Interview: Musical Band angela [1/2]

Anime TV series have an important element that captures the hearts of its viewers right from the opening. That element is music. A series’ anime songs refer to the opening and ending themes. Anime always include impressive songs that leave a mark on the hearts of fans.

Long-time veterans in the anime song field, the band angela has offered up numerous songs for notable anime such as the currently airing Knights of Sidonia and the film K: Missing Kings. They also actively hold live performances both in Japan and abroad. We spoke with angela’s atsuko and KATSU, a duo standing on the forefront of the anime song world, about their latest songs and their day-to-day work.

[angela Profile]
Band consisting of atsuko and KATSU. Vocalist atsuko handles lyrics and music composition. KATSU plays keyboard and guitar and handles music composition and arrangement. Starting as street musicians in 2000, they made their major record label debut in 2003 with “Asu e no Brilliant Road.” Afterwards, they took on several anime songs, such as “Shangri-La,” the opening theme to anime Fafner in the Azure. They belong to music wonder circus and King Records/StarChild.

Putting the series title in the lyrics for the first time

TOM: You released “Sidonia,” the opening theme to Knights of Sidonia which has aired six episodes (at the time of this interview), and a second greatest hits album titled Takarabako 2: Treasure Box II on May 21. The two of you have produced numerous anime songs for over ten years. Could you let tell us about your latest song?

atsuko: We’re coming into our 12th year since our debut. This is the first time we’ve ever incorporated the title of a series into the lyrics. Looking back, even if we read the anime’s screenplay or looked at the original series to create the song, we’ve never put the title in. With “Sidonia,” we incorporated this idea from the robot anime we watched as kids of calling the robot’s name over and over.

KATSU: From the oldest robot anime Tetsujin 28-gō to Mazinger Z, Combattler V, the Gundam series and the Macross series, that generation’s major anime theme songs include the title. It links the song to the anime, and even for us, there was an emotional moment where we were like, “We finally got to [include the title]!”

TOM: Why was this the time you decided to insert the title into the song lyrics?

atsuko: So far, we have never gotten a request to put the series’ title into the lyrics. This is true even for Knights of Sidonia.

KATSU: I think there has been a trend with anime songs from the 1990s and 2000s to not include the title and have it be more J-pop-like. But it’s a standard and tradition in Japan for robot anime to have the robot name or title in the song, so I think it’s natural to have it.

atsuko: When all the anime begin with each quarter, I always think about what kind of song we would need to make among all the anime theme songs in order to make ourselves stand out and have someone say, “Ah, this is an angela song.” I want people to listen to the theme song and think, “I want to see this anime.” For this song, I thought a lot about how to have that happen. So then, I decided that this would be the right time to include the title and took the path of classic robot anime.

TOM: Which one of you proposed putting the title into the lyrics?

atsuko: I did. When we were coming up with the music, there was a spot in the melody that I came up with where the words “Knights of Sidonia” fit right in, and when I said, “I want to put these lyrics in!” to KATSU... he said, “That works,” and it was decided. [laughs]

TOM: I find that the Knights of Sidonia opening animation aligns well with the lyrics, which makes for an impressive start to the show. As someone who enjoys the series, I think the rich, classical music and atsuko’s low pitch match the universe well.

atsuko: Thank you very much.

KATSU: The producers also gave us their opinions, and we thought about making a theme song based on the national anthems of different European countries. As we were listening to different countries’ anthems, we decided to make language important. The Knights of Sidonia anime puts an emphasis on using Japanese and so the script underwent revisions. Instead of the English loan word “pilot,” they used the Japanese “*sōjūsha*,” and instead of “engine,” they used “*funka-sōchi*.” Everything was changed to Japanese. Knights of Sidonia is the only English used in the series at this point.

atsuko: The lyrics also use a rigid kind of Japanese. It feels like the buildings and culture of the Sidonia spaceship include elements of an older Japan, so with the lyrics, we decided to use the kind of rigid, old-fashioned Japanese found in nursery rhymes and school songs in Japan. However, I’m not someone who actually lived when they used that older form of Japanese, so there were some difficulties from that. I had some struggles where I thought, “Does this Japanese match what I’m trying to say?”

On angela’s style

TOM: What do both of you see as “angela’s style”?

KATSU: angela’s style is creating songs that pair with a series. To push it further, I think that if atsuko is singing, then it’s angela. Whether it’s rock or hip-hop or a nursery rhyme. If atsuko is singing, that’s angela’s final form. I don’t think we make these self-assertions like, “This is angela,” or, “We’re rock,” very often.

To give an example, for our latest single CD cover, we chose a photo that’s mostly based in black and white to go along with Knights of Sidonia. On the other hand, for [the TV anime series Seitokai Yakuindomo ending theme] “Aoi Haru,” which is on our greatest hits album, we matched the tone of the anime and shot the cover in rough workout clothes at a school.

atsuko: I think the worlds of Knights of Sidonia and Seitokai Yakuindomo are complete opposites. Seitokai Yakuindomo is a comical series that follows the everyday lives of female high school students, so we decided to have the song stay in that vein. On the other hand, with Knights of Sidonia, it was shot as though it was being sung at a TV station on the Sidonia spaceship. I like to keep it in line with the anime.

TOM: KATSU said that if atsuko is there, then it’s angela. How do you feel about KATSU’s part in the band, atsuko?

atsuko: I think KATSU is someone who takes time to create songs through trial and error. He tries to feature angela while also feeling responsible for producing something as part of an anime series.

TOM: Did the two of you pair up after coming to Tokyo?

atsuko: Yes, we did. We’re both from Okayama Prefecture 1 and we were involved in different bands in high school. We even performed at the same music venues. Back then, when I said, “When I graduate high school, I’m going to go to Tokyo to become a singer,” KATSU would say, “Well, I’m already working in Tokyo.”

TOM: You saw each other as rivals.

KATSU: We did. Not just back then, we’re still rivals now. She’s working hard, so I have to work hard. I see that as being rivals. There’s no sense at all of bringing the other person down so only you can keep rising. She’s done this much, so I have to do this much. Seeing that, she does even more. We’re rivals in that sense.

atsuko: In terms of actual hours of work, I think KATSU has put in more. I do things like write the lyrics, sing the demo, and create the melody. But arranging the music takes much more time, I think.

KATSU: I think that atsuko is the face of angela. The vocals carry a greater sense of a responsibility.

atsuko: ...That’s true, isn’t it? [laughs]

KATSU: I’ve definitely put in more hours of work, but I think the one who feels more of a sense of responsibility is atsuko.

atsuko: We both look at things the same way and think, “Let’s make this better,” so we’ve made it this far with the hope that we’ll keep helping each other out.

How to be true to angela

TOM: Are there any songs you have strong attachment to? Or any anime?

KATSU: For anime, it would be Evangelion and Mobile Suit Gundam. That’s a goal of mine. As someone involved in the anime song industry, I’d like to keep trying to produce songs that can come close to the songs from those two series.

atsuko: I put my heart into writing and composing every song. If I absolutely had to choose... the ones where I feel, “That really changed my life,” would be ones like our debut song “Asu e no Brilliant Road” and “Shangri-La” from Fafner in the Asure. It’s become a signature song, and wherever we go, people will recognize us and say, “Hey! It’s angela from Fafner!” which I feel grateful for. It’s a song that’s become a part of me.

KATSU: We’ve produced hundreds of songs, and with continuing series like K and Fafner in the Azure, the amount of songs increase and you get too attached. You end up relying on these songs during concerts and other important times.

TOM: What feelings do you have toward the songs you produce?

KATSU: Before it’s released, it’s my baby, and after it’s released, it’s a child that’s grown up and gotten married. I’m like, “Go out and do your best!” We of course don’t completely leave it. I feel a parental responsibility. But I still think, “Go on your way!” Whether a song is praised or bashed, it’s still like, “The responsibility is with us, so just go and do your thing.”

atsuko: I think those on the receiving end also listen to our songs with a variety of different thoughts and feelings. There are people who will like our songs and people who won’t. But there’s no point in reacting to that. I feel grateful in just being able to put the song out there. So the two of us always work while thinking about how we can deliver songs that are true to angela.

^1^ Prefecture in the southeastern part of the Chūgoku region of Japan.

angela Official Site
angela Goods

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.

angela "Sidonia" PV (Short Ver.)
angela "Sidonia" PV (Short Ver.)
angela "Angel" PV (Short Ver.)
angela "Angel" PV (Short Ver.)
angela Takarabako 2: Treasure Box II CM
angela *Takarabako 2: Treasure Box II* CM
“Sidonia,” the opening theme to anime TV series Knights of Sidonia
“Sidonia,” the opening theme to anime TV series *Knights of Sidonia*
Second greatest hits album Takarabako 2: Treasure Box II
Second greatest hits album *Takarabako 2: Treasure Box II*
Something Containing Takarabako and Takarabako 2 to Listen to on Blu-ray In addition to every song from the first greatest hits album Takarabako: Treasure Box and the second Takarabako 2: Treasure Box II, it also includes backing track versions of each song. 96 songs total.
*Something Containing Takarabako and Takarabako 2 to Listen to on Blu-ray* In addition to every song from the first greatest hits album *Takarabako: Treasure Box* and the second *Takarabako 2: Treasure Box II*, it also includes backing track versions of each song. 96 songs total.
1st single “Asu e no Brilliant Road”
1st single “Asu e no Brilliant Road”
Takarabako 2: Treasure Box II artist photo
*Takarabako 2: Treasure Box II* artist photo
16th single “Aoi Haru” artist photo
16th single “Aoi Haru” artist photo
6th single “Shangri-La” artist photo
6th single “Shangri-La” artist photo
“Sidonia” artist photo
“Sidonia” artist photo
“Sidonia” artist photo
“Sidonia” artist photo

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