Interview with Arisawa Takanori

As appeared in the Memorial Music Box.
Translated by Kurozuki (manga@kurozuki.com). Version 1.0, 6.98.

Arisawa Takanori composed all the music in the five series and three movies of Sailor Moon (except instrumental versions of songs composed by other people). He also composed the following songs (those marked with asterisks he also arranged):


This is an interview with Arisawa Takanori, who worked with the music for all of the series and many of the image songs. Over the five years, he made an enormous amount of music, making each and every piece with care. We were able to talk to him and hear his love and honest impressions with regard to the music and works. Please read the secret story of the birth of the music from the first series to Sailor Stars.


(Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon)

--You've been in charge of music for the Saturday 7 pm broadcast since Kingyo Chuuihou! [Goldfish Warning!], haven't you.

[Saturdays at 7 pm is when Sailor Moon originally aired in Japan.]

Arisawa: That's right. The first work I did for Toei Animation was Bikkuriman. After that I did Super Bikkuriman and Kingyo Chuuihou! in the same time slot. I've known Azuma Iriya, the producer for Toei Animation, since then.

[Azuma Iriya was one of the producers of Sailor Moon.]

--So along that line you came to work on the music for Sailor Moon. What was your first impression of it?

Arisawa: The climax has action, but aimed at girls... I thought, what kind of concept should I go with. Then Charlie's Angels overlapped. It was an American TV drama about 20 years ago, but as the series went on, the number of allies increased. I thought this anime started with that as a vague image. I wanted to show well the extravagance and splendor of the Hollywood style! You can feel it from each theme of Charlie's Angels, the psychological description, the suspense, the action, the success in battle. But even though that image in these action works is the same, I felt there were differences in being aimed at boys and being aimed at girls. The tempo is fast, but splendid, eloquent music has to come out beautifully. For the instruments, whereas the image is brass and electric guitar for boys, to this I brought mainly strings and woodwinds. Later I consciously incorporated choruses and scat.

--Choruses are very characteristic, aren't they.

Arisawa: That was a suggestion on my part. Since purely instrumental composition has limits in expressing what is feminine, I thought of using voice, which has strong impact. After all, I started my pro music career in the chorus group Soap. I figured I'd try throwing in that characteristic of mine, and expressed it.

--As the show was broadcast, the choruses became wonderfully suited to it.

Arisawa: From R on, the chorus designation was filled out on the menu board.

--How are the themes for the make-ups and death moves done?

Arisawa: I got the picture continuity, and with the action and timing from that, I made it so it would fit well.

--What about Tuxedo Kamen's theme?

Arisawa: I played a staring game with the picture of the established material. A hero wearing a tuxedo, who throws roses and appears during crises...? At last, as opposed to the major theme of the brightly shining Sailor Moon, I decided to make his minor. I don't even know why myself, but I thought a Spanish style would be good. It uses castanets.

--What about the pre-show trailer music?

Arisawa: Since it was decided to compose this before the theme song, I considered a tune that would fit in smoothly as the introductory part and leave an impression. Since the subtitle and eye-catch music turned out to be flashy, I made this a restrained violin solo, with a bit of a smart atmosphere.

--What about the comical music?

Arisawa: The same staff was carried over from Kingyo Chuuihou!, and the series director was also Satou Jun'ichi. I knew a lot about the gag tempo the director Satou tended to have, so I made it without any worry.

--What about the theme for Queen Beryl and the evil side?

Arisawa: I always think that the charm of the evil side exerts a tremendous effect on the charm of the work. Because it's the side that is defeated, its power doesn't come out. Queen Beryl has the image of a dictator... A dark, oppressive feeling. If I just tried for an atmosphere with a bad feeling, it would be a piece with no charm at all, so I went with a melody that has a beautiful feeling, with the beauty of Queen Beryl as well.

--Later in Sailor Moon, this very ordinary girl confronts the death of her allies, goes to the world on the moon, falls passionately in love, and crosses time and space, but how was it making musical accompaniment for all that?

Arisawa: It's not like that at all (laughs). I don't think of this as one work, as terribly many elements are included. But all of that has extraordinarily extreme emotions and events, so I decided on music that distorts each of those elements the most, in Hollywood style. I enjoyed it since I was able to make it boldly.


(Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon R)

--In R, I think many of the power-up versions from the first series were relied upon, but since you had already put all your effort into dealing with them in the first series, powering those up must have been difficult...

Arisawa: That's true (laughs). I thought we might as well use completely different music, but what was expected for the second series was music that kept the same image as before. Still, I just added to the number of instruments, so I wouldn't call it a power-up, but it was hard work. This continued for five years (laughs).
I abandoned the make-up music from the first series, which was a kind of rock that wouldn't appeal to boys, and gave it a splendor like Hollywood pop. It has scat, and seems to have strings in the same part. When you listen and compare it, it actually gives a quite different impression. But from here on, I didn't change the policy of the make-up theme. Next, the bridge music that plays with "In the name of the moon, I'll punish you!" (J15) wasn't made for use with that scene, so without worry I raised the grade of it to that of the other theme levels.

--What about the toy special effects used in the death-move scenes?

Arisawa: I made that too. The toys and the TV music were synchronized, as I was trying to make something that could satisfy kids. Looking at the item designs by Bandai and Takeuchi Naoko-sensei, I made the music with special effects for them. It was hard to make it the death-move music balanced with the toy special effects in the background.


(Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon R: The Movie)

--With this work, the director Ikuhara Kunihiko was aiming for a "fusion of animation and music", and it was finished as a work with an unusually high level of entertainment, but I think it must have been hard to just do the wonderful music.

Arisawa: I guess it was. In the case of TV, there are many elements I can't decide on in detail, so I can't do anything more than convey previous images. For the movie, those points in the story are decided, so everything is detailed in the director's complete vision. The director Ikuhara has especially high regard for the music, so he requested accompaniment with the music changing for each scene at specific seconds and frames. For example, to go with the several seconds of different scenes among the scenes of the evil side, the evil theme is music that seems to incorporate different tunes. It was difficult to embody those kinds of images the director had.

--While consulting with the picture continuity.

Arisawa: Right, when I'm making it, I get connections where "the picture continuity is a little bit off" (laughs).

--Wow...

Arisawa: It's not that it becomes bad, but I find things I want to do and smart methods, and do them mutually. From the beginning, when I said I'd make the image of Fiore's theme and the Sailor Teleport music, until I composed the music, I was able to do a good form with a feeling of tension.
With that effect, the resulting synchronization of animation and music was amazing. Since it wouldn't have been possible had this not been a movie, it's an experience I'm not able to have often.
Also, because the four soldiers besides Sailor Moon not having themes bothered the director Ikuhara, I wrote them for the first time.


(Game Music, Special Albums)

--With the popularity of this work booming, from your role as composer you've handled the music for use in the derived video games.

Arisawa: I had never done game music before that. I was surprised that I had to make it with an extremely limited number of sounds. On top of that, they were looking for something like the TV music, so it was extraordinarily difficult. But still, it was interesting making it, so I had fun. Since they said it would also be made into a CD, I did lots of things like remaking the music with performance by an orchestra.

--There are also the special albums you personally arranged, such as Piano Fantasia and Music Fantasy.

Arisawa: Piano was well received. It's an album with the songs and music arranged with piano, but they became four-handed piano pieces like I can play with my mom. I planned it thinking the piano should come out well, carrying a friendly melody. I was happy when I heard a daughter of a staff member was already able to play many pieces of music.


(Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon S)

--Whatever we say, S is Sailor Uranus and Neptune, isn't it.

Arisawa: Indeed. Since they're not simply allies, it became necessary for a theme that wasn't an extension of Sailor Moon. They're older than Sailor Moon, and there's a trove of male and female role images... I started thinking about it from there. Since Neptune is a violin player, I considered a classical style, but that wouldn't work well with action music. Finally, I expressed their coldness by bringing a synth pounding into the foreground, and used a violin to play a classical melody with minor suppressed emotion. Playing it quickly, I devised it so that it would work as action music.

--The splendid, dramatic Sailor Moon side has very distinct and famous music. What about the enemy side, the Death Busters?

Arisawa: From the first series to R, it was expressed with a largely composed classical tune, but S was a bit different. The feeling of Professor Tomoe and his surroundings wasn't that of an enormous evil commanding an army, so I went with a feeling that stressed expression mentally with few instruments.


(Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon S: The Movie)

--This is Luna's movie.

Arisawa: That's right. I made the themes for the three who made up the core of this movie: Luna, the one she loves, Oozora Kakeru, and the enemy, Princess Snow Kaguya. The method for inlaying an arrangement with these three melodies as pivots was very interesting. It was the idea of the director, Shibata Hiroki.


(Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon SuperS)

--About the Pegasus's theme.

Arisawa: The synthesizer patch I used when I made the special effect for Chibi-Usa's bell was a fantastic image of the Pegasus and Chibi-Usa. It's a feeling that rings with a secret and quiet twinkling.

--The Dead Moon was a circus troop.

Arisawa: Series director Ikuhara saw the image of desert street performers from long ago in a Suntory commercial, and this music frankly makes use of that feeling. The instruments assemble images of the Middle East, and I made it so that it has tone quality with sax and clarinet changing playing methods. I searched for and studied various styles of percussion, asking the performers every little thing about what they carry, and used various things I don't even know the names of. Among the music of Sailor Moon, this turned into a theme with quite a different mood.

--The make-up was a double transformation that included Chibi-Usa, but was there a change in the music style?

Arisawa: The self-introduction theme is human, one feeling the intensity of emotion and attack. Since the Dead Moon music turned out well, I tried putting in the unyielding emotion of splendid and invigorating human kindness. It's definitely brass.

--What about the themes of the Amazon Trio and the Amazoness Quartet?

Arisawa: Since the Amazon Trio tempt and seduce humans, I made a considerably deformed tune with a jazzy tenor sax that presses lewdly. Not just that, I also made a stylish tune that has a kind of good mood.
For the Amazoness Quartet, I actually went with a string quartet. It's a string quartet with a first violin, second violin, viola, and cello. With the quartet I put in an unusually rock-style phrase.
Being able to do more and more different things in this, it's complete in musical composition as well as feeling.


(Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon SuperS: The Movie)

--Sanji no Yousei is the feature of this movie.

Arisawa: For that, the lyrics were made first. It's sung with a tempo children can walk to. Looking at the picture continuity, a tune was necessary with a flute melody for the first several seconds and children starting to sing partway through. After that, to decide on a melody and tune, I asked about the established stage. It's the Juuban district, but I was told the art image this time isn't that of Japan, but that of a Western fairy-tale world. So while giving it a little Disney-style seasoning, I tried making it with a wondrous feeling of probable hypnotic effect.


(Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon SuperS movie side story: Ami-chan no Hatsukoi)

--While this is a short story, it does have original music.

Arisawa: It's a short story, but there were many arrangements made. The director Igarashi Takuya was aiming for a "fusion of animation and music", so it was amazingly synchronized.

--From when she wakes up in the morning until the title appears, the music and animation match perfectly.

Arisawa: We did it that far.

--In Sailor Stars, this main theme is used as Ami's image song.

Arisawa: That's right. From when I heard the talks about image songs, I wanted to use this piece no matter what. I like the melody it has when it shows her innocent image.


(Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Sailor Stars)

--The make-up during the revived-Nehalennia plot is a calm music completely different from those before.

Arisawa: Series director Igarashi told me that at first, it has terribly great images of things like eternal love and ultimate motherhood. For that reason I did another way of perception, not the feeling that the make-up is a dramatic transformation. That's how it became like that.

--In the Sailor Galaxia plot, the Sailor Starlights/Three Lights make their appearance.

Arisawa: I was told from the beginning that these three were idols and would have concert scenes, so it came about that I would make one complete song for them to have.

--Their self-introduction after the make-up starts from the three snapping their fingers.

Arisawa: The director Igarashi already had the image of starting from the finger snaps and gradually rising.

--For the series climax you composed themes of ultimate evil and ultimate love.

Arisawa: Since the image of Sailor Moon this time is majestic, I wanted to have it express that no matter what, so the classic elements became strong. The number of such compositions in Sailor Stars is quite large. The first series has splendor, but it's light feeling is completely different. Sailor Moon has grown, carrying various pains, so I wrote it thinking that the music also going from pop toward more classical would be natural.

--So with your own understanding of the image of ultimate motherhood, you turned to classical instead of pop or jazz. Like Bach...

Arisawa: Like Cadence in the preludes, and Ave Maria.


(Image Songs)

--You also had a hand in many of the image songs.

Arisawa: I had an interest in making songs, since they're different from background music, and it's fun with the different singing, so my feelings were also completely different.
In the first series, I made melodies by setting musical accompaniment to lyrics written by the main writer, Tomita Sukehiro.

--You had a hand in quite a number of tunes in Sailor Stars, as well.

Arisawa: That's right. Since this was when it was decided the series would end here, I put effort into them. It had been a while since I'd met with the voice actors. I was also happy to be able to make the Christmas song, which I love.


(Looking back on five years and eight works)

--How is it now, listening again to the background music collected in this box?

Arisawa: I get a feeling of, wow, I made all this (laughs). But listening, I remember the various events from when I made them. So when everyone remembers the famous settings of Sailor Moon, I wonder if it might make them remember things about themselves at the same time. It's quite something for lots of people to recall my music along with the animation. It gives me the feeling that my job has been very satisfying.
When another five or ten years have passed, if everybody still remembers it, that will make me very happy, since I'm not at all able to make music that can be remembered so long with just my ability.

--It seems that's what will happen to the Sailor Moon music. The more time passes, those children will grow up, and they'll be able to listen with more clear opinions.

Arisawa: That's more because of Sailor Moon, but then when children tell me that my music was one of the main factors in Sailor Moon being a hit, nothing makes me happier.

(November 7, in Mr. Arisawa's office at From 30.)