Yoko Ishida has been actively singing anime songs since her recorded debut in 1993, Sailor Moon R’s ED “Otomo no Policy.” She has sung songs for series as wide as Ai Yori Aoishi, Strike Witches, and most recently the first OP for Shirobako. At the Lantis Anisong Festival in Las Vegas, in addition to her own songs she also covered the Haruhi Suzumiya insert song “God Knows.”
When did you decide to sing anime songs?
When there was an anime singer contest. I auditioned for that–and won!
The Grand Prix 1990, right? What was your winning song?
The assigned song was from Maple Town. And the free song I chose was by Imai Miku.
What was like to prepare for your recording debut with “Otome no Policy” (the Sailor Moon R ED)?
At the vocal booth, I entered alone. It’s a solitary process, so when I record a vocal, I imagine that I’m singing in front of a huge audience.
Were you nervous?
I get nervous every time!
You’ve done a lot of songs. How do you choose which ones to do at each performance?
For example, like this performance in Vegas or elsewhere abroad, I choose whatever songs are popular in that local area. And I also take into account what songs fit in outdoor or indoor venues.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I don’t have any…[but] I love traveling abroad privately. Now I go abroad for work, but since I love traveling, I still feel happy.
Can you tell me which anime moved you emotionally?
My debut song was in Sailor Moon, but recently I was moved by Strike Witches. Those girls work so hard. They fight hard and build their friendship, and that kind of story moves me.
How do you translate those feelings into a performance?
Many times that the lyrics tells a story and the girl’s emotion, so when I sing, I put emotions into the lyrics, and I remind myself of the first scene [in the story], which raises the right emotions.
I love your opening for Shirobako, “Colorful Box.” Based on what you know, how realistic is that show in showing the anime production process?
The people I know in the industry say “oh yeah, that’s true, that happens!” when watching that show. So I think it’s close to reality.
What other anime you watching?
I don’t watch a lot recently, but I did enjoy watching Strike Witches.
Who is your first music love?
My mother loved old Japanese pop songs. Lyrics were sung very clearly in the old days, so now I sing lyrics very clearly too.
Do you plan to gamble tonight?
Yes, on the slot machines!
Are you feeling lucky?
Yes I will today, since I lost yesterday. (Laughs)
Michael Huang conducted the interview, with assistance by Jeremy Booth. Raymond Hu provided on-site translation. The full interview was translated by Rome Yamashita.