Exploring the relationship between visuals and music – An Interview With Mika Kobayashi and Tetsuro Shimaguchi

The voice behind Kill La Kill’s Before My Body Is Dry, Mika Kobayashi and her frequent collaborator, Tetsuro Shimaguchi speak during this rather unique interview which brings together the audio and visual aspects of Anisong. Read on to find out more about how these two aspects come together!

Mika Kobayashi

Mika Kobayashi is a composer and singer who has collaborated with various artists such as photographer chika okazumi and sword fight choreographer Tetsuro Shimaguchi to further express her music to her listeners. Readers may know her for singing the insert songs bios from Guilty Crown as well as “Before My Body Is Dry” from Kill La Kill. She has only been involved in the anime industry since late 2011. However, with her breathtaking vocals, she has provided a whole new dimension to how an insert song can affect the overall ambiance and mood of an anime.

Tetsuro Shimaguchi

Tetsuro Shimaguchi is a sword fight choreographer known for directing the sword fight scenes in Kill Bill Vol. 1. He also established and is currently leading Kamui ; a worldwide samurai sword artist group. Kamui’s performances revolves around Kengido and is often accompanied by various music that ranges from traditional to rock to trance as they incorporate traditional and modern Japanese samurai culture into their performances to offer a blend of both styles. Kengido comprises of a mixed style of Japanese sword play and expressive arts. Readers who are interested in Japanese samurai culture with a twist should definitely watch some of Kamui’s live performances.

Kamui is not only highly regarded in Japan, but in foreign countries as well. They have held numerous performances overseas in countries such as Spain and Italy. Famous people such as director Quentin Tarantino have also praised their sword performances.

Mika Kobayashi

Q: You have sung a number of insert songs for different anime like Aldnoah Zero, Kill la Kill, Gundam Unicorn. Out of all of them, which one is your favorite song?
A: It’s really hard to choose as I like them all. For example, when singing songs from Shingeki no KyojinSawano would tell me to imagine the feeling of the Titans invading, so I had a really fun time picturing this scenario. In live, I would imagine myself as a titan when performing the songs from the anime. For more upbeat and rock songs, I would picture myself fighting on the battlefield as I sing.

Q: How did you manage to overcome the language barrier when singing “Before My Body Is Dry” and “Bauklötze”, seeing that they were in English and German respectively?
A: It was difficult to sing in another foreign language (English and German), I had trouble with nuances, pronunciations and the amount of breath used for pronouncing the foreign words. I get really frustrated if I cannot pronounce the words properly even though I had tried my best.

Q: How fluent are you in speaking German?
A: As I cannot speak any other languages apart from Japanese before my collaboration with Hiroyuki Sawano and prior to singing “Bios”, I had to pick up the pronunciations from katakana.  If you were to present me German in romanji, I would not be able to read it. German was chosen as nobody in Japan could speak it. Sawano wanted to make it like a chant to bring out the language.

Q: Majority of the songs that you sung were from action anime. If you were given the opportunity to sing for another genre, what genre would that be?
A:  It is true that most of my songs have to do with action packed anime. In the future, I would like to try a hand in fantasy anime, perhaps with some elements of magic. However,  I’m worried that my voice might not be suited for those kinds of songs. But nevertheless, if given the opportunity, I would want to try it out.

Q: Your insert songs in anime series such as Guilty Crown, Kill la Kill, Aldnoah Zero etc. were composed by Hiroyuki Sawano. How would you describe him?
A:  He is an interesting person, he is fun to work with during recordings and his songs are cool.

Q: Does Sawano’s style of music affect people’s impression of your singing style?
A: As a vocalist, I feel that my horizons has been widen from our collaboration. My songs convey how it feels to be a female as well as the beautiful scenery of Japan. When collaborating with Sawano, we would voice our own opinion on how the song should be sung. For “bios”, I wanted it to have a more traditional German feel.

Q: If given the chance, which artist/composer would you like to work with in the future?
A: I would like to broaden my perspective on how music should be done. Hence, I would like to collaborate with people outside the field of music to explore alternative routes which I can take to convey music to my listeners.

Tetsuro Shimaguchi

Q: What are your thoughts behind your samurai style?
A: In the beginning, the samurai style was brought out in movies and stage performances. By incorporating it with elements of music and filming elements, it brings more life into the samurai style and makes it more wholesome.

Q: How did you begin your collaboration with Mika Kobayashi?
A:
Initially both myself and Kobayashi were shooting for a television production. Kobayashi approached me to initiate a collaboration. She felt that the meaning of her songs were too deep to convey to the Japanese population and believed that a collaboration can lead to her songs reaching out to more people. Every time I listen to her sing, I felt that it was like “poison” as I am drawn into this unique world she brings out during her performances.

The interview with Kobayashi and Shimaguchi was definitely an insightful one, bridging together the visual and musical aspects of anime! We hope to be able to attend more interviews that will touch more on this often overlooked aspect in anime!

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