Kyobansai was held on September 16th, 2023, in Umekoji Park in Kyoto to beautiful blue skies and a very high temperature of 36°C (96.8°F). However, that didn’t stop the audience nor the performers from having an incredible time! Their amazing music was set to video clips, with a huge range of series being introduced from Idolish7 to Baki. There was even a Naruto 20th anniversary section that included performances using an electric shamisen and shakuhachi! To top it all off, Yuuki Hayashi invited Ayapeta for his encore song, Hero too from My Hero Academia, which really finished off the show with a bang, just like the student festival in the show!
Now, to keep the Kyobansai fever going, here’s the rest of the interviews with the performers!
TOM: What’s your process when composing for a new series?
Yasuharu Takanashi: First I painstakingly read the original work. I read it before I have meetings with the director so I can create my own image of the series. Then I meet with the director and production staff so we can compare our images, then I make music to match the series.
Alisa Okehazama: First I read the original work or script and look at the character designs, as well as check what parts of the series will be emphasized or important.
After that, I meet with the director and sound director to brainstorm the direction of the music we want before getting to work.
Tatsuya Kato: If it’s an adaptation, first I immerse myself in the original work. By experiencing the vibe of the series myself, I’m able to plan the music that I personally want to make.
After that, the director, staff, and I discuss the concept for the production and I begin to compose.
If it’s an original series, then I check out the available materials like the key visuals, character designs, and art direction designs, so I’m able to imagine the scenery of an unknown series yet to be created.
Of course, after that I meet with the director and staff to hear their thoughts and look for the direction of the music that I should compose.
TOM: Has your process changed since the beginning of your career, and if so, how?
Takanashi: It hasn’t changed much.
Okehazama: It hasn’t changed much, but now I read the original work even more closely and I investigate the characters in more detail.
Kato: When I first started this job, I had a fixed idea that I had learned in school that “these scenes call for this specific kind of music.”
I think I was trying to have all of my soundtrack music have a “proper” soundtrack sound.
After watching various works, meeting many people, and being able to build up my career, I’ve been gradually released from those mental shackles and now I’m able to face each series with casual feelings. This allows me to make music in the style that fits that series and wholeheartedly pursue the music that series deserves. I’m able to give myself entirely to it and challenge myself each time now.
TOM: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Takanashi: I don’t get it from a specific place. Instead, I discover it in various places in my daily life. Just recently, I was walking around a German city and a melody came to mind, so I recorded it using a voice recorder. Sometimes it comes to me in unexpected moments, like when I’m in the bath. Some songs have come out when I’m sitting in front of my computer or messing around with my instruments. Sometimes when I’m listening to music, the songs teach me new methods or sounds that I haven’t thought of before. I really get inspired from all sorts of things.
Okehazama: I read the original work and I watch anime or movies with similar universes for inspiration.
Kato: Things in my daily life, the different emotions I feel throughout my days, worlds near and far, various experiences, etc. All of them become important parts of the myself and the music I create.
TOM: What series do you have any particular emotion toward or was a particularly stand-out experience?
Takanashi: Naruto and Fairy Tail are particularly memorable for me. I won international awards for both of those series and they’re loved by people all over the world. I’m both proud and overjoyed by that. Personally, Precure was big for my musicianship and made me feel like I was opening new doors.
Okehazama: Jujutsu Kaisen. It was the first time I’ve ever collaborated with other composers, so it made me feel like I was able to increase my production ability and open up my worldview. It was a very fun and exciting period.
Kato: There are a lot of them, but two that stand out are Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere and Free!
Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere is a series that’s an assembly of intense characteristics, so I felt a sense of danger, that I needed to demonstrate imagination beyond anything I had come up with before. I felt like I was climbing up an extreme hill. In the end, I was able to reconsider my own music.
Free! is the series that made me feel strongly that I can’t just respond with a decent answer to the request made of me. I needed to get close to the series, project my own thoughts and feelings onto it to create a more subjective sound.
TOM: Have you noticed any new trends in anime/game OSTs?
Takanashi: To be honest, I’ve never made music while thinking about trends, so I don’t really know what soundtracks are like lately. But I am always challenging myself to try things that are new to me.
Kato: Each production and methods have become really diverse, and I feel that the styles and music of soundtracks themselves have become free.
While it’s only natural for soundtracks to use orchestras, in recent years, sensational sounds have been sweeping through the soundtrack world, including in international works.
When that happens, the feeling that they purposely stepped away from the typical elements of a soundtrack makes it even more interesting.
TOM: How do you feel about participating in events such as the Kyobansai?
Takanashi: My first thought is that I was delighted to be invited! As Yuuki Hayashi always says, events like this where we can play our soundtracks in front of as many people as possible might become a new trend. But first, I just want our audience to enjoy themselves.
Okehazama: I’m not used to performing live, so I’m a little worried and nervous, but I’m also looking forward to seeing the other performers because they’ve all composed music that I love!
Kato: Personally, I’ve had many more chances to stand on stage and perform my music in recent years, so I’ve been feeling how important performing in front of an audience is and how to enjoy the shared space of a concert.
So, being able to share the stage with composers I respect during :Kyobansai and sharing my work and the series I’ve worked on with an audience who might not know either excites me greatly.
Since the concert is an outdoor one, I’m also looking forward to the feeling of this soundtrack concert essentially being a summer music festival.
TOM: What have you been listening to lately in your private life?
Takanashi: I listen to nothing but Babymetal! That’s the truth! (LOL)
Okehazama: I listen to a lot of soundtracks, but I also often listen to playlists of popular songs.
Kato: In general, I pay attention to international music charts, but lately I mostly listen to music during my workouts, so I’ve been listening to uplifting playlists. For soundtracks, I like Daniel Pemberton. His scores are so varied, it’s magnificent.
TOM: How does it feel knowing that your work has reached so many people outside of Japan?
Takanashi: It makes me really happy. Lately when I go overseas, I have more opportunities to talk to fans. Everyone’s studying Japanese and when they look so happy as they use their new language skills to talk to me, it makes me glad I chose to do music. I’m a rock musician through and through, so touring the world with a band has always been my dream. That’s why I’m delighted that my dream has come true and I’m able to play my music all around the world thanks to anime. I hope to continue making music that even more people will be able to enjoy.
Okehazama: It’s a very odd feeling that I still can’t believe. It makes me very happy. I get a lot of DMs from foreign fans, and they enjoy my music just as much as Japanese fans do. Those are moments that make me feel really happy to be doing this job.
Kato: I think it’s fantastic.
I feel that the power that Japanese animation works have on the world is huge.
To Alisa Okehazama: How does it feel getting such a big job like Jujutsu Kaisen in the very first year of your solo debut as a composer?
Okehazama: Of course, I was very anxious about whether I was the right choice. However, I remember that I was desperate to make music that I thought would work, even if it might be a bit clumsy, since they hired me for the job.
The music by the other composers was incredibly cool, which really spurred me on and gave me ideas. I feel very strongly that the experience improved my skills and I’m very grateful for the opportunity.
Kyobansai is a very new event, but everyone on stage expressed their wish to keep it going annually. Maybe next year it’ll be on an even grander scale and you can enjoy it yourself, either in person or online! This is definitely a new otaku summer experience to keep an eye on.