♬ Tonari No To-Toro To-To-Ro ♫...

Associate Editor, Features; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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♬ Tonari No To-Toro To-To-Ro ♫...

As a ScreenAnarchy-O-Meter, this post will remain up on top of the page for one day. There might be newer posts below this, so don't forget to take a look!

Last year I moved to another address so I had to put everything I own into boxes. This automatically makes you aware of just how much stuff you collect over the years, and packing my CDs I noticed how many of those were soundtracks.

Not too surprising I guess (being a movielover), but then I noticed how many of those were from Japan and that DID surprise me.
Surely there is no shortage of listenable and / or catchy soundtracks from other parts of the world?

Anyway, I seem to gravitate towards Japanese movie soundtracks and one of the reasons is that they sure do have some fine composers over there. I own several anime series soundtracks too as they are often matching their movie-counterparts in quality

So after the break, read my list of five people who each created several unforgettable Japanese scores...

Here they are in no particular order:

Masaru Satô

When composer Fumio Hayasaka died in 1955, one of the jobs his pupil Masaru Satô inherited was to compose soundtracks for Akira Kurosawa's films. Fumio and Masaru had worked together on "Seven Samurai" already so Akira Kurosawa knew him well, and in the decade which followed Satô wrote famous scores for Kurosawa including "Yojimbo" and "Sanjuro". But aside from this he also was responsible for the music in many of the Godzilla sequals and uncountable other "man in suit" monster movies.
Masaru Satô kept creating scores until his death in 1999, and the final tally is an impressive list with literally hundreds of titles on it.



Susumu Hirasawa

Director Satoshi Kon and Susuma Hirasawa worked together on "Millennium Actress" and thankfully something clicked. Later they collaborated on the "Paranoia Agent" televison series and "Paprika", and in both cases the integration of sound and visuals is nothing short of amazing. Susuma mixes electronic noise with classical music in a unique way (and instantly recognizable too, as I found out when I watched the "Berserk" series). This style underscores Satoshi Kon vision seamlessly. It's no coincidence they did the commentary track for the Paprika DVD together, as their work together on that movie make them almost equally responsible for the end result.
Here's hoping there's lots more coming from the both of them!


Kenji Kawai

On this site I've already mentioned several times the impact "Ghost in the Shell" had on me when I saw it. I couldn't get the utterly brilliant soundtrack out of my head for days, forcing me to either buy it or go mad.
Responsible for that music was composer Kenji Kawai, a regular contributor to Mamoru Oshii's movies. The man has a very impressive catalogue of excellent scores attached to his name, easily hopping between several music genres when necessary. Whether it's the quiet tension of the "Ringu" films, the haunting music for "Antarctic Journal" or the complicated operawork for Oshii's "Avalon", Kawai's work is always solid as a rock.


Yôko Kanno

Time for some girlpower on this page. Yôko Kanno became famous even outside of Asia by providing the jazzy score for the "Cowboy Bebop" television series back in 1995. This music became so popular that the musicians who recorded it could continue as a band, and are still existing as such today!
Although she wrote scores for movies like "Su-ki-da" and last year's Korean gangster dramady "The Show Must Go On" she is primarily popular for her anime series soundtracks, including her excellent work on both "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex" series and the "Solid State Society" sequel to those.


Joe Hisaishi

Both popular and prolific, you can hear Hisaishi's work in many recent Chinese, Korean and Japanese productions. He has written the soundtracks for all of Miyazaki's films made in Studio Ghibli, but Takeshi Kitano also used him for movies like "Sonatine", "Dolls", "Hana-bi" and "Brother".
And I can't think of a more fitting way to end this article than with a song:
Tonari No To-Toro To-To-Ro ♫... damn! This tune is so hard to get rid off that it should be annoying, yet it is deservedly catchy. It is part of the soundtrack of what may be Hayao Miyazaki's best film, "My Neighbour Totoro", and the man responsible for the score is of course Joe Hisaishi.

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faboolOctober 24, 2008 7:18 PM

Japan definetly has some good composing talent, but I personally appreciate the scarcity of the music in movies, which really helps to highlight the tunes that are present. Hollywood movies especially tend to overuse music a lot.

I wouldn't put Yoko Kanno on the list because of the whole 'borrowing' her team has done (which I now think is pretty common in anime), but a fair list otherwise.
Ryuichi Sakamoto might be an obvious 'big name' to add to your list.

PapigiulioOctober 24, 2008 8:58 PM

shoot I forgot to mention. If you think "Tonari no totoro" is a catchy tune? Wait until you hear the theme song for Ponyo on a cliff a couple of times. It's terribly sticky :(

David HOctober 24, 2008 11:05 PM

Not to mention Japanese videogames!

I can instantly recall Yasunori Mitsuda responsible for Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross and Xenogears. He can only possibly be outdone by Nobuo Uematsu of Final Fantasy fame.

I have many of their soundtracks in my library.

Ard VijnOctober 24, 2008 11:26 PM

Simon,

You're right, when the thought for this Twitch-O-Meter hit me one of the first things I thought was "include the guy who did Godzilla", but I forgot afterwards. I had already written the part for Masaru Satô so the Godzilla-reference didn't wake me either...

So yes, I certainly meant to put him in there as well.

Simon AbramsOctober 24, 2008 11:34 PM

Don't forget Ifukube's work on films like Kon Ichikawa's THE BURMESE HARP, Hiroshi Inagaki's CHUSHINGURA and Akira Kurosawa's THE QUIET DUEL; I mean, don't get me wrong, I love his kaiju scores (RODAN!) butTHE BURMESE HARP's main theme alone is pretty terrific.

Kurt HalfyardOctober 25, 2008 2:00 AM

And then there is the most addicting head-sticking song ever. LINDA! LINDA! LINDA!

ChrisOctober 25, 2008 4:08 AM

lol. I used to tease my wife with "to wa ni ni totoro" back in the day. Good stuff. Also, definitely dig the Yoko Kanno. Looking forward to the new Darker than Black anime for more of her music. Nice list!

pochiWOctober 25, 2008 8:17 AM

** Toru Takemitsu ** ;)

panikOctober 27, 2008 12:26 AM

Tho i like the music in Paprika, i thought it was the wrong choice for the film.
I think they thought it was too good a score not to use...even tho it didn't go with the film.
It kinda ruined the film for me.