Writer, composer, arranger and singer, Mayuko has been performing as a singer-songwriter since she was a student. As a composer, she created music for the drama The Full-Time Wife Escapistthe anime Cells at Work! and her latest soundtrack, available now from Milan Records, is all about capturing the magic of a fantasy world. We sat down with Mayuko to discuss how she translated the characters and environment of Wit Studio‘s Ranking of Kings anime series to music.
What sorts of preparation did you do to get a sense of the ‘sound’ of Ranking of Kings?
I was playing Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn, etc. to bring classical music into my life. It reminded me of my days as a music student.
Are there any key instruments you utilized for consistency throughout the series’ score, or is it eclectic?
Since my goal was to build out a full orchestra rather than a specific instrument, I always kept an instrumental instruction book close by and would think about the best instrument that could produce the most appropriate sound in each arrangement. For example, I could really feel the potential of the horn in battle pieces – strong, fat and explosive sound, like in the song “Senritsu.”
What emotions were you hoping to inspire in the series’ main theme?
I was told the main theme would be used mostly in teasers and trailers rather than the show itself, so I created it with a more comprehensive, birds-eye vision. The story is about to begin! The chorus of the song expresses the grandeur of the kingdom and the sopranino recorder expresses the Bojji’s adventure.
Were there any specifications asked by the series’ director or sound director or were you given free rein to experiment?
At my first meeting, I had a spreadsheet of music with over 70 songs and each song was explained in details. Some instruments were specified, but many were left to me. For instance, I decided to use the trombone for “Theme of Kage.”
What was the thought behind the use of a sopranino recorder for Bojji’s theme?
I was asked to use a specific instrument for Bojji’s theme, and there was a memo asking if that instrument should be a flute. I tried various things, but ultimately decided on a sopranino recorder, which can be both relaxing and cute as well as moderately powerful and strong. It’s a great instrument with a wide range of tones.
Are there pieces of music that you feel closely embody specific characters? For example, Bosse, Despa, or Kage?
Bosse is a giant, so boom! I was conscious of using heavy percussion and a low pitch. It was actually easy to create because I only had to keep that in mind. From the beginning, I was given the instruction that Despa’s sound should be “cheerful jazz,” and I was very excited to create it. I think it is one of the most unique songs on the soundtrack. Kage, meanwhile, is a survivor of an attack by a group of assassins, but he’s not a bad guy, so the instrumentation had to express that middle ground. I thought, “well, maybe the trombone?” Ouken is clad in armor, so I thought the sound of metal = cathedral bells. And then Miranjo expresses some weirdness with the female chorus, triple-time and shimmering bells. Each character was expressed using various rules.
What’s your process when you get ‘stuck’?
Once you leave the work, you leave the work. When I take a short break and return a few hours later, I start again, and my calm self comes back to me, saying, “What was I so worried about?” When that calm self does not come back… I cry.
Is there a character you came to fond of by the show’s end?
Hilling. I don’t have such a cute tsundere mother. She can also use her healing ability and I think she is the strongest. I want her to be happy. I want her to listen to my problems when I’m in trouble. I also want to be friends with Despa.
Is there a particular memory of working on the series that will stick with you?
When I wrote the song, “Bojji to Kage no Yujyo,” I was very fond of it and actually wrote and sang lyrics to add to it. It’s a song that says, “I will always be by your side.” The reason it was used in the final episode was because of my passion for the song. I couldn’t be happier and am so glad I am a singer-songwriter.
The full soundtrack for Ranking of Kings is available from Milan Records on SpotifyApple Music, YouTube Music and more.