ClariS is a group that would undoubtedly be inducted to the anisong hall of fame if such a thing existed. Although the fan-favorite duo has also long maintained a mysterious air to them, their many years of activities and attachment to popular anime franchises like Puella Magi Madoka Magica have earned them a dedicated and consistently growing international fanbase. They made major moves in 2017 when making the jump to Sacra Music, and members Clara & Karen finally revealed their faces to fans in 2017 after many years of performing under masks and being represented solely by illustrated personas. Over the course of their career they have released 5 full-length albums, all of which have spawned several hits, and in no way do they show signs of slowing down moving into the new decade. Considering their connection to the Madomagi franchise and their incredibly compelling style and story, we were beyond pleased to be able to take the opportunity to speak with them about not only their connection and contributions to the series but also their career and evolution as a whole. We hope you’ll enjoy reading this rare and entertaining interview as much as we had in arranging it!
OTAQUEST: ClariS debuted in 2010 and became the lineup that it is today in 2014. What is the theme that you’ve not changed and kept important in these past 10 years?
Clara: It’s hard to explain with words, but I believe we’ve managed to keep things very “ClariS-like”. No matter what song you listen to there’s a distinct sparkly quality to it, and when we do our live shows we make stages that also tell a story. I think those things are uniquely “ClariS-like”.
Karen: From our album songs to our tie-up songs and b-sides, all of ClariS’ songs have a sparkly quality to them, and I love that. Even when we try all sorts of new tunes, there’s always some part of it that has that distinct sparkly ClariS quality to it. Moving forward I want to keep things “ClariS-like” and make more music! ⸜(*ˊᗜˋ*)⸝
OTAQUEST: A huge turning point for ClariS was when you had your first live show in 2015. Having originally been a unit whose image was a voice and illustrations, what changes did you experience as a result of adding a physical body to your image?
Clara: I’ve always wanted to physically meet the fans and show them my gratitude, so I felt a huge change during that first live show in 2015. Also, having never danced before I struggled a bit, but I also think the range of expressions I was able to convey in the songs was expanded.
Karen: The biggest change was being able to meet the fans and spend time with them. Through that, I felt the distance [between us] gradually grow closer and closer☆* Live shows are something that everyone makes together, so you can’t forget the times and memories made together! (´｡っ <｡｀) So I hope I can keep making many more important memories ( ´͈ ᵕ `͈ )
OTAQUEST: What kind of world-view are you trying to convey with your shows? For example, when you had a butler wearing a rabbit mask come on stage, or the short skits you have between songs. I think you have a unique style.
Clara: Yeah, expanding on what I said earlier, having live shows like that adds even more to the sparkly quality already present in our sparkly songs. However, while having concerts that have a story is a given, we’re working on having impactful shows that don’t necessarily need a story. Both of them are quite important to us, so I don’t think we’re necessarily trying to show just one kind of world-view. However, above all else, we want to keep expressing things that are “ClariS-like”.
Karen: In concerts that have a story to tell, we select songs that match the story or the message trying to be told in that scene so that you can better dive into our daily world-view (´｡･v･｡｀) On the other hand when we do live shows without a story, we get together and make the song list. From songs that we can get energized to, to songs where you can hear us singing acoustically, we fill the setlist up with what we want to do, haha! Even if it’s the same song, depending on the performance and direction of the show the songs can feel or sound different. I think this is something unique to ClariS ⸜(*ˊᗜˋ*)⸝
OTAQUEST: In 2017 you took off your masks for the first time during a show and revealed your face to the fans. Looking back at that moment, how did you feel?
Clara: I was extremely nervous, but I felt like I was able to truly meet everyone. I was almost moved to tears…… I think it was an unforgettably beautiful moment!
Karen: While I loved the times where I wore a veil or a mask on stage, and feel that they were important when I was able to meet all the fans without the mask on I felt like “finally, we meet” (✿｡◡ ◡｡) I think that with our faces and expressions we can convey the emotions in our songs. It felt like I was finally able to convey those feelings clearly. I think even if we’re conveying our feelings with words, they can get taken differently depending on if I’m wearing the mask or not ॰˳ཻ̊♡ However, the mask is somewhat of a symbolic item for ClariS, so I’ll still wear it when needed (pq´v`*)
OTAQUEST: Since 2017 you’ve done not only one-man events but have also appeared on TV and done shows at festivals both in Japan and abroad. Over time you’ve gradually expanded the range of things you take part in, do you have long-term goals or dreams?
Clara: I want to do even more shows in Japan and abroad! There’s always so many people who come to see us from far away places like the countryside and overseas, so next time I want it to be us who go to faraway places to see them…… ♡
Karen: I want to do shows in places where I’ve never been to before, and it’s always been my dream to do a show in the city that I love, my hometown of Sapporo!! I’ll keep performing in many different places, and I want to do my best to deliver our songs as ClariS to as many people as possible♬♡
OTAQUEST: This time you’re in charge of the theme song for Magia Record, a side-story of Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Did you have any expectations going into it?
Clara: For ClariS, being able to make the theme music for Puella Magi Madoka Magica is so special, so I was really happy to be working on it again, and I’m excited to deliver an even better song! There wasn’t so much pressure as there was the feeling of excitement♡
Karen: When I first heard the news I was so surprised! This is the first time I’ve had an opportunity to work on the theme song for Puella Magi Madoka Magica since I’ve joined ClariS, so while I did have a lot of nervousness, I was more so just happy to be involved with one of my favorite anime!!
OTAQUEST: What was it that you kept in mind when you recorded Alethea?
Clara: I don’t think I kept anything in particular in mind, but remembering the recording sessions for Connect and Luminous, the other songs we did for Puella Magi Madoka Magica, had me feeling incredibly nostalgic ♪
Karen: I played the mobile game Magia Record and put my feelings about the story and characters into the recording ॰˳ཻ̊♡ I’d love if you could feel the strong will of the magical girls in the song ♬♡
OTAQUEST: In the song Alethea, the phrase “We want to find our own way” was repeated and was very impactful. What impact did these words leave you with?
Clara: Finding the path you want to take seems simple enough, but is actually filled with a lot of anxiety and confusion. I felt a strong desire to move towards my dreams and goals from the lyrics. When I make a big decision, of course, the words of the people around me can help me or even save me, but ultimately I feel I’m the only one who makes that final decision, And I felt that in that sense this song is one that helps push me from behind♡
Karen: I felt the will of a strong girl. One who, while feeling the anxiety and fear of waking up in a world she had never seen, was nonetheless determined to get to her destination with her own hands! Even just watching the anime, you can see the girls get stronger mentally as the story progresses. The strength of the phrase “We want to find our own way” sounds different now compared to when I recorded it ☆*°
OTAQUEST: Where do you feel sympathy in regards to Magia Record? What areas do you think overlap with ClariS?
Clara: I feel sympathetic to them having to hide the fact they’re magical girls during their everyday life! We haven’t told those around us that we’re ClariS, so I think there’s definitely some overlap there, haha
Karen: Iroha, who jumps into a dangerous place without hesitation and is forced to rely on an inconsistent memory to find her sister, definitely struck a chord with my heart….. She isn’t a girl who is typically so strong and resilient, so I empathize with her finding that courage within herself. Iroha, who encounters many magical girls who save her and help her continue to move forward, overlaps a lot with us as ClariS. We’ve been saved by our fans who support us.
OTAQUEST: On the other hand, regarding your previous work on Puella Magi Madoka Magica, I think you were still in Middle school when it originally aired. Since becoming an adult have you had any changes to the way you understand and interpret that work?
Clara: At the time, I was a middle schooler just like Madoka, so there were a lot of places where I could empathize with how she felt. However, I felt that the responsibilities of being a magical girl are too large for a middle school girl….. But watching it again as an adult is actually quite interesting, there’s a lot of emotions that at the time I couldn’t understand. It still surprises me just how many perspectives it can be enjoyed from.
Karen: At the time of its airing, the magical girls were the same age range as us, so I watched it while comparing them to myself. Now I’m able to enjoy the story while giving thought to the backgrounds and feelings of the other characters ॰˳ཻ̊♡ The more magical girls appear, the more perspective you’re able to enjoy the story from. I think it’s a really interesting anime. Of course, I also liked that unique design. There was a fear that also stimulated my curiosity. Every episode I was drawn into the story and the world-view!!
OTAQUEST: It’s been nine years since that theme song for Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the one that would become one of your defining hits, Connect. Has the interpretation or how you sing it changed in any way?
Clara: Yes, I think there has been some change. I think the understanding of the lyrics from when I was in middle school and now has changed a lot. Feelings that I didn’t quite understand then, I’m now able to pour into my songs. As for how I sing, since then I’ve done many recordings and shows, so I think there’s also been a big change there. Connect is a song that we will continue to sing, so please enjoy how it will change over time!
Karen: When I first sang Connect (Connect-2017- was released in 2017), it was already after Puella Magi Madoka Magica was off the air. Even so, I continue to sing it with the feelings and images that I got back then!! As for Connect, I don’t change how I sing based on my interpretations and emotions. I sing with the feelings of the first character that comes to mind and overlaps with Connect, so I don’t think any of the fundamental parts have changed ( ✿˘︶˘✿ ) But I think it’s true that continuing to sing it on stage does happen to change it somewhat.
OTAQUEST: Finally, if you were to perform at an American event or festival, what kind of interaction would you like to have with your fans?
Clara: I’d love to translate the lyrics of our songs into English and be able to sing our songs with everyone! I can’t speak much English, but even if it’s basic English I’d love to speak with everyone♡
Karen: I think there’d be a lot of people who have never seen us perform, so I’d like to make a stage that lets them know “ClariS is this kind of unit!”(୨୧ᵕ̤ᴗᵕ̤) We always receive letters and messages written in Japanese from fans overseas, so I’d like to be able to MC in English, or perform an English version of our songs ☆*。