Interview: S★D File 08: Raku Shibazaki



original article published april 2020
original article appears in boyage magazine volume 11
scans by nine dragons
translation by nine dragons

Raku shibazaki




30 questions

S★D File 07: Profile



translation by nine dragons


“Each member of SUPERDRAGON will be introduced here in our relay interview series SD FILE. The second one we are introducing in volume 11 is Raku Shibazaki, the pampered child who always clung to his mother.”



What was your childhood like, RAKU?


I was a big momma’s boy! I’m still a person who likes to be babied, but in those days I really loved everything about my mom and was really clingy toward her. I would have my mom push me when I was in the stroller, and the moment someone else would take over I would snap my head back and cry out, “I want my mom!” I was very attached to her. (laughs) Another thing, although I’m still like this now, was that I was very afraid of strangers. I couldn’t manage to make my own friends, so I always went around with my sister and got along with her friends instead.


I’d suppose you had a lot of female friends back then, right?


I had plenty of male friends too. Even now, I don’t feel the barrier between genders when it comes to friendship. I think it’s because of how I grew up that I’m that way now.


So, you must have been clingy toward your sister as well?


I didn’t like her as much…


So mean. (laughs)


Wait, of course I love her! It’s just that, when I was a kid, we would fight sometimes. Like, if one of us was napping on the sofa, the other would be like, “Move, I want to sit.” Another type of fight would be like “You can’t have this toy!” Just trivial stuff like that.


When that kind of thing happened, who was the winner?


Basically my sister. She would flail around and whimper. (laughs) Usually, the other side was more convincing.


Well, what’s the balance of power like now?


Now it’s probably the opposite. For me, I really enjoy doing my domestic chores. So, while I’m doing this and that of the housework it sort of turns into a two mom household. When I tell her, “Do this here,” she just replies with, “Alright.”


Seems like a total 180, doesn’t it?  Did you have any memorable favorite things as as a child?


I loved anything in the power rangers-style genre in general, but especially “Kamen Rider Den-O.” I rented and watched that DVD so many times that after a while the inside of my head was branded with the letters “Den-O.”


Did you play “Den-O” themed make-believe as well?


That, no. I didn’t go as far as to become him completely. I had to hang out with my sister’s friends, so it was more like tea parties and such for me. At around 2 years old I started going to preschool, but I was stuck with the girls and we would play house, with me pretending to be the pet dog or cat. Basically, anything not human. (laughs) I didn’t want to separated from my mom, so I pretty much cried every day at preschool.  If I could finally get through one day without crying, I would just cry the next day, and so on and so forth. I would think about how long it was to go until I could get picked up, and spent all my time waiting for the car to come outside.


Did you have any friends at preschool?


There was someone who I got along with really well. Together we would do things like climb on the monkey bars, laze around, and ride tricycles. Like me, they were seen as soft and weak. (laughs) They were the type who sought to stick up for the defenseless. Around someone like that, I didn’t feel like I had to hide myself. And, oh, origami!  There was an older boy there who liked doing crafts like that, and I started to like it as well when we did that together.


How was elementary school?


In first grade, I was one of the bad kids! Around the time I started going to ordinary school, we moved to a new place. The new friend I made there was really naughty. As we went on hanging out together, I started to become the same way.


You were so easily influenced by others then.


I’m someone who wants to be seen just like everyone else. It was the last year of preschool when we met, and I still wasn’t fitting in with all the other kids. I think that we only became close because they were one of the only kids who would actually talk to me. So, I started elementary school already being bad with them. One time we sat on the sliding blackboard and it crashed to the floor, and one time we tried to do the cheerleading pyramid from the 6th grade Sports Day on our own in the classroom. The teacher found out about it and could stop us in time, though.


That wasn’t good, right?


No, it wasn’t. But then, in second grade, my homeroom teacher was quite strict and I was reformed from my previous ways. As well, that naughty friend I had suddenly moved away. The friends I made after that are still the closest friends I’ve ever had. They were back to being the soft and weak sort. (laughs) Since then, I don’t show off being naughty.


Do you have any memories of Sports Day?


I participated in the gymnastic stunting portion. Even though I’m a guy, I was placed in second row from the top of the cheerleading pyramid, because I was skinny and didn’t have the strength for the bottom. The people next to me were balanced on two people, but, even so, it was like ‘girl, girl, me.’ When they said “Raku, up here,” I just thought, ‘Is it fair for me to be there, even though the girls will be working so hard in the same position?’


So, in Kiba-sen you must have been on top as well?


I was on top, yes. Waving my arms all crazy like that. (laughs) I never went for other people’s bandana but I focused my efforts on protecting my own from being taken. As for running, I was neither remarkably fast or remarkably slow. I would say I was around the upper-middle of the middle ranking kids.


In those days, were you already interested in crafting as well?


I got a lot of awards for my crafts and drawings then. I am not very interested or good at drawing real people or objects, but I was pretty good at drawing my own ideas and abstract concepts. Practicing origami refined my power of imagination, and I enjoy being able to think, like, ‘How do I want this to be?’ or ‘What can I turn this into?’ In fourth grade, I fell in love with circuitry when we began studying it in science class. At home, too, I would hook up miniature lightbulbs and connect the wires to light them up. Other topics in science didn’t catch my interest, like biology and such. Only electricity did. That was the only test I got good grades on as well. Beyond that, math…wasn’t a dislike of mine, and neither was I bad at it. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an ‘interest,’ per se.


Perhaps it was graphic models?


Yes! Even if I put off learning the actual formula, I tried to copy the models. When my teacher explained things on the blackboard, I was like, “Ah, I see it now.” I really like modelling and such. Because of that, I also liked playing with lego blocks. Like…the Millenium Falcon from Star Wars, and things like that. I don’t know exactly what the target age range is for it, but in the third grade or so, I finished it all by myself. We still have it up in the house now.


What did you want to be when you grew up back then?


A robotics engineer… In the early years of elementary school, I was really interested in robots. In my yearbook I wrote, “I want to help support my family by building them a robot that can help out around the house.” When I was taken to the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation to see the famous robot ASIMO, I think it really captivated me.


Did you participate in any extracurricular activies?


I did basketball in second and third grade. But when I got really busy with EBiDAN activities I ended up quitting.


What made you want to try it?


That was another way of following my sister. She was doing basketball herself. I thought it would be really cool, but it was really tough on me.


Did you have any interest in other things, like soccer?


For me, only basketball. Everyone else did things like soccer and baseball as well, but I had virtually no interest in those things. At recess, I just kind of shuffled into the group of boys when they wanted to play soccer instead.


Your interests are quite consistent, aren’t they?


I’m fairly biased. If I don’t have interest in something, I’m really uninterested.


How was middle school?


As far as testing goes, middle school is on a whole other level than elementary school, isn’t it? I entered middle school acting how I always did, but when I got the first exam, I was like, ‘…Huh?’ It was the first time in my life that I felt like I wouldn’t pass without studying. The worst for me was English. Once we had to put Japanese words into English, and they gave us the word “Him (originally written as 彼)” as a question. I just put “To” because I didn’t know anything. (laughs) After it got to that point, I buckled down my effort in order to get better grades.


Did you ever have a rebellious phase?


I sure did. On my way back from lessons, my mom had a lot of questions for me about how class went and such, but often I just replied with, “Shut up! Don’t talk to me!” From the latter half of first grade to the first half of second grade, this was a common occurence. At the time even I hated how I was, but I eventually got it out of my system and became a more pleasant person. Now, when I’m with my family, it’s more like I’m with my friends. My mom and I will go see a movie together and stuff like that.


You seemed to have passed into high school without any issues, so what’s your studying technique?


Every student has to study, so I do it with my friends. My house is not a very good environment to study in since it’s often very hectic in there. My sister is a typical girls’ school student right now, so, naturally, she likes to watch her favorite anime and cause a big racket in the house… (laughs sarcastically) I usually go somewhere like the community center’s self-study space instead.


You started promotions when you were still in elementary school, correct?


In 3rd grade or so, I was scouted at Shibuya’s Scramble Crossing. Even before that, I had done some fashion shows for children’s clothes, and other entertainment work like that. When I went to the audition, there were so many people there, all decked out and sparkling, that I got overwhelmed and I just cried. (laughs)


How was it, joining EBiDAN?


At first, I didn’t know a single person, which made me very nervous. But, there were more outgoing kids there who would approach you first, and this helped me come to enjoy my lessons. Not having to dance alone, but being able to join those kids made me enjoy the lessons a lot more. I also grew to like dancing in general, and, being chosen for SUPER★DRAGON, I knew that I have to love this in order to make it my life.


Raku, you’re the youngest member of SUPER★DRAGON, so how did it feel once you knew about the lineup?


I was quite friendly with Koki, Hyoma, Tomoya, and Sougo already, but we were still only close to the degree of being able to chat from time to time. So when I was put with the 4 of them for the first time, I could feel a bit of a wall between me and them. At the time I was very introverted and I had to be approached, and as well, everyone besides Tomoya was older than me. And, although Tomoya and I are the same age, Tomoya is built quite differently than me, and when I saw him, I thought that he already looks so adult-like… He was very intimidating to approach. But in time, the wall crumbled down. I feel like Koki was the major influence behind that.


You must have felt a huge barrier between them back then.


But back then, as well, I had Reo. Ever since he joined EBiDAN, he’s been our ‘mother.’ (laughs) Reo always went around with me, being my emotional support. Originally, there was distance between the younger boys and the older boys, but I think Jean was the one trainee who dissolved the cliques and brought us together as one. From then until now, I think I couldn’t have chosen a better group of 9 people.


Of those people, is there someone who most deeply influenced you to be as you are today?


One of the benefits of being the youngest one is that I receive influence from everyone. If we’re talking about who influenced who, I don’t think Reo would be the answer. I think in his case our influence on each other was about the same both ways.


Really, now?? (laughs)


I guess my answer would be Jean and Tsuyoshi. Jean showed me how to dance like him and gave me new inspiration. He opened up a new path for me by showing me, like, ‘I didn’t even realize the body could move like this!’ Tsuyoshi is very objective in telling me what my good and bad points are. When I was already struggling with it on my own, it felt like I was crushed. But now, looking back, I can see it’s exactly out of love that he told me those things. I can finally understand all the many times, now that I am older, when he was always watching out for me.


During your activities with SUPER★DRAGON, has there been any deeply memorable moments for you?


Ah, probably the fight…Once, there was a huge fight between Fire and Thunder. A couple years ago, we split into units and went out on a release event tour nationwide. At the time, Thunder went to Kyushu while Fire went to Hokkaido. When they were there, there was a giant snowstorm and Fire Dragon couldn’t get to the next location of the tour. They were effectively detained in Hokkaido. Then, Thunder told them something like, “Well, you’re not doing anything, so just  be thankful that one team here is working!!” It’s just how kids are. It’s wasn’t their fault that they were stuck there against their will. But they weren’t totally in the right, either. Even though they knew our situation, they sent us videos of them playing in the snow and such. This caused a huge argument to erupt in our group LINE chat.


Were you one of the instigators in the fight?


No, I don’t really get a thrill from this kind of thing, so I was more like, “Ugh, guys, this is becoming a big fight…” Hayate also had exams during this time, so he didn’t even go to Hokkaido. So, once everyone returned from their locations we thought, we can’t let the tour go on while this is happening. We called for a discussion over rehearsal, but this was also a disaster. It got the point where I thought we were going to go full Fire versus Thunder with the quarreling. But, we managed to get all of our feelings out, and we finally settled down and all agreed that both sides had something to apologize for. Since then, we’ve never had a fight like this again.


Were you watching from the sidelines for this as well?


I didn’t really have anything I felt I needed to add to the discussion, so Hayate and I were just sitting with our hands in our lap staring straight ahead, thinking like, “This is so childish…”


Coming from the youngest member of the group, though. (laughs)


You know, I thought this fight was quite a mess from my own perspective. But our staff said about it, “What a diplomatic argument that was.” (laughs) No one hit anyone, and there were no insults being flung at anyone or anything like that. So, looking at it that way, I guess it was just a mere argument.


I think expressing to others how you feel leaves you free of any lingering regrets after the conflict is over. Then you can just move past it.  So, lastly, where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?


At 20…? Of course, I want to still be promoting with  SUPER★DRAGON. But, as well, I would like to get more serious about my cooking. I want to master the art of spices. I think that understanding how spices work will greatly expand my range of capability when it comes to preparing food. My next goal after that is muscles. Within the 5 years I want to keep working out and building my body strength. That will help me contribute more to  SUPER★DRAGON’s performances too.


You’d sure make a great ripped chef! (laughs)


S★D FILE 07: 30 Questions