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Anime Key Player Interview #11
Sumimasa Morita, CEO of FIREWORKS Part.2

2019.08.13


We’d like to hear about your childhood. Did you like anime or music as a child?

I liked music very much. Since I was in primary school, I have been listening to Southern All Stars and Anzen Chitai, etc. a bit mature for my age. Influenced by my father, I used to listen to Yukio Hashi as well. I used to listen to everything, from folk to new music, even idol music. I like catchy melodies, regardless of the genre. When I was in my third year of middle school, my friends and I started a band. It was that time we were copying bands like Rebecca, BOØWY, THE BLUE HEARTS. Back then, I remember my friend’s brother taught me how to play a few phrases of “Crazy Doctor” by LOUDNESS. 

Another artist that had an impact in my life was The Beatles. Anyone around the world was in the “you’re cool if you listen to The Beatles!” mood, and I thought it was a convenient way of putting things, but when I actually listened to The Beatles, I got the shock of my music life. Their music, including the melody and arrangement, was indeed very good.


How about anime?

I watched anime that everyone watched in general but now that I think about it, I feel like I suddenly stopped watching when I was in middle school. At that time, anime or anisong had not gained popularity as it has now, and it was a time when those things were considered “a bit embarrassing.”


So that was before Dragon Ball?

I used to enjoy watching Dr. Slump and I was disappointed when it finished. Then came Dragon Ball and I got absorbed into the world of Dragon Ball. I also watched the Gundam series at the same time. I remember using all the New Year’s gift money I saved to buy one of those Walkmans with recording function, and placing it in front of the television to record anisong. I’m not sure if the cassette tapes are still in my parents’ house, but I remember one time I was recording, I was watching on the second floor and my mother shouted from the first floor, “time to take a bath!” which got recorded (laughs). Back then, there was still no model which you can connect directly to the TV.

Back in the days, I think anisong was music produced to express the anime so I remember the names of characters or techniques, etc. appearing in the lyrics; hence, it was easy to memorize. It was around the 2000’s when anisong incorporated the essence of J-pop and western music into so-called “recent anisong style,” which became mainstream, and from there I think it was able to establish its position. However, nowadays, while the sound quality increased on the one hand, distinctive anisongs are decreasing on the other, and I recall feeling threatened by the increase in “commercial anisongs” that focus on the mainstream. I think that in producing anime or anisong, which should represent the Japanese culture, it is important to integrate both the old anisong style and the latest sound. In recent years, Producer Hiroyuki Omori of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Kohei Tanaka-sensei are doing exactly this so I thought “as expected!” I’ve known Mr. Omori for 15 years, and it just so happened that the artist who sang the main theme song of JoJo is a member of our agency. I knew Hiroaki “TOMMY” Tominaga, who sang the first opening of JoJo, from way back. He was a vocal instructor when I was the school head of the Dwango Creative School. There may be people who have the wrong impression that we forced the singers of the JoJo series into our agency, but it is really just a coincidence. If you do your job properly and for a long time, something good awaits you.
 


So you can say that was your starting point in anisong?

The quality of music of Urusei Yatsura series was really high. I recommend Urusei Yatsura 3: Remember My Love story-wise and music-wise. It was probably because of puberty, but when I watched it during my middle school years, I was deeply moved. The anime itself is mostly surreal comedy, but this work’s approach was a little bit different, you see. The music was great, too. I’ve never given it much thought until now, but as I talk about my experiences, I realize that I’ve had valuable childhood experiences.


That’s good to hear. Thank you for sharing your story with us. At present, what kind of music do you listen to?

Basically, I listen anything regardless of genre. I listed to what is popular right now, but I still like Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, Aerosmith, who I listened to in my adolescence. I didn’t delve deeper than Metallica. When I drive, I listen to hard rock most of the time. When I’m alone at home, I listen to music reminiscent of my teens. When I feel like being in the bath for a long time, I listen to OFF COURSE, Masashi Sada or Teresa Teng.


You listen to a wide range of musical genres.

I like listening to music depending on the situation. However, when I want to zone out I listen to Japanese music.


How about anisong, do you listen to it since your work involves anisong?

No, I don’t usually listen to it. Rather, I make an effort to not listen to it. At work, I have to listen to it a lot. I’d like to have a level feeling of music so I draw the line between work and private life. I like listening to old music and finding new discoveries from there. By doing so, I notice the roots of music that is popular now; there is an irregular part in the the music trends but I think that it goes into a loop in some sort of cycle (perhaps the preferences of human beings goes into a loop) so it comes in handy in anticipating what’s going to be popular or not.

Working with Okui-san is the starting point of my ”anisong works” so I like listening to the album and songs I was in charge of back in 2004. Sometimes, when people tell me that they like a song I produced without knowing that I produced them, it really makes me happy. It just shows that I really like myself.


Next: Mr. Sumimasa Morita Interview Part.3 will be published on 19 August, 2019!
 

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