Anime Expo Summer Fest 2023 was held at NOVO in Downtown Los Angeles in July and featured Japanese artists including Cö shu Nie, known for their music in Jujutsu Kaisen and Tokyo Ghoul, and Mili, known for their music in Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 and Goblin Slayer. Other performers included Yameii Online and Mii, and all gave an exciting performance that had the crowd energetic and excited. I have to give props to Mili singer Cassie Wei for wanting to continue her set after an accident that caused her to fall to the ground. The audience was relieved when it was announced that she was okay later that night.
Japanese pop and R&B singer Mirei was another performer at AX Summer Fest, and she highlighted the event with her beautiful singing voice that wowed the crowd, easily becoming one of the best singers of the night. This marks her second time performing in Los Angeles, and her first time was when she was just a teenager.
Mirei, also known as Touyama Mirei, made her debut with 2013’s “Fallin’ Out” and her Japanese debut in 2014’s double A-side single “Fallin’ Out” and “I Wanna NO” featuring Shun. In 2019, the artist made her U.S. debut under the name Mirei.
Nerd Reactor: During Summer Fest, you performed your ballads in the first half, and in the second half, it becomes more poppy and fun. Can you tell us about your ballads?
Mirei: Oh, I love to go deep. That’s always like the same as when I’m talking. I don’t know why, but I always go deeper. So like everyone makes fun of me like, “Are you drunk? Like it’s not 3 a.m.” If I talk deep then people always want to make fun of it. So I just prefer to go deep in music.
One of the songs you performed at the concert was “Lonely in Tokyo.” What was the inspiration behind that song?
Mirei: It was because I am in this entertainment industry since I was 15 years old, so I have a friend who’s also the same age as me and doing the idol and being in this industry. And I was listening to their stories, and that was super wrong and super different from what I experienced. I think it was so weird and I really want to change that, and that’s why I started to make the song “Lonely in Tokyo.”
Personally, I am in a kind of safe environment. I think it’s because I am a singer/songwriter. I am allowed to express my feelings and experience a lot. It’s my work, right? It’s my career and my fans want it. Like our conversation is like that. With my team it’s the same. But if it comes to idols then it’s a totally different story. They sing, but they sing to the lyric that someone wrote that is often by grown men, which is not relatable at all. And also they work sometimes to be swimwear with shoots that are inappropriate costumes for minors, and their standards will be tilted because of that. But that justice is for them, right? And I cannot say anything for them to say like, “That is so wrong. That’s rude.” And I want to respect them, but at the same time, I wanted to change the world.
You lived in New York for a year. How did that help you in expressing yourself in your songs?
Mirei: When I was in the States, I learned the importance of expressing everything, like to say things out loud. Because in Japan, it’s beautiful. There is a beauty of quiet and being quiet and dealing with it without saying anything. It’s like a beauty in Japan and I appreciate and respect it and I have that beauty in me too. But at the same time, if you are feeling wrong or if you’re getting hurt, then you have to say it out loud because no one will notice it without saying anything, right? I think that’s what I learned in the States for a year and that really affected my songs, especially in English because I am voicing out what I feel wrong and why I feel weird about it and totally singing what I felt.
There are cultural differences between the Japanese and American audiences. Are your English songs played in Japan?
Mirei: Actually, that is so interesting that people in Japan feels English content is something really cool, but it’s something not for them. They don’t take it too personal because they are not getting used to have something in second languages. Also culturally I think Japanese people have the mind that they are not good at English because the English education in Japan is so strict. They are getting stressed out by tiny, tiny, grammar mistakes. So people won’t notice that I am singing these kind of things. But to be honest, I have been in the industry since I was 15, but ‘Lonely in Tokyo” and ‘Take Me Away’ was released excluding Asian countries, and it’s because there are many reasons. But the main reason is that topics that we are dealing with is too deep for Japanese people. Just like when I talk about “Lonely in Tokyo,” there is kind of a systematic rejection towards some different weird opinion. Yeah. It happens.
For Anime Expo Summer Fest, was this your second time performing in Los Angeles?
Mirei: The first time was like 10 years ago. I was 14 years old. I was just doing what I can do. But this time my career is almost 10 years and I know so much about like everything. I lived more than 10 years since then, and I see people and I also released English songs and this was the first time that I did the mixture of Japanese and English releases. It was so fun and it made me so confident, more than how I did 10 years ago.
“Lolita Bonita” is a fun song where you dress like a school girl and mention hentai. We have to talk about this.
Mirei: I’m always making my songs with Zak Leever, who was on the same stage, and DJ Shiftee, the DJ in Brooklyn. While we were talking, I’m the one who always come up with the idea and I always bring that to them. In the pandemic, I was doing the live streaming called Mirei TV, and there were many good fans and I was enjoying it a lot, but at the same time, I kind of get weird fans too. I’m literally thinking I am not a cute thing to hold in the song, but there are some people trying to make me a cute thing to hold and they were like dmning and some stuff. They were weirdly obsessing over me, just for a week or something like that. I felt so weird about it but at the same time I kind of want to tease them and play with them. That’s how I made this song, “Lolita Bonita.”
I think that’s a bad idea teasing them some more. [Both laughs]. What’s next for you after this?
I’m preparing for the release in English and Japanese, and I’m still making Japanese songs. But for English, I already made like tons of songs. I’m so ready to release the album. But I’m just looking forward to the right timing. That will be a super personal thing of me such as my hometown and my family. And so that’s gonna be super hurtful and there are going to be super warm songs. And I’m planning to go on a U.S. tour. I feel so great and I’m so very confident about going on tour by the AX Summer Fest because I really loved it. Also, I’m going to tour outside Japan. So that’s going to be very global.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.