Akira Miyagawa interview, October 2017

Special Staff Interview,Yamato 2202 Chapter 3 Pure Love Chapter

Akira Miyagawa, music

Published at the official Yamato 2202 website, October 11, 2017. See the original post here.

Born 1961 in Tokyo. A composer and stage musician. While dealing with a large number of musicals, he is also actively engaged in performance activities. His father Hiroshi Miyagawa composed the music for the Space Battleship Yamato series, and he is now in charge of the the music for Yamato 2202 following the previous work, Yamato 2199.

Interviewer: Your father Hiroshi Miyagawa created the music for the Space Battleship Yamato series. What does that music mean to you?

Miyagawa: I was unquestionably the first customer. When Yamato went on the air (October 6, 1974), I was immediately captivated. When I went to school the next day, only three people had watched it, including me, and it gave us a sense of fellowship. (Laughs) It was a dream for me, but at the same time there was a mismatch, with the end theme Scarlet Scarf in particular. The opening was really cool, but then suddenly there was this mellow music and it seemed old-fashioned. When I was a junior high student, I thought, “Dad, this isn’t it.” (Laughs) At that time, it felt like a throwback ballad, and I wondered if it surprised anyone. However, as an adult I came to understand the background that would lead to such a request. It came to simply feel like a good song.

Interviewer: You dealt with some pieces of Yamato music when you were a student. What were your feelings about it at the time?

Miyagawa: I was a student studying to be a composer, and my father invited me in with, “Would you like to try a little song?” So I started writing an opening. I think it was around the time of Be Forever Yamato (1980), and at that time I would have done anything. (Laughs) I longed for it as a student, and I got tough love from my dad. I was very pleased when music came out of me that was different from his vocabulary. Like my parents, I liked music but I didn’t know if I was talented or not. I think it was kind of a gateway, like, “This guy is a little unusual.”

After that, I became completely interested in music. I wasn’t very interested in anime, so I got away from the music of Yamato. I missed the history of anime. I didn’t watch Mobile Suit Gundam and I didn’t even see Ghibli movies at all. I was a fan of Lupin III when he had the green jacket [in the first series] but the moment he appeared in a red jacket, I completely lost interest. If it’s just a small-scale story that only rotates around the characters, it doesn’t seem relevant to me and it leaves me cold. (Laughs)

Interviewer: More than thirty years have passed since then, and you took charge of the music for Yamato 2199 (released in 2012). Why did you decide to take that on?

Miyagawa: Actually, I intended to decline it at first. I thought I would go meet with the production team, including General Director Yutaka Izubuchi, about doing a remake and say, “Are you guys still doing this?” But Mr. Izubuchi shook my hand before I could finish saying it, and said he had the same opinion. He said strongly, “I want to recreate the first 26 episodes by directing them with modern technology and interpretation. I was thinking about using only the music from the old days, but I need new music. So please help me out.” I couldn’t decline after that. There was a person who felt just as I did, and I couldn’t turn him down after hearing that. On the contrary, I really wanted to go for it. (Laughs)

Interviewer: And now there’s the sequel, Yamato 2202. What do you keep in mind while producing music for it?

Miyagawa: When I worked with Mr. Izubuchi, he gave me a few scenes from the beginning without music, and I made original scores. Since the music on the Garmillas side was scarce, we discussed composing a national anthem and a song for Garmillas cadets, but on the other hand there was the opinion that there should be a theme song for the young Yamato crew at the center of the story, so it was assembled theoretically by filling in areas where there was no music.

But this time we don’t have such meetings because the atmosphere is that I think about it along with Sound Director Tomohiro Yoshida. There was also a big problem about what to do with the pipe organ track, White Comet. Of course, Isao Sasaki’s melody in the Yamato theme remains the most important framework of the Yamato concept, and that song overwhelmingly sticks in everyone’s mind, doesn’t it?

At the beginning of Farewell to Yamato, a new enemy (Gatlantis) appears suddenly, and we have no idea of their history or thoughts. To me, it seems like the story starts in the middle, and at the moment you have to surprise an audience with something like, “There are worse guys than Dessler!” But you can’t undercut the depth of the work called Yamato. Thus, the pipe organ that is normally used for church music, which sounds like Bach to me. (Laughs)

It contradicts the theme of Yamato, not through the concept of melody and genre, but the presence and incongruity of the musical instrument itself, the pipe organ, which can’t be found in a studio. When I noticed that, I returned to the boldness of that flash, which I played through trial and error. [Translator’s note: Akira Miyagawa performed that piece as a high school student on the original Farewell to Yamato soundtrack.] How to do it again was a big proposition, so at first I thought about why White Comet was played on a pipe organ from the beginning, and I arranged it, so as a result it led to recording the pipe organ once again.

In addition, it developed into me writing more pieces using the pipe organ, so I recorded a few tracks that Mr. Yoshida will decide how to use. (Laughs) For example, I had no desire to produce a fresh taste to satisfy my own hobbies, like using electric guitar, so I inherited this and interpreted it again, thinking about it for about half a year until I got there. Some outsiders noticed that I was making a fuss about how to do arrangements for pipe organ. But they didn’t have to worry about it, so I just told them to leave it to me. (Laughs)

Interviewer: I heard that a second recording session was held in August. How did it go?

Miyagawa: At the time of the first recording, I had to make copies by ear of all the music my father made for Farewell to Yamato. I puzzled out the goals and found better methods and unraveled it in various ways. By doing that, I was deeply impressed by my father’s passion as a composer as it came rising up from the score, and I really had to take my hat off to his versatility. At the time of the second recording, I’d written songs at the producer’s request, since Shoji Nishizaki wanted to freshen up the music.

I wasn’t clear enough on that yet, so I thought it would be a struggle. But looking back, I was drawn to Yamato back in my school days to help me with my work. Back then I cried when I was frustrated and ecstatic when I was praised, and I learned a lot from the struggle. On the other hand, father was inspired by young me, or maybe he enjoyed a sense of superiority by pointing out my immaturity. (Laughs) I worked on it while I was frustrated or ecstatic. It seemed useless to join the neophytes who wanted to do rock music back then, but in my own way I found the point of contact between Yamato and rock.

No one knew whether the music was useable again, but Mr. Yoshida still liked the piece I wrote after 20 years, and I was surprised to hear it used in Yamato Resurrection (released in 2009). I was embarrassed because it was a piece from when I was young. (Laughs) In other words, it wasn’t a Yamato experiment, it was an experiment to test myself, and also a musical experiment. So I wrote music this time that wasn’t asked for. (Laughs) I loosely interpreted a piece that I thought could be used and recorded it on my smartphone. While I was waiting for opinions from Mr. Yoshida and others, I decided that I was definitely going to record it. (Laughs) I wanted to leave something creative in the margins, and I didn’t want to only do the work I was asked for. It was a time to borrow the power of a young person like in those days when joy and sorrow flipped back and forth and I was struggling against my father. I wanted to struggle with myself first so everyone could show a variety of reactions at the time of recording. Mr. Yoshida said, “I can definitely use it somewhere, and I look forward to it.” But I don’t know what will actually happen. (Laughs)

Interviewer: What are your favorite pieces from Chapter 1 and Chapter 2?

Miyagawa: Almost nothing original has appeared yet, but I like the sad melody that flows through Tsubasa Kato’s scene. I think I’m good at writing sad and lonely, and I thought it came out good, with just the right feeling.

Interviewer: What kind of role and effect do you think music brings to anime works?

Miyagawa: I’m not quite sure yet, because I changed my way of thinking over the past year, but I get the sense that the story is making great progress. I’ve watched dramas and anime for a long time now, and I think they’re all well-written, but I don’t usually feel like they have any melody. In that respect, Yamato is special. Starting from the battle scenes, even if you’re sad or fun or brave or lonely, it’s all about the melody. There are many songs in the world that are only about rhythm, and make me feel like I’m watching a movie trailer. But if you can wait a few more years for an answer to this question, I think I can talk a little more about it after 2202 is completed.

Interviewer: And finally, please give a message to fans of the Yamato series.

Miyagawa: I can’t say much to the fans who are far more knowledgeable than I am. I believe in my own Yamato, but I’m sorry if it’s different from yours. (Laughs) Please enjoy all the musical struggles.

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