Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

News

Hiroshi Kitadani on His History with ‘ONE PIECE’ TV Anime & His Work as ‘We Are!’ Pirates: Interview

Twenty-five years have passed since anime song singer Hiroshi Kitadani released “We Are!,” the first opening song of the ONE PIECE TV anime series and the first of many opening songs he would go on to sing for the show. “UUUUUS!” the opening theme for the Egghead Arc, with its rapid shifts and changes, is the creation of Kitadani, composer Kohei Tanaka, and lyricist Shoko Fujibayashi — the golden trio known as the “‘We Are!’ Pirates.” “UUUUUS!” means not only “us” but sounds similar to the Japanese pronunciation of “earth” and the Japanese word for “tomorrow” (Asu), pointing to the future of the series. Hiroshi Kitadani talked with Billboard Japan about what went into the creation of this stunningly densely-packed song and what lies beyond.

Explore

Explore

See latest videos, charts and news

See latest videos, charts and news

You debuted “UUUUUS!” on-stage at the BANDAI CARD GAMES Fest 23-24 World Tour in Los Angeles, held in late January. What was the atmosphere like?

Hiroshi Kitadani: I sang “We Are!” “OVER THE TOP,” and ” UUUUUS!” With “UUUUUS!” I was a bit worried about debuting it in L.A. I felt like it might be safer to start the song off with a bang in Japan first… But now, because of video streaming sites, overseas viewers can watch the latest episodes at the same time as in Japan, so the crowd went wild. On stage, we were playing the opening animation to ONE PIECE, and the lyrics were also shown on-screen, written phonetically in the English alphabet, so the audience sang along.

When we were kids, we’d learn old anime songs from reruns on TV, but now, with subscription-based streaming services and streaming sites, it’s easy to hear “We Are!” which was released 25 years ago. So not only do people who were kids back then know it, but even modern kids know it. I think that’s why people around the world love “We Are!” even 25 years later.

Why do you think ONE PIECE is so popular worldwide?

Hiroshi Kitadani: Talking with people overseas, I often hear that “In Japanese anime and manga, the main characters and their friends always get completely thrashed by their enemies, but they usually come back stronger, which really gets you in the feels.” That’s true of Luffy, and also of Goku from Dragon Ball. Overseas heroes like Batman or Superman are incredibly strong right from the start, so I think Japanese anime and comics resonate with audiences because of how the characters turn their frustration into power.

You’ve performed five of ONE PIECE‘s theme songs. Could you reflect on what each of those songs meant to you? Let’s start with “We Are!” the first opening theme song for ONE PIECE, which came out in 1999.

Hiroshi Kitadani: “We Are!” was my debut song as Hiroshi Kitadani. The director I worked with when I first debuted under a previous stage name, later joined an agency called Imagine, who Kohei Tanaka was with. Because of that connection, one day I was approached and told, “They’re going to make an anime version of the most popular manga in Weekly Shonen Jump. Kohei Tanaka is going to submit a song for the opening song competition, and we’d like you to do a temporary vocal track for it.” Then they made the decision to go with “We Are!” for the theme song, but they still hadn’t yet decided who would sing it. Due in part to Kohei’s prompting, the staff began saying “Why not just have it sung by the singer who did the temporary vocal track?” My record company had just told me that they didn’t really see a future for me with them, so I was wondering what to do, career-wise. So this “We Are!” offer came out of the blue. That was the start of my rags-to-riches story.

In 2011, 12 years after releasing “We Are!” you sang “We Go!” which was used in the Fish-Man Island arc, when the crew reaches the New World.

Hiroshi Kitadani: Kohei wrote “We Go!” as a response song to “We Are!” At the time, I was really concerned with what people thought about me, so I was reading a lot of 2channel (laughs). I was worried I’d go on there and see people saying “Hiroshi Kitadani is back, but this song is terrible.” But, instead, when “We Go!” was broadcast, there were a lot of comments like “Dani’s back!” and “Cool!” and “That’s the One Piece sound!” I was so happy I cried.

Then in 2016 you sang “We Can!” with Kishidan.

Hiroshi Kitadani: The offer from Kishidan was totally unexpected. It was the first time I’d sung with someone else as solo artist Hiroshi Kitadani, but we had great chemistry. Kishidan wrote the song, instead of the same trio that had started with “We Are!” but even now there are fans who say they love “We Can!” which makes me really happy.

Then at the start of the Wano Country arc, in 2019, you sang “OVER THE TOP.”

Hiroshi Kitadani: “We Are!” began without anyone knowing who would even sing the song. “We Go!” was a response song to “We Are!” So “OVER THE TOP” was the first song that Kohei wrote to-order, just for me. We’ve worked together a long time, so he was able to write a song with the vocal range where I do my best singing, where I could give the song a distinctive appeal and bring out its flavor. The pandemic started after I released the song, so I haven’t had many opportunities to perform it on stage, but it’s a song that I wish even more people would have chances to hear.

How did you feel when you first heard “UUUUUS!” the current opening song?

Hiroshi Kitadani: To be honest, my first response was “Huh?” Like “It’s not bad…but I prefer music more like ‘OVER THE TOP.’” But Kohei said “It grows on you,” and, sure enough, the more I heard it the better and better it sounded. The show opening is on YouTube now, and it has over 10 million views. One of the comments on the video said “It’s the best song so far.” I know Kohei must always be under a lot of pressure, so I’m amazed that he suggested this song, which is so ambitious but risky.

I feel like “UUUUUS!” must have been harder to sing than any of the past songs. Do you have any basic advice for anyone trying to sing it?

Hiroshi Kitadani: It’s hard to come up with any kind of succinct advice (laughs). However, for all five of the ONE PIECE songs, not just “UUUUUS!” I’d say it’s important to sing it with a smile on your face. When you sing while smiling, that smile comes out in your voice, making the song brighter and more exciting. When I was recording “We Are!” there were a lot of important people in suits at the recording. It was my first time recording in that kind of atmosphere, and I got really tense. On top of that, every time I’d finish recording a take, they’d be whispering to each other. I was in the recording booth, so I had no idea what they were saying. I was starting to get into a negative mindset, thinking “Was that a bad take?” when Kohei said “This is a song that’s going to give hope and inspiration to people around the country, so smile when you sing it. When you sing with a smile, your voice will have a smile.” That snapped me out of it. I sang while smiling, and they said it was a good take. I’m really glad for the advice Kohei gave me, and it’s something I cherish in my heart even now.

This interview by Harunoto first appeared on Billboard Japan

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

News

Olivia Rodrigo invited Jewel to her stage in New York City earlier this week for a live performance of “You Were Meant for Me,”...

News

A small earthquake near Coachella on Saturday (April 13) shook the Southern California desert, where the famous music festival is being held this weekend. No damage...

News

Rico Wade, a member of the legendary Atlanta production trio Organized Noize and co-founder of the hip-hop/soul collective Dungeon Family, has died, Billboard confirmed...

News

Plus, highlights from Justice, Chlöe, Deftones, Sabrina Carpenter, Peggy Gou & more Friday performers. Peso Pluma performs at the Coachella Stage during the 2024...