Our interview with the Non Non Biyori star ends with a hail Mary that gets answered.

As some of you may have noticed, our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa often rocks a T-shirt with the word “nyanpasu” written across the front.

As with a lot of the things he does, the reason is anime-related. See, before the fateful day when he became a SoraNews24 writer, Seiji went through a period where he was without a job and without a purpose. While he was trying to figure out what to do with his life, the laid-back anime comedy Non Non Biyori was an emotional salve for him, and especially character Renge Miyauchi, who greets her friends with the made-up phrase “nyanpasu,” a garbled semi-mashup of the Japanese words for “meow” and “good morning.”

So when Seiji landed the plum assignment of interviewing Kotori Koiwai, the anime voice actress who plays Renge, you might expect him to throw on his nyanpasu T-shirt once again.

▼ Kotori Koiwai

However, Seiji already has a go-to outfit he wears when interviewing stars of the entertainment industry. Or, more accurately, he simply slips on the normal clothing of the spirit that possesses him

…the spirit of legendary Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen.

▼ The spirit also compels Seiji to do Yngwie’s signature pose

It might seem strange, but Seiji has learned that when you hear the voice of a rock god in your head, you don’t fight it. “Hey, the light’s changed and you can cross the street now,” Yngwie’s voice told Seiji, so he stood back up, crossed the street, and walked into the office of Eisys in Tokyo’s Akihabara district.

Eisys manages digital media site DLsite, whose new anime-illustration accompanied ASMR endeavor Kotoneiro stars Koiwai in its first episode. Looking around the lobby and remembering how much he’s spent on DLsite content, Seiji couldn’t help but feel like he’d partially paid for the building, and so he felt at home enough for another Yngwie pose.

Shortly after being led into a conference room, there was a knock on the door, and Koiwai herself entered!

Face-to-face with one of his very favorite anime voice actresses, Seiji wondered how he should start off the interview (ordinarily this is something an interviewer is supposed to do before arriving on site, but planning ahead was never our strong suit). He could have asked her something about Kotoneiro, or maybe Non Non Biyori’s upcoming third season which is scheduled to premiere this winter. Or he could go the emotional appeal route, starting with a heartfelt thankyou for the positive effect her voice had on him during troubled times.

But instead he went with “So, do you like Yngwie?”

To which Koiwai responded…

“Yeah, I sure do!”

The conversation was already off to the best start ever for one of Seiji’s interviews. In retrospect, maybe he should have expected Koiwai to be familiar with Yngwie’s musical stylings, since in addition to being a voice actress she’s also in a band called Dual Alter World (DAW), which she formed with Ryu, the guitarist from J-metal unit Blood Stain Child.

All of Seiji’s pre-interview nervousness washed away. “There’s no way someone who likes Yngwie could be anything but a super-nice person,” he thought, to which he could hear Yngwie’s voice reply “Right?”

With that, it was time to pivot to questions about Koiwai’s latest work.

Seiji: So, Kotoneiro is an ASMR series, right? How is that different from a regular voice acting project?

▼ Mirin Okuike, the kind and beautiful tutor that Koiwai plays in Kotoneiro

Koiwai: ASMR is a method for creating a pleasant, tingling sensation in the brain through sound and sight. When recording, we used a binaural microphone, which is a kind of microphone that looks like you’re talking directly into a person’s ear. For this project, we went with a particularly high-end model, the Neumann KU-100.

Koiwai: It gives an amazing sense of depth to the sound. It feels like the sound wraps all the way around the listener’s head, from the back to the front.

Seiji: That’s how it felt when I listened to Kotoneiro with earphones. I could feel even small changes in position from the sound as it moved from right to left. It really felt like someone was whispering into my ear.

Koiwai: Exactly! It’s like you can feel the other person’s body heat even. What makes ASMR so interesting is how the sense of sound creates sensations that aren’t possible in reality, giving it an appeal that’s beyond even the real thing.

Seiji: It really felt like the tutor you voice was right there in the room with me.

But as soon as Seiji said that, a realization struck him. The voice of the character really was there in the room with him, so this was a rare opportunity for a live ASMR performance!

Koiwai was enthusiastically into the idea, so she prepared a few props to recreate the study session and beverage break from her Kotoneiro episode.

She even replicated the moving-sound sensation, passing a cup of soda water behind Seiji’s head while whispering “bubble bubble bubble.”

▼ Stereo effect

With the illusion set up, Seiji started jotting down notes on a piece of paper, while his “tutor” offered aural praise and encouragement.

“You have such nice penmanship.”

Even when she wasn’t forming complete words, Seiji was treated to the sound of her murmuring approval and quietly but distinctly breathing.

“Mmm…yes…that’s right…keep it up…”

It all felt very nice…so nice, in fact, that Seiji couldn’t concentrate on his studies! He was only able to regain his composure with another Yngwie pose.

▼ Being a fellow fan, Koiwai understood the impulse.

Seiji: Pardon me. Now, for Kotoneiro, you weren’t only a voice actress. You’re a producer too, right?

Koiwai: Yes. I’m involved in casting, microphone selection, and script supervision. There’s a scriptwriter who writes the initial drafts, then we work together on the revisions, keeping in mind what sort of script will draw out the best performance from the voice talent.

▼ The second Kotoneiro episode stars voice actress Aimi (pictured left)

That pretty much wrapped things up for Seiji, but Yngwie still had some unfinished business. Now that the rocker’s spirit knew that Koiwai was a fan, he couldn’t just let Seiji go home without giving her a performance, could he?

So Seiji cranked up his amp, grabbed his pick, and put his heart and soul into a cover of “Far Beyond the Sun.” And how did Koiwai react?

With passion and gusto that rivaled Seiji’s own!

▼ The concert begins

“That was lovely!” Koiwai told him, in stark contrast to the awkward silence that usually follows Seiji’s interview-ending musical performances.

And yet, Yngwie’s spirit still wouldn’t let our reporter leave, because he knew there was one more question that he wanted to ask. “Go on, ask her,” Yngwie commanded, and so Seiji complied, even though he knew the answer was going to be no.

Seiji: So, umm…would you be willing to let me join your band?

Koiwai: Sure!

Seiji: Yeah I know it was a silly question. Sorry for…

Wait, WHAT?!?!?!?

Seiji was honestly shocked. Pretty much every time he and Yngwie go to interview someone, he ends the conversation by asking if they want to make music together, but this is the very first time anyone has ever told him yes!

As for when Seiji will make his debut with DAW, and whether it’ll be in a live-on-stage or remote-recorded capacity, we’re not sure, but the band’s next concert is coming up on November 29 at the Ebisu Liquid Room club in Tokyo, so maybe we’ll be able to see/hear Seiji there.

Related: Kotoneiro
Top image: SoraNews24
Insert images: SoraNews24, Eisys
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