TANAKA Kohei is a unique composer who has been specializing in creating music for animation and video games since the 1980s until today. He started his career by writing music for commercials and TV dramas. Arranging insert songs for animation led him to work on animation music in earnest. In Part 2 of the interview with TANAKA, he talked about how he expanded the range of his activities from animation music to game music. He also talked about his way of crossing different genres to incorporate their elements into his music.
From left, the cover of the theme song Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan (Attack! Imperial Assault Force) (1996) for Sakura Taisen (Sakura Wars); and the cover of the theme song Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan (kai) (Attack! Imperial Assault Force (revised)) (1998) for Sakura Taisen 2: Kimi, Shini tamo Koto Nakare (Sakura Wars 2: Thou Shalt Not Die). The music for these songs was composed by TANAKA Kohei with the lyrics written by HIROI Oji. The songs are so popular that even those who are not specially interested in animation or video games may have heard them.
Working not only animation music but also video game music
Mr. TANAKA, you are a pioneering composer specializing in music for animation and video games, while rarely accepting requests for live-action films and dramas.
TANAKA: When I worked for a record company, I inevitably came to know much about the old-fashioned nature of the music and entertainment industries. I felt it would be a little difficult for me to work on live-action works, which are under their strong influences. When I started working as a composer, I was responsible for the music for many TV dramas. But my work area gradually shifted to animation alone. Now I basically don’t accept requests for live-action works. Recently, for the first time in 30 years, I worked on a drama, which is NHK’s drama, Gold! (broadcast on March 27, 2020. This drama won the 43rd Creative Television Drama Grand Award). It was quite exceptional for me.
The Japanese animation music, since the dawn of its history, had been gradually shaped and developed as a unique culture by such master composers and arrangers as KOBAYASHI Asei (*1), WATANABE Takeo (*2), WATANABE Chumei (*3) and KIKUCHI Shunsuke (*4). I think I happened to make my debut when the second generation of composers was in demand.
When I jumped into the world of animation music, I felt, first of all, that the music budget was so small. There were many high-quality animation works, but sufficient budget obviously wasn’t allotted to their music creation. I and contemporaries, such as KAWAI Kenji (*5), OSHIMA Michiru (*6), WADA Kaoru (*7) and SAHASHI Toshihiko (*8), wanted to reform this as a next generation of composers.
We discussed this matter with officials of record companies and proposed: “If you allot an appropriate amount of budget, quality music can be made. CDs of such quality incidental (background) music sell well, too.” As a result, the music budget was secured properly for Yusha Exkaizer (Brave Fighter Exkizer) (1990–1991), Kido Butoden G Gundam (Mobile Fighter G Gundam) (1994–1995), and Yusha-Oh GaoGaiGar (King of the Braves GaoGaiGar) (1997–1998), and so on, and we were able to write thick, high-quality music. CDs of their music sold well, too. We proved that we are right.
Then, music production started to attract budget gradually. The producer of the OVA Kido Senshi Gundam Dai-Zerohachi MS Shotai (Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team) (1996-1999) said to me: “We seriously want to use the Czech Philharmonic for its music. Mr. TANAKA, only you can write it.” Its recording in Prague with the orchestra was realized. I was very happy. The scale of the music budget gradually changed this way.
On the other hand, the budget for the OVA Top wo Nerae! (Gunbuster! aka Aim for the Top!) (1988–1989) was very small. We had to make most of its music by uchikomi programmed automatic performance. But this animation turned out to be very popular and its CDs sold well, too. In such a case, we would be often told, “Then, will you please do next one with the same budget again.” I won’t listen to this kind of request. Instead, I would insist: “No, it should be the other way round,” and “Please set aside the profit from the sold CDs to include it in the music budget for next work.” When I requested with enthusiasm, the company would understand and say, “I see. You’re right.” I’m proud that we’ve been proposing and establishing these business models for animation music since the 1980s.
Our efforts realized plenty of budget, and many younger composers were able to make good music and had many CDs sold. But I won’t talk much about this (laughs). One thing is for sure. If you want to attract many customers to your udon noodle shop, you shouldn’t be angry when another udon shop is opened next to it. You should rather have many udon shops lined up to make an “udon street.” You should pursue the mutual benefit of the entire industry, not just your benefit. It will absolutely work well ultimately. Actually, it’s how people in Osaka, my hometown, do business (laughs).
In the 1990s, you started writing music for video games, which was a new field for you.
TANAKA: I’ve been a video game enthusiast since I became a fan of Dragon Quest (1986). I’d already been a gamer before I got involved in video game music. On the release day of Dragon Quest III: Soshite Densetsu e... (Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation) (1988), I looked for all around in Akihabara until I finally got a copy (laughs). Actually, I eagerly waited to be asked to write music for games. Each game production takes a long period of time, so it doesn’t always mean the earlier its production starts, the earlier it is released. The RPG game JUST BREED (1992) was the first game I was asked to work on. I wrote it for four sounds playing simultaneously, the same as Dragon Quest III. I’m still confident about this work.
I continued working on many video games, such as Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom (1988), Lennus: Kodai Kikai no Kioku (Paladin’s Quest) (1992), Tengai Makyo: Fuun Kabuki Den (Far East of Eden) (1993), Kuso Kagaku Sekai Gulliver Boy (Gulliver Boy) (1995), and Bounty Sword (1995). I didn’t just provide melodies. I also programmed how sounds are played in a game. For the game Arandora (Alundra) (1997), I tried hard to include a lot of live sounds, so I competed with the graphics team to win as large capacity as possible (laughs).
In the late ’90s alone, you got involved in the video game Sakura Taisen (Sakura Wars) (1996) and the TV animation ONE PIECE (1999–present), which are your masterpieces.
TANAKA: I met HIROI Oji (*9) when I was working on Tengai Makyo: Fuun Kabuki Den (Far East of Eden). At that time, HIROI said to me, “I want to make a musical-style video game someday.” I answered, “Great! Let me write its music!” Our talk resulted in Sakura Taisen (Sakura Wars). It was released in 1996, but its production began about two years before. This work became a huge hit. I think it was because it was produced as a musical, which eventually enabled to incorporate various media formats into the work, resulting in a successful pioneering transmedia game.
It’s not easy to give a consistent characteristic to game music, animation music, or stage music when composing them. In my case, when I was a student at Berklee College of Music, I lived in Boston. It took only four and a half hours to go to New York, by taking a long-distance bus called Greyhound. On weekends, I usually went to New York by a late-night bus, saw a lot of musicals while staying at a friend’s place there, and then returned to Boston by bus. I greatly owe my music creation for Sakura Taisen (Sakura Wars) and stage musicals based on this work to the experience at that time. We can learn from anything.
In addition to animation, I started to get more and more orders for music for video games. Once one work became a hit, I was asked to do more for the work, such as insert songs, character songs, OVAs, and sequels, like a chain reaction. I worked on about 650 songs a year during this period. Also, I had a bad habit. I liked to go out to observe dubbing sessions and visit radio stations, so I was the busiest around that time. I was asked to write music for the TV animation Pocket Monsters (Pokemon) (1997–2002), but I turned it down because I was so busy. The recording in Prague of Kido Senshi Gundam Dai-Zerohachi MS Shotai (Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team) also took place around that time. A little earlier, I also declined the request for the TV animation Crayon Shin-chan (Shin Chan) (1992–present) as I didn’t have time. Both of them turned out to be long-running masterpieces. Maybe I was unlucky (laughs).
I started reading ONE PIECE as early as its serialization started in the Shukan Shonen Jump (Weekly Jump) magazine. I though it very interesting and wanted to write its music when an animation version would be produced. I didn’t specially take action for getting the work. But I was asked to work on it. I thought, “It’s come! To me!” I felt it was fateful. I was given work to write the incidental music, in collaboration with HAMAGUCHI Shiro (*10), and also write the music for the first theme song We Are!
The music for ONE PIECE is very popular overseas, too. I’ve already held more than 20 concerts featuring ONE PIECE music overseas. As you might expect, local promoters overseas are very experienced and efficient, so I don’t do the management work and just work based on a contract. I leave local people do publicity, arranging music bands and preparing venues. I just go when I’m asked to come. That’s all. This style can go very smoothly. On the other hand, holding concerts in Japan is very difficult because I have to be on the management side. On top of that, expenses such as performance fees, venue charges and labor costs are really high in Japan. That’s why we’ve held more than 20 ONE PIECE concerts only overseas, never in Japan. It’s really a shame.
Regarding concerts overseas, it doesn’t make money at all, as I just said, “I just go when I’m asked to come. That’s all.” Rather, we’re in the red. I’ve even accepted all requests for autograph sessions, talk shows or TV appearances. It’s all because I want to spread Japanese animation music around the world and expand the global animation music “pie.” I’m always telling younger composers and animation song singers that if they are asked to come to overseas, they should go as much as possible.
I’d say Sakura Taisen (Sakura Wars) and ONE PIECE are my major works at this moment. I have a dream of working on another work, possibly a globally popular RPG, like the Final Fantasy series. Hearing this, all of my friends got angry and said, “You are too greedy!” (laughs).
Thoughts from 40 years of music production activities
Do you have any secret of making animation song creation? Tell us about the TANAKA style.
TANAKA: To tell the truth, I’d written very few hit theme songs before Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan (Attack! Imperial Assault Force) for Sakura Taisen (Sakura Wars) and We Are! for ONE PIECE. In fact, I hadn’t been asked to write theme songs very often as I’d been labeled as an incidental music composer. I started to get rid of the label successfully by writing for Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan (Attack! Imperial Assault Force) and the theme song Yusha-Oh Tanjo! (The Birth of the King of Heroes!) for Yusha-Oh GaoGaiGar (King of the Braves GaoGaiGar) (1997–1998).
These songs were, for example, sung by ENDO Masaaki (*11) for Yusha-Oh Tanjo! (The Birth of the King of Heroes); KITADANI Hiroshi (*12) for We Are!; FUKUYAMA Yoshiki (*13) for the theme song King Gainer Over! for Overman King Gainer (Overman King Gainer) (2002–2003); and TOMINAGA Tommy Hiroaki (*14) for the theme song JoJo: Sono Chi no Sadame (Jojo: His Blood Destiny) for Jojo no Kimyo na Boken (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure) (2012–2013). They are powerful hard rock or funk singers. These works feature hard rock-touch music arrangements, which you may probably feel are as powerful as their singing. I did it to learn from doing something new and challenging. As I was a classical music lover in childhood, hard rock and heavy metal were the furthest genre for me. I dared to write music for the genre to enjoy chemical reactions happening in me. If you need real heavy metal music, you should just ask a heavy metal artist to write it. But they are “animation songs,” so they must not sound like real heavy metal. There is a delicately adjusted ratio of being real and fake to be the perfect music for an animation song. It’s a kind of technique to capture the soul of animation fans around the world... I know these things from many years of experience (laughs).
I’m unhappy about one thing. For the last 10 years or so, many animation works featuring groups of idol-star like people have been great hits and a large number of idol song-like animation songs have been produced and sung by voice actors and actresses. I’m happy to see the animation song industry booming this much, but these songs tend to be included in the idol song category, possibly resulting in diluting their individuality as animation songs.
In the 1980s and ’90s, I often saw Japanese pop music songs suddenly chosen for animation, although their contents and touches had almost nothing to do with animation and lacked love for animation. They were used as opening songs, as if saying, “This is entitled to be a theme song.”
I think one of the reasons for making very few animation theme songs in my early days was that the animation song industry itself was overwhelmed by that trend and I had very few chances to participate. I wrote Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan (Attack! Imperial Assault Force) and We Are! by sincerely wishing to change that trend and revive animation songs as how they should be. As a result, these songs have been loved by fans for a long time and lasted until today. I believe it’s necessary to maintain the culture of making animation songs having their original characteristic.
My motto, to put it simply, is “going against the current trend.” For example, I did a lot of uchikomi programming for automatic performance before it became popular. Once it became the norm, I went back to orchestral sounds. When idol song-like animation songs became popular, I rather took on a challenge of writing authentic animation songs to go counter the trend. I’m always feeling that if you just get on what everyone else is doing, you won’t be able to create anything new.
You have been pioneering in developing new music in the fields of animation, tokusatsu special effects dramas and video games for many years. How do you feel about the role and importance of music in video works?
TANAKA: For example, suppose that actor TAKAKURA Ken is made to stand alone on a cliff. The sounds of the winds and the waves would be enough to continue attracting people to the scene for as long as 10 minutes or so. If you do the same thing with an animation character or CG, it won’t last even a minute. Music is necessary to support the scene. I feel this is my duty to make such music. Twodimensional images are two-dimensional after all, no matter how good they are. In order to express the characters’ breathing, emotions and behavior satisfactorily in video works, music is essential. I think that the accumulation of techniques for this purpose forms the field of gekiban (also called as gekihan) incidental (background) music.
Japanese animation is popular around the world, paradoxically because of its background associated with the so-called Galapagos syndrome (being different from global standards and behind global competitiveness). To be honest, that’s why I believe that its music has yet to reach the global level. Today, it is becoming a standard that when an animation is broadcast in Japan, it can be seen across the world immediately afterward on the Internet or simultaneously streamed worldwide by Netflix or similar distribution services. Animation music must be as good as animation images. It must not disappoint the world audience. I aim to write music that is up to date and high quality so that it is accepted anywhere in the world. I always try hard to compose music that is easy to listen to and understandable for everyone but incorporates highest techniques. Moreover, I hope Japanese people who like animation listen to the latest music from around the world more. Of course, the current animation song music in general has a certain rich, intimate, and interesting aspect that only Japanese people who like animation and animation song can understand, but this alone can’t meet the global demand any more.
Do you have any suggestions for the future of the animation and video game industries as a watcher of the industries for the last 40 years?
TANAKA: There is a term, “Cool Japan.” Japanese people must not use it (laughs). It means only when people overseas use this term to evaluate something in Japan as cool. Japanese animation and games have developed as a Galapagos-like, but multifaceted culture because the government left them alone. So, if it’s possible, I hope the government will support them without interfering in them (laughs). I also hope the work conditions of animators and programmers will be improved. These people support the foundation of the animation and game industries. I think it may be possible to build a system where a portion of royalties is paid to them. Also, many voice actors and actresses don’t make enough money from their regular work and need to perform at events and sell animation-related merchandise. The profit structures of the industries are undoubtedly unfair. Music creators are protected by the royalty system so that they receive decent amounts of money when their works sell. We need to build a system for people who make animation and games on the frontline so that they are paid appropriately when their works sell. I think amending the related laws is really necessary to build the system. If there is no change, there is no future for the Japanese animation and video games as an industry and a culture as well.
You are the pioneer of a new era of animation music and a leader of the video game music. Do you have any advice for next generation?
TANAKA: Especially about animation theme songs, there’s an increasing “music-first” trend, where music is written first and selected via audition, then lyrics are given to the music. If this happens too often, I’m a little concerned that there will be more and more songs putting importance on music. Also, the music by a certain composer will be always written with the same techniques the composer unconsciously uses. On the other hand, with the “lyric-first” method, lyrics are written first and then melodies are written for them. It is a good way to block out a composer’s habitual use of the same techniques and create completely new melodies. As a composer, when I work with this “lyric- first” method, I need to carefully read the lyrics. When writing music, I’m worried and confused, and always tell myself things like, “I want to develop this melody like this, but it doesn’t match the lyrics!” In the case of animation songs, the lyrics are often written by non-specialists, such as creators of original animation and directors, so it’s even more painful (laughs). However, that pain sometimes results in producing unexpectedly appealing melodies.
I won’t have a stock of works. I write music for each request I receive. For me, each work is my last work in my life. I must be careful about any detail. This is all about how I work. I believe that this enthusiasm can infuse my soul into each work. KUWATA Masumi, a former Giants pitcher and friend of mine, says a similar thing. When he was active, he thought each pitch he will throw is his last pitch in his baseball career. He believed that this attitude would help him face each batter resolutely. When I composed music to the lyrics written by AKU Yu (*15) and ARAKI Toyohisa, I felt their tremendous individualities in their handwritten manuscripts, such as the shapes of the letters and the spacing between the lines. So even now, for no matter large-scale orchestral piece, I still write all of the notes by hand, and through writing thick lines with strong writing pressure, I feel that I’m putting my soul into it. That’s why I can’t stop writing by hand.
Thank you very much for your time today. I hope you’ll continue being active in the future.
TANAKA: Staying at the forefront of the animation and game music communities is like running a marathon. TV broadcast of any marathon only shows the lead group, right? It’s important to be like a marathon runner who is determined to try hard to catch up with the group and stay in the group. You don’t have to be at the top all the time. Leading a race also means you have to face a strong wind (laughs). If you get tired, you can withdraw to a fifth or sixth place to take a break. But you must not fall out of the lead group if you want to stay on the list of creators from which producers select someone for a good new work or a large-scale work. In the last 20 years, my name has been always on the staff lists of TV programs, excluding for a total of two weeks. If my name would not be on the list for one year, it may be the end of my career. I’m determined to try hard to stay in the lead group, which is constantly broadcast on TV. These days, I’m often told by younger colleagues, “It’s almost time for you to retire for us.” At this time, I will answer to them (humbly): “I just belong to the lead group (without troubling you). Let me stay on” (laughs).
KOBAYASHI Asei is a composer, arranger, actor and TV personality, born in 1932. KOBAYASHI graduated from Keio University’s Faculty of Economics. He studied under composer HATTORI Tadashi. He came to prominence with his music composition for the Renown Inc.’s commercial song Wansaka Musume (A lot of fashionable young women) (1961). Since then, he has been active in composing music for dramas, animation, commercial songs, and popular songs. His representative works in the fields of animation and tokusatsu special effects include Okami Shonen Ken (Ken, The Wild Boy) (1963–1965); Mahotsukai Sally (Sally, The Witch) (1966–1968); Himitsu no Akko-chan (The Secrets of Akko-chan) (1969–1970); and Kagaku Ninja-tai Gatchaman (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) (1972–1974) for the theme songs Taose! Galactor (Beat it! Galactor) and Gatchaman no Uta (Gatchaman’s song).
WATANABE Takeo, a composer and arranger, was born in 1933 and died in 1989 at the age 56. He graduated from Musashi University’s Faculty of Economics and Schola Cantorum in France. His representative works in the fields of animation and tokusatsu special effects include Zero-Sen Hayato (Zero fighter Hayato) (1964), Kyojin no Hoshi (Star of the Giants) (1968–1971), Attack No. 1 (1969–1971), Tensai Bakabon (The Genius Bakabon) (1971–1972), Kinkyu Shirei 10-4・10-10 (Emergency Command 10-4, 10-10) (1972), Cutie Honey (1973–1974), Alps no Shojo Heidi (Heidi, Girl of the Alps) (1974), The Kagestar (1976), Candy (1976–1979), Mobile Suit Gundam (with Yushi Matsuyama / 1979–1980).
WATANABE Chumei is a composer and arranger, born in 1925. WATANABE graduated from The University of Tokyo’s Department of Psychology. He studied under composers DAN Ikuma and MOROI Saburo. He made his debut as a composer in 1953 with the radio drama “Atom Boy” for the Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting Co. His representative works in the fields of animation and tokusatsu special effects include Ninja Butai Gekko (Phantom Agents) (1964–1966), Jinzo Ningen Kikaida (Android Kikaider) (1972–1973), Mazinger Z (1972–1974), Kotetsu Jigu (Steel Jeeg) (1975–1976), Himitsu Sentai Gorenger (1975–1977), Uchu Keiji Gavan (Space Sheriff Gavan) (1982–1983), and Shinkon Gattai Godannar!! (Godannar!!) (2003).
KIKUCHI Shunsuke is a composer and arranger, born in 1931. KIKUCHI graduated from Nihon University’s College of Art, and studied under composer KINOSHITA Chuji. He made his debut as a composer of incidental music for the film Hachininme no Teki (The Eighth Enemy) (1961). His representative works in the fields of animation and tokusatsu special effects include Tiger Mask (1969–1971), Kamen Rider (1971–1973), Shinzo Ningen Casshan (Casshan) (1973–1974), Denjin Zaborger (Electric robot Zaborger) (1974–1975), Getta Robo (Getter Robo) (1974–1975), Doraemon (1979–2005), Dr. Slump Arare-chan (Dr. Slump) (1981–1986), and Dragon Ball (1986–1989).
KAWAI Kenji is a composer and arranger, born in 1957. After playing in the fusion band MUSE, he made his debut as a home recording composer for incidental music. He first came to prominence with the music for OSHII Mamoru’s Akai Megane (The Red Spectacles) (1987). His representative works in the fields of animation, tokusatsu special effects, and video games include Kido Keisatsu Patlabor the Movie (Mobile Police Patlabor the Movie) (1989), Sorcerian: PC Engine Version (1992), Ghost in the Shell Kokaku Kidotai (Ghost in the Shell) (1995), YAT Anshin Uchu Ryoko (YAT Untroubled Space Tours) (1996–1998), Corrector Yui (1999–2000), Nobunaga no Yabo Online (Nobunaga’s Ambition Online) (2003), and Kamen Rider Build (2017–2018).
OSHIMA Michiru is a composer and arranger, born in 1961. OSHIMA graduated from Kunitachi College of Music with a degree in composition. She started her career as a composer and arranger when she was a student. Her representative works in the fields of animation, tokusatsu special effects, and video games include Nanatsu no Umi no Tico (Tico of the Seven Seas) (1994), Legaia Densetsu (Legend of Legaia) (1998), Godzilla x Mechagodzilla (Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla) (2002), Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST) (2003–2004), Yojohan Shinwa Taikei (The Tatami Galaxy) (2010), AERIAL LEGENDS (2017), Little Witch Academia series (2013–present), Yoru wa Mijikashi Aruke yo Otome (The Night is Short, Walk on Girl) (2017), and Haikara-san ga Toru (Haikara-San: Here Comes Miss Modern) (2017–2018).
WADA Kaoru is a composer and arranger, born in 1962. WADA graduated from Tokyo College of Music with a degree in composition. He studied under composers IFUKUBE Akira and IKENO Sei, conductor SHIOZAWA Yasuhiko, and others. His representative works in the field of animation include Silent Mobius the Motion Picture (1991), Kishin Heidan (Kishin Corps) (1992–1994), GeGeGe no Kitaro (fourth season, 1996–1998), Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo (The Kindaichi Case Files) (1997–2000), Inuyasha (2000–2004), Kochu Oja Mushiking: Mori no Tami no Densetsu (Mushiking: The Guardians of the Forest) (2005–2006), Saint Seiya the Lost Canvas Meio Shinwa (Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas––The Myth of Hades) (2009–2011), and Pazdra (2018–present).
SAHASHI Toshihiko is a composer and arranger, born in 1959. SAHASHI graduated from the Tokyo University of the Arts’ Department of Composition. He studied under such composers as KOBAYASHI Hideo and MAYUZUMI Toshiro. He was also active as a keyboardist in the progressive rock band KENSO until 1990. His representative works in the fields of animation, tokusatsu special effects, and video games include Ghost Sweeper Mikami (1993–1994), Cutie Honey F (1997–1998), Gekiso Sentai Carranger (1996–1997), The Big O (1999), Kamen Rider Kuuga (2000–2001), The Ultraman Mobius (2006–2007), Majin to Ushinawareta Okoku (Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom) (2011), and Digimon Adventure (2020–present).
HIROI Oji is a manga artist, manga author, director and producer, born in 1954. HIROI came to prominence with the planning of Necros no Yosai (Necros fortress) candy toy series and writing the original story of the animation Mashin Eiyu Den Wataru (Mashin Hero Wataru) (1988–1989). He also works as a radio personality, such as on the radio program Hiroi Oji’s Multi Tengoku (Oji Hiroi’s multi heaven). His representative works in the fields of animation, tokusatsu special effects, and video games include Mado-Oh Granzort (Mado King Granzort) (1989–1990), Tengai Makyo (Far East of Eden) series (1989–present), Kuso Kagaku Sekai Gulliver Boy (Gulliver Boy) (1995), Sakura Taisen (Sakura Wars) series (1996–present), and Madan Senki Ryukendo (Magic Bullet Chronicles Ryukendo) (2006).
HAMAGUCHI Shiro is a composer and arranger, born in 1969. HAMAGUCHI graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts’ Department of Composition. He started his career as a composer in 1996. He studied at Berklee College of Music in 2005–2006. His representative works in the fields of animation, tokusatsu special effects, and video games include the Dino Zone series (aka DinoZaurs) (1998–2000), ONE PIECE (in collaboration with TANAKA Kohei /1999–present), Ah! Megamisama: The Movie (Ah! My Goddess: The Movie) (2000), Okiku Furikabutte (Big Windup) (2007), Hanasaku Iroha (Blossoms for Tomorrow) (2011), To Aru Hikoshi e no Tsuioku (The Princess and the Pilot) (2011), and Girls & Panzer (2012–2013).
ENDO Masaaki is a singer, born in 1967. ENDO made his debut in 1995 with the single Forever Friends and came to prominence in 1997 with the hit theme song Yusha-Oh Tanjo! (The Birth of the King of Heroes!) for the animation Yusha-Oh GaoGaiGar (King of the Braves GaoGaiGar). He joined the JAM Project established in 2000. His representative work in the fields of animation and tokusatsu special effects include the theme song Senshi yo, Tachiagare (Soldier, stand up) for Maso Kishin Cybuster (Cybuster) (1999), the theme song Kenzen Robo Daimidaler for Kenzen Robo Daimidaler (Daimidaler: Prince V.S. Penguin Empire) (2014) (under the name of Endo-kai), the theme song Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger for Bakuryu Sentai Abaranger (Blastasaur Squadron Abaranger) (2003–2004), and the theme song Goshowa Kudasai Ware no Na o! (Chant my name!) for Ultraman Z (2020).
KITADANI Hiroshi is a singer, born in 1968. He made his major debut in 1994 as the vocal and guitarist of the three-member rock unit Stagger. He made his debut as an animation song singer with the theme song Red Darkness for the animation Megumi no Daigo: Kajiba no Bakayaro (Firefighter!: Daigo of Fire Company M) (1999). In the same year, he sang the first theme song We Are! for the animation ONE PIECE, which became a huge hit. Since then, he has continued singing ONE PIECE theme songs written by TANAKA Kohei, including We Go! and OVER THE TOP. He joined JAM Project in 2002. His representative works in the fields of animation and tokusatsu special effects are the theme song Madan Senki Ryukendo for Madan Senki Ryukendo (Magic Bullet Chronicles Ryukendo) (2006), and the theme song Bakuatsu! Gaist Crusher (composed by TANAKA Kohei) for Gaist Crusher (2013–2014).
FURUYAMA Yoshiki is a singer, born in 1963. FURUYAMA formed the band HUMMING BIRD in 1988. He made his major label debut in June 1991 with Happy Birthday after winning the grand prize in the singing category at the 1990 AXIA Music Audition. In 1994, FURUYAMA sang the theme song for the animation Macross 7 (1994–1995) and also dubbed the vocal of the animation’s protagonist Nekki Basara. His album LET’S FIRE released under the name FIRE BOMBER became a huge hit. In 2003, he joined JAM Project. His representative works in the fields of animation and tokusatsu special effect include the theme song Makka na Chikai of Buso Renkin (2006–2007) and theme song Nue no Mori for Hokago no Futekikakusha (2014).
TOMINAGA Tommy Hiroaki is a singer, born in 1964. While still a student at Toyo University, he formed a soul band and began performing at live music venues in Tokyo and also worked as a TV personality, appearing regularly on TV Asahi network’s Chikyu Catch Me. In 2007, he joined as a vocalist the brass rock band BLUFF, which was formed by members of SPECTRUM, C-C-B, TOPS and others. His representative works in the field of animation include the theme song FNS Chikyutokusotai Dybaster for FNS Chikyutokusotai Dybaster (2005–2009) and the theme song With The Wind for Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS (2017–2019).
AKU Yu is a lyricist, broadcast writer, novelist, and poet. He was born in 1937 and died in 2007 at the age 70. He graduated from Meiji University’s Department of Literature. He joined the advertising agency Senkosha in 1959. After leaving the company, he began his career as a broadcast writer and lyricist in earnest. His representative works in the fields of animation and tokusatsu special effects include the theme song Ultraman Taro for Ultraman Taro (1973–1974), the theme song Uchu Senkan Yamato for Uchu Senkan Yamato (Space Battleship Yamato) (1974–1975), the theme song Red Baron for Super Robot Red Baron (1973–1974), and the theme song Devilman no Uta (Devilman’s song) for Devilman (1972–1973), the theme song Fireman for Fireman (Magma Man) (1973), and the theme song Stardust Boys for Uchusen Sagittarius (Spaceship Sagittarius) (1986–1987).
Born in 1954 in Osaka. After graduating from Tokyo University of the Arts’ Department of Composition, he worked at Victor Music Industries, Inc. (current- day JVCKenwood Victor Entertainment) for three years. Then, he studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston. After returning to Japan, he began to compose and arrange music in earnest. He worked on music for many popular animation and video games, such as the popular animation ONE PIECE (broadcast on the Fuji TV network) for its background music and opening songs (We Are! and We Go!); and the opening song JoJo: Sono Chi no Sadame (JoJo: His Blood Destiny) for the first season of JoJo no Kimyo na Boken (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure) (MXTV, etc.). TANAKA also composed music for the video game Sakura Taisen (Sakura Wars), including the theme song Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan (Attack! Imperial Assault Force), better known as Gekitei, which became a huge hit. He has also worked on music for animation adaptations, stage productions, etc., affiliated with the game. He has written music for a total of more than 500 songs. In recent years, he is also active as a singer and music player and gives concerts in Japan and abroad, in addition to composing music. For his music for ONE PIECE, he was awarded with the Animation of the Year Music Prize at the New Tokyo International Animation Fair 21 in 2002. In 2003, he received the Animation Album of the Year at the 17th Japan Gold Disc Awards for his Sakura Taisen 4: Koiseyo Otome––Complete Works Geki! Tei: Final Chapter for Sakura Taisen (Sakura Wars).