TV Anime VINLAND SAGA Season One
Broadcast and Global Stream Anniversary

Second Special Group Interview: Music Director: Shuhei Yabuta, Sound Supervisor: Shoji Hata, Composer: Yutaka Yamada

The second season of TV anime VINLAND SAGA will start airing January 2023! And to celebrate the anniversary of the TV broadcast and worldwide streaming of Season One on Prime Video and Netflix, we’re releasing our second interview with the creators. This time, Director Shuhei Yabuta, Sound Effect Director Shoji Hata, and Music Yutaka Yamada have gathered to talk about the music in the show.

One cannot talk about VINLAND SAGA without talking about the music, so we hope you enjoy what everyone had to say!

SPOILER ALERT: Please note that this interview contains some spoilers about Season One.

From the left of the photo: Director Shuhei Yabuta, Sound Effect Director Shoji Hata, Music Yutaka Yamada

Second Special Group Interview Part 2


Making Season Two’s Music

How did it feel when you sat down to make music for Season Two?

First of all, when I was approached, I was just happy to see that the VINLAND SAGA team was getting together again, and we’d get to make more of this story. I already had a grip on the world from the previous season, so I figured I had to use twice the energy to really sink into the world of Season Two.

What was making the music for Season Two like?

Like I mentioned before, Yabuta and Yamada were very much moving in sync in Season One, so I simply let them work together. [Laughs.] I thought that the project would be best served by Yabuta speaking directly with the composer and constructing the music that way, so I decided not to butt in much. What was on my mind, however, was how much of a change of pace the story in Season Two was. I wondered how Yabuta wanted to build around the drama that was to come.
Putting Music to Character Emotion
In Season Two, there are far more scenes of the characters’ internal worlds. For example, we show where Thorfinn is at in the story and the steps he’s taking to go where he’s going, as well as just how heavy those steps are. Like I mentioned earlier, I much prefer putting music to emotions than to phenomena, so sometimes that emotion is all I show. For example, the first episode of Season Two just follows Einar’s internality, so when I was drawing the storyboards, I figured I had to keep it to just one song. But music direction isn’t that easy. Even as the director myself, the sheer difference in tone between Season Two’s first episode and Season One really hit me hard. It was a challenge. I’m really looking forward to seeing how people receive the animation when it’s complete.
Season Two has that new, breathing music that was brought up in Season One earlier. I think that’s what’s really going to make the audio side of it. We’re in the second half of dubbing now, and I’m really impressed with the piano usage. It’s used to punctuate emotions I hadn’t expected, and seeing it was an eye-opening experience. Yabuta’s ability to choose songs has gotten even more refined in the second half. I think Yamada would be pretty surprised, too!
I’m grateful to hear that. I didn’t try to force the music to fit with the tempo of the animation, so sometimes it feels like the visuals are getting dragged by the music. I’m the one deciding how to allot the songs, but oftentimes I end up letting the animation and music duke it out if the situation calls for it.
That can be surprisingly important, too. I think that’s because you have a message you want to communicate through this story deep inside, so you’re able to direct it without even thinking. I think it would turn out fine even if you just went with the flow while putting it all together. That’s why I think that you picking out the songs and doing the sound editing yourself is one of this story’s big strengths.
The Particulars of the Music from Season Two

How many songs did you make for Season Two?

A total of 20 songs. They’re all a bit on the long side, and a lot of them are more about character emotion. If there’s a reason that Arnheid and Einar appeared from Season Two onward, it’s because their lives leave such an impression on the viewer. They’re part of what symbolizes the story of VINLAND SAGA itself. For example, I wrote a song that I consider to be Arnheid’s theme, and it’s meant to represent her from when she appears in the story to her end, so it’s a little on the long side.

How did you feel making the music in Season Two, Yamada?

The most challenging category of songs requested was that of the emotional ones. I felt that simple “happy” or “sad” songs would be too shallow for VINLAND SAGA, so I focused more on the question of “What does it mean to live?” in my compositions, since I thought that’s what Season Two was all about. I don’t usually overthink my compositions. Arnheid’s theme turned out to be a beautiful piece of music as a result, and I think it’s because it expresses something more important than whether she lives or dies. I wrote it automatically, following my emotions, and when I look back and analyze it, I can see my point of view animating the song, the view that Arnheid carried something outrageously beautiful with her.
I lean on emotion a lot myself, but I tend to be more objective. What’s key is what point of view one looks at the emotion from, so I don’t think I need music direction that expresses the emotion itself. The visuals can provide a clear enough explanation of that as is. A moment ago Yamada spoke of how Arnheid’s music turned out beautifully. For my part, I think that when you look at the situation she was in and how she lived, the way she took on life showed the beauty of her soul. I wanted to see the energy she used to live, good and bad choices included, as beautiful in itself. And I didn’t want the focus to be on Arnheid alone. In Season Two, I want the viewer to feel the beauty in the simple act of living itself.

Yamada, you wrote vocal music as part of the soundtrack of Season One. What kind of role did that music play? What about in Season Two?

In Season One, I’d used the song in the trailers like you would in any fantasy anime, something to make the viewer think they’re about to see the start of a grand story. Season One used a solo vocalist, but we have a choir in Season Two. Classical music had its origins in choir, where it was meant to praise the divine, so the choir parts in the song express that divinity. VINLAND SAGA is a story of Norse mythology and Christianity, so having choir vocals colors those religious elements. We recorded the choir in Hungary, by the way. The Hungarian choir was actually singing in Hungarian, too.

All the viewers can see of Season Two right now is the trailer. How did you make the music used in it?

Yabuta had sent in an extra order for the trailer music. I had the singer sing in a constructed language based on Spanish. Female vocals definitely made it more powerfully musical, too. The human voice strikes the heart closer than any instrument, so the vocals help in closing the distance between the trailer and the listener.
Music Direction to Look Out For

Can you tell us what tracks and musical direction you’d like listeners to keep an ear out for in Season Two?

Season Two is a story of new beginnings. We see new characters and a deeper human drama. I hope we can all watch Thorfinn’s continuing journey together.
I haven’t seen what Season Two looks like in motion yet, but I put my absolute all into my work. And personally, I’m very interested to see how the Yabuta Touch gets applied to my songs, to see how he cooks them up. I spoke of Arnheid’s Theme a while ago, but I named it for how I felt at the time of writing it. It doesn’t actually need to go with Arnheid as she appears on screen, so that’s the kind of pleasant betrayal of my expectations I’m looking forward to. I think a lot of fans are waiting in excitement to see how the music plays out, too. I can’t wait for Season Two to be broadcast.
I feel like my choice of songs in Season Two are more lop-sided than in Season One, so I’m a little nervous to hear that from Yamada. [Laughs.] It was a very difficult season in terms of music with a lot of focus on characters’ internality, so it’s really laid bare just how I read the original manga of VINLAND SAGA. And to bring up the trailer again, I want to say that I had initially ordered it to play at the end of the first episode of Season Two. I was, however, on the fence for quite some time on just how much passion to end the episode with. I ended up using it in the trailer, but I think my internal conflict comes out in my audio directing. I hope that gets through to the viewers in a good way, and I’d be grateful if even a few more people could share this feeling with me.