At the concerts for the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra - World Tour -, a guide was available for purchasing. This guide includes an interview with Yoko Shimomura as well as details on the soundtracks of the Kingdom Hearts series.
You can view the transcriptions below:
This concert is a KINGDOM HEARTS production, and though you can always pick up one of the games to relive that experience, you can’t say the same for a concert. Instead, please do keep it with you in your hearts.
Director of the KINGDOM HEARTS series
Executive Director / GM
Music Group, Japan & Asia Pacific
The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd.
I would like to thank you for attending today’s performance of the KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra - World Tour - concert. I am thrilled to be celebrating the 15th anniversary of KINGDOM HEARTS with not just an official orchestral concert, but a world tour kicking off in Japan. I hope you enjoy this brand-new musical experience that will take you through the world of KINGDOM HEARTS.
Brand Manager of the KINGDOM HEARTS series
It has been a swift fifteen years since the first KINGDOM HEARTS was released, and I am deeply grateful to have been given the opportunity to grow this series into one that’s beloved by people the world over. Of course, all of its success is thanks to you, our many fans. This orchestral concert is our way of thanking you for your continued support; we know you’ve been waiting a long time. I would also like to thank everyone involved in making this tour possible: we couldn’t have done it without you. Now, let us all lose ourselves in the enchanting world of KINGDOM HEARTS!
Interview with Yoko Shimomura, Composer
The roots of Yoko Shimomura and the Musical KINGDOM HEARTS Journey
November 15, 2016
In February of 2014, she held her first solo concert commemorating a quarter-century of work, entitled Yoko Shimomura 25th Anniversary LIVE -THANKS!- in Tokyo FM Hall. The concert was so hotly anticipated that not only did it sell out immediately, so did the two extra performances that were added to meet demand. Living up to her reputation, she enthralled the crowd and the event earned rave reviews. A month later, Square Enix released a second best hits album of hers called memória!, and September 2015 saw the release of Seiken Densetsu LEGEND OF MANA Arrangement Album –Promise–, for which she wrote the music and produced.
In addition to her compositions for Nintendo’s SUPER SMASH BROS. series and other fighting game titles, she has recently created scores for Square Enix’s FINAL FANTASY XV and KINGSGLAIVE FINAL FANTASY XV.
As the year ticks forward in 2017, Ms. Shimomura continues to play a large part in the world of music. She is in the process of composing the KINGDOM HEARTS III soundtrack, and she plans to attend various domestic and foreign events of all kinds -including concerts- throughout the year.
Official Website: http://www.midiplex.com/
Creating the Music
Interviewer: I’d like to learn a little about your music and how it’s created. First things first, what tools do you use to compose your music?
Shimomura: I use a Mac and Digital Performer (1). When I’m recording in a studio, I use what’s provided, which is generally Pro tools (2) with the occasional Nuendo (3).
Interviewer: What, if anything, has helped with music composition?
Shimomura: A few things, but I learned a lot through conducting. I’ve never conducted an orchestra before, but I took a band class in high school where I was the second conductor. I was an avid admirer of Seiji Ozawa, and in college, I took music classes (4) where I studied conducting for two years. Those classes taught me so much.
Interviewer: When you’re composing a piece, do you have a general overall idea?
Shimomura: I do. In an orchestrated piece, there’s generally one instrument selected for the melody, like a flute. For me, though, orchestral or not, I like to incorporate different instruments to perform one after another.
Interviewer: Do you write your score from top to bottom (5)?
Shimomura: Sometimes left to right (6), sometimes top to bottom… I have different methods. Sometimes it all comes to me at once, but I can only enter data for one track at a time, so while I’m doing that, I’ll have the countermelody playing in my head.
Interviewer: Do you have a complete picture in your head before you start?
Shimomura: Yes, sometimes. I have to make sure I get everything down before I forget; it’s a race against time. Learning conducting has proven helpful as it helps me to think horizontally and vertically. I’ve studied a lot of scores in a band, and I’ve practiced score reading (7) which has helped me notice things like a clarinet in the background enhancing an entire piece. Conducting helps me learn about instruments I’ve never played and gives me a better understanding of all instruments.
Interviewer: Do you play close attention to all instruments and how they’re played?
Shimomura: I’ve always been a fan of various instruments. If there were more than one of me, I’d have tried as many as possible. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and classes require time and money. In high school, I played the piano and flute, and I conducted, which I felt was plenty as a student. Now when I attend a concert and someone’s performing on an instrument I’d like to have learned how to play, I listen and think, “Oh, that’s how it’s done,” or, “String instruments really are amazing!”
Sometimes When My Mind is Clear, I Hear Music
Interviewer: When you’re creating music for a specific instrument, can you hear it in your head?
Shimomura: Yes. If I think a melody should be performed by an oboe or a flute, for example, I can hear it. After I’ve created the majority of a piece, I’ll think about adding to parts that feel a little empty. Sometimes I’ll hear music when I don’t even try. I’ll create a piece and be happy with it, but when I listen to it again, I’ll hear a random instrument, say a trombone, playing in my head at a certain point in the piece. That’s when I know I need to add a trombone part there. I can’t help but hear these random melodies sometimes. Even with phrases, I’ll think I’m done, but then I’ll hear a trill in my head and I’ll know something’s missing. The next step is deciding which instrument would be best; for a trill, perhaps a flute.
Interviewer: You seem to have an affinity for woodwind instruments.
Shimomura: I don’t use many brass instruments, even in my demos. I like them, but I don’t have an adequate audio source (8) (laughs). Brass instruments are difficult because they have various timbres. That could translate into a unique demo, but it would take a great deal of time to get the sound just right. For example, to create the blare of a trumpet, it would take me fifty times longer than someone with an actual instrument (laughs). If I could, I’d like to use more, like the trombone.
Interviewer: I see, so it’s about getting the right sound.
Shimomura: Exactly. Notes can be of various length, and it’s extremely difficult to express that in data, especially since instruments have natural sound progressions. I’ll ask, “I want a trumpet here, and I’ve implemented something temporary (9). Can you make it work?”
The importance of 0.1 db and Song Gap Masters
Interviewer: When arranging or recording music, is there anything specific you do in the mixing (10) or mastering (11) process?
Shimomura: For orchestration, I request everything from arrangements to score writing, but I’m not extremely fussy. My demos convey the feel I’m looking for, so I’ve never gotten anything that was completely unexpected. Sometimes I ask for specifics like, “This part needs to be more like this, or, “Please keep this phrase.” If I receive something unexpected, it’s my own fault; I didn’t relay it well enough through my demo. If an important phrase had disappeared, I wouldn’t ask why; I’d be disappointed because my demo failed to do this job, and I would ask if it were possible to include this phrase in the piece. I’m very precise when it comes to mix versions. Sometimes I’ll ask for the volume to be lowered by 0.2 db (12). “I want that lower but not too low.” “It’s been lowered by 0.5” “Then let’s do 0.25.”
Interviewer: Sometimes 0.1 db does make a difference (13).
Shimomura: I’m glad you understand. A lot of people used to question it though they haven’t lately,
Interviewer: What about mastering process?
Shimomura: I attend the sessions, but in general, I leave it in others’ hands. Mix versions are not my forte, so I explain what I’d like the end product to sound like and go from there. There are many titles in game music, so it’s natural that every now and then something gives me pause. With Blu-ray, music players, and smartphones, this isn’t relevant, but with CDs, the songs are in a certain order. And because I listen to them in that order, it’s something I put a lot of thought into. I’ve always wondered why Song Gap Master isn’t a job (laughs), someone who’s job is to figure out whether the song gap needs to be 0.5 seconds longer. Some might think half a second is nothing, but it actually makes a significant difference.
Interviewer: Deciding on the time between the songs happens near the end of the entire process, when everyone’s ready to call it a day…
Shimomura: Right. Even with the same amount of time between songs, it feels different based on how the song connects with the previous one. Sometimes it feels long, sometimes short. Two seconds can feel very different. Mastering engineers look at the data, and they calculate two seconds after the music has completely stopped. When there’s a decay of an instrument like a piano, it’s a little surprising.
Interviewer: I feel that’s the conductor in you. “First chair, forte.” Moving on, when you finish a piece, do you let it sit for a few days? Sometimes that can give you a different perspective.
Shimomura: When I’m extremely busy, I don’t have the luxury, so I’ll ship the demo right away. When a demo won’t work, I’ll know without giving it a listen. If I know a demo is good, I’ll ship it and listen to it again. I’ll make small changes even after the demo has been approved. Of course, I don’t change any core parts. I add little things here and there if I hear it in my head.
Interviewer: Like a fill (14)?
Shimomura: That, and also since video game music loops, I need to find a good loop point (15). Also, when I want to make it longer, I’ll master it (16) by adding to a demo that has been approved. I don’t do it often with KINGDOM HEARTS. It would be problematic if I did and Mr. Nomura (Tetsuya Nomura, director of the KINGDOM HEARTS series) hated the extended bits (laughs). After I edit anything, I’ll make sure to confirm that’s okay. Sometimes I can hear the extension of a song, and that extension only exists for that song. If I don’t use it there, I’ll never get a chance to use it. I make life harder for myself, I know (laughs). There are songs where that’s impossible though. Like “Traverse Town.” It’s only forty-five seconds long, and adding anything would sound forced. I don’t know how people perceive it, but when they hear it in the game, I don’t think they realize how short it is. It’s complete as is, and that proves it.
cis-moll and Des-dur
Interviewer: Are there rhythm patterns or scales that you especially like?
Shimomura: It’s hard to pick a favorite, but there are rhythm patterns that are satisfying. Some people might think I’m being unoriginal sticking with one pattern, but when I use something similar, I don’t think, “Not this again.” Instead it’s, “I like this, I’m going to use it.” With chords, I always think I’m keeping things simple but I’ve been told by arrangers that it’s too complex at times. It may sound odd, but I’m not composing songs with chords; I don’t really understand them, honestly.
As for scales, I like cis-moll (17). It just sounds so cool in Japanese (laughs). I don’t know why I like it so much. It’s difficult to pull off with an orchestra; it’s not easy to perform with brass instruments or the piano. There’s just something about C-sharp minor and D-flat major, 4 minor keys and 5 major keys (18), think Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu. It’s hard to explain, but it’s as though you can experience the sharp and flat notes together; there’s a certain ambiguity.
I’m not too conscious of that when I compose music, though. In fact, for the original KINGDOM HEARTS, the music in every area was created with varying scales. I decided in which location I would use which scale. KINGDOM HEARTS II was different, though.
Interviewer: For a difference in feel?
Shimomura: Yes, that’s definitely something I focused on. I can’t remember how precise I was, but there shouldn’t be any overlapping scales. The battle music was created based on the field music because the pieces would cross-fade, meaning they’d overlap at some point. One piece would start before the previous one ends, so the sounds would clash, but we didn’t want it to feel unnatural (19). I try to use related keys so while the sounds may clash, we can make adjustments like raising the key for the battle music a half step to try and smooth out the transition.
I Can Make People Cry With My Battle Music
Interviewer: You’ve been doing this a while. Has anything changed regarding the way you compose music?
Shimomura: Not to sound cliché, but I’m constantly learning something new. There’s an old saying from the Showa period, “You need to have hunger and motivation to become a musician.” Because I enjoy my life outside of work and I’m happy, there was a time when I thought I wasn’t cut out for this. I have such a love for creating music and there’s still more to compose, more to learn, more room to grow and create something better than before. I realized that was it; that was the hunger. And I had it.
You might be surprised, but when I first started this job, I couldn’t write rhythm or drum scores (20). I grew up on classical music; I had no clue about the bass or drums or 8 beat or 16 beat (21). Now it all comes naturally to me, and that’s how I know I’ve grown.
Interviewer: Has anything changed since working on the KINGDOM HEARTS series?
Shimomura: As arrogant as it may sound, I’ve learned to compose battle music that can bring people to tears (laughs). I couldn’t have done so without pointers from Mr. Nomura regarding what the world of KINGDOM HEARTS is really about… I learned that battle music isn’t necessarily fast-paced, energetic or aggressive.
Interviewer: Is there a difference between music in RPGs and other genres?
Shimomura: With action games, there isn’t much fluctuation in the music. One song is all it takes. With RPGs, there’s an entire story to tell; there’s also an order, it’s hard to create the final boss music until the end. You can’t have a flashy piece for a boss in the middle of the game, and then have it slow down from there. If it’s a boss in the middle of the game, it can’t be too aggressive or dynamic. Balance is important in RPGs.
Interviewer: What are your memories of instruments you’ve played in the past?
Shimomura: I wanted to play the flute, but I was asked to play the clarinet instead; I lasted a week. I think I’ve talked about this before (22) (laughs). I’m not great with transposing instruments (23). The others I’m fine with.
Interviewer: What about your experience with classical guitar?
Shimomura: I was in the classical guitar club, but I didn’t know much about guitars. For some reason, my parents got me a folk guitar (24) (laughs) so I’d play that at home. At school, I remember playing and singing the folk song “Kandagawa” on the classical guitar (laughs). I was playing folk at school, tango at home… Odd, I know (laughs). I sang Masashi Sada too, another folk artist. I practiced so much my fingers bled. I remember playing the piano before a school performance and leaving blood all over the keys. It looked like something out of a horror movie.
Interviewer: You were in the chorus too, weren’t you?
Shimomura: I was, in junior high. I’m not much of a singer, though. I was always more interested in instruments. I wanted to join band, but it wasn’t easy joining from my second year in school. Because I had no experience, as an eighth grader, I would have to play with the seventh graders. I was contemplating what to do, when a friend invited me to the classical guitar club.
Interviewer: And the piano?
Shimomura: My parents said they’d buy me a piano if I wanted to play. I ended up getting a used organ that belonged to an acquaintance of theirs (laughs).
Nothing seemed to happen quite the way it was supposed to (laughs).
Everyone in my family loves music, but my parents never studied it. As a child, I quickly lost interest in everything so they got me an organ “for now” since a piano was a pretty extravagant instrument at the time. Surprisingly, my interest lasted longer than expected, as they eventually bought me a piano. I even made it to the advanced book by Ferdinand Beyer (25). But I didn’t play much at all in third and fourth grade; I learned two songs in about a year. That’s when I knew I had to do better. Unfortunately, in high school, the piano teacher I had since second grade banned me from her classes (26) (laughs). It’s a long story; let’s just say there were multiple factors… I didn’t even know it was possible to get banned. I was a senior in high school studying hard to get into college when one day my teacher told me not to come to class anymore. I was shocked. Looking back now, I can see the various things I had done wrong, but nothing that would’ve occurred to me as a high school student. That was my first biggest failure. Luckily, I found another teacher and managed to get into college. She was very strict, but I remember and put into practice everything she’s taught me. There was much I didn’t know at the time, but over the years I’ve learned to understand and appreciate her views regarding the foundation of music.
Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel
Interviewer: Who’s your favorite composer and why?
Shimomura: At first, I didn’t like Beethoven (27). In fact, I despised him and the way he played the victim, composing dark and depressing music. It sounds harsh, I’m sorry. I’m a fan of music from the Romantic era onward, and Beethoven is before that time. I wasn’t much of a fan of Classical or Baroque music (28). But then I heard Symphony no. 7 (29) in tenth grade, and I was blown away. I recorded the song from the radio onto a cassette tape, and I listened to it over and over. I knew it by heart, I loved it so much. That’s how I came to like Beethoven’s music. That one piece changed the way his other pieces spoke to me.
They say there isn’t a pianist who doesn’t like Chopin (30). Everyone who takes up the piano has a goal: to play one of his songs. He’s one of my favorites. I like his sound, melody, and his unique world view.
I heard Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no. 2 (31) in junior high, like most everyone else. I was a fan of Prelude in C-sharp Minor (The Bells of Moscow), and it’s probably the only piece I’ve ever played. I wanted to play his other songs, but I have small hands. He could reach from C to G in the next octave. You need to be able to reach across at least ten keys (32). I knew then I wouldn’t be able to play any other songs, so I decided to enjoy just listening to his music.
I like Ravel’s beautifully unique harmony. Who doesn’t? The music he creates is astounding; it’s as if I can see colors. I also like Debussy (33). I’ve played his music on the piano. I haven’t played much Ravel, which may be why I have such a strong admiration for his work. Debussy is sparkly and light, while Ravel is soft yet aggressive; that’s how their music speaks to me.
Interviewer: Is there a composer you aspire to be like?
Shimomura: Not at the moment. Not to sound arrogant, but I love my own tastes and style, and I want to create something that only I can create. That’s why I chose this line of work; it’s all me from the beginning to the end. In that sense, I don’t strive to be like anyone else.
Interviewer: What would you like to accomplish in your future musical career?
Shimomura: I’d love to learn to play a bowed string instrument (34). It’s probably too late to become really talented, but I’d like to try my hand at either the cello or the viola. It’d be hard to choose. The bass (35) would be a little hard to carry around… I don’t know if it’s pride or ego, but you can’t carry around a piano, so when you’re walking around town, it’s impossible to show off that you’re a musician. I’d like to carry around an instrument case just so I can show off to the people around me (laughs).
Interviewer: Is there anything you’ve struggled with regarding this concert?
Shimomura: It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure. But I’m not one to dwell. Or maybe age is just fading my memories (laughs). When I think of KINGDOM HEARTS Concert - First Breath -, I remember people wiping away tears with their handkerchiefs, giant smiles across everyone’s faces, and people tweeting about how much they enjoyed the show. I forget the bad and remember the good (laughs). Apologies to the rest of the staff (laughs).
Interviewer: How do you send out requests for the arrangements?
Shimomura: This time, there are several orchestrators (36). For rearranging anything that’s been arranged in the past, I ask those who worked on the previous arrangement. For the newer pieces, I ask for specific individuals. Regarding content, I’d explain why the medleys are as they are and what I’d like, but depending on the piece, I might just request for something that can be performed by an orchestra beautifully.
Interviewer: Do you do the arrangements yourself?
Shimomura: I don’t do orchestrations, but I have done a few arrangements before. There are different types of arrangers. Some change the original song, whereas I keep the essence of the original song and try to keep that alive while enhancing it at the same time. All of the songs I’ve had the pleasure of arranging have been so wonderful that I make a conscious effort not to create a disconnect for the fans.
Not enough Melancholy
Interviewer: Who’s your favorite KINGDOM HEARTS character?
Shimomura: It has to be Riku. I like all of the characters, of course, but Riku’s shouldering such a heavy burden and holding back so many emotions, and yet, he’s still very spirited. Definitely Riku.
Interviewer: If the characters were instruments, what would they be?
Shimomura: Riku’s theme is performed by an acoustic guitar and cello. They’re not very fancy instruments, which is not to say they’re boring, they’re just not generally associated with flowery melodies. In an orchestra, I think the only place for an acoustic guitar is the concerto, and while the cello may get time in the spotlight, the first violin steals the show. I chose the cello because it’s a simple instrument, but it can produce a heavy, deep sound. It’s not my image of Riku, but it was perfect for his theme song.
Sora would be a trumpet, energetic and vibrant. Sometimes I can’t help but think, “How can he be so carefree!?” But it’s his integrity and character that help highlight the other characters.
Kairi, the heroine, would be a flute or piano. Melodious, but strong, kind, and feminine.
Interviewer: Do you have a favorite scene?
Shimomura: I love the scene before they show the drawing of the paopu fruit on the wall. That ending is a tearjerker; it’s heartwarming and touching with a hint of bitterness. When I started playing KINGDOM HEARTS II, I’m sure I wasn’t alone wondering who this Roxas character was. But as Sora wakes up and Roxas’s story ends, he says, “My summer vacation is over.” It’s such a sad scene. When I saw it for the first time, I thought, “So this is what happens.” I did create the song for that scene, but it was a much different experience hearing it while watching the story. I created the piece based on a sunset; the day is coming to an end, as the sun sets below the horizon. I’m sure that was Mr. Nomura’s image, a brief moment of peace before night falls. I remember thinking back and realizing that this is what he meant when he said there wasn’t enough of a melancholy feel, that bittersweet feeling you get when watching the sun set.
Interviewer: How is it hearing your music as you play the games?
Shimomura: For Unchained χ, I created the town (field) and battle music, but neither was too relevant to the story. The music is light and upbeat, but the story seems to be getting more and more turbulent as time goes on. I play the game fearing that one day the field music won’t match the story anymore and I’ll be asked to change it (laughs).
Interviewer: You must have referenced Disney movies for your work. Do you have a favorite?
Shimomura: Though it’s not a world in the KINGDOM HEARTS series, I love 101 Dalmatians. My favorite character has to be Donald, though. I’ve seen a lot of his animations.
Interviewer: Do you have a favorite Disney song?
Shimomura: There are so many amazing songs, but my favorite would have to be “When You Wish Upon a Star.” (37) I’m sure it’s everyone’s favorite; the melody is truly beautiful.
Piano is Destined to be a Part of My Life
Interviewer: This concert being a world tour, what are your memories or impressions of overseas fans?
Shimomura: American and Parisian fans are very passionate; they love standing ovations. Some events have autograph signings afterward, and knowing I don’t speak English, fans approach me and rave about the concert, and then they leave, satisfied. They’re very straightforward about their feelings and emotions. In countries like Japan and Taiwan, it’s the opposite. People tend to keep things inside. How people express happiness must be a cultural difference.
Interviewer: Is there anything you’ve struggled with overseas?
Shimomura: It takes a while for the songs to come together during rehearsals. There was one event that had me worried because the performance was in two days, and the rehearsals weren’t great. Of course, the day of, everyone did a fantastic job. In Japan, rehearsals are generally smooth, almost as much as the show itself. Overseas, there are times when it feels as though people are setting their eyes on the score for the first time. Now that I know what to expect, though, I don’t worry as much.
Interviewer: Are there times when you desperately want to play the piano? How often do you practice?
Shimomura: I love instruments, so of course I’d love to play. But reality is harsh. I know I can’t play the way I really want to. I haven’t trained to be a pianist, unfortunately… I fiddle with a keyboard on a daily basis for work, but I’ve never trained my fingers or practiced hitting the right keys, so I’d have to start with the basics! (laughs)
Interviewer: Didn’t you used to practice a lot?
Shimomura: I did, but I didn’t think I was very good. I thought I’d get better with practice; I used to compare myself with others all the time. Composing music is liberating in the sense that I can have someone talented play the part the way I wrote it. For KINGDOM HEARTS Concert - First Breath -, Mr. Wada (Kaoru Wada is a composer, orchestrator, and conductor, as well as one of the arrangers for this world tour) wrote a simple piece for me to perform and it was so much fun. If I’d been a pianist, I probably wouldn’t have had an opportunity to play with an orchestra. They let me because I’m a composer, and I let them spoil me. But I really do love the piano so much so that I bought an upright piano (38). I was looking to upgrade my electric piano, and when I was browsing, I saw a used upright piano that would cost the same. I had to buy it, it was fate. Piano is destined to be a part of my life, and I couldn’t be happier.
To the Fans
Interviewer: Would you like to say something to the fans?
Shimomura: There are so many fans—from those who’ve been with us since fifteen years ago to the new—who love the music and voiced their desires to hear it live. I’m honored to be a part of this concert, a world tour, no less. When I started this job, when I composed my first piece, I didn’t dream anything like this would be possible; I’m thrilled and elated. None of this could’ve been made possible without the support of the fans of the KINGDOM HEARTS series, and your pleas to me, Square Enix, and Disney to bring the music to the stage. Everyone played a part in making this event happen. I hope to continue to make music that will live up to the KINGDOM HEARTS name, and I hope you continue to enjoy the experience that is KINGDOM HEARTS.
2]1. Audio creating software. Ms. Shimomura has been using the tool since its original release. Performer.2]2. Audio creating software. While Performer was used to compose music, this was mainly used for recording and mixing down. However, as audio software as progressed over the years, their current releases share similar features. Most Japanese commercial studios use this software.2]3. Audio creation software. Though released afterPro Tools, it’s popular for its audio-to-picture features. Some Japanese commercial studios use this software.2]4. At music colleges, students can take classes unrelated to their major. This is a basic class for beginners.2]5. In scores, instruments are lined vertically and the music horizontally. This refers to the process of composing and editing music for all instruments in a specific part of the piece.2]6. This refers to composing an entire refrain at a time. Once done, the piece is edited by adding parts to be performed by various instruments.2]7. The practice of reading scores. Scores are lie books, they need to be read and understood. As they can be interpreted in many different ways, it’s important to learn how to figure out the composer’s intent.2]8. Synthesizer sounds used for programming; most come from software. Though there are many sounds that can be edited various ways, it takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to recreate the sounds of an actual instrument, especially brass instruments.2]9. A temporary measure using a different instrument. It’s replaced with the real sound later. It’s similar to the guide music used for karaoke.2]10. The process of combining several tracks of audio into a single file. The volume, balance, placement, and sound quality are adjusted, such as making the main instrument louder or the background melody more audible.2]11. The final check before the music gets pressed into CDs and other media. Steps include checking volume, sound quality, and sound pressure, as well as deciding the length between pieces.2]12. It may vary by situation, but it is a minor difference in the grand scheme of things.2]13. This is the interviewer’s personal opinion. Depending on the situation, it may be difficult to notice the difference.2]14. A phrase in music that complements the main melody, like side dishes to an entrée.2]15. Video game music generally loops, and the music needs to loop at a point where it sounds natural and the notes don’t clash. This point is called the loop point.2]16. The master audio source. In this situation, the audio source after the arranging.2]17. C-sharp minor in German. In classical music, the keys are generally referred to by their German names.2]18. Relative keys are the major and minor scales that have the same key signatures. Most modulations occur between these keys. Cis and Des both refer to the black key between a C and a D (on the equal tempered scale). Cis-moll and Des-dur are relative keys.2]19. When music crossfades, two songs overlap causing the sound to get muddled and the notes to clash. Imagine standing between two shops and hearing completely different music from both establishments.2]20. Rhythm and drum scores are unique; they’re slightly different from other instruments. Many composers don’t know how to write these scores.2]21. Drums and bass aren’t found in many classical pieces. 8 beat and 16 beat are the basic of rhythms.2]22. An interview for theKINGDOM HEARTSConcert -First Breath-pamphlet.2]23. Instruments whose music is notated at a pitch different from the pitch that actually sounds. It’s confusing for musicians who don’t play transposing instruments.2]24. Classic guitars and folk guitars have different necks and there’s a difference in how one holds down the strings. It’s hard to tell the difference for those who don’t play.2]25. A series of beginner-level piano books that most use for practice.2]26. In music, especially classical, there exist teacher-student relationships. Fellow students are referred to as “pupils.”2]27. The famous German composer. His music tends to be heavy, dark, and lengthy.2]28. Musical eras start with Baroque (Bach). Classical (Beethoven), Romantic (Chopin, Rachmaninoff), and Impressionist (Ravel, Debussy).2]29.Symphony no. 7 in A Major. Op. 92. A popular piece that’s still performed today.2]30. Chopin’s music is one of the pinnacles of piano music. Many pianists challenge themselves to play his pieces as they take a tremendous amount of skill.2]31.Piano Concerto no. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18. Its beauty and technique make it a most popular piano piece.2]32. The length of ten keys is 22.5cm. Your fingers need to reach that distance plus a few more centimeters to play the keys; flexibility is an advantage.2]33. A French impressionist often compared to Ravel.2]34. String instruments that are played with a bow. For classical music, they would be the violin, viola, cello, and the contrabass.2]35. A contrabass.2]36. There is no technical difference between editing, arranging, and orchestration, and the definition can vary by situation. In Japan, an arrangement for an orchestra is generally referred to as orchestration.2]37. A song written by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline for Walt Disney’sPinocchio. It’s been covered countless times and is a standard musical number.2]38. Upright pianos have vertical strings whereas grand pianos have horizontal strings. Upright pianos are more compact and seen more commonly in households.Interview: Taketeru Sunamori, Tomoko Kanemaki
References: Taketeru Sunamori
Bravo on the long-anticipated start of the KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra - World Tour -. After the highly acclaimed First Breath performances, no doubt many have been eagerly awaiting another orchestral concert. That this tour spans the globe speaks to the popularity of the KINGDOM HEARTS franchise, and when I heard how rapidly both the shows sold out, and additional dates were added, I came to appreciate anew the high expectations our fans have of us.
I was in charge of both conducting and arrangement during the First Breath tour, and am honored that I was chosen to arrange once again. At the same time, I am aware of the great responsibility that comes with attempting to recreate on stage the sweeping musical tapestries that breathe life into the games we play. Luckily, even if I were to fail, those tapestries cannot be woven by me alone. Ms. Yoko Shimomura’s moving songs will be performed by nearly one hundred orchestra and chorus members, lending them unprecedented impact and emotional power that are sure to have you enjoying the production!
Kaoru Wada has achieved success as a composer, arranger, and conductor in a wide range of musical fields, including film, television, stage, and modern music, which all began at the Tokyo College of Music, where he studied composition under Akira Ifukube and conducting under Yasuhiko Shiozawa.
As a composer, he has been in charge of the scores for numerous works, including the animated television series Inuyasha, The Kindachi Case Files, GeGeGe no Kitaro, and D.Gray-man, along with films such as Hana no Oedo no Tsuribaka Nisshi and The Lost Game: Waseda Vs. Keio. In 1995, he received the Japan Academy Prize for outstanding achievement in music for his work on the Shochiku production Crest of Betrayal. When he performs with classical orchestras both abroad and at home, he often incorporates traditional Japanese music into the productions. He has also arranged music for the likes of the NHK Symphony Orchestra, the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, the Japan Century Symphony Orchestra, and the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra. His orchestral arrangements have also been showcased on television programs such as NHK’s World Music Album, Minna No Douyou and Untitled Concert. Furthermore, a number of artists have had songs arranged by Mr. Wada, among them Yoshikozu Mera, Sojiro, Eitetsu Hayashi, and Atsuko Tenma. His career in the gaming industry has seen him in charge of orchestrating tracks from the Monster Hunter and KINGDOM HEARTS franchises.
Not only has he conducted for recordings of both original and arranged works used in video productions, he found great renown conducting his personal exhibitions The World of Kaoru Wada, made in collaboration with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, and The Echo of Japan. The Music of Kaoru Wada, performed in Cologne, Germany in collaboration with the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne.
Under Mr. Wada’s guidance as both head of arrangement and as conductor, last year’s KINGDOM HEARTS Concert -First Breath- tour was said to have been one outstanding performance after another.
Official website: http://www.kaoru-wada.com
I would like to congratulate everyone on the successful start of the long-awaited KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra - World Tour -. The music of KINGDOM HEARTS is a treasure trove of exquisite melodies expressed beautifully by Ms. Shimomura, and I am honored to have the opportunity to arrange her music for the stage. With so many fans following her work, there was a sense of responsibility to maintain the spirit of each piece while arranging it to fit the scope of the concert. During the process, I was reminded again of how the essence of Ms. Shimomura’s music holds strong regardless of arrangement, and how her music is an alluring and powerful journey.
An orchestrator with experience in films and television shows, her recent work includes the television series Toto Neechan, and both the video game and anime series God Eater. She has provided orchestral arrangements for Mezamashi Classics, Voices, and Joey Hisashi in Budokan, and song arrangements for the idol group Arashi, singer-songwriter Seiko Matsuda, and more. Her piano arrangements can be found in Piano Collections KINGDOM HEARTS.
Congratulations on the launch of the KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra - World Tour -! Nine years ago, I had the privilege of working on the orchestral arrangement of the album drammatica -The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura-. Today, I am honored to have the opportunity to be a part of another great production.
Working on drammatica wasn’t without its challenges. It was my first time attending recording sessions overseas, we were recording in concert halls (a technique not too common at the time), and we were using technology and tools that were not as sophisticated as what we use today. Despite the obstacles, everyone managed to come together to make the album what it is. The songs performed in this world tour aren’t simply copies of the original, but have been carefully assessed and arranged specifically for this concert. I hope you enjoy the performance!
A graduate from the Department of Composition of the Tokyo University of the Arts, her work centers on orchestration, but she also composes music for anime and films as well as video games and concerts. Drawing on perfect pitch and her vast recording experience, she demonstrates a particular flair for creating music with a deep and versatile sound, especially in orchestral pieces.
Her recent works include the anime and movie Kantai Collection, as well as the anime series Inazuma Eleven and Inazuma Eleven GO. She has also done arrangements for numerous Square Enix works, including The Lost Remnant, Imperial SaGa, FINAL FANTASY BRAVE EXVIUS, SaGa Scarlet Grace, drammatica, -MYTH- The Xenogears Orchestral Album, and memoria!.
Official Website: http://kameokanatsumi.com
I’m honored to have been able to take part in the KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra -World Tour- as an arranger. I’d like to thank everyone involved -starting with Yoko Shimomura and Kaoru Wada- from the bottom of my heart.
The first time I ever had the chance to arrange one of Ms. Shimomura’s tracks was for the Game Symphony Japan 5th Concert that ushered in 2015. Her uniquely contrapuntal method of composition captivated me right away, and I’ve been a fan of her work ever since. And to think that occasion laid the groundwork for me being a part of this officialKINGDOM HEARTS concert; I’m thrilled how this all turned out.
I’ve put my all into these arrangements, and I’d like to think they can stand the test of time -that they’ll be remembered after today’s events end and possibly even for generations to come. I hope you’ll all agree after you’ve heard them for yourselves.
Souhei Kano was born on September 16, 1980. He graduated from the Tokyo College of Music in 2004 with a degree in composition, and then matriculated into a graduate program there, which he completed in 2006. He studied composition under Reiko Arima, Shinichiro Ikebe, Jun Kouda, Akira Nishimura, Yutaka Fujiwara, Minoru Miki, and Shuko Mizuno. He also learned the art of conducting from Kazue Kamiya and Yasuhiko Shiozawa, and Yukio Tanaka taught him how to play the Satsuma biwa. In addition to his musical interests, he has received instruction in the game of shogi from Michio Takahashi (9 dan) and Tsutomu Honda (Instructor shodan).
His professional achievements are as follows:
2002: “’Hard Techno’ for Stringed Quartets” wins an award at the JFC Composer’s Award Competition
2009: “Scherzo no. 2 ‘Summer’ for Wind Instruments” is selected as Set Piece V for the All-Japan Band Competition
2010, Spring: Performs his own original opera
2011: Creates the music for the Yutaka Yamamoto anime Fractale
Since then, he has released numerous pieces of sheet music, CDs, and DVDs for such songs as “Yomigaeru Tairiku e no Zensoukyoku,” “Kinzoku Dagakki to Gengaju no tame no Kyousoukyoku,” “Rendo,” and “Shippuu.”
Mr. Kano has been busy of late in an effort to bring film and game soundtracks to the stage. To wit, he has been creating sheet music used in performances of Akira Ifukube’s film scores -for example, Battle in Outer Space and The Mysterians. Mr. Kano has also been performing the FFVI, FFVII, and Persona 4 soundtracks at Game Symphony Japan, as well as creating orchestral concert arrangements of Kantai Collection and Phantasy Star Online songs.
Furthermore, he held a musical exhibition at the Japanese embassy in Berlin in March 2015, which was followed by a joint exhibition with composer Daisuke Ehara in May of the same year. Most recently, he held his first-ever choral music concert in March of 2016.
Career paths are interesting to follow sometimes. My first opportunity to compose for Disney was in 1991. Since then, I have had the pleasure of scoring over 300 projects, many of them featuring their classic characters such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Winnie the Pooh and others. Disney is extremely careful when it comes to their classic characters and for a good reason. Their popularity stretches over multiple generations so when a new product is created it cannot simply be focused to appeal to one small age group. Almost always, my music had to sound “Disney-esque.” During meetings with the various creative teams, however, the subject of the great exception to that rule would often come up, usually with great envy I might add. That was KINGDOM HEARTS, a game so creative that it dared to break away from the time-honored tradition of, well, being “Disney-esque” and what a success it was! On my own, I had to see for myself what everyone was referring to and at my heart, for me of course, was the music. Yoko Shimomura’s score is so passionate and beautifully compelling. It immediately draws the listener into this remarkable world. So now, years later, I am honored to be conducting her music on this wonderful tour. How exciting it will be to hear her music played by orchestras in so many of the world’s great cities! I look forward to hearing how each will bring their unique sound and talents to this fantastic and important score!
The conductor may change without prior notice. We thank you for your understanding.
Mark Watters is a six-time Emmy Award winning composer and conductor whose diverse composing credits include Pixar’s Time Travel Mater, Disney’s Doug’s First Movie, Kronk’s New Groove, Mickey’s Twice Upon A Christmas, The Return of Jafar and Aladdin and the King of Thieves. Other credits include The Pebble and the Penguin and All Dogs Go To Heaven 2 for MGM, and such television series as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Tiny Toon Adventures, Goat Troop, The New Pink Panther, All Dogs Go To Heaven, 101 Dalmatians, Winnie the Pooh and HBO’s It’s A Very Muppet Christmas.
He holds the distinct honor of having served as music director and featured composer for two Olympics. First, in 1996 for the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta and again in 2002 for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. For the ’96 games, Mark composed the Emmy nominated song, “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” Performed by opera legend Jessye Norman and featuring lyrics by Grammy-nominated lyricist, Lorraine Feather, the song was the triumphant finale for the Opening Ceremonies. He has served as great conductor for such orchestras as The Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Tokyo Philharmonic, The London Symphony, The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, The Detroit Symphony, The New York City Paps, The Baltimore Symphony and The Atlanta Symphony.
Recent credits include his original score for Disney’s Oscar-nominated theatrical short Get A Horse! which appeared in theatres with the blockbuster feature film Frozen. He is also featured in the award-winning documentary The Tunes Behind the Toons. Produced by Disney Animation Studios by David Bassert, the film focuses on the unique history styles and techniques of music for animation. Mark is also an accomplished saxophonist and has performed under such conductors as Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, Simon Rattle, Esa Pekka Salonen, Michael Tilson Thomas, Erich Leinsdorf and Pierre Boulez.
For more information, visit www.markwatters.com
TOKYO PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
In 2011, the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra celebrated its 100th anniversary as Japan’s first symphony orchestra. With about 130 musicians, TPO performs both symphonies and operas regularly. TPO is proud to have appointed Maestro Myung-Whun Chung, who has been conducting TPO since 2001, as Honorary Music Director, Maestro Andrea Battistoni as Chief Conductor and Maestro Mikhail Pletnev as Special Guest Conductor. TPO has established its world-class reputation through its subscription concert series, regular opera and ballet assignments at the New National Theatre, and a full, ever in-demand agenda around Japan and the world, including broadcasting with NHK Broadcasting Corporation, various educational programs, and tours abroad. In March 2104, TPO became a global sensation in its centennial world tour of six major cities: New York, Madrid, Paris, London, Singapore and Bangkok. In December 2015, TPO held Beethoven’s 9th symphony concerts in Seoul and Tokyo with Maestro Myung-Whun Chung, with Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra combined into one orchestra. TPO has partnerships with Bunkamura Orchard Hall, the Bunkyo Ward in Tokyo, Chiba City, Karuizawa Cho in Nagano and Nagaoka City in Niigata.
OSAKA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Providing music that “satisfies both the audience and the musicians” was the original motto raised by Honorary Founding President Hiroko Shikishima when The Orchestra Osaka Symphoniker was founded in 1980. Since then, the Symphoniker’s electrifying and moving performances have been reviewed as “outpouring of souls” and “sound of passion”. In April 2010, The Orchestra Osaka Symphoniker was renamed Osaka Symphony Orchestra (OSO).
In April 2016, Yuzo Tayama assumed the position of Music Adviser of this orchestra. In April 2011 Kiyotaka Teraoka (winner of Dimitris Mitropoulos International Competition in 2000, served as the Resident Conductor from January 2004 to March 2011) became the Permanent Conductor. These team of two talented conductors is drawing great interest and anticipation.
In 2000, OSO moved its base to Sakai City, OSO is in the spotlight for taking active cultural role in Sakai, a Government-Designated City of Japan. In April 2006, Mr. Takeo Higuchi, Chairman and CEO of Daiwa House Industry Co., Ltd. assumed the position of Chairman of the Board. With the full support of Daiwa House Industry, OSO is expected to become even more active.
MARNE-LA-VALLÉE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA (Paris)
ROYAL PHILHARMONIC CONCERT ORCHESTRA (London)
METROPOLITAN FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA (Singapore)
SELANGOR SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA (Kuala Lumpur)
Director Tetsuya Nomura & Composer Yoko Shimomura
A Conversation 2016.11.29
The First Joint Interview
-Surprisingly, this is your first joint interview. Can you tell us about when you met?
YS: I'll be Mr. Nomura doesn't remember (laughs).
TN: I don't. I don't remember meeting any of the staff for the first time. We should've done this interview then. I don't remember what happened fifteen years ago.
YS: I remember it clearly. When I joined the company, I went around introducing myself to everyone. When I got to Mr. Nomura's desk, he turned around and said, "I'm the monster guy, Nomura." I wasn't sure if "monster guy" was a job title (laughs). Someone then pointed out that Mr. Nomura was working on the monster art.
-When did you first come to "notice" each other?
TN: I want to say during the production of Parasite Eve in LA.
YS: I remember asking him about the concept of Final Fantasy VII. I hadn't had a chance since we were never on the same team. We finally were, and that's when I also learned about his doodle art.
TN: That's when I started drawing them.
YS: It was a while before the production of Kingdom Hearts 1.
-Why was Ms. Shimomura chosen to do the music for Kingdom Hearts?
TN: She was available (laughs).
YS: That's it? (laughs)
TN: There were a few candidates, but the coordinator of the sound department at the time recommended her saying she showed the most promise. My reaction was, "Oh, her. Shimomura."
YS: What was that supposed to mean? (laughs)
TN: After the first title, I had her stay on because I don't like changing pivotal members of the staff midway.
YS: You probably don't remember, but when I decided to go freelance, you came to see me.
TN: I did?
YS: You asked me about my plans after I quit. When I said I had no idea, you told me you didn't care whether I worked here or not, you wanted to keep me on the series. That's when I realized freelance was a real possibility. It's a pretty great story!
TN: I don't think the guy who said that is the same guy who's here right now (laughs).
YS: Don't ruin my story!
It Was Supposed to be Scrapped...
-How do you communicate during the development process?
YS: For Kingdom Hearts I would suggest music to Mr. Nomura—
TN: I usually make requests through someone, so we didn't talk much directly.
YS: For the first title, I brought you a demo MD (1). I left it on your desk and sent you an email about it. I remember talking to you on the phone too.
TN: I don't remember that at all.
YS: Generally, I would talk to someone else regarding which type of song should be in which part of the game, but I handed you the demos directly. I would submit them to a planner on the project first, though. I remember some of the songs getting rejected because there was no use for them, but then later finding out that you heard and liked some of them. "Dearly Beloved" is one example. I thought it had been scrapped, but then I saw in an interview you had said, "I don't remember scrapping this!"
-In your mind, which song is the KINGDOM HEARTS song?
TN: "Dearly Beloved" is used often; it's a great song. But the title is hard to remember. What does it mean?
YS: Someone precious to you.
TN: Oh, really? Well, now I know. "Precious." Like The Lord of the Rings (laughs).
YS: I didn't use the internet back then. I was using a dictionary and saw it and thought, "This is it!" I can't believe it's been fifteen years and you can barely remember the title... Speaking of titles, there's a song called "Sunset Horizon" in the KINGDOM HEARTS II secret movie. I didn't want to use the word "sunset," but you did; the poor mediator had one tough job. Don't you remember?
TN: No... I wonder why I wanted to use that word so badly.
YS: I can't remember why I didn't want to use that word (laughs).
TN: I wonder if it's because I often went to Sunset Boulevard during the production of KINGDOM HEARTS II (laughs). Nevertheless, all your titles are hard to figure out. Some are in English, some in Italian. What is it you're trying to do? (laughs)
YS: They're generally in English, with a little bit of variety thrown in the mix...
TN: None of your titles help me realize, "Oh, that song!" You should keep them simple.
YS: My English isn't very good... A part of me would like to name them in Japanese...
TN: We've come this far, it'd be confusing if we switched now (laughs). When I'm making a trailer, I have to listen to every song because I can't tell which title goes with which song. You should've named them in Japanese from the start!
YS: There was a discussion regarding naming the songs in English so they'd be understood by a wider audience.
TN: Speaking of song titles, I remember during the production of KINGDOM HEARTS II, we'd been referring to Roxas only as "the mysterious boy," but you named a song after him and put his name out there.
YS: That you remember (laughs). It wasn't supposed to be released yet because it was a spoiler, it went out anyway. It was supposed to be released after the game.
TN: There was a reason we'd stuck with "the mysterious boy" since the beginning... See, this would've been a perfect opportunity for you to use one of your hard-to-understand titles! (laughs)
YS: But all of the other characters' themes were named after them. Anyway, it went on to become a popular song so it all worked out.
Not Living Up to Me
-Mr. Nomura, what's your stance regarding the music?
YS: During Kingdom Hearts Concert -First Breath-, he said something I'll never forget. He said, "I demand only good music." It was a compliment; I was thrilled, but at the same time, I felt I was shouldering a great responsibility. (To Tetsuya Nomura) You must remember that.
TN: No... (laughs)
YS: When I was creating a new song for 0.2, you told me "You're not living up to your own standards." I wasn't living up to myself...
-So you're saying all the songs are great.
TN: That's why I give them the OK.
YS: Sometimes the team says yes, but Mr. Nomura says no.
-What song required the most back-and-forth?
TN: That I remember. The music from Twilight Town.
YS: "Lazy Afternoons." You said it was lacking "melancholy" and "wistfulness." Remember?
TN: I do. I ended up telling you exactly what I wanted.
YS: After he told me, he green-lighted the first title I submitted.
TN: I generally don't specify what I want.
YS: I wish you would...
TN: It's not a good idea because you'd put too much focus on that. I have a certain image in my head, and I'll keep asking for more until I get it.
YS: I'd love to know what that image is...
-Mr. Nomura, what kind of music do you usually listen to?
TN: I don't listen to a lot of music, and I don't play any instruments. I don't know why I'm so picky when it comes to music; at least I'm aware that I am.
YS: When a song is rejected, I ask why, and the response generally begins with, "I don't know much about music" and continues with "I just know something's off." That "something" is what I'd like to know (laughs). But maybe now knowing is how we manage to keep creating something new.
-Who's your favorite artist?
TN: There are a few artists I like, but lately I've been into loud rock (a genre born from heavy metal and hard core rock).
TN: I like the tones of a piano.
YS: It's hard to choose, but I've played the piano for a long time; it will always be special.
-Are there any other Kingdom Hearts concerts you'd like to see come true?
YS: Rock!? With a band? Weren't you saying before that you wanted a musical?
TN: A while ago. When I watched the movie Les Misérables (2), I thought, "We should do a musical!" But I wanted to incorporate it into a game, not an on-stage production.
YS: There was a musical number in Kingdom Hearts II. That was rough.
TN: In Atlantica. But that was a music game. I wanted a musical cutscene.
YS: Thank goodness that never happened... (laughs)
TN: Well, I was watching a show (3) the other day, and it had a musical number. It made me want to create a musical, a production where everyone bursts into song.
-Who's your favorite Disney character?
TN: I've come to like Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Figaro's cute too, the cat in Pinocchio who's always staring at the goldfish. I also like the White Queen from Alice in Wonderland.
Conveying the Concept with Music and Video
-How did the concerts come to be?
TN: I've been saying we should do it for a long time now.
YS: So have I, and so have a lot of fans.
TN: We've tried several times, but it just never happened.
YS: It took a while to go from "wanting" to "doing."
TN: Speaking of fans, there's a reason I wanted the opening night to be the day after KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX was released in Japan. This doesn't apply to the overseas fans, unfortunately... After the previous concert, many people said it made them want to play the games all over again. We decided to release the games the day before, so people can go home and play to their hearts' content after the concert.
YS: I hope people don't stay up all night playing the night before the concert and end up falling asleep during the performance (laughs).
-How did you decide on the program?
YS: I came up with a rough plan, which Mr. Nomura checked.
TN: I wanted both concerts to be connected, like two halves. This time all the music will be accompanied by video, and that will convey the concept and emotions even better. I can't tell you exactly what the program will look like right now because the video still needs to be edited, and new songs will be announced. The plan may change.
-Are you directing the videos?
TN: I plan on working closely with the movie director like I do when making trailers and such.
YS: It's like creating a trailer for each song. It must be rough...
TN: I want to make sure the music fits just right.
YS: It's a live performance; that might be difficult.
TN: I plan on treating this like any other project.
The Concert is Like Any Other KINGDOM HEARTS Project
-Are there different themes for the previous concert and this one?
YS: We wanted drama. We wanted the audience to feel as though they're playing the game; we wanted to tell a story. We needed to keep the popular songs, but have variety. Some songs were better suited for a wind ensemble, others for an orchestra, some both. We had a plan.
TN: The plan was good, but I had to make some changes (laughs). Some songs were too similar. I wanted "Hikari" performed in the last concert; she didn't.
YS: I wanted the concert to end on a happy note, which is why I wanted "Dearly Beloved."
TN: But I stood my ground and that was that. Aren't you happy the concert didn't end with you performing the last song, a nervous wreck on stage? (laughs)
TN: I can just picture you backstage. "I messed up!"
YS: I wasn't that bad! I got better with every performance.
TN: Don't use the concerts for practice! (laughs)
YS: I was nervous; I'd never played on such a grand stage with a wind ensemble. And if it were the last song, I wouldn't have performed!
TN: I didn't get a chance to watch the first concert as a spectator. I only caught a glimpse during rehearsals, too.
-Do you plan on participating in the overseas performances?
TN: As many as I can. I want to go to Singapore. The LA performance is around the same time as E3, so there's a good chance I'll make it to that one too. I'm not sure about the others. (To Yoko Shimomura) You're going, aren't you? On your own dime?
YS: There's no way I can afford that! (laughs)
-What would you like to say to the audience?
TN: This concert is like a Kingdom Hearts project, just like the games and other productions. We have video to accompany the songs this time, but as they'll be performed by different orchestras in each country, no one knows how it'll all come together in the end. I'm excited to experience the different performances in each country. During the last concert, even the Tokyo and Osaka performances left varying impressions despite both of them being held in Japan. Concerts are live and you never get the same experience twice; it's an appealing factor that I hope everyone is looking forward to.
2]1.TheMiniDisc. A disc-based storage device released by Sony in 1992. It was the most commonly used tool to record music during the production ofKINGDOM HEARTS.2]2.A French historical novel by Victor Hugo. It has been performed on many stages and adapted into films. The musicals are internationally acclaimed. This is referring to the 2012 adaptation.2]3.A TV TOKYO Corporation show. There was an episode that parodiedLes Misérables.Interview: Tomoko Kanemaki, Taketeru Sunamori
References: Taketeru Sunamori
Congratulations on the successful start of the KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra -World Tour-! - Shiro Amano, manga artist of the KINGDOM HEARTS manga series
Thinking of you, wherever you are.
We are listening to the same sounds,
sounds that evolve into melodies,
melodies that transform into beautiful music.
Our worlds are many,
but they share one sky;
I believe the music will carry us all
to the same destination.
Now let us enjoy the fantastical musical world
of KINGDOM HEARTS!
Writer and novelist (works include the KINGDOM HEARTS series novels and the KINGDOM HEARTS 358/2 Days scenario)
KINGDOM HEARTS Orchestra -World Tour-
HIKARI -KINGDOM Orchestra Instrumental Version-
Arrangement: Kaoru Wada
Threats of the Land: KINGDOM HEARTS Battle Medley
Arrangement: Natsumi Kameoka
Lazy Afternoons ~ At Dusk, I Will Think of You…
Arrangement: Souhei Kano
Dearly Beloved -KHII Ver.-
Arrangement: Kaoru Wada
Vector to the Heavens
Arrangement: Sachiko Miyano
Arrangement: Natsumi Kameoka
Wave of Darkness
Arrangement: Natsumi Kameoka
Twinkle Twinkle Holidays
Arrangement: Natsumi Kameoka
Arrangement: Natsumi Kameoka
The Other Promise
Arrangement: Natsumi Kameoka
Arrangement: Sachiko Miyano
Daybreak Town: The Heart of χ
Arrangement: Kaoru Wada
Fate of the Unknown
Arrangement: Kaoru Wada
The World of KINGDOM HEARTS
Arrangement: Kaoru Wada
Let Darkness Assemble: Final Boss Battle Medley
Arrangement: Sachiko Miyano
Heroes and Heroines: Characters’ Medley
Arrangement: Souhei Kano
Passion – KINGDOM Orchestra Instrumental Version
Arrangement: Kaoru Wada
Please note that the program may be subject to change without notice.
A Story of Production Secrets
Yoko Shimomura, Composer
Notable Points in Orchestral Arrangements and Production Secrets
November 15, 2016
An Arrangement with Drama
Hikari – KINGDOM Orchestra Instrumental Version-
I didn’t compose this song, but I was involved in the discussion regarding arrangement. It’s arranged by Mr. Kaoru Wada (composer, orchestrator and constructor as well as one of the arrangers for this concert). I was at the initial meeting to make the request. We didn’t want a simple instrumental orchestral version, but an arrangement brimming with drama and life. The end product was simply amazing. I’m such fan! It was the last song performed in Kingdom Hearts Concert - First Breath -, but for this concert, you’ll have to wait and see. It’s up to Mr. Nomura (Tetsuya Nomura, director of the KINGDOM HEARTS series). The main difference between the previous arrangement and this is the instruments, the image and feel has stayed the same. My hat’s off to Mr. Wada for this wonderful creation.
Everyone’s come home
Dearly Beloved – KHII Ver.-
I’ve been composing game music for a long time, but I’ve seldom have opportunities to work on sequels. After the first KINGDOM HEARTS, I wasn’t sure if I’d be asked to work on the following games. I left Square Enix to become freelance after KINGDOM HEARTS, and when I learned I’d have the opportunity to work on KINGDOM HEARTS II I felt like I’d returned: I was home. And that’s the feeling that kept creeping up on me while I was creating this arrangement. I selected this piece hoping everyone would feel that they were home, that they’d made it. ‘Thank you for coming back, for coming home’.
The difference between the KINGDOM HEARTS version and the “KHII Ver.” Is that there is no overlying melody in the former. The latter contains an overlying melody from the ending of KINGDOM HEARTS as both games are connected. The arrangements of songs from KINGDOM HEARTS II onward generally have a melody with the exception of Birth by Sleep, as the events of the story transpire before KINGDOM HEARTS.
When I was working on KINGDOM HEARTS II, some suggested I stick with the original song from the first title, but I worked to arrange it with the message “We’ve come back to this world, we’ve come home”. I even had programmers adjust parts of the opening movie, such as the timing of the logo. I was really invested in this project, it was an amazing experience, but truth be told, I had no idea the series was going to go on for so long. Now I have to make an arrangement for every game, and because each game has a different concept, “Dearly Beloved” requires a lot of thought and inspiration. What was I thinking ten years ago!? (laughs) I’ll continue to do my best, I promise.
The Most Powerful of Songs
It’s quite different from “Dearly Beloved”, isn’t it? (laughs) This song is a bit jarring. It’s extremely powerful right from the beginning. It comes at you with force. “Dearly Beloved” has a soft, melancholy feel, but this is quite the opposite: powerful and strong. I created an orchestral arrangement for my album drammatica a few years ago, and since then, I’ve wanted to have this performed by a live orchestra with a piano and chorus. It lacked a chorus in KINGDOM HEARTS Concert - First Breath -, so I’m very excited for this performance.
The Twilight Shore
Now the theme of Organization XIII, it was originally the intro to “Another Side”. Mr. Nomura heard it and liked it so much that it became its own creation. This piece conjures images of a twilight shore: if “Dearly Beloved” is the glittering sea under the sun, this is the serene ocean come nightfall. Both pieces paint pictures of calming waves sweeping back and forth, though they differ in their own unique ways. This phrase undergoes many transformations as it makes numerous appearances elsewhere, such as the Organization XIII boss battle music. When I originally composed this, I never dreamed it would end up being a part of so many other pieces (laughs).
A Song that Brings Happiness
Twinkle Twinkle Holidays
This is a version I arranged for drammatica. KINGDOM HEARTS tends to have a lot of dark and melancholy music, which the fans love, but I want people to remember that there’s also music that’s lively and upbeat and mellow. I wanted a happy song with some cheer. The first part is from Christmas Town in KINGDOM HEARTS II and the second part from the scene in Never Land in KINGDOM HEARTS where they fly around the clock tower (“Never Land Sky”). The music that connects the two parts is a low-key arrangement of “Never Land Sky”. The themes of Christmas Town and Never Land don’t have much in common except for one thing: they make people happy, and that’s why these two songs were selected.
It’s exactly as the title implies: it plays in Destiny Islands when Sora touches the wall decorated with the drawing of a paopu fruit. The memories of Sora, Riku and the others are fragile, but must not be broken; can easily brake, but must not be forgotten. That’s what I aimed to incorporate in this song. The original song is velvety smooth and an orchestra adds a certain delicate sound. The emotion is the same, but the arrangement is a little different. At least, that’s what I’ve hope I’ve accomplished (laughs).
An Adventurous Medley
The World of KINGDOM HEARTS
It begins with everyone’s favorite Mickey Mouse theme song. It was performed in the previous concert, but I wanted to arrange it to give it an adventurous twist and make the audience feel as though it’s a trip around the world. Apart from the Disney Castle song in the beginning, the rest of the music was taken from different games, though there may be some overlap with certain songs. The field medley in the previous concert was based solely on KINGDOM HEARTS, and I wanted to do something a little different. I hope you enjoy the songs from KINGDOM HEARTS all the way to Dream Drop Distance; I want you to feel as though you’re experiencing the games all over again!
Music and Picture
Fate of the Unknown
This is the song from the secret ending in KINGDOM HEARTS II FINAL MIX+. It’s the introduction to Birth by Sleep, but at the time, the game hadn’t been announced. There was a lot of speculation, a lot of mystery surrounding this movie. Looking back, it all makes sense, but at the time, there were a lot of questions. When I received the movie, I did my best to compose a song to match what I saw on-screen. I made a little progress every day and spent a lot of time adjusting and editing. I have a fond attachment to this song: I chose this piece because it means a lot to me. I carefully wrote the song hoping I was accurately representing everything in the movie, but when a while later, I found out it was an introduction to Birth by Sleep, I began working on it as the theme song. It’s been since arranged as both Terra and Aqua’s themes. Please enjoy the song and the visuals that accompany it!
Countless Emotions and Concepts
Heroes and Heroines: Characters’ Medley
There are plenty of medleys in this performance because there were many songs I wanted performed (laughs). I also tried to incorporate songs that I think fans want to hear, and after some thought, I realized there were so many to choose from that the only way to do so was through medleys. This medley is not simply a whirlwind of songs, the songs clearly portray each character. Sora is bright and energetic, Riku is passionate but cool headed: I wanted to capture the essence of everyone. It is a medley, but at the same time, each piece has its own concept and range of emotions. By Mr. Nomura’s request, Vanitas’s theme was composed by Mr. Ishimoto (Takeharu Ishimoto, a composer at Square Enix). His music has a certain strength and sophistication that I can’t replicate. I hope you enjoy the unique quality of each piece.
On the Edge of Your Seat
Threats of the Land: KINGDOM HEARTS Battle Medley
The KINGDOM HEARTS field medley was performed in the previous concert, and to do something different, we decided on the KINGDOM HEARTS battle medley. The field medley in this concert has one piece from each game, but this battle medley is based solely on KINGDOM HEARTS. I want you to think back and remember how much you struggled with all the tough enemies you encountered (laughs). We hope to keep you on the edge of your seats!
This is a tough piece to perform. I never even dreamed it would one day be performed by an orchestra. Back when KINGDOM HEARTS was being developed, streaming (2) didn’t exist, so all the music was sequenced (3). This medley is comprised by eleven songs that have no sympathy for the performers (laughs). If only there were two more songs, it would have the same number of members as Organization XIII (laughs). While the story and exploration are enjoyable, battles are a big part of the gameplay, and I hope this piece reminds everyone of their struggle to complete the game. For those who haven’t yet played the game, there’s no opportune time like the present with KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5+2.5 ReMIX!
Melancholy is Important in Life
Lazy Afternoons ~ At Dusk, I Will Think of You…
It’s finally Roxas’s turn in the limelight. I wanted to slow things down; there are a lot of fast-paced and explosive pieces. I thought this would be good to incorporate balance. It’s similar to the second movement in a symphony, slow, smooth, relaxing, like a sunset. I remember when Mr. Nomura told me there wasn’t enough “melancholy” (laughs). I added much more, and I hope I’ve created an enjoyable piece. I’ve told this story before (4), haven’t I? (laughs) It took a long time to get the right sound, and as I kept creating more and more versions of the song, I would wistfully gaze at the scenery from my balcony and try to feel the “melancholy” that Mr. Nomura was talking about. It’s good for the soul every now and then (laughs).
A Coveted Piece
Vector to the Heavens
This is Xion’s theme. I know quite a few fans were puzzled, so I’d like to clarify that “Musique pour la tristesse de Xion” is a slightly slow-paced theme song, while “Vector to the Heavens” is a battle song. In Piano Collections, these two songs blend as one, and because it’s titled “Musique,” many also refer to the battle song by that name. I wasn’t certain what to call it as the piece begins with “Musique,” but ends with “Vector.” Since it was titled “Musique” in Piano Collections, this time I’ve called it “Vector,” with the battle music the star of the piece.
In the previous concert, “Vector” was part of the boss medley. This time, it will be performed with the arrangement done by Ms. Miyano (orchestrator Sachiko Miyano, one of the arrangers for this concert), as it appears in memória! released several years ago. Fans say this piece bring them to tears; I didn’t realize it would become so popular, and I was very pleasantly surprised.
With Xion’s name derived from the mathematical unit “No. I (imaginary unit)” and “vector” implying a course, the title means “Head to the sky” / “Return to the sky.” The title means a lot to me and I’m grateful at how much the fans care about this song. It’s a song that brings you to tears, it’s a boss battle you don’t want to win. For the game’s original release, Mr. Nomura requested her song to be “an aggressive piano concerto.” I told him that wasn’t possible on a DS, but he put his foot down. I’m grateful for the help I received from the sound staff, as our hard work resulted in this magnificent piece.
The Newest Song
Wave of Darkness
If I recall, we referred to this song as Bass 1. In my mind, it’s the most recent… Well, I supposed March (2016) isn’t very recent, but it is the newest KINGDOM HEARTS song. I selected this piece because I thought the audience would appreciate a battle song. It’s brimming with speed and action, just like a boss battle. My only concern is that the boss battle will be a little too tough, and that players will have an adverse reaction to this song that accompanies it (laughs).
If You’re Curious, Give it a Try
Daybreak Town: The Heart of χ
I’m sure those who play KINGDOM HEARTS Unchained χ have memorized this piece by now, but it’s not in the soundtrack yet, and I thought it would be a great chance to perform something new. I’m sure many of you know it already, but for those who don’t, I urge you to play Unchained χ. I play it too, I’ve been told I’m quite the hardcore player. Was that a good plug for the game? (laughs) It’s a fun piece, with the battle music energetic and upbeat, and the field music mellow and relaxing. I hope it conveys the fun and cheerful side of KINGDOM HEARTS.
A Tough, Bittersweet Boss Battle
The Other Promise
A lot of people have voiced their love for this song, a song that accompanies a difficult, bittersweet boss battle. It was performed in the previous concert, and it was also recorded in drammatica with a different arrangement. I loved that arrangement so much that I wanted to hear it live. Listening to this piece makes me want to cry, partly because I was having such a difficult time with work when I wrote it. I wonder how much of this song is about Roxas’s sadness and how much is about mine (laughs). I hope the song conveys my effort and dedication. When I watched the story for the first time, I remember thinking, “Poor Roxas!” I hope that’s accurately reflected in the song too.
Going Out with a Bang
Let Darkness Assemble: Final Boss Battle Medley
It starts with a phrase from “Destati” and is composed of every final boss theme from all the games. Final boss battles are a form of catharsis, there’s a sense of liberation. Every time I think of an amazing phrase, I know I should have it for the final boss theme, but I can’t compose such an important piece until late in the development process; it’s just not the way I work. With the final boss theme created near the end, the final boss fought near the end, it’s likely this piece will be performed near the end… Let’s go out with a bang! I want you to remember that battle that seemed to go forever.
For the song “Dismiss,” Mr. Nomura wanted to combine the themes of Xemnas, the final boss in KINGDOM HEARTS II, and Terra. On top of that, he wanted a hint of the theme of Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, from KINGDOM HEARTS (laughs). There I was with no idea what the story was about, yet asked to blend three songs. I was stunned (laughs). It was difficult because he wasn’t asking for a medley; I needed to figure out how to merge them. The mixing process was very difficult, I had to ask for specifics such as having Terra’s melody in the foreground with a phrase of “Destati” sung by a chorus in the back, or having more than one audible melody at a time. I really hope you enjoy the end result (laughs)! It took much time and effort, but at the end, all the pieces seemed to come together.
A Dynamic Orchestra
Passion – KINGDOM Orchestra Instrumental Version
I love the original “Hikari” as well as the orchestral arrangement. This piece is no different; the orchestral arrangement adds a certain dramatic and powerful feel. When a song with lyrics is arranged for an orchestra, the dynamics (5) and inflection of the hushed segments to the powerful become apparent. This arrangement should make the audience as though they’ve experienced the entire story of KINGDOM HEARTS II in a single musical number. The original song is fantastic, as is the orchestral instrumental version. Each has their own appeal, and both are extraordinary.
2]1. A version where the music is exclusively produced by instruments.2]2. A common practice where the audio is prerecorded and played back when required. It requires a lot more data than sequenced music, but offers a wider variation of sounds.2]3. It was once common for music to be programmed using the synthesizer within the gaming console itself. While it had limitations playing simultaneous sounds and reproducing timbres, it could produce sounds and patterns impossible by people.2]4. This is referring to the interview for theKINGDOM HEARTS Concert -First Breath-pamphlet.2]5. A way of communicating volume and intensity in music by using markings such as piano and forte. Orchestras focus in dynamics more than other genres.Interview: Taketeru Sunamori, Tomoko Kanemaki
References: Taketeru Sunamori
Secret Story from KINGDOM HEARTS Concert - First Breath -
Naminé: Don’t Worry. You might forget about me, but with our promise, I can come back. Yes, one day the light – it will be ours, and it will bring us together. I’ll then – I’ll be in your heart.
Sora: Right. Forgotten – but not lost.
Lingering Will: Aqua… Ven… A keyblade? Who are you? I know you. We’ve met before, way back when. No, that wasn’t you. You’re not the one I chose. Where is he? Xe… ha… nort… Is that you? Xeha… nort… Xehanort!
Lingering Will: That’s it. Your power. That’s what I felt within you. The power that connects to Aqua. And to Ven’s heart.
Terra: Where am I…?
Naminé: In your memories. Traces of you were lost, so I found you through memories belonging to those you’ve met in the past.
Terra: Who are you?
Naminé: I’m Naminé. It’s nice to meet you. I’m a witch who can control peoples’ memories.
Terra: A witch?
Naminé: Right now, you’re bound to two memories. One belongs to you, the other belongs to an unspeakable darkness –
Terra: … Master Xehanort.
Naminé: Your heart will soon encounter a familiar light. You must make sure she isn’t los tot the darkness. You must guide her.
Terra: Her? You mean Aqua? I’m not sure what I can do to help, not like this.
Naminé: You must fight, Terra, like the others. You mustn’t let your heart melt into darkness: follow your true memories, and you’ll reach the light. She’s headed there too – to the same place. You must believe in your promise, just as she continues to believe in you.
Terra: Aqua. Ven. One day I’ll – I’ve never forgotten our promise. I will keep fighting.
Yoko Shimomura / Hikaru Utada / Takeharu Ishimoto / Jimmie Dodd
Hosted by: La Fée Sauvage
Produced by: La Fée Sauvage
Executive Producer: Julien Mombert [La Fée Sauvage]
In association with: Disney Concerts / The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd.
Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc.
Executive Producer: Chip McLean [The Walt Disney Company]
Producer: Archie Meguro [The Walt Disney Company (ltd.) Japan]
Business and Legal Affairs: Meg Ross [The Walt Disney Company], Ayako Dan [The Walt Disney Company (ltd.) Japan]
Project Manager: Norimitsu Yasui [The Walt Disney Company (ltd.) Japan]
Project Supervisors: Consumer Products & Interactive / Asia Games
Justin Scarpone, Taichi Takeno, Tomomi Endo, Adam Evanko and Keiichiro Segawa [The Walt Disney Company (ltd.) Japan], Jackie Lay [The Walt Disney Company]
Special Thanks: Emiko Yamamoto
KINGDOM HEARTS FINAL MIX
KINGDOM HEARTS CHAIN of MEMORIES
KINGDOM HEARTS Re: Chain of Memories
KINGDOM HEARTS II
KINGDOM HEARTS II FINAL MIX
KINGDOM HEARTS 358/2 Days
KINGDOM HEARTS Birth by Sleep
KINGDOM HEARTS Birth by Sleep FINAL MIX
KINGDOM HEARTS coded
KINGDOM HEARTS Re: coded
KINGDOM HEARTS 3D [Dream Drop Distance]
KINGDOM HEARTS χ [chi]
KINGDOM HEARTS Unchained χ
KINGDOM HEARTS χ Back Cover
KINGDOM HEARTS 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A fragmentary passage-
Developed by SQUARE ENIX
SQUARE ENIX and the SQAURE ENIX logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of Square Enix Holdings Co., Ltd.
Sora, Riku, Kairi, Donald, and Goofy – five friends, one great adventure.
A young boy awakens in the sleeping world. In his hand, he grips a mysterious weapon called the keyblade. With it, he opens the door before him. A voice calls out:
He opens his eyes to discover the voice belongs to his friend Kairi, and he looks around to discover they’re on the shore of their island. Together with their friend Riku, they’re building a raft to fulfill their dream of travelling to faraway lands.
“I’ve always wondered why we’re here on this island. If there are any other worlds out there, why did we end up on this one?”
One night, a terrible storm strikes the island, and Sora comes face-to-face with a mysterious figure. Kairi disappears in front of Sora’s eyes. And the darkness swallows Riku as he makes a futile attempt to reach out to Sora. More chaos ensues when Heartless, monsters of darkness, emerge and infest their home. Using his Keyblade, Sora banishes the biggest one of all, but as he does, the ground beneath him crumbles and he’s launched into the dark sky.
Sora wakes up to find himself in a place called Traverse Town. As he wanders around, he meets Donald and Goofy, and he learns of the danger looming over the world. Together, they hop into a gummi ship and set off to find Kairi and Riku.
“My friends are my power!”
A cheerful and energetic 14-year-old boy who wields a mysterious weapon called the Keyblade. He, Donald, and Goofy set off in search of his friends.
“Don’t ever forget. Wherever you go, I’m always with you.”
A 14-year-old girl who arrives at Destiny Islands the night of a meteor shower. She doesn’t remember anything about her past.
“Just sitting here won’t change a thing.”
A 15-year-old boy who dreams of leaving his home island in search of adventure.
The Royal Court Magician. He sets off with Goofy in search of the missing King.
“As long as we stick together, it’ll all work out okay.”
The Royal Court Captain with an easygoing attitude. A gentle soul whose weapon of choice is a shield.
“You’re better off without that wretched boy. Now, think no more of him, and come with me.”
An evil witch cloaked in black, she plays a critical role in the mysterious events occurring around the world. She attempts to recruit Riku into joining her cause.
“All worlds begin in darkness, and all so end.”
A brilliant man who once spent his days researching the darkness and the Heartless. He mysteriously disappears, only to one day reappear in front of Sora and his friends.
KINGDOM HEARTS CHAIN of MEMORIES
As Sora and Riku are torn apart, two journeys begin –
After rescuing Kairi from the darkness and stopping Ansem from carrying out his devious plan, Sora, Donald, and Goofy continue their journey through the realm of darkness in search of Riku and the King. Though not quite sure how or why, they end up in a place called Castle Oblivion.
“In this place, to find is to lose, and to lose is to find.”
There, Sora encounters a group called the Organization and is forced into battle after battle. Between the fighting, as the friends venture further into the castle, Sora’s memories are slowly overwritten.
“The darkness is the only source of strength you have from which to draw.”
Meanwhile, Riku also finds himself in the lower chambers of Castle Oblivion. With the King’s help, he fights the darkness – Ansem – that continues to dwell in his heart. Like Sora, Riku is also at the mercy of the Organization as he makes his way through the castle.
“So don’t run away from the light. And don’t be afraid of the dark.”
A mysterious girl, Naminé, resides in the upper floor of Castle Oblivion. Who is she, and what is she doing there? Within the walls of the castle, Sora, Riku and Naminé encounter others and find what they’re looking for, but at what cost?
“Promise me, Naminé.”
With Donald and Goofy by his side, he arrives at Castle Oblivion. As their memories fade, they discover what’s truly important.
“It looks like a boring place to take a nap, anyway.”
After closing the door in the realm of darkness, he was nowhere to be found. He arrives at Castle Oblivion where he continues his journey, all the while struggling with his inner darkness.
“I’d like to walk the path with you.”
A Keyblade wielder who bestows guidance upon Riku. He disappeared along with Riku after closing the door in the realm of darkness.
“I’m not in anyone’s heart.”
A girl with the power to manipulate memories. She spends her days drawing pictures in Castle Oblivion under the supervision of the Organization.
“The void shall shatter your heart!”
No. XI of the Organization, he is tasked to lead the mission in Castle Oblivion. His secret agenda: to use Sora and take over the Organization.
“My name is Axel. Got it memorized?”
No. VIII of the Organization, he helps Marluxia with his plan to overtake the Organization, all the while secretly guiding Sora through the castle.
“The darkness is the only source of strength you have from which to draw.”
The Seeker of Darkness whose body and soul are trapped within the darkness. Though he was once destroyed by Sora, he lives on inside Riku’s heart.
“I’ve been watching you all along.”
He watches over Riku and the young boy’s struggle to restrain the darkness in his heart.
KINGDOM HEARTS II
A year later, Sora sleeps as Roxas, a young boy in Twilight Town, enjoys his summer vacation –
It’s the final week of summer vacation. Roxas and his best friends Hayner, Pence, and Olette enjoy their last days of freedom. However, things take a turn when Roxas is almost kidnapped by a man named Axel, and he’s left a cryptic message from a girl named Naminé.
“Can you feel Sora?”
Meanwhile, at Destiny Islands, Kairi regains nits and pieces of her memories of her old friend Sora. She can’t quite remember his name, but writes him a letter that she places inside a bottle and tosses out into the sea.
“Dear You, out there somewhere.”
Back in Twilight Town, Roxas begins to fade from his friends’ memories. Bearing witness to this confusion, DiZ summons him to the haunted mansion where he helps Roxas remember his true past. As he finally recalls who he truly is, Axel appears and tries to persuade him to come back to the Organization, but Roxas pushes him aside. All he sees is Sora before him, asleep in a crisp white pod. He walks toward him, and as they come face-to-face, Roxas’ summer vacation ends and Sora awakens.
“There’s more to a heart than just anger or hate.”
A 15-year-old boy chosen by the Keyblade. He sleeps in a pod to regain memories that were lost in Castle Oblivion.
“Looks like my summer vacation is… over.”
A boy who lives in Twilight Town. He spends the last week of his summer vacation piecing together who he truly is.
“You sure have lotsa friends to help.”
A Keyblade wielder, like Sora. He and Riku ventured into the realm of darkness a year ago when he became aware of the threat of darkness.
“Maybe… waiting isn’t good enough.”
A 15-year-old girl, and Sora and Riku’s childhood friend. She awaits her two friends back at Destiny Islands.
“To tell you the truth, Sora… I was jealous of you.”
He realizes his powers as a Keyblade wielder, but quickly lets darkness into his heart, something he struggles to keep at bay.
“You were never supposed to exist.”
A girl who can manipulate the memories of those connected to Sora’s memories. Free from the Organization, she now cooperates with the mysterious DiZ.
“Denizens of light, answer this: Why do you hate the darkness?”
The powerful leader of Organization XIII. He watches over Sora as the boy battles the Heartless. He has a hidden agenda no one knows about.
“At last, the Keyblade’s chosen one.”
A mysterious man who spends his days observing Roxas. He hints that he knows King Mickey, but his true identity and intentions are unknown.
Ansem the Wise
“I’ve finally decided to follow my heart.”
A brilliant man who ruled over Hollow Bastion until a decade ago, when it is said that his heart was captured by darkness.
KINGDOM HEARTS 358/2 Days
Before KINGDOM HEARTS II comes the story of Roxas, a former member of Organization XIII –
Roxas wakes in Twilight Town with no recollection of his past. He’s taken in by Organization XIII, acknowledged as their only member with the power to wiled the Keyblade. As he trains under Axel, they become close and find they both have an affinity for ice cream. Thus, a ritual is born: at each day’s end they climb the clock tower and enjoy some sea-salt ice cream as they gaze upon the town.
One day, Axel is called away on a mission to Castle Oblivion, and during his absence, Roxas bonds with their latest Organization member. No. XIV. Xion.
“When Axel gets back, let’s ask him. Then all three of us can have ice cream together!”
However, the day after Roxas and Xion make their promise, he learns that the Organization members from the Castle Oblivion mission were defeated and would never return. As Roxas’ world comes crumbling down, he falls to the floor unconscious.
When he comes to, he opens his eyes to see Axel. Though he’s surprised and relieved, he soon realizes Xion is nowhere to be found. When they finally track her down, they learn she has lost the power to wield the Keyblade. At Axel’s recommendation, she and Roxas continue to take on missions together, and through this, she manages to regain the power she had lost. However, this was just the beginning of the painful events that were to unfold for Roxas, Xion, and Axel…
“Who am I supposed to be?”
A young Keyblade wielder who was invited into the Organization as their thirteenth member. He has no memories of his past.
“I’ll always be there to bring you back!”
No. VIII of Organization XIII. He was initially working toward a goal, but after befriending Roxas and Xion he reevaluates his actions and intentions.
“Then I… wasn’t who I am…?”
A girl who joins the Organization shortly after Roxas. She has no memories of her past and can also wield a Keyblade.
“At long last, we see before us the great collection of hearts.”
Leader of the Organization, and the Nobody of Xehanort, predecessor to Ansem the Wise. He longs to regain his heart and become whole.
“You can’t fight fire with sparks.”
A childhood friend of Sora and Kairi. After leaving Castle Oblivion, he monitors the Organization to try and figure out what they’re up to.
“So you’re going back to Sora?”
A girl who manipulates the memories of Sora and those connected to him. She’s currently working to recreate Sora’s memories.
Kingdom Hearts coded
After the two journeys, a mysterious message appears in Jiminy’s Journal, marking the beginning of an adventure for Data-Sora -
Jiminy’s journal—the diary of past adventures kept by Jiminy Cricket. When a new entry suddenly appears in the first journal—one that had been completely erased in Castle Oblivion—no one can hide their surprise. “Their hurting will be mended if you return to end it.” When Jiminy informs the King of this mysterious entry, His Majesty decides to digitize the contents of the journal. Though successful, the data world is filled with bugs and decoding the message proves difficult.
“I think we know just the guy to do it!”
The King summons the Sora in the data world—Data-Sora—to help them with their investigation. As they watch from Disney Castle, they suddenly realize they’re locked inside their room. Amidst their panic, the real Sora appears, flustering the King and his friends even more. During the confusion, Data-Riku, created as a vessel to hold the data in Jiminy’s journal, appears in the data world to explain what was going on. In order to solve the mystery, Data-Riku had transported the entire room inside the data world, which is why they weren’t able to open the door. Data-Riku continues his explanation, when Maleficent appears.
“The long slumber ends, and very, very soon, all the worlds will belong to me!”
With that, Maleficent traps the King and his friends inside the data world, leaving them to figure a way out for themselves…
“Let me be your light, and I’ll shine the way home for you.”
The Sora in Jiminy’s Journal, a log created during his first adventure. He wields a Keyblade just like the real Sora.
“I’ll see you on the other side!”
The Riku in Jiminy’s Journal who was created as a vessel to hold the log’s data. He wears a black coat to protect himself from the darkness.
“The memories will always connect us; they’ll be our own special bond.”
A Keyblade wielder who learns of the strange developments in Jiminy’s Journal upon his return to Disney Castle.
“Somebody’s gone and written in a brand new entry!”
A cricket and a gentleman who accompanied Sora on his adventures and kept a log of his journeys. He now stays with the King.
“I was worried sick about you two!”
The Royal Court Magician and the King’s best friend. He joined Sora on his past adventures.
“When you’re friends, you do whatever you can to help each other.”
The Royal Court Captain and the King’s other best friend. He’s a gentle soul who shies away from conflict. He joined Sora on his past adventures.
“Then, the only one who can save them, will be Sora.”
A girl who once worked with the Organization, and who can manipulate the memories of Sora and those connected to him. She’s responsible for erasing the entries in Jiminy’s Journal.
“Well, this here world belongs to me, see, so mitts off!”
An old acquaintance of the King and a troublemaker who’s been the cause of a lot of mayhem in the past.
“Drag all that you see into the deepest darkness!”
An evil witch who has the power to control the darkness. She and Pete plan to manipulate the data world to take over the real world.
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
The years before Sora’s journey begins, three Keyblade wielders train for the title of Keyblade Master—
Destiny Islands—a small set of islands surrounded by the ocean. Long ago, from this land, a young man set off in search of adventure. Now he returns much older, carrying in his arms a young boy with a broken heart. He intends to dispose of this boy, but a newly-born heart on the island miraculously patches what is broken. With the young boy’s heart now intact, in his hand appears a Keyblade—proof that a heart exists within the wielder. The young boy’s name is Ventus.
“The three of us will always be one.”
In the Land of Departure, located between the realms of light and darkness, three young Keyblade wielders—Terra, Aqua, and Ventus—train under Master Eraqus to become Keyblade Masters. The night before their Mark of Mastery exam, Aqua hands Terra and Ventus lucky charms she calls Wayfinders.
“Only Aqua has shown the Mark of Mastery.”
During the exam, Terra gives in to the power of darkness, and as a result, only Aqua is grated the title of Master. Master Xehanort, who had witnessed Terra’s actions, consoles him and encourages him not to shy away from the darkness, but to master and harness its power. Meanwhile, Ventus finds himself confronted by a strange boy in a mask. Little did they know this was the beginning of a long, long adventure for them all...
“I will not… let you hurt my friend!”
A young man who trains under Master Eraqus to become a Keyblade Master. He struggles with the darkness in his heart.
“My name is Master Aqua. Now return my friend’s heart or pay the price!”
A serious and dedicated girl with a great sense of responsibility. She earns the title of Keyblade Master and begins a journey of her own.
“I’m asking you, as a friend. Just… put an end to me.”
A young boy who trains with Terra and Aqua. He was brought to Master Eraqus with no recollection of his past.
“Now it is your darkness that shall be the ark that sustains me!”
A Keyblade Master who embraces the darkness with the hopes of creating a brand-new world. He brought Ventus to Eraqus several years ago.
“Forgive me… but you must exist no more.”
The Keyblade Master who teaches Terra, Ventus, and Aqua, and protects the Land of Departure.
“Don’t you worry, Aqua.”
A Keyblade wielder and apprentice to the great wizard, Yen Sid. He learns of the strange occurrences around the world and takes off to investigate.
“He’s leaving you behind. And by the time you catch up . . . he’ll be a different person.”
A masked young man who exudes darkness. He’s somehow linked to the Unversed popping up in various worlds, but no one knows how or why.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Sora and Riku attempt the Mark of Mastery exam as preparation for the inevitable battle against Xehanort—
Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, and Xemnas, leader of Organization XIII, are no more. However, their defeat only signifies Master Xehanort’s return. Keyblade Master Yen Sid summons Sora and Riku to have them prove their Mark of Mastery, as Master Xehanort must be stopped. They’re to dive into the seven Sleeping Worlds—worlds that fell into darkness but were not revived with Ansem’s defeat—and wake them. Their success will prove they have the power to awaken those who are hurting, those who are connected to Sora.
“Sora and Riku. Let your examination begin.”
Master Yen Sid uses his magic to teleport them to Destiny Islands at a time before the darkness had arrived, and there, they fight and defeat an illusion of the sea witch Ursula. By doing so, they unknowingly open a Keyhole of Sleep. Sora and Riku head off to a new world.
“This world has been connected.”
A mysterious figure in a brown robe watches from a distance. No one knows who he is or what his intentions are…
“You treat people’s hearts like bottles on a shelf, but they’re not!”
A boy who fought Xehanort’s counterpart and saved the realm of light from the clutches of darkness. He takes on the Mark of Mastery exam in an attempt to earn the title of Keyblade Master.
“Sora saved me once. And . . . I heard him call my name. He needs me.”
Sora’s childhood friend who, in the past, walked the path of darkness. He attempts the Mark of Mastery exam to test whether even he is capable of becoming a Keyblade Master.
“If it’s all right with you, can I go help Sora and Riku out?”
A hero of light who has teamed up with Sora and Riku in the past to save the world. He watches over them as they attempt the exam.
“The name’s Lea. Got it memorized?”
In the Organization, he was Axel, best friends with Sora’s Nobody, Roxas. Now, he’s Lea.
“You have already wandered off the path.”
A young man who appears in front of Sora and Riku and taunts them as they venture through the Sleeping Worlds. They don’t know who he is or what he’s up to.
“We must be ready.”
A great sorcerer, Keyblade Master, and the King’s mentor. He is the first to notice the strange events occurring in the worlds and immediately summons Sora and his friends to uncover the truth.
Kingdom Hearts χ[chi]
Long, long ago, before Sora came into the world, lived a tale of foretellers, the Keyblade War, and most of all, you.
The Master of Masters has six apprentices, to each of whom he bestows a unique role. Shortly after they’re given their tasks, one disappears without a trace. The five that remain assemble their own Unions and gather light in an effort to repel the inevitable darkness looming upon them. However, this was to become the catalyst for the tragic Keyblade War, in which many lives were lost.
“It’s not over yet.”
Much is destroyed in the war, but the Dandelions—Keyblade wielders tasked to avoid the war by seeking refuge in the outside world—attempt to rebuild the world and keep light alive by passing it down to future generations.
This is a story of endless battles, lingering memories, and you.
“Sadness will inevitably lead to darkness.”
Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A fragmentary passage-
Riku, a new Keyblade Master, and Aqua, a Master who wanders the realm of darkness—
As his journey within the Sleeping Worlds comes to an end, Riku learns he has passed the Mark of Master exam and is granted the title of Keyblade Master. However, there is no time for celebration as Master Yen Sid informs him of the dire reality.
“The great battle with Xehanort is almost upon us.”
In order to prepare for the clash, he reveals that the three wielders who disappeared over a decade ago must be summoned to this world. They are Ventus, Terra, and Aqua.
“I saw her. In the realm of darkness.”
The King, who had traveled to the dark realm, speaks of his encounter with Aqua.