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Go multi-dimensional! ‘Unite!’ Voice actors sing and dance on real stages in the same groups as their characters

The Yomiuri Shimbun
From left: voice actor and pop idols Masa, Kikunosuke Toya and Magura Sukegawa

Voice acting for the TV anime “UniteUp!” have formed boy bands in the real world, where they sing and dance just like their characters.

The main character of the anime – which premiered in January last year – is Akira Kiyose, a high school student whose singing catches the attention of a talent agency called sMiLea Production. The agency was founded by the legendary idol group Anela, with the aim of discovering the next generation of idols. Akira forms a boy band called Protostar with two other members. They take singing and dancing lessons and follow in the footsteps of groups that have already made it, such as Legit and Jaxx/Jaxx, and dream of becoming famous idols one day.

Four boy bands – Protostar, Legit, Jaxx/Jaxx and Anela – appear in ‘UniteUp!’, although Anela has broken up in the story. Other three bands perform under the same name in the real world.

Our interviewees, Kikunosuke Toya, Magura Sukegawa and Masa, perform live in these groups.

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Photo by Tatsuya Shiraishi ©Project UniteUp!
A scene from sMiLea Live in July

In the anime, Toya voices Akira in Protostar; Sukegawa’s character, Daiki Takao, belongs to the dance-oriented boy band Legit; and Masa’s character, Gakuto Haruka, belongs to Jaxx/Jaxx.

Below is an excerpt from an interview with them.

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Q): Which memory stands out most in your UniteUp! activities?

Toya: At the AnimeJapan event in March, I sang and danced in front of an audience at Tokyo Big Sight for the first time. That was the first time I could really feel the crowd’s enthusiasm and hear their cheers.

Sukegawa: That was when the anime first aired. It was my first time being part of an anime production, so I had a sense of satisfaction seeing it reach TV audiences.

Masa: Our first solo live performance, called sMiLea Live, was in July. I’m a singer-songwriter, so it was my dream to sing on such a big stage.

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©Project UniteUp!
Kikunosuke Toya as Akira Kiyose
Ryotaro Yamaguchi as Banri Naoe
Amon Hirai as Chihiro Isuzugawa

Q: Please tell us the distinguishing features of your bands.

Masa: As the only group that plays their own instruments, Jaxx/Jaxx work very hard to create songs together.

Toya: Protostar had a lot of dance beginners. But as we practiced, we got better and better. I hope you can feel our growth when you watch us.

Sukegawa: I think Legit is the coolest. In the anime we have an annoying fight, but we are cool during the performance.

Q: What are the similarities and differences between you and the characters you portray?

Toya: I think I’m as energetic as Akira in his determination to become an idol. He puts a lot of effort and devotes himself to singing and dancing. I’m like that too. But I’m not like Akira when he becomes lethargic after quitting baseball. At his age, I had dreamed of being a comedian since high school.

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©Project UniteUp!
Magura Sukegawa as Daiki Takao
Shinnosuke Morikage as Eishiro Nijo
Ryuichiro Sakata as Fugue Togo

Sukegawa: Daiki’s competitive nature is something I relate to. I push myself for live performances so that we don’t lose to other groups. But I’m not aloof like Daiki.

Masa: I’m like Gakuto in that I’m cheerful and say positive things. He is a singer/songwriter and, like me, he is from Ehime Prefecture. But I’m getting even more depressed [than Gakuto] when I feel blue. However, I always believe that hitting rock bottom means we can really rise up.

Writing lyrics, music

Masa: I wrote “Joker” as Gakuto Haruka. I tried to leave aside the superficiality and convey the importance of my true feelings. I want the song to also touch people who don’t know the anime.

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©Project UniteUp!
Masa as Gakuto Haruka
Yuki Shimomae as Homare Katsura
Takumi Magoshi as Izumi Kashii
Kosei Tsubokura as Jun Wakasa
Gaku Takamoto as Kanata Morinomiya

Q: Tell me about “Eleven” which is sung by 11 members.

Sukegawa: Who would sing which parts was only determined later. I sang the entire song for the recording, but didn’t know what my role would be until I listened to the finished version. It was challenging in a way I had never thought of.

Toya: I really felt like I put a lot of passion into my chorus solo.

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©Project UniteUp!
Soma Saito as Lin Otsuki
Yoshiki Nakajima as Maoto Tsujido

Q: What do you want to focus on in the future?

Masa: Our strength is that we are a multi-dimensional entertainment group. I want to convey the appeal of both the cast members and the anime.

Toya: We need to develop not only our individual strengths, such as voice acting, singing or dancing, but also our weaknesses. For my part, I want to work harder on dancing and singing.

Sukegawa: Besides anime, I want to increase my competitiveness in every way possible – such as live performances and social media – and then connect them together.

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Unite! is a “multi-dimensional idol project” released by SonyMusic. The worlds of anime and reality are connected so that the voice actors of the anime characters can perform live. The anime aired on Tokyo MX and others last January. A sequel will be released this year.

The EP “Eleven” will be released on February 14 and the group will perform at the Lisani! Live Music Festival 2024 on January 27-28 at the Nippon Budokan. Another live performance will take place on April 14 at the Garden Hall in Meguro Ward, Tokyo.



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