“Things i☆Ris can only do” Paving the path as “voice actors” and “idols”  “Things i☆Ris can only do” Paving the path as “voice actors” and “idols”



i☆Ris is a five-member group that combines “voice acting” with “singing.” Though they celebrate their 12th year this year, i☆Ris has always faced challenges while seeking new ways to approach, as a group taking on both roles as voice actors and singers was unprecedented at the time of their debut. On May 17th, an animated film featuring i☆Ris, “i☆Ris the Movie - Full Energy !! -,” will be open to the public, marking the start of yet another unprecedented project. We talked to the leader of i☆Ris, Saki Yamakita aka “Sakisama”, Yuki Wakai aka “Wakachii”, and Akifumi Matsuoka, who is in charge of management at Avex Film Labels Inc., to look back on the past and to discuss the future prospects of i☆Ris.

“Things i☆Ris can only do” Paving the path as “voice actors” and “idols”

Challenging as the First Penguins
Moving on with contents, the progression of 12 years

Wakai "At the time of our debut, no one undertook both roles as voice actors and idols with full effort."

With a smile, Wakai recalls the environment they were in when they debuted and the struggles they faced.

Wakai "So, it was tough for us, but I think all the staff were also going through a hard time. It was kind of a start where we all fumbled around, not really knowing exactly how."

“Things i☆Ris can only do” Paving the path as “voice actors” and “idols”

Before the establishment of Avex Pictures Inc. (hereinafter referred to as API), where i☆Ris currently belongs, the group began as a project within a relatively small animation department within Avex Entertainment Inc. The debut of this unprecedented “voice acting idol group” was filled with high hopes and enthusiasm.

Wakai "We were clueless, but we could feel Avex’s way of passion or the vibe of ‘let’s try something fun no matter what.’"

Around two years have passed since the group's debut, i☆Ris grasps a hint to their ideology, reaching their first milestone.

All the members appeared as leading characters’ voices in the television animation “PriPara”, which is a related work of API, and i☆Ris was assigned to sing the opening theme song. All the members appeared as leading characters’ voices in the television animation “PriPara”, which is a related work of API, and i☆Ris was assigned to sing the opening theme song.

Yamakita "I felt like we were finally able to proudly call ourselves ‘voice acting idols.’ It was a time when we were beginning to see our ideal."

“Things i☆Ris can only do” Paving the path as “voice actors” and “idols”

Matsuoka "It was a time when i☆Ris was starting to feel a sense acknowledgment from fans of their performances, and I believe, as the company’s aspiration, we hoped for i☆Ris to grow alongside ‘PriPara’."

Through this work, i☆Ris saw the light of hope in the path of “moving on” with animation content.

Matsuoka "I think collaborating with animation was not considered as important back then as it is now. However, it has drastically expanded i☆Ris as a group. Nowadays, collaborating with animation content has become more common. From the company’s perspective, aiming to create bestseller IPs, I believe it is important to have a group that exists with ‘IP at its heart that is not just a standalone voice actor or artist.’"

And above all, synergizing with the power of content, they can deliver performances that move people’s heart deep and wide.

Matsuoka "The power of animation is truly amazing. There are times when the members of i☆Ris stand on stage as anime characters, and I definitely feel a different kind of energy compared to their live concerts. There is a special power that can only come to life through those characters."

“Things i☆Ris can only do” Paving the path as “voice actors” and “idols”

Expanding each other's possibilities, while blending their appeals and contents with strong harmony, i☆Ris discovered such method of progression in the midst of “fumbling,” and they have continued to advance to this day.

“No better time than now”
i☆Ris’ current position and the changes they have brought to the industries

The 5 members of i☆Ris celebrate their 12th years as idols, which is relatively long in the idol industry. With this experience, they have insights to share from their journey thus far.

“Things i☆Ris can only do” Paving the path as “voice actors” and “idols”

Wakai "These days, I have a strong desire to be an idol group where each member can honor one another. I can proudly say, ‘This is what’s amazing about her,’ and I believe being able to say that to each other is very important."

Yamakita "Since we all have been continuing for a long time, and every member have established their own foundation, when I see how far we have come, I believe our group spirit is the best it has ever been. Of course, not only do I want us to get along well but I want us to keep improving accordingly."

By acknowledging each other’s talents, they can freely amplify together. The rich experiences they have accumulated thus far have enabled them to comfortably live their roles as both voice actors and idols. Moreover, i☆Ris has become a place where they can count on.

Yamakita "Lately, I have been feeling more greatful towards the group i☆Ris more than ever before, and I sense that other members feel the same way. I also have this appreciation of ‘Thank you for continuing as a member’ emerging towards each and every member."

Yamakita describes this change in feeling as “mellowing out,” yet i☆Ris has been consistently “leveling up,” with each member gradually evolving. Then, on the other hand, how has the existence of i☆Ris brought changes to both the voice acting and idol industries?

Wakai "Today, there may be a new genre of ‘voice acting idols’ existing."

Matsuoka "Ever since i☆Ris’ debut, I assume there have been about 10 other voice acting singing groups emerging. Even if they do not follow the same style of voice acting idols, there has been an increase in idols trying out voice acting and participating in anime collaborations."

Yamakita "On top of that, I believe the fact that we can continue our movement for this long serves as an inspiration to both industries."

Wakai and Matsuoka nodded in agreement.

“Things i☆Ris can only do” Paving the path as “voice actors” and “idols”

Yamakita "When I auditioned at 21 years old, I already had this thought that by combining being both an idol and a voice actor, I could have a long career! (laughs) At the time, I hoped to work for at least 10 years, and now it has been 12 years."

The 12 years of paths they have been paving since their debut were ones they were destined to follow. But at the same time, as pioneers, i☆Ris embarked yet another unprecedented project. Having advanced and grown alongside animation content, their bold plan was to “become an animated film” themselves.

By continuing to do what only i☆Ris can do,
becoming the ones leaving their mark on history

The animated movie, “i☆Ris the Movie - Full Energy !! -” is a new sensation movie where reality and fantasy intertwine, featuring all the members as anime characters and voicing themselves. As a crowning project to commemorate i☆Ris’ 10th anniversary, the movie is finally released nationwide in theaters in May 2024.

“Things i☆Ris can only do” Paving the path as “voice actors” and “idols”

(C)Avex Pictures/81Produce/Full Energey!! Partners

Wakai "Just before the project started up, we had a chance to have a serious discussion with the company, including the board members. We spoke frankly about our desire to liven things up somehow and expressed our interest in collaborating with animations. Then they responded that they ‘understood,’ and a few days later, they mentioned ‘creating i☆Ris into an anime.’ I was taken aback by that unexpected turn of events! (laughs)."

Everyone laughs, but there was an extraordinary thought process behind the API.

“Things i☆Ris can only do” Paving the path as “voice actors” and “idols”

Wakai "But then later on, after hearing their passionate feelings about wanting to leave something behind as a commemoration, for the bond between i☆Ris and the fans, I felt really happy that we were loved and wanted to make a great movie."

Yamakita "I truly feel the same way. Besides that, being depicted as an animated 2D Saki Yamakita means that I have earned eternal youth. So, I was also like yesss! (laughs)."

Voice acting themselves in a movie about their achievements as an idol group – a very fitting challenge for i☆Ris.

Yamakita "I think it was a perfect project for i☆Ris, and I do not think anyone else could have done it."

“Things i☆Ris can only do” Paving the path as “voice actors” and “idols”

Matsuoka "It was certainly something only i☆Ris could do, and simultaneously, we could say that it was a task unique to API that has the functions of both animation production and management. It is a challenge, but considering we have never heard of an idol group having an anime feature film and also appearing as voice actors in it, I thought it was worth a try."

Matsuoka continues to emphasis the significance of pursuing such challenges.

Matsuoka "As we progressed for 12 years, I feel that if we kept on doing the same thing over and over again, the fans will eventually leave no matter what. By launching unprecedented projects like ‘i☆Ris becoming an animation,’ I think we could not only entertain our current fans but also rekindle the interest of previous fans who once supported i☆Ris in the past. I am glad that, through the animated film, we could deliver how i☆Ris is today to those who are getting to know us for the first time and to those who used to be fans. That is why it is always important to keep on challenging ourselves. Indeed, there will be many obstacles to overcome, but I want to cherish the attitude of giving it a try."

“Things i☆Ris can only do” Paving the path as “voice actors” and “idols”

With this 12-year milestone as a checkpoint, i☆Ris will continue on their journey.

Matsuoka "Since we have come this far, I want them to become a legend, so that when people think of voice acting idols, they think of i☆Ris."

Yamakita "Oh, that sounds good!”

Wakai "I want i☆Ris to be a benchmark for people who will debut in the future."

Matsuoka "It is true that there is an increase amongst young people who say they want to ‘become like i☆Ris’ at their auditions, which means we are now in a position to be looked up to. We would like to continue taking on challenges that others have not ventured before as much as possible, to leave a mark on history."

“Things i☆Ris can only do” Paving the path as “voice actors” and “idols”

(Photo from left)
Saki Yamakita

Avex Animation Labels Inc.
Akifumi Matsuoka

Yuki Wakai

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