Radwimps: The Japanese Band Lending Magic to Makoto Shinkai's Films
I was a fan of Japanese rock band Radwimps long before I became obsessed with Makoto Shinkai’s coming-of-age animated films. Ever since 2016 ‘s Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name), the filmmaker and the band have collaborated to create fantastical anime scores none has ever matched. In 2019, Shinkai and Radwimps teamed up for the second time for Tenki No Ko (Weathering With You), another realistic yet magical take on Shinkai's creation.
The name Radwimps comes from two English words: Rad and Wimps. It's actually an oxymoron: Cool Losers. Excellent Weaklings. Courageous Cowards.
I’ve seen the evolution of the rock band, from absolutely killing chords and complex rhythmic structures with the hyperstimulating math rock of Oshakashama, to the simple yet elegant Sparkle—one of four major theme songs in Your Name—with its long piano intro and accompaniment by orchestra. Radwimps is quite an imaginative band that knows how to lend musical emotion to a story like Shinkai’s.
Now, more than 7 years since Your Name, Makoto Shinkai has once again collaborated with Radwimps for a third coming-of-age film, Suzume.
I was expecting another orchestra-rock-band genre for this Shinkai film, but what I got was more of a highly rhythmic, ritualistic chant. The titular theme song Suzume feels like the ebb and flow of the ocean, waiting to climax at full tide. Radwimps collaborated with world-renowned film music composer Kazuma Jinnouchi on the soundtrack.
In an interview with Billboard, the band’s lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter Yojiro Noda explained why the song sounds like that.
“Around the time when I first sent him my feedback, the world was going through a major pandemic crisis and the mood of society was like “now isn’t the time for this,” so we sort of stopped contacting each other for a while. But I was able to go to the studio, so I wrote some music and sent him several demos including the prototype of “Suzume” around August.
The second track of the film is also simple and melancholic.
“There’s a guitar sound at the end of Kanata Haluka but I wanted the root of the song to be simpler, not a rock band sound, but a phrase that could be played with your index finger, or even by a kindergartener.”
“Suzume” is a coming-of-age story for the 17-year-old protagonist, Suzume, set in various disaster-stricken locations across Japan, where she must close the doors causing devastation.
Suzume’s journey begins in a quiet town in Kyushu (located in southwestern Japan) when she encounters a young man who tells her, “I’m looking for a door.” What Suzume finds is a single weathered door standing upright in the midst of ruins as though it was shielded from whatever catastrophe struck. Seemingly drawn by its power, Suzume reaches for the knob… Doors begin to open one after another all across Japan, unleashing destruction upon any who are near. Suzume must close these portals to prevent further disaster.
—The stars, then sunset, and the morning sky.
Within that realm, it was as though all time had melted together in the sky…
Never-before-seen scenery, encounters and farewells… A myriad of challenges await her on her journey. Despite all the obstacles in her way, Suzume’s adventure shines a ray of hope upon our own struggles against the toughest roads of anxiety and constraints that make up everyday life. This story of closing doors that connect our past to the present and future will leave a lasting impression upon all of our hearts.
Drawn in by these mysterious doors, Suzume’s journey is about to begin.
Judging by the soundtrack of the film, we’re in for some pretty emotional, heartbreaking, and maybe even depressing story in Suzume. Nevertheless, this third collaboration by Radwimps with Makoto Shinkai amid the pandemic proves just how versatile, adaptive, and imaginative the band is. Without the musical scoring of Radwimps, a Makoto Shinkai film will never feel the same.