What is it like being a top composer from Japan composing for films, anime, and kaiju films? Anime and kaiju composer Michuru Oshima has been awarded many top honors for composing in Japan, and I had the opportunity to interview her recently with help of translator Hiroko Saito at G-Fest, an annual Godzilla convention. It was an honor because I am a fan of anime, kaiju films, and music in general.
Michiru Oshima has composed for Full Metal Alchemist, Little Witch Academia, and several Godzilla movies including Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. However, she has also done numerous other types of movies and video game compositions as well. Along the way she has been nominated ten times in the Japanese equivalent to the Academy Awards and won once. Her favorite works include composing for a film Ken Watanabe starred in, “Memories of Tommorow.” You might wonder if she is a fan of anime or kaiju films since she has composed for many.
Michiru Oshima is very busy and often does not have time to watch the anime or movies she composes for. As with most real artists, there is a multitude of pieces she does per year. She does around 1,500 compositions per year, which is a lot of time and effort. It seems for real artists, not surprisingly their personal art form comes first. Concentrating on the music to complement the film or show is essential, and having her skills in orchestration ready are the priority. Ms. Oshima composes by doing both melody and orchestration simultaneously first as a digital rough draft and moves on from there. What influenced her work since it’s so diverse it can embody kaiju, anime, and other types of film art?
With a diversity of influences comes an ability to work well in a range of styles, and Ms. Oshima has taken in a lot of music in her life. She was influenced by rock music. Bands like Chicago who started and innovated brass rock, Chick Corea, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer as well as Herbie Hancock had influence on her. During that era of music, jazz was very appreciated as the previously mentioned artists are mostly jazz influenced rock bands. So the freedom of being able to adapt and improvise, which is a part of jazz, is a part of her music. Of course the rigorous training of music school came along with the desire to learn playing music well. Michiru Oshima got into the prestigious Kunitachi School of Music where she honed her craft of creating music. From there she would go on to become a music professional.
Regarding advice to other artists and specifically musicians, she says to just believe in your music. Make it about the music first. Many musicians go out to dinners with producers, but a senior composer she asked about improving her employability had told her to focus on the music. Soon with quality music, she took jobs composing for commercials and got better opportunities in doing TV dramas. Doing that work led to doing work in films and animation.
It was an honor to speak with Michiru Oshima with wonderful translation by Hiroko Saito. It was also thought provoking to get insight into a composer who has had a life making music many of us have heard and been influenced by. Hard work in your art can pay off, as shown by her story.