Takahiro Obata: Creating Musical Tension in The Promised Neverlandby James Beckett,
The children of Grace Field House find their world shattered when it's revealed the world they know is merely a lie. Emma, Ray, and Norman hatch a plan to escape with the entire orphanage in tow in hopes of evading demons that plan to devour them. The anime's second season is currently airing with cinematic visuals by CloverWorks and an equally impressive score by Takahiro Obata. Anime News Network was able to talk with Obata about his inspiration for the series' soundtrack, now available in a two-disc set from Milan Records.
Were you a fan of the The Promised Neverland's manga before coming on board to compose the score for the adaptation? How did you end up working on the project?
I was in charge of the music for a play and, after the show, I happened to talk to the director who was there as an audience member. He liked my music and agreed to let me work on it. I loved reading the original manga and, as a fan, I was looking forward to the anime adaptation.
Were there any major elements of the score that you had planned out from the very start, such as the types of instrumentation and vocals you would use, or the genres of music you'd be working in?
I had an image of the original story, and after talking with the director, the main theme came to me right away. I also wanted to express the world of The Promised Neverland in detail. As the song was being written, I added marimba to give it a child-like feel, and the image of Isabella's voice (sung by Sarah Àlainn) was gradually solidified.
In addition to the source material, are there any other composers - or other media of any kind - that proved to be a major inspiration for your work on The Promised Neverland?
In terms of music, for the first season I was inspired by the director's image for the show as well as Mike Oldfield's "Never Too Far." For the second season, I watched a lot of Arab instrumentals on YouTube for inspiration.
How would you describe the tone or “theme” of The Promised Neverland's score, in general?
It's all about love.
One of the most notable elements of the anime for many fans is how director Mamoru Kanbe and the team at CloverWorks adopted a very grounded and “cinematic” style: All of the characters' internal monologues have been removed, the camera work is very methodical, etc. Did this approach influence the way you approached composing the soundtrack?
Each scene requires a different kind of visual music, but I basically made it so that the music can be listened to alone. By doing so, I hope that the music can fill in the gaps in the monologue. The director said that he wanted to use the music carefully. He wanted to use the music in a way that was similar to the series in whole, rather than just using part of one song at a time, so I created the music in such a way where each episode would not change drastically.
One of the songs that fans have really responded to from the Season 1 OST is “Isabella's Lullaby”, not only for how emotional the music is, but also for how it reappears and evolves as a motif throughout the season. Could you speak to how that track was developed and was implemented in the series?
The director asked me to create a song that would be familiar, hummable and easy for the voice actors to sing. I wanted to create a melody that would balance out the music and allow Sarah Àlainn's voice to come alive, so the song had a wide range. I was very happy that the fans of the anime from all over the world liked it.
The second season of The Promised Neverland sees the story make some major shifts in its setting and mood compared to the first. Did that result in any major changes to your approach for scoring Season 2?
In season 2, the world view becomes broader, with demons appearing after the prison break, so I differentiated it from season 1 by incorporating Arab folk instruments.
Kaiu Shirai, the original creator of The Promised Neverland, has joined the production of this second season to help compose some of its original material. Have they worked with you in any way or offered any feedback in shaping the sound of this season's OST?
It didn't really affect my music production. However, I remember that when I met Mr. Kaiu Shirai before, he told me that he liked the song that was played in this scene.
In 2019, you also did work on the soundtrack for the live-action series, Mirror Twins, alongside Yuki Hayashi. What would you say are the biggest differences in writing music for live-action vs. animation? Do you have a preference between the two?
The biggest difference is the world view. Anime is filled with a sense of scale that cannot be found in everyday life. This also changes the sound image required for the music. By the way, I like both, but if I had to say, I prefer anime.
Are there any musical moments from either season of TPN that you are especially proud of, or ones that fans should go back and take another listen to?
There is a scene in season 1, episode 12 where Isabella sings her song. It was truly breathtaking! The story, the images, the voice acting... it's a must-see.
The kids from Grace Field are known for being exceptionally talented in all manner of skills, including music. If you could give Emma, Norman, and Ray jobs helping you produce the soundtrack to their story, what roles or instruments would you have them perform?
That's an interesting question, lol. My assistance would be a waste of time! But I think I'd like Emma to play violin, Ray to play saxophone, and Norman to play cello. It would also be fun to make a CD with all three of them on it.
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