SG5, a recently debuted girl group inspired by Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, brings the iconic ’90s manga and anime series by Naoko Takeuchi to the world of J-pop. The group, which performs with Takeuchi’s blessing, is managed by Three Six Zero and LDH and produced by Grammy-winning producer BloodPop. SG5 burst onto the scene on March 1 of this year with its first digital single, “Firetruck.” TW caught up with the group’s five members — Kaede, Sayaka, Ruri, Miyuu and Rui — and chatted about their aspirations. 

What went into creating this band and your debut?

Kaede: Four of us — Sayaka, Ruri, Miyuu and I — are from Happiness, and Rui is from iScream, and we were called to join a new concept group inspired by Sailor Moon. 

Miyuu: There were a lot of lessons and training sessions, and our performances were checked by Takeuchi on a regular basis, as she took a deep interest in the group. We also frequently met with the producer BloodPop and his team.

Rui: We also had to practice our English before our debut. We’re still studying every day, and it’s a learning process. 

What’s it like working with Naoko Takeuchi?

Miyuu: She watches our performance videos frequently and gives us advice. She encouraged us to be more ourselves and be different from Sailor Moon. I thought she would ask us to be more like Sailor Moon, but she values our individuality.

How is SG5 different from other projects, like Happiness and iScream?

Kaede: In Happiness, we were performers but never held the mic. In SG5, we were given the chance to sing. 

Sayaka: Also, in our other groups, the main point of production was Japan. With SG5, recordings and music video shoots were all in the United States. We’ve been in touch with new ideas that would have never come from Japan and tried new singing techniques. 

How has it been working with both Japanese management and American producers? Do you have any anecdotes to share?

Miyuu: Working in the United States has been meaningful and fun at the same time. SG5 is produced by an American team, and the mindset is more relaxed and passionate. When we’re creating songs, we write the lyrics we want. 

Sayaka: In Japan, usually a song is already made three days before recording. But working with BloodPop, we received the lyrics on the day of recording, and we were singing within the same day. Plus, it was the first time for us to do an entire song in English, so we were practicing as we were recording.

Rui: During the filming of our music video, we were given a lot of straightforward feedback in between takes. A lot of compliments, too, which definitely helped bring the mood up and motivated us. Filming in Japan is pretty rigid and strict. We definitely learned to be comfortable and have fun while working with our team in the U.S.

SG5 debuted at the Anime Expo in Los Angeles. What was the experience like? 

Rui: Anime Expo was our first live performance as SG5, and we were pretty nervous — especially because we had to emcee in English, which was a new challenge for us. Thankfully, the response was much better than we anticipated. Everyone was grooving along to a song they’d never heard before!

I had never really traveled outside of Japan, and I never really thought about how Japan looked from other people’s eyes. But at Anime Expo, I saw how much Japanese culture is celebrated and accepted abroad. And looking at Japan from the outside, Japan actually has a lot of amazing things. I think it’s great that through SG5, we’re able to showcase the best parts of Japanese culture to the world. 

Why do you think people love Japanese pop culture? 

Ruri: For Japanese music, I think the lyrics are really honest, and you can’t help but relate to them. All these songs have thoughts and ideas that you wouldn’t have the courage to say out loud, but when it’s turned into a song, you can communicate how you feel. 

Kaede: The charm of manga would be that the story, characters and lore are really deep. You can relate to the characters because they’re deep and set up with so much detail. 

Miyuu: I think that all Japan-made products, be they songs or manga, are made with care and the utmost attention to detail. 

Sayaka: Personally, I think Japan is very good at creating fashion that crosses foreign trends with Japanese tastes. Some things that are trendy overseas don’t always fit Japanese preferences, but Japanese designers are able to make them work, making something new and innovative while keeping the integrity of the original trend. 

What kind of anime or manga do you like? 

Kaede: I’ve always loved reading manga and collecting physical copies of it. As a kid, I loved shoujo manga, but now I like reading shounen manga too. Now I also like underground manga like Yamikin Ushijima-kun (Ushijima the Loan Shark). 

Sayaka: I love watching anime on Netflix, especially sports shounen anime because it’s relatable and helps me push myself to work hard. 

Rui: I loved watching the Kakegurui (Compulsive Gambler) anime. I also love Sanrio characters. After going to the States and seeing how popular they were there, my love for the characters was boosted and I’ve been collecting Sanrio character stickers. 

Miyuu: I love Heisei-era things. I loved Ciao monthly comics and playing the Love and Berry: Dress Up and Dance! arcade game. I also love Crayon Shin-chan. I hope I can get our Western fans hooked on Shin-chan too.

Ruri: I loved playing Love and Berry at the arcade too.

What kind of cultural phenomena do you like from the ’90s, the era of Sailor Moon’s original run?

Miyuu: Japanese TV youth dramas. I loved watching Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers, a 2005 drama based on a ’90s manga). The original soundtracks of the dramas were great too. 

Kaede: I loved loose socks. When I was in fifth grade, they were a big trend. Now that they’re back in style, I’ve bought them again.

Rui: I was really bad at communication, so I used a profile book where you ask your friends to fill out a profile sheet. I asked people who I wasn’t friends with so I could get to know them more. 

Ruri: Collecting and trading stickers was definitely a big thing. And the kids with the puffy 3D stickers were so popular. 

Sayaka: I don’t wear it now but when I was young, I put a cat-print tail strap on my waist or backpack. I loved Namie Amuro’s music too. 

What artists do you look up to and/or want to collaborate with?

Kaede: Dua Lipa. She’s the epitome of a powerful, confident woman who doesn’t care about boys. She’s like a hero for women and fits our concept so well. 

Ruri: Olivia Rodrigo. She’s the same age as me, and she’s loved by everyone internationally. Her genre is a bit different from SG5, but a collaboration would be awesome. 

Sayaka: Ariana Grande. I love her so much that I practice singing with her songs. What’s amazing about her is that she changes her look and sound according to what she puts out — she transforms like Sailor Moon. 

Ruri: I love Ed Sheeran. I’d also like to work with male rappers such as Travis Scott.

Miyuu: I love Camila Cabello.