Unsung Heroes: Introduction & BGM Composers – Part 1
No, I’m not Omni or Patrik or Jaalin. I am Kyouya, the newest member of the Random Curiosity editorial staff. Since the latest power rankings, I have been invited to contribute here with my thoughts and opinions. I will be helping Jaalin with the monthly Power Rankings as well. I hope this writing of mine can expand some new perspectives to you.
Now that the introduction is out of the way, I’ll get to the point. This is a new segment which I would like to call ‘Unsung Heroes.’ This column will basically give the spotlight to people, anime, or anything that may have been overlooked for its achievements. In other words, the people who work behind the shadows will get the credit here.
This segment will open by focusing on one of the most overlooked workers in the anime industry: BGM composers.
That’s right, BGM composers.
I did not say artists, vocals, or anything relating to an opening, ending and insert songs (also includes character songs). The keyword here is BGM, which stands for Background Music. Oh sure, I bet the first things you think of when it comes to music composers are names like Kanno Yoko and Kajiura Yuki. However, would anyone have truly known the potential of their work if the anime (they were staffed in) itself was average at best in terms of both story and animation?
(Note: Yes, I am aware they have done other works but we’re focusing on just anime here).
BGM gets overlooked by fans so much that it is almost shameful. Why? It’s because we focus so much on either the story, the cast or the animation of the anime while BGM takes a backseat in a beat-up pinto. Is it because we are spoiled? No. Animation and story take up such a big bite of the need for success that BGM is left with a sliver of a piece. People believe that unless the anime is great, the BGM is the same as well. That, people, is what we call an urban myth. Fans should take the time to appreciate the music with proper judgment, which involves their preference. The story or the animation of the anime should have minimal effect on your judgment of whether you are into upbeat action music that pumps your adrenaline or a slow peaceful nostalgic music that helps reflect back on your life. The reason why I said minimal is because at times, when we hear the music, we are reminded as to where it came from. Although this may be true, it should not limit you to re-creating your own meanings of the BGM itself. After all, you see countless AMVs using songs that have absolutely no link to each other.
There are great composers out there. Some are all-stars while others are rising to be recognized, became one-hit wonders, or just blend themselves quietly in the shadow. I will be sharing my thoughts on who belongs to where as we will go through over 20 composers.
A basketball analogy will be used to rank these composers. Each category will be listed with the top 5 in no particular order.
|All-Stars||Top ranking; have worked on at least 4 animes|
|Starting Lineup||2nd ranking; will eventually become an all-star in the near future.|
|Bench Players||3rd ranking; can go either way whether they have accepted their position or will strive to become better.|
|One-Hit wonders||Last ranking; have only worked on 1 anime and it was their only one.|
|Iwasaki Taku (GetBackers, Black Cat, Kekkaishi, R.O.D OVA, R.O.D TV, Rurouni Kenshin OVA, Yakitate!! Japan)
The jack of all trades. That’s the phrase to describe Iwasaki Taku. Where else will you find a man who is capable of creating a sorrowful sound that can epitomize your feelings? Is there any other composer who can take on variety of different genres and still maintain its high standards? He continues to astound me with his impressive score to this present day. However, I do have a bone to pick with this composer in his Kekkaishi OST. There is one track that has some god-awful rap yet very catchy beat. Why add the pathetic English rapping when the beat itself is perfect?
|Kanno Yoko (Cowboy Bebop, Darker than Black, Wolf’s Rain, Macross Plus, Escaflowne, Ghost in the Shell: SAC & SSS)
Jazz is the word that pops into my head when I hear the name Kanno Yoko. By mixing trumpets, saxophones, flutes, piano and guitars fluently, she is able to create an upbeat tempo that can get you energized and a relaxing tune that can help people feel at ease. Is she the greatest as fans claim? Maybe, but there are people who will beg to differ.
|Wada Kaoru (D.gray-man, Inuyasha, To Heart, Samurai 7)
To dating simulating gamers, Wada Kaoru is a deity with his music on To Heart. His specialty is to focus on strong emotions. He creates music that involves love, courage and even fear. I am surprised that he has not done much when I looked at his body of work. Maybe Inuyasha took an extensive amount of time for him since he composed both the movies and TV series.
|Kawai Kenji (Gunparade March, Ranma 1/2, Seirei no Moribito, Fate Stay Night, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni )
An old school composer who still has it after being in this industry for more than a decade. By concentrating on pleasant memorable jingles (Ranma 1/2), he gradually grew to exploring onto other melodies that can help strengthen the series he worked in. I believe he reached his goal with his latest work, Seirei no Moribito. It is definitely one of his finest works to date.
|Itou Masumi a.k.a. Nanase Hikaru (Pita-ten, Zettai Shounen, Shinkyoku Soukai Polyphonica, Scrapped Princess, Chrno Crusade)
Peace seems to be her forte as Nanase recently conducted her latest work, Shinkyoku Soukai Polyphonica. She provides depth into her music that makes you think and realize things you may have forgotten. For example, she created a gentle harmony that reminds you the warmth of a mother’s love. I definitely got that feeling from her Pita-ten soundtrack, which I think is one of the greatest anime soundtracks ever made. Her piece in Zettai Shounen is not to be underestimated either due to its mysterious yet compelling music that urges you to seek more.
As for myself, I have numerous amounts of BGM in my iPod shuffle and MD player. I like to add variety in order to prevent hearing the same vocals over and over until I want to rip my ears off. Pictures have many words. The same goes with BGM as Family Guy’s Peter Griffin said it best, ‘I wish I had my own theme song’.
That’s it for my very first post. Feel free to comment on whether you agree or disagree. I will mostly get disagreements from people since they will be screaming ‘Why is Kajiura Yuki not in that category?’ That will be explained in future postings. She is one of the top 20. The question is…under which category?? :P
Next time, the Starting Lineup. :)
Update (6/26/2007): Judging from the comments made, I want to make some clarification. First, the animes listed next to the composer DOES NOT necessary mean I am talking about those. Unless I mention it in my explanation, then you are welcome to argue against it. I have just listed them to show what other works those composers have done. Secondly, I am writing this column in the perspective of an average fan who lives outside of Japan. I know there are otakus out there who knows all of this kind of stuff, which is fine. However, just keep in mind as to what kind of audience this article is aimed at. Lastly, I do respond to comments so feel free to check back in the comments section and reply if you want to do so.
Update (6/28/2007): After conducting more research for my next post, I realized that I restricted myself too much with the whole ‘Excluding composers in joint collaboration’. If I excluded them, I would be literally excluding almost everybody. Therefore, I am abolishing that rule in order to expand my choices and help you readers enjoy reading future postings as well. I will repeat this message in my next post, which can be up as early as this upcoming Friday.