Touken Ranbu Warriors Exclusive Interview with Akiko Shikata

Touken Ranbu Warriors is an unprecedented title from Koei Tecmo, combining the expertise of two of their internal teams: Omega Force and Ruby Party. The game offers a unique cross of the company’s most popular action studio that ended up engineering what can even be considered a genre in itself, Musou, as well as another that has always been on the forefront of female-oriented titles creating the very first otome game ever, Angelique.

We had the chance to interview the development teams’ representatives previously, but we also got another special, exclusive opportunity with composer Akiko Shikata. She worked alongside the talented members of Koei Tecmo Sound Team, being responsible for the composition of the vocal theme songs in the game.

Akiko Shikata is an expressive composer whose vocal range and sensible compositions graced a variety of games and other Japanese media. Particularly of note are her works in the Ar tonelico and Surge Concerto series, Umineko no Naku Koro Ni, Touken Ranbu -Online, The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince and The Cruel King and the Great Hero, as well as anime such as Tales of Symphonia The Animation and Cross Ange.

Noisy Pixel: Music can impact listeners globally. What’s it like for you to know that people all over the world listen to and enjoy the music you create?

Akiko Shikata: The world is bursting with wonderful music. And from all that wonderful music, that there are people who have selected and listen to my music is something I consider to be a stroke of luck and I am very grateful for it. And at the same time, I think of these people as very precious peers who I can share thoughts and sights through the themes expressed in my music.

NP: The Touken Ranbu series features characters and scenes found throughout history. Was there a particular time period or character that you enjoyed composing for? And why?

AS: Personally, the most enjoyable song I composed is the kinjikyoku (standby screen song) “Hakata Toushiro”. It’s a song where you can really feel his merchant soul, so I aimed to make it a bright, courageous, energetic and comical song. I really like the little orchestration at the start of it!

Additionally, in the kinjikyoku for the Touken Danshi who have close relationships, the same phrases are used, as well as production elements that represent the name or origins of the characters through sound. When I can see Touken Danshi fans enjoying listening to the kinjikyoku that have been crafted this way, it is a very happy moment for me.

Touken Ranbu Warriors

NP: You’re known for rising up through the doujin music scene, which led to you composing for some large gaming and anime projects. Do you believe that an artist could follow that same path today? In your eyes, has the music industry changed in recent years?

AS: The various methods of communication through the growth of the internet has increased the number options, even for music careers. I think it is really splendid that it has become an environment where people can embark on activities that are suited to them.

By being able to use the wide variety of network tools, this really makes it possible to deliver music to people around the world, and I feel that it is nurturing every possibility. Along with the growth of the internet society, I hope that this will provide more opportunities to even more artists and creators.

NP: Were you surprised to learn that Touken Ranbu had a western following? Do you have any personal favorite josei-muke games that you’d recommend to fans?

AS: I am pleasantly surprised that there are people in the west who are interested in Touken Ranbu, since it is closely connected with Japanese history! My personal recommendation is the multi-platform game The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince. I created the theme song “TSUKIYO NO ONGAKUKAI” for this game.

It is a heartwarming story with a nostalgic feel and fairy tale elements, based on the theme of the bond between different species. It has also been released in the west, so please play if it interests you. The characters and monsters are very cute, and among them my favorite is the ‘racoon’ (Tanuki) monster.

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NP: What are some of your personal goals for the future? Is there a particular series you’ve always wanted to compose music for?

AS: These are fairly old games, but ICO, rain, the Little Nightmares series, and Identity V, which is a bit different in direction than the previously mentioned titles, are all games with mysterious and horror-tinged elements and are games I’ve wanted to compose music for.

In these games, I think that it’s not quite the BGM but the ambience itself that is the core of the sound compositions, so I’d like to create choral tracks such as ominous sounding ones that play at key moments or ones that are frightening but beautiful and mystical.

NP: Besides the Touken Ranbu games, you’ve previously worked on songs for turn-based RPGs, such as the Ar Tonelico/Surge Concerto series and a few visual novel themes. Do you feel like the game’s genre affects your composition process, or would other things like setting and themes be much more relevant?

AS: I think that in my case, the game “content” (settings and themes) is more important in the composition process. They become the founding theme of the music, and I create and arrange the songs by unraveling the scenarios and worldview of the game in my own way, then group together the musical approaches and ideas of what I felt or what came to mind. And at the same time, I am mindful of the game genre, and add as many ideas that can be used into the arrangement, and that is the approach I take to composing.

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NP: You’re known for having an amazing vocal range with the usage of chorus in your music. Will we get to see many songs that showcase this in Touken Ranbu, or was the focus more on instrumental tracks fitting to a traditional Japanese setting?

AS: The opening song title “Color Barrage” refers to a scene of many colorful flowers in full bloom. The Touken Danshi, each with a unique personality, actively moving about in all directions is like a color barrage… and with that thought as the motif, the opening song was created. I would be delighted if everyone can feel the brilliant vividness and high spirits from the music while watching the opening movie.

With the ending song, I read through the scenarios and took the paths taken by the Touken Danshi, memorable moments, and things that they may have felt and placed it into the music. The lyrics use words that will recall events that took place during the game, and used in pivotal points of the song, so I hope people will listen to it as memorable scenes from the story are recollected like a musical refrain.

NP: You were one of the main composers for Touken Ranbu -Online-. How does it feel to work on a new game from the same series, now with the team from Koei Tecmo Sound? Did your approach to composition in this title change from the previous one?

AS: Although they are not used in the game, the 5 original tracks written as Team songs for the album “Touken Ranbu Musou ~Kocho no Uta Image Vocal Album” uses music from the game as motifs (mainly the theme music of the Touken Danshi) in some of the tracks.

I was really excited to be able to collaborate in this way with the sound team at Koei Tecmo Games! Also, before beginning work on this game, I received a request from the development team to cherish the ‘taste’ and direction of the kinjikyoku songs, so my approach to composing was to be careful not to change things.

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NP: Over the years, I still have the Ar No Surge soundtrack in my car, and I think that’s a testament to the life of your music. If the Ar Tonelico series continues, would you like to return to the series again?

AS: Thank you for the lovely message that you still listen to the music of Ar No Surge in your car! I am very honored to have been involved with the imaginative and wonderful works of the Ar Tonelico and Surge Concerto series. These games provided me with a lot of valuable experiences, and fueled my creative imagination. If I have the chance to come into contact with that wonderful world again, I would definitely want to take part in its production!

NP: Is there anything you’d like to share with fans awaiting Touken Ranbu Warriors?

AS: I hope that many people will enjoy the exhilarating action that is woven through the actions of the various Touken Danshi in this game. And if you can listen to the ending song “Honor” while in the afterglow of the story spun by them, I would be very happy!

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