Shojo Kageki Revue Starlight: the franchise that has taken its ‘musical x anime mixed media’ concept and turned it into a myriad of different projects. The TV anime, which has been one of the franchise’s main pillars, will soon be coming to an end. What are the secrets behind the revue songs that have appeared in nearly every episode, leaving a strong impression on the viewers in their wake? LisAni will attempt to answer this question by diving into a roundtable with the show’s staff. In part 1 of this talk between three of the music production team – the music producers, Teppei Nojima (Pony Canyon) and Kohei Yamada (APDREAM), and the lyricist, Kanata Nakamura – we will be looking back on the songs that featured in the first half of the series.
For this roundtable discussion, I would like to ask about how each revue song was made and what we should be listening out for. Perhaps we can start with episode 1’s ‘Until the World is Turned to Ash’?
Teppei Nojima: Right. First, we had something of a process for creating each revue song. We’d start with director (Tomohiro) Furukawa putting his idea into words, which I would take and then ask Yamada to compose the music based on that. When Yamada came back to me with the music, I’d run it past the director, and once he decided it was good to go, Nakamura would write the lyrics. However, with ‘Until the World Turned to Ash’, we only had the vague idea that we wanted to use the process of ‘film scoring’ (Translator’s note: composing music to accompany a video element), so we hadn’t the faintest clue how to actually go about it. The song we used was originally a candidate to be used as a ballade for the single ‘PRINCIPAL -Fancy You-‘. I had the director listen to it as well, and we decided to go with it. The composer, Kentaro Ishii, lives in Osaka, so we spoke to him over FaceTime.
Kohei Yamada: We just set up our computer and talked right there and then, didn’t we?
Nojima: I input the storyboards into some movie-making software to create an animatic (T/N: animated storyboard) and added in notes like “Eyes open. Song starts” to signal the start of the song. That’s what we showed him during that meeting.
Yamada: The software displays the cues as text.
Nojima: So going back to the process of making a revue song, we sent these animatics to each composer – with notes such as “This piece will be arranged like this” or “Hikari Kaguya will sing here” – added as cues to the video. The composer would use the animatic as a base to compose the song. That’s the first step [in making a revue song]. Once the draft composition was ready, there was a lot of work waiting for Yamada – like the orchestral recording, and so on.
Yamada: I discussed with the composer how the intensity of the instrumentation should change in accordance to the dialogue or movement on screen. I then ran this past everyone, and if they were all OK with it, we would move on to the recording. And that’s what we did for pretty much every episode.
Nojima: The director wanted the lip flaps to match with the singing as much as possible when the characters started singing and when their songs came to an end. So another thing we needed to pay attention to was making sure that the scoring matched the lip flaps relative to the storyboards. And of course, we also worked on aligning the animation with the music. As for the process of writing the lyrics, how was that for episode 1?
Kanata Nakamura: I focused on matching the lyrics with the staging and the feelings of the two characters [fighting in the revue]. There’s this line in the song, “My arrow, the embodiment of a shooting star, will pursue” – visually, what we see is arrows shot by Junna (Hoshimi) stitching their patterns among the stars on the stage. I was aiming for something blatant like that in episode 1.
So after this, you had a general grasp on how to compose a revue song. Did you go into episode 2’s ‘The Star Knows’ with that same idea?
Nojima: Episode 2 had its own set of problems. The piece was arranged from a song originally used in the (Revue Starlight) musicals. And since we were going around with the tagline of a musical x anime mixed-media project , I thought it would be nice for those who had already watched the musical version if one of its songs was performed in the anime as well. So I proposed that we put one of them into the anime. I thought that ‘The Star Knows’ best matched emotionally with episode 2, so that’s what we decided to go with, but it was a lot of work reworking a song that had already been completed.
Yamada: It wasn’t just about rearranging the piece – we also had to change its length to match the animation, and change the texture of the music and so on. So we had a lot of retakes. It took a fair bit of time to free ourselves from our earlier impressions of the piece. This was more a problem with us – the production side – than with the composer…
Nojima: We were also questioning ourselves. Even as we asked the original composer to rearrange the piece, we’d wonder if we were on the right path. I then had a discussion with Yamada about needing another perspective, or else the arrangement wouldn’t be well balanced, and so we brought three [other] people in to quickly rearrange the piece.
Yamada: (Kotaro) Okada, (Ryota) Fuji and (Naoki) Tani.
Nojima: The idea was to get these three, who are incredibly reliable, to come in and do their best to finish the arrangement.
Nakamura: Likewise, I found it difficult not to be influenced by the original lyrics of the song and write from a neutral standpoint. So – and this was especially the case with the exchange between Karen (Aijou) and Junna in the second half – the lyrics draw from the dialogue in the screenplay, and convey the same message. “Is the future unattainable? Surely no one can know that” – this was also meant to be Junna denying her own words, the lines she says after those cuts with Maya (Tendo) and Claudine (Saijo): “I could never reach them. They, who were always running ahead of me.” If anything I’d say that episode 1’s lyrics were written to match the staging, while for episode 2 they were drawn from the lines of dialogue.
So you wrote the lyrics such that they would flow on well from the dialogue
Nakamura: And adding lines of dialogue into the song itself weaves it all together even more seamlessly.
Nojima: We also want the songs to make sense even when listened to on their own…but it’s a lot of work, isn’t it?
Nakamura: It’s very time-consuming (laughs). But as a result, the finished songs are incredibly cute.
Did you experience difficulty with episode 3’s ‘Pride and Arrogance’ as well
Nojima: The storyboards for episode 3 were done by (assistant series director Takushi) Koide. He would say things like “Make sure this is in sync!”, showing us an animatic set to a temp music track. What he wanted was very clear, so this episode went quite smoothly (laughs).
Yamada: In fact, we didn’t have to change anything about the demo (T/N: that they produced in response to what they were asked for).
Nojima: Koide made an animatic and (Yoshiaki) Fujisawa drafted a musical composition to go along with it. However, when they were cutting the episode together during post-production, the length of the cuts (of animation) was changed ever so slightly. Fujisawa said that he struggled quite a bit modifying the song to match those changes…
Yamada: A shame, since it got through the first time, in terms of the music.
Nojima: We also wanted to bring the best out of (Maho) Tomita’s singing ability as Maya. In my mind, in the first three episodes, we completed a trilogy with those three early revue songs. I was glad that we were able to have Tomita sing the last of the three songs.
Nakamura also talked about this song in LisAni (Vol. 34).
Nakamura: But now that the three of us in this music production team are talking about this, I have remembered something even deeper. As Nojima said, the first three episodes can be bundled together, making it something like the first chapter (of the story). The lyrics of the first revue follows the staging and the lyrics of the second revue follows the dialogue. The third revue, ‘Pride and Arrogance’, puts these two ideas together. For example, we have a part where, in response to Maya singing “Come climb up, if you have the guts,” Karen climbs up towards Maya. There’s also a part earlier in the revue where they exchange dialogue. The one moment where I think the song and Maya’s thoughts come together is when Maya sings “Going higher and shining more.” There was some difficulty in deciding whether this phrase should be a line of dialogue or a part of the song. I think somebody told Koide about this, and he said “We might as well make it part of the song” and had Fujisawa put a melody to it.
Nojima: That’s pretty much the only line where the lyrics were written before the music. We also talked about how we could take some ‘dialogue-y’ parts and mix them together with the girls’ emotions to make the song. A revue is also a performance, so for the part starting with “The call of a goddess and the celestial throne,” we asked for lyrics that would give the impression that the revue song ‘Revue of Pride’ actually existed.
Nakamura: This was something I was quite particular about, but after the line “That gaze,” we see cuts of all the other girls. Like Claudine’s gaze, for example. I was very particular about this, so I’d be very happy if people noticed.
(The interview continues in the next page. You can find the page numbers below the ‘related articles’ section.)