When I was first getting into anime, the concept of “character songs” (or sometimes known as “image songs”) was something that was a little hard to wrap my mind around. They’re essentially songs written from the character’s point of view and performed in character. If done right, if gives you further insight into the character in a way that you don’t often hear them express themselves.
If done wrong…? Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Join along for a trip down memory lane as we discuss what went wrong with Initial U!
While we’re on the topic of character songs, and interesting tidbits behind thing, I thought I’d share with you the fact that of all the Sailor Soldiers – and, indeed, many of the main cast! – only Hotaru and Setsuna went the entire series without having their own character songs. This is purportedly because their voice actresses couldn’t sing. I can’t say whether or not this is the case, but it’d be a good explanation!
Now, what about Haruka? Well, not being able to sing is definitely not the case here. Megumi Ogata, the voice behind our favorite masculine Sailor Soldier, has 15 singles and 18 full albums released to her name.1
What’s more, she had already performed a song as Haruka back during Sailor Moon S for her character song 風になりたい (Kaze ni Naritai; I want to be the wind). Stranger still, not only did Megumi Ogata not perform the song, but someone else actually did, which is something you don’t see with the other characters.
So, what gives? Well, as usual, the internet has an answer. Keep in mind that I can’t find any hard sources such as magazine interviews or quotes on websites, but the information I found across various blogs and websites all seem to support the same story.
Initially,2 Initial U was planned to be released together with Sailor Neptune’s character song, 戦士の想い (Senshi no Omoi; Soldiers’ Love), but it was first delayed and then cancelled outright. The song finally made its debut not as a a single (like all of the other character songs), but in the Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon Memorial Song Box.
The reason for this is apparently because Ms. Takeuchi was signed on to write the lyrics for all of the Sailor Moon Sailor Stars character songs, and Megumi – who takes her roles very seriously – didn’t really appreciate the take on Haruka’s character.
To be fair, this argument isn’t totally without merit. After the series had gone on for five years at this point, it’s little wonder that the characterizations as Ms. Takeuchi saw them would differ from how they had grown and developed in the anime.
What was wrong with it? Apparently, in one her not-uncommon open-heart, tell-all discussions on her late-night radio program 緒方恵美の銀河にほえろ! (Megumi Ogata’s Calls Out to the Galaxy!),3 Megumi stated that the lyrics didn’t reflect the anime Haruka that she helped create, and she wanted to protect that version of the character.
Considering the single got delayed and then ultimately cancelled, I’m guessing that Ms. Takeuchi also refused to rewrite the lyrics into something more suitable, so that would have put them at a bit of an impasse. After all, while Ms. Takeuchi refused to go against how she viewed her characters, Megumi – as a professional voice artist – probably couldn’t fathom using Haruka’s voice to say things Haruka would never say. Noble choices for both of them.
Tangentially related, but I’ve read a lot of stories about how stubborn Ms. Takeuchi can be – some even describing her as “difficult to work with.” That’s something I’ll have to explore another day.
Now, what was wrong with Initial U as a song? While I can’t say for sure, everything I’ve been able to find says that she felt the lyrics were too superficial – they lacked that strength and determination that Megumi felt Haruka was known for.
Oh, and also, the song’s title is a cheap play off of the car-racing manga Initial D 4 and it’s filled with not-so-subtle car and racing references. I mean, checker flags, Ferrari? No offense, but it reads like an Initial D fanfic more than it sounds like a poem recited by Haruka. At least in my opinion.
Perhaps the most interesting turn to this story is that Megumi ultimately released her own tribute song to Haruka on her album “M.O.” in the form of the song 風になる (Kaze ni Naru; Becoming the Wind). Even more interesting about this song is that it’s essentially identical musically to Initial U, but with all new lyrics. Have a listen!
Kaze ni Naru
I wish there was more solid proof to offer here, but unfortunately this is all speculation floating around on the internet. It’s clear that something did happen, though, when you consider the fact that the song was delayed and ultimately cancelled before being revived later with a different person hired on to sing it. Then add in the fact that Megumi did her own rendition of the song later, and it seems pretty obvious something was up.
If this is all true, what do you think of her stand on the issue? Does the voice actress also have some say in who their character has become? Or is it selfish to tell the creator that they don’t know what the right characterization is?
Personally, my take on the situation is that Megumi made the right call. Not necessarily because she would be betraying Haruka, but I think the whole concept was flawed. The idea of selling the manga characterizations with anime art and the anime voice actresses comes off as… wrong to me, because these are clearly two different universes. But that’s just me.