In recent years, there have been more and more Japanese celebrities and TV personalities who publicly reveal that they love anime. I’m pretty sure they are all telling the truth, but the amount of love varies from person to person. Nevertheless, there is probably no one who loves anime more than this man does: Yuki Iwai from the comedian duo Haraichi.
He is well known for having been one of the finalists on M-1 Grand Prix, the famous manzai (two-man comedy act) competition. He also works as a TV and radio personality on many programs, and has hosted various events.
Meanwhile, he also hosts his own program on Nico Nico Live Stream, titled ‘Haraichi Iwai Yuki no Ani-Ban (Haraichi Yuki Iwai’s Anime Ranking)’, and he shares his opinions on all of the currently airing anime series. On his Twitter, he makes posts about not only the TV programs on which he is to make an appearance, but also about anime and smartphone games.
There may also be people who have seen him on the TV program Nakai no Mado (Nakai’s Window). One time on this show, Iwai was wearing an Otoya Ittoki parka, a character from Iwai’s beloved anime Uta no Prince-sama. It was very interesting how he passionately spoke about the charms of BL (Boys Love) works and about various anime on the program.
During the program, he commented, ‘In recent TV dramas or in our everyday lives, love affairs and stolen love have become trending topics, and it’s starting to get boring. However, the love in BL anime is very pure and much more interesting.’ Because of this sensational comment, many otaku praised him via Twitter.
However, there haven’t been many interviews with Iwai that focus mainly on his love towards anime. Why does he love anime so much, and why is he into BL? He must have strong feelings and ideas about these topics, and there may be something we can learn from his anime tastes.
Therefore, our friends at KAI-YOU conducted an interview with Iwai, right after the recording of the 1st Anniversary Commemoration Program for video distribution service Animate Channel.
Interview/Article: Kento Hasegawa, Photograph: Kento Hasegawa and Yuki Kawano
30 Anime in 1 Cour! The Anime-Lover’s Soul which originates from Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
──On Haraichi Iwai Yuki no Ani-Ban, you make rankings of currently airing anime. How long do you watch anime on a daily basis?
Yuki Iwai ‘I usually first watch up to the third episode of all the new anime. There are approximately 40 anime series that start in one season, right? I rarely stop watching an anime in the middle, so I end up watching about 25 to 30 series each season. I always watch it at home. For quite a while, I haven’t properly gotten ready for bed. I’m always sleeping by the time I realize it [laugh].’
──I’m sure you feel you have to watch anime to talk about them on your show, but do you often feel ‘Yes! I really want to watch that!’?
Iwai ‘Yes, I do. I feel annoyed when I can’t watch an episode of a good anime during its airing time. You can feel the heat of the anime, such as what was good about it and what was trending among the fans, only at that moment. You can’t feel this energy if you just watch the episodes later all at once. I don’t want to lose the feeling that I had when I was watching Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo every week when I was in high school.’
──Gankutsuou is an anime from 2004, right? When did you start watching anime in the first place?
Iwai ‘I think it was when I was in fifth or sixth grade. My father used to be a soccer coach, and I used to play soccer. At the time, J-League was gaining popularity and there were many TV broadcasts of soccer games, so on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. I had to watch soccer when my friends were all watching Dragon Ball.
I was getting pretty frustrated about how I couldn’t understand what my friends were talking about. That’s why my feelings exploded when I got in the upper grades of elementary school. I started watching anime before going to soccer practice in the morning, or I would watch it late at night.
I watched many other anime aside from Dragon Ball. I was also watching Magical DoReMi (Ojamajo Doremi), Yume no Crayon Oukoku, and The Adventures of Nadja (Ashita no Nadja). I have a younger sister and she used to read the manga magazine Ribon, so I read it too. At the time, I think the magazine serialized Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne (Phantom Thief Jeanne) and Kero Kero Chime.
When I was in middle school, I joined the club team in Urawa rather than joining the school’s soccer club, so whenever I got off at Omiya station before going to Urawa, I would go to Animate and check to see if there were any new character goods.’
──I just remembered how I used to go to Animate in Kichijoji. I bought goods such as pencil boards.
Iwai ‘Me too. I bought key chains to put on my pencil case. Also, when I was in middle school, I loved to read light novels. When Kouhei Kadono’s Buggiepop wa Warawanai got an anime adaptation, I recorded them on video, being careful not to get caught by my parents.’
──So, one day in high school, you had an encounter with Gankutsuou.
Iwai ‘I got really into it. I watched all 24 episodes and recorded them all on video. The story was really good, and I loved the unique anime technique which looked like collages. And come to think of it, Gankutsuou is a BL too.’
The Desire Everyone has to Cheer for Boys
Iwai ‘There is this character named Franz, who dies protecting the protagonist. The viewer later finds out that Franz loves the protagonist very much. Moreover, Franz even had a very lovely fiance, but he cannot love her from the bottom of his heart, as he is in love with the protagonist. At the time, it was very surprising to me. I was like, “Wait, they are both boys, right?”
It was very rare for a TV anime to have BL aspects those days, so I felt, “Wow, anime can do anything,” and I experienced some sort of a culture shock.’
──Is that why you did not feel any hesitation to read and watch BL works?
Iwai ‘To put it simply, the topic of BL was not so important to me. I just loved anime so much that the urge to watch anime became stronger than anything [laugh]. I think many boys feel hesitation in watching anime with only male characters.
However, I pretty much watch any type of anime, so I first watched BL without holding any stereotypes. Then I realized that the story was rather interesting. I first got into watching Junjo Romantica, and next, I started watching Uta no Prince-sama. From then on, I completely opened up to BL.’
── What are the feelings you have when watching BL anime or male voice actors on TV?
Iwai ‘For example, there are always many male fans at concerts for Johnny’s idol groups, right? I don’t think all of those fans are thinking that they want to become like those idols. They probably just feel, “Wow, they’re cool, and they are so talented!” I think my feelings are similar to that. I want to watch people who have talents that I don’t have, and I want to hear their voices.
So, it’s not that I’m sexually attracted to them. I’m sure not every female fan of Korean celebrities wants to have a romantic relationship with Bae Yong-joon. It’s similar to that [laugh].
I personally believe that girls have the desire to cheer for boys. Many girls scream with joy watching cute idol groups, and they even cheer for comedians who are acting like they are cool [laugh]. I think that I have those similar desires towards male voice actors, and I might have been gradually releasing these desires recently.
Don’t Mind the Comments from Non-Anime Lovers
──Did that ‘desire’ become the trigger to make a collaboration CD with male voice actors?
Iwai ‘I like to play otome games which feature male idol groups or various male characters, so I wanted to create something new by adding my original element. Then, I thought that it might be interesting if there were male characters who are gesu (crude and vulgar).
It seems that girls these days are not very attracted to ordinary or pure boys.
The other day, when I was talking with viewers of Kuzu no Honkai (Scum’s Wish), I found out that Narumi Kanai, a.k.a. the Onii-chan, who is such a kind and gentle character, is the least popular among girls. Although he loves Akane in such a respectful way, he’s still unpopular with fans. I guess nowadays girls only feel attracted to characters who are strange and peculiar in some way.’
──So, that’s how the characters were created for ‘Gesu-Oto’. I’ve heard the sample, and it made my heart pound.
Iwai ‘The voice actors are so good at playing their roles, so even men would feel their heart beating faster.’
──Maybe we just don’t know it, but everyone including men can have such feelings. You may be the first one to let everyone know this fact.
Iwai ‘Yeah, maybe. It’s not like I want to have relationships with boys, but I like to forget that I’m a man, and just think, “This guy is cool” from a neutral perspective. I think I have a rather neutral way of watching BL anime, so I want to tell everyone how entertaining those anime are.’
──Although not a BL anime, I read on your Twitter that you watched Kimi ni Todoke (From Me to You) over and over again.
Iwai ‘Yes, I can watch that anime a thousand times, really. I’ve seen it so many times that now I can even say the lines with the characters. I remember them all.’
──Which character do you empathize with more: Sawako, the protagonist, or her crush, Kazehaya?
Iwai ‘Up to the third episode, I was fascinated by how cute Sawako was, but now, I feel that Kazehaya is cuter [laugh]. He is just so cute. I concluded that this anime is all about the cuteness of Kazehaya.
──Listening to your thoughts, I have realized that you can enjoy many anime because you have such a neutral perspective. For today’s recording of Animate Channel, you got the chance to work with the voice actors from Maji Kyun. I heard that you were so excited to meet them that you watched all the episodes once again in advance. How was the actual recording?
Iwai ‘I’ve met Yuki Ono before, but today, because he came as the voice actor of Rintarou, it made me feel something different from usual. Although Ono was the one standing there, I saw him as Rintarou, so it was like meeting him for the first time [laugh]. I tend to convert voice actors into 2D characters inside my head.
I sometimes think deeply about this, but I want to make it clear that I am just a fan of anime. Whenever I say that I’m a fan of a male character, people who do not watch anime say things like, “That’s a boy. You’re a man and you like boys?”
However, my opinion is that the people who say that anime characters are “boys” are the ones mixing up 2D and 3D worlds. I mean, I don’t like boys in reality, you know.’
──You do have a point there. The desire to cheer for boys and the strong feeling for the male characters are completely separate from reality.
Iwai ‘If you ask a man who loves going to Johnny’s idol concerts if they are gay, I’m sure many of them would say, “What are you talking about?” The exact same thing goes for anime [laugh].’
──If everyone has that mentality of yours, many men would be able to enjoy watching BL works and listening to male voice actors without feeling hesitation.
Iwai ‘I don’t think people have to mind about anything when enjoying those things. That’s my mentality when I’m watching anime.