Okay okay. I will make up for the prank I have pulled earlier.
I will repent my immediate sins by kicking off this month’s blog tour for the OWLS team!
I welcome you all to the month of April (not a prank, bro). I am sure that by now you would have got used to the OWLS touring format so please check ou–
Oh. I’m up first.
I could have sworn that Lyn has put this theme up on purpose after having read my March post for Yorimoi. I said that I would unlikely make a return for this month so here it conveniently is — a theme requested by yours truly: “Melody”
In one way, music is form of healing and self-expression. For this month’s topic, we will be exploring some of our favorite musical pieces (anime/drama OST’s, movie soundtracks, music genres and etc.) and how it has impacted our lives and/or reasons why we enjoy listening to it.
…except that Jun Maeda uses music to break me.
A little disclaimer here: This post will be moderately heavy on the links, almost all of which are just music videos on YouTube. I did not take my time to find them in order for you to not listen! So I highly suggest you listen to them for half a minute each; this is a music post after all!
Back when the visual novel studio Key lived their golden days, the hypes surrounding them were too good to be true for most of the time. If you have been following the studio for as long as I have been then I’m sure, we can both agree that the hype got killed indefinitely after good ol’ Charlotte. Hardly anybody cared about their brand anymore, proven by how much attention Rewrite has gotten despite being the studio’s somewhat true of a comeback.
It actually does not matter much for them because even Maeda knows that his company is well loved not for his well written stories or heart-touching philosophies seen from his earlier works, but actually for his ability to constantly produce top quality soundtracks, openings, endings and insert songs which comes packed with meaningful lyrics and melodious tones. While it is true that Maeda is mostly credited for this feat, the other two big dogs from his company, Orito Shinji and Togoshi Magome, should not be left out by any means.
Music speaks to the heart and these guys really know how to gently grasp the chambers and later crush them. And we really love having our hearts broken again and over again. That is the basic formula they have found to be working on many of us who probably cried our eyeballs out despite knowing that ninjas are cutting onions in the house. Emotional things tend to be heavily relatable. And music being purely an audio waveform, has to resonate really well with our emotionally unstable minds in order to make us keep coming back for more. Once you go on a feels trip, you will always go on a feels trip.
I have already answered in my 30 day anime challenge, saying that the first anime I’ve ever willingly watched was Clannad and that it was the Afterstory‘s opening from Lia which hooked me into the show.
Yes, this song is composed by yours truly Jun Maeda. But do you know what else is composed by the man?
Many other songs that make up unforgettable VN/Anime openings today. You are definitely missing out on some values in life if you have never heard of at least one song from this compilation video…
Adding Shinji and Magome onto the worktable and you have pretty much nearly the entirety of Key’s openings and endings playlist.
All-round in Audio
The trio really pride themselves in their musical expertise and it has always been great to see them coming out with works and smiles on their face as they patiently wait for reception. Maeda alone has had plenty of this and boy, they are all moments for us to remember!
So how does he come up with all of these heavenly melodies and angelic lyrics many times per project?
I have been a long time listener to soundtracks from Key’s visual novels and from what I have noticed, it is not just Maeda—but the other two also—create full length music from the already made soundtracks used for the same project. What do I mean by this?
Here is an example, Dango Daikazoku is that one song anyone who has watched Clannad will never forget. But which version you do think?
The movie or the anime?
Kyoto Animation really did not want to be mistaken for Toei when they’d adapted the VN into a TV series. They did not borrow anything from Toei more than the character designs; maybe because of the sheer confidence that they could outdo the latter (which they actually did). Maeda was not going to sit still after knowing that his beloved visual novel got a second chance at anime medium so he lent a hand to KyoAni by composing another version of Dango Daikazoku. This time however he straight up did what he was best known to be doing; using soundtracks he’d already made as a guiding melody. And the track he chose to use as a guide was no other than Nagisa’s theme, coincidentally called “Nagisa“.
The same track also became the starter melody for one hell of a tearful insert song, Chiisana tenohira.
I hope you get the idea behind Maeda’s (and the other two’s) masterful composition. Adding lyrics into the already made instrumentals is not as easy as you think unless you have the mind of a true artist; the imagination beyond a normal person. Here are some more examples of soundtracks from Clannad VN which got turned into full length, vocal versions:
CD 1 Track 1: Ushio –> Komorebi
CD 1 Track 2: Gensou –> Shoujo no Gensou
CD 1 Track 4: Machi, tokinonagare, hito –> Ichiman no kiseki
CD 1 Track 6: Sore wa Kazenoyouni –> Over
A Unique Weapon
Jun Maeda has Lia signed directly to Key Sounds Label. And as artistically faithful as Lia can be, she mostly works for him so if you can hear a song from her, chances are that it is for a Key related project. If you have not heard of Lia and her songs then please do me a favor and get to know both now!
She is usually the one who delivers Maeda’s grand composing ability to the audience. Lia can be found doing a large amount of opening themes for VN’s and later anime adaptations for those specific games, otherwise she can also be seen teaming up with Maeda for when he goes on to do projects not for his company; like Angel Beats! and Charlotte for example.
And then there is this VN I still wish that it gets anime adaptation before I die…
Light Colors is definitely one of Lia’s best songs to date. Oh and of course, it is composed by Jun Maeda.
Maeda himself is not that restrictive either; he would at times team up with other vocalists to broaden his vision when composing songs. If anything, LiSA earned her fame straight up from Maeda’s help, having debuted in Angel Beats!, singing Yui’s version of the show’s songs.
A Composer’s Habit
Nothing can really stop you when you are the boss and Maeda knows it fully. Another funny pattern found in his works is that he tends to compose theme songs for characters he deemed “important”.
Taking Clannad as an example again: Kyou’s theme is composed by Orito Shinji while Kotomi’s, Fuuko’s and Tomoyo’s themes are composed by Togoshi Magome. This leaves Nagisa’s theme being shotgun’d by Jun Maeda. Those feels-inducing insert songs are also composed by him.
Pretty much the exact same pattern is found in Little Busters! where Maeda takes care of the opening theme for the VN and both anime seasons, EX’s ending theme, (1st, 2nd and ED), Rin’s theme song, Saya’s song and that tear-jerker of an insert song, Faraway.
And if you think it cannot be anymore emotional, Maeda has the lyrics covered:
Round and round I had gone in the same place just here waiting
Even though I am completely worn out now.
From a place of pitch-black darkness, not a bit of light was let in;
I kept reaching out my hand just a bit more further.
Now that everything’s over, i just wanna say thank you;
Goodbye to everybody that I treasured loads.
From a place of pitch-black darkness, not a ray of light was gleaming,
Patiently I remained waiting there for you
Until I was left all alone myself.
I don’t care how faraway ’twas,
I don’t care what kind of light ’twas,
I’ll hold on, crossing over a thousand of stars aglow.
I can see you laughing away. Does that mean I’m laughing as well?
Together we had shared so many days like that under the clear sky.
You were always there trailing from behind my back,
Timidly peaking out to have a look at me.
That tiny world you saw from there, what sort of wo~rld was it?
I wonder if you found anything fun there?
Did you see that rainbow from back there?
No matter how faraway it was,
The end is waiting for us all;
Even so, I’ll go~ forward and cross over today’s rainbow;
If you would keep laughing away, I will keep laughing as well,
So that I can go and turn up at that faraway summer day too.
I don’t care how faraway ’twas,
Though I can’t see the light ‘nymore.
I’ll grasp it, and outshine o-ur endless times away now.
I can see you laughing away. Does that mean everyone is too?
To think that such a day would ever come to pass at all..
I’m so proud.
I have Rin’s theme song as my ringtone so there is that…
Little Busters! OST was definitely my most favorite of all Maeda’s works. That’s right; I’d just admitted Clannad being inferior so fight me.
This guy is pretty good with bad jokes, as seen from his writing in his latest shows *cough Charlotte*.
When he’d said that he went on a break, he meant to take one from doing his work directly for this company, Key. What he has been able to do while on his self-entitled break is salvaging some of his story and music ideas from his imagination scrapyard. I never said they were trash because what came out of that was Angel Beats! and everything musically bliss about it.
Maeda worked solo then — without his company behind his back. He teamed up with Anant-Garde Eyes and produced just a little shy of fifty tracks for the anime. He’d also brought in his good ol’ work habit, calling composition shotguns on the more important tracks such as Kanade’s theme (which for some reason again, is literally named after her), three other tracks that would later have their full, lyrical and vocal version, and all of Girls Dead Monster’s songs. This leaves everything else to Anant-Garde Eyes. Maeda did not even care about the protagonist Otonashi; at least not enough to be composing a theme song for him.
For the last time, here are the tracks which were used as guides for some of the most beautiful songs we hear today:
CD 1 Track 8: my most precious treasure –> Ichiban no Takaramono
CD 2 Track 2: my heart –> My Soul, Your Beats!
CD 2 Track 3: soul friends –> Brave Song
He then went and repeat literally all of his ethics in Charlotte. The show may have questionable writing but that thing is musically gorgeous — I will admit that much. Check out the OST list and see which tracks Maeda called shotguns on composing. You really don’t have to guess anymore and can totally count on Maeda being responsible for the opening song.
Jun Maeda has his invaluable place in my heart and memory. The man himself has not only changed how music is to be presented in an anime show but he has also helped many artists grow along the way. He was able to do all of that on top of pleasing us fans with his constant stream of quality musical pieces. Forget name-calling the guy for what he is today and remember him as a hero who took our hearts by storm. He robbed my tears, your tears — our tears, come on!
Did you survive the flood of tears brought to us by Maeda, from his fans?
Try and ask Zoe over at Let’s Talk Anime and see if she survived the flood since she is next up to talk about her own genre of musical feels.
Thank you for reading and hopefully listening to some of the tracks featured on here. The Feel Trip is over so away you go.
Take those tissues with you, too!
5 thoughts on “Jun Maeda had me sold, musically. [OWLS 2018 April “Melody” Blog Tour]”
I doubt that it’s relevant, but one reason I’m interested in seeing Clannad is that there’s also a band by that name. They play traditional Irish-style music…Nothing at all like the theme to the series 🙂
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There is however, some relevance to the Irish tradition as Jun Maeda purposely named the visual novel after an old Irish word “clannad”, which means something along the lines of “family”. I don’t think it’s coincidence that the band Clannad is playing traditional Irish style music then, haha!
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