Takao is a multi-talent, having made both her voice acting and performing début in 2013 in the anime Kimi no Iru Machi. She is more prolific on the music side, being the sole writer and composer as well as the vocalist of the unit Mimimeme MIMI.
This interview from June 2015 was in conjunction with the release of Mimimeme MIMI’s 4th single CANDY MAGIC, the ending theme for Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, in which Takao also appears.
Q: How did you come up with the unit name Mimimeme MIMI?
A: Mimimeme MIMI is a unit that aims to deliver new sensations through “audiovisual music”. I am in charge of the “audio” part as the vocalist, while Chamoi is in charge of the “visuals” through her illustrations; we operate as a pair.
The two of us spent around 5 hours in a family restaurant trying to come up with a name; “Ah, this won’t work”, “Nah, that’s no good” – we ran through the possibilities quite thoroughly. In the end, we went with “Mimi. Me. Me. Mimi” (Ear. Eye. Eye. Ear) which pretty much means what it says.
In future we hope to deliver audiovisual music that you can enjoy both with your eyes and your ears.
Q: The two of you work in different industries – how did you come together to form Mimimeme MIMI?
A: We were classmates in college.
When we initially met we had our own respective hobbies, namely music and design.
Since our college days we had half-jokingly talked about “creating something together”, but never seriously thought that we would ever work with each other (lol).
We learnt a lot during our time in college; our class was full of unique types and it was good stimulation.
Q: Do you write both the lyrics and compositions?
A: Yes, I am the “ears” (music). Chamoi is the “eyes” (illustrations).
We work on our own parts, but when you create two different sides to the same project, you’ll find that it gives birth to something wholly new.
In the past, Mimimeme MIMI would perform without showing our faces but we have begun live activities since last June.
I used to regard my seiyuu work and singer-songwriter activities as two totally different things, but I now feel like they share a connection. The experiences I have gained from being a seiyuu can be heard through my music, and vice versa.
Q: So you have different faces – as a lyricist and composer, as a seiyuu, and as the vocalist of Mimimeme MIMI.
A: In the past, I used to think that I should take on each of my activities with a different ‘face’.
Now, I can say that I face them all as ‘Takao Yuki’ but I wasn’t always quite so shrewd.
How much effort goes into any one activity is dependent on the timing; for example right now, I am concentrating on my work as a vocalist.
We just had a one-man live recently; I do believe that lives are the best avenue for us to spend time together with our audience. Lives are to me, incredibly fun times.
Q: There are many sides to you. What did you originally want to do?
A: I loved both singing and acting and though it’s not 100% correct to say that I favoured either one over the other, I think I did start off being drawn towards being a singer.
I wrote and composed songs as a hobby since I was in junior high. All the songs that I’d written would get stashed away in a drawer without anyone else hearing them – that’s what I did (laughs).
However, there came a point in time where I started to think “I want people to hear my songs”, and I began to work towards doing what I do now.
Q: You started composing songs in junior high! What instruments do you play?
A: I learnt to play the piano from when I was young. I started learning guitar in junior high.
When I choose an instrument, I focus on its sound. The Yamaha acoustic I’m using now is a little bit too big for me, but I love the sound it produces.
To tell the truth, I actually auditioned to be a vocalist in the light music club in junior high but I failed it, and that’s why I started playing guitar.
At first I was a member of a ‘copy band’ and we’d cover other artists’ songs.
The song that held a big impression for me was BUMP OF CHICKEN’s knife. It was the first song that I played guitar and sang at the same time.
BUMP OF CHICKEN’s songs are really difficult to play, aren’t they? On top of that, we played the song in its original key and it was quite hard to sing it in a low voice.
Also, I was very fond of Kuraki Mai’s ALWAYS, a theme song from my beloved Detective Conan.
Q: Are there any reasons why you wanted to become a seiyuu?
A: Rather than actually aiming to become a seiyuu, I just admired them, for a long time before I started making music.
I loved Detective Conan and Nintama Rantaro and I was shocked to find out that the voices behind Conan and Rantaro were by the same person. I learned about Takayama Minami-san for the first time, as well as the magnitude of the existence of seiyuu.
From then onwards I continued to watch and love anime, but I never thought I would be in a position to be working in this industry now.
Q: What kind of concept did you have in mind for CANDY MAGIC?
A: CANDY MAGIC is the theme song for the anime Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches.
The anime is set in a school, so I took that as a principal theme and expanded upon it.
One’s high school life only lasts for 3 years. You know your time there is limited, so you’d want to try your hardest to be ‘something’, or get your feelings across to ‘someone’. That’s why the theme of this song is “time”.
It’s only when you put a piece of candy in your mouth that you can taste its flavour. It’s a little bittersweet. CANDY MAGIC is about how that candy will eventually melt and disappear, and the overlapping themes of ‘a flavour that you can only taste through this candy’ and ‘a page of the book of one’s youth, that will end someday”. I wrote it as a song about one’s youth.
The B-melo part that talks about liking candy wrappers was written based on my delusions of what Urara-chan might do; “if I was her, this is how I would think” – it’s a part that I particularly like.
Q: That part of the lyrics is cute! There are symbols there too (laughs).
A: That’s right! I’m amazed you noticed!
▷○◁ represents a piece of candy. I want to go to karaoke to check out how it displays on the screen (laughs).
When I was thinking about writing the lyrics I realized “these symbols are really cute!’, and I put them in. I also like the last part that goes ‘Dare mo Shiranai, Kirameku Sekai’ (Nobody knows, Sparkling world).
Q: It does somehow have a very catchy, anisong feel to it.
A: When I write songs I’m not overly conscious about making it an ‘anisong’.
I want to deliver music that lots of people can be receptive towards. Songs that are universal, that people will never get tired of listening to.
When I’m composing I always turn to my piano and say “It’s time to go~” and start to work on it, but for this song I was just strolling down the street when the melody and part of the lyrics of the chorus came to me, and I immediately recorded it on my smartphone.
I worked on the rest of the melody after that, and the result is what you get to hear now.
When I’m working on expanding the lyrical and melodic details I’ll go “It’s time to create~!”, sit at my desk with candy in one hand and then concentrate on the task in front of me.
It’s something that happens every time, but I always worry over the lyrics. For this song, I was still worrying about them right until the day of recording.
Q: The PV has a pop-art feel, mixing 2d and 3d elements and offers a wonderfully unique worldview.
A: For this PV, the theme was “Let’s try to bring Chamoi’s illustrations to life!”.
Hence, we did things like put up Chamoi’s illustrated pop stands in natural surroundings and tried singing and playing the piano outdoors. We were particular about the sets and costumes as well.
I wore outfits similar to those worn by Chamoi’s illustrations – this is the first time we’ve tried out something like that so I hope that you pay particular attention to that.
The ending scene where it rains candy was definitely hard to shoot.
Sometimes, the candy would hit me in the eye lids. There might have been a refreshing look on my face but inside, I was screaming “That hurts!” (laughs)
We had planned to complete the shoot by sunset but it took a surprising amount of time to film, which made us fret a little.
Q: ‘It’s Raining Candy’* was the title of your one-man live as well.
A: Yeah, we were going for a title that would get people to come along and have fun.
Maybe it’s because I’m from Kansai, but I love puns.
We played a live in Osaka recently; when you exit the station you’ll see a store called “Gratcha” that’s a play on the words Grazie and Matcha (green tea), or we’ll say things like ICOCA de Ikoka (Shall we go using ICOCA). It’s a region that’s really rooted in puns (laughs).
It was our first ever one-man live in Osaka so I had nerves, but the audience was very warm and it’s right next to my hometown of Kobe, so it did feel like a live where I could think “I’m home”.
Our next live will be in Shibuya and I hope that we can get the audience feeling like they’re at home as well.
* the reading for rain (雨) and candy (飴) is the same – ame. Ame ga furu (雨 が降る) means ‘it’s raining’
Q: You play the role of Sarushima Maria in Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. How did you voice her?
A: Maria-chan is a mature-looking girl who just came back from abroad. Even the way she kisses is a lot more mature than the other girls (laughs).
Still, she’s a gentle, innocent and childish girl at heart.
Through her power of foresight, she learnt that she would cause a fire (in the school) and that’s why she ended up shutting herself in at home as she was afraid that her friends would be suspicious of her
There is a gap between her looks and who she is inside, and I was conscious of representing both the mature and girlish sides of her.
I hope that I can bring out the sexiness in her that is unique to girls who lived abroad, as well as her maturity.
Q: Do you have anything in common with Maria-chan?
A: Actually, I lived in the States for around 2 years back when I was in elementary school.
Working on this show reminded me of various things from those days.
Over there, people are all quite mature-looking. If you asked who you thought was a guy in his late 20s his age, he’d turn out to be a high-school student or something like that (laughs). Their appearance and their behaviour somehow seemed so mature to me.
Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in the States but when I was coming up with the character, I was quite interested in “where Maria-chan used to live when she was abroad”. This was because her personality and the way she talks would be different depending on the region she lived in.
Thus, I asked Yoshikawa-sensei, the original author, about this during recording sessions and she answered that she was only thinking about the US so I played the role with my own impression of what a stereotypical girl who grew up overseas would sound like.
Q: That would be something one wouldn’t know unless you genuinely lived abroad (laughs)! Even Maria-chan’s English was fluent, this was surely because Takao-san’s English is fluent too.
A: It’s perfect when it comes to everyday conversations!
However, I don’t really know polite business phrases or anything like that. English is a very courteous language, but my English is a little rough around the edges.
For example, when someone says something to me that I don’t understand, I’d just reply “Huh, what? I have no clue what you mean.”
I was only an elementary school kid back then and it’s been so long since I’ve come back to Japan so I’ve forgotten most of it.
I want to do some English revision (laughs).
Q: Let’s talk about the art of creating something based on your hobbies – what kind of things can you make?
A: Yeah I do like making things. There was a point in time when I was obsessed with ‘remaking’ things. Stuff like putting a zipper on clothes I’ve bought, or making wire accessories.
I may say I ‘make’ things, but I don’t know for sure whether they are actually any good? (laughs)
Anyway, I just like expressing myself by creating things. Songs, acting – they all stem from that idea.
Q: You’re a diehard artist! (laughs) What kind of achievements would you like to have?
A: For Mimimeme MIMI, I would like us to be an ‘audiovisual act’ that makes ‘music that can be enjoyed by the ears and the eyes’
We’re a unit that’s just starting out and we want to explore and take on challenges and continue to grow for a long time.
We want to pour more of our energy into doing lives from now on. I’d like to enjoy the same music within the same space together with the audience. Eventually, we’d like to embark on a nationwide tour.
We’d like to have our works collected on a DVD as well; we’ll do our best to be the kind of unit that has never been seen before.
As a seiyuu, I’d like to try out a variety of different roles. I’ve been given the opportunity to appear on the stage recently as well, so I’d love to continue to widen my acting range in the future.
Whether it be as a vocalist, a composer or a seiyuu, as Takao Yuki, I want to learn from my activities and gain experience, so that I can continue to grow.
Personally, I really like Mimimeme MIMI’s songs and videos but the bits and pieces I’ve seen of their lives leaves me a little concerned – Takao’s singing lacks volume/control and I hope she improves if she really intends to make a career out of performing.