A translation of “A Music Director’s Soliloquy” (音楽ディレクターの独り言), a booklet included with the DiGiMONMUSiC 100 Title Commemoration Release: We Love DiGiMONMUSiC (デジモンミュージック100タイトル記念作品 We Love DiGiMONMUSIC) album collection, originally released December 25, 2002. The booklet contains commentary from sound producer and director Hiroshi Chiba on music production for Digimon Adventure, Adventure 02, Tamers, and Frontier, as well as a message from NEC Interchannel producer Shintarou Matsui.
I wonder how many CDs exist in this world?
I’ve never looked deeply into it myself, but there must be far more than we can even imagine.
Among those CDs…no, among a tiny fraction of those CDs, I like to imagine that there’s all sorts of little stories going on.
“DiGiMONMUSiC” also has many of its own little stories.
I work as a music producer, but I’m also a music director, and this is what I want to achieve as a music director.
It’s probably a bit difficult for everyone to understand, so I’ll explain a little more. Perhaps you could consider a music director to be like a movie director, but for music? Or perhaps “the producer’s job is to handle the commerce (or TV show management), while the director is in charge of the creative work itself” (maybe that’s explaining too much…)?
Anyway, since I’m writing this as a music director, I’d like to tell you about certain little things that happened as we were making these…a bunch of little stories, in order of series.
But since I’m normally not the kind of person who’s good at directly facing people, my work as a music director usually involves managing things behind the scenes and “leaving things to whoever’s specialized in that topic”, so I might not be able to express things very well, but now that I have the chance to do this, please bear with me and follow along.
The title is “A Music Director’s Soliloquy”.
If we’re going to be commemorating the original series (?)1, the first thing you’d think of is “Butter-Fly”, right?
For me, “Butter-Fly” = Digimon Adventure.
I’d like to tell you what I remember of three particular anecdotes related to this.
The first one is from when we had just started working on the TV show.
It was autumn of 1998, the first week of December.
At the time, I was working at music production company “Ism Artist” (later, during Tamers, I was transferred to NEC Interchannel), and was involved in production and promotion for a number of artists.
Around that time, Kyoutarou Kimura from Yomiko Advertising was visiting for a different project, and he happened to ask “why don’t we try working on this TV series?”, with the proposal being about Digimon Adventure.
The series would start the next year in March, or in other words, we’d have less than three months to work on this.
First, we’d have to find a record label that could sell for us, then we’d have to go through demo tapes and pick a composition to go with, arrange it, add lyrics to it, and find an artist at the same time, and we’d only have up until the middle of January…
My first thought was “we don’t have nearly enough time!”
I’d had experience in squeezing projects through to the point I was known as “the deadline magician” (not that I really enjoyed that…), but in this case I was already on the verge of giving up.
That was more pressure than I’d ever felt before.
We were spending every day on thin ice, to the point where if we fell behind even one day we wouldn’t make it, and I still get shivers remembering it (haha).
Of course, I’d like to emphasize once again that this was only possible because everyone involved worked hard together to make it happen.
Also, this is a bit of a digression, but when I first met with the staff for the series, I accidentally showed up wearing a Po**mon staff sweatshirt, and Mr. Kimura scolded me in a whisper “you know, that’s really dangerous…” How embarrassing.
Well, right now, it’s a good memory…
The second anecdote has to do with music composition.
When we were deciding on our opening song, our final remaining candidates were “Seven”, “brave heart”, and “Butter-Fly”.
I really liked all of them, but to be honest, I actually thought it’d be “Seven”.
“brave heart” had a wonderful melody, but it was lacking punch.
As a music director, no, even just personally, I really loved “Butter-Fly”‘s music style and really wanted to do a recording for it, but I thought, this doesn’t really fit Digimon very much, does it?
So I thought “Seven” was the one that fit Digimon’s setting and story best…
So in other words, the music producer side of me wanted to pick “Seven”, and the music director side of me wanted to pick “Butter-Fly”.
We had a very hard time during those meetings…they were both wonderful songs, after all.
In the end, series director Kakudou said, “For the kids who are feeling down in this day and age, I want to wake them up on Sunday mornings with a noisy kind of song you wouldn’t hear in other anime,” and with that we decided on “Butter-Fly”.
I still respect the depth of his insight.
Because that was where it all started…
Because after that, we came up with idea of making use of “brave heart” by having it play as an insert song for the evolution sequences on TV.
“It’s such a wonderful song, can’t we do something with it? Can’t we do something so tons of people can hear it?” With that, we made that proposal.
When I was a kid myself, I really loved the song “Theme of Z” that would play during battle scenes in Ma**nger Z2, to the point I liked it even more than the theme song.
That’s what we had in mind for “brave heart”.
It really was making the best use of what we had, so what do you all think? Personally, I still get excited with anticipation every time I hear that intro.
Shouko Ohmori-san’s lyrics are great, and I think “brave heart” was where the originality of the “Digimon sound” comes from. Also, this song was how I met Michihiko Ohta-san.
The one indispensable musician I could always trust without fail when discussing what the “Digimon sound” should be…
(Digression #2) Cher Watanabe-san was put through the wringer during our composition meetings, listening to the demo tapes over and over and remaking them from scratch on our request.
Mr. Watanabe had just gotten married and moved into his new family home, and we ended up completely ruining his New Year’s Eve and the first week of the new year.
To Cher-san and his wife, thank you for letting us borrow the place, and I’m truly sorry.
And thank you so much.
Let’s keep having a good relationship, okay?
The third anecdote…is about Kouji Wada.
I met him around a year before Digimon.
At the time, in the course of my production work, a lot of young people (?) who wanted to become professional artists would send me demo tapes every day.
He was one of those people.
But I found his demo tape in the trash can, with the seal broken.
Another staff member had probably listened to it once, found it didn’t suit their tastes, and thrown it out.
But it happened to enter my view, and I picked it up.
I’d been staying up late working on recording after recording, so I was sleepy and started listening to the cassette tape without really thinking…but the voice coming out from it was clear and ringing through my ears before I even knew it…
His pitch and rhythm weren’t exactly good, no, they weren’t good at all, but it goes without saying that I contacted him the next day going “how much did you sing to get your voice like that?”
The first time I actually met him, my first impression of him was “he’s really a simple person…”
But as I talked to him more, I learned about how he managed to get that kind of voice.
“C: What kind of part-time job do you have? W: I deliver lunchboxes. C: Must be hard doing all that work in the early morning. W: …But I’m always singing in the car when I drive.”
Or when we talked about where he lived…”C: Why do you live so close to a huge loop highway? Isn’t the noise awful? W: But the noise means I don’t have to worry about singing too loud…”
Everything about his daily life was dedicated to singing.
I met him many times after I first got to know him, and I asked him about everything I could.
“C: Why do you want to go pro this badly? W: …My first love rejected me, and I want to become famous and prove I’m better than her!”…Of course, I was at a loss for words…
Straightforward idiots like this really exist in this day and age!? That was all I needed to decide that I would make sure he got his debut, no matter what.
So, let’s move onto how he actually got his debut.
As I described earlier, we had a lot of trouble picking out our theme song for Digimon Adventure, and we had yet another problem on our hands…who was going to actually sing this?
Even before we’d started on having music composition meetings, we’d already decided on having NEC Interchannel be our vendor, but Interchannel didn’t have any pre-existing male singers in their lineup whom we could ask to do this, so we had to find a fresh and promising new artist, a rookie who could sing this wonderful song called “Butter-Fly”…
“Butter-Fly” has a particularly difficult part in the chorus, the “ba” in “tsubasa demo“, which needs to use the falsetto voice, and in a song that’s generally powerful and strong for most of it, that chorus has that one single note of falsetto…and if you couldn’t find a way to make that come out gracefully, it’d defeat the purpose.
I thought of that terrifyingly awkward, quiet young man and his singing, no, rather, I had a “hunch” about him.
Naturally, there was a fair share of people around me who rejected the idea, but Producer Matsui from Interchannel (who’s now my boss…) gave his support, and so we decided on Kouji Wada.
Had it not been for Mr. Matsui putting his foot down then, we probably wouldn’t have Kouji Wada the way we do now.
I’m still thankful to him for making his decision based on my request.
I want to make sure everyone gets this one more time: if it hadn’t been for his decision, we wouldn’t have had Kouji Wada the way he is now…
Everyone knows what Kouji Wada did after that.
I’d bet everything on a “hunch” about him.
But it was nothing compared to what he’ll be doing from here on out, to get himself the bigger stage he wants.
He’ll keep continuing to sing, and that’s all he can do…so, all of you, please don’t ever forget his voice.
And let’s keep supporting him from here on out.
I’m looking forward to it.
Digimon Adventure 02
For 02, the biggest one for me is probably Best Partner3.
At first, when Producer Matsui proposed the project, I put my head in my hands.
We’d only have a single month to make four maxi singles with three songs, and three months to put it up for sale…
On such a tight schedule, we’d have to make all of them distinctive, express each character’s direction and music style and allocate budget, and there were so many issues that needed to be resolved.
I personally had other jobs I needed to work on, too (doing production and tours for other artists and such), so there wasn’t enough time…
And the hardest part was that all of them had to be singles — maxi singles, but still singles.
If they were albums, we could put ten songs together under one concept, but since they were all singles, we’d have to make them all have their own opening and ending.
It’s much harder to make ten singles than it is ten albums.
If you have an album with just one artist, you can just follow that one person’s overall direction, but when everyone’s voice types and vocal ranges are different, and on top of that they have to sing in-character, and then they have to do a duet…even doing direction and bringing together the lyrics, composition, and arrangement is tough.
But somehow we made it through…at the end, I felt less “fulfilled” and more “relieved that it was over”.
I spent every day without sleep or rest, but I definitely got a lot out of it in the process, and I’m satisfied with how we finished off every single song.
Thank you deeply to all of the staff members and voice actors who went along with such difficult work…incidentally, the one who was closest to dying was the one who gave me this huge task in the first place, Producer Matsui himself, who had to handle the jacket production, manufacturing, and sales…bless you.
…Hm, you’re wondering what my favorite song is, right?
All of them, of course!
…although, while we’re on this note…whenever it comes to Digimon songs, I always have very deep memories of all of them, so I can never pick just one…
Personally, it feels like the one that felt like it went “exactly as planned!!” was probably “Daisuke and Ken’s Shopping Carol”4.
It’s more of a skit than a song.
We were able to make it happen because the voice actresses, Kiuchi-san and Park-san, were so talented.
During recording, I remember both of them were bullying me quite a bit.
They’d say things like “this isn’t a song!” and “hey, aren’t you leaving something out!?”…
But we got it exactly the way we wanted, so I’m grateful to them.
Oh, right…Kiuchi-san, Park-san, can you please return the demo tape with placeholder vocals (that you took from the studio)…
For me, Tamers was the one where I had the hardest amount of mental strain.
I ran out of ideas! For the last two years, I’d used up everything, and the only thing I hadn’t done left was enka5…and then we used that one up immediately, too (aha…)
But there was also something that made me happiest…Tamers was also the one where I was able to make my very own (well, probably only my own) small kind of happiness in something.
That was…”Days -Affection and the Ordinary-“.
I made a certain decision when we were making that song.
“We’re going to make this the culmination of all the DiGiMONMUSiC we’ve made so far…we’re going to aim to make it the best” — of course, we’d been making everything up to that point with the confidence that it’d be the “best”, but…it was more pressure than there ever was before (even though there’s already more than enough just from the fact I’m working with other people”.
“I might be in creative block right now.” “Maybe I should just give up on using my style for this?” “I’ve gotta do something, I’ve gotta…” I was thinking that every single day, and a part of me wanted to run away.
“I should just give up.” I decided, if we manage to make it to a fourth series, I should step down, and they should get someone else with a different personality and working method to be the music director…
I decided, in turn, I was going to make this ending song, “Days -Affection and the Ordinary-“, the best culmination of everything we’d had so far…
I wanted it to be “the best thing I could have”.
Digimon already had so many works (songs) by itself, and everyone had put their own feelings into it, not just me.
So “Days -Affection and the Ordinary-” couldn’t possibly be the best by itself.
But I wanted it to gather everything we’d done together and become the song with the most intense condensation of our emotions…That was the kind of “best” I wanted it to be.
I met AiM…a little before Kouji Wada, when she came to visit.
She was involved with a certain unit, and I happened to be working as music director for that unit.
That was also when I met Producer Matsui, too.
I could sense Matsui (I’m deliberately omitting honorifics here) had some very great determination to “make AiM (still known as Ai Maeda at the time) into an amazing artist”.
I thought “I really want to work with these two again,” and so when we started talking about Digimon, I brought Interchannel into the project.
AiM would sing, and Matsui would sell…and I would make the best song for her.
That was how I felt, and I’d tried to support her that way.
I was in charge of her songs for the Digimon TV series besides “keep on”, and when I was making “I wish”, I formulated a single goal.
That was “to make a weapon for AiM’s singing”.
This is speaking a bit in musical terms, but AiM’s greatest weapon is absolutely her high-toned voice.
She could put out an E♭ with no problem (to clarify, the average adult female can go about as high as a B♭ without going into falsetto, and if they’re on the higher end a C), so how could we polish that further? There was still something unpolished about it, and when she gets older she may not be able to hit such high notes as easily.
So, we’d leave that E♭ aside and focus more on the lower C…
We’d focus her core on that C, which is indispensable for pop songs with female vocalists.
No matter what kind of tempo, key, rhythm, melody, or vowels in the lyrics she was dealing with, she was a singer who could firmly hit that C.
And since we were going to make that C into a a given absolute, that E♭ above it should shine even more brilliantly.
She was able to do a perfect C in every sense of the word, so from there she’d be able to reach the kind of E♭ that only she could pull off…And so this would become her own greatest weapon…That was what I believed.
And when AiM reached that, I would have repaid what I owed to AiM and Matsui…That was what I inteded as my goal for AiM.
And in response to that…AiM sang it for me (of course, I’ve never told either of them about this before…)
A strong C, a painful C, a comfortable C, a gentle C, and “Days -Affection and the Ordinary”.
For me, that part “you, saying nothing, stayed by my side and smiled for me” is everything that DiGiMONMUSiC is.
A Digimon song that drew from so many people who’d worked so hard up until this point, bringing it all together…and AiM expressed that all beautifully.
To all of you, what do you hear in that part? Does it sound painful? Sad? Happy?…It’s a tacky way to say it, but for me, what I hear is “love”.
My very own small kind of happiness.
And so, once we reached the fourth series, I fully intended to step down. But…
Just then, Producer Seki from Toei Animation came and scolded me. “Look, we’re all having a hard time here, so don’t try to run away from this, you idiot!!”
“I’m not running away!!” I said, and it was the truth.
Everyone had worked so hard, and we’d aimed to make the best thing we ever had.
I realized I’d only been thinking about myself, and I was disappointed in myself.
It goes without saying that I decided “all right, I’ll make something better than I ever have before!”
At this point, everyone was taking off and running along with me.
Frontier was where we were frantically running around and never looking back.
We wouldn’t even look back at the older series, and we wouldn’t even bring them up.
That was how unwilling we were to budge. We were only going to go forward.
But I was convinced Frontier would be better than ever before.
So when you collect it all together, I think we’ve created something that no one else can ever replicate.
I promise all of you…I really do.
With that said, I have one more little anecdote I want to tell you.
We all know “FIRE!!”, right?
“FIRE!!”‘s chorus has that one line, “flying over the trash can towards the future”.
Now, please remember what I wrote earlier about Kouji Wada.
…Have you all figured it out?
That line was written by our great lyricist, Hiroshi Yamada, who heard about this story and wrote it in response to the “hunch” I’d had about Kouji Wada that brought him to where he is now!
Even now, when I sing the prechorus to myself and reach that line…something in me really gets fired up.
How about you all? What do you think?!!
We made this music with such a wonderfully talented team!!
I’m not good at writing…I really ended up writing this long, winding spiel.
But even that really isn’t enough, I have so many stories I don’t even think I could tell them all.
That’s how much there has been in these last four years.
Each and every song has its own many stories in it.
To all of you, when you listen to these songs again, please take the time to imagine.
The lyrics, melody, chords, rhythm, instrumentation, and singing vocals all have things they secretly want you to know.
It’s got something from so many people’s own lives, and of course it’s got a little of mine, too.
As far as life goes…well, a lot of things happened in my personal life, too.
I ended up experiencing both sides of marriage and divorce (ahaha).
So anyway, if there are any interested women out there…
Please send your photo and resume with a letter to NEC Interchannel (please don’t actually do it, it’s going to hurt if I don’t even get one).
Finally…to everyone who was involved with this, truly, thank you very much.
And to all of the fans, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
That’s all for “A Music Director’s Soliloquy”.
From Shintarou Matsui
Dear Mr. Hiroshi Chiba,
Thank you for all of your hard work.
I’m going to use this space to make an after-report.
This final version is the second draft after the initial submission, and on top of that, he wrote so much that it completely blew apart my expectations (although we barely managed to fit it in 5 pages…), and he also wrote a ton of things that we probably shouldn’t be allowed to say as of this collection’s release date, so I had to make a lot of cuts without his permission (otherwise he’d refuse).
So I would like to deeply apologize.
But for a moment, I thought, “perhaps it was destiny for it to be this way?”
I’m going to explain this so that anyone reading this page won’t get the wrong idea, but Producer Chiba is the one who’s probably been involved in more DiGiMONMUSiC works than anyone else.
It would not be wrong to call him “a walking encyclopedia of DiGiMONMUSiC”.
We came this far because of him.
There is no doubt about that.
It might not even be wrong to call DiGiMONMUSiC “a collection of Hiroshi Chiba works”.
That is how important his achievements are to DiGiMONMUSiC.
Anyone who’s been involved on this would agree.
DiGiMONMUSiC has been going on for around three years and eight months (including now).
It’s really amazing to think of it this way.
I don’t know how much longer we’ll be going, but please continue to support us on the way.
On behalf of all of the performers, as well as the staff and fans, I would like to give my thanks.
I feel like I can hear everyone’s voices of gratitude…
I’m sure Chiba-san can hear them, too!!
On behalf of all of the performers, as well as the staff and fans
Shintarou Matsui (NEC Interchannel)
- Here Chiba uses the word “mujirushi” (無印), a word that literally means “unmarked”. The word is generally used as a catch-all term used for the originating work in a series where future entries use the same title with a subtitle; in Digimon contexts, it’s usually understood as referring to the original Adventure (since Adventure 02 has the “mark” of “02”, Adventure is “unmarked”). Because typing out or saying the full word “Adventure” (アドベンチャー) can be a handful in Japanese, “mujirushi” is widely used by fans and staff alike. However, it’s only ever used informally, and at the time this album collection released in 2002, it was only just starting to enter widespread usage.
- “Ma**nger Z” = Most likely referring to Mazinger Z, a landmark super robot anime series by Toei Animation from 1972, based on a manga by Go Nagai.
- “Best Partner” = Referring to the “Digimon Adventure 02 Best Partner” series of character song albums, which released as twelve maxi singles with three songs each in batches of four, from June to August 2000. Each single contained three songs, one with a Chosen Child, one with their Digimon partner, and a duet with both. I’ve translated their lyrics here.
- “Daisuke and Ken’s Shopping Carol” = Refers to Daisuke and Ken’s duet song from the album Digimon Adventure 02 Christmas Fantasy, originally released November 2, 2000. Most of the song actually consists of spoken dialogue as the two banter at each other.
- Enka = A style of Japanese music that was particularly popular in the 1950s-70s. From Tamers, “Manly Flying Spit” and “White Seagull” are in this style.