Hiroyuki Sawano (born 12 September 1980) is a relatively new arrival on the Japanese entertainment scene. He first became famous for the soundtrack of the Live-Action Adaptation of Team Medical Dragon. Since then, he has composed for movies and TV series both live-action and animated.
His style fuses electronic and orchestral music in a sweeping, bombastic mix that imbues anything he works on with as much Hollywood-esque grandeur as it can support. He stands out in particular for his usage of energetic Insert Songs during action sequences, almost always featuring lyrics in Surprisingly Good English (or German!) sung by an array of associated artists from both Japan and the United States
In 2014, he started a vocal project called "SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]" (kind of similar to how Yuki Kajiura does this with "FictionJunction").
Sawano has composed music for:
- Aldnoah.Zero (anime)
- Attack on Titan (anime)
- Blue Exorcist (anime and movie)
- Crisis (2017)
- Gigantic Formula
- Guilty Crown
- Juuni Taisen (theme song only)
- Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
- Kidou Sentai Iron Saga (video game)
- Kill la Kill (anime)
- League of Legends: "Light and Shadow" (video game)
- Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These (theme song only)
- Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn (anime)
- My Girl (Live-Action Adaptation)
- Project Blue Earth SOS
- Promare (movie)
- Re:CREATORS (anime)
- Sengoku Basara (anime and movie)
- Seraph of the End (anime)
- The Seven Deadly Sins (anime)
- Soul Link (anime)
- Team Medical Dragon (Live-Action Adaptation)
- Thunderbolt Fantasy (puppet animation project)
- Xenoblade Chronicles X (video game)
- Yoake Mae Yori Ruriiro Na (anime)
- Zombie Loan (anime)
Tropes associated with his works:
- Autobots, Rock Out!: Often combined with Orchestral Bombing. Examples include "Before my body is dry", "The Reluctant Heroes" and "BLAZE Crimson Lotus".
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: Used frequently in both lyrics and track titles; Gratuitous German and English are particular favorites. Very few of his songs actually feature any Japanese lyrics to any major extent.
- Lucky Charms Title: His pieces tend to have exceedingly strange titles, featuring a jumble of symbols and letters from various different alphabets. To wit:
- The title theme for Attack on Titan is "ətˈæk 0N tάɪtn", whilst another track, "Titan's Attack", is transcribed as "凸】♀】♂】←巨人". In fact, the entire second soundtrack one ups the first by being filled with these.
- Ditto for Kill la Kill, which is mostly consisting of different variations of the anime's title (save for the vocal themes like Ragyo's Leitmotif "Blumenkranz" and Ryuko's "Before my body is dry"). The second soundtrack, while mostly in Japanese, adds a number convention to tracks 1 through 12, with an added "boshi" (i.e. star, referring to the show's Goku uniforms).
- One of the tracks from Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn also has a dose of this: the light-hearted track named "H@R0".
- Meanwhile, a lot of his tracks from Guilty Crown have Greek names, such as "βίος" (Bios) and "Βασιλευζ" (Basileus).
- Aldnoah.Zero continues the trend with titles like "Bre@th//less" and "[aLIEz]".
- The main Leitmotif of Thunderbolt Fantasy is titled "thunderBOLTfantasy". Another track is titled "蔑、guy" and that's the leitmotif for villain Betsu Ten Gai (the comma is meant to be read as "ten"), and there's also "Kguy&kill don't 生kiLL" which is the leitmotif for both Kei Gai and Setsu Mu Shou. Then there's the songs "⚡bolt-arr1" and "⚡bolt-arr2" that can't be properly formatted most places because the first character ends up being parsed as an emoji if at all.
- A lot of songs in Xenoblade Chronicles X are written in code, with the title of the song mixed in between other random characters, such as "z5m20i12r04a28" and "z39b20co13mi01cal09" (aptly named, as it is a light-hearted song that plays during comedic scenes). There are a few wingding titles as well, such as "no5=KAKU-WEST-→▲★★KAI" and "no7=G-LOW-S→F.S.K.O".
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Usually not in Latin, but certainly ominous. This crops up a lot in his villain motifs, like "Devil King of the Sixth Heaven" and "This Is A Fight To Change The World" from Sengoku Basara, and "XL-TT" from Attack on Titan.
- One-Woman Wail: There's always at least one in every musical score he composed, courtesy of Mika Kobayashi's powerful singing voice. This notably became one of his staples after a certain song.
- Orchestral Bombing: Action scenes will either be heavy on the electronics or dive straight into this - there's not much of a middle ground.
- "Psycho" Strings: Uses jarring electronics to achieve the same effect, as in "Banshee" from Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, the outro of "The Key We Lost" from Xenoblade Chronicles X, or the outro of "The Reluctant Heroes" from Attack on Titan.
- Punny Name: Many of his bizarre track titles are actually complicated puns making use of wingding fonts and wordplay based on kanji or Goroawase Numbers. Some examples include AL°C-@ (Allusia), 2chi城 (Nichijou/Daily Life), and 美♂-K+$タすpAd (Bios feat. Kobayashi Mika with Strings and Synthpad).
- Surprisingly Good English:
- Several songs have perfect English grammar, like "DOA" for Attack on Titan, performed by Aimee Blackshleger (an American singer living in Japan), who also sung for Guilty Crown, Final Fantasy XIII-2, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, Kill la Kill and the Devil May Cry anime. David Whitaker, a rapper from Atlanta, Georgia who moved to Japan in 2005, has also provided music for Blue Exorcist, Kill la Kill, Guilty Crown, and Xenoblade Chronicles X.
- He also has a good number of the Japanese singers he works with sing English & German songs. Depending on which singer he collaborates with, the pronunciation can be anywhere from passable to total gibberish. mpi's thick Japanese accent makes it difficult to understand what he's saying, but it works out pretty well when he sings with another artist on the track.
- Theme Naming: Promare's songs have fire-related names, including "Inferno", "Λsʜᴇs", "WORLDBIGFLAMEUP", "BangBangBUR!...n?", and "PIROMARE".
- Victorious Chorus:
- Regularly used to give a Triumphant Reprise some extra zing. An example would be "Zero Gravity", a reworking of the main theme from Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn.
- His stellar work on the Thunderbolt Fantasy soundtrack. Perhaps one of his most victorious tracks is the series theme song, thunderBOLTfantasy.
- "thunderBOLTfantasy" got retooled for the 2nd season to be the opening theme "His/Story", now with vocals by T.M.Revolution.
- Word Salad Lyrics: The lyrics for the chorus portion of "ol", performed by mizuki, have to be seen to be believed. One has to wonder if she got an aneurysm while trying to recite the lyrics in the intended, computer-like intonation.S-dream & trick & lie
Shine & ring & Live│S-tring & Lie
2-1 to 1 A→Z conner
dream & trick & lie
Shine & ring & Live│S-tring & Lie
Kowasu to word│ENC-ode