Interview: Fate/Zero Anime Music Composer Yuki Kajiura

We had the special opportunity to interview anime music composer Yuki Kajiura. Some of her works include the soundtrack for anime series Fate/Zero, the Garden of Sinners, and Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note. All three soundtrack albums were recently released digitally in the US by Milan Records from Aniplex’s TYPE-MOON. 


Thank you very much for your time! For the first time, your OST from the Garden of Sinners, Fate/Zero, and Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note will be available outside of Japan. What are your initial thoughts? 

Yuki Kajiura: I knew that all of the animations have many fans overseas, so I am very happy that this makes my music more approachable to them. I would be grateful if fans could listen to the music that I made with all my heart.

© KINOKO NASU / Kodansha, Aniplex, Notes, ufotable

It’s been over a decade since the Garden of Sinners was released. Looking back at it, what did you like the most about composing the pieces? What did you struggle with, and is there anything you’d like to improve or enhance if you had a chance to remaster them? 

Music for the movie version of The Garden of Sinners was all made by film scoring**.  

(**Editorial note: in this instance, “film scoring” refers to the making of music for a theatrical production while having the visual component already available as a reference, as opposed to writing music separate from the visual component.) 

In most TV animations, music is made solely based on paper documents, and even for animated movie versions, the visuals are usually not completed enough before the film scoring stage. It is rare. In this sense, it was an ambitious work and I learned a lot from it that I will never forget. I think this work has clearly changed the way I make background music.

As for the music on the CD, I think I enhanced it enough at the time by arranging the music in the original work into a suite, so there was nothing more I wanted to add to it. 

 

Oftentimes, you are given instructions or guidelines on what music to work on for the particular project. What does the process usually look like when you have no visuals to start with? 

There are, of course, orders, but they vary. It also depends on the song. Sometimes they leave most of the work up to me, and sometimes they ask me to give a song a certain feel, so I can only say that it’s on a case-by-case basis. It is difficult to explain the process in simple terms, but in many cases, you will be told where the music should be used in each scene, so you would first read the script carefully, understand the overall flow, and then think about what to do with the sound production of the scene. In some cases, I read the lines out loud and decide on the tempo to match the scene.



Do you often use frame matching to compose for a series? What is the process like, and how are you able to make decisions on the pace of your composition?

As for film scoring, there are very few opportunities to use this method in animation. No, it used to be few, but it’s been increasing recently. In particular, in theatrical and TV animation, there are more and more cases where we can use film scoring for important scenes. The method of film scoring makes it much easier to think about the first steps when creating music. This is because you don’t have to think about the versatility of the music since you can create music only for a particular scene. In film scoring, the overall flow is also important, so I read the script carefully, watch the film over and over again, and create an overall plan before starting each song. 

If you don’t understand the whole flow of the film and instead start building from each part, you will fail. I can only explain how to set the tempo for each part as “to fit the scene,” make pauses to make the most of the important lines, change the tempo, and build it to fit the scene.

 

How do you tackle writing instrumental soundtrack music as opposed to theme songs or other songs with vocals?

I think that the opening and ending theme songs are the “entrance and exit” to the world portrayed in the work. Whenever you go to visit any place, it is exciting if the entrance and exit are made a little more colorful and fit its worldview. I try to make my music in such a way that viewers can immerse themselves in the world of our works or enjoy the afterglow of the world to the fullest.

 

Is there a song or project that you found particularly challenging or fulfilling to have written music for?

It’s hard to narrow it down to just one because scoring for all works is challenging and fulfilling.

 

©Nitroplus/TYPE-MOON・ufotable・FZPC

For Fate/Zero, you mentioned how you got the chance to read Gen Urobochi’s light novels. Since you were familiar with the plot and certain scenes, how did that impact your creative process behind the music?

Not only for Fate/Zero, but for any work that has an original story, I always read it carefully before starting the music production. If there is no original work, I read the script many times. I think it’s crucial to grasp the overall picture of the story, the flow of emotions, the tension, the sense of color, etc, before starting to create music. In that sense, making music for productions with original works is more helpful because they genuinely have a great deal of information.

 

For Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files {Rail Zeppelin} Grace Note, the anime takes a different approach compared to Fate/Zero. What were your thoughts when you were asked to work on the soundtrack? 

I was a little sad when I finished making music for Fate/Zero, so I was very happy to be able to weave music for the “Fate” world again. In creating the music, I tried to create a unique worldview that was different from that of Fate/Zero, since it is a completely different world even though the characters are common throughout. However, there are a few parts where I purposely recreated the music from Fate/Zero. I think that by changing the overall image of the music, those elements stood out more.

 

©Makoto Sanda, TYPE-MOON / LEMPC

Unlike many of your other works that feature much heavier themes and series scenes, Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files {Rail Zeppelin} Grace Note’s soundtrack offers many whimsical tunes such as “He’s always serious, Not Kidding” and “An Excellent Student.” What is the process of creating these tunes that almost feel like a foil to the series’ more serious tone?

Lord El Melloi II’s Case Files {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note is basically a mystery with many quick-witted exchanges of words. It’s more about solving mysteries than battles, so the music is lighter and more natural. Also, the story is set in London, although it is somewhat of a fictional setting, so I was conscious of the humidity, the easily identifiable European feel, and the slight heaviness of the atmosphere.

 

It’s not common for many TV anime series to have a completely instrumental opening track. How did you go about composing Starting The Case: Rail Zeppelin to be used as an anime opening? Was it even intended to be an anime opening? For this work, I had a clear order that the opening theme should be instrumental, so that’s how the song came to be.

Any final thoughts to fans from all over the world as they get the chance to listen to your works?

All of these works are truly unique and full of charm, and I really enjoyed making the music for them. It is my sincere pleasure to make it more approachable for people around the world to listen to this music. Please enjoy it!

(**Editorial note: in this instance, “film scoring” refers to the making of music for a theatrical
production while having the visual component already available as a reference, as opposed to
writing music separate from the visual component.)


Yuki Kajiura’s soundtracks are now streaming on Spotify. 

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