Juri Tanaka EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ‘ACMA:GAME’ actor and SixTONES rapper talks ambition, fate and focusing on the music

Juri Tanaka, ‘ACMA:GAME’ actor and SixTONES rapper talks ambition, fate and focusing on the music

In honor of Juri Tanaka’s 29th birthday, today we share an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with the performer discussing thoughts on his current drama and how he’d rather prove his worth than talk big dreams

Juri Tanaka, rapper/singer/dancer with rock-pop group SixTONES (pronounced ‘stones’) is as quietly ambitious as his ACMA:GAME (Prime) character. In an exclusive interview, he tells us about learning to act with a green screen, his love for manga and determination to continuously improve.

Referring to ACMA:GAME’s Ui Saito, Tanaka affirms, “We share the similar characteristic of a quietly ambitious person. In fact, it’s not just me – it’s all of us. Those who’ve only seen us in concert or on YouTube might not realize that we’re pretty chill. We don’t want to simply talk big about grand ambitions and dreams but rather show them through quiet, determined actions and real results.”

Ambitious and ready to grow, Tanaka had the opportunity to learn from well-versed actors, Shotaro Mamiya (Cinderallas of MidsummerPending Train) and Kotone Furukawa (Yu Yu HakushoPending Train) who played alongside him in this season’s fantasy drama ACMA:GAME.

The main thing I learned during ACMA:GAME was how to act alongside CGI. For multiple scenes, we had to use the power of imagination, groping our way through it. Both Mamiya-san and Furukawa-san helped me hone a sense of creative spontaneity to make the story really come to life before special effects were added. I had to trust my own instincts and emotions.”

Tanaka and Mamiya in ACMA:GAME streaming now on Prime. Photo provided by STARTO ENTERTAINMENT.

With such a big learning and the chance to further shape acting skills, what would Tanaka like to do next? In many of his previous roles, much like that of Ui Saito, he played smart, logical, self-controlled characters. “It would be fun to spice it up and play a role that allows me to express a more playful or mischievous character. He adds with a smile, “It would release some of the pent-up energy possessed by the actor in me.”

Thinking about pent-up energy, I wonder about favorite classics and characters he’d someday like to take on, overlaying his own interpretation. “I had just finished reading ACMA:GAME a few days before I received the offer. It was top-of-mind at that moment so I nearly fell over myself to respond with a big fat YES.”

Tanaka continues considering ‘someday’ with, “I still don’t have a lot of acting experience, relatively speaking, so I’d like to try everything to get a broad a perspective. That way I can be more particular down the line about what I (and my fans) might enjoy.”

A double package, not only did Tanaka join ACMA:GAME but SixTONES also delivered a song that you’ll easily spot as it makes an impact throughout each episode. “As an insert song to ACMA:GAME, ‘GONG’ is, of course, primarily meant to enliven the drama, but it also contains the rebellious, aggressive energy of SixTONES.”

PRIME DIRECTIVE

If you’re not yet counting yourself among the droves of international SixTONES fans, they’re not your typical J-pop group. With a more rock-based, Western aesthetic and mature attitude, they’re highly involved in and focused on the music first. Tanaka shares a bit about the group and what they’re aiming to build together.

“The six of us love to keep busy. We act in plays, model in magazines and have fun on variety/talk shows but the most important thing for us is to perform as a group. That’s what I’d consider our prime directive. We put a lot of thought and consideration into making good music and memorable performances.”

“As SixTONES, we’re ok to leave tomorrow to fate. Rather, we want to create fun and excitement for fans through our work. It doesn’t have to be something big; we just want to do SOMETHING every day with the hope that it gives people the motivation to do their best tomorrow or face the stress of the daily grind.”

IGNITING DESTINY

I’m intrigued by this idea of leaving fate to tomorrow, particularly since SixTONES is known for igniting its own destiny – choosing to align as a six-member group rather than being assigned as junior pop-stars typically begin.

“Totally opposite to my ‘quietly ambitious’ acting persona, all of us, have aggressive ambitions as a group, wanting to try new things. Especially when it comes to music. We’re always thinking about how to make a track better or level-up a live performance, even if only incrementally.”

“When we release music or tour, we want to be proud of the work and ensure our fans are proud to support us. Without taking it seriously and imbuing it with a deep sense of thought and care, how can we ever hope to stand before an audience and say ‘Support us’ with confidence? I think this, more than anything, is a part of the mindset we’ve cultivated since our formation, maybe even before.”

Even with such a powerful statement, I’m still at least a little surprised when Tanaka refers to himself as the group’s spokesperson. One-on-one, he comes off as reflective and professional but also perhaps a bit reserved – quietly ambitious rolls back to mind. When you catch a glimpse of SixTONES on stage, for example, they’re anything but reticent, instead bouncing with energy. According to Tanaka, offstage, they’re fairly relaxed.

MULTI-TALENTED

He explains his role within the six, “I would like to think I have a few different roles in the group. Musically, I’m in charge of the rap sections. During live shows, we typically have a chance to speak to the fans, so I try to keep everyone on point. Behind the scenes, too, I step up as producer for our ideas, forging connections between the group and our team. All of us are multi-talented idea men – SixTONES wouldn’t be SixTONES without each of us. I think we all have important and unexpected functions that are not always visible from the outside.”

Having debuted back in 2020, a weird time for anyone in the entertainment industry, we talk about rewarding encounters over the last several years – something that particularly sticks with him even today. “I don’t think it’s possible to narrow down our experiences to a single memory, but something that immediately comes to mind is that we’ve consistently held annual live tours. More than anything else, our concerts are where we put the most energy and feel the biggest sense of achievement.”

“Individually, it’d have to be the rap series I performed for 34 regional radio stations creating lyrics to describe the characteristics of each one. The timing was tight – I recall not getting much sleep during that time – but it was worth it. It was our debut year, after all, and a great chance to improve my skills. It was an opportunity to stake a claim on a skill set so people would say, ‘when it comes to rap sections, it’s got to be Juri.’”

SORRY, NOT SORRY

But Tanaka is not only focused on rap. He’s also released a self-composed solo song with a specific idea in mind. Although I’m not able to get to the ‘why,’ we chat about the ‘how’ for ballad, ‘Sorry.’ “I wanted ‘Sorry’ to have a meaningful story – where the same lyric is repeated but with a different meaning depending on its placement in the song.”

“Typically, when I make music with people, we workshop the whole thing while chasing various threads and themes. But for this one, we completed it in just over 30 minutes because I knew what I wanted to say. I’m really happy with how it turned out and pleased it’s had such a positive reaction.”

So much of our discussion is about intention and having a direction, I can’t help but slide in one final question. Admittedly, I thought this would be an easy one, preparing for responses like Wembley or Madison Square Garden or even Sony Hall where management-mates Travis Japan will appear this Autumn. But I should have realized that anything I ask Tanaka will incur some heartfelt thought and introspection.

“That’s a really difficult question. I would love to perform at many different festivals around the world to meet new people and introduce them to SixTONES. If I really could pick a fantasy venue, though, I think maybe Sphere in Las Vegas. I’d seen footage of the U2 concert and we talked about how cool it would be to perform a live concert there. But we’re always saying things like, ‘wouldn’t it be fun to do a show at such-and-such a place,’ and plaguing our staff to investigate. In short, we’d love to perform in front of all kinds of people in all kinds of venues all over the world. So, here’s to hoping!”

Somehow, I think it will be more than a hope – perhaps a birthday wish. Having spent even these few minutes thinking about it, I’d be willing to bet more ideas have already been quietly, ambitiously placed on the SixTONES table. We look forward to seeing you and the rest of the group at a global venue soon. Wishing you a Happy 29th birthday, Tanaka-san!

 


Share your birthday wishes for Juri Tanaka in the comments below and see the full Q&A here.

Follow SixTONES on their social media channels here: YouTube | Instagram | TikTok | X

See more on ACMA:GAME and catch SixTONES’s video for the drama’s song, GONGWatch the manga’s live-action drama, ACMA:GAME here on Prime.

 

READ MORE: Interviews or reviews of Japanese dramas and movies

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