Like all forms of video media, the music in anime is a powerful element that contributes to the story being told. It takes the right composer with the right experience & creative mindset to help build the world being presented with the appropriate musical arrangement. BEASTARS is one such show where the music complements the storytelling in a seamless way, thanks to the work of series composer Satoru Kosaki. Mr. Kosaki has a long storied career creating music for an array of popular games and anime over the course of his 20-year (and still going strong) career. We sat down with him to discuss the inspiration and ideas behind the music for BEASTARS, and how his experience had contributed to creating its absolutely wonderful soundtrack.
OTAQUEST: For making the music of BEASTARS, how did you interpret this anime?
Satoru Kosaki: In terms of the theme, I feel that there is nothing like the ‘Anthem of a human borrowing an animal figure’. There are various species in the anime, so it’s about the conflict of instinct and reason based on ‘diversity affirmation’.
OTAQUEST: The music left an impression of an ethnic tone and a feeling of live musical instruments. I think what you just described led to the music, but how did you develop the imagination of the music?
Satoru Kosaki: In the first meeting, the director was very particular about how they wanted to add music, and he said: ‘I want to control the part where music inspires instinct’. It was very challenging, and I thought by adding regular music to BEASTARS would make the attractive and cool pictures feel ordinary. When I thought about what kind of music would fit that kind of story, Gypsy music came to my mind. It is an ethnic style of music that has influenced classical music by merging with local cultures. Nostalgia, vitality, and exoticism are all together in the music. That’s why I decided to choose Gypsy music as the main theme. Pathos is one of the themes of the music this time.
OTAQUEST: Classical music, jazz, and various genres of music appear in the anime. The diversity of Gypsy music is definitely felt there.
Satoru Kosaki: Yes, I realized that Eastern European classical music has similar roots by actually making that kind of music this time. The main theme is a triple meter waltz, but if it’s played by live musical instruments, it would sound like a street performance, and if it is played on a piano or string instruments, it would sound like Chopin. It could turn into a different genre just by different arrangements.
OTAQUEST: For the main theme, what kind of image did you have when creating it?
Satoru Kosaki: It came from the overall view of BEASTARS and the visual image of Legoshi. I often start making productions from visual images, but especially this time, it was hard to get the image until I got the rendering, so I made it from the image of the original manga.
OTAQUEST: What did you feel about the characteristics of Paru Itagaki’s art?
Satoru Kosaki: Each of her lines has their own expressions and they are lively. It’s simple but shows various expressions. I think the charm of the lines is the same as the charm of the sounds of trumpet and clarinet if we convert it to music. I got inspiration from this when making Legoshi’s theme music.
OTAQUEST: Regarding the theme music for each character, different musical instruments are used by each species.
Satoru Kosaki: This time, the secret theme of the anime’s music is mainly using wind instruments. It’s one of the characteristics of Eastern European Gypsy music, so I really wanted to use those instruments, and I thought it would be interesting if each instrument and each species link together, such as carnivores with brass instruments, and herbivores with woodwind instruments. Also, the size of the instruments corresponds to the size of the animals. By growing an image from that, we decided that a trombone would fit for Legoshi, the middle-sized carnivorous animal, and a flute for Haru, the small herbivorous animal.
OTAQUEST: I see. That’s very easy to understand.
Satoru Kosaki: Yes. Especially, the trombone was very interesting among the links. The trombone can make very violent sounds, but I intentionally tried to use round soft sounds this time. I think it represented Legoshi well in that he is carnivorous, but also introspective. For Louis, his theme is jazz, so I thought it might be odd, but linking the characters with instruments brought a sense of unity to the overall music.
OTAQUEST: Do you have any particular thoughts about making music for each scene?
Satoru Kosaki: For each scene, basically each song was made from the characters in the scene but also from the direct image of the scene itself. The violin’s hysteric sounds are used for predation and mature scenes, and also a synthesizer is intentionally used in a typical way. It’s made differently from the themes of each character.
OTAQUEST: The music in shocking scenes heats up and seems to turn a lot of heads.
Satoru Kosaki: Yes. I wanted everyone to know the world view of BEASTARS by just listening to the sound and I didn’t want to make it ordinary. The music shouldn’t be ordinary when animals are standing up, walking, and talking. (laughs)
OTAQUEST: I felt overall the music is serious.
Satoru Kosaki: It’s serious except for Gouhin.
OTAQUEST: Yes, except for Gouhin (laughs)
Satoru Kosaki: His existence is like a joke, so I made it Enka (Japanese traditional ballad), then it got buzzed (laughs) There were even arguments from our staff, but I still think the music matches well.
OTAQUEST: I heard that you made the music like a film score this time.
Satoru Kosaki: Yes. This was also the director’s intention. All of the new music was written while watching the video. I also went to the dubbing, so I specifically instructed staff where to insert music and I even did the edit.
OTAQUEST: What did you think when you saw the completed production?
Satoru Kosaki: I thought it felt like a live-action movie that has less music. In a regular anime, a part where a picture has no motion or has less information is covered by music, but CG is constantly moving, so this time, it feels like there is a lot of music equal to the pictures to make the pictures stand out.
OTAQUEST: You also took a part in the weekly ending as a music producer. How did you make the endings?
Satoru Kosaki: For the main 3 songs, ‘Le zoo’. ‘Nemureru Honno’ and ‘Marble’ were under my supervision, but they were written by a younger composer from my office (MONACA). ‘Le zoo’ was very hard to make but I think it turned out good. I thought the song needed to be something that overlooks BEASTARS from a third-person view, so I wrote it as pop with an image of youth life which is completely different from the soundtrack. On the other hand, the opening song had the same world view as the anime, and it represents the anime well. For ‘Nemureru Honno’ and ‘Marble’, I’m very familiar with the staff, and I think we had a consensus from the beginning to agree that it should be BEASTARS-like and also should make the most of YURiKA’s voice since they would be her songs. These characteristics were well applied to the songs.
OTAQUEST: 2019 is your 20th anniversary as a music composer. Was your experience useful for this production?
Satoru Kosaki: Yes. Since I have worked on many kinds of genres, the variation in my work was useful. Also, I have recently re-studied about classical music, and I think it helped too.
OTAQUEST: Do you have the same concept when you work on songs and work on soundtracks?
Satoru Kosaki: I like Ms. Yoko Kanno. I always think that she is cool because she works on both songs and soundtracks. I wanted to be like her, so I work on both too. I don’t have any different concepts for making songs versus soundtracks. My melodic lines might be stronger for a soundtrack as a composer, but I think it’s just my personality. The power that music has in video production is immense and has a huge responsibility. It’s important to consider ‘How do we direct the production from the music side?’ and I am always thinking about that and trying to make the production better.
OTAQUEST: Lastly, the genre of anime song has become popular recently, and I think you are one of the people who has contributed to that popularity. At OTAQUEST, we have staff from America who received a large amount of influence from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Lucky Star.
Satoru Kosaki: I’m glad. I’ve been receiving comments from foreigners on twitter, but I only tweet in Japanese, so it’s hard to communicate with them and I don’t have any connections overseas. I wish I could get an offer from someone in North America or Europe. I usually work with my clients, so I’d like to see fans both in Japan and overseas.
OTAQUEST: How do you feel about the current situation where so many people enjoy anime songs?
Satoru Kosaki: Anime songs totally depend on the anime, so even a good song can be forgotten, but anime fans still listen to my music just because ‘it’s used in anime’ and I’m very grateful about that. I really feel it especially when I go to Animelo Summer Live (Japan’s biggest anime song festival). Anime songs are blessed that anime fans get excited even if they don’t know the song itself and they listen with love, however, because anime songs have become so diversified and it has become more interesting, I feel a little sad that not so many anthems are born anymore.
OTAQUEST: Speaking of Animelo Summer Live, you were in charge of composing and arranging for the theme song in 2018 and teamed up with Ms. Miho Karasawa who was in charge of the lyrics. How was teaming up again with Ms. Karasawa for the ending song this time?
Satoru Kosaki: Her lyrics touch my heart. It comes directly from the front. She is very straight forward and I’ve never met such a person, so it strikes my heart very hard. I think that’s a very nice characteristic.
OTAQUEST: I hope people will enjoy the music and contents for BEASTARS including these parts.
Satoru Kosaki: Yes. Of course, it would be best if people watch the anime but it would still be fun to just listen to the soundtrack. YURiKA’s song is also worth listening to.
We would like to thank Mr. Satoru Kosaki for participating in this interview, and congratulate him on his recent career anniversary! You can hear his work on BEASTARS on NETFLIX.