on each of the member’s solo acts. So, each member can get to shine, be themselves, and show the audience who they are, [which] is unique to Nijigasaki [and] very different from the rest [where] it’s mostly group performances. [When I do solo] performances, the audience are all looking just at me, so I can embrace all the attention [to myself].

I also love the fact that the whole story is about rivals, but they’re also very close friends. Even though everyone has their own solos, the members are still both friends and rivals. They do things on their own, but they also work together through hardships and get over things together and that makes me want to work harder as well. There is a big message in [Nijigasaki]. There may be times where you feel alone and wonder “Why me?” or “Why am I alone?”, but this series shows that you’re not actually alone. If you are feeling alone, Nijigasaki can help you realize that you’re not [alone] and [can] help you get through things.

Hayashi: It has to be that all the girls are very unique. None of them are the same. They have very different personalities and they all talk very differently and say different things. Everyone is different. It makes things interesting and it also makes it easy for the fans to find their favorites. But, when [the members] get together, they become another completely different force. When everyone is together, they have this big, explosive power.

On top of that, they can do many things. They can do the solo acts, the units like A・ZU・NA, QU4RTZ, Diver Diva, and R3BIRTH, and then they have their group performances they do together. Nijigasaki [has a wide] variety of [things] that you can enjoy with the franchise itself and as a team. They’re all very lovely together.

Q: Were you surprised by the number of overseas fans that the Love Live! series has? Do you have a message for the overseas fans?

Hayashi: Rather than being surprised [by] the number of international fans, in Nijigasaki we [actually] have international members like Emma, Mia and Lanzhu. We also have a lot of international fans coming to our concerts in Japan. We really are happy, so while we are here, we hope we can have more American fans fall in love with the series.

[We’re] at Sakura-con to talk [in a panel] this time, but we would absolutely love to have some concerts in America too. We really… We love you all! (Laughing)

Tanaka: Ever since joining Nijigasaki, I [already] knew about international fans and I loved that they would come to see [us]. That’s why I also really want to see [our] international fans too. Now [that] I’ve come to America, that’s one step towards that. Everyone really loves the Love Live!  series here and I’m very happy [about it]. One thing about the international fans [is that] they’re extremely passionate. They put their souls into their love [and passion], telling us how much they love the series.  So, we too [also] want to answer their feelings.

Right now there are only [just] the two of us and we’re only here to talk about the series, but in the future, we hope we can come back with all the members [of Nijigasaki] for a big event or maybe [even] a concert. [You] really cheer [us up] and [give] us power. Please continue to love [the] Love Live! series and Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club.

I hope that all 12 members come in the future as well.

Hayashi & Tanaka: Thank you!

We would like to thank Coco Hayashi and Chiemi Tanaka for their time in talking with us about their journey and experience in Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club series. We’d also like to thank Bandai Namco Filmworks for working with us and providing this opportunity. We hope to see both Coco Hayashi and Chiemi Tanaka again in the future, maybe even with other Nijigasaki members!

Fans can watch Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club and their spin-off series Nijiyon Animation on Crunchyroll.

©2022 Project Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club ©Project Love Live! Nijiyon anime 2

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