An interview with Golden Kamuy ending theme artists THE SIXTH LIE!
Golden Kamuy's official website is releasing a series of interviews with cast and staff over the course of the Spring season, which we're translating and brining directly to you! They started things off with the character designer, Ken'Ichi Onuki, followed by animal designer, Ryo Sumiyoshi, the art director, Atsushi Morikawa, firearm designer Koji Watanabe, prop designer Shinya Asanuma, composer Kenichiro Suehiro, and director Hitoshi Nanba.
But they didn't stop there! They interviewed Kamikaze Boy from MAN WITH A MISSION about Golden Kamuy's opening theme, "Winding Road" and now THE SIXTH LIE, the creator/performers of the ending theme "Hibana"!
Tell us how you felt when you heard you’d be writing the ending for the Golden Kamuy anime.
Arata (Vocals): I was really surprised. None of us could believe it when our agency told us.
Reiji (Guitar): The Golden Kamuy manga is a big title that won the 2016 Manga Award, and we were pretty much unknowns at the time, so we were really surprised.
Ray (Drums): I don’t really follow manga and anime, and even I’d heard of it. I was really surprised, and as time passed, I started to realize that we’d been given a chance to work on something really amazing. When I saw all the ads on the trains, and the big sign in Shinjuku station with Sugimoto and Asirpa and Shiraishi, I told myself, “Wow, we’re really doing the ending theme for this.”
Tell us how you felt when you read the original manga.
Reiji: My first impression was that it was a really cool story. The more I read, the more really interesting characters I met. I thought that was great.
Arata: It’s got its own really unique style, doesn’t it?
Reiji: Right. It’s a serious situation where you shouldn’t laugh, but it still makes you laugh. I think it’s really cool the way it does that.
Arata: It has a different sense of humor than anything I’ve ever seen before. I think this newness is what makes it good for modern readers.
What parts did you find particularly funny?
Arata: The boner jokes.
Reiji: It’s not just a dirty joke, you know?
Arata: Yeah, it’s its own kind of aesthetic.
Ray: You can feel a real sense of madness in the way the author writes perverts, can’t you?
Reiji: They’re not just somebody’s idea of a pervert. They’re real perverts.
Ray: Like, “What has to happen to somebody for them to turn out like that?” But you can also tell he’s done a ton of research into Ainu culture, and it’s amazing that you can have all these different elements in just one manga.
What did you write first for the ending song, the music or the lyrics?
Ray: We always do the music first.
Arata: Reiji does the composing. We just let him handle it.
Reiji: When I read the manga, it felt to me like there was an ephemeral sense to it, that life and death played a critical role. So I came up with a melody that felt fast, but also had an ephemeral essence to it as well. First, I came up with the song, and then I had them add the lyrics when I was done.
Ray: We trust Reiji’s talent, so we never say anything. This song was faster than I’d imagined, so when I heard it for the first time, I thought it was an opening theme, not an ending.
Arata: It’s not a straight, positive rock song. It has a pretty powerful, dark atmosphere. Personally, I like songs like this, so I thought it was really cool.
Was there anything new you tried for the song’s sound?
Reiji: It’s rare for The Sixth Lie to do rock songs like Hibana. We always put a lot of emphasis on sound quality, which is why we were able to make something as complex as this. We added in strings as well as electronic sounds as a secret ingredient. These are the sort of things that our band is really good at, and so I think we were able to make a song that sounds new and fresh.
Ray added the lyrics, correct?
Ray: Yes. I came up with as many ideas for lyrics as I could, and then just picked the ones that worked best. I usually have a tough time trying to figure out how to combine the ideas I have with the lyrics, but this time, because I was basing it off of the original manga, it wasn’t as hard as it usually is.
How did you go about writing the lyrics?
Ray: As I read the manga, I wrote down every keyword that I noticed, and then brainstormed ideas from those that I used to create the lyrics. For example, the keyword “wolf” might lead me to “howling.” I wrote down everything that occurred to me. For example, “This Ainu way of thinking is interesting,” or, “This internal struggle the protagonist has is really neat,” and used several of those in the song. For example, the line in the chorus, “Someday, we’ll come back here again,” was inspired by the Ainu religion. Also, the whole world of the manga gives me an image of white snow and red blood, and burning flames, so I wanted you to be able to feel that in the song. The title, “Hibana,” means “sparks,” which also comes from that.
Arata and Reiji, what did you think about the lyrics?
Reiji: It felt totally right for Golden Kamuy! It really got across the world of the manga.
Arata: The first time I read lyrics, I always try to come up with my own interpretation of them and imagine how I’ll sing them. For this song, I wanted a style that was both violent and ephemeral.
Tell us what you focused on when you sung the song.
Arata: The whole chorus, definitely. Particularly the beginning and the ending of the chorus. We spent a lot of time and did a bunch of takes at the studio.
Reiji: It’s sung differently than we usually do.
Arata: Yeah, totally different. We use a lot of electronica in our songs, and normally we sing in a clear voice to go along with that. This time, I tried to make it sound more violent and make my voice change a lot more.
Reiji: If you don’t sing like that, there’ll be too much focus on the melody. You need to sing like you’re yelling, really.
Ray: Arata told me to keep that in mind when I was writing the lyrics. He wanted to shout during the chorus, so he didn’t want it to sound so soft. That’s why I used aggressive words like “collide.”
Reiji: Come to think of it, the b-side of the single, “Flash of a Spear,” was sung the same way, wasn’t it?
Arata: That’s right. Since we were recording them at the same time, I thought we’d have Sugimoto possess us and sing for both songs.
Tell us what you thought when you saw the ending animation video.
Arata: I was really impressed with the way the song went with the images. And when I saw the actual video, it really hit me that I’d just done the ending theme for an anime.
Reiji: Actually, before I saw the finished version, I got the chance to do a sound check with an uncolored video. I was really impressed when I saw it, but that was nothing compared to how amazing it felt when I saw the finished product.
Ray: It seems totally different with color, doesn’t it?
Reiji: Yeah, I love the part where right after the song begins, the blue flames rise up. Also I love the part where Shiraishi is messing around.
Ray: Also, when the lyrics say, “Take all my pain,” Shiraishi gets his head bitten by a tanuki. I love art museums and go all the time, and when I saw the oil painting-style backgrounds, I said to myself, “That’s a Van Gogh painting!” And then the chorus hit and I saw my name on the credits, and I was so happy.
Reiji: The way the gold explodes right when the line, “The sparks just flew,” hits was just perfect.
Arata: It’s like, if you were going to blow up gold nuggets, that was the only time to do it. Personally, that was the part of the ED that most excited me. The way Asirpa and Sugimoto stare at each other after that. I bet there’s a ton of fans who squeed themselves to death when they saw it.
We’re about halfway through the show now. Tell us how you’re liking it.
Reiji: I’m enjoying it every week. I always look at the cast before it airs, and I’ve been amazed by how many really big names have been on the list.
Ray: I was a big fan of Ogata when I read the manga, but watching the anime, I’ve started thinking that Lt. Tsurumi is really cool. Each time he’s on screen, I get really excited. Hijikata is really cool, too.
Reiji: I like Hijikata, too. I like characters who aren’t on the side of the heroes or their enemies. Characters in that position are always super strong, you know?
Arata: True. I like Ogata a lot. Snipers are so cool. He also seems like a different kind of genius than the other characters, which I love.
Reiji: When Arata talks, he kind of sounds like Ogata.
Arata: Do I?
Reiji: Yup. He sounds like Ogata, a little mysterious.
Every character’s voice was perfectly cast, huh?
Ray: I think so. Lt. Tsurumi sounds even crazier when voiced, especially.
Reiji: This may sound arrogant for me to say, but the voices are just like I imagined when I read the manga.
Arata: The food scenes really stick out in the animated version. They were crazy enough in the manga, but they’re even crazier in the anime. I’d love to try squirrel brains sometime.
Reiji: Arata loves organ meats.
Arata: Yeah, I really do. Offal, fish milt... I’ve also eaten deer sashimi. I’d love to try Ainu food someday.
Ray: You’d better take some miso, though.
Hibana is getting released as a CD single. Tell us how it felt to work on it.
Reiji: The CD art looks really cool.
Ray: It’s a mix of the prisoners’ tattoos and The Sixth Lie’s logo.
Arata: I wish I had a tattoo like that, kind of.
Ray: Sugimoto will strip off your skin! [laughs] It’s not just the disc art, the booklet and music video are also modeled after Golden Kamuy, so check those out, too.
Reiji: We’re really pushing the whole Golden Kamuy thing.
Arata: It’s rare for us to use gold in a poster, I think.
Reiji: Actually, it’s not just the ending theme, “Hibana.” The b-side, “Flash of a Spear,” is also about Golden Kamuy. It takes the sense of speed from one of Shiraishi’s escapes and puts it into the melody. You could say it’s Shiraishi’s theme song.
Ray: It’s like a character song. Shiraishi fans need to check it out.
Arata: The b-side wasn’t really a collaboration project. It’s just something we based on Golden Kamuy on our own.
Reiji: We did our own collaboration.
Is there anything you learned from this that you’ll be able to apply to future projects?
Ray: I learned that I’m good at analyzing a story from a third-party perspective and using that to write lyrics. Most of the songs I’ve done so far have had lyrics written in English. I’d sometimes just write them based around a vague theme in my mind, or something I got from watching a lot of movies. This was the first time I’d written a song based on an original work, and with lyrics all in Japanese. It felt like using an existing story as a theme was a lot easier, and I’m hoping I can get another chance to do that someday.
Reiji: It was fun making a rock and roll song, and I’m really satisfied with the finished product. This is the first time I’ve given a guitar such a prominent place in a song, and I was able to expand my horizons as a songwriter by doing so. I think there’s a chance that I’ll do more rock songs like this in the future.
Arata: I was really influenced by the anime openings and endings I heard when I was a kid, and I was able to remember the impact that they first had on me. I remembered how cool those songs seemed and was so happy to get a chance to be the person writing one. I want to keep working hard, so that I can get the chance to make people who heard this song feel the same way. I think this is one of the best songs our band has ever done, and I’ve got a lot of hope for our future.
Let’s end with a message for people who learned about The Sixth Lie from the ending theme.
Arata: The Sixth Lie doesn’t just do beautiful, violent songs like “Hibana.” We also do a lot of very pretty electronic music. I hope you’ll give it a chance.
Ray: I always go see concerts for artists I like, and when you do, the lyrics and feeling of the songs are totally different. The feeling of a live song is something totally unique, so if you liked “Hibana,” please come to one of our concerts. We’ll be playing it at our concert on June 24th at Shibuya REX. Huh, that kind of sounded like an announcement.
Reiji: The Sixth Lie’s songs are very deep, and I think the more you listen to them, the more you’ll love them. It would make me very happy if you listened to our other songs besides “Hibana,” and found even one of them you liked. I kind of implied this earlier, but we’ll be making more songs like “Hibana” in the future. There, I just came out and said it. [laughs] I hope you’ll check us out.
Peter Fobian is an Associate Features Editor for Crunchyroll, author of Monthly Mangaka Spotlight, writer for Anime Academy, and contributor at Anime Feminist. You can follow him on Twitter @PeterFobian.