Though she arrived on our shores only four short years ago from her home in Japan’s Yamaguchi prefecture, singing and dancing dynamo Reni Mimura has already made quite a name for herself in the Big Apple. She has performed all over town, on NY8 TV, and as a featured act at Asian Power! Summer Festival in Queens.
Reni-Reni, as she nicknames herself on her website, blends the related anime subcultures of J-Pop (vocals performing hits from Japan’s world-famous, Anime-crazed entertainment industry) and Cosplay, a related trend in which otherwise ordinary folk transform themselves into whatever animated, video game or comics character they are obsessed with through the magic of hand-crafted costumes.
Reni’s performance and event schedule at shows and comic conventions nationwide tends to be packed, but I managed to get her to sit still for an email interview recently to explain just how she managed to break into New York’s tough music scene.
beejmckay: Hi Reni! Thanks for responding. So, where are you from?
Reni Mimura: Reni came from the future!!\(>w<)/. 13 hours ahead of the United States, from a place called Japan!
What exactly do you do as a J-Pop singer, for people who might not know?
People say Reni is a “J-pop singer,” or Japanese Pop singer.
J-pop coexists with Anime, Japanese Animation, games and the internet. These days, there are more and more followers of Japanese Anime and games in the U.S. I think that’s the main reason why my activities are getting a lot of attention.
My music is 100% POSITIVE Electro music. One of my events that I organize is a famous Japanese “Maid” cafe style event where everybody can enjoy being an idol of their own imagination by wearing costumes and participating in the show! This, in Japanese term, we call “COSPLAY”.
If you go to any of Anime conventions which you can find anywhere in the U.S., you will know what I am talking about. In my events, people enjoy being in virtual reality – a fantasy world, away from reality for a while. I think it’s a very futuristic concept!!
How do you incorporate dance into your show?
Reni has a strength in dancing because I’ve been formally trained since I was seven years old. Singing and dancing together with costumes is my artistic style. I change my costume often. By doing that I transform from one persona to the other.
Reni, being Japanese, would like to introduce this whole new concept to people in the U.S. I like to have fun with it and share love and joy. (^w^)v
Who are your fans in New York City?
Reni calls my fans Angels. I have about 20,000 Angels worldwide. And since I started a event called Japanese “Maid” Cafe and Show in New York in 2009, a lot of angels are in and around NYC. I have an average of 70 to 100 people coming to my show every month in NY now.
I am glad people find my concept interesting. After my activities were spread by word of mouth, I started to be invited to Anime conventions across the U.S. I have been to Boston, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, and so on.
Also, I was featured in a Japanese fashion TV program, so many people who are into Japanese fashion became my Angels. Since it’s hard for me to physically go everywhere my Angels live, I interact them on my website, www.ReniReni.com and Facebook.
What are your costumes based on (Anime characters, comics characters?)
I have established my own character, a “Maid” outfit with bunny ears. Maids represents cures and healing, but I added bunny ears because I think it’s simply cute!
Why do you think Cosplay has become so popular?
The Internet generation is very shy. Actually, I am also shy as a person. By dressing in costume, you can be whatever character you want.
Have you ever experienced this? If you wear something different, people treat you differently. You also feel different and act differently. For example, if you wear a hero costume, you’ll be strong instantly. Can you believe Reni?
I hope that the fashion industry adapts more of Cosplay culture.(^^)
Who are your favorite characters to dress up as?
My favorite character is Sailor Moon. I used to wear this costume in my acting classes while I was in Japan. I made the costume by myself(^^)
Sailor Moon is cute but strong, and I like the tension between the two.
What do people not understand about J-Pop and Cosplay?
Cosplay culture in Japan tells you that no matter how old you are, you can be as unreal and fantastic as you want. It’s so hard to do in this society, but please, do not forget about the innocent mind in you.
Since you are leaving behind your original persona for a while, you are also leaving behind whatever you are taught is “important” in reality – like competing against other people. You just simply imagine what you want to be, and you become that one. Just know who you are (^w^)
Who was your craziest fan and why?
My Angels all have good manners! But taking pictures of all the moves that Reni makes on stage might be strange to general people in the U.S. (^w^)v
My Angels protect me all the time. I’m soooo lucky to have met them(*w*) I believe in my Angels, who support Reni all the way. \(>w<)/
What have been your favorite places to sing in New York City?
Even though I have performed in some very famous clubs and live music halls in New York – like Arlene’s Grocery, Living Room, Sullivan Hall, and so on – I love to perform in unique places, like art spaces/galleries, cafes, and even museums. I think it goes well with my style. (^0^)/
What was your favorite show in New York?
That’s very easy! Reni’s Maid Cafe and Show!! I enjoy being in a fantasy world and interacting with my Angels.
When you enter the cafe in the West Village, the Maids will greet you by saying, “Welcome home my Master and Princess.” (*w*)v. And you will always be treated as “Masters” and “Princesses” by the Maids.
Now I’ve added a Reni’s Maid Cafe & Show in Boston and D.C. every month, so if you are around those areas, please COME BY…!
Thank you for support!!(^0^)/
Reni is looking forward to seeing you!
Thank you Reni!
(In addition to her semi-regular Maid Cafe & Shows at the Amber Village in Manhattan, Reni can be seen on her very own UStream show every other Tuesday here, and she’ll be performing at the upcoming 52nd Annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival in downtown Washington, D.C. on April 14th.)