Bringing Out the Local Color of a Fictional Country

by Isao Takahata

Interviewer: After serving as a producer for “Nausicaä” and “Laputa,” you are now involved in music direction for this film. Could you tell us specifically about your role?

 “I didn’t do anything particularly special. In essence, I was just delegated to handle the work the director would typically do regarding the music. It’s not like this film was especially challenging in terms of music, nor was there any special role assigned. I was simply asked by Director Miyazaki to assist, so calling it ‘music direction’ is a bit exaggerated.”


Interviewer: The effective use of Yumi Matsutoya’s songs from her era as Yuming is notable as insert songs. How did that come about?

 “Using a song in the opening titles was actually part of Miyazaki’s plan from the beginning. It was set to play from the radio. And so, the idea stemmed from wondering what kind of songs a girl like Kiki, who dreams of living in the city, would usually listen to. From there, we thought about selecting a song that represents an urban atmosphere, is relatable to our generation, and ultimately concluded that it should be Yuming’s songs.”

Interviewer: I heard that there was initially talk about creating original songs for the film.

 “Yes, but considering the concept of the song playing from the radio, it seemed more fitting to use existing songs, and the idea of using quotations was present from the early stages. As a result, we ended up using ‘Rouge no Dengon’ (Rouge’s Message) and ‘Yasashisa ni Tsutsumareta nara’ (When Wrapped in Kindness). Especially the latter felt perfectly suited for the film in terms of its imagery. Miyazaki-san used to listen to Yuming’s songs a lot back then.”

Interviewer: What are the characteristics of the music in this film?

 “This film is not your typical fantasy. ‘Totoro’ was the same in that regard, but Miyazaki-san wanted to create a story that is closer to reality. Although Kiki can fly in the sky, it’s not about flying in a cool way. The focus is on the daily portrayal and feelings of a young girl. Therefore, the music doesn’t emphasize the otherworldly aspects or intense battles. Instead, we adopted a theatrical approach for this unique European setting, aiming to capture the local color. Also, we intentionally avoided adding music to the difficult or sad parts. Aside from the songs, we established a separate main theme, the waltz, which is repeatedly used as Kiki’s emotions gradually expand. That can be considered a characteristic in terms of how the music is handled. Initially, I was worried because flying on a broomstick didn’t have a sense of speed, and we couldn’t use strange sound effects. But both Joe Hisaishi’s music and Yuming’s songs turned out to be a perfect fit for our intentions, and everyone was in high spirits, so I’m satisfied with the result.”

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