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Yuki Kajiura/FictionJunction Press Conference Transcript

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Here’s our translated transcript of the Yuki Kajiura/FictionJunction press conference at Anime Expo 2012. Some questions were not translated precisely, and we have noted when this happens. It may also account for some of the vagueness of the answers.

Our questions, as always, are in bold.

Would you say your music style has changed since you started composing soundtracks?
Ever since I started composing soundtracks, the music I create has changed a lot.

When did your love affair for music begin?
When I was in elementary school, I was in the chorus club, and I belonged to the chorus club for a long time, and so the first song I composed was a chorus piece.

When you first started your musical projects, where did you look for your inspiration?
By “project” do you mean FictionJunction? Umm, it depends on the songs, I don’t have any pre-decided place to search.

What inspired you to form Kalafina?
For Kalafina, I wanted to make focused (lit. “narrow”) music. For FictionJunction, I have to try everything I come up with; for Kalafina, I only want to try what Kalafina is supposed to sound like.

You tweeted that you’re a big fan of the Beatles. Who are your favorite bands and composers through history?
There are too many to narrow it down, but I like Paul McCartney the most from the Beatles. I love Paul’s songs. ANd I also like Queen, ABBA, Mike Oldfield.

Any other composers who inspire you?
If you say composers, I think Paul McCartney and Mike Oldfield are composers as well, But I don’t have a certain composer that I feel “this one,” since there are a lot of composers. I think I’m influenced by a little bit of everything.

Are there any future projects that you can tell us about?
There’s nothing I can talk about.

Many of the shows you’ve scored have a strong Gothic overtone. (Petit Cosette, Kara no Kyoukai, Fate/Zero, Madoka, the costumes of Kalafina) Are you drawn to that genre of anime in particular and if so, how so?
Is it gothic? I wonder Madoka and Fate/Zero are categorized as gothic, but I am certain that those shows are written in a dark and deep world. Yet, I don’t get offers to compose for anime that are merry and happy.

Question for Wakana and Keiko who are both in Kalafina and FictionJunction. What would you say is the key differences between the two bands?
Keiko: Yes, as Kajiura just said, FictionJunction does whatever Kajiura wants to do for soundtracks and anime, and Kalafina’s group sense is not like FictionJunction’s, so they are very different in terms of musicality.

Kajiura-san, in 2003 you did a concert at AX. What is it like to come back in 2012?
When I did the concert in 2003, it wasn’t a full band. So, this time, I can bring all the members of the Yuki Kajiura live band, as we always do in Japan, so I think it will be very exciting.

Could you tell me more about your Latin style chant music? What inspired you to create that sound, which is such a striking and iconic sound for you? What was your inspiration and where did it come from?
I only wrote one real Latin song (“Salva Nos”). But I use a lot of artificial language. I have huge fun creating songs with an artificial language because artificial language can make the melody stand out.

You were involved a lot with studio BEE Train. How did you get involved with BEE Train, and do you want to write music for “girls with guns” show again?
When I first worked with BEE Train, director Koichi Mashimo was the one asked me to work for the project. This first anime soundtrack I had worked on [with him] was “Eatman” (1997). And since then, because of that, Mashimo has asked me often to work on his projects. Of course, I want to make music for a “girls with guns” show again if I have a chance.

What is the most important element in composing music for anime?
The BGM and the scene have to match. I think basically BGM should be put behind the scenery. It’s not the character, but if it matches the character’s worldview, I always think that will be the music will make the anime’s worldview colorful effectively.

For Kajiura: J-pop is popular around the world, and your anime music is known internationally. How do you feel about that?
As a musician myself, I think Japanese animation is a very interesting field that can experiment with a lot of things. So, I’m very proud as a Japanese person that people around the world are paying attention to anime and watching it. It’s an honor to be part of it if my music can help people around the world to enjoy anime. I receive a lot of emails from various types of people around the globe through my homepage and website. It warms my heart when I realize how many people around the world are watching anime.

How do you get to know all these talented people?
It’s really difficult to find the right singers. And a lot of people introduced these singers to me, then I had finally made it to meet them. Everyone is so different and unique as a singer, but all of them are my ideal singers.

Was there any soundtrack that you found difficult to compose?
I had gotten an offer to compose for Mai-HiME. When I received it at first, I was worried if I could make music for such a cute show. But by the end, when the story turned out to be very scary, I didn’t get confused when I started writing the music.

How is it working with each other as FictionJunction?
Wakana: Everyone has a wonderful voice, and everyday I’ve enjoyed having stimulation from the other singers.
Keiko: There are four people, so we are all different, unique individuals, so it’s very stimulating. Every time, there’s plenty of laughter, and I enjoy doing this music.
Kaori: I usually sing alone by myself, so it’s an honor to work with the wonderful singers and I love being able to sing with a chorus.
Kaida: I usually sing with a chorus, but I haven’t done much with a quartet, so it’s good to sing together with 4 of us solidly. I feel like I can get a young power and strive, so I’m enjoying doing this.

What kind of composer do you want to be remembered as?
First of all, I really love doing anime music, I love doing BGM and soundtracks. Composing music along with motion pictures is a very exciting thing, so if I can, I want to be remembered as a soundtrack composer.

Are you fan of anime, and do you have any favorite songs that you composed for anime?
I have several; I liked the Mushishi manga, and when it was animated, it perfectly matched the manga, so I bought the DVD collection for the first time. And a few years ago, Gurren Lagann was airing in the morning, and it was a good, very energetic anime that invigorated me every day, and I kept saying, “I liked it I liked it,” and so I got the DVD as a gift and I watched it all.

For FictionJunction: what music have you listened to that energizes you?*
Wakana: I like the songs I sing, but I love a lot of other music too. If I must choose, I like Spitz, and they always energize me.
Keiko: I love dance music, so currently, I love Lady Gaga. To feel upbeat, I just listened to her and came here.
Kaori: I don’t listen to music to get energized usually, but as a result of being energetic from listing to music, I will say that Makihara Noriyuki, a male Japanese singer, his songs inspire me to live courageously.
Yoriko Kaida: Lately I like Genki Rockets, and I listen to them often, and I get energy from them.

When you hear other soundtracks, do you ever think “I can do different”?
It’s rare for me to listen to other soundtracks negatively like “I would have done it differently.” But I study soundtracks by listening to various kinds of soundtracks.

How is writing music for Gen Urobuchi (Fate/Zero, Madoka)’s stories different from other works when you do soundtracks?
Urobuchi-san’s stories are very compelling, and they have the power to entrap me. Rather than saying his works are different, his works seem ready-made to write songs smoothly. There is a certain constant rhythm in his scenarios; I can clearly see that here is the climax, and here is the blablabla, and I just need to put music to that part: so it’s makes it easy to find musical inspiration for each scene.

*This question was actually a mistranslation of what I originally asked: “Which pieces of Kajiura’s has moved you so much, it made you cry?”

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Exposition: Anime Expo 2012, Day 2

“Bronze Tier” should have been a tip off that something was amiss…

Day 2 was going to be Ground Zero for me: the day that I had anticipated the most as a fan. The day of the Yuki Kajiura/FictionJunction concert.

I did what I did last year for the press Kalafina tickets: I got up earlier than all of my blogger roommates, headed to the convention center, and waited outside the closed press lounge for our two allotted tickets for the Kajiura concert. To my surprise, the staff opened the room early, and I was able to charge my equipment while waiting.

When 9 AM, the appointed time for ticket distribution, came—there were no tickets. They would be ready by noon, I was assured. Ticket printing problems had come up. I hung around the press room for another hour or so before deciding to head on out for the Vocaloid panel with Rome, Benu, and other press folks.

Now, I know little about Vocaloid and Hatsune Miku beyond the basics. I’m not familiar with the most well-known Vocaloid composers—Benu and Rome told me that the ones who appeared at the panel, like Kagome P, Deadball P, and Dixie Flatline, were actually some of the biggest on the scene. Despite my lack of background, the panel was thoroughly enjoyable. The songs were either hilarious or, in one case, a bit poignant. The composers were frequently funny and/or outspoke, with Kagome P giving a hearty “fuck you” to the Japanese government’s laws closing dance clubs early, and Deadball P being his best otaku self by declaring Miku his “waifu” and that he has had a baby with her. His song, “Japanese Ninja #1,” is perhaps the funniest thing I’ve heard or seen at this convention. Dixie Flatline told of how a Youtube video of last year’s Mikunopoils concert (I’m still smarting over having our videos taken down by Sega—but we still have them here!) inspired him to start his musical career over again.

I tried to buy Deadball P’s record after the panel, but it sold out quickly, and no wonder.

Smile for the fangirls.

Next up was the voice actor Nobuhiko Okamoto‘s panel (Seiji in Sakamichi no Apollon, Io in Acchi Kochi among others). Jeremy had suggested we try to cover the panel and then seek a private interview with him, since though he was grouped with the Fate/Zero team during the press conference the previous day, he wasn’t part of our private interview. Fortunately, press was allowed to take unlimited photography, so we sat in the front row taking pictures as he made his fangirls (and one crazy Index fanboy) swoon by doing voices and impressions. Okamoto is a very pretty man indeed, inspiring one shy fan to give him a gift and others to declare their love in Japanese. My attempts to live blog/tweet, however, were thwarted by the total inability of ATT’s 3G network to function on my phone. I got out a few tweets using Jeremy’s T-Mobile powered phone, though, in which the most interesting factoid to come out is that Okamoto would probably have been a shogi player if he didn’t become a voice actor.

Unfortunately, he left straight back to Japan right after the panel, so we couldn’t get our private interview. The Aniplex rep, however, was friendly and told us we can try to get in touch later, but we might have to be prepared to pay. Seiyuus, he said, typically require to be paid for interviews. I wonder whether this is one of the reasons why there was no junket this year—perhaps the indebted AX couldn’t afford to pay enough.

At this point, our staff writer ElectricV01 (Dan) came by. In the absence of a planned interview with infamous, PAX-expelled cosplayer Jessica Nigri, he suggested we interview another pro cosplayer, Yaya Han, instead. Having not heard of her until that point, I was surprised later by how famous she really was. We took a mere 15 minutes to come up with good questions and you can see the results over here:

This ended up being one of the few times I actually visited the Dealer Room this year. Having already broke my con buying budget by buying NIS America’s Kimi ni Todoke box sets at AM2 earlier, I couldn’t afford anything anyway. We did briefly note one big change, the return of Viz Media with a booth. For the past few years, they’ve eschewed AX in favor of San Diego Comic Con for their big booth. When I tried to get one of their famous canvas bags, it turned out there were a lot of hoops to jump through to get one. I’ll just wait until SDCC to get one.

Dan and I then decided to try to get into LiSA’s fan panel. We saw hordes of fans crowding around the hallways, with an entire room dedicated to line overflow. Press and industry were grouped together with Premier Fan ticket holders. The line filled up quickly, and we heard staff announce that the line was full and they weren’t able to seat anyone else. Fortunately, press was allowed to go in first, even before the Premier Fan holders, and we got a good seat near the front. Dan took pictures with the DSLR, and I borrowed his Verizon phone to tweet, as ATT was once again out. (I fully intend to switch providers now, especially since I’m off contract.)

LiSA was as winsome as ever, making cute faces constantly as we saw examples of her work. The questions the moderator asked tended to be super basic, like “do you like anime?” (to which the obvious answer, of course, is “yes!” and she repeated her bit about Nyaruko-san). If the Okamoto panel was filled with fangirls, this one was filled with fanboys. None of the questions were terribly engaging, as is the norm in fan panels, but the energy in the room was palpable.

After the panel, there was only one more event left to cover: the FictionJunction/Yuki Kajiura concert. We headed back to the press room, having already gotten our tickets around 2:45 PM earlier. We had been assured by the press staff that these weren’t, in KylaranAeldin of Nihon Review’s words, “bitch seats,” but the double row letters and the “Bronze Tier” designation was not encouraging. On leaving, the press staff told us no video, but we could take non-flash photography, which was a typical stipulation for most concerts we’ve attended as press. I could live with that.

The first sign that something was wrong was the seat locations themselves. They were all the way on the left edge of the hall, and near the back to boot. It was a poor location to shoot photographs, though I felt fine that my zoom lens could handle it. Then we were told, by fellow press members already seated: the rule was no photography of any kind, even for press. “Oh, they must still be negotiating,” I reasoned, and replied that the staff had told us otherwise. No, I heard; it’s an absolute blanket prohibition. This was later confirmed by a slide put up on the Jumbotrons.

Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign

I admit: I was angry enough to issue several complaining tweets, which is not the norm for me. (Believe me, I’d much rather talk about Sato or someone else, but this needed airing, because others shared my frustrations, something which will be documented in a forthcoming report about press problems this year.) Apparently we were supposed to get better seats, but ticket printing issues prevented it, and we were supposed to be able to shoot pictures, but artist management overrode it at the last minute. This kind of treatment of press is poor, and hindered our ability to cover the concert, which for many like myself was supposed to be the highlight of the entire convention. The more paranoid Japanese management organizations, like that of Miyuki Sawashiro from last year, need to understand that the game has changed and that total control of artist image is less and less relevant in the Internet age.

Reluctantly, I put my press hat aside, and my phone. I decided to enjoy the show, and…you know, I really did. The vocal and instrumental performances, all of them live, were superb. The majesty and deeply emotional wells of Kajiura’s music came through, especially on the Madoka and Mai-Hime pieces. The numerous pieces from .hack did not move me as much, and there were points in the first half of the show that the songs seem to run together—adding some weight to the frequent charge that Kajiura’s music tends to sound the same. The camera director behind the Jumbotron, which was the only way to really see the artists from where we sat, was also a bit slow on the uptake; there were frequent pans to the curtains and non-playing musicians. But overall, as our reviewer as already said, the concert was an impressive musical performance. Despite my feelings about the management, the Kajiura and her singers and musicians did a fine job. I’m not going to let that ruin my admiration for the music.

Corn chowder at the Farm.

That was it for me. Instead of returning to my hotel room right away, I decided to eat a late dinner at a restaurant across the street to decompress a bit (the Farm of Beverly Hills), and then collapsed into bed shortly after. I missed 2DTeleidoscope and his Tanto Cuore playing anti-FictionJunction con apparently. :) Oh well…

Next: Day 3, my last day

Yuki Kajiura/FictionJunction live at AX 2012

The waiting line was as long as an anaconda, like waiting for a soup kitchen during the Great Depression. Yes, we otakus are desperate for the beyond-reality music to obliviate our plight in 3D. So, people were desperately wanting to see them perform.

Continue reading Yuki Kajiura/FictionJunction live at AX 2012