JPHiP Interview: Kikkawa You @ Anime Weekend Atlanta

I believe with all my heart that “idols are magic”. With just a smile and her charms, a top-notch idol can enchant, enthrall, and entertain you into giving her your love and support. If you are at all receptive to her magic, meeting such an idol in person can put you under a spell that you never want to end.

Kikkawa You (a.k.a. “Kikka”) is such an idol, and on September 28, the first day of Anime Weekend Atlanta 2012, fellow JPHiP members Rei-chan and °e-girl joined me in a 30-minute private interview with Kikka. Going in, Rei-chan and °e-girl were not exactly huge Kikka fans, but by the time the interview was over, all three of us left the room thoroughly enchanted by the young songstress.

I’ve been fortunate enough to experience being in the presence of idols several times in my years as an idol fan, and each time I’m always amazed at how “magical” the whole experience was. But this time, representing JPHiP and being so up-close and personal with Kikka, this experience was the most special. Unfortunately for you reading this, an idol’s magic doesn’t translate well to text or even video. The only thing I regret about this interview is that I can’t possibly hope to do justice to Kikka’s charm through the words on this page.

So with that in mind, I hope you all enjoy reading this JPHiP exclusive interview. Kikka had a big smile while answering all of our questions, so please read her responses with that image in mind. Even if you can’t feel her magic, it is my sincere hope that you learn something new about Kikka and maybe come to like her just a little more.

Slack: We are from We really love Kikka and Hello! Project, as well as other kinds of J-pop. And I have to say I am a very big fan of yours.
Kikka: Wow! I’m so glad to hear that!

Slack: First of all, I want to ask you, how was your flight? Are you still jetlagged right now?
Kikka: This was my first time on such a long flight of about 12 hours. I’m often told I’m the type that can’t settle down, so I wasn’t sure I could sit still for such a long time. But between watching DVDs, sleeping, listening to music, and practicing for Kikka Fes, it passed by pretty quickly. Still, I’m a bit tired.

Slack: I know you’ve been busy. In fact before I came, I watched your Nico nico live stream, “Born in the Kikkawa USA”.
Translator: So how did you feel?
Slack: Well, that was around 3:00 in the morning, so I was really tired.
Kikka: (laughs) Right, so many people were watching that show. I’m really hoping that everyone watching got to know me a little better.

Slack: We have some questions from the time we all first found out about you, when you were auditioning for Morning Musume. [°e-girl] has those questions.
°e-girl: First of all, welcome to America and welcome to Atlanta. Like [Slack] said, most of us first heard of you from the Morning Musume 8th generation auditions. In fact, you were my favorite person auditioning! How did you feel back then when you were going through the whole audition process?
Kikka: I’m happy to hear I was your favorite! During the audition process? Well, I was aware of some of the fan reactions on the internet and I kind of gained strength from their support. I was really glad seeing things like “Do your best!”, and “Keep working hard to the end!”

°e-girl: You eventually became part of the Hello! Project Eggs. How did you come to be a part of that?
Kikka: Soon after failing the audition, a person from the agency approached me and asked “Won’t you join the Haropuro Eggs?”. That was how it all started for me.

Slack: When you were in the Eggs, we had seen videos of the Shinjin Kouen and I thought you were one of their best singers. How much of your current success do you attribute to your time in the Eggs?
Kikka: In four years of being in the Eggs and always having singing and dancing lessons, I feel like those times have a lot to do with what I’m doing now.

Slack: There was a long time where it didn’t seem like anything would be done with the Eggs, but recently lots of members have made their debuts. For example, almost all of S/mileage, several Morning Musume members, and even Up Up Girls. Do you have a certain sense of pride now of being from the Eggs?
Kikka: I really do. I’m really happy to see all these members from Haropuro Egg make their debuts like S/mileage and Up Up girls.

Slack: Actually, all of my favorite members are from the Haropuro Eggs.
Kikka: Wow, that’s great. Who else do you like? (Aside from me!)
Slack: Well, Mano Erina, Fukumura Mizuki…
Kikka: Woooow, I see!

Slack: One of our readers wants to know a bit more about how your work with Milky Way and Kusumi Koharu. When you said she was one of your role models, was your image of her any different from the reality of working with her?

Kikka: When I was just starting, looking from the outside when I really admired her, I really had this feeling that she was a sparkling, bright, free spirit. Then after working with her and seeing how she really is in private, she truly is a wild, free-spirited person. She really inspired me and influenced me to be more free-spirited as well.

Slack: Since you’ve been in groups like the Eggs and Milky way for most of your idol career, how is it different being a soloist?
Kikka: To put it simply, there’s an image of life being easy for a soloist. I suppose you could say in private, it is kind of fun, but the hardest part being solo is having to be responsible for doing everything yourself. On the other hand, in my free time I can be selfish and free to do whatever I want. Taking all that into account, I guess it comes out about even.

Slack: A lot of people still think you are still under Hello! Project, but now you’re under Universal. I just wanted to know how that came about: Was it Up-Front that approached Universal or was it the other way around?
Manager: There’s not really much of a story to tell. Up-Front and Universal wanted to do a joint project and this is what came out of that.

Slack: I imagine being under Universal must be very different than being in Hello! Project. But being with Universal and having such a good singing voice, I have an image of you more as an “artist” even though you are promoted more as an “idol”. Where do you see yourself between the two?
Kikka: Well actually, my debut work at the start was probably like my agency senior Moritaka Chisato-san’s early work as an “idol”. More recently starting around my 4th single, working with a vocaloid producer, it’s felt like I’ve started being more of an “artist” instead of an “idol” .

Slack: I’m glad to hear that. I have an image of idols only having a certain amount of time they can continue as idols. I want to hear you keep singing.
Kikka: Ah I see. (smile)

Slack: Since you are going more as an “artist”, you have different opportunities as you would have being an “idol”. In that vein, is there some other artist that you would like to work with?
Kikka: I see. Another artist? Well, right now probably another idol at this point.
Slack: Working with SmileR as the producer for your last two singles, maybe something along those lines?
Kikka: Ah, I’d definitely be interested, but I don’t have anyone specific in mind.

Slack: Going back to working with other idols, I’ve always wanted to see you work with Mano Erina and form a unit called something like “You and M.E.”
Kikka: Ah, I see. That’s right, Mano-chan is graduating from Hello! Project in February. That’s something I’d like to do before then. (looks at managers)

Slack: Now we have some more questions about your international audience.
Rei-chan: Hi, I’m [Rei-chan]. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu! I love Kikka!
Kikka: Ah really? That makes me happy to hear!

Rei-chan: You have done a variety of genres of music, like how your latest single “Darling to Madonna” is in a rock style. Do you have a favorite style of music you like to perform?
Kikka: Well I basically like any style, but recently I haven’t had the chance to sing a relaxing ballad kind of song. So I’d like to try singing one of those.

Rei-chan: I don’t know if you are aware, but you have fans all over the world, including Puerto Rico, which is a little island in the Caribbean, Finland, Peru in South America, Australia, and Canada. Is there a message you would like to give to all those fans around the world?
Kikka: Like how this Anime Weekend Atlanta is kind of a festival for people who like anime to gather together, I’d like someday to have kind of a “Kikka festival” for my fans from all over the world to gather! So everybody please wait for that.

Slack: Just to butt in, I believe all three of us came here just to see Kikka.
Translator: Where are you from?
Slack: I’m from Los Angeles.
Rei-chan: I’m from Puerto Rico.
°e-girl: I live here in Atlanta.
Kikka: Wow! Thank you all very much.

Rei-chan: Since you have so many fans around the world, are you looking to promote in places other than in Asia and America?
Kikka: I definitely want to spread out everywhere. To do that I’d need to remember words in various countries’ languages, but before that, I need to remember my own lyrics! (laughs) I’ll do my best!

Slack: You probably don’t remember, but I went to see you last September in Tokyo — to a signing event in Shinjuku and a handshake event in Shibuya — and you made a very big impression on me.
Kikka: Ah, I’m glad to hear that! Thank you very much, you should come again!
Slack: I will probably be trying to come again next year.
Kikka: Please do!

Rei-chan: Finally, what do you want everyone to pay special attention to tomorrow at the concert?
Kikka: At tomorrow’s concert I’ll be performing in the costume from my recently released single, “Darling to Madonna”. After that, I’ll probably sing songs from before my solo debut, even some songs that aren’t my own.

Rei-chan: Would it be possible for us to take a photo with Kikka doing the JPHiP sign?

And that’s how we wrapped up our exclusive half-hour interview with Kikka, one of today’s most talented, beautiful, and hard-working idols. After being in Kikka’s presence, all of us were taken in by her charms and left with the feeling that those who aren’t Kikka fans are really missing out on something amazing. If you could feel any of Kikka’s magic in this interview, by all means give her your support!

Special thanks to Kikka, her staff, Yaz, Philippe, Rei-chan, °e-girl, Luis, and especially Daigong for making this interview possible.

For the story behind this interview and the rest of the weekend, don’t forget to check out:
°e’s report of Kikkawa You at Anime Weekend Atlanta [Sept 28-30, 2012]