In the anime world, there are few franchises as beloved as Macross. The sci-fi epic is filled with outer space battles, complicated love stories and tons of pop songs. With three TV series -- The Super Dimension Macross, Macross 7 and Macross Frontier -- along with loads of other other related media, Macross has thrived since its debut in the early 1980s. It's a worldwide phenomenon and maintains an ardent following in the U.S., where the original series helped form the basis for the hit '80s cartoon Robotech. In L.A., there's even a fan convention dedicated to Macross.
Music is crucial to the Macross universe and, frequently, life imitates art when the voices of the fictional pop stars become pop stars in real life. That was the case for May'n, the 22-year-old performer who provided the singing voice for Macross Frontier's superstar, Sheryl Nome. In the world that encompasses this series, Sheryl is as much of a pop culture figure as Nicki Minaj or Lady Gaga. For May'n, who plays at the Key Club tonight, the gig proved to be a turning point in her career.
Born May Nakabayashi, May'n has had singing ambitions since she was three and first heard popular Japanese singer Namie Amuro. After entering numerous singing contests, she won the HoriPro Talent Scout Caravan at the age of 13 and officially launched her career two years later, giving her time to finish middle school. She used her birth name in the early days of her career, but quickly switched to her stage name as she gained popularity.
Inside HoriPro's West L.A. offices, May'n speaks through an interpreter about how Macross Frontier changed her career for the better. It wasn't her first contribution to an anime, but it was certainly her most significant. When she took on the job, she watched previous installments of Macross, carefully studying the work. She doesn't consider what she does to be acting, but she did need to channel Sheryl as she sang. It's not the same, she says, as when she sings her original work.
Central to the story is Sheryl's love for male lead Alto Saotome. May'n tried to capture their relationship in her song performances. She also tries to let Sheryl's personality show through the songs. "The character is sexy and she acts like a queen," says May'n.
May'n says that she'll never forget the concert where she first saw the impact of her work on Macross Frontier. She was nervous, she admits. She had played shows before, but hadn't brought in a major crowd. This time, she was on stage and realized that more than 1000 people had come out to the show. She has since played a number of concerts with Macross Frontier composer extraordinaire Yoko Kanno (who's also responsible for the music from Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) and Megumi Nakajima, who provided the singing voice for Ranka Lee on the show. Two years ago, the two TV singing stars performed at Anime Expo in Los Angeles. May'n, who went to the convention with no idea how people would respond, got a kick out of the reaction from her U.S. fans. "They dance when they feel like dancing," she says. "They sing when they feel like singing."
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May'n says that she hopes to continue contributing songs to anime, live action and video game entertainment, as it gives her the chance to sing from multiple points of view. Thanks to the work she has done so far, she's become quite a fan of anime as well. One of her current favorites is Accel World, a sci-fi story that's currently streaming on Hulu. May'n's latest single, "Chase the World," is the opening theme for the show. She's also a fan of Tasogare Otome X Amnesia (known as Dusk Maiden of Amnesia in the U.S.), a supernatural tale that's now airing on Crunchyroll.
Right now, May'n is in the midst of her first world tour, called "Rock Your Beats," which will run through October and concludes on her twenty-third birthday. Her L.A. gig is one of only two dates in the U.S. Check her out tonight at the Key Club. Take note, this is an early show. May'n is set to hit the stage at 7:30 p.m.