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Music is essential in the design of any Japanese anime. More than any other country, Japan understood how important music can be to make you feel an emotion, whatever it may be. Here is a small trip into a wonderful world...

Very few people really know the Japanese music culture. We often tend to believe that the Japanese only listen to traditional music, but of course this is completely wrong. On the contrary, their musical taste is rather similar to ours. Haven't you ever listened to Japanese techno ? It does exist ! The Country of the rising sun produces all kinds of musical genres, whether it be variety rock (TM Network, Silk, B'z), hard-rock (X) and even metal psychedelic trash (Hide), new-age (Kitarô among others), classic (Seiji Yokoyama, Akira Senju), childish pop' (have a look at the 'idol' phenomenon, those young girls who become a star during one summer, with a nice song and a cute face), industrial (they are very strong in that domain) or disco (Koorogi '73 or Godiego, say it Godaïgo, two groups that worked for hits like Galaxy Express or Lum).

Eternal fashions

Oddly, those music styles are not as much linked to fashion as they are here. The average Japanese can go from one style to another without being seen as strange. That's why many authors could express their talent in their best field, with no need to follow the current trendy style.

So, what about animation ? As you know, Japan consider that animes are for everybody, and not only for kids. so the links between animation music and other music genres are very tight. The cases when stars compose for cartoons (like Elton John for The Lion King are much more usual in Japan and they are not restricted to high budget movies.

Collection of stars

For example, the star group TM Network, very talented by the way, steadily perform for various animes. Get Wild, the first ending theme of City Hunter was made by them, so was Running to horizon, the opening theme of City hunter 3. Beyond the time, the ending theme of the movie Gundam Char's counterattack, was also made by TM Network. Tetsuya Komuro, the singer and sometime composer made the music of Carol, an OAV based upon works by Naoto Kiné, who was by chance member of TM Network, but also more recently the music of Street Fighter 2 The Movie. Yes, he did make the background music ! And the list is far from being over... TM Network in undoubtedly the best example of a successful pop/animation cohabitation.

Another example is a singer, who is now nearly a veteran (he is 36), Shin-ichi Ishihara, specialized in compilations. Whereas he only made three albums by himself, he recorded more than 5000 songs ! Among those, plenty of anime credits themes (Akai Hayaté, Blue Seed, Babil ni sei, Karura mau, Tomoé ga yuku...) or songs linked to anime but that can't be heard in them: I'm especially thinking about Zetsuai and Bronze, and above all Dragon Ball Z, ; indeed he is part of the fabulous Project Monolith and his songs can be found on Hit Collections 4 to 15, and them from 18... we wish him still more success, his voice is really magic.

I will also mention another group, X. That gang of crazy hard rockers produced a little revolution with four striking albums, full of that vitality of theirs and especially full of that mixing between styles that cannot be found anywhere but in Japan. The main composer of the group, Yoshiki, following his current feelings, makes the heaviest hard or ... the most tearful romanticism.

X made a revolution in Japan and there is no doubt it will remain Number One for a long time in the young Japanese's heart ... They can be found in the Japanese animation: their songs were chosen to illustrate , the video clips from the manga X (how strange !). The outcome is frightening by his beauty.

Kitarô, is very famous in France - I mean for a Japanese guy. His "celestial" music albums conquered our country and it was possible to heard it at the theater recently in Heaven and Earth, Oliver Stone's last Vietnam-related movie, for which he made the superb soundtrack. Kitarô also does things for animation: he made the background music of Queen Millenia (Sennen joô), the masterpiece which was inspired by Leiji Matsumoto. A movie that you must see. He's had for 3 years is his team one Norihiro Tsuru, a violinist who will leave him in 1988 for other project, and especially tree wonderful anime: Sanchôme no Tama, Ningyo no kizu (Mermaid's scar) and... Arslân legend. You never can tell !

Fumio Miyashita, who made the soundtracks of the movie and OAV of Hi no tori (the phenix) by Osamu Tezuka in 1986 and 1987, whose style is agreeably quite alike Kitarô's (it's normal, since they knew each others and had influence on one another), defected from musical shows. Indeed, his first piece of work was on the worldwide famous Fame !

And finally, we mustn't forget two of the world greatest composers. Ryûichi Sakamoto, known for his work on Furyo, Little Buddha, Wild Palms or The last emperor , has also made the soundtrack of a wonderful animation film from Gainax studio: "Wings of Honnêamise". As for Jô Hisaishi, he is an artist who lives in London and who has made for a long time both movie and animation films music (from Julie and Stéphane to Arion , Robot Carnival, Mospeada and all Miyazaki's movies). However, he does more live films now (Sonatine by Takeshi Kitano, a wonderful gun-fight that breaks all stereotypes including some humor and whose music remains in our head until the very end, or Samourai Kids, available in video in France), so he appears more rarely in animation (with Porco Rosso in particular in 1992, and probably soon Mononoke hime, in 1997).

If we go back to singers, you must know that there are also a large number of animation dubbing specialists, who, once they became notorious, had a successful carrier as singers and conquered a public that wasn't especially animation lover ... I shall mention for example the NG Five (Takeshi Kusao and Nozomu Sasaki among others), the Banana Fritters (Noriko Hidaka, Toshihiko Seki and Kôichi Yamadera), but also Shô Hayami, Kikuko Inoué, Megumi Hayashibara or Kotono Mitsuishi. And two veterans who started in the 60s and who are part of the Japanese music culture: Mitsuko Horié (who sang on Candy and Saint Seiya for instance) and Ichirô Mizuki (unforgettable on Albator (Captain Harlock)).

Power and fairies

I mentions a few authors I liked a lot, but as you can notice, the examples are numerous and easy to find. Fortunately by the way. The strength of Japanese music is that it takes it vitality from foreign music; it takes the essential, the raison d'etre and it uses that its own way, often bringing improvement to the sound. This allowed for example Seiji Yokoyama to give an extra dimension to Saint Seiya, giving to this show a classic soundtrack which honours Beethoven, Mahler and Brückner together.

The Japanese animation produced so far an impressive number of CD (2000, at least). More than half of them are inventive and pleasant to listen to. It's the only animation market in the world that can say so. It's an obvious quality to add for the Japanese animation... You said trashy ? Yeah, yeah, come on !

Cyber Namida was created and designed by René-Gilles Deberdt. All rights reserved.