INTERVIEW: Jujutsu Kaisen’s Music Staff Discuss The Series’ Eclectic Vibe & Hip Hop Influence

From the voice acting to animation and music, Jujutsu Kaisen has been lauded as one of the best and most popular shonen anime to release in 2020. With the series' first season wrapped up after 24 episodes, fans can still look forward to the upcoming prequel film announced that will cover Jujutsu Kaisen Volume 0.

Jujutsu Kaisen -- based on the popular manga by Gege Akutami -- follows Yuji Itadori, who becomes the vessel for the infamous Sukuna after swallowing a cursed rotting finger in an attempt to save his friends. The series occurs in a world where monstrous creatures known as Curses plague the world and must be exorcised by individuals known as Jujutsu Sorcerers. Now firmly wrapped into the world of Curses and sorcerers, Itadori joins Jujutsu Tech, where he'll train to combat the evil spirits.

While the story and characters contribute massively to Jujutsu Kaisen's popularity, you can't overlook the impact of the music on the anime. The scenes are made all the more memorable by an ear-catching soundtrack, and CBR had the opportunity to interview four members of Jujutsu Kaisen's music staff. Music Producer Yoshiki Kobayashi and composers Hiroaki Tsutsumi, Yoshimasa Terui and Arisa Okehazama discussed their musical influences, favorite moments, and favorite parts of the creative process.

CBR: What was the overall feel you wanted to convey with the Jujutsu Kaisen soundtrack?

Kobayashi: I'm hoping that the animation conveys the world of Jujutsu Kaisen rather than the soundtrack itself. Then, I hope that with their great talent and skills, the music Mr. Tsutsumi, Mr. Terui, and Ms. Okehazama created will enhance and add color to the animation.

Tsutsumi: As a composer, I wanted to create music that conveys the charm of Jujutsu Kaisen to a greater extent! That's all I can say. I wanted to create music that would remain in the hearts of the fans for a long time, along with the various emotions they feel from this work. I’d be happy if we had achieved that.

Terui: I wanted to create music that had a superficial impact and was catchy, but had depth.

In this day and age, where the speed of consumption of not only anime and music but all forms of entertainment continues to increase, I wanted to create something that would be catchy enough to reach a large number of people. But I also wanted to create something that had a long lifespan so that people could discover it again and again.

Okehazama: I didn't have a specific message, but I created it with the hope that people who watch the anime would enjoy it.

Considering Jujutsu Kaisen’s darker, supernatural themes, were you inspired by any particular genres or musicians?

Tsutsumi: The sound is very much based on my rock roots. I was particularly conscious of the progressive rock elements when composing. The balance and processing of live instruments and synths were influenced by the sound of the Flying Lotus.

Terui: In meetings with the animation team, Hip-Hop, progressive rock, EDM, and artists such as Billie Eilish were mentioned as references. Personally, I was influenced by various artists in the creation of this work, such as Shing02, Flying Lotus, Arca, Neptunian Maximalism, Steve Reich, Cornelius, Downy... etc..

Okehazama: I used EDM and Hip-Hop music as references. There is no specific musician that I referred to.

With all of the impressive work that goes into composing and producing music for anime, did you have a favorite part of the process during Jujutsu Kaisen?

Kobayashi: I remember the recording process was very difficult. There were times when things didn't go as planned, and for some reason, I was asked to participate in the chorus. I really learned that things sometimes just don’t go well, even if you were prepared. For that reason, when the music was incorporated into the animation, my joy was enormous.

Tsutsumi: I will never forget when the entire music team sang the chorus part of Todo's song together in the recording studio late at night. We were all at the limit of our physical capability at that time, but we overcame it with passion and love for Jujutsu Kaisen.

Terui: Towards the end of the recording process, at around midnight, we recorded the chorus of Todo's song composed by Mr. Tsutsumi with the three composers and the music producer. It was a fun recording session because I learned a lot overall, and it was a very enjoyable time because everyone was so excited.

Okehazama: The most memorable event was the recording. Many of the musicians were new to us, but all of them played wonderfully. I feel that our work was finished with high-quality thanks to them. It was a lot of fun to record the chorus of Todo’s song with everyone late at night.

What was your favorite piece or moment you worked on in Jujutsu Kaisen? Why? Do you have a favorite scene where that track is featured?

Kobayashi: That would be "REMEMBER" in Episode 24. This is the scene that Director [Sunghoo] Park was really particular about, and I think it is a condensed version of everything he wanted to do.

It was also a miracle that we were able to get Masato [Hayakawa] of Coldrain to do the vocals. I also remember how cool Mr. Tsutsumi's music was and how impressed I was when the demo came out. It gave me goosebumps. In Disney's Fantasia, the animation is matched to the music, but for this scene, I created the music to match the animation first and then matched the animation to music afterward. Specifically, I created the rhythm of the drums and the shouting of the vocals in detail. It was a very valuable experience.

Tsutsumi: The song "REMEMBER" was used in Episode 24. I think many composers go through a trial and error process to find the right balance between soundtracks with visuals vs. independent musical work. But I feel that this is the best piece of music I have written for Jujutsu Kaisen. The scene that I particularly like is the battle between Itadori and Kugisaki vs. Kechizu & Eso. In addition to the flamboyance of the battle, I think the music was able to support the emotional development of each character.

Terui: My favorite song on its own was "Straw Doll Technique: Resonance" because I think it’s a song that successfully combined my own characteristics with the world of Jujutsu Kaisen. However, when I consider a soundtrack combined with animation, my favorite is the one in Episode 5 where "Megumi Fushiguro, Jujutsu Sorcerer" is used. The development of the music and the animation fit perfectly, and I was reminded of the power they have together.

Okehazama: The scene where Gojo releases Hollow Purple and its music "Hollow Purple."

I received a request to create one continuous track to express the scene from where Gojo appears in Episode 20 to the end of Hollow Purple, and this was it. The scene was long, so it was difficult to put it all together in one track. I think I was able to express Gojo's toughness well on the track. To be honest, I was worried if the fans would accept the song since Gojo is a very popular character, but I was very happy to hear that many people felt positive about it.

Jujutsu Kaisen Season 1 is available on Crunchyroll.

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