At Anime Expo 2019, Anime Trending was fortunate enough to sit down with renowned anime and film composer Yoshihiro Ike and talk with him about his career and his writing process.
Anime Trending (AT): How has your time in Los Angeles been so far?
Ike (I): I actually spend half my time in LA and half my time in Japan. The reason is because I’m a sound supervisor for Toei, the production company for Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac. All the post-production work is being done in the United States. But I also compose while I’m in LA.
AT: You spent some time in the 80s with a group called AIKE BAND. Did your time in the group influence your compositions later in your career? Is there a particular instance that you remember?
I: It has influenced me greatly. After I left the band, I came to LA to play the bass. There I became acquainted with some legendary musicians, especially percussionists. I learned what rhythm really is, and that has had a great influence on my style as a composer.
AT: Are there any musical styles you like to incorporate into your soundtracks?
I: Numerous styles have influenced me. I’m a jazz musician, and also as a kid, I just loved soundtracks. One thing that stood out and influenced me as a kid was written by Jerry Goldsmith. What was it… Papillon!!
AT: I was at the panel earlier today for the screening of To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts. That show is based on a manga, but other shows you’ve worked on are based on other media or are original stories. When you have source material to work with, do read any of it or play any of the games before you begin composing? And if there isn’t any source material, what helps you choose what direction the music will go?
I: Every time there is any sort of source material, like a manga, a game, or any kind of reference material, I will try to read it or play it. If I read it and there is already some form of adaptation, I discuss deeply with the producers and directors to make sure there isn’t too much of a gap between what I make and what already exists and to keep things consistent.
AT: You’ve done the soundtrack for both Bahamut: Genesis and Bahamut: Virgin Soul, which have very different tones, but are part of the same franchise. What changes did you have to make while working on Virgin Soul knowing about this tonal difference, but still keeping everything in the same universe as Genesis?
I: We tried to keep the tones consistent between the two works. For the first one, Genesis, we tried a different music production method. We did film scoring, something that is not normally done for animations. We would produce images first, and then create the music to go with the images.
The practice of film scoring is common in the United States, but not in Japan, so that was a new challenge I was able to do through the Bahamut works. The tone of the story of the Bahamut series, with Genesis, is rather sad. It’s a very sad story. However, the Virgin Soul story is warm, but with a bit of sadness. It’s about Nina, who’s a very positive character, who finds love, and tries to achieve love with… I don’t remember who it is, but she tries to make it a fruitful relationship. So it’s kind of a warm yet sad story. So the tone of the stories are quite different from each other. However, the world view of Bahamut is the same, so that is why we try to keep a consistent tone between the stories.
AT: So you’ve had a long career, are there any projects you’ve worked on that have stood out to you particularly, whether they were the most fun you’ve had working on it, or possibly the most challenging, or just a funny story that was a funny mishap that worked out in the end?
I: The example that we would discuss is, working on Bahamut: Genesis and Virgin Soul. In my musical experience, it was a record-making hard work, but fun and, at the same time, it taught me so much. For each and every work that I do, I try to do my best and put everything into each work. So every piece is hard, but at the same time, I’m fine.
For one of the more recent works, Dororo, we used a more pure traditional Japanese music style, which was new to me and it was a very educational experience.
AT: Speaking of Dororo and the use of traditional instruments, is there a style of instrumentation that you prefer to use based on the setting, whether its period instruments for the time period of the piece, or just music that will fit the tone but is not necessarily in the time frame or setting of the story?
I: When I see images through my eyes, I get influenced a lot. For Dororo, I tried not to use synthesizers, but rather I wanted to use more traditional instruments such as shakuhachi (Japanese flutes), Japanese harps, and Biwa (Japanese mandolin/lute), and match up with the orchestra. This might sound self-satisfying, but I think that I was able to do pretty good work, and the story was really well done too.
The players of those traditional instruments actually came from the real traditional Japanese music playing world, such as kabuki. They are the genuine players. The players are going to play in the concert, you’ll get to see them!
AT: Speaking about the concert coming up on Sunday, what would you like the audience to take away from it?
I: First, we want the audience to have fun and simply enjoy the music, but if possible at all… I guess many of the audience are familiar with Japanese culture, but if it’s possible it would be wonderful if they could watch pieces like Dororo or Bahamut and learn more deeply about Japanese culture, and that way enjoy anime even more.
AT: One last question, do you have any closing thoughts or comments?
I: If anyone can, it would be wonderful if they could listen to my soundtracks, from the old ones to my new ones, you may be able to discover something.
AT: Thank you!