INTERVIEW: D4DJ at CharaExpo 2019

D4DJ was one of several up-and-coming projects featured at CharaExpo USA 2019. Anime Trending had the opportunity to interview cast members Aimi, Reo Kurachi, Haruki Iwata, and Hinata Sato. They spoke with us about the multimedia franchise and their experiences performing the music.

From left to right: Aimi, Reo Kurachi, Haruki Iwata, and Hinata Sato as their characters in D4DJ

Aimi: Hi, I’m Aimi and I play Kyoko Yamate from Peaky P-Key.

Reo Kurachi: Hi, I’m Reo Kurachi and I play Esora Shimizu from Peaky P-Key.

Haruki Iwata: Hi, I’m Haruki Iwata and I play Towa Hanamaki from Photon Maiden.

Hinata Sato: Hi, I’m Hinata Sato and I play Noa Fukushima from Photon Maiden. It’s nice to meet everyone!

Could you give a brief introduction as to what D4DJ is, and what fans can expect from it?

Aimi: D4DJ is a media mix project featuring anime, live performances, and a game, and the cast of characters actually do the performance such as singing, dancing & DJ-ing.

Can you give a brief introduction of the groups Peaky P-Key and Photon Maiden, as well as the personalities of the characters you play?

Aimi: Peaky P-Key is a unit of super popular high school girls. The character that I play, Kyoko Yamate, is the leader of Peaky P-Key and she has a very charismatic personality. She’s very talented, and she never misses practice. She’s also very hardworking.

Reo Kurachi: I play Esora Shimizu from Peaky P-Key. Esora is the “self-proclaimed” lovely personality in this unit. She’s also a true and natural entertainer. 

Esora teamed up with Kyoko’s unit as the DJ to entertain not just the audience, but also herself.  She’s very rich, so she’s super generous when it comes to her own money. She’s also a schemer who’s excellent at catching people off guard to discover what they really think.

Haruki Iwata: Photon Maiden is an up-and-coming DJ unit, produced by an entertainment agency.

Hinata Sato: Our music style is more like cyber and electronic, and our costumes are much more in line with that style of music.

Haruki: The character that I play is Towa Hanamaki. Her family is associated with her hometown’s youth group, and she is actively involved with local festivals. She’s a big fan of idols, so she always goes to see idols’ performances, and she’s always researching and studying their performances. Towa is cheerful, but she can also be a bit of an airhead.

Hinata: The character that I play is Noa Fukushima. She just loves cute things. Noa is very knowledgeable, so she talks a lot about her interests. I personally love her character visual.

What challenges do you face when performing D4DJ lives, compared to lives for other Bushiroad franchises such as BanG Dream! or Revue Starlight?

Aimi: The character that I play, Kyoko, is very charismatic. It was difficult for me to express her charismatic nature for performances. I’m still researching!

Reo: This project started off with the music first, before the game or the anime, so it was a bit difficult to imagine and develop the characters’ personalities from the songs alone.

Haruki: I’m a part of Revue Starlight, and those performances are more focused on singing, dancing, and the choreography. As for D4DJ, the focus is DJ, so it’s a bit more free-style. For this project, it’s important to focus on how we can entertain the crowds instead of just learning the choreography. That’s an aspect I’m still learning.

Hinata: In my previous performances, I usually didn’t need to move while singing or sing while dancing. For D4DJ’s live performances, we usually do a mix of several songs, so it’s like one long 10 minute set. Since Haruki’s character and mine are dancers as well as singers, we keep moving for the whole performance, so we sweat a lot. (laughs)

D4DJ is still a relatively new project, so how did you respond to seeing so many fans in the US already excited over it?

Aimi: I was really surprised! People already knew our dance moves, so I thought “Wow, the power of YouTube!” (laughs) 

Hinata: I also feel like all of the units’ music is really catchy, so even if you can’t understand the lyrics, you can feel the beat and feel the dance. I think that helps to gain fans too.

How much did all of you know about DJ-ing before your involvement in D4DJ, and how much have you learned since?

Aimi: I had zero knowledge about DJ-ing! I was always interested, though. My character Kyoko is not a main DJ, but if I ever have a chance I’d like to press one or two buttons. (laughs)

Reo: I’m also a member of RAISE A SUILEN from BanG Dream!, and we have a DJ in our band, so I knew about DJ-ing. I didn’t really know a lot about it, but I think that DJ culture is really cool.

Haruki: To be honest, I didn’t really know a lot about DJ-ing. Whenever I thought of DJs, I thought about all the people feeling the music, partying at the club. That’s the image of a DJ that I had before. So even though D4DJ is still a pretty new project, I realized that when DJs remix the same track, they can change the beat of the music and the mood of the audience. I learned that DJ-ing is a very important role.

Hinata: So my first image of a DJ was when I watched Zac Efron DJ-ing, and I thought “Wow. DJ Zac Efron. So cool!” Photon Maiden are really great at transitioning songs, and I thought it was really cool that just transitioning between songs in a set could change the whole mood.

Are there any artists that you draw inspiration from when it comes to performing your songs? Who are your favorite artists?

Aimi: For Kyoko, everything is her own style, but I do study my own performances so I can improve.

Reo: I don’t have any specific artists that inspired my DJ style, but I always try to have a more mature style and a dance appeal for Esora. I also want to express both the edginess and the cuteness in my performance.

Aimi: Reo’s performances are really helpful to learn about the whole performance. Sometimes I just study her moves and try to copy her. (laughs)

Reo: Ah, thank you!

Haruki: Photon Maiden consists of Risa Tsumugi as the DJ, with Ami Maeshima, Hinata Sato, and myself as dancers. Dance is a really important factor in this unit and its style. Our teacher has told us that we have to be in sync, so we always watch each other’s dances and moves, and we inspire each other. 

As for my favorite artist: Thanks to my father’s influence, I’ve really loved Queen since my early childhood.

Hinata: I believe that Photon Maiden is a cyber style of a unit. The cast in this unit were all experienced with singing and dancing on stage before, so instead of trying to copy or follow other artists, we are trying to show our true selves. We still try to focus on the same direction, and that is our focus.

Also, my favorite artist is Suzuko Mimori. She’s so cute and every time I watch her perform it makes me so extremely happy. Even when I’m going home from live performances, I think “oh wow, how cute Mimorin was, how amazing her performance was.” I also like EGOIST.

What can we expect from each group’s style of music?

Aimi: Peaky P-Key is famous for an edgy music style, and even our signature Peaky P-Key pose is really sharp, like the music itself. The visual is kind of like a b-girl style. I think this style shows the charismatic nature of each member of this unit, and that’s why it’s really easy to follow this group, music and visual-wise. We have two original songs so far, and we hope to have more songs in the future so please stay tuned.

Hinata: Photon Maiden has more of a cool, cyber look. This unit is fitted with a cool, sexy, and mature style. I believe that our performance conveys the feeling of our unity without needing the words to explain. I hope to have more songs to show different aspects of our units, so please look forward to it.

CharaExpo is the first event in America that D4DJ appeared in. Do you have any closing messages for all of your fans around the world?

Aimi: Thank you for coming to CharaExpo! I believe that D4DJ’s music is something that we can perform anywhere in the world. I look forward to future performances not just in Japan, but everywhere else too. I hope we can perform in the US again!

Reo: Thank you for coming to CharaExpo. Although D4DJ is a relatively new project, I was happy and surprised that so many people showed up to our stage today. As Aimi said, D4DJ has the potential to be performed worldwide, so hopefully we can come back with all 6 units from the D4DJ project to the US.

Haruki: I would be happy to come back to the US for D4DJ as a member of Photon Maiden. Photon Maiden has a lot of English lyrics, so hopefully we can grow the global fanbase with that. Thank you so much.

Hinata: This is my first time at CharaExpo here in Anaheim. The fans have been so nice to us and hopefully we can bring Photon Maiden to the US again, with the entire unit this time. Thank you.

Special thanks to Bushiroad for the interview opportunity.
Interview conducted with Gamepress and The Grand Geek Gathering, with transcription assistance from The Grand Geek Gathering.

D4DJ’s first album, Dig Delight!/Direct Drive!, is now available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music. The album features songs by both Peaky P-Key and Photon Maiden, as well as Happy Around!, Merm4id, and RONDO (燐舞曲).

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