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From Naruto to Fairy Tail

Saturday 31st May 2014

Paul Browne on the music of Yasuharu Takanashi

Yasuharu TakanashiTwo high-profile Manga Entertainment releases have something in common in the form of musician and composer Yasuharu Takanashi. It’s the distinctive musical strokes of Takanashi that appear on the new Naruto movie The Lost Tower as well as the upcoming movie addition to the Fairy Tail series – Phoenix Priestess.

Based in Tokyo, Takanashi developed an early interest in the rock and metal side of music, citing the likes of Deep Purple and Rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore as an influence. During the 1980s however, Takanashi decided to swap keyboards for guitars while still in his teens and carved a career through Japanese rock outfits such as Hellen and PLANET EARTH.

Takanashi later switched up to become part of 634 Musashi – a rock outfit that put out a number of album releases from the late 1990s through to their last album Miyamoto Musashi in 2002. During this period, the ambitious Takanashi was already exploring soundtrack work, including contributions associated with PRIDE – the Japanese mixed martial arts event as well as delving into the world of video games on titles such as Genji: Dawn of the Samurai. These early years also saw Takanashi begin anime soundtrack work, of which the most notable is New Fist Of The North Star in 2003.

Although a rock purist at heart, Takanashi was also keen to combine a contemporary rock approach with more traditional Japanese music themes, which led to the formation of -yaiba-, an outfit that achieves his ideas with a guitars, keyboards and Japanese drums. It’s this approach that gives much of Takanashi’s work an earthy, organic feel to it, while still managing to stir the senses for action sequences. This distinctive concept is all over much of his soundtrack work, particularly Takanashi’s later contributions to the Naruto series. But along the way he was also lending his talents to a broad variety of other anime titles, including Ikki Tousen, Monokoe and Hell Girl.

Yasuharu Takanashi

But in 2007, with the arrival of Naruto: Shippuden (the continuation of the already popular Naruto series), Takanashi had a long-form title that gave him the opportunity to really stretch his musical abilities. From the wistful strains of tracks such as ‘Kikyo’ through to the epic tones of ‘Narukami’, Takanashi shows the ability to paint on a broader musical palette. On 'Guren' for instance, Takanashi demonstrates that he's more than capable of putting the rock trappings to one side to invoke a particularly heart-wrenching moment purely through the deft strokes of his composition work. In fact Takanashi’s contributions to the Naruto series saw him scoop one of the prestigious JASRAC awards for the soundtrack.

Takanashi’s work on Naruto Shippuden led him to another long-running title with the magical girl anime Pretty Cure. Takanashi’s work here (often in collaboration with other composers including Naoki Sato and Hiroshi Takaki) provides more examples of his talent for creating stirring panoramic soundscapes.

Meanwhile, the magical exploits of the team in Fairy Tail offered up more opportunities for Takanashi’s anime composition work to evolve. Here, he makes more use of traditional instrumentation, particularly string and wind instruments, to give Fairy Tail a more grounded approach, often with a Celtic feel to the music. The sweeping pomp and drama of the Fairy Tail main theme becomes a repeating motif throughout the series, lending the anime a very distinctive sound.

Takanashi’s talents were kept onboard for the 2012 movie Fairy Tail : The Phoenix Priestess. Here, Natsu, Gray, Erza, Lucy, Wendy, Happy, and Carla embark on an adventure in which a lunatic prince threatens to unleash an ancient force in a quest for immortality.  The music for the movie continues to deliver the stirring elements that Takanashi delivered in the series, but also offers up more restrained moments, such as the beguiling ‘Firebird’s Dance’.

In turn, Naruto : The Lost Tower treads similar territory while also offering up some new approaches to music composition. The simple plucked rhythms of tracks such as ‘Young Bird’ for instance stand in contrast to the string-driven drama of ‘Rumbling Tide’.

2013 was a particularly busy year for Takanashi with contributions to a wide range of titles, including Log Horizon, Fantasista Doll and Neppu Kairiku Bushi Road. With another Pretty Cure title already scored and more Naruto to follow, Takanashi is clearly keen to keep active – and the world of anime is all the better for it.

Naruto : The Lost Tower is out now from Manga Entertainment.



Naruto Shippuden Movie 4: The Lost Tower

was £19.99
The Rogue Ninja Mukade is about to be caught by Naruto's team when he summons forth the power of the Ley Line - an ancient underground channel of chakra.

Naruto gets caught up in the chakra and is sent back in time to the city of Loran, known for its thousand towers. There he encounters the future Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze, on a top-secret mission and the Queen of Loran, Sara, whose rule is threatened by Mukade. Will Naruto be able to return to his own time, and can a chance encounter in the past save the future?
Plus, in an exclusive animated short, Naruto and his friends come across a magical genie in a bottle. The time has come for the last wish, but Naruto just may squander it!



Naruto: Now & Then

Matt Kamen weighs the difference between the original series and the newer Shippuden episodes of Naruto.
With hundreds of episodes under Naruto’s belt, it can be easy to forget just how far the world’s favourite orange ninja cadet and friends have come since their first days at school. The release of the complete first season of Naruto Shippuden seems the perfect time to look back at some of the key players in the saga, and see where the new series finds them – and haven’t they grown…?

Naruto music: NICO Touches the Walls

Tom Smith dives in to the band behind Naruto Shippuden Box 15
Who’s NICO, and what’s their obsession with walls? It’s a question you may ask yourself upon discovering the artist name behind Naruto Shippuden’s eighth opening theme. They call themselves NICO Touches the Walls and, despite the ridiculous name, they are a pretty big deal in Japan right now.

Out Now: Naruto Shippuden 16

Ninja action sneaking to a store near you
Naruto Shippuden box 16 is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.

Time Travel in Anime

Paul Browne rewinds from Naruto Shippuden: The Lost Tower into the past
In the latest Naruto film The Lost Tower, the title character and his comrades embark on a mission to capture Mukade – a missing ninja who has the ability to travel through time. Mukade’s plan is to travel into the past and take control of the Five Great Shinobi Countries. During the battle with Mukade, Naruto and Yamato find themselves hurled back twenty years in time. Will Naruto and his friends be able to return to his own time? And will their actions in the past save the future?

Naruto Music: Asian Kung Fu Generation

Tom Smith on the Britmaniacs behind the Naruto theme.
They’re so loud and proud that they insist on writing it all in caps: ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION – possibly one of Japan’s most important alternative rock acts. The group’s tenth single ‘After Dark’ makes for the energetic, guitar-heavy opening theme to the latest volume of Bleach, released in the UK this month, and the group’s sound might at first seem reminiscent of America’s indie scene dashed with elements of punk, it actually has a lot more in common with The Who, their generation, and the sea of British-based guitar heroes that have appeared since.

Naruto Music: Okamoto's

Tom Smith on Naruto Shippuden’s 18th ending theme
As Naruto ups the ante and swears to take on Sasuke alone in box set 18 of Naruto Shippuden, the team responsible for the encompassing episodes’ ending theme have also took it upon themselves to up the pace.


Commuters that pass through Shinjuku Station in Tokyo this week are treated to a fantastic wall display of 7,649 Yu-Gi-Oh! cards.

New Ghibli Film Announced

Suzuki’s swansong will be the ultimate in exclusivity
Rough artwork has been leaked of Studio Ghibi’s next film, announced as the ultimate in collectibles: a film released in a single print, with a guarantee of no DVD or Blu-ray release. Slated for release in one year’s time, Gertie the Dinosaur began with the most unlikely of inspirations for a much-loved children’s studio.

Eureka Seven Ao

Kicking it old-school, with giant robots
Pacific Rim opened a new gateway to ’bot sagas for youngsters, and for oldsters too. They’ll see del Toro’s film, learn how much he was inspired by Japanese cartoons, and then check out the originals. If they choose Eureka Seven Ao, they’ll find elements also seen in Pacific Rim, embedded in a very different show.

Last Exile versus Fam, the Silver Wing

A Versus feature with a difference: Last Exile against Last Exile!
With the first part of Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing now available in the U.K., we can finally compare it with its predecessor, Gonzo’s 10th and 20th anniversary specials pitted against each other. What do they tell us about the industry then and now?

Wolf Children Tweet-a-long

Join us on Wednesday for Mamoru Oshii's anime masterpiece
Join us on Wednesday 8th January to watch Wolf Children and tweet our own commentary.
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