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Kenichiro Nagao Meets Tentenko : A conversation on creation between two grown-up kids

Tentenko joined the Toy’s Factory record label in June 2016, and released her first mini-album, Kogyo seihin in December. Her music videos for “Kuruma” and “Jiro” were released recently, and both are making waves. Here, Tentenko and Kenichiro Nagao, the manga artist who served as the videos’ art director, reveal the secrets behind their production!

Text_ Neo Iida Editing_ Kentaro Okamura Photography_ Ryuichi Taniura

Tentenko joined the idol group BiS in 2013, and moved on to a solo career with the breakup of BiS in 2014. Alongside her multifaceted efforts, which include DJing as well as designing her own merchandise, Tentenko’s new music videos are attracting plenty of attention.

The videos for “Kuruma” and “Jiro” were released in quick succession following the December 14th, 2016 release of Tentenko’s first mini-album, Kogyo seihin. The “Kuruma” video, set largely inside a car, features high-end cinematography and an off-kilter, suspense movie-style feel. In contrast, the video for “Jiro” could be called the complete opposite of that, expressing a pop worldview with imagery reminiscent of a children’s educational show.

Serving as art director on both videos is the manga artist Kenichiro Nagao, known for works such as Oshare techo and Galaxy ginza, as well as the unfinished Cream Soda City. Even before this, Nagao had deep connections with the music world, as evidenced by his work on projects such as the cover of World’s End Girlfriend’s YUDECHANG EP, and his co-production of group_inou’s “ORIENTATION” video with the video production duo AC-bu.

How did Nagao, who has been solely responsible for Tentenko’s visuals at Toy’s Factory, approach these videos? We got the inside story.

The pair, who have been called “avant-garde,” met at a panel discussion event

–How did the two of you meet?

Kenichiro Nagao (below, “Nagao”): In December 2015, there was a release event for a certain manga artist’s special book. Tentenko and I were both invited as guests, and we first met there.

Tentenko (below, “Tenko”): At that event, where topics were given and we had a panel discussion, with manga artists all around me, it was like, why am I the only idol…? My seat that day was next to Mr. Nagao’s.

Nagao: I was so tired at the event, I was resting my head on Ms. Tenko’s shoulder, touching her hair, staring at her ear. In other words, I was doing sexual harassment-type things (laughing). And her fans were grinding their teeth… (laughing).

–What happened from there that led to you starting to work together?

Nagao: After that event ended, I got some recorded music from Ms. Tenko, and I was listening to it a lot on the train. It was a CD of Harumenzu covers. Then, at one point I got an email from Ms. Tenko, asking me, “Mr. Nagao, would you do a little art direction for me?”

Tenko: In the winter of 2015 it was decided that I would be joining Toy’s Factory. When the details were being worked out, I was asked, “Is there someone you would like to ask to do things like your artist photos and album covers?” At that moment, the first name to come into my mind was Mr. Nagao’s. It wasn’t just me; people on staff at Toy’s Factory were thinking the same thing.

Nagao: It’s an honor. I had actually been wanting to do something like production for an idol for years. So, dreams do come true. Oh, and this is just something I want to say to all the Tenko fans, but I’ve never done any sexual harassment-type things since I became her art director (laughing)!

Tenko: The cover and video for Hokago Sympathy, which was my first release after joining Toy’s Factory, were done by Mr. Nagao. I also got Mr. Nagao to do the artist photos.

The “Kuruma” video, overflowing with suspense vibes

Tenko: “Kuruma” is very fully-realized for a music video. We used nice cameras.

Nagao: Yeah. It was done with a super slow-mo camera. Doesn’t it have that sort of studied atmosphere you see in a lot of suspense movies? It’s the kind of thing you know was shot in a studio. They’re techniques that are used a lot in Hitchcock and Godard films, but I really loved them. So I wanted to express that atmosphere. I tried to emulate Cindy Sherman.

–So, it was filmed in a studio.

Nagao: That’s right. In terms of plot, there’s a murder taking place in a car, but you can’t tell if it’s actually reality or a dream.

Tenko: I watched some Kiyoshi Kurosawa movies, and said vaguely that I wanted to shoot it in a car. On a fake background, there’s an air of shadiness going around, but the people who show up are excited by it… I was thinking that sort of wacky worldview was cool. The scene with the bird flying was shot outside, but it was pretty atmospheric, right?

Nagao: On “Kuruma,” the noisy sounds from Eye from Boredoms are so cool. Eye is sort of the final boss of culture in Japan, and I was delighted to be able to meet him, the setting being what it was. On a personal level, it actually felt like a showdown.

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