A Sister’s All You Need (Imouto Sae Ireba Ii) is a television anime series based on a popular light novel written by Yomi Hirasaka, who is known for Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (aka Haganai), and illustrated by Kantoku, who is known for The Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat. It is a romantic comedy where you can enjoy peeking at various fictitious creators including main character Itsuki Hashima, who is a light novel writer. We also meet his friend and novelist, Haruto Fuwa, as well as an illustrator named Setsuna Ena who goes under the pen name ‘Puriketsu’, and more unique characters.
Anime! Anime! is running a series of interviews with the staff members of A Sister’s All You Need with a total of 6 installments. Our 3rd installment in the series features Tomoki Kikuya, a music composer and arranger. We asked him about the music creators’ day-to-day works to showcase the anime series.
[interviewed and edited by: Inoue Shinzou (an underwear supporter)]
Official ‘A Sister’s All You Need’ Website: http://imotosae.com
Made his professional debut in 1992 as a member of ‘Mustang A.K.A’ with Sony Records.
After the band broke up, he continued his musical career as a guitarist. He has been mainly working as a composer and arranger since 2005, and has established a reputation for his work of background music for anime and television ads.
Besides his usage of guitar, various strings, and brass horns, he is famous for the wide variety of sounds he uses for his work, including various instruments he himself plays such as the mandolin, the ukulele, the sanshin (an Okinawan instrument with three strings), and the metallophone.
Adapting the style of ‘Shibuya-kei’ such as Pizzicato Five
First of all, what was your first impression of the original novel series as you accepted the offer for the work?
Tomoki Kikuya [hereonafter: Kikuya]
I don’t read many light novels, but I thought it was interesting with good twists, and found it quite advanced and evolved. It deals with the concept of ‘sister’ quite well, and you can be left behind if you don’t try to keep up with it. When I first read ‘sister’ in the title, I imagined something like the manga Miyuki by Mitsuru Adachi due to my age, but it was completely different. [laugh]
What in the novel was most striking to you, since it talks about the industry?
Where the creators try to challenge how far they could extend the deadline as it approaches. I don’t think I’ve ever had much experience like that as I’d rather play safe and finish it up sooner rather than trying to play with a deadline. I tell my manager that I’m still working on something even when it’s already finished. [laugh]
Was there a particular concept to work on the music for the series?
When we had our first meeting with director Shin Oonuma, audio director Masanori Tsuchiya, and others, we talked about the overall genre and decided to go with ‘Shibuya-kei’ music for the series. This series is a romantic comedy, but since the main characters are adults and drink alcohol and all, we wanted to make it a bit hooky and stylish instead of sticky and sweet.
As I composed some tunes and had them listen to them, they really liked the main theme. I didn’t need many do-overs, and it all went well and smoothly. It doesn’t go as smoothly as this with some series, but I believe they gave me this offer knowing quite well what kind of music I create.
When it comes to Shibuya-kei, Pizzicato Five is the best-known group.
Exactly, that is what they wanted. The director had that in mind from the beginning, and I thought their music would fit, so I adapted their style. Their stylish, vibrant, and lively chords really fit with the series. So, I expanded on that as a basis for the main theme.
When I worked on other characters’ themes and daily tracks, I picked up some elements out of the main theme and focused on each to make them sound like its variations.
What kind of approaches did you make to each of the characters for their themes?
For example, Itsuki is the protagonist and overlaps with the series itself, so I tried to create the air of his will and strong pride while basically following the main theme. As for Haruto, I expressed his cool and pretentious side by adding jazzy and funky elements to the sound.
I also added jazzy elements to Ashley but more eccentric and deformed ones. It’s also derived from Pizzicato, but tried to compose melodies and arranged them to sound like the character. For Miyako, I used more natural Shibuya-kei sounds. Chihiro is good at cooking, so I had the kind of music played at cooking shows in mind.
You’ve worked on a lot of music pieces for anime. Have you found any worthy challenges from this particular series?
I love both Shibuya-kei and Pizzicato Five, and I found it fun to arrange and complete the pieces to fit anime while enjoying them as music. Of course, you shouldn’t be just copying nor imitating their music, so that’s where I needed to try my ingenuity.
As an interesting challenge, I used a whistling with the main theme. I remember some TV drama shows back in 70s used whistling effectively and I wanted to try that. Instead of using common instruments, I believe the hook of the theme got even stronger with it.