Akira Miyagawa interview, November 2017

Talking of Yamato as a “struggle”

Yamato 2202 Composer Akira Miyagawa interview

Published by Gigazine, November 2, 2017. See the original post here.

Yamato 2202, Soldiers of Love, consists of seven chapters shown in theaters from February 2017. Director Nobuyoshi Habara and Scriptwriter Hideki Oka saw the original movie Farewell to Yamato and the TV anime Yamato 2, and Series Writer Harutoshi Fukui learned of Yamato through the original feature film when it was broadcast on TV.

Among the staff, Akira Miyagawa is in charge of the music, continuing from the previous work Yamato 2199. His father Hiroshi Miyagawa was responsible for music for the original Space Battleship Yamato saga, so they are, so to speak, a “hardcore” Yamato parent and child. We’ll hear various stories about how Akira get involved with 2199 and 2202, and how he views his father’s work.

(Visit his official website here.)

Interviewer: I think Yamato is a work you’ve been closely involved with. Can I ask what made you work on Yamato 2199 in 2012?

Miyagawa: I am exactly in the “Yamato Generation.” When “First Yamato” was broadcast, I was in the eighth grade. We were the first customers, and we trembled with the impression that “history is being made!” The feeling was very real. But after that, I felt there was “too much Yamato.” (Laughs)

Everyone laughs when I say that, don’t they? It’s different in everyone’s mind. Something like, “Why did they call it Farewell when now we have Be Forever?” or “It’s called Be Forever, but don’t do it again.” It seemed to be half-joking and to be honest it wore me out. But I was in the first generation and I was proud of my father’s music. I’m really proud of the staff on Space Battleship Yamato from the design to the story.

So with 2199 I was like, “You’re doing it again? Come on, now…” I went to the meeting intending to preach. Before that there was the live-action movie and the one by Producer Nishizaki.

Naoto Otomo, conductor of the music for Yamato Resurrection

Interviewer: Resurrection.

Miyagawa: Yes, Resurrection. At that time, the conductor Naoto Otomo called me up and said, “Let’s do it together,” but I said frankly, “It’s not a matter of principle, but I don’t intend to work on it” and declined. It was a bit awkward, and I haven’t worked with Mr. Otomo since. (Laughs)

Therefore, I intended to decline again. They said General Director Yutaka Izubuchi wanted to meet with me by all means, so I was going to clearly tell him, “I don’t want to do it for this reason.” When we met I got through about half of it (laughs) and then Mr. Izubuchi said, “Akira-san, I feel the same way. What I’m trying to do is remake the first 26 episodes.” And I had to admit, “Exactly what I would do. The first 26 episodes are really creative.” And he asked, “What do you think of doing a remake?” Well…how could I turn that down? (Laughs) If it came out saying “Music by Takayuki Hattori” I’d be in shock. I’m joking. (Laughs)

Interviewer: But it seems like if you didn’t do it, that would be sufficient.

Miyagawa: I once saw Takayuki Hattori ask my father to sign his copy of the Symphonic Suite Yamato LP, so at least the Miyagawa family had an impact on the Hattori family. (Laughs)

Therefore, my immediate answer on that day was, “I would suffer if I don’t do this myself, so I definitely want to do it.” That was good. It was good that there was such a general director who wanted to do it that way.

Director Yutaka Izubuchi

Interviewer: Did you strongly feel his enthusiasm?

Miyagawa: Both his enthusiasm and what I call his “unique perspective.” He wasn’t someone who would just assemble the story by referencing other anime. He’s the type who would drink the night away and stay up talking about space until morning. I worked on Yamato with the same stance. Rather than starting from “Yamato for Yamato fans,” it was about the wonder of space, the wonder of life, the miracle of meeting, and the twins of good and evil. His philosophy included many such things, and it was fun to have someone to discuss things like space philosophy with, since I’m very interested in such things.

Musicians and artists usually talk about big things, don’t they? “A bureaucrat talks ten years on, politicians talk about 100 years on, and artists talk about 1,000 years on.” That’s what I think. Therefore, Mr. Izubuchi seemed to enjoy our understanding about the story. Honestly, that’s what led to 2202. (Laughs)

With 2202 there was no ritual of “I’ll turn it down this time” at all. No matter what, heaven can’t consist of only good things. If you don’t see both heaven and hell, you’re not really getting it. For example, raising a child is both heaven and hell. For me, Yamato is a heavy thing to feed a family. It’s not just, “This is fun,” it’s “I’m able to discover myself anew” and “This is a heavy thing to carry on my back.” (Laughs) If you don’t confront that boldly, I don’t think you can make Yamato. But I might be overstating it.

Interviewer: Did you taste “heaven and hell” from the time of 2199?

Miyagawa: 2199 seemed like heaven since I tasted all the sweet parts first, but then there was the feeling of, “I got all the best parts,” and hell came afterward. (Laughs)

Director Nobuyoshi Habara

Interviewer: On 2202, the director has been replaced by Mr. Nobuyoshi Habara. Do you have different exchanges, or impressions of the work?

Miyagawa: It’s completely different. Mr. Izubuchi entered into it from a philosophical point of view, but Mr. Habara didn’t. I don’t know if I’ve had a chance to talk about that yet. My impression is that Mr. Habara has very good judgment. When it comes down to “Should we go this way or that way?” he seems to be good at choosing the one that is closer to the goal or where the future is brighter.

Since Mr. Izubuchi started with philosophy, he suffered from not reaching an understanding with what he said. (Laughs) I think there are places where Mr. Izubuchi got caught in his own traps. That’s very bold for an artist, but Mr. Habara chooses paths to avoid falling into traps, so I’m very relieved.

Interviewer: Is it your impression that it’s easy to work together?

Miyagawa: I can’t say it’s “easy to do,” but when I look at what’s been done, I have a strong sense of security. The flow of time feels smart and avoids waste, and the feeling is, “This is well made. The results are good. My younger brother is a clever guy, and doesn’t get stuck in the same rut.” I selfishly imagine that Mr. Habara is the second or third son and I’m the oldest, the type that falls into the hole. I’m the type that has all the hardships so you don’t have to. (Laughs)

Interviewer: The story goes that there was no sheet music from the past for 2199, and that you had to start by making ear-copies.

Hiroshi Miyagawa’s score for the original Yamato theme

Miyagawa: My father’s library is still there, but I knew there wasn’t much Yamato music in it. Just some tattered leftovers or single-sided pages saying “This is part XX.” It’s nothing like having all of Yamato’s wonderful 73 pieces. And I don’t remember seeing a musical score for Farewell to Yamato. Columbia, who was in charge of the music at the time, told me “There is no sound source,” but there is one. Everyone has the CD. (Laughs)

There might be multiple recordings for those that were multi-recorded, but in any case it still became a story of rewriting everything. The information changes in the video picture and the designs, and the thing that changes most is the texture. The old anime had the tone of a flip-book. That was the taste back in those days. But a lot of it is done in CG now and the pacing is different in both picture and music. Because the music doesn’t fit today’s pacing, it’s understandable that it would need to be re-recorded. And if you re-record it, you need a score.

Mr. Izubuchi was amused to hear that. “…This is what you mean by ear-copy?” And my feeling was just, “Well, these things happen.” (Laughs) At first I thought, “Are you serious!?” But on the other hand, I was very excited. (Laughs) “I get to write out all that music?”

Several things came to mind. Writing the score would make it clear what kind of structure the music has, and I would come know how this score was realized. That was going to be fascinating. Any composer who graduates from music school can do an ear-copy, but I felt like I was getting classes. I got lessons from my father like, “How did he extend this thin 1-minute piece to 2 minutes?”( Laughs) That kind of technique takes skill. (Laughs)

When I began to write it, it was thinking “This song was written in 30 minutes.” And then there were many, many points where I’d realize “Oh! That’s how it is, that’s how he did it…” The details are kind of a trade secret, though. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Is it different from just listening to the music and writing it out as sheet music?

Miyagawa: It’s entirely different. “There were only these elements, but simply modulating a semitone here brings the whole dream to life” and “After that, I can go back down a semitone!” I’m not really an editing man, but it was fun to understand all of it. And there were several pieces where you could say, “God dwells in there” and I thought it was great. That was Hiroshi Miyagawa from those days.

Interviewer: For 2202, you revived the music of Farewell to Yamato.

Miyagawa: We’re calling it “salvage” in the sense that we’re rescuing old music. If you try to ear-copy Farewell, I understood that from the start it clearly differentiates itself from the first Yamato in musical terms.

Interviewer: What is it like?

Miyagawa: The string parts are abnormally large. The first Yamato was mainly based in rock. There are a lot of scenes where the rhythm section is active. However, the score for Farewell is intentionally based on the string ensemble. In other words, there’s a lot of music in this world that doesn’t use a rhythm section. The strings are almost taking the place of the previous rhythm section.

I’m sure there was a meeting when they said, “Since that was how it used to be, let’s do this way this time.” After all, my father wasn’t trying to make exactly the same thing. Change is necessary to maintain your motivation. I think it started from “Let’s not use this instrument for a while” and the instruments were changed.

Interviewer: Is that why it has a classical impression?

Miyagawa: That’s right, it sounds classical as a result. Plus, there’s the Bach pipe organ in there.

Interviewer: When the pipe organ White Comet theme was used in 2199, it was a rearrangement of the version on Immortal Space Battleship Yamato New Disco Arrange, which made it seem like “revenge was achieved.” A story in a news flash has it that 2202 has a form closer to the original, which made me think, “Oh, the White Comet has come.” The performers played in Triphony Hall this time. Did you take part in it yourself?

Recording the pipe organ performance for Yamato 2202

Miyagawa: I remember playing White Comet back then, and my impression was that the sheet music was very clear. I listened to my performance from high school many times and prepared a perfect score for the organist, Hiroko Yoneyama. I had the option of playing it myself, but that seemed like a joke. (Laughs)

On the day of recording, as I stood to the side listening to her play, as she asked, “Is this all right?” and “Should it sound like this?” to confirm she was playing it right, I’d answer, “Could you do a retardando here?” and “Yeah, do the phrasing this way at that point.” When I asked, “Did you study this?”, she said “I got a CD.” Which means, “Was she studying from the version I played in high school?!” (Laughs) And so I thought “Right, that’s how I played back then.”

Meanwhile, I was the one leading the battle to play the pipe organ. “It’s slightly different there. I played it with a marcato, and there’s a retardando here and strong beat here…” And suddenly I remembered, “That’s how it was for me.” Hiroshi Miyagawa was directing me strongly from the side, explaining music and inspiring me.

I’d forgotten all about that. At the time I was filled to bursting and I was playing with tears in my eyes all the while, just trying to play it without a mistake. Even if he said “Play this heavily” or “This is more musical,” I was in a state like, “I get it, but that’s not the problem, papa!” (Laughs)

I forgot about that for a long time, but surely Hiroshi Miyagawa was directing me from the side and coaching me. “Here it is, here, and then like this, then take a rest and come at it this way!” It’s the passing of the baton from musician to musician and from composer to performer and from parent to child.

It’s a complex baton, isn’t it? It reminded me that many things were included in there. I repented a bit after that and thought about my children. “I won’t just show them my back, I’ll take the occasion to say things that should be said.” Sometimes I get home and stir up the house a bit and then head off to Ginza, just like my father used to. (Laughs) I thought I was a better father than he was, but that’s not enough. I began to think, “I’ll have to pass on a raw baton if I don’t tell them what’s important when it seems right.”

Above left: The Miyagawa family in 1981; daughter Naoko and son Akira in the background.
Right: Miyagawa and his wife Reiko relax at home in early 2006.

Interviewer: Hiroshi was busy and didn’t come home very much, and even when he did it was midnight and you couldn’t talk much. I heard that you didn’t hear about the trouble of creating 73 pieces of music in one month for the first Yamato, but in fact the baton was passed at the time of the pipe organ recording.

Miyagawa: Right! When I copied all the music, I thought it was like receiving a lesson from out of this world. However, to reiterate, “His standing by my side, foaming at the mouth while giving me instructions, telling me to do it this way and that” is incredibly nostalgic for me. It makes me think back and it feels as if he’s watching me, even now. It’s strange how memories are asleep all the while, but sometimes when you open a drawer, it comes floating out.

Interviewer: There weren’t just ear-copies, but I heard that you also composed a lot of parts yourself. Your musical background is different and you have your own individuality, but what were your thoughts on making your pieces compatible with those you transcribed from the original?

Miyagawa: In order to answer that question, the correct response has to be, “I didn’t think about it at all.” I was uncertain at the beginning, so I talked with the Sound Director Tomohiro Yoshida and finally got around to asking, “It’s good, isn’t it?” But when it was all finally sorted out for the recording, there was no mismatch at all.

It’s a mysterious thing. Even though the style is completely different, I dared to write music that my father didn’t write. I think this is because the seeding of 2199 was quite good. Mr. Izubuchi said, “There’s no melody that says, ‘ambitious youth,’ so I want you to make one.” And we prepared a Garmillas National Anthem. When I surged into 2202, both myself and those around me said, “There’s no mismatch” and “You did well, Akira.” I know it was good, because it was said at separate times.

Interviewer: Yes, no mismatch at all.

Miyagawa: Anybody can be influenced or not by the original author, but with the yearning in regard to the stylishness that we call harmony, the linear beauty that’s like a huge dragon that we call melody, and the yearning for the coolness we call rhythm, whether due to DNA or experience, I can’t say, but our intuition is definitely identical. And perhaps, in the end, it’s born of a desire to “express the age.” Well, perhaps my father was a bit more eager…

No, no, but the ending is Scarlet Scarf, right? (Laughs) That one was lagging behind the times. When I was a junior high student, I couldn’t accept it. “Dad! This is no longer the era of Hiroshi Wada and the Mahinastars!” (Laughs) It’s certainly a good song, and I could understand it after I became an adult. That’s one bit of evidence that he wasn’t thinking about being fashionable. The other is that he didn’t use a computer, and I don’t use a computer for music at all. That’s how we’re alike. Because it cannot be used.

Hiroshi Miyagawa in his final years, still master of the baton

Interviewer: You don’t even record things separately.

Miyagawa: I think music needs to be done in one shot. That’s why it seems like “Miyagawa music” is conjoined by its own nature. Some writers have a lot of trouble if you tell them “I want you to write pieces that don’t match” but I don’t think my father had any problem with that.

There were a lot of things that were really well done in the battle scenes, where you can say, “This piece feels different because the enemy is different this time, too.” Does it accumulate to more than 900 pieces? He went through incredible hell, didn’t he? And here I am thinking, “can I just use the same piece as before?” (Laughs)

But knowing that my father boldly said, “I’m still fighting even though I’ve run out of bullets,” I think he was really great. There’s a lot of music in Farewell to Yamato.

Interviewer: From there, some would say, “Bring out something inside of me beyond even that.”

Miyagawa: This time I noticed that Yamato is itself the act of struggling. Yamato is a struggle. Why is it the Battleship Yamato from World War II? Why not the Battleship Nagato? Anyway, it would be no good if it wasn’t Yamato. (Laughs)

Anyway, if you have “it must be Yamato,” then you also have, “It wouldn’t be Yamato without this.” The first thing I wanted to do was find a basis for replacing the Pacific War with space. So this work carries a lot of things on its back. It’s sociology and philosophy. It wouldn’t be Yamato if there was no struggle.

IJN Battleship Yamato

Interviewer: I see.

Miyagawa: I don’t know what kind of feeling viewers have when watching Yamato, but I wonder if they think of struggling together. I hated the ending of Farewell to Yamato. At that time, we were carefully studying the war in the school I attended. For summer vacation I was writing my impressions of Listen to the Voices from the Sea, and when I saw Farewell even a high school student could understand that “This is the same as the Kamikaze unit.” But still, it was cool. (Laughs)

When Yamato advances and “Goodbye Earth” flows in acapella from the male chorus, it goes right to your genes and you ask, “What am I?” (Laughs) Then you start to struggle. Weapons are cool. A battleship is a big weapon, and I had a lot of model guns, because they were cool. On the other hand, it’s also a tool of murder. So then we ask, “What am I? What is a human?” You understand it in your head, but your senses tell you the opposite. So we struggle and think and debate, but there’s no answer other than, “Each person is a different case” and knowing that is the truth behind undertaking Yamato.

I wonder why I’m so obsessed with something like this, but if I contracted the “disease” back then, I’m doomed to associate with it my entire life. It sounds a bit like Camus, though. (Laughs) Having shown both heaven and hell, I think the association of father and son turns it into true tradition.

Interviewer: The story goes that the information density in a picture is completely different now than it was back in those days. Do you have the feeling that music will sound dull if you make it with the same density as back then?

Miyagawa: “Dullness,” or rather, the feeling that it just doesn’t fit. I don’t know the right terminology, but it seems somewhat irrelevant. If you made music with the same density, my feeling would be, “Why not just leave the picture as it was long ago?” When I think about this in regards to movie music and anime music of nowadays, I don’t think there are many places where they use direct melodies.

Interviewer: Is it difficult to maintain a melody because one musical instrument doesn’t stand out, since many instruments are piled up in the same position?

Third day in the recording studio, November 29, 2016

Miyagawa: Now we can freely pile up musical instruments using a synthesizer and the sound is similar, like we’ve “mixed all the colors.” I think it has the aspect of making the melody difficult to understand. But I think when a bold melody is actually applied, they just say, “I don’t need that.”

In film music, much of it is mainly chiseled out with rhythm only, “dun! dun! dun!”, bass-heavy growls of “zoon,” with the occasional different instrument thrown in. One of the reasons is that the visual information is clear, and I think that to a large extent visual information provides all the information in the movie.

Interviewer: Does it become noisy if you insist on sounds?

Miyagawa: Yes, you don’t need a melody, you just need a feeling of music in the air.

Interviewer: Is it supposed to be “abstract”?

Miyagawa: You could say that it becomes abstract, but perhaps it’s the extreme abstractness of the melody that embodies the atmosphere that makes it abstract. That’s an extremely difficult question, but I think there are plenty of examples where you’re buried in information and you’re told “We don’t need a melody, just give us atmosphere, please. But, since I’ve not worked with many directors like that, I can only imagine that. (Laughs)

So, as a result, it may be that you get the balance of information from a melody that can’t be sung. The main theme of Francis Ford Copolla’s Godfather is very famous, isn’t it? It’s used in many places, and the person who hears it can freely make a leap with that image. When that happens, the image darkens and blurs, and there’s something about the details of the subject of the shot that you lose.

In older films, I guess the audience had to flip a switch on their imagination. Although records had a crackling noise at first, you can flip a switch on your imagination with that. “The sound you hear is the diamond needle scratching the polyvinyl chloride, but it sounds genuine.” (Laughs)

The sound on a CD is really clear, and the “thing itself” comes out to be transmitted. The structure and receiving system of the brain are different, and I think making full use of your imagination was a way to enjoy old movies and analog records. My argument is that it’s normal for half of imagination to be made by the producer and the other half by the recipient. I can’t prove it, but when I work on Yamato I respect the music a lot and the staff all listens to it, and we try to make the music talk. In that sense, I think Yamato may be one of the last strongholds.

Third day in the recording studio, November 29, 2016

Interviewer: The story goes that melody is lost as visual information increases, but in 2202 you’re preparing to make more elaborate music.

Miyagawa: I talked about that area with Director Habara, and Yamato’s color is slightly darker because of that. I think it will be reliable if I can verify that and prove it later on.

Interviewer: I see. In old anime, much of it was completed in your own mind, and then when you see it for real, you say “Huh? Is that what the pictures looked like?”

Miyagawa: Yes, yes. That’s why the volume of information in 2199 and 2202 are interesting to me. However, you don’t have any sound in real space, but everyone accepts that it’s okay to have a battleship in space. At that point, Yamato becomes a fantasy that you can’t see unless you use a lot of imagination. If you ask for realness there, it may stray a bit off the “Yamato way.” (Laughs)

In that regard, Yamato may be different from other works in the kind of information it presents and how it is used. I’m allowed to record in luxury, but I think there are other things that may interest people more. For instance, recording in one shot with a real time hookup. How much of a luxury is that, nowadays? In the past the studio was like a school, and after I left music college the next school I went to was a studio. Therefore you learn your ABCs as you wrestle with various styles of music and learn how to work as a pro.

Interviewer: Aha.

Miyagawa: Now we have “another recording” where the composer drives a song through a computer from the start, and if it’s a computer there’s only a compromised musical instrument, and that’s all you can record. For example, if you record strings and then record a flute afterward, the string player and flute player never meet. There’s no community any more. Then the school part of it gets lost.

Interviewer: I hear that it was a luxurious, one-shot recording this time. Is there a clear difference?

Miyagawa: All I can do is make an effort for it to stand out a little, so there are places where I’m going to deliberately throw a stone.

Interviewer: Is there also the feeling that you don’t want the school aspect to vanish?

Back in the studio, August 4 2017

Miyagawa: That’s where I learned. If I said, “Let’s stop doing this in 4-beat and go with bossa nova” and you said, “Eh? How do you do bossa nova?” then the business of a studio vanishes. Because of the treasure of the studio, everyone shares a common style and it’s, “Ah, bossa nova. That’s good, right?” and it comes out like the wind. But then an even better musician comes along, and for this musician who is like the wind of the new age you say, “Nice! Your drumming is so new!” But on the other hand, that means there’s a musician who’s not called in anymore.

Interviewer: That’s sad.

Miyagawa: It’s sad, but it’s because everyone’s decided to earn it at an hourly wage. In return, there’s no other way to earn 10,000 yen for an hour’s work. That’s why we divide it up. We could all be driving Mercedes Benz’s, but if the phone never rings, that’s the end. Even saying it’s the end, it’s not as if work stops completely. Right now, I’m doing tours, writing the orchestral pieces I want to… That was truly my school.

Interviewer: You said earlier that when you make new songs in addition to the ones your father made, “The trick is not to think about it.” That having been said, what then becomes the inspiration for the compositions, the ingredients to them?

Miyagawa: In my case, it’s actually the title. I’m always saying, “I want to express it with around two kanji characters.” It’s fine even if it’s just temporary, like “Emotion” or “Passion” or if it’s a battle song it could be “Hanging in the balance” or “Victory after victory” and my dream expands as I write it.

Later on when I hear, “I want music to go from this storyboard frame to this one,” I’m itching to try that. In other words, whether I get a specific title or subject, either ones gives me a feeling of stimulation. You could say it stirs up my imagination.

Interviewer: Aha.

Miyagawa: I while ago I said “Yamato is a struggle,” but this time I wrote music that wasn’t requested. I can’t say the title because it was temporary, but I recorded it in August. I went in and played the melody on piano for the staff and said, “I heard something like this,” and they said “We’ll keep it until we find a place to use it,” and because of that I went through the struggle of making it.

That’s a different method, to make a song that doesn’t have any purpose other than “There may be something in this,” then you go through the assembly line to record it and then, “It’s done.” “Thank you very much.” “Best regards.”

Since this is Yamato, you can approach it from several directions, asking yourself “Is this not cool? Is it not new? Is it not sufficiently Yamato-like?” Even I think of musical compositions in this way. It’s a piece that might not actually be used, but I enjoyed making it. (Laughs)

Studio recording, August 4 2017

Interviewer: Is there any other project aside from Yamato where you just wrote a piece on your own volition, without having been asked to?

Miyagawa: I can’t say that I haven’t, but in those cases there had at least been discussions about it. In the beginning, my Yamato started with a feeling pretty much like that. While I was prepping for my entrance exam, my father said, “Hey, write me a song. Do something for a battle scene for the time being.” And I wrote from a place of, “Maybe Mr. Nishizaki will like it.” I want to revive my thinking from that time and feel that starting point all over again.

Interviewer: You said you encountered Yamato when you were a junior high student, and there’s a story that you wrote a song called Let’s Take a Space Ship when you were influenced by the broadcast. Was there excitement around you for Yamato?

Miyagawa: Not at all. (Laughs) There were two classes in that year, about 80 people all in the same grade, and out of that only three people had seen it. It was broadcast during my second year in junior high, and I was beside myself because band was in full swing for the first time.

Interviewer: I see.

Miyagawa: Our school was a little different. Instead of September or October, our first “theater festival” was in November.

Interviewer: That’s a little late.

Miyagawa: The broadcast of Yamato started in October. I was inspired by what I saw in Yamato and decided to write a song called Let’s Take a Space Ship. (Laughs)

Interviewer: I see. (Laughs) Going by the broadcast timing, you must have made it immediately.

Miyagawa: I made it up that day, on the spot. (Laughs) As a song, it was pretty childish. “Let’s take a space ship, Tuntun tatatata-ta tuntantan.” Then there was a tambourine and bass solo. “Dadan, taataataataa, dadan. Enemy planes attacking, all ahead, dive!” And then “Wave-Motion Gun” but I couldn’t say that (Laughs) so I said, “Prepare ray gun! Fire the ray gun!” and pressed the high key on an organ. Old guitar amps had a device called a spring reverb, and when you shake it you hear a “bang.” So I shook the guitar amp behind the organ and it was, “Ping – bang!” It took three people, and when they said “all right” we’d start the second number. (Laughs)

Interviewer: Wow! (Laughs)

Miyagawa: In those days, everything that happened to me looked like a big bang. First of all, I wanted to be in a band like The Beatles. The influence of Emerson, Lake and Palmer made me want to play the organ, and I wanted to include some Space Battleship Yamato information as well. The songs I liked were from musicals, and I vaguely understood theatrical music, so all four elements came in at once.

In the next year, in the middle of my third year of junior high, I went out for an amateur battle of the bands on a Nippon Cultural Broadcast program called Hello Party and I became a weekly champion. I went up against a band of college students a month later, but the people on the show said, “Your planning ability is amazing for a junior high student.”

Interviewer: Whoah, that’s great. Your Let’s Take a Space Ship was greatly influenced by Yamato, but did you see any anime before then that impacted you?

Miyagawa: I think I saw the same anime as everyone else. I loved Mazinger Z and devoured Gatchaman. I don’t remember the story (laughs), since I was in it to see the birds and I remember it being cool. And Bob Sakuma’s music was the best.

L to R: Super Jetter (1965), Space Boy Soran (1965), Little Witch Sally (1966).

I also liked Super Jetter, Space Boy Soran, Ambassador Magma, Giant Robo… I completely lost my heart to that stuff. (Laughs) The one I remember most vividly was Little Witch Sally. I’m from the Sally-chan generation, and I remember the first episode in detail. It was even okay for boys, and it was a story with a dream. I loved TV Manga until it became anime with Yamato.

Interviewer: Yamato came in there.

Miyagawa: I kept it all in the closet until then. The term “___ generation” started with Yamato. I mentioned the “Sally generation” just now, but there was no idea of a generation before Yamato. The formation of fan strata piled up from Yamato with the “Yamato generation” and then the “Gundam generation.” Before that, adults knew about Sally and were watching Ultraman on the side, too. Everyone was into Ultra Q.

Interviewer: I see.

Miyagawa: “It’s 8 o’clock! All members assemble!” Even my principal said that, knowing about “popular programs.” (Laughs) However, with Yamato you probably don’t know much about the story if you’re not in that generation. And the baby boomer generation doesn’t know Yamato at all. It’s a blind spot.

Interviewer: As I said earlier, there’s a dividing line just like strata.

Miyagawa: Oh yes, Space Battleship Yamato was the first. The culture started from there. The Yamato boom was such a big thing, it’s like one of the top ten news events from 1974. That’s why I have so much responsibility.

Interviewer: Farewell to Yamato was a huge social phenomenon, and I’ve heard stories about the experience from members of the Yamato generation, including Director Habara. The line was drawn even at the beginning.

Miyagawa: That’s right, it was the first Otaku culture.

Interviewer: By the way, did you know your father was in charge of Yamato’s music during the broadcast?

Miyagawa: Of course.

Interviewer: Did you hear the music beforehand?

Miyagawa: No, I didn’t. All I heard from my mother was, “Papa is the man making music for Yamato this time,” and I just thought, “Hmm.” We loved Wansa-kun, the previous work he did. With Yamato, it was like “Wow!” and “What’s that?” The day when the broadcast of Yamato began, my mother and sister and I were watching Girl of the Alps Heidi and when Yamato started I went into my father’s empty bedroom and watched it on a portable TV lying on the bed.

Interviewer: I hear that Heidi was a very strong rival in those days, and it was even strong in the Miyagawa house. Good thing there was a portable TV.

Miyagawa: I couldn’t take Heidi away from my younger sister, could I? However, seeing it on the portable TV may have doubled the impact. (Laughs)

Hiroshi Miyagawa conducts Yamato themes. Youtube it here.

Interviewer: In an interview with Hiroshi Miyagawa when he conducted music for Japan TV, he said about you, “He’s wonderful! He has helped me with my work many times, but I’ve never helped him. For the arrangement of the new Battleship Yamato, when the musicians do the recording, it’s saying ‘Good job!’ expressly to me,” he says.

Miyagawa: (Laughs)

Interviewer: But he also said, “It’s a lonely thing to be surpassed.” Did that make you feel like, “You have surpassed your father?”

Miyagawa: I never actually had the feeling of surpassing him. But now my three children are coming up behind me, and I don’t think I’ll ever want to go that far. I’m not going to split my thoughts by saying, “I have not surpassed my father yet.” So for now I think it’s good enough to say, “I’ve surpassed the moment of my birth.” I’ll never surpass my father in my whole life. Surpassing him would be impossible. But if you look at it on a different scale, there are many other things you can surpass.

Interviewer: (Laughs)

Miyagawa: For my kids, I tell them “Keep at it, keep at it, you’re surpassing me. No, you’ve already surpassed me.” So, when you ask me if I’ve surpassed my father, all I can think is “No way!” (Laughs) But if you change how you measure it, I have surpassed him. For example… “I have more leg hair.” (Laughs) Even that is good enough.

Both of our daughters are studying abroad. One is in France for six years, the other is in New York for four years. It’s amazing to me, since I was afraid to study abroad, so I couldn’t do it. I can’t speak French, so I’m sure that part of it is beyond me. (Laughs) So I can say, “You have surpassed me.” And sometimes when I’m conducting, they can say, “Dad does have a way with that, but there’s something else he can’t do.”

Interviewer: That’s a nice relationship. I heard that you didn’t like being compared with Hiroshi, but when I hear you talk this way I feel that there’s a point where the story clearly changes.

Miyagawa: As you can expect, nobody likes being compared. In the end, I wonder if I was changed by becoming a parent. Speaking of which, it was about in my mid twenties when I stood on my own two feet and got onto an independent track. That’s the first time I heard it said that, “Akira is very good.”

There was once a phone call for me that came in at my father’s workshop by mistake, and the person talked to my father forever, but he noticed that it didn’t really fit. “Oh? Aren’t you Akira-san? I’m sorry.” Father got mad that the world had been overturned. (Laughs)

Father and son together on a concert program. See it on Youtube here.

Interviewer: What!? (Laughs)

Miyagawa: Indeed, it seemed that “Happiness” was a storm hidden in the clouds, since that kind of thing happened several times. I didn’t know if it was a joke when I was referred to as “Hiroshi Miyagawa’s son Akira,” but there was also the situation of, “That’s the father of Akira, who appears in Quintet, which everyone knows.” [Translator’s note: Akira hosted Quintet, a music program for children on NHK.] That was after I was in my forties, and I enjoy things like that.

Interviewer: (Laughs)

Miyagawa: Since my father was such a great “mainspring,” feelings of being mortified or wanting to surpass him become a source of energy. After all, it’s mortifying to think “Why can’t I do that?” You had the question before about whether or not I have surpassed, and whether I do or not depends on me. But I feel like I can use it to energize myself. You can think of anything in life like that.

Interviewer: I see, thank you very much. Your father created a lot of music, and you made a lot of new pieces for 2199 and 2202 like Yamato Into the Vortex, which are as beloved as if they’ve been there all along. How can you describe the new standard for these pieces?

Miyagawa: It’s just something that I wanted to hear. (Laughs) I was a little embarrassed about it at first. I didn’t know if it could be used.

Interviewer: Well, that’s surprising.

Miyagawa: I was thinking back to Heaven and Hell and Hungarian Dance, but it seemed too orthodox or old-fashioned. I asked the Sound Director Mr. Yoshida, “Is this going too far?” But he said, “No, it’s great.” Everyone was glad when I opened the lid.

Interviewer: Was it an unexpected response for you?

Miyagawa: Oh, yes. That’s what happens when I don’t think about it. It doesn’t go where I aim it to, so you just have to trust in your intuition.

Interviewer: Of the new pieces you’ve made, are there any where you can say, “I did this one right” or “I had a hard time with this one, but it came out well”?

Miyagawa: This is a little vain, but I thought the one that was easily within my specialty was the melody for the scene which concerns Tsubasa, the child of Saburo and Makoto. I sincerely think, “That’s my melody.” And then…there’s a different melody that comes out for the first time using the same motif as the Farewell to Yamato theme song. That’s a pretty drastic challenge.

Interviewer: It was surprising to hear the first time…

Miyagawa: It’s obviously a different melody. That sort of thing has been sealed up before now, but by actively doing something daring, I’m steadily increasing the intensity of the Yamato “struggle,” and I’d like to continue making music that is appropriate for Yamato.

Interviewer: Indeed, I’m looking forward to that music echoing through the theater. Thank you very much for today.

Miyagawa: Thank you very much.

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