Akiyama Saneyuki to the Czar: “I want to play a game…”

I have recently enjoyed downloading episodes of Sono toki Rekishi ga Ugoita, the iconic NHK series on key moments of Japanese history. (Much to my surprise, these episodes are available due to a passionate following that the series has in Taiwan, and many episodes are available via bit torrent download, with Traditional Chinese subtitles.)

In watching these episodes, I was pretty horrified to see that, for an episode regarding the strategy behind the victory of the Battle of Tsushima, the theme music from the horror film SAW was used — just see these two key scenes that I clipped for the purposes of this blog post (the break between the two separate scenes is seamless, but there is a 20 minute gap between scenes at 1:22).

Why on earth does NHK pick this kind of music, and what’s the decision-making process behind the selection? For someone who knows where the music comes from, it really ruins the otherwise well-produced TV documentary.

18 thoughts on “Akiyama Saneyuki to the Czar: “I want to play a game…””

  1. I’d say that the SAW music is obscure enough (in Japan anyway) that they can get away with it. Other channels use the most easily recognized giant robot fight music from Evangelion in news reportage features! Talk about distracting. Odoru Daisosasen is also abused. I’ve seen the (somewhat similar, far, far better) Patlabor 2 music used – for horesecrap political dealings with the Diet Building in the background. This is more than appropriate.

  2. The soundtrack for Fight Club is also very popular for news shows too.

  3. There’s probably no good to come of telling this but, many years ago, work took me into a fleapit sex cinema in Shinjuku to talk with the owner. A film was showing at the time and I was struck by the fact that the onscreen action was accompanied by the dirge-like sound of Joy Division’s “The Eternal”. The bloke noticed I was a bit distracted and asked me how I liked the film. He was completely unconvinced when I replied “I was just listening to the music”.

  4. Curzon, you lived in Japan too long to be asking “Why” questions like that.

    I still have no answer to why a GWAR tune was used over the sports score scrolling on the news one evening when I first arrived here.

    By the way, I loved Sono Toki, and was quite upset that it was put to rest. The replacement show is, in comparison, pretty weak sauce.

  5. The theme from Superman was always the one that annoyed me, with X-Files coming in close. This music is actually appropriate.

    Links to the downloads?

  6. “By the way, I loved Sono Toki, and was quite upset that it was put to rest.”

    Rekishi only ugoita so many times. They were getting pretty weak there toward the end. A good substitute is the great range of NHK historical docs (August is a great month). Just picked up a book version of a great one about how Japan screwed up the “Greater East Asia” idea in the Philippines by alienating the local population (and the eventual mass killings).

    I personally miss the theme song / cheese value of Project X.

    What I’d like to see most from NHK is a series about the lifestyles of ordinary people (and not so ordinary – onmyoji would be fun) through the ages with a combination of relics and (hopeful good budget) CG. Something like this would be great for undergrad classes. It could also tap two audiences that NHK does well with – rural tour buffs and foodies (reproducing historical cuisine without all of the ah, oiiiiisshiiiiiiiii).

  7. I once heard the theme music from the video game Halo being used on one of the news channels.

  8. Fat Tony: Do a search for “So no toki” in any bit torrent search engine such as isohunt.com.

    No one’s discussed the decision-making process — who on these TV programs gets this music, gets the rights to use it, and decides when and how it should be used?

  9. I looked into this a few years ago – TV stations pay a yearly license fee to JASRAC (Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers, and Publishers) for a slate of songs and pick from there. I don’t have any information about how the decisions for individual pieces are made (Aceface, help us!) but I imagine that producers delegate this and that nobody thinks so seriously about the source material.

  10. お金があれオリジナルで作ったでしょう。そのお金がない場合は既存の音楽をBGMにするのだと思います。プロデューサーが決めたり、音響効果さんが決めたり、場合によっていろいろでは。怖そうな場面には、恐怖心をあおる音楽を選曲するでしょう。

    Note from stevicus: It took about an hour to convince her to write that much. She is a pro in a related field (music production for commercials) but tends to be tight lipped about the inner workings. But if there people asked good questions (in Japanese), she may be persuaded to elaborate.

  11. Stevicus: 奥さんの専門分野がCMの方みたいなので、少し訊きたかった問いを絞る。Curzonが紹介してくれたような番組はともかく、CMのBGMにされる音楽はどのようなプロセスを通じて利用の権利が与えられるのですか? つまり、ある企業などがコマーシャルを作ろうとするときに、もし必要な資金とかがあって、そして使いたい曲の著作権が有効である場合に限り、その企業はまず誰と連絡をとるんですか? 日本にある中心的なCMのBGMの使用を監視している機関なのか、あるいは直接その曲をつくった歌手やバンドの代表としているレコード会社なのか、その使用権利にかかわる取引の流れについてより詳しく知りたいです。よろしくお願いします。

  12. M-bone is right.Most of the TV stations pays yearly licence fee to JASRAC.
    The music is not the choice of the director(Japanese English for the producer),but sound effect personal we call Onko音効。These guys are called to watch the edited footage at nearly the end of post production we call MA( stands for Multi Audio)work.Director tell them when and what kind of music they want and the onko guys go to their sound archive and choose the music they think is appropriate.

    According to the reliable source,NHK onko do not use Original Soundtrack of motion pictures as often as minpo,for the very reason Curzon is concerned of.Fuji had used opening theme of “Backdraft” for “Iron Chef”.Basically,Onko people are proud of picking music from sources they never heard of,so I too was surprised with SAW soundtrack was used considering it’s relatively a recent movie.Decent Onko would never have done that in my opinion.

  13. CMの場合についてお答えします。まず、著作者の使用許諾を得なくてはなりません。通常はその曲を管理しているPublisher(個人の場合もあります)に連絡をし、CMの詳細を伝えます。その後、Publisherが使用可否を判断し、許諾料が決定されます。曲によってその金額は様々です。またその許諾料とは別にJASRACへ放送使用料を支払わなくてはなりません。その金額はJASRACの規定により決まっています。これはあくまでも著作権の使用許諾に関わる手続きです。ある人の演奏をそのまま使用する場合は、著作権の他に著作隣接権(原盤使用料)が発生します。勝手に人の演奏を使用出来ないのです。レコード会社や、アーティストマネージメントなど、その原盤を管理している会社から許諾を得て、許諾料を支払うのが通常です。著作権と著作隣接権が分かれているのはアメリカなどの常識と少し異なるかもしれません。


  14. Reading the reply from Mrs. Stevicus:

    Is that why (it seems that) there are so many covers of foreign music by Japanese artists used in Japanese commercials? Perhaps it is also to give exposure to the artist (for instance, the cover by Ryuichi Sakamoto’s daughter of the theme from “Neverending Story” was used in a commercial a while back, causing me to scratch my head), but I have recently thought that this is maybe because acquiring the rights to use the recording is easier if it goes through JASRAC.

    Sometimes the covers match the feel of the commercial far better than the original (e.g. Shonen Knife’s cover of a Carpenters’ tune in a can chu-hi commercial some years back), and other times the cover is no more than a fairly lousy version in the same style as the original, where the artist is hardly pronouncing the English lyrics correctly. It’s the latter case that makes me wonder…

  15. Just a couple of minutes ago, TV Asahi used the Star Trek movie fanfare as BGM for North Korea’s goal against Brazil.

    That was freaky, dude.

  16. Kids,back in the 80’s ABC was using Lalo Schiflin’s score from “Cool Hand Luke”in the cue of Eyewitness News.

  17. Yoko Kanna, Yuki Kajiura, Kenji Kawaii, Kou Ohtani, Kitaro . . . Those are just the Japanese composers I can think of off the top of my head.

    And they couldn’t find anyone to compose an original score?!

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