Yoko Shimomura, a composer who has produced music for hit games such as Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Hearts, and Street Fighter II, joined the crew of the new anime movie Ancien and the Magic Tablet (Hirunehime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari), directed by Kenji Kamiyama.
The news became a hot topic in Japan because Shimomura is known for her signature piano pieces. How did she create the ‘girlish’ and ‘sparkling’ music of the movie? How did she arrange the theme for the movie, ‘Daydream Believer’, a song whose Japanese lyrics describe the reflections on a mother?
I asked her and movie director Kenji Kamiyama about the movie’s features from the perspective of its music.
What makes music sound clear and distinctive?
First of all, Mr. Kamiyama, could you give us your account of how you asked Shimomura to do the music for the movie?
‘I’d been thinking that girly and sparkling music would be appropriate for the movie. It is a fantasy story that revolves around a high school girl named Kokone Morikawa and her dreams. It was only a vague idea until I discussed the music with my staff. Through that discussion, the vague idea began to take form into an image of music reminiscent of Disney movies. We talked about what makes their music sound clear and distinctive with each tone, and realized that featuring the piano may help us realize our intentions. An animator called Nobu Horimoto lent me a CD which he thought was reminiscent of the music I was looking for, and it was the soundtrack of Kingdom Hearts.’
Many Disney characters appear in Kingdom Hearts. Its soundtrack must resemble Disney’s music.
‘He must have considered that aspect as well. I found that the music was wonderful and I liked the fact that it had been composed by a woman. I’d been thinking the music for this movie should be created by someone who understands the sensibilities of women, because music echoes emotion in movies and Ancien and the Magic Tablet‘s main character is a high school girl. As soon as I decided that this composer was the one I was looking for, I contacted her using an inquiry form on her website as a total stranger, because I didn’t have any connections to her. [laugh]’
‘I thought he must have mistaken me for someone else since he’s a famous director. [laugh] Then, I thought he was asking me for permission to use one of my game pieces for a scene in which someone is playing that game. [laugh] I was ecstatic when I found out that he was asking me to produce music for his movie. As a composer, I was truly honored and pleased by the fact that he chose me purely by listening to my music.’
Could you tell me your impression of Ancien and the Magic Tablet?
‘I watched the animation made from the storyboards at first. I remember that I was so excited about the animation just as a fan of Mr. Kamiyama’s anime. It was a cute fantasy story and, although it seemed easy to understand at first glance, I anticipated there would be more twists to come, like in his other anime. I myself was a daydreamer during my childhood, therefore I love dreamy stories. While I was composing the music, that first impression was lingering in my mind, which fueled my ideas and pulled me through the project. It was an exciting and enjoyable experience for me.’
How did the discussions about the soundtrack proceed between you?
‘I showed her the storyboards and roughly told her what sort of music I wanted and what the feelings of the characters were in each scene. My explanations were unfortunately quite abstract, like ‘I want masculine music here’ since I don’t know much about musical terminology. [laugh] Thankfully, she understood my intentions immediately, saying ‘if you want that, it should be music in such and such time’ etc.