These two interviews were conducted during the runup to Yamato 2202 Chapter 4. Included here is a single session with Akira Miyagawa and a conversation with Miyagawa and vocalist Isao Sasaki that focused entirely on the famous Yamato theme.
Special theme song talk: Isao Sasaki and Akira Miyagawa
Published in the fan club magazine Ship’s Log #20 (January 17, 2018) and at the official Yamato 2202 website (January 18).
See the original post here.
Interviewer: First, please give us your impression of newly singing the theme song for Yamato 2202 this time.
Sasaki: This time I was asked to sing it with the same feeling as when I sang Space Battleship Yamato for the first time. When I did it for Yamato 2199, it was said that it came out a little soft, probably because of my age. Maybe I sang it too cleanly.
Miyagawa: It was all at the intent of the director. Director Habara has a firm image of the development after Chapter 4. The story progresses in a different direction than we know from Farewell to Yamato, and it is a work that says a lot about spreading love throughout the universe, beyond the individual or a nation. After hearing that story, I rearranged the music and added new instruments to give it a form that would align with the director’s image rather than being my own interpretation. But I think only the core fans will understand it. (Laughs)
Vocalist/actor Isao Sasaki
Sasaki: I don’t know the story of this Yamato yet, but the image of the work will definitely get heavy. I wondered if I could break through it, but I didn’t expect to recreate it from scratch. A few instruments have been added to the song, but the tempo has also been raised. The tempo has gone up considerably, hasn’t it?
Miyagawa: The tempo is the biggest difference. But I actually matched the tempo of the first TV series and Yamato 2. (See the Yamato 2 opening here.)
Sasaki: It’s a little rougher this time. “I’m going on a voyage to confront someone!” I was conscious of that heroism when I sang it.
Miyagawa: The musicians and chorus members who participated were glad they got to work with Mr. Sasaki.
Interviewer: Please give me your impression of looking back at the Yamato theme again.
Miyagawa: It has become a national anthem. And you could say this music is representative of [lyricist] Yu Aku.
Sasaki: Yu Aku was very good at writing theme songs for children’s programs. But Yamato wasn’t simply a child’s program. It was something beyond that. It’s a song you can still sing if you saw it as a child and grew into an adult. It didn’t pander to children.
Miyagawa: That was the good thing about Yoshinobu Nishizaki.
Sasaki: It all started with Mr. Nishizaki’s request to Mr. Aku. It’s where you can feel Mr. Nishizaki’s sensibility.
Miyagawa: Right. I am moved by its “Yu Aku-ness.”
Sasaki: When your father Hiroshi Miyagawa added music to Yu Aku’s lyrics, it was the exact moment their talents met each other. Therefore, it became a song that would be beloved for a long time. In those days, Mr. Miyagawa told me, “Anyway, I want you to be lively!” That was the first thing he said to me when I got into the studio. Mr. Nishizaki said there were various meanings behind the lyrics, such as “sorrow” and “romance.” But Mr. Miyagawa said, “Just do it the way I said. That’s how I made it.”
Interviewer: Earlier in the TV series, the intro started at a lower tempo, didn’t it? (See it on Youtube here.)
Composer/conductor Akira Miyagawa
Sasaki: At the time of the first recording, the sheet music was sent to me beforehand and it was missing a “sharp” symbol. I noticed on the recording day that the “sharp” sign had been written on the sheet music in a hurry, and I practiced it several times on the spot before the recording. That first recording was used in the first several TV episodes, starting with the slow tempo. It seemed that was Mr. Nishizaki’s favorite.
Miyagawa: Mr. Nishizaki liked minor melodies, didn’t he? But Hiroshi Miyagawa liked them crisp. He didn’t like minor songs very much. So even if the whole song was in minor, I think he found a good balance by giving it a major intro.
Sasaki: On the other hand, when Mr. Nishizaki gave me the lyrics written by Yu Aku, I thought there would be a slow melody. That would be a strong image, wouldn’t it? Maybe that’s why the order came down to “give it some sorrow.”
Miyagawa: In that sense, it might have been that Mr. Nishizaki and Mr. Miyagawa complemented each other.
Sasaki: When we recorded the slow version, Mr. Miyagawa said nothing. When it came to the recording of the familiar up-tempo version, he started to get really excited. I didn’t ask for many details at the time, but the maestro was a hit maker and I guess he was absolutely certain that this would be a hit.
Miyagawa: In that theme song, the A melody, B melody, and C melody are all in minor. Since only the intro is in major, it’s a great contrast.
Sasaki: Normally, minor songs have minor intros. That intro is still unique to Mr. Miyagawa. I think anyone else would have attached a different melody.
Miyagawa: Moreover, the arrangement of the intro is used for the dramatic support of the main story. Without that intro, the overall song composition, even including the BGM, wouldn’t become three-dimensional. That’s what I really like.
Interviewer: Mr. Sasaki, other than the main theme and Scarlet Scarf, is there another song you’d like to rerecord in this way?
Sasaki: I love Yamato!! The New Voyage and often sing it in concert. Mr. Miyagawa liked it, too.
Interviewer: You also played the character of Saito in Farewell to Yamato.
Sasaki: And Condor Joe [of Gatchaman] before that. I had only done handsome-man roles, so the first time I saw him I thought, “This isn’t my role!” Ultimately, it was a cool role. Saito has that “Huh?” sort of appearance.
Miyagawa: What I think of Mr. Sasaki, I associate him with the role of Michael Knight [Knight Rider]. I was in junior high back then, and I also noticed that Mr. Sasaki played Saito. “He’s the guy who sang the theme song!” But I felt like the combination of Sasaki and Saito was a mismatch. But now I understand why; the man himself thought that, too. (Laughs)
Sasaki: That’s right. He’s a good character and has good lines. And he dies like a real man. But I didn’t know that when we first met (by looking at the design image).
Interviewer: I think there are a lot of fans who would like you to appear in 2202.
Sasaki: I haven’t done voice work in anime for a long time. If I were to do it again in Yamato, I’d want a captain’s role. I’ve done that in other works. Speaking of captains, I found Goro Naya to be fascinating as [the original] Captain Okita. I can hear that voice in so many characters out there. I’d feel like expanding my whole voice in scenes like that, but conversely then it wouldn’t be that voice any more. I thought it was great.
Interviewer: Finally, what is Yamato to you, Mr. Sasaki?
Sasaki: It’s like a part of my life. A new work is being made, and I’m called back to it again. I’m still expected to be the singer. If not for Yamato, I might not have become the person I am. It was because of Yamato that I was able to appear on TV as much as I have. Therefore, I was very pleased to be called in again this time.
Isao Sasaki Profile
Born in 1942, from Tokyo. He made his debut in 1960 with the catchphrase “Japanese Presley.” After the 1974 Yamato theme became a big hit, he recorded many themes and insert songs for anime and tokusatsu (live-action special effects) works. In addition, he has played an active role in voice-dubbing foreign films. His main roles have been as Condor Joe in Gatchaman and Michael Knight in Knight Rider.
See a longer credit list at Anime News Network here.
Akira Miyagawa profile
Born in 1961, from Tokyo. After graduating from university, he made his debut as a composer in the Four Seasons Troupe and in shows for Tokyo Disneyland. Afterward, he worked on a number of musicals and other projects, and has actively participated in various live performances nationwide. He has also created music for numerous TV and theatrical works such as Quintet and Yamato 2199.
See a longer credit list at Anime News Network here.
Interview with Composer Akira Miyazawa
From the Yamato 2202 Chapter 4 program book, January 2018
The re-recording of music from Farewell to Yamato raises the degree of freedom compared to arrangements of the previous work
Interviewer: It seems that this time you’ve re-recorded about 50 pieces from Farewell for Yamato 2202.
Miyagawa: The music for Yamato 2199 was re-recorded, and it was important to faithfully reproduce the original. All the music of the first Yamato was inspired, in addition to all the other fields, and I thought that if I took the easy way out with it, I wouldn’t be following the spirit of Yamato. However, at the time of the first 2202 meeting, I was told that I could do it more freely. So, depending on the arrangement, some of them are considerably different.
Interviewer: What do you keep in mind when you do a re-recording?
Miyagawa: The first Yamato was like a big bang, and it’s like space grows from there. Of course, that’s also true of Farewell. Music grows along with space, so my father Hiroshi Miyagawa also grew by fulfilling the order of Yoshinobu Nishizaki. Therefore, what joy and suffering will I experience as Hiroshi Miyagawa grows into me? I think it would a lie if I didn’t follow that goal. I’m also trying to grow by playing Yamato music. That’s why I think the mood that emerges is to make arrangements more rapidly. Taking on more and more challenges I haven’t faced before. That’s what I keep in mind.
Interviewer: On the other hand, there are new pieces created this time for 2202, like the theme for the appearance of Zordar and the theme for Kato’s son. It feels like there is a lot of melodic music that’s richer than the brave music.
Miyagawa: That’s right. It was made according to the menu created by Sound Director Tomohiro Yoshida. His menu is surprisingly restrained. The image of the piece is not described in great detail, but it stimulates the imagination.
Interviewer: Apart from the menu, there seem to be pieces made at your own judgment.
Miyagawa: I could just make what I’m told and say “Yes, sir” and hand it over, but I don’t think Yamato can be assembly-line work. Of course, it costs extra time and money for me to make music I wasn’t asked for, and even if I do make it I don’t know if it will be used. However, it doesn’t matter if it gets used. (Laughs) While I work on it I’m always asking, “Is this good?” and “I wonder if there’s a different way to go.” I’ll notice things that are not clear in my mind. It might be a clue that leads to what’s next.
Interviewer: Does that mean there must be some reason for the Yamato music that comes into your head as the person in charge of it?
Miyagawa: That’s right. I think that was also the case with my father. That’s how he and Yoshinobu Nishizaki could record them properly. That’s why the number of pieces related to Farewell is so enormous. They both would have believed in something like a god of music. I think there is some divine intervention somewhere in the music of Yamato. It’s already close to rituals and prayers. It may be trivial, but there’s something that came down into my head. I came to understand that I was meant to create Yamato.
Interviewer: The story has gone back and forth, but how did you come to see Farewell to Yamato when it opened?
Miyagawa: If I remember correctly, I saw it at the Shinjuku Koma theater. Personally, I thought the ending was rather negative. I understand that everyone else was said to be impressed, but I honestly wondered how it could end that way. At the end, Yoshinobu Nishizaki asked, “Could you die for the one you love?” and there were young people trying hard to respond to that. I certainly remembered the “Special Attack Unit” [kamikazes] at the end of the Pacific War. In that sense it was a heavy tragedy, but on the other hand we could take it as a happy ending since Earth was saved. When I saw Farewell, I felt like I was struck with a sharp knife by a man named Yoshinobu Nishizaki.
Interviewer: How was the TV series, Yamato 2?
Miyagawa: After feeling such an impression from Farewell, I hardly watched Yamato 2. Maybe some part of me withered inside. At the time of the first Yamato, I felt like I had to see it for myself, but by the time of Yamato 2, everyone had already seen it. Also, the content was steadily shifting to character popularity and things like that. My personal interest in Yamato was fading. I heard about most of the series, but I like the first work, the starting point of the invention.
Interviewer: Then how did you feel when word of 2202 came about?
Miyagawa: I was conflicted. Of course, since 2199 had been done I thought that 2202 had to be done. I couldn’t allow others to do it. Because of that, I brought the music back to square one.
Interviewer: What exactly were you conflicted about?
Miyagawa: With this Yamato remake, should we keep going on forever like the original, or should we put a proper end to it somewhere? Should we do something that our predecessors couldn’t do? There’s always conflict between those things. I always think you should be able to take it in a good direction.
Interviewer: What is your impression after seeing 2202?
Miyagawa: I think it is made very carefully. I will not wither. (Laughs) There was some great drama in the third chapter. The scene where Zordar tells Kodai about love was especially good. I was touched by that scene. I thought that was definitely the Pure Love Chapter. Because there is a scene with such a huge, brutal evil talking about “love,” conversely we cannot ignore the cruelty in ourselves. “Pure Love” isn’t only about the innocent part. I thought it was trying to depict love in a huge, broad sense. That’s why the music is called Zordar’s Theme, and I’m quite proud of it. Not because I made it while seeing the image, but because I made it without knowing the character was going to be like this, so I was impressed that it unintentionally fit so well.
Interviewer: Finally, a message for the fans, please.
Miyagawa: I’m on this side (as a creator) and we’re in the struggle, so to the viewers who watch it from outside, please watch it as you prefer. I’d like all the fans who have seen it until now to keep a sense of distance. For the new viewers who started watching with 2202, if you’re thinking, “It’s different from the other works you find everywhere,” I’d like to say you are right. You may not immediately understand “What’s the difference,” but please keep watching. I certainly have the feeling myself that I’m making something different. So please keep watching. Please stay with it. As for new music, I plan to record one more time for the climax of chapters 6 and 7. Please look forward to it.