It’s Monday, and you know what that means! Thanks to our partners at Kodansha, we’ve got another special interview for you, this time with Fire Force Music Composer, Kenichiro Suehiro!
With Fire Force Season 2 well underway, we’re taking a deep dive into the creative process of the music for the show, what it’s like to work with hectic battle scenes, and much, much more.
Take a look below for the full interview with Suehiro-san, and let us know what anime interviews you’d like to see next!
First, please tell us what your impressions were when you were hired to create the music for the first season.
The series producer, Kensuke Tateishi, said he had a strong desire to “go with Mr. Suehiro,” and told us that his wish had come true.
Suehiro: That’s nice to hear. Fire Force is a dark fantasy with a spectacular background behind its imaginative story. Mr. Tateishi told me that he wanted music that would enhance that world setting.
Personally, a grand style of music is my favorite domain, and is the perfect complement to the content and worldview of the original story, so I am truly glad that I was nominated for the job.
When you read the original manga, was there anything in particular that drew you to it?
Suehiro: I can sum it up by saying “Interesting!” and “Cool!” I was moved from the very start of the story, and was infatuated with reading it.
While centering on Company 8, the mystery surrounding spontaneous human combustion is gradually revealed, along with the standout characters and the shining sense of design reflected in the detail of the clothes and buildings. It was compelling in all regards.
Did you already have any ideas in mind for the music while you were reading the manga?
Suehiro: Vaguely, yes. I imagined putting the focus on the action scenes, which are one of the series’ great attractions. I thought to myself that I’d like to make some music for this that builds up the dynamic battles while further intensifying the story.
You’ve been involved with a number of hit background music compositions, including the tracks for the Cells at Work! anime and the We Married as a Job drama series.
Did you have any moments while doing the music for this series that drew on your past experiences?
Suehiro: After working on a great deal of other wonderful productions, I have gained a sense that allows me to be extremely conscious for the feel of distance and resonance between the music and the scene.
Distance and resonance between the music and the scene?
Suehiro: For instance, the scale of this series’ story is extremely broad. I feel that its resonant worldview and historic setting fit very well with an orchestra, while on the other hand, the abundantly distinctive characters conversing among themselves, the tense scenes, the battle scenes and so forth all lend themselves more to the tone of programmed DTM (desktop music) or sampled music.
The unique design of the Special Fire Force’s equipment and the vibe they give off seems to go well with a more irregular digital sound.
I see. You’re right, I had the impression that the wide variety of genres the show’s music employs ranged from orchestral to more funky stuff. So that was the intent.
When did you gain your overall view for the music in the course of actually composing it?
Suehiro: That would have to be once the main theme was finished.
“Fire Force -MainTheme-.” That’s the piece that first plays in Episode 1, when Shinra goes to his first fire scene as a Fire Soldier. The mood of that piece does such a good job of matching the combination of conflict and bitter memories that he is going through in a scene as involved as that one is.
Suehiro: Thank you very much. However, I found it quite difficult to come up with a motif at the first part of the theme (the smallest unit of a melody in composition) that I was happy with. I remember that being some pretty rough sailing.
But, with the upshot being that the creation of this piece covered our hero’s determination, action, demeanor and state of mind, it was worth all the hard work that went into it (laughs).
While creating the music for the series, did you receive any inspiration from anywhere outside the original manga?
Suehiro: Yes, from the original author, Ohkubo-sensei. He is someone who is very passionate about music as well. While we were coordinating things, I was able to ask him what his favorite music was, and what he liked to listen to while he drew the series. Inspiration welled up within me, and it was awfully instructive.
So you and Ohkubo-sensei discussed these things?
Suehiro: I took that input from him, as well as ideas from Director Yase, Sound Director Aketagawa and the other producers as to how to build up the world setting, and incorporated them into the music. After that, once the main theme’s motif came about, the rest of the work went smoothly.
Was there anything you focused on in your other pieces, other than the main theme?
Suehiro: The action scenes, and of course the scenes that show the resolve leading up to them, are very important to this series. I consolidated both orchestral and digital media for those.
For other scenes, I centered the music on house, electro, breakbeat and other such genres. To sum it up, I went for an orchestra-plus-digital feel.
The series had a lot of dialogue for the characters, and there was a lot of music that had to go along with conversations. How do you consider creating such scenes from a background music standpoint?
Suehiro: First of all, it’s a given that background music gets used as a bed for dialogue, so I write all the pieces with that in mind. While the series has some intense action scenes, the day-to-day scenes also have a surreal, distinctive feel to them. There are also a lot of back-and-forth exchanges between the characters.
I use elements of breakbeat, house and electro to build up the music for scenes like these. It might be easier to describe them as songs that play with rhythm, rather than melody, so that they don’t get in the way of the conversation.
Now that you mention it, the daily life scenes do have music where you’re not aware of the melody, don’t they? That’s in direct contrast to the battle scenes.
Suehiro: Yes, on the other hand, for the battle scenes, I’ve created a personalized “Devilbeat” style especially for Shinra’s action scenes, for which I don’t use the orchestra, and rely on digital instead.
It fits well with his fight scenes, and the pieces are favorites that serve their purpose better than I expected them to.
So the reason why Shinra’s fight scenes always had a different flavor about them has to do with the influence the music crafted for those scenes had on them.
If there are any other bits of musical distinctiveness that are hard to pick up on, I’d sure like to hear about them.
Suehiro: There are a bunch of things, but the one that’s most easily recognizable, if I can offer an example from Episode 1, are the scenes where the Matchbox rolls out, where Shinra steps forward on his first mission as a Fire Soldier, during the fight scene with the factory manager’s wife, and the epilogue scene afterward.
In each of these scenes the main theme motif that I mentioned earlier is used in the music that plays. If you listen closely, you’ll be able to pick out the same melody here and there, so I hope you’ll enjoy listening for those.
After hearing what you have to say, it’s clear that the passion you put throughout your music elevates the storytelling even higher. Upon actually watching the first season air, did you feel the impact of it?
Suehiro: When the main theme played in Episode 1, as Shinra made his resolve to fight, it touched a chord. I felt like I was really able to support how cool the intense action scene was and the grand scale of storytelling on display with my music.
The harmony of the music in Episode 23, during Sho and Shinra’s battle scene, is also a favorite of mine.
Are there any changes in the music for the upcoming second season?
Suehiro: First off, for the second season, I’m tinkering with the main theme motif that I prepared for the first season, and doing special new reworkings of the main theme for the fighting scenes. They will be deeper, featuring a more individualistic approach.
The main theme is getting a makeover!
Suehiro: Yes it is. In terms of musical language, there will be brostep, big room and other dance genres, as well as metal and soundtrack orchestral music featured at the heart of the fighting music, and for the other pieces, I will draw on the music from the first season and prepare something new for each situation.
The music will keep evolving as we enter the second season, so please look forward to enjoying it!
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