Sound Director interview, December 2017

With each subsequent chapter of Yamato 2202, more members of the staff and cast stepped into the spotlight for media interviews. As Chapter 4 approached, Sound Director Tomohiro Yoshida joined the parade to discuss the nuances of balancing dialogue, music, and sound effects for maximum impact. The first of his interviews from that period was published in Hyper Hobby magazine Vol. 6 from Tokuma Shoten, published December 6, 2017.

Tomohiro Yoshida Interview

On the previous work Yamato 2199, Tomohiro Yoshida served as the sound director of the music, dialogue, and sound effects. We spoke to the man who controls every “sound” of Yamato about the appeal of Yamato with highlights from the sound side!

Synchronizing the best flow of music with the visual story is the life force of Yamato

Interviewer: Please tell me the content of your job as sound director.

Yoshida: It’s the part responsible for general sound, such as cast, music, and sound effects. I make the sound in a form that follows the director’s intention for the overall formation of images, including actual setup and operation. I’ll attend all the meetings from planning to actual recording.

Interviewer: What is the rough flow in the case of Yamato 2202?

Yoshida: In addition to the intentions of Director Nobuyoshi Habara, I read the completed script and think about what kind of music best matches the worldview. Farewell to Yamato and Yamato 2 are the basis for 2202, and we’re not supposed to break the image of 2199 that came before, so I think about how to make the big picture based on that.

I’m a big fan of Yamato myself, and since Mr. Habara also wants to make good images out of the old scenes, that is transmitted even when you read the script. That was also the case with 2199, but [Composer] Akira Miyagawa dug deep into the new concepts and story parts, and wrote new music to fill out the whole thing.

The number of pieces recorded for Farewell and Yamato 2 was surprisingly large, over 200 plus the pipe organ. Producer Nishizaki recorded it like flowing water. He didn’t know whether it would be used or not, but he recorded it anyway. Final Yamato was supposed to be a two hour movie, but they recorded ten hours of new music. (Laughs) It’s not possible for us to do that, so while taking into consideration a realistic schedule and Akira’s stamina, I thought about how to produce 200 pieces.

While reading the script, I compared the scenes with the 200 old pieces and narrowed it down to 60 for now. Since there would also be new pieces and too many old ones to record them all, I tearfully focused on our parameters and got it down to 40 pieces of BGM from Farewell and Yamato 2, plus the pipe organ.

And actually, some 2199 music is also being recorded again. So in addition to some music from Ark of the Stars, re-records from 2199, and re-records from Farewell and Yamato 2, there are four blocks of new pieces by Akira.

Interviewer: As with 2199, Mr. Miyagawa said that his work started with transcribing the previous score. Does that mean he only did the 40 that you narrowed it down to?

Yoshida: That was the flow. However, with 2199 it was almost a complete copy, and I imagined wanting to do the same thing as the original, but I told him, “If you think this is insufficient, I can be flexible and arrange for more, so it’s OK to change it.” They’re not straight ear-copies, they’re enhanced in Akira’s own way.

Interviewer: What do you think is most appealing about him?

Yoshida: He completely inherited his father’s heritage. He’s an expert at arrangement. His melodies are beautiful and romantic, but I’m fascinated by how he excels at arrangement. There are also new pieces this time, and a lot of variety comes from the differences in arrangement. I think it takes a wonderful writer to make wonderful arrangements.

Interviewer: Is it different from the appeal of Hiroshi Miyagawa?

Yoshida: That’s right. We ordered New Battleship Yamato Symphonic Suite at the same time we ordered new pieces, and his power to produce melodies is amazing. Also, he has a very quick hand. I was surprised by how he could write music in no time.

His father Hiroshi had to work his way up through the ranks but had beautiful melodies, and I think he was probably a great romanticist. Akira properly learned a lot of things and has amazing technical skill with arrangements while also creating beautiful melodies. He inherited his father’s good points. With Hiroshi, I think the music came from the heart, and Akira is good with scene music like Kentaro Haneda was on Final Yamato, so I think he’s wonderfully versatile.

Interviewer: What is scene music?

Yoshida: Music that gives a sense of scale and atmosphere. For example, when Hiroshi Miyagawa made music for “the enemy attacks!” it called for a sense of “painful!” or “this hurts!” and that’s the feeling it gave. On the other hand, Mr. Haneda was good at depicting “overwhelming scale” or “awesome beauty.” I feel that Akira has the good sides of both.

Interviewer: Is it easy to put Yamato music together with anime as BGM?

Yoshida: No, Yamato is very hard to match up. (Laughs) The best part is its natural flow and development, and synchronizing the best flow of music with the visual story is the life force of Yamato. If this were a normal TV series, the battle scenes would often force the music to fit from point A to point B in the edit, but in Yamato’s case, we try our best not to force anything musically.

Interviewer: Akira said he was a little embarrassed when he made Yamato Into the Maelstrom. What was your impression when he made it?

Yoshida: At the moment that 60-piece orchestra stirred up, I thought, “Ohhhhhhh!” It was a feeling like, “Whoah…!” (Laughs) There was a great piece done for Be Forever called Yamato Proceeds Through Unknown Space [Be Forever Music Collection part 1, track 2], and the arrangement in this one perfectly surpassed it. Yamato theme music has been arranged this way in the past, and I was really surprised to hear a new arrangement like that as well.

Interviewer: Were there any strong requests or directions from Mr. Habara on the music side?

Yoshida: In a music meeting with the director, it was decided that the White Comet pipe organ wouldn’t be BGM, but a real sound played by Sabera. There were a couple of places where the sensibilities of Gatlantis diminished in Ark of the Stars, and thinning out the barbarian flavor gave us more conformity with Farewell and Yamato 2. In terms of doing homages, it was the same flow we had in 2199.

Interviewer: You said that the flow for the new music was for you to make a new menu and place the orders from that, but were there differences in the music between 2199 and 2202?

Yoshida: Basically, there are new things not depicted in the old work, so we have the same purpose in attaching new pieces to the newly-created parts. In 2199, the Garmillas National Anthem became symbolic. Dessler was featured in the original work, but there wasn’t much effort put into creating music that portrayed the nation. It was the opposite with Gatlantis in 2202, and since we’re digging into the man called Zordar this time it was decided to compose some music for Zordar.

Interviewer: How did you first encounter Space Battleship Yamato?

Yoshida: I liked the Giants [baseball team] as a kid, so I watched the [baseball] anime called Samurai Giants. Back then it became my habit to watch basic Japanese TV on Sunday evening. Samurai Giants ended and Yamato started up the next week [October 6, 1974] so I started watching it from the beginning. My first impression was, “That’s the same voice for the main character,” so that did it for me. (Laughs)

My middle and high school sempais said I should be the music director from Be Forever onward, and we came to work together, which is how I got the opportunity to participate in Yamato 2520 and work on the Original BGM Collection series that came out from Columbia in 1995. As for participating as a sound supervisor, I started with Yamato Resurrection in 2009. When I look back, it feels like I got absorbed by Yamato.

Interviewer: Speaking of the Yamato sound, the number of sound effects created by Mitsuru Kashiwabara is also famous.

Yoshida: I first met him while working on Yamato Sound Fantasia, which came out from Nippon Columbia in 1996. That was an album that reproduced the world of Yamato with only music and sound effects. That’s the first time I worked with him.

When I made the Yamato Resurrection Director’s Cut, Mr. Habara participated as the animation director and said, “I want to use the original sound effects.” I consulted with Mr. Kashiwabara, who told me, “It’s impossible in 5.1ch so I can’t lend you the sound sources,” but I visited him daily to ask about it and was finally able to borrow the sources on an open reel. There were about 400 individual sources, so I spent my days earnestly making copies, and we were able to use them in the Resurrection Director’s Cut after all.

When I met with Director Yutaka Izubuchi about 2199, he said, “I want to use the old sounds as a bse,” so I gave my copy to Mutsuhiro Nishimura of Phase Sound Creation to reinforce the bass and expand the sounds realistically. That’s how the present sound was established.

Interviewer: What was it like for you to copy a library of 400 sources?

Yoshida: When I heard it, I was in paradise. (Laughs) However, I had to recondition the tape since it had deteriorated, and it took a tremendous amount of time to clean and bond it back together. In the end, I spent about two years processing all of it.

Interviewer: You were able to make a digital archive.

Yoshida: If I get an email from Mr. Nishimura saying, “Is that sound there?” I can send it back 30 minutes later and say, “This is it.” (Laughs) Mr. Kashiwabara’s sounds were made on a Mini-Moog Synthesizer plus real sounds he actually recorded, and by lowering the pitch he could mix them into one sound. They’re fictional sounds, not necessarily realistic, but because it’s SF the synthesizer gives it a fantasy feeling. When I shared them, I told everyone to cherish that.

Interviewer: Are there sounds that would be difficult to reproduce now?

Yoshida: Even if I ask Mr. Kashiwabara, “How did you make this sound?” he’d say, “I don’t remember,” but it is really incredible sound-making. I think it could only have been made at that time. Present-day mics are too pristine to record such sounds.

Interviewer: What kinds of sounds are in there that you recognized?

Yoshida: Yamato’s traveling sounds are based on a jumbo jet. It was made by playing the recorded sound of a jumbo jet at half speed and adding synthesizer sounds and processing it to that point. As for the sound of the Wave-Motion Engine, you can understand the process if you listen to the tapes in the order they were made, but I’m not really interested. Mr. Kashiwabara’s sounds have the image of being just right the first time, and whenever I tried to copy the process of how to make it I never got a good sound. The process looks very good, and it’s great to be the first one to come up with such a sound. Mr. Kashiwabara loves SF novels, and I think he might have trained himself to imagine those sounds in his head as he grew up.

Interviewer: Does Director Habara give instructions at the voice recordings?

Yoshida: Well, Mr. Habara and Harutoshi Fukui are always there with me. But since there are a lot of veterans among the voice actors, there’s not much need for me to say anything. (Laughs) Even if your thoughts are the same, it’s always good to try different versions with expressions suppressed or strengthened and we say things like, “Well, it’s better that way.”

In the old days, the worst-case scenario was that the script was given to the actors on the spot and everyone would see the visuals for the first time and everything was born out of that process. Today, most of the voice actors over 40 grew up with such experiences.

In recent anime, you’re handed a rehearsal video and script to be used in just your own head, and so you sometimes have everyone mismatched when they come together for a run through. While you do have instances at the studio in current anime where the performance you settled on in your head falls apart and it’s a problem, most of us have grown up with the experience of hashing something out together in rehearsal, and I’ve seen results which were incredibly strong and moving.

In the scene of Yamato and Andromeda passing in Chapter 2, Kodai and Yamanami both shout a battle cry of, “Prepare for impact!” It’s easier to record them separately and process it later, but you lose that live feeling. So we reduce those separate recordings as much as possible.

Interviewer: What are the important sound points in Chapter 4?

Yoshida: So far, the worldview has flowed from 2199, and the main thing was to integrate it with the worldview of Farewell and Yamato 2. I think there were a lot of parts where the music was based on 2199 and the old music. I imagine there was a dilemma for those who were waiting to hear Akira’s new pieces. The original development of 2202 was seen after the first eight episodes, and it expands widely in Chapter 4.

Relationships appear between Zordar and Sabera, Teresa and Dessler. Goland, Zabaibal and Miru also appear. I’d like you to pay attention to the parade of aliens and Akira’s new music that comes with them! There’s a lot to talk about, and I think this will be a stunning chapter. The space cavalry is also show in action, and I hope you’ll enjoy the enthusiasm of Hiroki Touchi as Hajime Saito along with the new music. By all means, please look forward to it.

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