Music interview: Akira Miyagawa × Nobuyoshi Habara

From the Yamato 2202 Original Soundtrack Volume 1 CD booklet.

Composer Akira Miyagawa and Director Nobuyoshi Habara gathered in response to the theme, “Once more, please tell us a story about the music of Yamato 2202.” We spoke to them as Chapter 4 and the second musical recording neared completion, to summarize what has been done so far and the plan for the rest.

Thinking one order ahead

Interviewer: Mr. Habara, did you have an image in your mind when you first asked for music?

Habara: Zordar said “love,” which hasn’t happened before now. I thought about whether to replace Great Emperor Zordar with something new, but it’s right here on this CD. That’s good, isn’t it? This piece had a temporary title of Devil, which gave me goosebumps. (Laugh) It surprised me.

Interviewer: Mr. Miyagawa, what was the order that came with this piece?

Miyagawa: As a main melody, it was just, “Make this the image of Zordar.” Zordar and the White Comet are one and the same, and the White Comet has the “Dan-DA-daaan” melody on the pipe organ. I wanted a melody for Zordar on top of that this time. But since the White Comet itself is not Zordar, it’s another side of him. It’s part of the spirit, so I wondered how I would make it. When I think about it now, it’s “love,” isn’t it?

Habara: That’s right. And you made it. (Laughs)

Miyagawa: Isn’t the theme of evil normally about “fear”? But there’s so much more to the world. When I think about that initial order now, I was able to draw on something inside (such as love). But I didn’t think much about it at the time, just finding an image that was melodious.

If you’ve loved evil since you were born, then (to your own mentality) evil isn’t evil. If you simply like it and it gives you pleasure, then even evil is nothing at all. It’s being irrational, being unreasonable, being perverse that makes it evil. While there may not be a beauty to evil, as music, it needs to be beautiful. And so in making the music, it requires a seed of heartbreak, of sadness, of loneliness.

Habara: When the piano comes in about halfway, the feeling becomes, “This is a fearsome person, but does he also shed tears?”

Miyagawa: It’s like, “But no tears flow from me.”

Habara: Yes, that’s it!

Miyagawa: It is conversely sad and beautiful.

Interviewer: Exactly like the scenes in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4.

Habara: That’s right.

Music has power as accompaniment to drama

Interviewer: When you ask for music, do you decide which scene it will accompany?

Habara: As for me, I don’t decide that at all. As a matter of course, it’s decided by our sound director, Mr. Yoshida…

Miyagawa: These are the strange ways of Yamato.

Habara: God works in mysterious ways. (Laughs)

Miyagawa: It’s like our telepathy overlaps. (Laughs)

Habara: It comes together in the film, doesn’t it? As for Great Emperor Zordar, in Chapter 3 it’s used on Planet Stravase in the second half where Kodai meets Zordar, and then in Chapter 4 it’s used in the scene where Yamato is pulled into the White Comet. They are completely different scenes, but it was a perfect match.

Miyagawa: Right now it’s all just, “Perfect, how nice,” but maybe in five or ten or thirty years I’ll watch it again as a grandfather, and in a moment of realization I’ll say, “Oh, that’s exactly what that meant.” One day I’ll find out.

Habara: That’s right. I’m looking forward to it. Thirty years from now. (Laughs)

A meeting with Sound Director Yoshida, about how to use the music?

Habara: Of course, we made adjustments at first when we talked, but recently there is the feeling that we sense each other’s feelings and everything is in an “OK” state when Mr. Yoshida is ready to start his dubbing work. We’re in sync. Then, as you can expect, music comes in as we work on the editing. “Mr. Yoshida didn’t put music in here.” “Then let’s extend it to here.”

Miyagawa: That’s good. Does it go that way on works other than Yamato?

Habara: It does to some extent, but Yamato is special. For a long time, my impression of anime music came from Yamato.

Miyagawa: As a musical work.

Habara: Yes. I try to produce it as a musical work. Since the impression is strong that music is important to this work, I try not to change the scenes too much. Even if the scene changes, I still feel that the music stays with it.

Miyagawa: I think that’s also a point in Mr. Fukui’s script. For example, just the title of a scene is written on one page of pure white. Even if it wasn’t pure white, that one line would represent four minutes. That’s the implication in the way it’s written, isn’t it?

Habara: It is, it is. (Laughs) It says, “Dessler enters with this music.” We’re in the generation that grew up without a video deck, so I recorded the broadcasts on cassette tape. I heard the 30-minute composition of the sound over and over, so maybe…

Miyagawa: There’s an artistic form to it, like an aesthetic. How you build a 30-minute structure.

Habara: That’s it.

Miyagawa: When you study visuals, you don’t usually start with a sound recording. But doing that is wonderful. It may be the correct order. It’s not really biological, but it is a process of evolution. There is the person’s power of imagination, which gives birth to the ear, and then maybe gives birth to the eye. But in today’s world, the eyes are the main subject and the ears are secondary. That’s sad somehow.

Habara: When you listen to the old music, you remember the scenes from that time. You can look at a picture and see, “That’s how it was,” but when you listen to the music you see the surroundings, don’t you? A feeling of atmosphere. Your memory can reconstruct an image from the information in simple sounds, so sound is important after all, isn’t it?

In the recording studio, November 2016

Miyagawa: Certainly. I remember it all the time.

Composing is similar to making visuals

Miyagawa: When composing, there is only a vague image at first. A sense of, “Which area is this song in?” On the other hand, when making a sad song the sense is, “Oh, this orchestration is relatively easy.” (Laughs) The composition is as simple as an image. But with a battle song, “Well, this is going to take four days.” (Laughs)

Before I craft a melody, I can say “I’m making this to go straight for the kill,” or “I need to make this so it isn’t that stiff.” First off, I guess I get down to the practical matter of crafting it.

Habara: It’s vague, but you can see a form.

Miyagawa: Somewhere, I calculate if it’s sad or not.

The act of actually making a melody involves arranging the music order beforehand, understanding it, swallowing it, and digesting it (on a piano) so you can play it afterward. And when you play it, it’s something like, “I went to this place last time, so what is it this time? Oh, this is new.”

Interviewer: You output it when you sit down at a piano.

Miyagawa: Right, right. In other words, it’s a matter of whether you can judge that this song gives a sense of the theme. In the previous Emperor Zordar, I felt pressed with a sense of “this is what’s right for Zordar.” Maybe it’s because I’ve grown used to the feeling of being a music director. In other words, maybe I’ve grown able to understand the scripts.

Habara: It’s the same as making a visual, isn’t it? As an animator, I look at the storyboard and draw the scene…the real movement comes when you draw the actual layout, and when a picture in a storyboard looks vague, I can draw it with a pretty nice feeling.

Miyagawa: I see. And you go, “Four hours from now…” (Laughs)

Habara: You take a quick look and you think, “This is nearly done.” The instant the images come to mind, you think “Uh-oh, this going to take a while.” (Laughs)

Miyagawa: “There are three pieces of battle music this time…and some sad music, that’s lucky.” (Laughs) First of all, there’s that terrible side of myself.

Interviewer: However, there is the feeling that you have to be a worker.

Miyagawa: Otherwise, we couldn’t do all this multi-tasking.

Training Yamato muscles

Interviewer: On the whole, I felt that the songs on this CD are somewhat sad. Is that one side of the theme for 2202?

Habara: That’s right. My own impression is that it’s deep and quiet with its feet on the ground, and the feeling of that essential part of life is neatly communicated through the melody. I felt that it was a good choice for the soundtrack, a good balance in listening response.

Interviewer: It is chosen from music used from Chapter 1 through Chapter 4.

Miyagawa: It’s also Yamato 2202 – New Overture. Mr. Yoshie the producer at Lantis, and our sound supervisor Mr. Yoshida thought, “This is different from whether or not it’s used in the main story, so let’s make it different from that plan.” The idea is that when you’re listening to such a soundtrack CD there are a lot of short pieces…

Habara: That’s right.

Miyagawa: As much as I made, it only totals around 25 minutes or so. Recognizing what sort of music it is, you can’t simply think of it like background music, so that you don’t end up with the whole thing feeling sort of half-assed. But if you decouple it from why it was made, then you can lengthen it, can’t you? In which case you think of it as, “Let’s make it as the overture to this CD.”

Interviewer: I heard that the trigger was a string quartet performance held in Kobe back in January 2017.

Concert program, Akira Miyagawa and Ensemble Vega

Miyagawa: The title was Space Battleship Yamato Montage for Chamber Music, which had the same structure as a chamber music version, which I added to the program from my Akira Miyagawa & Ensemble Vega concert. Mr. Yoshie, who came to hear it, suggested I do an Overture, and the common perception is that I would do that with an orchestra.

Habara: As expected, right?

Miyagawa: And furthermore, the suggestion was, “Why not combine the new melodies you made for 2199 with the previous melodies by Hiroshi Miyagawa?” And then, “That’s it.” We weren’t able to take the first step toward making a symphonic suite, but we made a great discovery.

It’s good to think up a new concept and throw the ball, isn’t it? Otherwise, it wouldn’t be Yamato. For example, if it was, “Why not do a modern arrangement?” I’d walk away mad. (Laughs) I wasn’t asked by anyone to make a Space Battleship Yamato Montage for Chamber Music for my orchestra, but it got made. That’s another kind of struggle.

Habara: I see.

Miyagawa: It’s all a struggle. If you don’t voluntarily train your muscles in your own home, what happens to your Yamato muscle…?

Interviewer: That was during the time between 2199 and 2202, wasn’t it?

Miyagawa: At that time I was thinking, “Am I really going to do it?” I also wrote pieces that were not asked for as a preparation exercise.

Nobuyoshi Habara

Habara: I let you write it. (Laughs)

Miyagawa: If I hadn’t done that, I couldn’t get on this voyage. That’s what Yamato is for me. I was able to survive 2199 because it was something like an after-image of the original work. A memory of my impression of the sound at the time. That’s what preserved my Yamato love. But it’s not at all like that from here on.

When I was a child, I thought Yoshinobu Nishizaki, Yu Aku, Hiroshi Miyagawa, the people from Nippon Columbia, and the conductor Atsushi Tashiro were all amazing. But for me there isn’t anyone that charismatic any more, and I have to shoulder everything. If it was just one item it wouldn’t be very special, so I have to carry a whole salad set. (Laughs)

Habara: Isn’t that a single item? (Laughs)

Miyagawa: I have to make myself three-dimensional. I am now because I made the Yamato Montage for Chamber Music a year ago.

To be honest, I still have a lot of work to do. So suddenly I’ll write on the edge of the music paper, “Can’t use this phrase” or “Slightly light battle” or “Running out, but with sweetness.” (Laughs) I tear off the memo and put it somewhere else, like I’m collecting grocery lists. (Laughs) Then next time I can say, “It’s already done.” I couldn’t fight if I wasn’t three-dimensional like that. If you start from zero, you’ll be the same as other composers.

Nevertheless, since they asked Akira Miyagawa to do it, and it’s doubtful how much I’m charged with, I have to get to a place where I think I can do it by doing it like that and cheering myself on, rifling through my memories, and activating my brain.

Habara: That’s important.

The step toward the end has already begun

Interviewer: There are pieces that didn’t get on the soundtrack this time.

Miyagawa: They still remain. And there’s one more recording left.

Interviewer: What kind of music is the director going to order?

Habara: That would be a spoiler. (Laughs)

Interviewer: How about the number of pieces?

Habara: I’ll talk with Mr. Yoshida about the number, but new pieces are needed for the final developments.

Miyagawa: If there’s a great decisive battle, I feel like I want to do it like film scoring, as one piece. Something like we did for Ark of the Stars, that matches the picture. The storyboard provides enough material. (Laughs)

Interviewer: I’m looking forward to the pieces that will be recorded.

Miyagawa: Every time I meet with the director, we exchange information. What kind of music do you want for the end? Which way is the ship headed? We’ve talked about the biggest concept, and I think it will work.

Habara: For me, there is only anticipation. I’m really looking forward to seeing what kind of ball will come flying in. Is this the area the ball will be thrown to? I always go as far as possible when I think of that. (Laughs) I’m not sure if it will be a different line, but I’m sure it will at least be a line I thought of. But first. As I do, I may sink and rise once or twice, and while it may vary, the course stays straight and true, so I can’t help but enjoy writing new songs.

(Interview recorded on November 20, 2017)

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