INTERVIEW: hololive’s Trailblazer Mori Calliope Channels Her Flaming Passion into Anime

hololive VTuber Mori Calliope
© 2016 COVER Corp.

Anime Trending had the exclusive opportunity to interview hololive English’s Mori Calliope about her recent music projects. She gave insight into the creative process behind projects such as Suicide Squad ISEKAI’s ending theme “Go-Getters,” her One Piece tie-in song “Future Island,” her original song “Overkill,” and more. 

Anime Trending staff Melvyn Tan, Joseph Benavidez, Alexis Kavouras, and Petrit Baillet contributed questions, with additional support from William Moo.

© 2016 COVER Corp. 

For the ending song, “Go-Getters,” you wrote the English lyrics while Yuki Tsujimura handled the Japanese lyrics. What was the writing process like for this song, especially considering that you’ve worked with Tsujimura before?

Initially, we were thinking that the song would just be all in English (except for some fun lines I threw in the first verse to set the tone). But after realizing that the anime would probably be a big hit with the Japanese audience (Suicide Squad ISEKAI is produced by WIT, and Japan loves Harley almost more than American fans do) we decided the second verse, hook, and outro should be in Japanese! Tsujimura-san has done great work in the past with songs like “Wanted, Wasted,” and “Overkill,” and though “Go-Getters,” isn’t a rock song, I really trust his intuition! We threw the track over to him and he came up with something over the top and fun, which is a perfect fit for Suicide Squad. Then the rest of the music team came in to do some fine-tuning, and I think it turned out awesome!

You’ve spoken about how the song is about being yourself without fear of perception. What’s your favorite line from the song that best represents this theme, and how did you weave that into the track overall?

“Life’s just a tightrope, why not stop to fool around?” And then immediately, “‘Chaotic Good’ is peak right now – I can show you how.”

These lyrics definitely set the tone for a song about how life, even for just a normal person, can feel like a performance. Whether it’s work, school, or social situations – you’re being judged and expected to walk on a fine line. So why not just kick back, have fun, and be yourself? Especially if you’re someone who doesn’t take the beaten path and lives life according to your own rules, or if you’re someone the world might try to make into a “villain” for the way you present yourself. I’m a big fan of songs about “anti-villains” who are just unapologetically free people who the world tries to make out to be bad for being different. The song continues with, “I can show you how,” as if to suggest I’m setting an example through the song, for how you too can just live according to your own laws (within reason)!

You’ve been open about your comic school background and love for DC Comics. How does it feel to be a part of that universe now and which characters are you excited to see in Suicide Squad ISEKAI?

It’s surreal! I remember the days where we showed our works to editors and publishers coming to scout us and give critique- some of them were from big comic giants like DC. Back then I really didn’t think I’d make it this far. Doing something like this was a dream I didn’t even consider because it seemed so far out of reach back then. I’ve taken a different path, but somehow still ended up adjacent to where I dreamed I’d be, and I’m even happier this way.

Killer Croc is my fave from the squad, but he’s not joining in this time so I gotta give it to King Shark, who is hard not to love with his own gap moe (he’s just an innocent, hungry guy, please understand)… Though Clayface is looking real good and I can tell some of the bigger laughs I’ll have watching this are gonna’ come from his charisma check failures. It’s going to be legendary.

Considering the intense action-filled tone of the series, are you open to doing theme songs for other genres in the future?

Making songs for all kinds of media was always the goal, and I’m beyond elated that we smashed it, but at this point, I’m happy to continue making anything for any series (picking and choosing isn’t something I can do right now anyway). Something tough about making music for multiple properties is that it’s hard to keep consistency as a musician when different projects want different things and different musical styles. The good news is that I have experience making all kinds of music, and I’ve been told fans can still always tell, “That’s Mori. This is a Mori song,” so that’s relieving! But it does also result in a lot of feedback that’s like, “This is so different from what you usually do!” which is something I view as critique I need to be wary of and pay attention to. Regardless, I just don’t want to shut myself off from more dream-like opportunities by staying too faithful to one tone, so I say, bring them on! I’ll challenge myself to make it work.

Before becoming the anime’s ending theme singer, you also performed some anime/manga/game-related songs like the theme song for ONE PIECE Volume 106 and a collaboration song for Metal Gear. How did you get involved in those projects, and what were those experiences like for you?

The Metal Gear one is crazy because the person in charge saw me on TV in Japan and that’s how it all got started! I never thought anything would come of those appearances, but here we are. I’ve been a fan of Metal Gear since late high school, and I remember being really surprised when I was told by my producer that “the game collab we mentioned is with Metal Gear.” No way I was turning down that kind of thing! Apparently they considered it a massive success, which made me so happy. They wanted the song to be produced and written by someone else, so I just lent all I could to the project and I still get a lot of JP bros mentioning they love the song and my take on J-rap not just as inspiration, but full on tackling the genre with the song. Rapping in Japanese is hard, especially as a non-native speaker! But most J-rap is “kata koto” (foreigner pronunciation) anyway, so there’s a bit of leeway.

As for ONE PIECE, that’s a story that dips a bit into my past before hololive, but interestingly enough, it appears Oda has been a fan for a while, which is just insane to me. Recently, I read my middle school diaries on stream and they all started with “Dear Luffy.” I was a bratty kid with a lot of issues, but I was starting to learn about the power of friendship with ONE PIECE and it probably was my first exposure to the idea of, “Your dreams and ambitions may seem crazy, but never give up and you can do anything you set your mind to.” It all comes full circle! Luffy even gave me a phone call during the special live performance of “Future Island,” on the big screen in Shinjuku, and they didn’t tell me he was gonna’ do that so it was insane! It was like he finally answered all those diary entries from years ago (lol). I really thought I’d cry, but I held it together until the end. The song was for volume 106’s physical release, but now they’re using it in the anime which is really such an honor. I try to catch it every morning that I can.

Are there any other aspects of the anime industry you’d like to explore, such as voice acting or other creative roles?

© 2016 COVER Corp. 

Voice acting is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I have had a little experience with here and there. But, VA work isn’t something you can jump into “just because you’re famous or a celebrity.” There are people that have been grinding and honing their craft for years and years and haven’t gotten major roles — it is competitive beyond belief. I need to refine my skills and put myself out there more, but it’s tough to focus on honing my VA skills when I’m firmly focused in the music and streaming department right now. That being said, I’d still never turn down any VA opportunity coming to me from anime or games, especially for a property I love. All I can promise is my best though. Maybe with some coaching I could pull off a side role for something! I’m always open to that stuff. It’s always an honor.

Aside from that, I’m totally making my own comic someday. It’d be cool to see it become an anime.

Your most recent solo single, “Overkill,” came out in March and is an angry rock song that touches on the callous treatment of talents. What was the inspiration for that song?

There is a lot of discussion about this song!

Because of that, I don’t really like to tell fans what to think of some of the “hotter topic” songs I write because everyone’s interpretation is valid and correct in their own way. I’d hate to be told by the artist, “Hey, the way you interpret this song is wrong.” It’s just disrespectful to the person listening. I think one of the big misconceptions about the song, though, is that it has anything to do with how I feel about my company. hololive has changed my life in the most magnificent of ways, and I’m humbled to even be here standing with some of the most talented people on the planet. There’s something deep around all of this, something that hurts because the people that love us and we show love back to in return will always still compare us with each other. Additionally, we all love each other so much (especially EN where every day is chill and fun together and we all look out for each other) and being “raced against each other” is a sad but unavoidable part of our jobs. That takes a lot of the fun out of what we do, and because it will never change, the song became an angry shout of frustration at the way things are and always will be. As people are within their right to compare us, I am within my right to sing out in anger about it. So that’s what I did with that song.

I think it could also apply to many other situations and the wider sphere of entertainment, not just VTubers. This is the reality of the industry as a whole. So I kept the lyrics general enough that you could apply them to other areas as well.

If you asked me “what sparked the idea,” though, it’s our own unavoidable situation as talents.

hololive 5th fes marks your third time participating in a fes event. What’s your favorite memory from that event, and what were the preparations like? What was it like to perform “Overkill” on the big stage?

© 2016 COVER Corp. 

It was super amazing getting to stand amongst the other holo members for a third time, and this time doing a song that’s such a perfect “live” song. I feel super privileged that they used the fire pillars for my performance! The best part was definitely being backstage with the others (though it was chaotic lol) cheering each other on and hyping each other up!

Also, I want to scream even harder and louder next time. Maybe with a guitar? Though the live band killed it on their own.

Someday I’ll play my own bass on stage, you’ll see. The rock arc will never end…because it’s not an arc. It’s just the way things were always meant to be.

Mori Calliope can be found on X (formerly Twitter) and YouTube.

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