Takayuki Hattori

For this sixth in our series of relay staff interviews, we spoke to music director Mr. Takayuki Hattori. Mr. Hattori has provided the music for many TV dramas such as "HERO," "THE KING'S RESTAURANT," "NAOKI HANZAWA," and NHK's historical drama series "SHINSENGUMI!" among others. We talked to him about what was in his mind when constructing the musical world of "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THE ORIGIN," and what he focuses on in musical production.
- Mr. Hattori, please tell us about your impressions of "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM."
Hattori: Well, I myself am of the "SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO" generation that came before "GUNDAM." My father was a composer too, and he was close friends with Mr. Hiroshi Miyagawa who did the music for Yamato, and he often performed tracks from "YAMATO" with a brass band. But I didn't see Gundam when it was broadcast on TV. I was studying overseas starting in 1983 when Gundam became widely popular, so I really don't have much experience with it even now.
However, when I came back from overseas in the 90s I learned that Mr. Shigeaki Saegusa, who hadn't worked in the field of anime, was doing the music for the sequels ("MOBILE SUIT Z GUNDAM", "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM ZZ" and "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM CHAR'S COUNTERATTACK"). The impression I got was, "This Gundam series really pays very close attention to its music."
Since we're in the same profession, I'm keenly interested in which composers they use in movies and TV dramas, and what kinds of music they use. And with the subsequent Gundam series, my impression didn't change that these works are careful about the music, including their choice of personnel. So while I'm conscious of it musically, I'd never actually been involved with Gundam before now.
- What did you think when you received the offer?
Hattori: I don't know what the chain of events was that led to them asking me to do it, but when they approached me I was incredibly happy. For a series that takes such care with its music to ask for my involvement felt like a confirmation that I'd come of age. So I replied without hesitation that I'd do it.
However, since my knowledge of the series was shallow, I also felt like, "am I really okay for this?" But I was told that we'd wager our luck on me not knowing, that it can turn out for the better.
For the music in the actual episode, too, my goal was a sound which stressed the atmosphere and extraordinary aspects of the young Casval's troubled and distorted feelings. I wrote music which spotlighted Casval's view of life or his unfortunate destiny.
So I wrote the main theme music with the feeling that Casval's character overlaps the story's dark image. That theme music appears at every important point. When you hear it, it might sound "Takayuki Hattori-esque," but its presence is similar to that of the main theme from "THE GODFATHER," and the idea is of looking down upon the world. The theme music has a darkness and a low center of gravity that's not in my usual work.
- Did you get any instructions from Director Imanishi or General Director Yasuhiko?
Hattori: The story itself is chaotic and distorted. It's a tale with no bright future whatsoever. And to match their ideas of certain scenes they would say, "This one is Germanic," or "This one should feel Russian." Or the Federation Forces should have a WWII Allied Forces feeling to them. It was easy to differentiate them like that.
When it came to writing the music, rather than getting instructions, there were an incredible number of preliminary meetings. I read the original comics so I could get a handle on the characters, and I carefully looked over the character relationship diagrams, so I worked as I was getting that into my head. The preliminary meetings were at a very early stage, but afterwards when I was at the stage of actually writing the music, I wanted to do it with "THE ORIGIN" as a genuine part of me, so I asked for just one final preliminary meeting. It was good to absorb it bit by bit like that.
- You've written a lot of music for TV dramas lately, but is there any difference when writing music for live action versus animation?
Hattori: Well, in my case there's not much difference. If I put those kinds of limitations on myself, it narrows the world, so I place importance on creating a story which follows my own sensitivities as I feel them.
But then it was great that this project has a world view that I like. However, there are a lot of musical numbers in it, so as I was writing, I felt my own center of gravity getting lower and lower. So I remember feeling very relieved when Teabolo's castle appeared in episode 2, and I could write music with a Spanish feel, or Western-style music for Texas Colony. I especially like the Teabolo music myself.
- You worked on the music for episodes 1 and 2 at the same time, but once the work was done, what about the work made an impression on you?
Hattori: The thing that made me happy was that they let me make music with singing in it. In addition to the song that Hamon sings during the story, I was also asked to write the ending song. Often with the ending song, it's not done by the music score writer, but they use another artist's song. On this project it was included, however, and I was able to be comprehensive. So as a composer that was very satisfying, like being able to scratch a very itchy spot.
In creating the soundtrack, Hamon's song is the piece I wrote next after the trailer. It had to match the playing of the instruments in the film footage, so they asked me to write that one first. Mr. Yasuhiko had clear ideas about Hamon's song. He said he wanted drums for the intro, a composition for a bar or club singer, a sax with a four rhythm, and so forth – it was all very exact. He also suggested several existing songs to give me an example of the mood. I considered all of that and then created a new song.
- Were you given a lot of that kind of reference material for this job?
Hattori: I'd say so. I got some firm lectures and they did not go to waste at all. In fact without them, I don't think I could have done the job. You really can't fake it. It was really fun to work with that kind of grounding.
- Well, do you have any final message for the waiting fans?
Hattori: As I said before, I always had the impression that Gundam projects pay a lot of attention to the composers, and I think the fans who enjoy them have sharp ears too. I think the way you listen to it is coupled with the world view, and it's rewarding when the work is able to be presented that way. I hope when you see "THE ORIGIN" with my music you'll be surprised, like, "Wow, so that's how it's done!" and understand it. Also, I used some of the music written by Mr. (Takeo) Watanabe and Mr. (You-she) Matsuyama that was used in the TV series. I used their motifs and rearranged them to my tastes, and I hope the fans enjoy that and maybe think, "Oh, that's that music!" I'm looking forward to seeing how people react to all those elements of the music.

Next in our series of relay interviews is sound director Mr. Sadayoshi Fujino