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Interview: Naruto Series Composer Yasuharu Takanashi

by Jacki Jing,

For the first time ever since the first episode of the Naruto anime aired in Japan in 2002, music from all three installments of the massively popular anime series (Naruto, Naruto Shippūden and Boruto) as well as their respective films has been officially made available for streaming/download outside of Japan. In light of this momentous occasion, ANN was able to talk to one of the series' main composers, Yasuharu Takanashi, about the creative processes and inspirations behind some of the most beloved and memorable soundtracks in shounen anime.

Naruto is a legendary anime, but without a doubt, the music helped catapult it to success! What was your reaction when you saw how much fans across the globe adored your music?

First of all, it is a great honor for me to be asked this question.

In the beginning, I didn't really feel that my music could be enjoyed by people from all over the world, but as I've been working, I've started to receive comments and messages from people, and when I actually went to various places and experienced the reactions in person for the first time, I felt a sense of gratitude and happiness that I had done music.

When you were composing this music, did you think that this anime and your creations would become so famous and deeply loved?

To be honest, I didn't expect it during the production process.

So, it was really good... A good miscalculation. I mean, I'm happy that it has come to be more than I imagined.

What are your favorite compositions from Naruto Shippūden that you worked on and why?

There are so many that it's very difficult to narrow it down to just one.

First of all, the parting scene between Itachi and Sasuke was great, and then the scene where Kushina and Minato sealed the nine-tails inside Naruto for the last time. That scene was so great!

The scene where Naruto meets Kushina and Minato at the end of the anime and they part again, I cried even though I was watching TV and my music was playing.

Oh, Obito's part was good too. I can't even begin to count them.

Fans adore Naruto's music because it's a combination of traditional Japanese music and rock—it features and meshes together many genres! When you were approached about working on this project, what influences did you pull from and why did you decide to twist genres together like this?

First of all, my parents' house was a Geisha House, and I was surrounded by many geisha in my childhood (I grew up in an environment of traditional Japanese culture.)

So I grew up listening to the sound of shamisen and other Japanese instruments...

Also, I think that joining the band Musashi, which used Japanese instruments, during the Naruto series awakened my dormant "Japanese instincts."

You created songs that have brought fans to tears, made them scream with joy and also frightened them to their core. When you're making a song for a villain...What do you channel or what goes into that creative process?

First, I read the original story thoroughly and developed a strong attachment to each character, and then I thought, "Would this kind of music make the character stand out more? Or, would this scene stand out more?” And so on. I try to convert everything into something that can be expressed with music. The other important thing is to discuss with the director and the sound director, and to compare your own image with theirs.

When you were creating a song for a heroic moment, what did you want that song to encapsulate and portray?

As for the heroic and fighting scenes, well...the most important part is whether or not it excites me when I'm making it! That's the most important part. Another thing is that it's based on rock, so I put a lot of emphasis on passion, power, weight, and so on.

And there are so many emotional songs in Naruto that bring you tears even just hearing them randomly. How do you think you effectively tug at people's heart strings like that?

I think it's because the melody is so simple. "Melody is King!" Don't think too hard, just make a good melody! I always try to make good melodies without thinking too hard, so I think that's what I'm trying to do, and I also try to express what comes out of my heart honestly.

How did you create music for this anime? Did they tell you about scenes and then you make the song after? Or how did that process work out?

For the theatrical version (film), I watched each scene beforehand because it is a "film score," but for the TV series, the production process is different: first I read the original story carefully and then create the image for each scene from there.

What's your fondest memory of working on this anime? Do you remember ever having a moment where you were like, wow... this is amazing!?

I think the fact that I have been able to connect with many people around the world through my works!

I've started to receive various messages directly from people in different countries around the world, and feeling that so many people are enjoying my music together is the driving force behind my music activities, so being able to connect with people around the world through the Naruto series is the biggest thing for me.

What do you want to say to all the fans out there who absolutely adore your musical creations!?

Hi everyone! The fact that you all enjoy my music is the driving force behind my music career. I really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. I love you all!

It's also my dream to one day go to your place and perform live. It would make me very happy to perform, while seeing your faces in person.

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