(2023) TRANSLATION | Airi Suzuki, the new "Azatokute nani ga warui no?" MC ! "I couldn't have been more nervous"

 写真・杉江拓哉 (TRON)

・You just finished your first recording for "Azatokute nani ga warui no?", how was it?
I got hungry the moment it was over (laughs). Like, all of my tension released. I've mostly met Ryota Yamasato as the MC when I was his guest for his music programs, so it was very strange for me to sit down with him as the same MC. The program staff encouraged me not to think too much about being the successor of the previous MCs and to just be myself, so I jumped right in. The most important part of a recording is how the audience perceives it. It's the same for all programs and productions, but there are times when it doesn't resonate with the audience even if the staff thought it was good, and vice versa. I take that as a learning experience !

How did you feel when you heard you were chosen to be the program's new MC?
I had been a viewer of this show since it was a special program even before it became a regular series, and I never imagined I would be sitting in the MC seat ! Besides, it was also the program that popularized the word "azatoi" (calculatingly cute) in the world, and the faces of Minami Tanaka and Ayaka Hironaka (the former MCs) immediately came to mind when you think of it. I couldn't have been more nervous in taking the baton. Looking back, I never really experienced being a "successor". I've been involved from the start in all the projects I'm participating in, so it was a new experience for me to join a program that had been built and protected by other peoples.

Both Tanaka and Hironaka have a strong presence, so it must've taken you a lot of determination to replace them.
As is the case with my anime songs covers, I was prepared for the fact that 80% of the reactions would be criticism. People always have what they consider to be the right thing in their minds. However, in the two years that I've been covering anime songs, I've also realized that the way you tackle something can make a big difference in how it is accepted by the audience. If you have respect for the anime and its theme songs, you can always express them in your own new way. In the case of this program, I have to do my best, but mustn't forget to respect the history of the program that the two former MCs have created.

Last year marked your debut's 20th anniversary. It seems as if you're still opening new doors even as your career progresses.
I feel it myself. It really feel like °C-ute's "Love take it all" lyrics that says "Tsugi no tobira hirakeba, mirai ga mieru" (If you open the next door, you will see the future) (laughs). It's strange, but first experiences and challenges come to me regularly in my life, and especially since I became a solo artist, opportunities have been falling on me from unexpected places. Since they often last for a long time, I try not to set very specific goals. If I have to have one, it's "health first"!

Does that give you more freedom to move?
I just have to make sure that I am ready to take any opportunity that comes my way. The rest is a matter of flexibility, or rather, just doing what I can. I've been offering a job as an MC for "NHK Classic TV" even though I didn't know much about classical music, and I've been offered a TV drama offer even with my poor articulation (laughs). Fortunately, I'm the type of person who is more motivated by new experiences. My desire to try new things really stimulates my curiosity. I rather prefer the unknown to what I can do and what I'm used to doing, so I am grateful for the opportunities I am constantly given, and I feel that I am being nurtured by this environment.