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Tom Smith on the man behind the music

Shinji Aramaki’s digital reimaging of Japan’s classic sci-fi adventure Space Pirate Captain Harlock is serious business. Not only is it ranked amongst Toei Animation’s most expensive productions to date, weighing in with a mighty £20+ million budget, its staff is also a who’s-who of the Japanese animation industry.

Producer Yoshiyuki Ikezawa went as far as to say that the team behind the ambitious 30-year return of Harlock are strong enough to challenge the world’s best in animation, and if the reviews are anything to go by, he may be right. The likes of Variety is already calling Harlock a “treat for anime fans”, while Twitch Film claims it “brings CGI to the next level”.

At Harlock’s helm is noted mecha designer (including work in M.A.S.K. and Gundam) Shinji Aramaki, who has also directed a number of big projects, including the very first CG Appleseed movie in 2004, where he crossed paths with composer and arranger Tetsuya Takahashi. Up until this point, Takahashi had mostly been arranging tracks for a handful of adverts, small anime series and bands (including J-pop group KAT-TUN), but this project placed him in full control of entire tracks for the first time – not to mention being his first outing in the world of full-length film.

Takahashi’s ability to capture the atmosphere and power of Appleseed through music led to him working with Aramaki on all three computer animated outings of the franchise. In fact, since meeting, Aramaki has insisted that if he’s directing, he wants Takahashi by his side taking care of sound. The twosome even worked together on Aramaki’s short for Halo Legends as well as Starship Troopers: Invasion, utilising Takahashi’s ability to muster up quality battle music, the pinnacle of which he may have reached with this intense theme from Harlock:

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After listening to that, it’s almost difficult to believe that Takahashi started his career by penning catchy jingles in commercials. Way back in the summer of 1987 he managed to win an advert audition, and then followed the path of catchy TV tunes for nearly a decade, until making his debut as a singer-songwriter in 1996 with his single Just Only Love, released under EMI.

These days, Takahashi has taken a backseat in the world of pop music, and instead of fronting his own work, he can be found penning hits for a number of huge Japanese stars, including J-pop diva Koda Kumi and boy bands such as EXILE, SMAP and Arashi. Of course, he still works in film and anime music too, where he’s recently been responsible for music from the anime renditions of X-Men, Wolverine and Iron Man, as well as the animated outings of Resident Evil and Dragon Age. Takahashi is truly a one-man music-making machine.

Harlock Space Pirate is available from 27 April 2015 as a collectors edition 3D/2D Steelbook Blu-ray, and regular UK DVD, courtesy of Manga Entertainment.

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