If you’re an anime fan, chances are you’ve already heard the upbeat and unique sound of Japanese pop group Momoiro Clover Z. Their music has been the theme song for hugely popular anime series like Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (2014), Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ (2015) and Pokémon (2012), just to name a few.
But, that’s not all they’ve done. The band has already had over a decade of successes. From collaborations with American rock band KISS to being handpicked by Lady Gaga herself to open for her Japan show, they’re not stopping anytime soon.
Composed of four members, Momota Kanako, Tamai Shiori, Sasaki Ayaka and Takagi Reni, Momoiro Clover Z celebrated their 15th anniversary this year with the release of “MONONOFU NIPPON,” or Japanese Warrior. The song is an anthem of Japanese culture, as well as a celebration of their fans who are called Mononofu (モモノフ), which means warrior or samurai.
For both fans and new listeners, EnVi Media had an e-mail interview with the band to learn more about how they’ve kept motivated for so long, what it took to put together their newest epic music video, and what people can still look forward to in their music.
Fighting With Swords and Eating Rice Balls
With the fire blazing in the background of the music video and the band members being flanked by an army of powerful women, the band took being warriors seriously and part of this meant training in martial arts. “I practiced a bit of martial arts. We were carefully taught and filmed in between shows,” Momota shared.
To truly pull off the charismatic stunts, the other members Tamai, Sasaki, and Takagi said they all practiced sword fighting – to various degrees of confidence. “I had been practicing sword fighting beforehand, but I was very nervous,” Sasaki said.
Tamai felt the same, and she said, “The theme was Japanese female generals, so I tried my best to look like a strong woman.” They certainly pulled it off, as the video features shot after shot of the girls fighting off their enemies fearlessly amidst a woodland battleground.
As for the members’ favorite parts, the ending battle scene certainly stood out, with Momota, Tamai, and Takagi agreeing that it was one of their most memorable moments. However, each member pinpointed a personal special moment.
“I also love the dance scene in Shibuya, which turned into a battlefield, although I really like the sword fighting scene as well. It has a lot of intensity,” said Tamai.
“Personally, I love the scene with the giant rice ball!” said Takagi. For those who might’ve missed it, her character was introduced in the music video while holding a comically large rice ball.
Sasaki took a different approach, pointing out the different makeup they tried to accurately portray the rugged warrior look. In fact, she had even contributed to the discussion on what kind of eyeliner they could do.
“I like the makeup because it’s different and harder than usual, which is cool. I decided on what kind of eyeliner style that would be suitable for the look with my make-up artist while researching!” Sasaki said.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work For 15 Years and Counting
On the topic of collaboration, it should be noted that this track also features guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei. This is his second collaboration with the group since their first song together “Saraba, Itoshiki Kanashimitachi Yo” nearly a decade ago in 2012. In addition, the powerful choreography was created by the Power Puff Boys, a male dance group who have previously worked with other Japanese artists like SEKAI NO OWARI and ano.
“I got instantly thrilled and even more motivated when I heard Mr. Hotei’s guitar. As for Power Puff Boys, I feel like the dance in this shoot is the most intense we’ve ever done. The choreography, unique to the Power Puff Boys, is full of fun and humor, making it really enjoyable to dance to,” said Momota.
Sasaki revealed more about the collaboration process, saying that the band had actually completed their parts before Tomoyasu Hotei stepped in. Yet, it all blended together into the riveting final piece. “We recorded our parts before Mr. Hotei added his guitar, so when his guitar was included and the final product was completed, I was really impressed by how cool it became and how much it powered up the sound. It’s been 10 years since we first started working together, and I am truly grateful and happy that we can still create works like this together,” said Sasaki.
Even with their many years of experience, the band continues to grow. In this comeback, the Power Puff Boys had opened the band’s eyes to new dance horizons. “The Power Puff Boys are truly bright and adorable, and I had so much fun with them from the rehearsals onwards. However, the choreography was really challenging, and it took some time for my body to get used to it,” said Sasaki.
So, how do they all stay motivated? It’s even surprising for the band members themselves, but their simple answer is their fans, as well as live performances that allow Momoiro Clover Z to feel the energy and their passion of performance.
“My motivation comes from our fans. I never imagined that we would continue for 15 years, so I’m surprised myself,” said Momota. Tamai echoed this, saying, “The live performances and interacting with fans are really motivating.”
More than anything, it’s just been fun to be able to work for so long doing what they love.
“I find it still unbelievable that I have been able to continue this activity for 15 years, but I am incredibly proud. The support from our fans and the presence of the other members always motivate me. I also value the fact that I genuinely enjoy the work and hold onto the feeling of having fun,” Tamai said.
“The secret to maintaining my motivation is that I genuinely enjoy performing live, so I haven’t really thought too much about it. While there are certainly challenging moments, there are also a lot of enjoyable moments,” Sasaki said.
This is Momoiro Clover Z
Out of all their discography, there are just some songs that truly define Momoiro Clover Z. For Momota and Takagi, they both recommend “MONONOFU NIPPON.”
“Definitely ‘MONONOFU NIPPON’ because it represents not only Momoclo but also the Japanese idol culture as a whole with scenes like the call and response parts,” Takagi said.
However, Momota and Sasaki also agreed that “Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo” is a representative song. It was their first major-label debut single and is supposed to be a sort of “business card” introduction for the band. The song also made appearances in the Just Dance! and The iDOLM@STER video games.
If you’re looking for even more of their music after MONONOFU NIPPON, Tamai recommends “Nippon Egao Hyakkei,” or “Hundreds of Japanese Smiles.” It is a humorous song with elements of Japanese folk music, and captures the band’s silliness that can be found with J-pop artists.
“If I were to recommend a song for everyone overseas to listen to, I think this would be it. It conveys the essence of being a Japanese idol group through the music, and the fast-paced rap-like parts and dialogues are unique to our songs,” Tamai said.
And, for their final words to fans, the members most emphasized that it would be fun to do the call and response in “MONONOFU NIPPON” with their listeners, domestically and worldwide.
Momota: “Please watch and listen to the music video! Let’s dance together!”
Tamai: “If you learn the calls to this song together, you can get more excited when you hear it live, so please listen to it a lot and shout it out!”
Sasaki: This song is packed with the coolness of Japan, our cuteness, and the joy of music! We would be thrilled if you could learn the “Nippon Popon” call and do it together with us!
Takagi: I truly hope this song will be heard by many people across the seas!
Looking for more Japanese artists to add to your playlist? Check out our exclusive interview with band I Don’t Like Mondays here!