Juri Tanaka EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW (Full Q&A): Meet ‘ACMA:GAME’ actor and SixTONES rapper

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 his current drama and how he’d rather prove his worth than talk big dreams

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

Juri Tanaka of SixTONES and ACMA:GAME. Image provided by STARTO ENTERTAINMENT.

In ACMA:GAME your character is quietly ambitious. What about you is similar to Ui Saito?

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.

Your fellow actors in ACMA:GAME, Mamiya Shotaro and Furukawa Kotone, have acted in quite a few dramas and movies. Did either of them offer you any useful acting tips?

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. Usually in a drama or movie, I trust the director and simply do as I’m told. But here I had to trust my own instincts and emotions.

What types of roles or genres would you like to pursue?

In addition to ACMA:GAME’s Ui Saito, I’ve played other characters who are smart, logical and self-controlled. It would be fun to spice it up and play a role that allows me to express a more playful or mischievous character. It would release some of the pent-up energy possessed by the actor in me.

Is ACMA:GAME a manga you previously followed? What’s your favorite manga/anime? What’s the one you’d most like to be in someday?

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.

I love manga. Picking up new issues of longtime favorites and trying out new ones that catch my eye is a big chunk of my monthly spend. So, it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one title I’d most like to see adapted, let alone one I’d want to be in. I still don’t have a lot of acting experience, relatively speaking, so I’d like to try everything to get a broad perspective. That way I can be more particular down the line about what I (and my fans) might enjoy.

The group released GONG for ACMA:GAME calling it a wild ride through Tokyo. What does it mean to you personally?

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. The music video features an empty warehouse that’s transformed into a live venue by the power of music. The images reflect the musicality that we value so much as a group – it’s what we want to deliver to everyone who hears it. I think the song and music video capture this really well, so please check it out!

For international fans who may know only a little about SixTONES, can you tell us a bit about the group? What are you trying to create 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.

SixTONES is known for igniting its own destiny in a way, having chosen to become a group rather than being assigned. How has that beginning shaped your musical process?

Totally opposite to my ‘quietly ambitious’ acting persona, all of us have aggressive ambitions as a group. From the very beginning, we were very direct and worked closely with our team, 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.

What’s your role within the group? How do you all fit together?

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 so our managers don’t get angry. 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, so I try to balance so everyone gets an opportunity to contribute and be heard. Maybe it’s going a step too far to say this, but I think the role I play is pretty important – I don’t think the group could function without me…or at the very least would never stay focused long enough to get to the next task (haha). But of course, it’s not JUST me. 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.

Since SixTONES débuted in 2020, what’s been your most rewarding experience – the one that sticks with you?

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 and while the basic tracks were the same, I changed the flow and lyrics to fit. 34 times. It was tough creating so many variations – 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 so publicly right out of the gate. 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.’

Tell us about your solo song, ‘Sorry’ – what’s that about?

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.

What’s your fantasy venue – anywhere in the world – where you’d like to perform with SixTONES?

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. But on the other hand, I also want to perform here for the fans who’ve supported us since we were kids. I hope we can continue to grow to the point where we have the flexibility to do both.

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!


Share your birthday wishes for Juri Tanaka in the comments below and click to read his interview story.

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, GONG. Watch 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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