Anime Corner had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing the legendary music composer, Yasuharu Takanashi at this year’s Otakon. He is currently the coordinator of the music production team “Team-MAX” and the leader of the rock and roll group “Yaiba.” Takanashi has composed music for many popular anime including Naruto, Fairy Tail, Sailor Moon, Log Horizon, and Zombie Land Saga Revenge! Recently, he’s worked on music for Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy, and Record of Ragnarok (both Netflix originals).
Q: First off, I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. It’s a huge honor, basically a dream come true! I want to congratulate you on winning your sixth JASRAC International Award! You won the award five times in the past, but does the excitement still take over?
Takanashi: (cheers) Thank you very much! The award was given to the person whose music was most widely listened to around the world. So I’m very honored and very happy!
Q: You previously talked about growing up in your parents’ house and you’ve mentioned before how you were surrounded by traditional Japanese culture, including musical instruments such as a shamisen. Did anyone in your family play any musical instruments? If not, where did you get your musical inspiration from?
Takanashi: Oh yes! My mother was a geisha so there was always a shamisen somewhere in the house. So that’s where it came from.
Q: Your music career started before social media really boomed. How has it impacted your career and what are your thoughts on being able to see fans from all across the world show appreciation for your music compared to the days before?
Takanashi: Through SNS [social networking service], I could not only interact with people all around Japan but also all around the world. So it’s giving a lot of opportunities to just talk and interact with a lot of people! Through these interactions, and through SNS, I could really feel that people from different countries and backgrounds enjoy my music!
Q: Do you remember how you reacted to first finding out that you would be composing music for Naruto. I understand you were part of Musashi at the time. What is the story of how it all happened?
Takanashi: I worked on Naruto‘s music when I was in Musashi. Then when Naruto went into [Naruto Shippuden] it was decided the series would be a lot more serious. So when I was in Musashi, there was a person called Masuda-san and he didn’t like doing serious music. So a producer for Musashi sort of tapped me and said, “Do you want to do the music for [Naruto Shippuden]?” And at the same time, a lot of different companies came and said they wanted me to make the music.
Q: “Sadness and Sorrow” is one of the most iconic tracks in anime history. And you previously mentioned that the song left a strong impression on you as it was the first ballot you wrote for Naruto. So how long did the song take to complete? Were there any difficulties along the way?
Takanashi: Ah! Two hours! (laughs) So at first, I made it really quickly. But I went back then added some qualities to the music afterward. There was a difference in the way I arranged the music in [Naruto] Shippuden compared to [the original Naruto series].
Q: How long would you say it usually takes to compose a song for an anime, just in general?
Takanashi: It really depends on when I’m feeling really good! (laughs) But when I’m not feeling as good, it will take a while. Making music is my hobby so I never felt that it was a pain.
You once said that you “read the original story and try to make a song that fits the image of the character” in regard to composing character-specific theme songs. So who are your favorite characters in Naruto and Fairy Tail?
Takanashi: Character!? Character!? (laughs) For Naruto, it’s Naruto, Minato, and Itachi. And for Fairy Tale it’s Erza Scarlett!
Q: You have composed music for countless anime series and have developed a reputation as one of the industry’s best to millions of fans worldwide. And you once said that “the fact that someone is listening to and enjoying the music I’ve made is all that matters to me.” Are there any specific anime, games, movies, or shows that you composed music for that hold a special place in your heart outside of Naruto that you would love more fans to listen to?
Takanashi: Thank you very much! It’s nothing, really! But I’d say Reincarnated as a Sword and Bulgarian metal (music genre).
Q: If you could work on a soundtrack with another music composer right now, who would it be and why?
Takanashi: Yuki Hayashi (My Hero Academia)! We’re friends and always hanging out. I’ve been wanting to make music with him for a long time. I think it would be really fun!
Thank you again to Takanashi-san for your time! And thank you to the staff at Otakon for making this possible! New episodes of Naruto will begin airing on September 3, 2023.
Photo credits: Brian Howard (Twitter); Featured image: ©Yasuharu Takanashi/Shueisha/TV Tokyo/Pierrot
Translator: Seiya Furukawa (Otakon)