Theme Song Singer

Ko Shibasaki

The singer of the theme song for "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THE ORIGIN III Dawn of Rebellion" is singer and actress Ko Shibasaki. The song "Eien no Astraea" ("Eternal Astraea") is about memories of Char's and Sayla's departed mother Astraia, and Miss Shibasaki also wrote the lyrics herself. Miss Shibasaki had no experience with Gundam works before this, so we spoke to her about how she approached "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THE ORIGIN" (hereafter referred to as "THE ORIGIN") to write the song.
- Did you have any contact with "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM" before this?
Shibasaki: None whatsoever. Of course, I had heard the name, but I didn't even really know the difference between the old anime called "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM" and "THE ORIGIN," so that was the first thing I had to educate myself about when I became involved with the theme song.
- Regarding that, when you were approached to sing a theme song for "THE ORIGIN," what did you think?
Shibasaki: I knew what a famous franchise it was, so I was simply overjoyed to be allowed to be involved. But to be honest, I didn't grow up watching Gundam works, so I was anxious about that, like, "Is it really okay if I do this?"
- So this was an anxious learning experience, then?
Shibasaki: I read the manga of "THE ORIGIN" as background research for writing the song, and I also watched the first two episodes of the anime. And that was a relief, because the past that's depicted in the anime is the base, and it connects to the main story that follows. In a sense, before the story gets deep into the war, it's kind of a flashback tale about Char and Sayla when they were young Casval and Artesia. So a lot of what is depicted is human drama that I understand well, so it was fine writing the lyrics around that.
- After finally experiencing Gundam through "THE ORIGIN," what were your thoughts?
Shibasaki: It was really moving, and I became completely hooked on it. (laughs) On the Internet, I looked into how the Gundam anime got started, and I came to understand the work more. After reading that information and the "ORIGIN" manga, I felt that what's depicted in this work is possible in the world we live in. There are plans for the settlement of space even now, and talk of building cities on the moon. If travel in space became a reality, then space wars could come after that too. It was easy to empathize with that world view that continues on from the present.
Gundam is a famous franchise, and it has deep-rooted fans, so I know it would be problematic if a theme song singer came in who knew nothing at all about that world view... I thought there might be that kind of vibe, so I was a little nervous. But it wasn't at all difficult for me to enter this world myself, and reading the manga drew me right in, and I immediately understood the appeal of the work. It pulled me in completely and I wanted to see all of it.
- How did you feel about the characters in "THE ORIGIN"?
Shibasaki: It's interesting the way the characters are portrayed. For example, regarding the love that young Casval feels for his family, there is no dialogue where he expresses his feelings. It's communicated only through glances and expressions. The depths of those emotions are left to the reader, or perhaps deliberately not shown. He doesn't simply say, "For revenge." It was I myself who felt that. I really felt there was something to that way of depicting it. You often see contrasts of good and evil, but the evil has a reason for being that way. And it struck me that even with victims and perpetrators, that maybe the perpetrators were in a situation where they had to do what they did. That way of portraying things was riveting. On the other hand, his little sister Artesia was so cute! (laughs) The story continues to be severe, so there were parts where I was relieved to see women appear. It eased the tension. Among them, Astraia has an incredibly sad fate, but she never loses her grace and I hoped I could become like her.
- Did those feelings give birth to the theme song for this episode, "Eternal Astraea"? Were there any specific directions about the lyrics?
Shibasaki: When Mr. (Junji) Fujita, the music producer, spoke to me about doing the theme song, he said, "Don't put in any fear and anxiety or unease about them being consumed by the war." Instead, he wanted the gentle breeze they felt when they were young, and a kind of warmth. Gundam fans would know about the unease that is about to surround them, so we didn't need to foreshadow that. He said he wanted a gentle perspective that's watching over them. He asked for that gentle gaze, and wanted to depict it like a mother watching over her children. He didn't say he wanted a direct expression of Astraia's point of view, but when I synthesized our conversations, I thought it would be good to write it about her. My feeling was that Astraia was a mother burdened with a truly sad fate, so I wanted to give her happiness in my song at least.
- When writing the lyrics, were you thinking of any motifs, or did you have any scenes in mind?
Shibasaki: When I read the manga, there's a closing scene where Artesia asks Astraia what kind of place Earth is, and Casval's behind them listening in. That scene left a deep impression on me. It's only them in that space, with no one to interfere, and it's the one place they're happy. If they go outside, there will be all sorts of entanglements and troubles, but in the space of their home they can be themselves and simply be. That reminded me of my own childhood, and it's specifically because of that situation I felt it was depicting the indulgence of a childish heart. It's really an oasis-like scene. I was really impressed the scene could make me feel that, so when I was writing the lyrics, I used that as a key to delve into the world view of the story.
- That scene certainly makes an impression. At their final farewell, you can understand Artesia's feelings when she says, "I don't want morning to come."
Shibasaki: But as a mother, Artesia can't say, "That's right." She won't let her forget her hopes, and she also wants them to stay connected. So as they're leaving on their journey, it's like she's giving her a push. I think that being born is the biggest miracle, and war and conflict begin from that, so I couldn't ignore that when writing the lyrics. I'm still unmarried, and I'm not a mother, but I instilled a kind of desire in the lyrics of how I would like it to be.
- Did you speak with general director, Mr. Yoshikazu Yasuhiko?
Shibasaki: I spoke to him just for a little bit during recording. At the time, he said "motherhood" was a keyword in the overall story, and he wanted to depict that, and he said he also wanted to depict such elements. In that sense, I figured he approved of the song I wrote, and I was relieved that I wasn't wrong in terms of the direction of it.
- Miss Shibasaki, when you did the ending theme "Aoi Hoshi" ("Blue Star") for the drama "Aoi Hono" and the main theme "Love Searchlight" for the movie "Detective Conan: Dimensional Sniper," those projects had source works which you read before writing the lyrics. Can you talk about that process in your song writing?
Shibasaki: I'm also an actress, so it's easy for me to do. It's also like I'm reconstructing and interpreting a complete book or other work myself and writing it over again, so it's easier than writing lyrics from scratch. I don't think it's this way for everybody, but many musical artists think that perhaps they can give shape to what comes out of themselves. Maybe it's because I also do work as an actress, but if something which isn't the real me possesses me, I think of that as myself, so I'm not as fixated as other artists on bringing something up from inside myself.
That said, rather than trying to incorporate the whole thing, I have my own capacity, and I deeply read the points that I find most interesting in a short time. In the case of the song for "THE ORIGIN," I used something like a lullaby as the base, and then added more and more colors to it. Even depicted in black and white, it's like you're digging into this scene of sleeping in a mother's arms on a soft pillow, whittling it down moment by moment. The rest is fantasy. When Astraia, Casval, and Artesia were all innocently in contact, that's what it must have been like. Astraia's kindness and positivity even in hard times gives a kind of melancholy impression of her, and I consciously put that into the lyrics.
- Is there anything you yourself wanted to communicate through the song "Eternal Astraea"?
Shibasaki: It was an easy song to sing. This kind of melody is suited to my voice, I think, so I could sing it comfortably. While I was singing it over and over, Mr. Takayuki Hattori, who is in charge of the composition, said, "You've taken a surprising approach, so let's try singing it again." That impressed me. It allowed me to get into singing it, so while it is rather a song about a mother's feelings, I think the way it's sung came out in a girlish style.
- "THE ORIGIN" was your first experience of Gundam, but which character was your favorite?
Shibasaki: It has to be Char. He's so cool. He's smart from a young age, and he was born under a star that means you have to do something. In the story, aspects of him are depicted as "evil," but you can't think of him as simply an evil person. Because he has conviction. From a worldly point of view he just appears "evil," but from a different, distant world, from a god-like perspective, perhaps he believes that a certain amount of sacrifice is unavoidable, and he's been drawn into a place where there are certain depths. It makes you think about lots of things. Like, "If I was this child's mother, what would my state of mind be?" and, "If Astraia survived to see his actions now, what would she think?" All those "What ifs" are what make it interesting. It's because something is lost that something else emerges to compensate for it. There's no going back to the past... That part is so cool.
- Do you have any final message for the fans?
Shibasaki: I hope a lot of people see "THE ORIGIN" and hear this song in it. People like me who had never seen it before are now hooked on it, and I hope as many people like that see it as possible. For me, it's become something I can confidently recommend to people who haven't seen it yet. The theme will be shown at the ending with subtitles, so I hope people will enjoy it as one part of the experience.

Next up in our relay interview series, we'll have CG producers Mr. Kiichiro Inoue and Mr. Taisuke Iwakiri to talk about the CG.