Will The Real Joe Hisaishi Please Stand Up?

by Andrew Osmond

Hisaishi has brought music to many of Miyazaki’s masterpieces.

In Joe Hisaishi's two-decade composing career, he's produced orchestral music, electronic music, exercises in minimalism and avant-garde, a prodigious amount of piano work and plenty of rock and pop (with both Japanese and English lyrics). He also has the more-than-incidental distinction of working with the two most world-revered filmmakers in contemporary Japan: Takeshi Kitano (Sonatine, Hana-Bi, Kikujiro) and Hayao Miyazaki (Nausicaa, Totoro, Princess Mononoke). He's scored six films for each, and is already confirmed for their upcoming ventures. (Miyazaki's seventh Ghibli film is Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi.)

As Hisaishi commented to the on-line magazine Scorelogue, "I just happened to start out as a modern composer who was immersed in severe dissonant sounds for the longest time. I also happened to be allowed to compose some melodic pieces as well. In terms of being allowed to achieve this range, I believe Mr. Kitano and Mr. Miyazaki just pulled it out of me."

His Body of Work
In the anime arena, Hisaishi has scored such TV series as Sasuga no Sarutobi, Two Down Full Base (both 1982), Sasrygar (1983), Futari Taka (1984) and Honoo no Alpen Rose (1985). He also scored the sci-fi adventure Mospeada (1983), which was later reworked into the third segment of Carl Maceck's compilation Robotech. In other formats, Hisaishi wrote the music for the original animation videos’ (OAVs’) Birth (1984) (dubbed under the title World of the Talisman in 1987) and Pharoh's Seal (1988). Then there are the films Techno Police (1982) and Toho's Wizard of Oz (1986), the latter directed by Fumihiko Takayama, not to be confused with either the TV anime or the 1991 puppet show. If this criss-crossing baffles you, you may not want to know Hisaishi also scored Maison Ikkoku (1986). Ah, but this isn't the fan-beloved anime, it's the live-action film, directed by Shinichiro Sawai from the same Takahashi manga!

Hisaishi is best known in anime, however, for nine long-form works -- eight theatrical films and one OAV. The movies, in order of appearance, are Nausicaa (1984), Arion, Laputa (both 1986), Totoro (1988), Venus Wars, Kiki's Delivery Service (1989), Porco Rosso (1992) and, after a relative gap, Princess Mononoke (1997). Of these, Arion and Venus Wars were directed by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko. The other six are Miyazaki films, officially produced by Studio Ghibli ("officially" because Ghibli didn't actually exist at the time of Nausicaa). Bar Venus Wars, all were produced by Ghibli's parent Tokuma Publishing. Laputa has been titled Castle in the Sky by Western rights-holder Buena Vista; the reason should be obvious to Spanish speakers. Also, as explained later, the music for Kiki was substantially altered for Buena's English-dub release, while Hisaishi himself re-scored the new version of Laputa/Castle.

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