Theme Song Singer

Hiroko Moriguchi

Ms. Hiroko Moriguchi has sung the theme songs for many Gundam works, including "MOBILE SUIT Z GUNDAM," "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM F91," and "SD GUNDAM G GENERATION," and she was responsible for "Sora no Kanata de" for "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THE ORIGIN IV Eve of Destiny." Since "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM F91," she has been singing the theme songs for Gundam theatrical releases for the past 25 years, and she has been associated with Gundam works since her debut song. She told us all about her theme songs for the Gundam series, which she is deeply attached to, and her other anime songs, as well as what she focused on for this new song.
- When you were put in charge of a theme song for "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THE ORIGIN," (hereafter referred to as "THE ORIGIN"), it must have felt like coming home.
Moriguchi: Naturally it felt like, "I'm home!" I've been singing theme songs for Gundam theatrical releases for 25 years, since "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM F91," so it's truly a joy.
- It was officially announced that you would be handling the theme song at the "GUNDAM LIVE EXPO" on June 12, but when were you approached, Ms. Moriguchi?
Moriguchi: In the middle of an event in April called "Super Robot Spirits." I was about to go on stage when my agency manager told me, "I have some very good news. I'll tell you when you're done." I said, "If you say it like that, that actually makes me more anxious, so I can't sing until I know it. (laughs) I want to know now!" And it turned out I had been chosen to do a theme song for "THE ORIGIN." I was so overjoyed I cried right there in front of my dressing room door. I really shouldn't have asked about it before I went on. (laughs) My manager probably knew how happy it would make me, too, and couldn't resist telling me about it.
- How did you feel when you heard you'd been chosen for the theme song?
Moriguchi: It was a dream come true. My debut was the theme song for "MOBILE SUIT Z GUNDAM" when I was in my teens, and in my 20s I did the theme song for "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM F91." And in my 30s I handled the theme song for the game "SD GUNDAM G GENERATION SPIRITS." So I absolutely wished that I could do one in my 40s too. The happiness that that thought had become a reality was powerful. I saw fans on the net saying they wanted me again, too, so our dream has come true.
- We hear that you've watched "THE ORIGIN." What are your feelings about it?
Moriguchi: Fate toys with Char and Sayla, and they're forced to shoulder the weight of karma. That human drama is so clearly depicted that it really makes you think. I think people have a reason for their dark sides, and I was deeply interested in the parts that explored how they got that way. In that sense, I think it's a socially aware work. For Gundam fans, "THE ORIGIN" depicts the situation before the historic TV series "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM," so it's like a passing of the baton. Just imagining being able to watch that in a cinema brings tears to my eyes.
- What are your thoughts about your involvement with the Gundam series?
Moriguchi: It's a series that has changed my life. As a vocalist, it makes me so proud to be able to sing theme songs for the historic Gundam series which has been loved by fans for generations! I wanted to become a singer ever since I was four, and I went to lots of auditions and kept failing them. Finally, in the end, it was Gundam that reached out its hand to me. But right after my debut, there was a business restructuring. I begged and said I would do anything, so please don't send me back, and they gave me faith that variety work would lead to more singing. Then I was approached about "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM F91," and "ETERNAL WIND Hohoemi wa Hikaru Kaze no Naka" become my first Top 10 hit, leading to the "Year-End Song Festival" and a nationwide tour.
Without Gundam, there would be no singer Hiroko Moriguchi right now. Last year was the 30th anniversary of my debut, and I am touched in my soul with joy by all the fans who have walked alongside me.
- What were your thoughts on singing "Sora no Kanata de" this time?
Moriguchi: Mr. Yukinojo Mori's poetry really affected me. The imagery it invokes through its scenic descriptions is marvelous. It made me think about the folly of humanity, and prayers for peace. And Mr. Takayuki Hattori's melodies struck me as so grand and beautiful. The producers told me this time, "Ms. Moriguchi, you are like a Gundam goddess. If you could sing it from a position as if you're watching events occur with detachment from far overhead..." I was extremely honored by the offer. The sense of distance in this piece of music was very difficult given the representation of this huge world full of love. Simply wailing direct lyrics and shocking content wouldn't communicate it, and even being too detached wouldn't get there. So I sang it with a strong prayer that "This must not happen again."
- It's a song that you can sing specifically because of the way your career has progressed.
Moriguchi: There is an aspect that you can communicate specifically because as you get older, you learn more about the reality of the brutality of war. I think I was given an amazing song in the sense that it communicates that "These kinds of things are happening in the world." The responsibility of being entrusted with a song with a powerful message is something I feel more deeply now than when I was younger.
- As a song, how did it come out?
Moriguchi: You can fully feel the "space opera" concept. Mr. Hattori's deep and majestic melodies, and Mr. Yukinojo Mori's lyrics entreating us to pray for our next future, really made me cry. Now war will begin, and the flames of war will rise like quietly twinkling stars. You can feel the fear and sadness in that contrast between war and silence. The lyrics and the music fuse together splendidly to create a coherent world view. I think it's a piece that Gundam fans will go crazy for.
- How was the recording?
Moriguchi: I challenged myself with a vocal approach I've never used before to express this grand world view, and there was a lot of pressure. But Mr. Yukinojo Mori and Mr. Hattori said they could hear "the song of my soul," and that was so reassuring. And while mixing down (combining various sound sources into one), it seemed like they obsessed about every last tiny detail. Mr. Hattori asked multiple times, "Bring up the sound there a bit," or "I want to adjust this," and was constantly retouching it. You could say it's endless, but the tiniest sound changes the feel. I felt like the tension and profundity made the final result gorgeous in every detail.
- Apparently Mr. Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, the general director, was present for the recording, but what did he tell you?
Moriguchi: He said, "I felt the latent energy and power of the analog era." It made me incredibly nervous to have Mr. Yasuhiko, all of the staff, people connected to Sunrise, and other prominent people observing the recording, but him saying that one thing made me relieved.
- This is a song with a strong message, but you want many generations to hear it.
Moriguchi: Of course. The themes are universal. After the Tohoku earthquake, when I sang Gundam theme songs in an elementary school gym in the stricken area, it made the children extremely happy.
- Gundam works are now familiar to people across two generations.
Moriguchi: That's right. There are a lot of kids who watch it with their fathers. When I introduced myself to them and asked, "Do you know who I am"? they said, "Yes, we do!" When I said that I debuted with a Gundam song, they said "Z Gundam!" and "I love it!" It's like it communicated across generations. And when those excited kids listened to the scene that begins the "F91" theme song "ETERNAL WIND," that alone made me feel like crying. When the song ended, they applauded whole-heartedly. Afterwards, I got letters from each class that said, "We love Gundam, so hearing your pretty singing made us happy, Ms. Moriguchi. Next please make the children of Tokyo happy too," and, "We know your job must be hard, but please don't forget that when times are tough, we're cheering you on." I went there to cheer them up, but they ended up encouraging me.
- That's a great story. Do you think it connected with them specifically because they were anime songs?
Moriguchi: I think so. Anime songs have the multiplying effect of anime and music, so the world views of both ring together. Also, any way you put it, they're overflowing with the power of language. In that sense, no matter how the times change, they always stay deeply in your heart. When I hear the ending theme of "Candy Candy" which I watched as a child, the tears start flowing. It is the bible of my life. The anime songs you heard when your character was being formed will not betray your feelings. They take you back with 100% purity, and you remember the sights and sounds of that time. I think anime songs have that power. It's not just about nostalgia. They give you the power to get to tomorrow. Being able to sing many such anime songs has been divine for me as a vocalist.
- In recent years, anime songs have been getting a lot of support from overseas anime fans too.
Moriguchi: As a form of Japanese culture, they cross national borders and generations. People overseas hear them and they approach me saying, "You're the person who sings those Gundam songs." Also, Richie Kotzen, the former guitarist of the American hard rock band Mr Big, did a cover of "Mizu no Hoshi e Ai o Komete" on an album under the title "Blue Star"! And in the liner notes, Cyndi Lauper wrote, "I love Gundam, and if I have the opportunity I want to cover some Gundam songs too." That's how widespread it's become.
- It really does cross national borders.
Moriguchi: It's thanks to Japanese anime fans cultivating it. When I made my debut, anime theme songs were not treated as such a big deal, and while idol singers of the same period had their own racks in the shop fronts, naturally I did not. And you felt lucky if you found a single in an anime section. Even in idol magazines, I was only covered in small articles, and there were no huge feature articles like there are now. But all of the anime fans and Gundam fans always held them near and dear, and it's thanks to that that the baton has been passed to the next generation, and it's continued on for over thirty years. That's why they're continuing to make new works even now. In that respect, I feel that Gundam has unlimited power, and it has saved me in many ways too.
- Finally, do you have a message for the Gundam fans who are so happy that you've come back to sing another Gundam song, Ms. Moriguchi?
Moriguchi: When the staff at Sunrise held a meeting to decide who should sing the next "THE ORIGIN" theme song, my name was put forward, and when I heard that they unanimously agreed on me, I cried then too. They have continued to produce works over a long history which I don't know about, but they thought of me, and that gives me the strength to sing. And it's because of the unwavering passion of all the fans who love Gundam and require the music, no matter the era. I truly feel that. Gundam is alive in all your lives, and my life. I am full of gratitude to all of you. I was able to return to a theatrical Gundam release for the first time in 25 years on this occasion, and I am the happiest person in the universe. Anime songs can bring so many people together across generations and borders. To me, that's the riches of a lifetime, a treasure. I hope we can all share that treasure together. I hope you will see it in a cinema and hear it on CD. And I will continue to sing with all my heart so that I can come back again when I'm in my 50s.

Next in our Relay Interview series, we speak to Kycilia Zabi actor Akeno Watanabe.