Takanashi Kiara, a virtual YouTuber belonging to the English division of Japan’s VTuber agency hololive production, dropped her first album Point of View last month. Her debut set displays the various faces of the English-speaking VTuber, with songs ranging from the lead track “Pineapple,” a tropical summer song accompanied by a music video featuring the VTuber dancing brightly by the poolside, to tracks such as “The Great Wanderer” and “Retrospective” that highlights her inner conflicts, sadness and negative emotions.
Takanashi — her name is in Japanese order, surname first — debuted in 2020 as a member of the early hololive English group called Hololive English -Myth-, and made her 3-D debut in February of this year. The pioneering English-language VTuber talks about her passion for music and the ways she infuses it with feelings for her fans in this new interview.
Could you tell us some of the things that were going through your mind around the time you kicked off your career as an English-speaking VTuber?
I never thought it would be such a success. Japanese hololive VTubers were well-known at the time, but not so much outside of Japan yet. As a comparison, Japanese anime is popular everywhere now, and many people prefer watching it in the original Japanese instead of English dubs. Hololive English -Myth-inking at the time was, if people enjoy watching anime in Japanese, then VTubers who speak English might come across as odd.
Which VTubers do you admire or draw inspiration from?
I first discovered hololive through Shirakami Fubuki. I was intrigued by the concept of VTubers and was hooked from the moment I checked her out. That was when I was living in Japan on a one-year visa, then the pandemic broke out. I was watching UsadaPekora’s videos to cheer myself up during that time and then the hololive English auditions began. It felt like destiny to me and I applied.
What kind of music did you grow up on?
I started listening to the Black Eyed Peas because of my parents. I also listened to Paramore and Kelly Clarkson. Like, mainstream artists on the radio that everyone knows. Paramore was one of my inspirations for the song “Retrospective” on this album. Right now I’ve been hooked on K-pop artists like TWICE and NewJeans. Today’s K-pop is influenced by American music but still has its own unique flavor. I wanted my songs to be like that.
What’s the concept of your debut album, Point of View?
My previous singles “HINOTORI” and “Heart Challenger” were Japanese-language tracks in the vein of J-POP, anime songs, and idol songs. I personally love that kind of music, too. But since we’re hololive English, some fans preferred that I sing in English. Also, there were many other hololive VTubers singing similar stuff, so I decided to try making songs that were different from that kind of music and also suited me. I tried to include elements such as my gratitude for my past history and activities and tried to create a collection of songs from Kiara’s various “points of view.”
I’d like to ask you about some of the songs off your new album. First, “Love Rush,” the second track on the set. It has a really positive mood.
The lyrics express my gratitude to all my listeners. I’m moved by it when I sing it, and it has a really profound meaning to me. Kai Gojo, who is also the songwriter for “HINOTORI” and “Heart Challenger”, wrote it for me, and he’s someone I can completely rely on because he can write both cool and cute numbers. I told him I wanted to try my hand at a cute song like “Heart Challenger” again for this project. But I also wanted a different vibe, so I asked him to include some elements reminiscent of the J-pop group fhána, like sounds of a violin.
The next song, “The Great Wanderer,” has a different, more serious tone.
When I first heard the instrumental, I felt a touch of loneliness, so I decided to have the lyrics written about such feelings. We all have moments in our lives when we feel lonely or sad, so I thought the song would resonate with people. There’s actually another angle to this song. VTubers are virtual beings so we can’t meet our fans in real life. It’s pretty sad, you know? Of course, the fact that you can only interact with them online is one of the good things about VTubers, but sometimes I want to break down that barrier. I tried to express such dilemmas specific to VTubers in this song.
You mentioned Paramore as an inspiration for the next song, “Retrospective.”
“Retrospective” is the song that contains the most of my negativity on this album. There’s no positive ending, only my hang-ups about failures in the past that I want to redo but can’t, or the things I lack and so on. But I think those kinds of songs are good to have once in a while. When I’m sad, sometimes I just want to listen to a song that makes me wallow in my sadness, not one that cheers me up.
Incidentally, the melody of the song was originally completely different, but I wanted something more Western-sounding so I could sing it more naturally in English. So I asked monii, who wrote the lyrics, to come up with a new melody. It ended up being really Evanescence-like and dramatic. When we were recording the song, even the expression on my face looked like I was in pain and I enjoyed singing with so much emotion.
Music might be a unique way of detoxing because negative emotions and experiences can be expressed as they are instead of having to convert them into positivity.
Yes, exactly. It’s a way of letting it all out. I think VTubers exist to give people comfort, but I figured this album was a good opportunity to show my real self, so I went ahead and tried it. I’m the type of person who wears my emotions on my sleeve, but it’s still hard to show these feelings. But people seem to like songs like “Retrospective” and I realized that it’s okay to talk about such feelings in music, so I hope I can keep expressing my personal story in the future.
The fourth track, “Sleep Talking,” is completely different in that it’s a song where you can let the sound wash over you without thinking too hard about it.
After releasing “DO U” on my second anniversary, I asked my team of creators if I could sing something with more of a K-pop feel, and they sent me several demos. One of them was “Sleep Talking.” I was like, “Whoa, I really like this one!” and asked to sing it as the keystone of this album. The album leads with “Pineapple,” but I consider “Sleep Talking” as another leading track in a way, and we plan to release a music video for it as well.
“Pineapple” is the first song of the album, a really fun pop number.
It’s a summer party song, the kind you’d want to listen to at the beach. The music video is also based on the theme of a beach party, and for the dance scene, I went to the U.S. to shoot motions at the studio of my colleague, Watson Amelia. The choreography was pretty hard and I had a lot of trouble with it. I shared a short video of the chorus dance for YouTube Shorts, so I hope people enjoy it.
We’re also looking forward to your live performances.
I would really like to do solo live performances in real life and not just on YouTube. All my songs are choreographed and I’m ready to perform any time, so I’ll keep doing what I can to stand on stage someday. But first, I want everyone to listen to the album, even those who aren’t really into VTubers. I hope I can reach as many people in the world as possible.
–This article by Takuto Ueda first appeared on Billboard Japan
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