Introduction: Patrick Cunningham has translated the biography of Arisawa Takanori from the Sailor Moon CD booklets and written this review and exegesis of his music for Sailor Moon. Questions and comments should be sent to him at dulles AT smhall DOT org. The following are his comments.
I divide the music of Arisawa Takanori for Sailor Moon into five categories:1) The music for the first and R seasons. (1st and 2nd seasons)
2) The music for the S and SuperS seasons. (3rd and 4th seasons)
3) The music for SailorStars. (5th and last season.)
4) The music for the Sailor Moon Movies.
5) The Music Collections; his Sailor Moon themed compositions.
There are also two more categories, not inclusive of Mr. Arisawa for Sailor Moon Music:
6) Song Albums and image collections
7) Arranged song collections
1) THE MUSIC FOR THE FIRST AND SECOND SEASONS
(It should be noted that the music is cumulative: the music composed for each season is used in every following season as well. That’s why as you watch the series, you might hear first season music during the Sailor Stars episodes.)
Here is a list of the instruments he used during this time:
2 Tenor Saxophones
1 Alto Saxophone
1 Soprano Saxophone
1 Classical Percussion Set (timpani, etc…)
1 Electric Piano
1 Electric/Folk Guitar
1 Electric Bass Guitar
1 Drum Set
1 Latin Percussion Set
6 First Violins
4 Second Violins
1 Womans Chorus
2 Mens Chorus
As you can see, this is a very Big Band-ish ensemble, and this sound is very reflective of this. The music has a very BGM feeling and is VERY light. Easy-listening. During this period he composed most of the ‘funny’ music for the series, the tracks that play in the background while Usagi or someone blunders or something. He uses the ensemble more as a whole unit, creating hummable tunes that seem very familiar. Each piece is dominated by one overriding melody, played by one set of instruments accompanied by the whole rest of the orchestra. He does not use the synthesizer as often as he does in the future.
The Make-Up! (henshin) music composed at this time sets the basic template for the rest of the Make-Up! music written for the following seasons. The battle music from this series is fairly varied, at times using the electric guitar for an edgy sound, the strings for something menacing, and the brass for a Cotton Club Gangster-like sound. Used fairly often, his arrangements of “Moonlight Legend” (Moonlight Densetsu) and “The Maiden’s Policy” (Otome no Porishii), which were not composed by him, will be familiar to most. The Tuxedo Mask leitmotif was written and used EVERY SINGLE time Takishiido Kamen appears, in almost annoying punctuality through the fifth season.
This was before the themes in each track of the CDs were separated by a few seconds – all of his soundtracks have several pieces of music per CD track (If each individual piece of music had its own track, each CD would have more than thirty tracks.) – in the CDs from all the other categories, there are a few seconds between each piece in an individual track.
2) THE MUSIC FOR THE S AND SUPERS SEASONS
The third and fourth seasons have their own sound, very distinctive. I wish I had a list of the instruments, but the CD producers did not think to print that in the booklets.
There are a lot more synthesizers evident; he uses these in combination with solo instruments, and, not as often, the orchestra. Each track is much more varied, and this period has the several of types of music. He uses brass alot less, and instead brings the strings and synthesizers to the forefront. But when he does use brass, it is very prominent and less mixed with the strings – therefore realizing the illusion that he is using a completely different orchestra and style. This is most evident in the SuperS soundtrack: the most representative season as far as music is concerned. Classical, Jazz, New Age and even slightly Baroque styles are evident. He likes to mix synthesizers and electric guitars with the orchestra often during this time, so even with the variety of style there are those unifying elements.
In the first period he used the chorus only for the Make Up! music, but now he uses female voices as background “dadadaas” and similar soothing sweet-nothing sounds as overtones to more gentle scenes. Arisawa Takanori’s sound is much more refined; this is not so easylistening-ish, though it does often contain that element.
The tone of the S music is particularly distinctive. This is because the addition and participation of the Outer Senshi (soldiers) Michiru and Haruka. For them he composed new Make Up! music and new battle music. Very sexy violin and piano solos over heavy synthesizers that hearken Michiru’s violin skills and Haruka’s passion for racing. Unable to keep from arranging the songs, he has several versions of the S and SuperS ending themes; he uses much variety and totally changes the tone of the tune, as he is apt to do.
For the SuperS series he uses a few more woodwind and sax instruments to accompany ChibiMoon, to accompany the Amazon Trio. His music is more serious for these two seasons – he uses leitmotif much more often than before, as opposed to the many, many completely different melodies composed in the first two seasons.
3) THE MUSIC FOR SAILORSTARS
The soundtrack to the last season is released in two volumes, and contains the most variety found in Sailor Moon music.
The music is characterized by a much larger orchestra: a larger, lusher sound – their budget must have grown some! There is much more straight symphonic music on these CDs. There are many times when he arranges the opening and ending songs of the series, however this time he attains the most variety ever with his arrangements of songs: he totally changes the tone of the songs each time to fit the scenes he uses them in – more than ever before.
Each type of music on the CD is very separate and isolated. To wit: he does not meld the symphony with the synthesizers, he does not mix the synthesizers with the jazz sounds. Very unlike category 2, he uses classical instruments with synthesizers rarely. In that, the CDs contain many very different types of music. Some tracks are completely synthesized, some are completely traditional symphonic, some sound like techno dance music, some like good Jazz. Very few tracks that might be associated with easylistening. His music is much more dramatic and is reminiscent of a big-budget movie soundtrack at times.
The music he wrote for the Starlights is very distinctive, mysterious synthesizers for their appearance, and a fast techo beat for their henshin. His skill at achieving moods is evident most during this time because he evokes so many by not changing so much the notes of each leitmotif, but the arrangement. Just listen to each version of “The Wind and the Sky will certainly…” (Kaze mo Sora mo kitto…)
He composes fewer familiar new melodies than the previous periods, but (as I keep mentioning!) uses much variety in arrangement: the tracks do not have a common thread, the most significant difference from before. In this period, each piece is much longer than before, so each track contains only one or two pieces together. In addition, the tracks that DO have more than one piece are bound in that it is the same type of music put together, something foreign to the first period and still unreliable the second.
4) THE MUSIC FOR THE MOVIES
The first two movie (R and S) soundtracks were released by Forte Music, Inc. and have since gone out of print. They are very rare CDs in their original version: even the SonMay bootlegs are rare.
A full orchestra is used in the movies, complimented by harmonica, drums, Latin percussion and some electric instruments.
The R movie soundtrack has the most variety. Very little leitmotif is used in this film, but there is plenty of music. He uses the electric guitar as an equal with the orchestra at times…not like in the S or SuperS TV series – but with no prominent synthesizers or anything.
The S and SuperS movie music is marked for it excessive use of the leitmotif technique, putting John Willams to shame by predictably pushing that same musical button with the appropriate scene. The S soundtrack uses much Latin rhythm and brass music for comedy scenes, and also a very off-colour solo soprano that is supposed to sound menacing for the Ice Queen. The music is appropriate in the film, but the repetition can get annoying to listen to. There are a few good tracks.
In all the movies, every time the story slows down to explain something (“10,000 years ago the Queen of Darkness was put to Sleep and…”) Mr. Arisawa always plays some horrible tuneless harmonica solo that will make you wonder what floor your imaginary elevator will stop at.
The SuperS movie soundtrack has the fewest such moments, and is the most fully symphonic; not complimented by anything other than symphonic sound. This is consistent with his isolation of styles with the SailorStars TV music – it was right at the same time. This CD also has “Ami’s First Love” (Ami-chan no hatsukoi), music that sounds light and that you will associate with the second period. That is because of the fairly comedic nature of that short film: it had no strong drama.
The SuperS film is the most fully integrated and traditional sounding ‘movie music’ of the three.
It can be compared to maybe the Independence Day soundtrack, or Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail.
As far as Mr. Arisawa’s favorite method of arranging the songs…only ‘Moon Revenge’ in the R movie and ‘Morning Moon’ in the SuperS movie. He must have held back! You won’t find the arranged ‘Morning Moon’ on the SuperS movie track. You only hear it in the film.
The first two soundtracks have several pieces in one track. The SuperS movie soundtrack has one piece per track. This too is consistent with the music of the SailorStars season.
5) THE MUSIC COLLECTIONS
These two CDs contain mostly original music themed on the series. For example, he has music reminiscent of Tuxedo Mask, but not the Tuxedo Mask theme. He has music reminiscent of the Outer Senshi, but none of the Outer Senshi themes. The music is notable the compositions were not used in the series and the fact that each track has very little development. He will introduce the theme to a track (one per track) and then repeat it for five minutes. So even if you like the melody at first, it will all be BGM in the end. Driving Music.
There is an awesome guitar duo that plays an homage to Tuxedo Mask, it to drags on a little long…they all do. There are a few different types of music, but they lose their individuality very quickly because of the repetition. A guitar duo…sax solos…mawkish chorus with synthesizers and techno. Some tracks are wildly eclectic with respect to each other while some tracks are too similar with respect to each other.
He arranges some of the songs (Otome no Porishii on a harmonica….) from the series, but for the most part it is his original music. The last track of “Sailor Moon Music Fantasy” is heavy techno of the favorite Sailor Moon songs.
These CDs truly expose Arisawa Takanori as a genius at repetitive but good elevator music – in the end though, elevator music is still elevator music even if some of it IS eclectic.
6) THE SONGS
Here ends the discussion of Mr. Arisawa. He did not compose any of the songs, but was undoubtedly was a genius at arranging them.
The Sailor Moon songs began as particularly unedgy but very hummable and nice. The style changed and eventually the music came to resemble mainstream Japanese pop music. One can track this progression just by listening to the different versions of Moonlight Densetsu.
As far as image songs are concerned…some of the voice actresses are good vocalists…and some are not. Shinohara Emi (Sailor Jupiter) and Fukami Rika (Sailor Venus) are very good, but Mitsuishi Kotono (Sailor Moon) is not! The songs sung by the professional vocalists like Ishida Yoko (who sings Otome no Porishii) are well sung.
But I only have the R image album “Looking To the Future” (Mirai e mukatte). Furuta Toru is a terrible vocalist, and he should stick to being Tuxedo Mask and not sing!
However, the Sailor Moon songs, especially the ones well sung are very good and well arranged. The ending song to SailorStars is in my opinion the best.
7) SONG ARRANGEMENTS
(NOT arrangements by Arisawa Takanori)
The Sailor Moon R Symphonic Poem, the Sailor Moon S Piano Fantasia, the Sailor Moon S Choral, and Sailor Moon Orgel Fantasia are covered here.
These albums contain themed arrangements of the Sailor Moon Songs. They are not arranged by Arisawa Takanori.
Aside from Orgel Fantasia, they are very difficult to find and I am lucky to own the very rare R Symphonic Poem. The Piano CD I have downloaded, I own the Orgel one. And I do not own or have heard the Choral One.
The R Symphonic Poem CD is a fully orchestral rendering of the Sailor Moon songs, as well as original music by X (.kanji names are hard for me.) that is supposed to be reminiscent of Sailor Moon. Of the eight tracks, four contain songs…the other four have Sailor Moon-like orchestral music composed for the CD. The songs are often put together on the same piece and sound very natural arranged so. Imagine: “Route Venus,” “Kiss the Starlight,” “I am Sailor Moon,” and “Sharing the Same Tears,” AND “Fire Soul Love” all together on a six minute piece! It works very well. The music by X is also very good. The music is played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and was recorded in England in a church.
The Royal Philharmonic does a great job.
The Piano Fantasia actually only has two songs (Moonlight Densetsu and Otome no Porishii), and the rest consists of ‘the best of’ Arisawa Takanori’s music until the S series. So aside from the two songs, there is contained arranged for the piano the Tuxedo Mask theme, the Make Up! music, Haruka and Michiru’s music, as well as some battle music, Usagi bubbly music and the sweeter sentimental music. There is a reprieve of Moonlight Densetsu at the end, as well as some preludes and pieces for the Sailor Moon piano player fan to play along with.
I’ve heard two tracks from the Choral CD and am led to believe it is very good. I know it has songs arranged for chorus only. Not mawkish choral, but accapala Classical Cantata-like music that reminds me of Bach.
The Orgel Fantasy CD has the most popular Sailor Moon songs until the SuperS series arranged for the vibraphone (music box). The arrangement is very good, and these versions of the songs are very soothing. The songs appear exactly as do their original version, they do not change the development of the melody or anything, just replace everything with vibraphones.
Notice I don’t go into the Christmas Albums, the Drama albums or the Game Music. The first two speak for themselves, and the Game Music is near impossible to find, though it would provide some interesting insight as to Arisawa Takanori’s other styles.
~ Patrick Cunningham