INTERVIEW: Revue Starlight’s Hinata Sato, Aina Aiba & Haruki Iwata

Revue Starlight was featured at CharaExpo USA for the second year in a row. Following the success of numerous stage plays, music albums, Kinema Citrus’s 2018 TV anime, and mobile game, the Bushiroad multimedia title has reached global popularity. Anime Trending had the chance to talk to actresses Hinata Sato, Aina Aiba, and Haruki Iwata about their involvement in the franchise. 

Revue Starlight is already making an impact internationally, and it seems you’re only just getting started. For those unfamiliar, what do you think is the best way to get into the franchise? The mobile game, the live performances, or the anime?

Haruki Iwata: That’s a difficult question!

Hinata Sato: I’ll go first. Starlight is a title that began as a stage play, and I want to emphasize that. You’ll want to see the stage plays first. The reason being, you’ll be able to experience the three key aspects of Starlight: the choreography, the dancing, and the song performances. I think it’s very important that the audience sees and experiences those first. 

Aina Aiba: To add to the earlier comment about watching the stage play first, I think it’s important because once you’ve seen the performance on stage, it’s very exciting to see it again right in front of your face, through the game and through the anime. It’s a unique experience to see something that you’ve already seen on stage reinterpreted on a screen.

Haruki: It’s all connected, so the stage is very important. The media you are watching comes from the stage, then it goes to the anime, and once again goes back on the stage. How you experience Revue Starlight is like a wheel. We, as the cast, are stage girls like our characters, so we also experience going from the stage to the anime and back to the stage.

Aina: I think that there’s a looping effect.  Once you watch the stage play, you want to watch the anime, then want to play the game, then want to see the stage play again. It’s a circular experience.

The live performances for Revue Starlight involve a specific written story, and  the anime and game also have interpretations of certain stories. What has been your favorite story from the franchise so far?

Hinata: The script-writing is different for each of those mediums you just mentioned, but my favorite story has to be episode two of the anime. It is very important for me personally because Junna is featured in that episode, and that was when Junna realized that she must decide whether her desires will remain just a dream, or something she will achieve on her own. I think that was a very important story for me. 

Haruki: I think my favorite is definitely the stage play, Sharp 2 Revival, that we performed in October and July this year (2019). In those plays you can see the group go through a lot of growth. In Sharp 2 Revival, the group sets another goal for themselves and goes through more trials and tribulations. For my character, Mahiru, you can see she’s trying to go beyond her experiences and push past her trauma. You can really see Mahiru’s growth in the story. I really like that. 

Aina: It’s hard for me to choose. There’s so many, but that’s what’s so great about this franchise. It’s really hard to choose one, but if I were to pick, it would be a story from the game. There is a section in the game with a Sherlock Holmes theme in which my character, Claudine, plays Watson, and another character (Karen) plays Sherlock. I think it’s very unique that our characters are playing other characters from another story. You can enjoy the story around us performing Sherlock Holmes, because we also solve our own mystery at the same time. It’s really really well done and something that I enjoyed.

How much do you relate to your character? In what ways are you similar?

Hinata: I think I have a lot of similarities with my character Junna, so in the beginning it was actually very difficult for me to perform as her. I was really worried that I was going to be Hinata Sato instead of Junna Hoshimi when performing, because we are so similar. I was actually interviewed by the director of the anime early on in the production, and the direction of Junna’s character in the anime was influenced by that interview. Because of that, it was tough for me to differentiate between the character and myself. 

Haruki: I also think that Mahiru and I are similar in personality. I took baton lessons when I was younger. I am the oldest of my siblings, just like Mahiru is the oldest sister. Everybody has issues with self-esteem on some level, and I have them too. That’s one way I can relate to Mahiru and understand where she is coming from. It’s tough when you start comparing yourself to everyone around you, and you see everyone glowing and sparkling more than you. I deeply appreciate where she is coming from.

Aina: At first I didn’t think I was very similar to Claudine, because I’m obviously not French, and I never took ballet lessons when I was small. It was very different, and I started thinking “How am I similar to Claudine?”. The thing that was really similar was having this feeling of wanting to be more, wanting to surpass my rivals, and having people to pull me forward. The stage girls are very goal-oriented in their lives, and that helps me to grow as a human being and as an individual. 

The character Claudine has Maya Tendo as a rival. The two have a push and pull relationship that keeps them going. I also have someone in my life, Maho Tomita, that I feel is in a relationship with me similar to Claudine and Maya’s. 

When the director and staff spoke to me, they said that I was really good at taking care of everybody and being concerned with my cohorts. Claudine is also portrayed as taking care of her classmates, the people in Class A, so that’s another similarity.  

We were all excited about the 3rd live you performed in November.  What’s your favorite memory from performing it?

Hinata: Something that was very memorable about this live is that we actually had to change the whole setlist one week before the performance. One of the members, Mimorin-san, wasn’t able to attend the first half of the scheduled run. We really wanted all nine of us to perform together on the stage, so as a group we had to figure out how to do that, and we changed the setlist to make it possible.

Haruki: I think the best thing that I remember is that it wasn’t just us, the nine members of Seisho, but almost everybody from the game was there. Being able to sing some of the songs, like Discovery and Star Divine, all together was so memorable. Being on stage and able to see all the costumes from all of the schools was something that meant a lot to me. 

Aina: It was really exciting just being able to perform all kinds of different songs that are in the game. I really loved performing with the Yumeoji sisters. We all have different weapons, ways of fighting, ways of singing, and songs to perform. Having everything come together on stage was just wonderful. One thing that was funny was having a bottle of ponzu there on the stage. It was just something that we couldn’t take our eyes off of, and we all noticed while we performed.

Congrats on Revue Starlight Re LIVE’s 1st anniversary.  

All: Thank you!

Out of all the game’s event stories, which would you like to create a play about?

Hinata: For a long time I’ve been saying that I wanted to perform Beauty and the Beast, and recently I was able to do that. So the next thing I’d like to do is some mystery solving or crime solving. I think an Agatha Christie style of mystery on stage with all 9 of us would be fun.  

Haruki: I really enjoyed the whole mystery theme that we had going on with Sherlock Holmes. I personally enjoy detective stories. Also, Mahiru was able to play a villain, which was a lot of fun. If we were to do something on stage, I would like to do that again and play the villain.。

Aina: I think something I really enjoyed was one of the stories where Maya Tendo disappeared. It was interesting because none of the characters had any memories of her, myself included, even though she’s usually my rival that keeps me going. I think if we performed that on a live stage, it’d be interesting to see how the emotions and expressions of each of our characters would be depicted in the performance. Our emotions are very different when a character normally on our team isn’t there, and it’s very important for my character in particular. Plus, having her come back into our lives would be very interesting to see on the stage. It would be very interesting to see the difference in how we portray our characters before and after she comes back. 

Hinata: One more thing. If we were to do something live on stage, I would really like to perform to the score of films.

Revue Starlight has been around for quite a while. What is your favorite experience from working with such a large and talented cast in performances?

Haruki: There are so many!

Hinata: I actually entered the project right after I graduated from high school, so there were so many things I have learned as a performer, from style of performance to singing and dancing. I learned a lot from the other cast members, Maho Tomita and Suzuko Mimori especially. For example: how to breathe when I am singing while nervous, where to stop dancing to make the choreography clear, and finding one point to emphasize in a character’s personality when portraying them. I learned all of those things when I was just out of high school.

Haruki: I respect every person in our team. If it was mentioned already, we have “big sisters” in the group: Maho-san, Mimori-san, and Aiba-san. Watching our big sisters, who are so talented and extremely active in their careers, always remain positive pulls us forward all the time. That brings me to think about how inspired I am by them. Seeing them stay positive through any kind of trial, I’m reminded that I really want to be like them. I have a long way to go too.

Aina: I’m really grateful to Iwata-san for mentioning how she is inspired by my work, but I think I am inspired by everybody else as well. The relationships and connections I build between myself and my team are priceless. One thing that’s interesting is I’ve been on stage before. I’ve been on stage as a wrestler, but that’s very different from performing, singing, and dancing. That kind of performance is very different. It was very reassuring that I was able to go to my team members, and it doesn’t matter how old or experienced we are. We are able to ask each other for advice, like “How do I do this and that?”, and everyone is always open, nice, and accepting. They never make me feel uncomfortable for asking questions. Being able to build that relationship and connection with everybody is an experience I would never trade for anything. Also, the fun I have with other members, like trading information and phone numbers, or going out together, is also pretty fun.  

Special thanks to Bushiroad for the interview opportunity. 

Interview conducted with Gamepress and The Fandom post.

The anime compilation film, Shōjo☆Kageki Revue Starlight: Rondo Rondo Rondo, released in Japanese theaters on August 7. Kinema Citrus, the studio behind the TV anime, is also animating the film.

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