The BanG Dream! (Bandori) franchise started taking flight in 2015 as a media mix project centered around the theme of all-girl bands. The main appeal of the franchise is that all the voice actresses of the characters forming the band Poppin’ Party (Popipa), which serve as the backbone of the story, are capable of actually performing the songs live with incredible quality.
Following the release of the television anime series in January 2017, the mobile game based on the franchise titled BanG Dream! Girls Band Party! (Garupa) was released in March 2017 while Popipa performed at the famous Nippon Budoukan for the first time in August the same year. In this interview, we delve into the mind of Takaaki Kidani, the man behind the creation of the BanG Dream! Project, as we talk about what lies ahead for the franchise.
This is the third part of the three-part interview; click the following links below to read Part 1 and Part 2.
Originally published in Real Sound on November 6, 2018.
“RAISE A SUILEN is Aiming to be the Female Version of ONE OK ROCK”
—Popipa has been performing in a lot of live shows. What do you think about their skill and performance?
Kidani: They are definitely improving in both aspects, enough to have a bit of a leeway during lives. It’s especially the case with (Sae) Otsuka and Nishimoto. Otsuka’s guitar solo part during their “God Knows…” performance at Anisama (Animelo Summer Live 2018 “OK!”) was very well done. I think a lot of people genuinely thought that was amazing. On the other hand, both (Ayaka) Ohashi and Itou have very nice smiles when they perform. Meanwhile, Aimi as the frontman of the band keeps the balance of the whole band by paying attention to her performance while moving around the stage… So, I think they’re a well-balanced band. While it may be inevitable due to the recent situation, I feel that the gap between Popipa and Roselia’s performing skill has widened. However, Roselia is getting a new member and should be getting back into shape with practice in 2-3 months. Despite the difficulty of starting over, I believe these girls have the potential to achieve another level of improvement.
—Having a new lineup does change everything from the ground up, after all.
Kidani: That’s true. There is also the third live band, RAISE A SUILEN (RAS), which has just released their live album under THE THIRD name. If we’re purely talking about performing skill, I’d say RAS is the best out of the three. I don’t think Popipa’s necessarily losing, but I believe both Popipa and RAS have the skill comparable to some of the top class all-girl bands in Japan.
—How was RAS conceived in the first place?
Kidani: RAS was something I proposed in the first place. The other three bands from Garupa (Pastel*Palettes, Afterglow, and Hello, Happy World!) wouldn’t be able to perform without the existence of a backup band. Since I didn’t really want to use a male backup band, I started from forming a group which would serve as the backup band. And then, they’ll eventually be able to perform their own songs too.
—What was the background behind the group’s formation and its current members?
Kidani: Raychell once performed the ending theme song of “Cardfight!! Vanguard” and she also performed at our company’s 10th anniversary live. The drummer Natsume was in charge of the support band at that time with Otsuka playing the guitar, and when I saw them, I thought, “With this, maybe I can create another band.” The other day, Risa Tsumugi was added to the band as the DJ. She’s practiced a lot and is a very good mood-maker during lives. She also has a pretty good English since she went to an international school. With these three aspects of song, performance, and English in one band, we are also considering to expand overseas. Our goal is for RAS to be the female version of ONE OK ROCK…… Is that a stretch? (laughs)
—No, not at all!
Kidani: Also, I want to give RAS a lot more freedom as a band in the future. Next year, I’d like them to be in charge of performing the opening and ending themes of other works from other companies. In that way, I’m thinking of differentiating them from Popipa and Roselia. I believe they’ll be able to pull it off with their level of performance. There is also this sense of “imbalance” in RAS, like the height difference between the members, which makes them unique. I think they’ll definitely leave a strong impression to anyone who sees them for the first time.
“BanG Dream! is Similar to Gundam, while Starlight is Similar to Evangelion”
—A lot of your recent projects, including BanG Dream!, feature music as the key element.
Kidani: I believe there’s a need to actively produce music-related contents. Even if it’s not purely a music-focused content, it’s important to include an element of music in it. Even if the anime became a hit, the next production time-frame would at least be 2-3 years later. The only ways to fill that periodical gap are through mobile games and live shows. This is where the inclusion of music is important. There’s barely anyone who’d see the same movie 100 times, but there are people who’d listen to the same song 100 times. There is also this sense of affinity between events or live shows and smartphones.
—I think that point you’re making doesn’t only apply to the current state of the industry, but was also held with high regard in older works.
Kidani: That’s not true. Back when I was still in my previous company (Broccoli Co., Ltd.), we also held live shows and released music CD’s, but music itself wasn’t really considered as much of a business opportunity. When I think about it now, we should’ve focused more on it back then.
—In terms of stage plays, there was also “Galaxy Angel”. (Note: Broccoli’s media mix project.)
Kidani: That’s right. However, I think Starlight will be known as “the project which serves as an opportunity for men to see stage plays”. If you ask men in their thirties, “Have you ever seen a stage play?”, most of them will probably say no. However, they should notice something when seeing the Starlight live. “Wait, since in Starlight, the performers come down the stage while they’re singing, isn’t this somewhat similar to the events I used to attend?” That’s what I thought when I saw the audience’s delighted faces during last June’s stage play (Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight 1st Star Live Starry Sky), as if they were saying, “Wow, are they really coming down the stage? Is this real!?”
—As a franchise centered around music, how would you like the BanG Dream! project to develop in the future?
Kidani: I really want BanG Dream! to be like “Gundam”. I want it to last for 40-50 years and beyond. That’s why we decided to take an universal approach with the story. Even if Kasumi and her friends were to graduate in the story, they would still continue doing their band activities even as they enter college and eventually become working adults. And maybe, they would come back to the Hanasakigawa Girls’ High School and make a guest appearance as the original cast one day. I really want it to be a long-lasting story like that.
—So the universal approach is very important for the story.
Kidani: I guess so. I think that’s the reason why BanG Dream! which has a clear objective in mind is similar to Gundam, while Starlight is similar to Evangelion.
—This is the last question, but is there something you want to do in the future? It doesn’t have to be related to BanG Dream!.
Kidani: Let’s see… There are some things I’m currently working on, but I still can’t talk about it. Most of the pieces are already in place, though, and it’s only a matter of polishing them. We’d like everyone to wait and expect new things to be announced in due time.