Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song- Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-


Roundtable discussion

Vivy -Fluorite Eye's Song- Roundtable discussion 2

Music Composer: Satoru Kosaki (MONACA)
Music Producer: Masaharu Yamanouchi
— I'd like to ask about the music-making process for Vivy -Fluorite Eye's Song-. First of all, Mr. Yamanouchi, as the music producer for the series, how did you get the offer to work on the music?
MASAHARU YAMANOUCHI  I got the offer quite a while ago. About two years ago, the producer for Vivy, Yuma Takahashi (hereafter called “Takahashi P”), who works for our company, came to me and said, “I want to create an original music-centric series. In a nutshell, it's going to be about AI destroying the world and using music over the course of one hundred years to save it.” My response was, “One hundred years? What are you talking about?” (Laughs) And then he sent me a gigantic pile of materials, which again threw me for a loop.

SATORU KOSAKI  The first thing we received was a novel, remember?

YAMANOUCHI  A novel with tons and tons of text.
— Tappei Nagatsuki and Eiji Umehara, who worked on the series composition and screenplay, mentioned in a separate roundtable discussion that they wrote a novel that was used as the original concept for the series.
YAMANOUCHI  When we work on original anime shows, we often ask the staff, “When is the script going to be ready?” or “Can you at least send us the plot, please?” But for this show, we had this massive amount of text right from the start, which was much more than any show I've worked on. It was especially unusual that a novel was written before the script.
— And what led you to hire Mr. Kosaki to compose the music for this title?
YAMANOUCHI  Takahashi P first asked me, “I think we should get Mr. Kosaki on board for this title, what do you think?” As soon as he said that, I could see Mr. Kosaki's schedule—at least to the best of my knowledge—flashing through my mind. And I was pretty sure that by that time, he'd be done with the Monogatari Series, so I offered him the job. But despite the massive amount of text we had, we still couldn't quite get a sense of the visuals or characters, so I remember it being a struggle at first, trying to visualize it all.
— So you had Mr. Kosaki on board, but in the initial stages, you didn't have a real sense of what kind of sound would match the universe that would be created in the series?
YAMANOUCHI  Yes, I would say so. As far as the music was concerned, all we knew was that music would be playing a crucial role in the series, and that we needed to write a lot of vocal tracks. We also wanted the background music to link the story. Mr. Kosaki was the only person I could depend on to compose both vocal tracks and background music that would appeal to a wider audience. As soon as I received Mr. Kosaki's schedule, I had a meeting with the key members of the staff, including director Shinpei Ezaki, Mr. Nagatsuki, and Mr. Umehara. After that, we gradually worked on the music, but we still couldn’t come up with a clear direction on where we wanted to go musically, and time just kept passing by.

KOSAKI  As for me, I was told at the outset, “It's a sci-fi story with AI, with a lot of vocal tracks,” and then they sent me the materials. And while I was able to get an overall sense of this epic story, I had a hard time visualizing just how it would become engaging as an anime in each episode. Stories also tend to get fleshed out differently in anime than they do in novels, so it took me a while to get a grasp of all that.
— Did that have any effect on your compositions and how you oversaw the music?
KOSAKI  Since I was given the chance to do everything myself, in the end I was able to project the image I had of the world of Vivy into the music, so that made things a lot easier. I also had people from my own company, MONACA, work on the score and the vocal tracks, which I oversaw. I wrote some of them myself as well, of course, but having this great team and structure made the process smooth. For example, sometimes you'll have composers from all these different agencies working on a single title, but compared to that, this project was much easier to work on.
— I heard that you started off by composing a song for the pilot film. What was that song like?
KOSAKI  It was a ballad that could be used as a main theme song.

YAMANOUCHI  That clip was later used in a scene for Episode 1.

KOSAKI  A part of that clip was used in Episode, 1, but the animation clip we saw was for checking purposes. It was the type of clip that only in-house staff get to see, so they can get a grasp of the overall image of the series.

YAMANOUCHI  It was actually a battle scene, rather than a singing scene. Interestingly enough, we used a ballad over this battle scene. This often happens with original titles, but as they work on the series, things keep on changing.

KOSAKI  At the time, I couldn't even begin to imagine what the series would end up looking like when it was completed.

YAMANOUCHI  I have a feeling that Mr. Nagatsuki and Mr. Umehara, who were in charge of series composition, had a clear vision of what this series would be like.

KOSAKI  Sharing the overall vision of a series with everyone involved is an aspect that can be difficult when you're working on an original title.
— After that, what part of the music did you start working on, Mr. Kosaki?
KOSAKI  In terms of the overall workflow, I had some time after writing the song for the pilot, so I composed the background music all in one go, and then turned my attention back to the vocal tracks. But I think I worked on the opening theme while I was midway through composing the background music.
— I wanted to start off by asking about the background music. Mr. Yamanouchi , what was the concept you had for it?
YAMANOUCHI  Since Vivy is a story that happens over a span of one hundred years, the anime production team wanted it to be divided into several eras, with the music reflecting the changes throughout those eras.

KOSAKI  That's why, for the first half, we intentionally used a lot of electronic sounds in the background music.
— As you mentioned, the music in Episodes 1 and 2 had a very sci-fi and electronic sound.
KOSAKI  Right. It has a sound that a lot of people would consider futuristic.
— Maybe because it was the starting point for the one hundred-year journey, the futurism portrayed in the music had a very nostalgic and analog sound to it.
KOSAKI  You're right. From the start, I planned on using synths to create a retro-futuristic sound that was reminiscent of 80s New Wave music. I used a lot of sounds from classic vintage synthesizers like the Yamaha DX7 and the Roland Jupiter for the score.

YAMANOUCHI  One thought I had was that even after one hundred years, we won't be seeing that many innovations when it comes to instruments and music, especially instruments. So when we were thinking about what kind of music will have longevity and be considered classic even a century later, I thought it would be great to create music using vintage synths, as Mr. Kosaki explained.

KOSAKI  Acoustic instruments like string instruments, guitars, as well as synthesizers will pretty much be the same even one hundred years later, so they will always be considered classic.
— You also composed extremely dense orchestral tracks for the score, which were in stark contrast to the electronic tracks.
KOSAKI  Yes, they were quite dense. Since this series features a lot of battle scenes, I wanted to create ominous-sounding orchestral and electronic music for those parts. That's one reason why we recorded a lot of string and wind instruments.
— The melodic background music you composed was used very effectively in the battle scenes and other key scenes.
KOSAKI  They did do a great job with that. I got to observe the mixing sessions a few times, and it was great to see that they were combining the scenes and background music in effective ways. They're really good at using the music in ways that make you think, “Hey, I've heard this song somewhere before,” which I mean as a compliment.

YAMANOUCHI  We have [sound director] Jin Aketagawa to thank for that.

KOSAKI  The way they used the theme song for the action scenes makes it sound like the main theme song for the whole series! (Laughs) That's really important, because it builds anticipation and makes you think, “Here it comes, here it comes! I've been waiting for this!” I was very impressed by how he did that, and his music direction was absolutely flawless too.
— The background music was matched to the climactic scenes in a very straightforward and classic way.
YAMANOUCHI  It might only be apparent to us, but in terms of music production, everything's interconnected. It's incredible that the sound director was able to make all those connections.
— Though the universe of Vivy is quite complex, the series itself is quite accessible, probably because the visuals, dialogue, and music are all deeply connected.
KOSAKI  Even so, I hope that people don't watch the series while they're busy doing something else. Oftentimes, the voices of the characters and the visuals are expressing two different things, so you need to watch the combination of both of these elements to understand a scene. In the storyboards, sometimes the instructions and the visuals will be expressing different things, so please give it your full attention if you can. (Laughs) And if you do, then it'll all make perfect sense. There were certain things we understood only after seeing the finished product.

YAMANOUCHI  Yeah, there were so many things I understood for the first time after watching the mixing sessions.

KOSAKI  Absolutely. I'm not like the animators, who seem to be able to understand the full meaning of each scene just from the storyboards.
— Next, I'd like to ask you about the series' vocal tracks. First off, you chose to work with a new singer, Kairi Yagi, for Vivy's singing voice. How did that come about?
YAMANOUCHI  Personally, I did consider having the voice actors sing the vocal tracks as well, since the cast members are all great singers. But we wanted the vocal tracks to stand on their own, so we decided to use a separate vocalist, rather than the cast members. But if we'd gone with a singer who was already established, then that singer's personality and style would become the focus of attention. Of course as an artist, that's precisely what you want, but since our goal for the series was to add more color to the character, the outcome wouldn't have been ideal for either us or the singer. That's why we needed a singer with a promising future but hasn't made her professional debut yet.
— Like you did when you chose LiSA for Aniplex's Angel Beats, in 2010?
YAMANOUCHI  Still, I wasn't sure if a one-in-a-million talent like that existed—one bursting with promise, who still hadn't made her debut, and whom everyone was trying to sign. But fortunately, Aniplex is a Sony Music subsidiary, so they have a huge network, not to mention a wealth of knowledge developed over many years for discovering new talent, so I took the plunge and consulted with them. And right away they told me, “If that's what you're looking for, we have just the person for you!” And they introduced me to Kairi Yagi.
— What did you think when you first heard Ms. Yagi's voice, Mr. Kosaki?
KOSAKI  I was initially skeptical about using a singer rather than the voice actor. I thought, “If it's a character song, it should be sung by the character herself, or we're going to deviate from the image of the character.” But Ms. Yagi is amazing. I can't believe that they found her. Now I'm sure that there's no one else who can sing Vivy’s songs but Ms. Yagi.

YAMANOUCHI  When you hear her sing for the first time, you might not think she's the greatest singer.

KOSAKI  As a vocalist, she's very technically proficient. But there is an innocence and purity to her voice, which is a nice way of putting it… It might be more accurate to say that there is a vulnerability to her voice.

YAMANOUCHI  Right, there's always a sense of vulnerability in her voice.

KOSAKI  Also, there's an emotionally subdued aspect to her singing.
— So the subdued emotions in her vocals match the theme of the show as well as Vivy's personality as an AI?
KOSAKI  Absolutely.

YAMANOUCHI  She can do amazing things with her voice with ease, but because of the vulnerability in her voice, you kind of forget that she's doing something amazing, which I mean in a good way. She has a really unique vibe coming from the combination of her purity and innocence, which totally matches the quality of her voice.

KOSAKI  What a miraculous pairing, right?

YAMANOUCHI  The first song she recorded singing as Vivy was actually a vocal track for Episode 1. The series is also a story about Vivy's growth, and her search for how to put her heart into her singing. So it wouldn't have felt right if the singing sounded perfect from the beginning. This was Ms. Yagi's first recording session as Vivy, so she still sounds a little rough around the edges, and you can tell from her singing that it was her first time in the studio. It sounds incredibly refreshing.

KOSAKI  It's like Vivy's coming-of-age tale is linked to Ms. Yagi's coming-of-age tale.

YAMANOUCHI  It's a match made in heaven. (Laughs)
— Well, I'd certainly like to ask you more about recording with Ms. Yagi another time. I got the impression that you took a classic approach to the songwriting, which focused on writing catchy melodies.
KOSAKI  Absolutely. Initially, I was thinking of taking a more edgy, sci-fi-approach to the songs, but Mr. Yamanouchi asked me, “Can you write some Japanese pop tunes?” So I took a more straightforward approach to the songwriting compared to my previous work which he appreciated, and he told me not to hold back. I was a little shy about showing that side of myself, so it was a challenge to see how far I could go with it. I focused on making the melodies as accessible and catchy as I possibly could.
— So as a composer, you focused on writing songs that would have longevity.
KOSAKI  It was as if I was a sushi chef trying to come up with some innovative dishes, and I ask the customer, “What would you like to have?”, and the customer says, “The usual!” (Laughs)

YAMANOUCHI  Like, “Just give me the usual maguro and toro.” (Laughs)

KOSAKI  Exactly. But it was also a great opportunity for me to take a step back and look at my music objectively. Writing all the melodies for the series really gave me a clearer picture of what I can do musically. I asked Natsumi Tadano to write the lyrics because I needed someone who was good at writing lyrics for Japanese pop songs.
— We can hear some of those catchy melodies in Episode 1, but can we expect to hear more songs like that in the upcoming episodes?
KOSAKI  There aren't that many vocal tracks in the earlier episodes, but you'll be hearing a lot more later on. As far as the background music, I hope the viewers focus on the visuals first. I know that the music supervision team did a good job with the track selection.

YAMANOUCHI  With the background music, when people hear certain tracks, they'll be like, “Oh, it's from that scene!” They combined the music and scenes perfectly, and the series is really an example of the ideal way to utilize an anime score.

KOSAKI  I agree. There were some tracks that didn't get used that much. I wrote a ton of tracks, but they picked out the ones that were perfect for each scene and they kept on using them.

YAMANOUCHI  That's very much Jin's style.

KOSAKI  He finds the songs that are a perfect match for the show and he uses them consistently throughout the series. But that's a good thing because the songs get ingrained into the viewers' psyche.

YAMANOUCHI  Yes, it was an extravagant way to use the music.
— From what I've seen from the series so far, there seems to be a lot of scenes that will highlight the vocal tracks and background music, for example in Episode 4…
YAMANOUCHI  That's the first climactic scene. If you can focus on the story until it reaches that first climax, then you'll be in for another climax or two soon after. (Laughs) It's linked to the music for sure, and that's when you'll get to hear more signature Satoru Kosaki-style melodies.

KOSAKI  Yeah, you'll be hearing a lot of that.

YAMANOUCHI  I've already watched the mixing session for this scene, but I think I might tear up when I see the finished product.

KOSAKI  I still haven't seen it yet, but you're talking about that scene, right?

YAMANOUCHI  The way it's put together, both the story and the music will provide an immersive experience for the viewers. The background music and the vocal tracks will both tug at your heartstrings.

KOSAKI  That's right. It's really amazing.

YAMANOUCHI  By the way, Mr. Kosaki, during the recording sessions, I heard you say, “Yeah, this is great,” quite a few times.

KOSAKI  You're right. (Laughs) It's because I thought that this series was great from the bottom of my heart. My innate musical sensibilities and the technical training I've received came together in a balanced way. I'd love for everyone to listen to the music.