Staff Highlight: Yoko Kanno, the Composer

This is the fourth in my series of staff highlight posts. My sources include various written and video interviews, audio commentaries, and individual research.

Yoko Kanno is a music composer and instrumentalist known for her work in anime, live-action films, video games, and commercial advertisements. She’s an accomplished keyboardist and conductor and fronts her own band, who perform many of her compositions. Kanno has worked with several legendary directors, including Yoshiyuki Tomino, Shinichirou Watanabe, and Shoji Kawamori. She composed the music for Turn A Gundam.

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Turn A Gundam’s music is composed by Yoko Kanno.

Below is a highlight of info pertaining to her time on Turn A Gundam.

  • Previously worked with director Yoshiyuki Tomino on 1998’s Brain Powerd.
  • Views Tomino as a person concerned with the longevity of his work; that everyone from all ages should be able to understand and interpret his anime.
  • Does not think Tomino is as detailed as other directors when it comes to music composition and sound direction. His style of trying to portray what he wants out of a track is as often very simple-minded.
  • Kanno considers Tomino a very left-brained person who fills the atmosphere of a room with difficult vocabulary and jargon with little care to who he’s talking to or dealing with. This is difficult to navigate through, as music is an art governed by right-brained creativity.
  • Felt her creative sense was crippled during the production of Brain Powerd. Her back-and-forth discussions with Tomino were not constructive and limited her. Kanno used this experience to learn what type of director he was, because she really wanted to deliver quality music to his brand. Eventually she came to the conclusion that Tomino, in his on way, was telling her to compose as she pleases because she is the expert. This allowed her creative freedom and prowess to explode in Turn A Gundam.
  • Believes there is a big difference between anime music and Hollywood film music. In her view, Hollywood needs its music to complement a film and assist in its climactic moments; she believes anime requires music to become a part of the show’s identity. She wanted to accomplish this with Turn A Gundam.
  • Her music was beloved by all in the studio. During voice acting auditions, several of her tracks were being played and it captured the hearts of many of the applicants (corroborated by Romi Park).
  • On the 11th of November 1999, Yoko Kanno held a concert celebrating the show and the franchise’s 20th anniversary. It was conducted by Kanno herself and performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Many staff members, including Tomino, were present in the audience and in backstage. A DVD titled “Turn A Gundam, The Concert” was later released: it contains footage of the concert, as well as behind-the-scenes recording sessions, rehearsals, etc. A music CD is also included.
  • The Origa-Kanno association famous for its acts in the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series actually has its origins with Turn A Gundam. Origa performed with Kanno for the first time at the Turn A Gundam concert, singing the lyrics to “Moon”.
  • On many of Yoko Kanno’s tracks (before, during, and after her time on Turn A Gundam), a woman named Gabriela Robin is credited as the vocalist. However, whenever these songs were performed live, Robin would not be present and instead a guest performer would sing. It was common fan belief that Gabriela Robin was a pseudonym, but there had never been confirmation. In a written interview in 2009, Robin stated she’d be singing at an upcoming Yoko Kanno concert. At the concert, Yoko Kanno epicly revealed to the world that Gabriela Robin is indeed Kanno herself. She turned to the audience and began singing “Moon” from Turn A Gundam, in which Gabriela Robin is credited. Later in an interview, Kanno would confirm that it is a pseudonym she had kept hidden.

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