Yuri on Ice interview translation - Animage 2017/01 (p18-19)
Interview with Wataru Hatano, who sang the ending song “You Only Live Once” and is also Georgi Popovich’s voice actor. 2/3 of the interview is about the song and 1/3 is about his role as Georgi. After hearing other seiyuu/staff’s impressions on Georgi, at last we get to know what the person who actually voices him thinks, lol.
I was planning on posting it right after his birthday but then I gave priority to other stuff like the BD contents etc… Here it is finally. It was published on the Animage that came out at the beginning of December, so it only covers up to after ep 10.
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ED artist / voice of Georgi Popovich
A song that allowed him to look into his individuality
The recording of the ED song that allowed him to take a new look at himself.
—The ED theme “You Only Live Once”, that you’re singing as “YURI!!! on ICE feat.w.hatano”, was created by the “Yuri on Ice” music producer Keisuke Tominaga. What did you discuss about with Tominaga-san during the creation process?
I had previously received a demo tape with the provisional song, but the first time I met Tominaga-san was on the day of the recording. The first thing he told me is that this song was made for “Yuri on Ice”, therefore we would need to get as close as possible to the show. PIANO already had a clear idea of the image of the song and what it was meant to represent, and I was told “we are going to modify your voice and use it as an element, in a good way”.
—Weren’t you reluctant to have your voice modified?
Actually I thought that it was interesting. As voice actors, our voice can also be considered an “element” of a show, and I personally think that it should be that way, so I thought it was worth giving it a try. Since it was a very different approach than what I had previously experienced, I thought that the methods I had used that far wouldn’t work this time, therefore I made sure to closely listen to Tominaga-san’s advice during recording.
—What kind of advice did you receive from Tominaga-san?
If I put too much of my individuality in the song, there were parts that wouldn’t match the melody properly after my voice was modified. However, if I didn’t convey any feelings at all, then it would become like a Vocaloid (LOL). The main problem to solve was how to “control my individuality”.
—You basically had to adjust how much individuality to show in the song.
If I sang like I normally do I would use vibrato and “shakuri” (pitch shifting up) to add feelings to the song, but this time I couldn’t do it because it would stand out in a weird way when my voice is modified. Tominaga-san gave me many little advices like “sing this part long and steady” or “here only put some personality at the end of the line”. It was quite a meticulous recording, as I would basically sing and record the lines one by one.
—So you recorded the song in more takes, with care.
The English pronunciation was especially difficult…… We had to re-record some parts like “You Only Live Once” at the beginning over a dozen times. But it’s definitely something we couldn’t have been able to do if Tominaga-san hadn’t been there.
—It was a recording with limits, basically the opposite of singing freely, is that correct?
For character songs you are often requested to fully pull out your individuality and the character’s qualities. But this way of singing was also quite new to me and it was a really good lesson. For the first time I was able to realize what “habits” I have when I sing, and it was a good occasion to take a new, more objective look at myself.
—So you mean to say that through the song you were able to look into your own individuality?
Yes, in fact when I heard the completed song I was surprised at how it turned out, also because it almost didn’t sound like myself, as if I wasn’t the one singing it. I think it was a very valuable experience.
—What did you come to notice about your “individuality” when you recorded the song?
I have the habit of conveying the message contained in the lyrics by singing in a strong subjective way. But this time I realized that, by singing objectively, you can deliver the message in a more profound way. This is what this experience taught me. Sometimes, instead of “pushing forward”, you can deliver the feelings in a song’s lyrics by “pulling back”.
A song for all figure skating lovers.
—What impression did you have of the lyrics?
When I received the lyrics, at first I thought that they were singing the feelings of the protagonist Yuuri. But when I went to the recording the staff told me that “the lyrics are not meant to be associated to a certain character, but to apply to all people who practice figure skating”… and I was like, “ok now I see”. To interpret the lyrics I started from the translation of the English parts, but indeed I thought that it perfectly suits the transient image of figure skating.
—What are your favorite lines?
All the lines are beautiful, but the one that left the strongest impression on my mind is “I don’t mind getting hurt if it’s to shine” (“kagayaku tame no kizu wa itowanai”). I genuinely think that it’s a nice phrase. I also like “resound, thunderous applause, so loud that I’ll feel rewarded for all time spent so far” (“ima made no hi ga mukuwareru hodo hibike thunderous applause”). I think the English expression “thunderous applause” really represents the world of figure skating and I like it.
—What do you think about the melody?
The first time I listened to the demo tape I thought it was an instrumental song. Like, “wait, there’s nothing to sing here” (LOL). But of course, it did contain a sung part. The voice was extensively modified and almost sounded like one of the instruments, so I didn’t notice. That’s why in the beginning I had no idea of how I should sing it, and until the recording day I received no suggestions at all.
—Indeed, listening to the finished song it sounds like your voice has become one with the other instruments.
The part at the start of the song too, in the lyrics it’s supposed to say “Oh… You Only Live Once”, but we actually overlapped other sounds taken after that, like “wooh wooh” and “yeah yeah”, so that who listens cannot catch what is actually said. It’s interesting how many ideas they came up with to better represent the atmosphere of the show.
—Yuuri’s voice actor Toshiyuki Toyonaga-san also said that if he were a figure skater he “would like to dance to the ED song sung by Hatano-san”.
Really? I’m happy to hear that! All of the “Yuri on Ice” songs are wonderful, and I’m honored to hear that among all those he picked “You Only Live Once”.
—The ED footage by Yuuichirou Hayashi is also splendid.
Everyone has such nice expressions. When “You Only Live Once” overlaps with Yuuri, Victor and Yurio’s wide smiles, among the popness and freshness of the song there’s a lingering transient feeling too…… You can feel the love of all the staff for this show.
—What concept did you choose for the song’s MV?
What I told the director is that, since the song is made to be close to “Yuri on Ice”, I would have liked the MV to be the same too. It starts with me walking in a monochrome, colorless city, looking in the distance with a distressed expression, and as the song gets picks up the pace it becomes more carefree. I start spinning around and spreading out my arms. This time we created one MV by overlapping lots of shots. We did it on purpose not to insert an exact story in it, so I’ll be happy if you watch it imagining the story as you prefer.
—What about the coupling song “Sing and Dance!”?
I chose it among a few available candidates. Since “You Only Live Once” recalls the icy coldness of the rink and people shining toward their dreams, I wanted the coupling song to be more straightforward, more like “Let’s all dance and dance together!”. The music was composed by fu_mou, who is also a DJ. When I asked him what genre would this song be considered, he told me “tropical house”. The word “tropical” became a hint for me when I was deciding how to sing it.
—Like in the image of tropical islands?
Positive and frank, with an excitement that pushes you forward. That’s what I pictured when singing it. It’s house, so it has a fast beat and your body automatically starts moving. It gives you a different impression than “You Only Live Once”, but when you listen to them one after the other I believe that their images are connected.
—It sounds like you gained many things from this recording.
It was an occasion to look into my individuality and I could get to know some interesting people. Starting from the composer Genki Hikota, all the members of the music production team PIANO are very young. I heard that Hikota-san is a DJ that works overseas too, and I was wondering, what if when I meet him he’s like “hey, man!”, like a totally loose guy (LOL). But he was actually a very polite person. He is very talented and also has a good personality. It’s amazing that people like that really exist. When he did the track down and the song was born, he shook my hand and told me “we should work together again”. At that time I thought, “I see, it’s because this song is created by people like him that it manages to be so open and clear”.
Something in common with Popovich, who manages to turn damage into strength.
—In the anime you are playing the role of Georgi Popovich. I understand that your singing voice in the ED was modified, but still, it sounded so different from Popovich’s voice that I was surprised.
I was surprised too (LOL). The instructions I received from the sound director are to “use a more threatening, low voice. His creepiness must sound amusing”, and that’s why I played him like that.
—The character himself means to be totally serious, but that ends up being funny instead.
I’m just doing my best and being faithful to the script, but for some reason…… the moment I step in front of the mike, I see the other members of the cast looking as if they’re trying not to laugh (LOL). I’m happy to see that but it’s also embarrassing.
—How is Popovich seen from your point of view?
He’s able to express with his skating the feelings that he experiences in his private life. Since he pushes out his feelings very forcefully when he skates, I didn’t have to hold back when I was playing him. Most of his lines while he is skating are monologues, but I’m being careful to say them energetically, as if he’s almost about to speak them out loud.
—At first sight he looks reserved, but when he performs he expresses his attachment toward his ex-lover with tears in his eyes.
The short program was still ok, but in the free he was seriously creepy (LOL). However, normally if something bad happens in your personal life you tend to lose your energy even toward work, but Popovich on the contrary is able to turn it into strength when he skates. I can understand that feeling because I have experienced it too. Actors are curious persons. When they are deeply wounded by something that happened in their personal life, when they are in distress, they can pull off better performances than usual.
—It’s like using adversity as a spring to push forward?
I think that maybe, when you reach an extreme condition your mind becomes keener than usual. In that sense, Popovich is a person able to turn a crisis into a chance. That’s why after he has finished his program I’d like to tell him “you gave a nice performance”.
—Are there other characters that caught your interest?
They all have very particular personalities, so I find them all interesting. It’s like if you don’t have a strong personality you can’t survive, but if I have to choose I’d say Yuuri and Yurio. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched the series from episode 1, but they touch me emotionally. I especially love Yuuri’s skating song “Yuri on ICE”. When I heard it in the broadcast I thought “beautiful!” and I almost stopped breathing. Many fans were saying that they are happy because the title of the show was actually connected to the story, and I do think that it’s really a song made for this anime.
—What image do you have of figure skating?
I was born in the Nagano prefecture. The Winter Olympics were held there when I was a student, and in general I’m familiar with winter sports. In the area I lived speed skating was popular, and I myself took classes for a few years. That’s why I’m also familiar with the temperature and coldness on the rink, and since they are both skating, I can easily imagine the environment surrounding Yuuri and the others.
—Did you start watching figure skating after being involved with “Yuri on Ice”?
The Grand Prix series is taking place just now, at the same time as the airing of the anime. I’m watching it on TV, and sometimes when I watch it I think “maybe in the real world too there are skaters with strong personalities like in “Yuri on Ice””… (LOL)
—Lastly, could you tell us about the future highlights of the story?
The Grand Prix Final will gather characters with very bold personalities and amazing skills. I think what everyone is wondering since episode 1 is “how will Yuuri fight?”, and “what will Victor do?”. In a world where scores decide the ranking, all skaters shine in their own fleeting moment…… This beautiful world is going to be portrayed in the anime. Please make sure to watch over their performances to the end.