J-pop vocalist Daoko was tapped to sing the theme for Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Cosmos The Movie, a two-part animated feature due to hit Japanese theaters June 9 (Part 1) and June 30 (Part 2).
The film depicts the final story of the Sailor Guardians, known as the Shadow Galactica arc. Daoko wrote the theme song “Tsuki no Hana” (“Moon Flower”) for this movie, set to be included in the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Cosmos The Movie Theme Song Collection, scheduled for release on the day Part 2 drops in theaters.
Daoko sat down with Billboard Japan to chat about the new song and her thoughts on the Sailor Moon franchise, which existed before she was born, the songwriting process for the movie theme, and where she expects to go next in her musical journey.
When did you first come across the Sailor Moon anime series?
I wasn’t born when the original series first aired, but reruns were being broadcast on cable TV when I was in kindergarten and that was the first time I watched it. The transformation scenes were cute, and from a kindergartener’s point of view, the characters were older young women and that also stands out in my memory. I see now that the items on the show like the rods are beautifully designed, but when I was little I just thought they were cute. We also pretended to be the Sailor Guardians in kindergarten.
What do you think is the appeal of the Sailor Moon franchise?
When I was little, I liked the visuals, transformation scenes, and worldview as a whole because I just thought everything was so cute. But now that I’ve grown up, and after watching the entire series over again, I thought it was cool how the concepts could be seen in the details of the design, like the planets being used as motifs. When I went to the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Museum (a major exhibition held in 2022), I took a long time looking at the transformation gear from each era.
You’ve mentioned that you “read the original manga and watched the anime series over and over again to take in the worldview more deeply” when creating the music for the movie.
Yes. I reread all the manga, watched the anime, and bought books containing model sheets and books geared towards fans to gaing new perspective on the work.
What part of “Tsuki no Hana” reflects what you took in through that process?
Since I knew that the song should exist alongside and support the world of Sailor Moon, I searched for a common language between my own worldview and that of the series. I tend to be too meticulous about being faithful to the source material and the original work, but Seiichi Nagai — who co-wrote the song with me — helped to loosen that up a bit, so that people who don’t know that “Tsuki no Hana” is from Sailor Moon will think it’s good when they hear it on the street. We aimed to please Sailor Moon fans while also adjusting the wording and the expression to make sure it also resonates with a wider audience. One of the themes was the nobility of the Sailor Guardians overcoming hardships.
Did the producers of the movie ask for the kind of music they wanted?
Since it was for the ending of the final chapter of the series, I initially had a ballad in mind, but as we discussed it further, it became clear they wanted the song to represent the strength of women and the thoughts of the Sailor Guardians as they confront their vicissitudes. Not mellow, but glorious. So the arrangement has powerful and dreamy elements to it.
Seiichi Nagai is the guitarist of TESTSET and also a supporting member of your backing band.
He’s been supporting me as a band member for my solo endeavors for a long time. We decided to form a new band called QUBIT with those same members, meaning he and I are now really bandmates. So we’re close like that, and I’ve also worked with him on several songs before. When he’s backing me in my solo projects, he peppers his performances with metal guitar flavors and I like his intense, cool playing style. His guitar playing also has a kind of starry sparkle to it that only he can create. I thought that would match the world of Sailor Moon and that’s why I invited him to collaborate.
The arrangement is credited to kensuke ushio, who also produces music under the name agraph. He’s worked on lots of anime-related music before.
Mr. Nagai introduced us, and it was the first time I worked with Mr. ushio on a song’s arrangement. I thought he was so proficient. He made the song sound cool, and he scattered lots of sounds that would resonate nicely in a movie theater. The interlude is majestic, reminiscent of outer space, and we all had a lot of fun thinking about the song’s impact in theaters while working on it. I was in charge of singing and lyrics this time, so I didn’t get to see the entire exchange between the composer and arranger. It did kind of feel like something awesome was done before I knew it, and the demo came to me pretty much completed.
Have you received any response from your fans outside of Japan about releasing a Sailor Moon theme?
Sailor Moon is also very popular internationally, so I did receive many comments from people living in other countries when it was announced that I would be doing the theme song. My fanbase expanded internationally after working on anime music so I currently have quite a few fans in different countries. It seems they’re happy about my latest collaboration and looking forward to the movie’s release. I hope it’ll be a chance for people who like Sailor Moon to get to know Daoko. I’m sure people from many different countries will see the movie, and I wonder how “Tsuki no Hana” will sound to them.
When you perform outside of Japan, do you find the reactions of the audience different from those back home?
It depends on the country, and I do think there are individual differences, but people tend to be more expressive in a physical way. I guess it depends on the type of music, but in Japan, people are generally shy and seem to enjoy themselves internally, but elsewhere, people dance like crazy and that was also fun. I’d never seen anything like that before, so it left a big impression on me. Now I want the Japanese audience to dance, too, so I’ve been trying to build my shows to make it happen.
Are there any genres you’d like to try moving forward? Also, are you working on any new songs?
I think bands have their own cool ways of presenting themselves, but I decided to quit my former management to pursue what I like as Daoko the solo artist. I want to write cute anime music that falls under the “denpa song” genre (intentionally strange and catchy pop music). I want to write music that everyone can dance to at clubs, like “four-on-the-floor” stuff and house. I also want to expand the world in my demos, and since I’ve been practicing guitar recently, I’d like to write songs I can perform live “unplugged.” I like lots of music regardless of genre and want to keep doing music that I like. Right now, I have a strong desire to expand overseas, so I’ll probably make music with an overseas audience in mind, which probably means stuff people can dance to. I’d love to collaborate with artists from different countries, and am exploring various avenues at the moment.
—This interview by Akihiro Watanabe first appeared on Billboard Japan