90-Year-Old Anime Composer Michiaki Watanabe Still Churning Out Soundtracks
posted on by Lynzee Loveridge
Composer Michiaki Watanabe (also known as Chumei Watanabe) was born in 1925, survived the second World War, and studied Psychology at the prestigious University of Tokyo under composers Ikuma Dan and Saburo Moroi. With his degree in hand, Watanabe returned to Nagoya where few would guess he'd lead a life creating music for children's special-effects television series and mecha anime like Mazinger Z, much less at the age of 90.
However, Watanabe is still working hard. His 90th birthday was last month and a commemorative concert was held in his honor at Sakura Hall in Shibuya Cultural Center Owada in Shibuya, Tokyo. The composer remarked while looking back on his work that he almost declined the offer to work on Jinzou Ningen Kikaida. He presumed a children's show would need childish music. The show's producer told him otherwise.
"I kept in mind that I would not compose childish music even if the target of the dramas was children. That's why people in their 40s and 50s still listen to my songs and sing them at karaoke. I'm really pleased," Watanabe said.
He made his debut as a composer for a radio drama produced by the Central Japan Broadcasting Company in the 1950s. For the next 20 years, Watanabe would work with TOHO regularly on film soundtracks while improving his craft under the likes of jazz musician Sadao Watanabe. This would have a large effect on Watanabe's compositions. He introduced brass instruments when he created "Theme of Z" for Mazinger Z, also using an analog synthesizer. The combination was considered unique to 1970s listeners' ears.
"Songs for animations can be made with more verve and more freely than songs for adult dramas. In addition, the response from viewers is great," Watanabe said.
His compositions remain popular. The composer receives both mail and visits to his home from those who enjoy his music. He hopes to continue thrilling fans with his compositions until the age of 100.
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