For the longest time, I wondered why RADWIMPS’ music was never featured in any series. Since Order Made in 2006, they have released and marketed their music by conventional means, i.e. album/digital sales. The only notable effort to break out of its mold was when vocalist Yojiro Noda embarked on a solo side project as illion and star in a live-action movie earlier this year.
But when the band announced its involvement in Your Name (Kimi no Na Wa 「君の名は」), the realisation hit me that this was RADWIMPS we’re talking about. If they wanted to write music for a show, they don’t just contribute a song as a main theme. They compose the whole thing. They become the composers and literally set the direction and tone for the entire run.
RADWIMPS as composers. And for an animated film by Makoto Shinkai (5 Centimetres Per Second; The Garden of Words) of all people. Of course. It all makes perfect sense.
Against the backdrop of a sci-fi/teen romance/slice-of-life movie, the music is simple, pleasant, and not unnecessarily complicated. The collaboration between one of Japan’s most lyrically poetic bands and one of the most talented animators in the industry was well thought-out and clearly synergistic. One gets a sense of some of its key themes even without watching the movie.
RADWIMPS has also managed to balance some of the more youthful and energetic tones such as Zenzenzense (「前前前世」) with light keys and strings for selah or dramatic moments – the sort when you imagine the protagonists hitting a realisation of what their existence means for the other. The opening track Yume Tourou (「夢灯籠」) was a great attention grabber that prepares the listener for launch into an adventure, while Sparkle (「スパークル」) feels like a reminisce about regrets, hope, and well wishes. Others like It’s Nothing (Nandemo Naiya 「なんでもないや」) felt predictable with variations of the 1-5-6-4 chord progression, but it’s also easy to fall into a lullaby and let the free-flow moments take over.
Your Name was released in theatres in Japan on August 26. I have no hope that the blu-ray will be released when I’m in Tokyo in October, but at least I’ll get my hands on some RADWIMPS merch.