As a Tokyo-based writer, I will introduce you to various aspects of pop culture such as manga, anime, movies and music. I want to spread the joy of Japanese pop culture around the world.
Hey, everyone! This is Mokugyo, the manga-and-anime-loving writer from MANGA.TOKYO! I also love to listen to music, and I try to listen to as many genres as possible. Out of all the musicians that I have learned about through watching anime, there is a unique and creative man who I would like to introduce to you. His name is Susumu Hirasawa. He makes profound music by using electronic musical instruments. He has contributed to the Japanese music industry in his own unique way, and he has also had a great impact on Japanese anime.
Susumu Hirasawa is a musician who was born in 1954. He makes his own songs, writes his own lyrics, and composes his own arrangements. He also sings and plays most of the instruments he uses.
In 1979, he formed a band named P-MODEL, which was one of the first bands to play electro music. P-MODEL made a major debut and had many hit songs. However, the members stopped performing as a band in 2000, and they each turned to solo activities, which they have continued up to today.
Hirasawa’s music is well known for its own unique sound and atmosphere. Once you hear his songs, I’m sure you will be surprised at their magnificence. The lyrics are unique, too, and although they are written in Japanese, it is difficult even for a native Japanese speaker to understand what the songs are about. After starting his solo career, he established his own company without the help of any famous record labels and has continued making music since then. Therefore, he is known as a musical genius among his fans and the people working in the Japanese music industry.
Among anime fans, Hirasawa is most famous for being the music producer of the anime Berserk. You can listen to the abridged version of the anime’s soundtrack CD on YouTube. Berserk is a dark fantasy story about Guts, a strong warrior who holds a huge sword, and fights against soldiers and monsters. The manga has been adapted into anime several times since the 1990s, so I’m sure many of you have seen it at least once. There is the anime adaptation in 1997, three anime films since 2012, and the most recent anime series in 2016. For all of these anime, Hirasawa has produced the main theme or insert song.
You can hear his song in the digest video of Berserk’s first season in 2016. At around 11:00, ‘Hai yo’ plays, and at around 22:45, you can listen to ‘Ash Crow’.
The most amazing thing about his songs is their profoundness. They have depth, and they make the anime’s story more exciting. Hirasawamakes and sings these magnificent songs all by himself. His music perfectly matches the dark world of Berserk. There are many anime fans who automatically think of Hirasawa when they are asked about Berserk’s music. He is such an important contributor to the anime. Even just by watching this short video, we can tell that Hirasawa’s songs are used in the most exciting scenes.
Hirasawa is also famous for producing songs for movies directed by the late Satoshi Kon. Kon directed many anime movies during the 2000s, such as Millennium Actress (Sennen Joyuu), a story about an actress looking for someone for a thousand years; Paprika, a film about the mixture of dream and reality; and Paranoia Agent (Mousou Dairinin), a fantasy mystery story. Kon’s movies have character designs which look rather realistic, while the stories are a mixture of reality and the fantasy world. Although his films were highly rated by fans and people were looking forward to his future movies, he unfortunately passed away in 2010.
Hirasawa has written songs for many of Kon’s anime films. The two worked as a great team, just like Joe Hisaishi and Hayao Miyazaki. It is known among Japanese people that Joe Hisaishi, the music producer, has written most of the songs for movies directed by Hayao Miyazaki. In the same way, Hirasawa and Kon were famous for working together. Kon’s brilliant movies were made more entertaining thanks to Hirasawa’s beautiful music. Even if you have never seen a movie directed by Kon, I strongly recommend that you listen to their soundtracks.
— Susumu Hirasawa (@hirasawa) October 26, 2009
I must tell you about Hirasawa’s connection with K-On!. K-On! is an anime based on the manga of the same name which was serialized in the manga magazine Manga Time Kirara from 2007 to 2012. Its anime adaptation in 2009 was a massive hit. The story is about a team of high school girls who form a band and about how they start to enjoy music. It gained a lot of popularity for the cuteness of the characters and the high quality of the anime drawings. K-On! had such a great impact on young people that there were many fans who even started to learn how to play the guitar after watching this anime.
Just by watching the game’s promotional video, you would probably think that Susumu Hirasawa has nothing to do with K-On!. However, the main characters’ names in K-On! were taken from the members of P-MODEL, and Yui Hirasawa was named after Susumu Hirasawa. This was quickly realized by anime fans who were watching K-On!.
When Susumu Hirasawa found out about this, it was at around the same time as when he had created his Twitter account. Because he was gaining so many followers, he started to wonder why, and he posted, ‘Aren’t you guys making a mistake? I’m Susumu Hirasawa, not Yui Hirasawa.’ This tweet quickly spread through anime fans, and Hirasawa ended up gaining tons of followers. It’s also important to note that the kanji for Susumu (進) and the kanji for Yui (唯) look very similar.
Originally, Hirasawa was only famous among hardcore music and anime fans. Moreover, he has been taking a rather unique path in his career as a musician. Therefore, it was surprising for many people that Hirasawa knew about an anime like K-On!. Thanks to his post on Twitter, Hirasawa became widely known by anime fans in Japan.
Although Hirasawa himself does not laugh a lot, his comments are very unique and funny. He has made many unique posts on Twitter which have gained a lot of attention.
— Susumu Hirasawa (@hirasawa) May 9, 2017
‘”Is Susumu Hirasawa a weird person?” I’d rather be called a sane weirdo.’ (posted on 9 May 2017)
— Susumu Hirasawa (@hirasawa) May 9, 2017
‘Because the phrase “a sane weirdo” is too cool to express myself, I think it’s more beautiful to say, ‘a person that could not even become manure’. (posted on 9 May 2017)
These kinds of strange jokes are unique to Hirasawa’s posts. He has a wide vocabulary, and his choice of words is very interesting. Because his comments are very difficult to understand even for native Japanese speakers, I think there are good and bad opinions about him. Nevertheless, he is continuing to gain fans even today.
Hirasawa is also known for his interactive concert events. On his official YouTube channel, you can watch the interactive concert held in 2013. An interactive concert is a unique music event in which the concert’s content changes according to the audience’s cheers and applause. A video of an original story is shown on the stage’s huge screen, and the ending of the story changes depending on the viewers’ reactions. Even those people who are watching the concert online can join the audience by doing certain operations on their computers. Hirasawa has been holding these unique events since 1994!
He had started to distribute music and his concert videos online way before the word ‘Internet’ became publicly known. However, you may not be able to find a lot of his videos on YouTube. This is because YouTube was not at all famous when he started uploading his music and videos online, and therefore, he only distributed them on his official website. Hirasawa has been using the Internet as a tool for a long time, and even in that sense, he is a very unique musician.
On top of this, Hirasawa uses the most unique electronic musical instruments which I’m sure most of you have never seen before. He has even held a concert in which the musicians played the Miburi. This is a special electronic instrument which has sensors, and it releases a sound according to the movement of the player’s hands and feet.
In this video, you can see him playing the Tesla Coil starting from around 2:14. Although many people may know that Tesla Coil can be used as a musical instrument, I believe Hirasawa is the only Japanese musician who actually uses it. His performances are so unique!
This is a digest video of the concert held in 2014. At 0:31, you can see Hirasawa using a grinder as a musical instrument. Although it is a machine for cutting metal, a grinder can become a musical instrument with Hirasawa’s high musical talents.
As of June 2017, Susumu Hirasawa’ musical talents are not widely known by the general public. Even in Japan, he is only known by hardcore music and anime fans. I personally think that Hirasawa is a person who should gain much more fame and popularity. His rich and creative taste in music is loved by many anime creators. That is why he has produced music for many anime. We can say that Hirasawa’s songs are the proof that show the wide variety of anime music. I strongly believe that his profound music has the charms that would grab the hearts of many anime fans living overseas. I hope for many people throughout the world to know more about this one-and-only musician, Susumu Hirasawa.